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/

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.

Apple Days galore, even in Gloucester City

It’s apple picking time and there are events all over the county to celebrate the harvest and customs of traditional orchards.  Many are billed as ‘Apple Day’ a concept established by the charity Common Ground way back in 1990.  Read more about that on their website at http://www.commonground.org.uk/apple-day/   Many Gloucestershire Apple day events are listed on our website on the Events pages at  https://glosorchards.org/home/events/category/allevents/

One particularly exciting event, in the centre of Gloucester itself, is at the Folk of Gloucester (Formerly the Folk Museum) where Gloucester Civic Trust will be hosting the Annual Apple day on Saturday 19th of October 2019 from 10am to 4pm. It will be a Celebration of Gloucestershire Apples and Cider Making.

Come and see Rosie the Cider horse, who is coming for the first time this year to help turn the apple mill and make Apple Day in Gloucester a success. She is taking over from Fergus who has now retired after five years of service.

“This is one of the last fully operational horse powered apple mills in the West Country” said Alex Bailey, Chairman of the Operations Team at The Folk, “and we are very fortunate that we can still demonstrate how it works”

There will also be a chance to try some rare breed apples provided by Gloucestershire Orchard Trust and they will be there to sell apple juice and ciders and provide advice on looking after your own apple trees.

There will be lots of Children’s activities available and Morris Dancers from Lassington Oak performing and giving Morris Dancing workshops.

We will have live music from a folk band and Bygonz performing at the event too.

For extra refreshment there will be Severn Cider running a bar with some of their favourite craft ciders available to buy.

This is a preview event for the Folk of Gloucester (Formerly Folk Museum) which is opening in Spring 2020 and will be an exhibition and events space housed in a large Tudor building in Lower Westgate, Gloucester. It will tell the story of Gloucester Folk from Tudor Times to the Modern Day.

The Folk will be operating a café during the event offering Teas, Coffees, Ciders and soft drinks.

Full Press Release is available here: https://glosorchards.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Apple-Day-Press-Release-2019.pdf

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…

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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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.

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.

The Buttersend perry pear rediscovered

Buttersend trees

More pear news from Jim Chapman who writes:

Buttersend is a perry variety originally identified by Long Ashton Research Station in the 1950s, but subsequently considered to be merely a form of Blakeney Red.

Buttersend pears

The re-discovered trees, in a location near Hartpury, are now looking aged and last year I decided to use DNA to double-check that they were actually Blakeney Red. They are still fruiting well, and the fruit does look similar to Blakeney Red, as can be seen in this photo of immature fruit (taken early August)

But the DNA results reveal that it is a unique variety, so the Buttersend is reinstated! It is a perry pear worth planting, with specific gravity, acid and tannin percentages already ascertained by Long Ashton (see original record card below).

It is now being budded and will in due course take its place in the National Collection!

Original LARS record card for Buttersend pear. This card, with holes round the edges is designed for sorting into types – holes indicating particular attributes were nicked using a tool and, by this means, all varieties with that attribute could be selected from a pile of cards by inserting a rod through the unbroken holes. This card may have been made by Cope-Chat in Stroud, who specialised in making this sort of information management stationery in the days before computers.
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