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

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)

Mason Bees return to Longney

posted in: bees, blossom, Longney, orchard | 0

Despite the lockdown this year’s consignment of mason bee pupae has been installed at Longney.  Transporting livestock is, of course, permitted!

13 bee boxes containing a total of around 300 tubes, plus 4 release boxes containing around 200 pupae were placed a few weeks ago (in time for most of the blossom).

No pictures from this season, but here are a few from last year, showing Keith Turner installing the boxes and tubes:

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Longney in lockdown

posted in: blossom, Longney, orchard, wildlife | 0

A few pictures from our Longney orchard, taken by Martin Hayes this week.

Lockdown or not it’s still spring in the orchard, the trees are flowering, the butterflies are out, and the river keeps on flowing:

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Blossom time for pears, not yet for apples…

posted in: apples, blossom, mistletoe, orchard, pears | 0

Most of Gloucestershire’s traditional orchards are a mix of apples, pears and some plums – and this becomes particularly obvious, some distance away, at flowering time with the pears flowering first.

We can’t get out much at the moment because of the coronavirus restrictions but here are a few pictures (slideshow below) of the orchard at Standish Court, just south of Gloucester, taken yesterday and showing how the pear blossom picks out the pears from the apples.

In this particular orchard the contrast is heightened by the abundance of mistletoe – which grows readily on apple trees but rarely on pears.  So the apples are covered in mistletoe, the pears are covered in blossom.

Note too that there have been some recent losses – trees blown over – and that this may well be due, at least in part, to too much mistletoe.

 

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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:

DNA analysis of local varieties – our part in the national review – and an update

We have, as many will know, been taking part in a national initiative using DNA analysis to rationalise and better understand local varieties – how they relate (literally!) to one another and whether some are identical to others.  And, where they are identical to others with differing names (perhaps in other areas) which name should take precedent,

This has been a challenging project, requiring leaf samples from named varieties being sent to labs, particularly East Malling Research centre in Kent, for analysis.  The project is not ours – though several people from the GOT committee are involved and we are significant contributors of samples – it is a national initiative we are helping with.  Updates on progress overall can be found on the FruitID website’s help pages: https://www.fruitid.com/index.html#help – click on Register of LocalCultivars for documentation.

But where, after 3 years or so of work, have we got to in Gloucestershire?

Well, we do now have new and revised lists of Gloucestershire apple and pear varieties – some details of which rock the boat a little – we have fewer ‘Gloucestershire’ varieties than we thought!  But that’s to be expected when everything is compared using DNA – there are bound to be matches and competing claims.

The revised listings (as at the end of November 2019) are now available on the varieties part of our website – https://glosorchards.org/home/fruitvarieties/research/
(Update:  the documentation there has been revised – in December 2019 (Pears) and February 2020 (Apples) since this posting – the original files available on the link have now been deleted and replaced by the updated ones)

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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