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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Blossom time – a few pictures from Longney and Days Cottage

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Well, it’s been a odd blossom season so far, many trees flowering later than usual and others flowering at the right time.

 

At Days Cottage last weekend the Blossom Afternoon had less blossom than expected but, as the brief animation on the left shows, everyone enjoyed themselves!

 

There are a few more pictures from the event below – including some of the musical interlude. We do have a video of some of this, and may upload that soon.

Meanwhile, down on the riverside at Longney, the situation is similar, with some trees in full blossom and others yet to gain full glory.  Pictures below:

Others are already over and done – it all depends on the variety: The picture below shows a tree on the hill above Wick Court, photographed today.  Some is in full bloom, some has finished flowering, indicating that this tree is a grafted tree where the original rootstock has developed its own branches, making a half and half tree of two varieties, each with a different flowering time:

Blossom afternoon at Sue Gibson’s garden

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GOT enjoyed a blossom afternoon with cream tea at Sue Gibson’s apple and pear espalier garden at Slimbridge on Sunday 22 April 2018.

Sue teaches gardening and the training of fruit trees in small spaces.

She gives 10% discount on courses to GOT members. School Gibson School of Gardening: http://www.iteachgardening.co.uk

Visit our events pages for more events at Sue’s garden.

And, talking of blossom, don’t forget the Blossom Afternoon at Days Cottage on Sunday 29th April. As Dave Kaspar pointed out a few days it looks as if we may have plums, cherries, pears and apples all flowering at the same time this year – very unusual…  Details here:  https://glosorchards.org/home/event/blossom-afternoon-at-days-cottage-orchard-rural-skills-centre/

AGM round-up

Our AGM on 14th April took place at the Anchor Pub, Epney in the morning, followed by a walkabout in our orchards at Longney after lunch..

After the official AGM business was concluded we spent an hour or so discussing the future of GOT. While celebrating the success of our work at Longney we were looking forward – discussing what GOT could do next, how GOT could create mutually beneficial relationships with others such as orchard owners and other organisations with relevant interests. Five discussion groups came up with a series of suggestions, many complementary to each other. As with any voluntary organisation, we can’t do everything at once but these bright ideas have opened up lots of possibilities. (Thank you Alison Parfitt for masterminding the discussion groups)

The walkabout in the afternoon was blessed with beautiful weather, with wonderful views down the river and across the new plantings at the orchards.

Some pictures, courtesy of Paul Bloomer, below, showing the AGM itself, the discussion groups afterwards and finally the walkabout…

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Just to remind everyone it’s our AGM this Saturday, 14th April.

We are meeting at the Anchor Inn, Epney from 10.00am to 1.00pm and afterwards (you can buy lunch at the pub) we will be going on to our nearby Longney Orchards for a walkabout to see the new Gloucestershire Collection Plantings, at about 2.00pm.

At the AGM we are selling orchard books, including Jim Chapman’s new Shadow Orchard booklet (IF back from the printers – we hope so!) and we are taking orders for Charles Martell’s Plum Pomona – a very rare book, all about Gloucestershire plums & damsons! We will have the proof for you to look at. Many other orchard books for sale.

While we celebrate the achievements at our Longney orchards we also need to look forward. So during the AGM we are asking people to join discussions to talk together about:

  • how we can make use of and contribute to our new website
  • how can GOT gain income – we already sell our fruit from Longney
  • what can GOT do for and with orchard owners in Gloucestershire
  • what would you like to see GOT doing in the FUTURE? In say 5, and then 10 years hence

Please note that after the AGM in the morning we be driving the short distance to Longney Orchards.  Please don’t park at the orchard entrance (ie not at the white railings) but a few hundred yards at YEW TREE FARM as the verges are getting so muddy and need to recover.  Roger Godwin has kindly offered us parking in his yard at Yew Tree Farm – there will be signage.

You will need wellies as it is a muddy walk down the public footpath to the orchards. We look forward to seeing you!

AGM Agenda and other details are at https://glosorchards.org/home/event/got-agm/

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