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 gavinramsay@btinternet.com or register your interest using our online form here.

Help Highland orchards get on the map

A map of Isle of Eigg Community Orchard

A map of Isle of Eigg Community Orchard for our field volunteer information packs

We are putting final touches on the orchard maps for our local Orchard Inventory volunteers. Each one of 1741 Scottish orchards identified in the Inventory’s desk study has its own map which is used by a volunteer to verify its current location, size and condition during the field visit. Katherine Bellamy, our GIS guru, is working on the last few maps for the 129 of the Highland orchards right now. We asked her to pick a couple that caught her eye.

Community Orchard on Isle of Eigg, planted in 2010, is one of the youngest in the Highland and Island area. Despite its young age it has some fascinating history behind it. Since its community buy-out 19 years ago, the island has become world-famous in environmental and land-reform circles and the orchard seems to have been established as a part of the community initiative for the island to go green.

Photo of people planting trees in a brown field

Community planting the orchard on Eigg. There are more photos here. (By isleofeigg,CC BY-SA 2.0)

The orchard still seems to be in fine fettle today. How do we know? It regularly features on social media around May each year as one of the Highlands and Islands bluebell beauty spots!

Image of a flowering apple tree with bluebells flowering underneath

Eigg Orchard in May this year (By @EiggOrganic)

Another of Katherine’s favourites was an orchard at Letterewe Estate. It won her prize for the most remote mainland location as it can only be accessed by boat across Loch Maree. This one is much more mysterious. All we know about it is that it appears on the Ordnance Survey maps from 1860 and it was likely a part of the Estate’s walled garden at the time. This is quite exciting as it may still contain some very old fruit trees. But we won’t know for sure until somebody pays it a visit!

We need local field volunteers to verify the findings of our desk study by visiting orchard sites like these in the Highlands and elsewhere in Scotland. For the full list of the areas we need help with please, and instructions on how to get in touch, please see our previous post.