Work begins on the barn at Longney

Martin Hayes discussing the barn works with Pete the builder

This week, after lots of planning, work has begun to restore the barn at Longney, with our building contractors Pete and Rosco preparing to put up scaffolding before taking the roof tiles off.

The work will involve jacking up the roof timbers, repairing and replacing timber where needed, repairing the brickwork of the walls, re-building the interior room at the north end and putting all the roof tiles back again.

The open part of the barn will become an exhibition space and shelter for visitors and volunteers working in the orchard and the enclosed room will become a tool store and toilet.

Before work began we needed to clear the piles of material stored in front of the barn. These pictures show our regular visitors, students from the Apperley Centre (part of the Shrubberies School) n Stonehouse, learning how a human chain works, helping move the big pile of bark chippings using buckets:

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Trust Juice on the motorway

Our friends at Trust Juice, who market juice from our and other orchards and support GOT with the proceeds, have recently started supplying the Farm Shop at Gloucester Services on the M5 with their juice. Read more about them on the Westmorland (who run the services) website here or watch the video, made at GOT’s Longney Orchards, here:

 

Three new pear varieties

Zealous

And yet more pear news from Jim Chapman who writes:

Felix

Three new pears discovered at Wick (near Arlingham) have now been named. One is now Zealous, which we have also found in Wales. This means the National Collection now covers the full A – Z of perry pears – from Arlingham Squash to Zealous!

The second is now Felix, because I always take the pears to shows in Felix cat boxes.

The third I am provisionally calling Island Gennet as it is a very early pear (Gennet) found at both Longney and Wick. I am checking whether Island is the best way to refer to the area between the Canal and Severn.

The first two featured in our record breaking display of 97 varieties at Hartpury recently.

The Buttersend perry pear rediscovered

Buttersend trees

More pear news from Jim Chapman who writes:

Buttersend is a perry variety originally identified by Long Ashton Research Station in the 1950s, but subsequently considered to be merely a form of Blakeney Red.

Buttersend pears

The re-discovered trees, in a location near Hartpury, are now looking aged and last year I decided to use DNA to double-check that they were actually Blakeney Red. They are still fruiting well, and the fruit does look similar to Blakeney Red, as can be seen in this photo of immature fruit (taken early August)

But the DNA results reveal that it is a unique variety, so the Buttersend is reinstated! It is a perry pear worth planting, with specific gravity, acid and tannin percentages already ascertained by Long Ashton (see original record card below).

It is now being budded and will in due course take its place in the National Collection!

Original LARS record card for Buttersend pear. This card, with holes round the edges is designed for sorting into types – holes indicating particular attributes were nicked using a tool and, by this means, all varieties with that attribute could be selected from a pile of cards by inserting a rod through the unbroken holes. This card may have been made by Cope-Chat in Stroud, who specialised in making this sort of information management stationery in the days before computers.

97 varieties – Pear id on Heritage Open Day

Jim Chapman leads the ID workshop

Jim Chapman led a fascinating workshop on 15th September at Hartpury Orchard Centre/National Perry Pear Centre, with an introduction, guidance on use of manuals and keys to dessert and culinary pears, plus using manuals and a new approach to keys to perry pears. This was followed by a practical workshop identifying samples of pears, apples and plums (the latter from stones).

There was an opportunity to view for comparison an extensive display of named perry pears (a record 97 varieties!).

Mattias was on hand at lunchtime to show the cider and perry making equipment and provide tastings.

In addition, Jim gave advice on perry orchard planting, choice of variety, rootstock etc and a tour of the perry trial orchard.

GOT was on hand to advise on county and national networking opportunities and resources.

This event was funded by the Three Counties Traditional Orchard Project/Heritage Lottery Fund.

Photos by Ann Smith.

 

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Success with Red Mason Bees at Longney

Red Mason Bee (not at Longney) constructing a nest site in a uPVC window vent (with the front removed).

