Orchard Revival was at Monimail Tower Project in Fife helping with the Monimail Apple Day on 20th Oct. Thanks also to Will from Tayport Community Trust’s PLANT project for running the press this year.
BBC piece on the Orchard Inventory here in bitsize chunks
Clips from Good Morning Scotland on 7th October 2018
Crispin (Inventory Coordinator) on some of the historical background to orchards in Scotland, how the Orchard Inventory was carried out, and hopes of an orchard revival.
Sue Pomeroy (Local Facilitator for the Inventory in the West Highlands) on remote orchards surveyed and crofting interest in fruit trees
Kate Holl (SNH Project Officer for Inventory) on biodiversity and benefits of orchards
Ron Gillies ( Cairn o’Mhor Winery) on making King Jimmy cider
Kate on different fruit and nuts grown in orchards
Ron with a guileful plug for his cider – how far apart to plant your trees
All clips copyright BBC 2018
The National Orchard Inventory for Scotland featured on Good Morning Scotland
Bill Whiteford interviewed Crispin (Inventory Coordinator) and then Bill along with Isabel Fraser had a discussion with Kate Holl (SNH, funder), Sue Pomeroy (Local Facilitator for the Inventory in the West Highlands), and Ron Gillies (Cairn o’Mhor Winery).
Here’s the whole 29 minute piece broadcast on 7th October 2018. More recent posts have selected excerpts.
Or download it here
Orchard Inventory on BBC Radio Scotland 7oct18
Audio recording copyright BBC 2018
Great response from Orchard Inventory feature on BBC website
People have been contacting us from people across Scotland to the feature on the Beeb website
Some wanted to ensure their orchard has been included, and others to volunteer for survey work. A few have been seeking advice about varieties and planning new orchards. We’re working through those now so we get back to everyone.
We worked with a BBC journalist to develop the piece, and to try and include as much of interest as possible from what the Inventory found . Of course the full story is contained in the Area Reports which are available to download. However the piece gives a good overview and its gets to a very wide audience. That has to be good for raising awareness about orchards in Scotland.
How can traditional management of the orchard floor and other hay meadows improve biodiversity?
ORE Director Crispin Hayes travelled to Romania on an Erasmus + Study Tour looking at sustainable village agriculture. In this piece he relates his experiences.
Haymaking is widespread in Alba County both in the hill & mountain villages and throughout the flat low lands of Transylvania. Orchards are also widespread though tended to be concentrated around villages. In the south and centre of Alba County, plums dominated the orchards. The plums are made into Rakia, the local spirit drunk anytime from breakfast to bedtime. This spirit is home produced and is a cultural indicator of the characters involved. When aged for 20 yrs in a mulberry cask or blended with homemade walnut cordial, it is a very smooth and enjoyable drink.
In the north of Alba County for example around Rimetea, apple orchards were very much in evidence. The wider area also grows a lot of grapes which are made into wine which has a good reputation.
Lots of invertebrate life
The biodiverse content of these species rich grasslands is discussed elsewhere, the focus here is management which provides the conditions for this species richness, and for the abundance of invertebrate life. These orchard pastures and hay meadows appeared to be almost entirely managed by traditional methods; that is to say cut by scythe and the hay stacked on a traditional triangular frame or steddle, often in the field.
Use of the scythe
We engaged in mowing by scythe in Girbovita village near Aiud. The location was a hay meadow above the village which we arrived at after walking through an orchard. The sward was herb dominated rather than grass dominated. We joined the farmer with some extra scythes and were given a brief demonstration before having a go ourselves. It took some practice but it was possible to quickly cut a swath of grass.
In the experienced hands of the farmer, a clean and consistent cut about 40mm about the ground was made. The width of cut was more than 1.5m and the cutting action creates a swath at the left-hand edge of cut. Progress is at an incremental walk, but because the cut is wide the ground is covered at a good rate.
On another occasion, we went to rake a small very steep meadow surrounded by woodland. It was planted with young walnut trees as a new orchard. This location really emphasised the versatility of the scythe. The steepness and the young walnuts would have made it impossible to use even pedestrian machinery. However, with hand tools it was fairly quick work.
What was surprising was not that scythe cut hay was normal in the hill villages, but that scythes were widely used in the flat wide plains as well. In these lowlands, there is ‘pre-enclosure’ landscape of strips showing a complex landownership. Though it was clear that some tractors were used to mow and bale hay, the majority of hay even in this mechanisable landscape, was still cut and handled by hand. This perhaps indicates the depth of cultural significance that the scythe holds for rural Romanians.
Reflection on motor mowers vs the scythe
The Romanian experience has led to a great deal of reflection on how hay, orchards, amenity grassland, ‘rough grass’ and agricultural set aside is managed in Britain. The tendency to use rotary mowers and in the agricultural setting mower conditioners, must have an impact on invertebrate life. In Romania, we were able to experience what is possible with grassland management when it is more sympathetic to biodiversity. It has been enlightening.
Crispin took artist Jyll Bradley on an orchard tour of Fife and the Carse of Gowrie orchards recently. We took in various walled gardens, mature domestic orchards as well as the field scale former commercial orchards of the Carse. Jyll is researching for an installation at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh in 2019. We included a couple of other sites by the River Tay that are linked its role for transport and the monastic influence so vital to the development of orchards.
Pictured are Jyll with Head Gardener Graham at the 1780 peach house of a private walled garden. Peaches and nectarines are still being grown today !
What to do with those old variety pears that tend to be left on the tree ? Use them – they are fantastic! Varieties like Hessle, which have a small fruit, but there are a lot of them on a tree. Pick them and dry them in the pear equivalent of apple rings. Only they aren’t a ring as they don’t need coring.
Picking time is crucial: Picking the old varieties of pear at the right time is a trick. Don’t wait for them to be ‘ripe’ as you would a more modern variety of table pear. If you wait, the centre will typically be rotten. Pick before that stage when they have become sweet but are still crunchy.
Just slice them up (about 5mm thick slices). The picture shows a dehydrator rack (which is essentially a low temp fan oven) but you can do this in your own electric fan oven at its lowest temp, or on a cake rack over a fire or radiator. It takes about 12 hours in a dehydrator/oven, longer with other methods.
Once dry, put in an airtight jar and they will last for months – but only if you hide the jar or lock it. Otherwise they only last a few weeks because they are so bloomin’ tasty !
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
I 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 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
National 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.
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)
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!