South Lanarkshire survey report maps future orchard revival in the historic fruit basket of Scotland and beyond

Written by Kaska Hempel, Orchard Revival, Orchard Animateur for National Orchard Inventory for Scotland, and Duncan Arthur, Clyde Valley Orchards Cooperative Limited (CVOC), Local Facilitator for National Orchard Inventory for Scotland (originally published on Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership website here)

A photo of apple blossom

As orchards across Scotland burst into spring blossom, we at Orchard Revival are rather bursting with excitement about the publication of the report on orchard surveys in South Lanarkshire.

We are excited because the report shows that the Historic Fruit Basket of Scotland in Clyde Valley remains Scotland’s biggest and most concentrated traditional orchard area despite significant decline since its heyday, and that there is much interest and a real potential for their revival.

But we are also excited because as the first in a local area report series for the National Orchard Inventory for Scotland, the report marks a milestone in our nationwide Scottish Natural Heritage-funded project which started in 2013.

With over half of Scottish traditional orchards surveyed to date, the project is well on the way to creating a comprehensive orchard inventory for the nation, first in over a century. We believe that knowing the location, condition and use of orchards on the ground will help address issues linked to the decline of traditional orchards over the last four decades and create a strong foundation for their revival Scotland-wide.

But the information itself has little chance of creating a sustainable orchard revival. For this you need local people and organisations with interest in and knowledge of local orchard heritage who will take action on the ground. In order to foster this, since 2015 Orchard Revival has collaboratively partnered with local group to carry fieldwork for orchard surveys and to receive a copy of their data. We want knowledge to be retained locally so that capacity is built and a sense of ownership and interest in local orchards is strongly established. Building on this idea, in addition to a national report, we are currently producing 12 local area reports is to make results relevant to local organisations and local people.

Our first report from South Lanarkshire is a result of collaboration between Orchard Revival and Clyde Valley Orchards Cooperative Limited (CVOC) with support from the Heritage Lottery funding through Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP). Both organisations have already been working towards restoring local orchard heritage.

Duncan Arthur, director of CVOC, took on Local Facilitator role to coordinate local volunteer team and managed to complete an impressive 215 site surveys in the area, amounting to 150 volunteer hours.

It was not all just hard work and Duncan’s volunteers enjoyed learning how to tell their pears from their plums and exploring the local Clyde Valley heritage. Here is a lovely story from one of them:

“[…] Always game for a new challenge I signed up to become a volunteer to survey fruit orchards in South Lanarkshire. I met up with Duncan, the local co-ordinator, who guided me through what was required and helped me know ‘my pears from my plums’ with a mini tutorial in his own orchard. Those damsons were so tasty!

[…] Now all my surveys have been done and I have hung up my hi-vis vest. Most of all I enjoyed hearing stories of how fruit farming in the Clyde Valley used to be: what went to the jam factories; how many there were of these in the area; were turnips really used; how the fruit once picked had to be taken same day to the train for 5pm to get transported to England overnight with no refrigerated storage like today. I loved exploring little roads around Nemphlar, Crossford and Braidwood, and hearing why one house was named ‘doon field’. These stories helped make my field trips interesting and I was reminded of the Linmill stories in Scots that my Dad used to love reading out to us. So I dug out his ex-library book (by Robert McLellan) and enjoyed rereading of the ‘Linmill fruit ferm hauf wey atween Kirkfieldank and Hazelbank’ where this wee lad spent his holidays with his ‘grannie and granfaither who bade in Linmill’.

Tales of another life. Our heritage!”

You can explore the results of all this hard work in the CAVLP online museum here, along with other items items on the rich local orchard heritage. Another 11 area reports and a national report will be released over the next few months via the Orchard Revival website here.

So – will all this data bring the local orchard revival in the South Lanarkshire that we’d all hoped for? Duncan certainly seems to think so:

“The opportunity to bring South Lanarkshire’s Orchard Survey “in house” has provided a wealth of information for Clyde Valley Orchards Cooperative Ltd. As well as identifying a host of potential orchard sites, it has allowed us to make contact with the owners of these sites and enter into a dialogue about the work we are doing in the area. As a direct result of the survey project we have opened up around 20 locations who are willing to allow their fruit to be used as part of our juicing operation which allows us to build funds for future planting projects.

In the longer term the outputs of the survey will also allow us to construct funding applications based on factual evidence, talk more knowledgeably to the wider community about their horticultural heritage and further engage volunteers for future orchard projects.”

It looks like Clyde Valley will be enjoying orchard blossom and its fruit long into the future!

Merry Christmas and a fruitful New Year from Orchard Revival

merry-christmas-a-fruitful-new-year

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
Sour
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”
But
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.