Despite very poor spring weather, efforts to increase the population of Red Mason bees in our Longney orchards have been rewarding. We are increasingly confident that the small relic population of these “super pollinator” insects, which were found in 2017 remains and, thanks to help from Mason Bees UK, may now be multiplying.

One of the artificial nesting sites provided at Longney

The Red Mason bee is a delightful species. Much smaller than the ubiquitous Honey bee, and having a pretty, dusky red colour (and NO sting!), Red Mason bees emerge in April and May from their over-wintering cocoons, or pupae. They immediately search out early blossoming fruit trees, especially apples, and are able to pollinate far more efficiently than most other bees on the wing in spring.

Research has shown that even though, usually, they do not forage more than about 50 metres from their nesting location – usually small natural holes within the trees -they are able to pollinate more blossom, under more inclement conditions, than almost any other bee species. Which is why they are probably among the most valuable of insects to orchard owners.

In 2017, with advice and help from Mason Bees UK, around 16 artificial nest pipes – each  holding special cardboard tubes for egg laying and storing pollen food –  were placed in Long Tyning and Bollow. These would help to ascertain whether there were Red Mason bees present among these long established trees. At the end of the season, 4 of the 15cm cardboard tubes held within several of nest pipes had been used by the bees. Clearly we had a small active population. These filled tubes, each containing up to 5 pupae, were sent to Mason Bees UK to be opened, inspected and stored over the winter. Healthy pupae were then returned to us this spring, together with additional 40 pupae and 2 release boxes, for redistributing among the trees in order to try and boost numbers for the future.

Release Box and Nesting Site at Longney
Red Mason Bee carrying mud to construct nest.

The year’s results have been most encouraging. A total of 11 nest pipes contained 39 “sealed” (with characteristic clay – type soil plugs) cardboard tubes – a most encouraging result. These will again be returned to Mason Bees UK for the winter, with a new consignment of pupae arriving in Longney in March/April next year. We hope this will result in another year of significant increase during 2019, beyond which we could be well on the way to achieving a healthy self – sustaining population. We will, of course, be liaising closely with Mason Bees UK, as their objective is to substantially increase Red Mason bee populations nationally to the point where stocks can be offered to commercial orchard owners to boost fruit yields. And of course, help secure the future of this valuable native species. We will keep you posted!

Our great appreciation to Mason Bees UK for their advice, support and encouragement. Do have a look at their website at masonbees.co.uk.

Keith Turner

August 2018

 

Plum Day and Plum Festival

This weekend saw the first ever National Plum Day, recently established as being the 2nd Saturday of August each year.  The aim is help restore plums to the top of the British fruit charts. The Day has been set up by the Pershore Plum Festival, the Three Counties Traditional Orchard Project and The Vale Landscape Heritage Trust.

Commenting on the launch of National Plum Day, event organiser, Angela Taylor said:

“Plums were once the nation’s favourite fruit and for good reason, they even helped win WW1 as jars of plum jam kept the troops in the trenches going. Plums are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, said to help control obesity and diabetes, aid digestion and are great for skincare – to name but a few benefits. What’s more, we grow them here in the UK, yet many plum orchards have fallen into neglect. We want to see this versatile fruit top shopping lists and restaurant menus again and National Plum Day is the perfect place to start”.

It may be too late to celebrate Plum Day (it finished yesterday!) but the Pershore Plum Festival happens throughout August. It celebrates its long association with plums of all varieties and sees this riverside market town become a sea of purple and yellow, reflecting the colours of its two most famous plums – the Pershore Purple and the Pershore Yellow Egg Plum.

The main events of the Pershore Plum Festival take place from Saturday 25 – Monday 27 August.  Full details are available on the festival website: www.pershoreplumfestival.org.uk

Longney Updates, June 2018

A few snippets of news from last month in our Longney orchards – including the new signboards, barn, the plums, the community and the wildlife.

