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/
(December 2019 update:  the documentation there has been revised 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

Tales from the National Perry Pear Collection

Jim Chapman has sent these updates about some of the pears in the National Perry Pear Collection – plus, at the end, some new info on some dessert pears too:

The Earlies:

Charles Martell, in his 2013 book Pears of Gloucestershire and Perry Pears of the Three Counties, refers to early pears being used to make a quick fermenting sparkling perry ready for Christmas, quoting as authority the late Ray Williams of Long Ashton Research Station.

The orchards at Wick Court in Arlingham, Gloucestershire have an orchard planted in the first part of the 19th century specifically for perry, using the traditional layout of early ripening fruit nearest the mill and later fruit further away, but all their earlies were reworked at some time with the later ripening pear Oldfield.

Recently we have been repropagating these earlies and will be trying to recreate the quick fermenting sparkling perry that was presumably once made at Wick Court. These early ‘harvest’ pears were once far more commonly found on farms, but are now rare, with their fruit not picked, but allowed to fall unused. One of the Wick Court pears, Island Gennet has also been found growing in the GOT orchards at Longney

The Lates:

Another puzzle we hope to resolve concerns a group of three pears whose DNA matches the early Thorn perry pear, but which consistently ripen a month after other Thorn. Again, Charles Martell refers to a later Thorn in his Pears of Gloucestershire, tentatively naming it the Murrell pear. Whether ours is Murrell is unlikely ever to be established, but it is presumably a sport or mutation of the commoner Thorn.

And dessert fruit too:

Another Wick Court pear is one recently named Queen’s Wick View, to commemorate the visit by Queen Elizabeth I. If she had indeed slept in the room tradition specifies (unlikely as it was not built until 50 years after her death!) and if the tree was then growing (which it wasn’t), it would have been in her view from the window.

For the last few years I have picked this pear to try to identify it, and this year tasted it long after picking, when it had done the circuit of shows for over a month – what a transformation, from being a rather indifferent, but apparently perry variety, it had sweetened to remain an unknown but now very pleasant Bergamot type dessert fruit !

All I have to do now is to discover whether I can find a ‘lost’ Bergamot whose description matches. The DNA does not match any pear currently in the National Collection at Brogdale.Thomas Hitt in 1757 wrote “as pears are the best fruit the winter months afford, they are worthy of the greatest care in preserving”. He continued “many thought to be second rate become delicious if stored correctly, melting and rich, but dry and tough if left to ripen outdoors”

NOTE: the orchards at Wick Court are not open to the public, but GOT does occasionally arrange visits to them.

World Record for Perry Pears (again!)

Congratulations to Jim Chapman, who, at the National Perry Pear Centre’s Open Afternoon in Hartpury last weekend, displayed 108 varieties of Perry Pear, a World Record. Comfortably beating his own previous record of 97 varieties last year. Most were from the National Perry Pear Centre’s own Hartpury orchards, augmented by a few from Malvern.

You missed it? Don’t worry, you can see the display again next weekend in the Orchard Pavilion at the Malvern Autumn Show. Jim will be on hand to identify any perry pears you may like to bring. A donation is asked for to help the Trust’s work at the Centre.

And GOT’s own stand will be nearby with a Gloucestershire apple display, tasting opportunities for selected (ripe) apple varieties and juice for sale plus tree advice.

Harvest, and show, time

With Apple Day looming and the apple and pear crop ripening rapidly – some varieties earlier than others of course – it is time to think about orchard events and shows.

We have many listed on the website – including many dates for Apple Day – an event originally set as being October 21st by Common Ground (see http://commonground.org.uk/projects/orchards/apple-day/) but, not surprisingly, now spread out across many early autumn weekends.

Do have a look at the events list on the website – and let us know if you want your event added. The events page is at https://glosorchards.org/home/events/category/allevents/

The next event we’ll be at will be Malvern Autumn Show – this coming weekend – more about that soon…

Cider and Perry Awards at the Royal Three Counties Show in June 2019

Mattias’ display at the Show, with his Awards

Many congratulations to Mattias Pihlwret (manager at National Perry Pear Centre at Hartpury) who won:

  • best dry cider
  • best medium cider
  • was highly commended for perry
  • won the best Gloucestershire producer award and
  • received the overall trophy for best in Show (from international entries, not just from the Three Counties!

Mattias is a GOT committee member – and he obviously knows what he’s doing when it comes to Cider and Perry!

Days Cottage Blossom day brings in the crowds

Everyone enjoyed the magnificent apple blossom at Days Cottage Blossom afternoon last Sunday, 5th May.

Members, visitors and Stroud Farmers Market friends attended the event at at the Orchard & Rural Skills Centre, home not just of the Gloucestershire varieties of apple but also varied mature and young orchards and a forest garden.  Apple cakes and hot spiced apple juice were enjoyed in the cosy yurt.  Days Cottage juice, cider and perry and orchard honey and trees were for sale.  There was needle felting craft for children.

GOT committee were on hand to sell orchard-related books, hand out literature and chat about orchards.

We owe many thanks to Jane Willoughby who is turning up weekly (and today) to continue formally recording the blossom on the Museum Orchard Gloucestershire apple varieties for the Fruitid.com website.

Pictures by Ann Smith:

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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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Three new pear varieties

Zealous

And yet more pear news from Jim Chapman who writes:

Felix

Three new pears discovered at Wick (near Arlingham) have now been named. One is now Zealous, which we have also found in Wales. This means the National Collection now covers the full A – Z of perry pears – from Arlingham Squash to Zealous!

The second is now Felix, because I always take the pears to shows in Felix cat boxes.

The third I am provisionally calling Island Gennet as it is a very early pear (Gennet) found at both Longney and Wick. I am checking whether Island is the best way to refer to the area between the Canal and Severn.

The first two featured in our record breaking display of 97 varieties at Hartpury recently.

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