Fish House and Mason Bees at GOT’s AGM 2019

At the Anchor Inn

Our AGM last weekend, at The Anchor Inn in Epney, was well-attended despite indifferent and rather windy weather – which we feared might put people off coming, especially for the orchard walkabout later.

Juliet’s Fish House presentation

After the official business was over we enjoyed two presentations – one on the Fish House (in our Longney Orchards) and one on Mason Bees.  Juliet Bailey led on the Fish House, summarising her review of the building last year, the changes in overgrowth since we took the site on and the options for the future.  In an ideal world we would be able to restore the building and find a use for it – but without funding or, indeed, an obvious use, we may have to consider other options. Juliet outlined the main scenarios – from full restoration to letting it fall down completely.  We had a lively discussion over the ways forward, particularly bearing in mind that we are an Orchard Trust and so must prioritise orchard conservation, and so finding a partner organisation more attuned to historic building work might be a way forward.  Some early ideas of partnerships are already being explored.

Learning about Mason Bees

This was followed by a presentation by Chris and John Whittles from Mason Bees UK (www.masonbees.co.uk) who promote the use of Red Mason Bees (Osmia bicornus) as pollinators for gardens and orchards.  They talked about their research on Mason Bee life cycles and pollination abilities, comparing this favourably with the more conventional concept of honey bees or bumble bees – Mason Bees being much more efficient.

Their presentation was wide-ranging – covering also experiences elsewhere (e.g. the US in Californian Almond Orchards) with other mason bee species, and the intriguing issue of observable better fruit following mason bee pollination.  This phenomenon is perhaps due to differing microbial interaction between bee and flower – with mason bee interactions different to honey or bumble bees.  The issue of colony health and good husbandry was covered too – Mason Bee UK’s system involve participants (Bee Guardians) sending the bee cocoons back to them each year to check for parasites etc, with the healthy cocoons and new nesting tubes sent back to hatch on site in spring.  This avoids the build-up of pathogens and parasites a permanent ‘bee hotel’ would suffer from.  For information on becoming one of their Bee Guardians visit their website here: https://www.masonbees.co.uk/bee-guardians

After lunch most of the attendees travelled the short distance north to our Longney Orchards, to view the changes over the last 12 months – barn restoration, fencing completion, grazing begun, remedial pruning completed etc.  And discussion continued about the Fish House – now almost invisible under its covering of ivy – and about Mason Bees – whose release boxes and new nesting sites could be seen on site.

Some more pictures from the day below (pictures by Ann Smith and Juliet Bailey):

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Pictures from our Community Orchards networking event

Last Saturday, 16th March, we held a networking event for community orchard groups at Toddington Village Hall.  Far too much was discussed to be reported here – maybe later when we’ve digested it all – but here are some pictures of the many and varied impromptu presentations given to everyone as we toured round the various stalls and displays.

Many thanks to all who attended, and to those who helped.  Especially to Alison Parfitt who conceived and masterminded the event.

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The Squatter Communities of West Gloucestershire

Ann Smith writes:
Historian Dr. Nicholas Herbert, former editor of the Victoria County Histories, gave a fascinating talk about 17th/18th century squatters and their role in shaping the landscape of West Gloucestershire on Tuesday 16th October 2018 at the excellent venue of Gorsley Baptist Church.
Thanks to all who came and assisted, including the local history societies. Jim Chapman (GOT and curator of the National Perry Pear Centre) gave an introductory talk, discussing the contribution squatters and smallholders have made to overall fruit production in 18th/19th centuries.
Thanks to the Three Counties Traditional Orchard Project for funding this. Karen Humphries, was also thanked for leading the project over the last three years.
Photos by Ann Smith

Longney Barn Update

posted in: Longney, orchard, orchard history | 0

Work on the barn in our Longney orchards is almost complete (thanks to the hard work of Kelly Carpentry Services of Cheltenham, funded by a grant we had from Heritage Lottery Fund).

Here’s what it looked like before (left) and below are a few pictures of how it looks now:

 

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Days Cottage Apple Day

Some notes from the events at Days Cottage on National Apple Day, Sunday 21st October 2018.  Apple Day, originally launched by Common Ground in 1990, has become an essential part of the orchard calendar.

Helen Brent-Smith and her papermache apples

At Days Cottage scores of visitors came along to see the Orchard and Rural Skills Centre, just south of Gloucester, to enjoy the sunshine in wonderful old and young traditional unsprayed orchards.

 

People could have fruit identified, order and buy heritage fruit trees, juice apples, appreciate the wildlife, listen to musicians, try spoon carving, and taste and buy juice, cider and perry and rare apple varieties.

 

Apple Pear Portraits

There were activities for children too, including making the longest peel and sitting for a most unusual portrait! Folk could relax in the cosy yurt or roundhouse and imbibe mulled apple juice or eat from a range of delicious apple and pear cakes.

 

GOT was on hand to sell orchard books, including Charles Martell’s apple, pear and plum pomonas (also available to buy from the GOT online shop).

For more information on Days Cottage visit their website at www.dayscottage.co.uk

Photos by Paul Bloomer and Ann Smith.

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. Our regular visitors, students from the Apperley Centre (part of the Shrubberies School) in Stonehouse, have recently been learning how a human chain works, helping move the big pile of bark chippings using buckets:

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

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.

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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