We are hoping to do repairs to the barn, on the boundary of Long Tyning and Bollow orchards, this summer, and have been clearing the vegetation around it in preparation for this. Particular thanks are due to Martin, Alison and the Monday special needs school kids for clearing the wire and vegetation on the north and east sides and to David and Martin for additional clearing on the southern end.

There has also been much remedial pruning of the plums in Bollow orchard, carried out by Martin and David in recent weeks.  Summer pruning of plums helps to reduce any further infection with Silver Leaf Disease.

Meanwhile, in Longney village, we have been promoting GOT and explaining our involvement in the orchards at the Longney village school fete, where Alison and Martin found Trust Juice to be a real draw that led to lots of conversations about the orchards and their wider value.

New sign boards have recently been designed (thanks Jane) for the orchards, one for each of the three entrances – from Longney, and North and south from the river path. These will be installed soon.

And, last but not least, John Fletcher has been recording wildlife, particularly birds, at the orchards.  His most recent bird lists include Barn Owls, Buzzard, Swifts (circling the orchards all afternoon), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Dunnock, Green Finch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Collared Dove, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler (one pair busy taking food to a hidden nest to some very noisy young) and Reed Warbler.  Some of John’s excellent photos of his Longney sightings are shown in the slideshow below (all pictures copyright John Fletcher):

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Two new books: on Plums and on the Shadow Orchard…

We have recently (May 2018) helped launch two new books – Native Plums of Gloucestershire by Charles Martell and The Shadow Orchard by Jim Chapman. Details of both (with ordering buttons!) are below.

Native Plums of Gloucestershire

by Charles Martell (2018)
Volume 4 in the Gloucestershire Pomona series
ISBN: 978-0-9927394-4-7  (46pp)

The first section of this book describes the stone fruit of Gloucestershire and completes Charles Martell’s trilogy of Gloucestershire fruit manuals (the others being Gloucestershire Apples and The Pears of Gloucestershire Perry Pears of the Three Counties).  The three volumes together remind us of the debt owed to Charles who, appreciating the rapid loss of our orchard heritage, undertook the mammoth task of tracking down those fruit varieties that still remained, creating the Gloucestershire collections of apples, pears and plums.

The second section discusses what is meant by the names plum, bullace, pruin and damson and when and how they arrived in our countryside, with a brief comment on identification. Much of this section was inspired by the presentations and discussions at and following the National Stonefruit Conference organised by the Three Counties Traditional Orchard Project at Hartpury in August 2017.

It then considers the Shadow Orchard and the emergence of fruit into the managed orchard. It looks at the uses of the plum and cherry in recent centuries and today. Finally, it describes the stonefruit heritage collection being planted by Gloucestershire Orchard Trust in their orchards at Longney and its purpose.

Hardback £28.50

Softback £17.00

The Shadow Orchard

by Jim Chapman (2018)
ISBN: 978-0-9927394-5-4  26 pages

The Shadow Orchard is the name given to the fruit-bearing trees found growing outside the cultivated orchard, in the surrounding hedges, woods and commons. Their origins are either as indigenous trees or as otherwise long-established features of the landscape.

In this booklet Jim Chapman explains and explores the Shadow Orchard, its fruits, uses, origins and its conservation significance and needs.

Softback £4.00

To see more about these or any of our other books please visit our Bookshop page.

Dawn Chorus at Hartpury

Jim Chapman writes:

On one of the best mornings of this spring, 17 folk arrived just before dawn (5am) to ramble round the Hartpury orchards and listen to the birds waking up.

It was a superb morning – there was a low-lying mist to start, then a huge sunrise.

Led by Keith Turner, we heard (and he identified) 31 different birds, including the rare Cetti’s warbler again – they are becoming regular visitors and at least one pair is probably breeding.  As usual the cuckoo made its presence known – one of the orchards has always been known as the Cuckoo Pen.

Toast and hot drinks rounded off the morning – sitting at the picnic tables, overlooking Catsbury hill, with perry pear orchard in the foreground – and all before 7am!!

Magical!

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