Orchard History Project, working with GGLT – your help needed! From 19th June.

We are working with Gloucestershire Gardens and Landscape Trust (GGLT) on a new project looking at archival records of the county’s orchards to assess their history, cultural importance and their current status. And using this to help promote orchard knowledge to our members and the wider public.

We will be inviting people to help on a field day at Longney on 19th June, with archive research on 16th July.  Full details below:

Objective

The main aims of the project are:

  • to research and reveal the history of orchards in Gloucestershire by investigating the archival record, in order to build a picture of the importance of orchards generally, and within the landscape and culture of the county;
  • to visit one or more orchards to assess their current standing (by completing the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) standard survey form) to help keep the orchard database up-to-date and to assess the potential for orchards to be improved;
  • to communicate the findings of the project to members/supporters of GGLT and GOT to spread knowledge of the county’s orchards within the wider community;
  • to develop research and online mapping skills with project participants to enable further studies to be pursued in the future, if of interest to participants.

Method

The project will achieve its objectives by:

  • inviting participants to a ‘field day’ at GOT’s orchard at Longney to give participants the knowledge and confidence to complete the standard PTES orchard survey – this session will be led by David Lindgren, Chair of Trustees of GOT;
  • inviting participants to a ‘research morning’ at Gloucestershire’s County Archive to give participants an understanding of the material that is accessible and how to access that material – this session with be led by Dr. Anthea Jones of GGLT;
  • Inviting participants to an online training session on how to access the PTES database and maps of Gloucestershire’s orchards – this session will be led by Steve Oram of PTES.

Participants will be asked to select an orchard or orchards to study, either current or historical.  This could be an orchard known to them, close to their home or within a particular parish of particular interest to the project group – it is for participants as individuals or as a group to decide.  Project participants will then research and visit their orchard(s) at a time of their choosing, to build a picture of that orchard and to conduct an assessment of its current state (if the orchards still exist).

Timing and Results

  • Longney field day on Wednesday 19th June, 2024
  • Archive research day on 16th July, 2024
  • Collation of findings and results from July to November 15th, 2024
  • Publication of findings and results by GGLT and GOT from December 15th, 2024

MistleGO! mistletoe survey – ensure your orchard is recorded!

A brand new mistletoe survey has just been launched by the Tree Council and Oxford University, as an app-based citizen science project to assess the state of mistletoe in Britain. Not just where is it, but what quantities exist. This is new, and exciting, as it will help determine what is happening with mistletoe in Britain here – it seems to be spreading more and faster and we need a new study to assess this, and to create a baseline for assessments in future.

Orchard owners across Gloucestershire – and in adjoining Somerset, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gwent – will be familiar with the particular problem locally. Neglected traditional orchards, in the heart of mistletoe’s favoured region, can become overwhelmed by mistletoe – and it can result in the death of tress and accelerate orchard loss. It shouldn’t be like this of course – mistletoe has co-existed in our area and our orchards since at least the early 19th century and probably well before that. But the decline in interest in managing such orchards, coupled with an apparent increase in mistletoe spread, is now a problem.

Which we need to document. Many will recall the National Mistletoe Survey in the 1990s, run jointly by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland and Plantlife, the plant conservation charity. Instigated in 1992 and analysed through the 1990s up to 1999. That was led by GOT’s own Jonathan Briggs, who is an advisor on the new project  The 1990s study, also linked to orchards  but worrying that orchard loss might result in mistletoe loss (a concept that now seems naive!) merely assessed where mistletoe was growing. But not the amount growing The new project aims to address that.  There is a presentation all about it here: https://youtu.be/o6IcGgkcTGk

The assessment is not just about orchards of course – and the new project looks well beyond orchards to the wider habitats where mistletoe thrives. Anecdotal evidence, and some detailed regional local studies outside our area since the 1990s study, have suggested mistletoe is doing very well in all its habitats – orchards, parkland, churchyards, hedgerows etc. Increasing spread may be due to climate change, changes in the bird populations spreading the seeds, or something else entirely. For a discussion of all this have a read of Jonathan Briggs’ 2021 review here.

Ollie Spacey and mistletoe

So… do take part if you can. It is important that we document the abundance of mistletoe in our area!  And the new study does allow you to record multiple hosts trees at once, so no need (phew!) to document every individual orchard tree!

The project is called MistleGO! It is app-based (though you can use the website version if you prefer) and is being masterminded by Oliver Spacey, a PhD student at Oxford.  The app requires you to give location (it will do this automatically), to take a picture of the tree (or group of trees) with mistletoe, give a score of how much mistletoe there is, and, optionally, give additional information on host tree species etc. Full details (summarised below) are on the Tree Council website here and download instructions for the app (you need the Arc123 app first, and then run the MistleGO! app within that)  are here.

Or just scan this QR code.

 

How to take part:

Download the Survey123 app from the App Store or Google Play (or, if on a PC, from Microsoft)

Download the MistleGO! survey via the link above or the QR code

Open the app and click “Continue without signing in”

Click on the MistleGO! survey and start collecting your record!

