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/

Government Cider Tax Consultation – a risk to Traditional Orchards

This has been a hot topic in the cider and perry community since the budget and has caused understandable anxiety for smaller scale producers.

The issue is whether there will be changes to the existing 70hL (7000l) cider exemption from taxation.  This tax relief has helped conserve orchards, encourage small cider and perry makers (and has saved HMRC a great deal of administration!).

Any changes to that exemption could make small scale production uneconomic – which would have knock-on effects for traditional orchards.

Several GOT committee members who make cider and perry have lobbied their MPs to urge them to keep the system unchanged (ie tax low and paperwork simple).

The Government has issued a consultation paper – with responses required this month (January 2022).

GOT intends lobbying on behalf of cider producers and for the well-being of traditional orchards.

If you are able to write to your MP or complete the consultation, please let us know.

Do note that the consultation, as it stands, advocates no change to the current cut-off and a streamlining of the ‘cliff-edge’ if/when small producers pass the cut-off – see wording from paragraph 4.37 in the consultation (reproduced below).  This is encouraging but isn’t definite, and the proposals are complex, so this shouldn’t put people off writing in to support the status quo and express their views on changes. We need to maximise support for this.

4.37 The Government intends this to build on and not replace the existing exemption for small cidermakers, as the transition at 70hL has been identified as an impediment to growth. Small cidermakers below this level will continue to be exempt from the requirement to register and therefore pay no excise duty. However, once cidermakers exceed this level, the Government proposes to give them a full rebate of the excise duty that would have otherwise been payable, to remove the existing distortionary ‘cliff-edge’. This rebate will only be available to cidermakers who produce less than the maximum threshold for the small producer relief as a whole.

The consultation deadline is 30 January 2022.  Do let us know if you need any advice on what it all means and what should be said!

The consultation webpage, with details of how to respond, is at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-new-alcohol-duty-system-consultation

Direct link to the consultation document is https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1028702/20211026_Alcohol_Duty_Review_Consultation_and_CFE_response.pdf

Thank you!

Berry Hill Community Orchard Wassail 14th January 2022

Berry Hill Community Orchard Wassail

Friday 14th January 2022

4pm song, dance, blessing and festivities up on the orchard site.

Followed by dancing from cheese, apple, bread and beverages at the Globe Inn.

Please bring along instruments, festive wear and battery lights/torches.

GL16 7BZ

 

Hartpury OC Wassail CANCELLED

Sorry, this event has been cancelled due to Covid related issues.

The annual Wassail at the National Perry Pear Centre/Hartpury Orchard Centre.

Friday 21 January 2022, from 7pm depending on what is permitted.

We are advising folks to check our website on the day, in case it is called off.

Obviously we don’t now know if we will be serving food, but will if we can.

More information will be posted at https://www.hartpuryheritage.org.uk/events/

Defra announcement about the new Farming Investment Fund

An interesting piece of kit apparently available via the fund!  It’s a Fruit Ripeness Spectrometer – “Handheld device for use in orchards to determine produce quality and harvest timing. Uses NIR (Near Infra-Red) to determine and measure DM (Dry Matter), total soluble solids, titratable acidity, and colour to determine ripeness”  Probably not designed for our mixed variety traditional orchards!

Defra has recently launched the new Farming Investment Fund.

Much of it looks beyond the scope of your average orchard grower, but there are some things like electric fencing that might be useful.

 

This is the wording from their announcement:

We are very pleased to let you know that Defra has launched today, Tuesday 16th November, the new Farming Investment Fund which will offer funding for equipment, technology, and infrastructure that improves farm productivity and benefits the environment.

This fund will provide grants to farmers, foresters and growers (including contractors to these sectors) helping them to focus on more efficient production methods that will reduce resource costs, improve yields, and give them a better return. It will also support farmers who want to process and add value to their existing products, create new products, or sell their produce directly to consumers. 

The Farming Investment Fund offers funding for both smaller investments - The Farming Equipment and Technology Fund and for larger investments – The Farming Transformation Fund. Today, we are opening applications for the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund and for grants focused on the Water Management theme of the Farming Transformation Fund, which is dedicated to arable and horticultural businesses growing, or intending to grow, irrigated food crops, ornamentals or forestry nurseries.  Additional grants and themes will be made available as part of this fund in the future.

Please read our blog post and our press release to find more information about the available grants. For more background information we have a key messages document (available here). 

The Funds will open to applicants on Tuesday 16 November. The application deadline for the Farming, Equipment and Technology Fund will be 12:00 noon on 7th January 2022. The online checker for the Farming Transformation Fund will run until 12th January 2022, with the full application deadline on the 30th June 2022. 

The Gloucestershire Cider Box for Christmas

If you’re looking for an unusual, tasty (and educational) gift to give this Christmas why not support some of our local orchards and buy the Gloucestershire Cider Box?  This is available from our friends at Bushel & Peck (run by David Lindgren, based in Winchcombe) and Orchard Revival (run by Tim Andrews, based in North Nibley).

About the case:

12 bottles of Gloucestershire cider and perry ciders from 6 Gloucestershire based cider-makers.  All are real, full juice ciders, a showcase of the quality and diversity of cider that’s available Gloucestershire, covering different styles of cider, with different fruit varieties from different locations.

A tutored tasting with The Ciderologist:

The case comes with links to an online tutored tasting with Gabe Cook, the Ciderologist. The case has two bottles of each cider, one you can drink during the tutored tasting and one to enjoy at your leisure, before or after.  The online session will take place on 17th December on Zoom but will be recorded for access afterwards.  So you don’t have to drink all six at once!

The case contains 2 each of:

BUSHEL+PECK: Fresh+Crisp; cider, an Eastern Counties-style cider made from unsprayed eating apples. Simple and refreshing. 2 x 500ml

DUNKERTONS: Breakwell’s Seedling; organic single variety cider. A fragrant and fruity sparkling medium dry cider. 2 x 500ml

JOLTER PRESS: Squeal; rich and flavourful medium sweet cider made from a variety of cider apples from the Forest of Dean. 2 x 500ml

ORCHARD REVIVAL: Festival; a popular blended West Country cider made from cider, dessert and culinary fruit.  Made by a small cider-maker in South Gloucestershire who is dedicated to restoring traditional orchards. 2 x 500ml

SEVERN CIDER: Perry; a delicate and crisp perry, made predominantly from Blakeney Red perry pears from this well-established cider-maker, located close to the River Severn. 2 x 330ml

THE WILD CIDER CO: Tyndale Gold; fruity aromatic cider pressed using a complex blend of cider apples picked from orchards under the watchful gaze of the Tyndale Monument. 2 x 500ml

 

Order from either Bushel & Peck or from Orchard Revival or from Wild Cider. Price per case is £36.50 plus £8.50 shipping (though local delivery may be available free, see links for details)

Or, if you don’t want the full case, why not look at all the other ciders and perrys on offer – there are links to all the 6 cider makers in the listing above and most have online shops.

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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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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