Sleuthing for orchards in the Carse of Gowrie

Fruit map

By Kaska Hempel

Since early September I have been out in the field again, getting my teeth into the orchard surveys (and their lovely fruit) around the Carse of Gowrie and Perth. This autumn, Orchard Revival has partnered up with Tay Landscape Partnership, and Carse of Gowrie Group to make sure that the current condition of this historically important fruit growing area is well documented in the National Orchard Inventory for Scotland.

Surveys of the Carse of Gowrie in 2007 and 2010 showed that its previously extensive orchards largely have now disappeared after the local top fruit industry had collapsed in 1960s due to competition from fruit imports. But they also identified several sites where, with a little effort, at least some of this important local orchard heritage could be revived (download the full report here – PDF). We are very keen to see how these sites are doing now and have a look at any new arrivals. We also have our eye on the foothills North of the Carse, as well as Perth itself where records are very thin on the ground. The city must be bursting at the seams with new orchards after 100s of fruit trees were planted across its green spaces for the Perth 800 celebrations in 2010. It is important that we capture all this fruity abundance for posterity!

I wouldn’t want to keep all this exciting work all to myself though – I would be delighted if you could join me as a volunteer! Get in touch via email or call me on 0744 623 1073. All survey training will be provided in September and early October.

Do you have five or more fruit trees? Then you are an orchard keeper! Help us by making sure that your own orchard is included in the Inventory – it’s as simple as filling in this online form. You can also tell us about any orchards in your neighbourhood.

This weekend you will also have a wonderful opportunity to explore a couple of the Carse’s most impressive historical orchards with a whole family. Tay Landscape Partnership is putting on a Fruit Festival at Muirhouses orchard on Saturday 30th of September. Orchard Revival will have a stall at the Festival so please come and say hello. And the Megginch Castle orchard opens to visitors on the 1st of October as part of the Patrick Matthew Memorial Weekend, organised by the Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a couple of snapshots from my recent outings. I hope it whets your appetite for local orchard sleuthing!

Elcho castle – young orchard with important collection of local apple varieties

Elcho castle orchardI chose a real treat for my first survey this autumn – the orchard at the Historic Scotland’s Elcho Castle. Although there is no longer any sign of the extensive orchard visible on maps from mid-1800s, the castle’s 1999 planting of over 90 fruit trees keeps the memory of this heritage well alive. The majority of the apple, plum and pear trees are still there, looking healthy and lush and laden with plenty of fruit. It’s definitely worth a visit – and since the visitor’s centre also provides a guide, it’s also a great way to get to know your local heritage apple varieties.

West Oaks – historical field orchard with stately old pears

West Oaks field orchardWest Oaks orchard was a treat from another time. It is a field orchard full of beautiful old pear and apple trees – in its heyday Carse of Gowrie was full of them. The old pears are still very productive and you can see a number of varieties there which you will never encounter in the shops, including the Willowgate sausage pear, unque to the Carse area. Although the orchard floor is overgrown with weeds, there has been some replanting done recently to try to preserve this wonderful hidden gem. Hopefully it will survive another couple of hundred years! The orchard is located along a walking path between Willowgate activity centre and Perth so you can visit it for yourself.

Branklin Gardens – Perth’s vanishing orchard glory

Branklyn Garden cakesNational Trust for Scotland’s Branklin Garden was, as always, a pleasure to visit with its wonderful alpine plant collection and truly delicious cakes. But not many people know that it also boasts a beautifully preserved veteran pear tree, the only survivor from the time when the site was a part of a productive Orchardbank market garden. This and other gardens at the foot of Kinnoul Hill used to supply Perth with fresh produce during 1800s. A few elderly pear and apple trees, scattered around the private gardens and hospital car parks, are the only remaining evidence of this productive past.

Merry Christmas and a fruitful New Year from Orchard Revival


We have made some amazing progress with our field surveys for National Orchard Inventory for Scotland this year. Many of  our local facilitators and volunteer surveyors are still out there in the field, and in front of their computer screens, getting as much done as possible before we start writing the survey results up for our final report in March 2017.

We would like to thank all our collaborating organisations, local facilitators and their volunteers for all the hard work and enthusiasm – we could not have done it without you! We hope you get some well deserved rest and merriment over the festive period.

We thought we’d share a poem penned by one of the volunteers, and which to us sums up the essence of orchard mapping experience and the hopes for their fruitful future rather well. May we enjoy, protect and eat the fruit of our Scottish orchards for many years to come!


Apple Naming

(by Jane, first published on Tayport Community Garden blog here)

Lord Lambourne, James Grieve,
Charles Ross, Beauty of Bath,
Apples named.
Early fruit, fruit holding to branches in November late
Covering the whole season
With cookers and eaters
Green and smooth
Red and shining
Green and brown
Rough and sweet
Falling around the trees
Planted for love
“we love the blossom”
For hope
200 years ago, 31 years ago when we were young
“Cobnuts to remind me of my home”
In the South
They never fruited
“Life gets in the way”
Un-managed, unloved, surrounded by weeds and fallen fruit
The trees grow anyway
An orchard
Once you know it is there
Protect it
Enjoy it
Count the trees
Name them
Eat the fruit.