You can also take part and upload pictures you’ve taken via the web version, but make sure to set your location to where you spotted the mistletoe!

GOT in the news #3: Martin and Tim on Youtube

This is a video filmed in GOT’s orchards at Longney:  This is the summary from the CPRE page:

An interview with Tim Andrews, County Director of CPRE Gloucestershire, and Martin Hayes. Martin is an expert orchardist and key member of the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust. The interview explores why orchards are special to Martin and Gloucestershire, and the work Martin does to reverse their decline. Around 75% of orchards have been lost in Gloucestershire in the last 50 years.

The interview was filmed in Longney, near Gloucester at an orchard owned by the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust. CPRE Gloucestershire is presently helping to restore around 10 acres of orchard at near Slimbridge in Gloucestershire.

Tim Andrews directed, filmed and edited the video – it was his first try at doing this.  And it is rather good, though Tim says ‘improvements are planned for next time’.

 

Perry Pear Planting at Boyce Court, Dymock

Our committee co-chair David Lindgren and incoming treasurer Andy Ellis were out last month planting some replacement perry pears at Boyce Court, near Dymock.

There’s a long-established avenue of pear trees there, on the drive leading to the house.  These trees, several hundred years old, are well-known (in the perry pear world) as they feature in the 1963 book Perry Pears by L C Luckwill and A Pollard.

The illustration in the book shows a healthy avenue of trees but now, 60 or so years later, many have gone and most of the survivors are decaying or dead.  Some are still productive though, and David has used the fruit for a limited edition Perry called “The Avenue”.

David and Andy’s efforts, planting some Thorn perry pears (one of the old varieties originally planted in the avenue), will help reverse the decline and keep the tradition of the avenue going.

For more pictures see below and for information on the site and varieties do visit David’s blog about it at https://www.bushelpeck.co.uk/news-and-natter/2022/1/29/z42onimf0bkf10brye6296cphdoekv 

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New Traditional Orchard at Wallsworth Hall- fruitful collaboration in action!

Wallsworth Hall, an imposing C18 house, just north of Gloucester at Twigworth, is home to one of the UK’s most important national charities promoting conservation through the medium of art – in all its many forms. Established in 1988, Nature in Art (N in A) is now a unique centre, with an expanding membership and visitor base.  It is dedicated, among other aims, to show how the visual and aesthetic qualities of art can help support ecology and encourage participation in realising common objectives.

The large garden area surrounding Wallsworth Hall provides space for many sculptures and a site for a busy Education Centre with outreach work with schools, art groups and visiting artists in residence. The garden is also very popular with visitors, with circular walks and picnic places, and it has an excellent range of wildlife. However, the far end of the garden had been left largely untouched and had become overgrown and inaccessible.  N in A’s Trustees decided to restore this area – of around a 1/4 acre – by establishing a small orchard of local varieties of apples to supplement some older fruit trees around the partially walled boundary.

Following enquiries from N in A’s staff, contact with the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust (GOT) was made which led to discussions on how plans for the new orchard could be made and put in train. GOT (and N in A) member Keith Turner agreed to collaborate with N in A Director Simon Trapnell and the Education Officer Catherine Bunn in drawing up practical plans. These included using N in A volunteers first, to clear, by hand, the area of its jungle of briars, nettles and invasive elder; and then to prepare the new area for planting up to 15 fruit trees, mainly apples. The emphasis would be on heritage varieties – a mixture of culinary, cider and dessert types, which would be sourced from GOT member Rob Watkins’ Lodge Farm Trees nursery near Berkeley.  A mix of native grass and wildflower seed will be broadcast under the trees to augment the existing flora and so form a natural sward under the trees for wildlife conservation, especially habitat for bees, butterflies and moths.

Sufficient ground was ready by autumn 2019 for the first trees to be planted, but continued wet conditions delayed planting until early 2020. These trees soon established and made good growth in 2020. Meanwhile, the remainder of the area was prepared for clearing and planting which took place the following winter.  Consisting of grafts on M25, MM106 and MM111 rootstocks, all were local Gloucestershire or regional Three Counties varieties/cultivars. Examples include Ashmeads Kernel, Longney Russet, Arlingham Schoolboy, Yellow Willy etc.  One perry pear has also been included in the mix for a special spot in the new orchard.

The plantings were completed in early 2021 with a total of 16 trees well established, but leaving a legacy of further work by N in A volunteers to maintain the new orchard over the next few years. There was, very likely, an earlier orchard at Wallsworth Hall which would have provided fruit for the house and its residents. So it’s very satisfying that the new trees will restore these links and again be part of the future history of this lovely house.

Keith Turner  6/1/22

More information on Nature in Art: Located at Twigworth off the A38, near Gloucester GL2 9PA.  https://natureinart.org.uk/

Heritage orchards for sale – at Saycells Farm, Kempley, Gloucestershire

Update July 27th:   Good news – we understand that the house and orchards were purchased by a private buyer sympathetic to orchard conservation.

Here’s an opportunity for someone – or some organisation – to acquire and save nearly 30 acres of traditional orchard – with an option on a recently derelict (fire-damaged) farmhouse and yard too. The site is being offered in 4 lots at auction on 22nd July.

The location is Saycells Farm, once a significant player in our local orchard history.  Positioned just inside Gloucestershire but along the border with Herefordshire it is very close to the cider-making village of Much Marcle, where Westons Cider are based today.  But, back in the 19th Century, Saycells itself supported a cider and perry business as big as, possibly larger than, Westons.  The remaining traditional standard orchards – about 29 acres in total – reflect that legacy.

The land within the orchard lots also includes a rare parcel of flower-rich old grassland.  The orchards, and the grassland, are local and national biodiversity conservation priority habitats, so the wildlife value – and potential – is huge.  Maintaining the continuity of these habitats is completely compatible with reinstating fruit production and suitable grazing, so there is of course significant production potential too. There is also, sadly, a possibility of a new owner not wanting the orchards.

GOT is working with other groups and individuals to highlight the orchard value of the site – and we hope to galvanise the interest of persons wishing to own and care for this important conservation asset. We feel this is the surest way of avoiding the loss and damage that may follow a sale to persons not so motivated. There is a well-established local community orchard group – The Big Apple – very close by in Much Marcle who could support a new owner make a success the acquisition.

More details and links are below – but do get in touch with GOT or others if you want some advice – we can put you in touch with local orchard owners, some on adjoining farms, who can help explain the possibilities and potential.

Location:  Postcode HR8 2NP, gridref SO663312 – see map extract above.

 

The Auction details:

Saycells Farm is for sale at auction via HJ Pugh & Co, unless previously sold, at The Hazle Meadows Auction Centre, Ross Road, HR8 2LP on Wednesday 22nd July 2020 at 6.30pm.

Sale details are online at http://www.hjpugh.co.uk/full-details.php?id=2810&farm-much-marcle-ledbury-herefordshire-ledbury

There is also a pdf brochure available here:  http://images.portalimages.com/24206/29684739/brochure/s1/637268616575672537/33468ef07ed4d7bb6a6e022a6890d7fadb2d8357.pdf

The sale lots are (see map below right):

  • Lot 1 – derelict house, outbuildings and land of 10.3 acres which includes old traditional standard perry pear orchards with excellent vintage varieties including Blakeney Red, Brandy, Moorcroft and Thorn;
  • Lot 2 – traditional standard cider apple orchards (with a few standard perry pears) and permanent pasture alongside Kempley Road of 12.9 acres, which contains abundant wild daffodils. The mature fruit trees have a lot of dead wood = fabulous for bugs and birds;
  • Lot 3 – relict traditional standard perry pear orchard with species-rich, semi-natural neutral grassland of 6.27 acres (and an adjacent improved pasture of 14.75 acres) on north side of lane to St Mary’s Kempley – among which are 2 x Gregg’s Pit perry pear trees a rare variety.
  • Lot 4 – mixed secondary native broadleaved woodland and fishing pools of 37.45 acres with abundant Common Spotted Orchids along the rides and adjacent to the lakes; good stands of Yellow Flag, Water Mint, Marsh Thistle and Wild Angelica at the lake margins, and mature standard oaks and at least one mature yew tree within the secondary woodland plantation, as well as numerous mature standard oak and ash trees alongside the Kempley Road.

 

 

(Words from Mark July adapted by Jonathan Briggs)

Fish House discussions

Jim Chapman, Anne Mackintosh, Jonathan Briggs, Steve Hurrell and Stuart Smith in front of the ivy-covered Fish House at Longney. Picture by Ann Smith

We had a very useful, and thoughtful, meeting with Stroud Preservation Trust (SPT) at Longney on 2nd February.

The derelict Fish House, at the riverside end of the orchard, is very much on our to-do list – decisions need to be made about its future, whether to leave it derelict or try and get funding to restore it it.

We had asked SPT, who specialise in restoration of historic buildings, for their views.  They had visited the building before, but this was our first joint visit, with Anne Mackintosh and Steve Hurrell of SPT meeting Ann and Stuart Smith, Jim Chapman and Jonathan Briggs of GOT.

Lengthy discussions followed, on site and over lunch afterwards, but as yet we have no firm way forward.  The general consensus was that getting funding would be very difficult, so there is no immediate prospect of restoration.  Other options will have to be considered.  More on this in due course!

Wassail, wassail, all over Gloucestershire

It’s wassailing time in many of our local orchards and we have a number of events already on the website.

You can see the full list here:  https://glosorchards.org/home/events/?tribe_paged=1&tribe_event_display=list&tribe-bar-date=2020-01-01&tribe-bar-search=wassail

Do have a look and come along to one – and if your event isn’t listed let us know and we’ll add it!

The image below is the Stroud Wassail Song – which you may hear at some of the events:

Display boards installed at Longney Orchard

Our display boards are now installed in the barn at Longney – following sterling work by Stuart, Pete, Ann and Keith who had to battle quite a lot of mud to get onto the site.  Our thanks to all of them.

These are the boards used at the Folk Museum two years ago – always intended for Longney afterwards, and now they’re there!

Picture by Pete Smith

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