See you all in 2017!

Remote and mysterious Letterewe Estate orchards in Wester Ross

A photo of apple trees at the Letterewe House orchard

Letterewe House orchard – still very much alive and kicking! (Photo by Sue Pomeroy)


Remember the orchard at Letterewe House we wrote about back in July? We wondered whether it was still there and fancied it the most remote mainland site in our desk study. In November, Sue Pomeroy of WREN, our Local Facilitator and surveyor in Wester Ross, set off by boat across Loch Maree to have a closer look at it. Below we summarise what she told us about her expedition, and one unexpected and delightful discovery.

She reported the Letterewe House garden as remote as we expected and in rude health, with a good number of well-cared for 80-year old apple trees, as well as some newer plantings. There are plans for even more fruit trees in the near future, so it looks like the place will be productive for a while yet.

A photo of an abandonned orchard on Letterewe Estate

Abandoned orchard on Letterewe Estate, nr Poolewe (Photo by Sue Pomeroy)


But it was another, abandoned and neglected site on Letterewe Estate that really won her affections. Her is what she wrote about this entirely new find:

This superb walled orchard is set in the middle of nowhere!  It is surrounded by mountains and bog and very exposed with stunning views. There is a wow factor about this orchard as it is situated well away from any dwellings up an unmade track for about a mile and then off this track for about 400 yards.

The walls are constructed in a series of six rooms with a paved wide path between, the walls are substantial with beautiful curved details to all the entrances of the rooms. Whether this was built as an orchard or a sheep fank is conjecture at the moment, but it definitely has been here a very long time.

The size and defiant age of the trees are too something of a mystery. The trees in the orchard are possibly up to 300 years old, there is evidence that there were many more at some time, but just a few are now left standing.

A remarkable find that needs to be preserved, the keeper of the farm at Kernsary is very keen to protect it and re plant. He welcomes any help with this project! And I can only add that anyone who visits this site cant fail to be excited about it! It reminds me of the Egyptian tombs in its magnificence and discovery!

Do you think this may be our most mysterious Scottish orchard yet?

Thanks, Sue, for all your amazing work mapping orchards on the West coast and for sharing this wonderful story with us. If you would like to help out, Sue is looking for volunteers, as do other organisations in the Highlands – see here for more details.



Carse of Gowrie Orchards group starts #ORInventory surveys this autumn

A photo of Gavin under a pear tree

Gavin about to don his bee-keeping suit under an ancient pear tree at Megginch

UPDATE 27 Sep 2017: Please note that as of September 2017 a new local facilitator has been appointed to coordinate surveys in this area. For details please see here.

Crispin was over to Megginch Castle near Errol recently to meet with the Local Facilitation team of Gavin Ramsay and owner Catherine Drummond-Herdman of Carse of Gowrie Orchards (previously known as Carse of Gowrie Group‘s Historic Orchard Forum).  We spent some time reviewing the process and organisation aspects of carrying out the Orchard Inventory in the area. That area stretches right around the Tay from Invergowrie to Perth and then back down to Abernethy and the borders of Newburgh in Fife. The extent of the area was indicated by the Tay Landscape Partnership who we’ve been collaborating with and who are co-funding the local fieldwork.

After our meeting in the castle kitchen, Crispin and Gavin had a walk around the orchard. Gavin to look over some of his hives, and Crispin to see the progress on Catherine’s great restoration project – replanting hundreds of fruit trees.  It really looked fantastic, and the plums tasted good!

Similarly to the Clyde Valley, Carse of Gowrie is one of the historically important areas for traditional orchards in Scotland and it would be wonderful to see it come back to life in due course. You can read more about history of their orchards in Crispin’s paper ‘Ancient Orchards beside the River Tay’ (PDF 900kb).

Historic Orchard Forum will be starting their surveys very soon so if you would like to volunteer, contact Gavin via email at or register your interest using our online form here.

Count your orchard in!

An image of the Count Our Orchard In flier

Do you (or your neighbour) have 5 or more fruit trees in your garden? Let us know about it and help with revival of our Scottish orchards!

Scotland’s orchards are an integral part of our heritage. But they’ve been in decline for decades, and we have already lost many if not most of them. We need to act now if they are not to disappear entirely. Luckily, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional orchards in Scotland over the last 10 years or so, as lots of people are realising that the last of the orchards are in danger. In order to make firm plans for a long-term task of reviving Scotland’s traditional orchards we all need to know where the orchards are.

The National Orchard Inventory for Scotland is a Scottish National Heritage funded project which aims to map locations and determine the condition of all the orchards in Scotland. We have found over 1700 orchards so far but we now need your help to make sure we haven’t missed any.

Simply fill in this wee online form to make sure that your orchard is included in the big count: