As well as its own orchards GOT is involved with two Orchard Centres in Gloucestershire, in Brookthorpe, just south of Gloucester and at Hartpury, further north between Gloucester and Staunton. Both centres hold imporant collections of traditional varieties and both offer training in various aspects of orchard management and the use of orchard fruit.
Both centres are described on this page (quick links below). To return to GOT’s own orchards page click here and to find out more about community and other visitable orchards visit our Local Orchards webpages here.
The Orchard & Rural Skills Centre at Brookthorpe
This centre, run by Dave Kaspar and Helen Brent-Smith of Day’s Cottage Apple Juice, started in early 2009 when Gloucestershire Orchard Trust received a grant from the Gloucestershire Environment Trust to establish an Orchard Skills Centre – an outdoor centre for running workshops on all aspects of orchard management and other rural skills.
Working with the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust Dave and Helen have noticed an increase in orchard activity with many community groups and schools planting mini orchards. “However, the age old skills of looking after fruit trees have been lost over the years with the demise of orchards,” explained Dave “and we are hoping to help reverse that trend by providing accessible, affordable courses.”
Dave, a teacher before he became interested in orchards, is highly experienced at running courses.
”My aim is to demystify the processes of pruning, grafting and budding, and to give people hands on practice. The pruning courses teach people to create productive and beautiful trees – whether its one small tree in a garden, or an orchard of old trees. Grafting and Budding are methods of propagating fruit trees.”
“Many people aren’t aware that you can’t simply plant an apple pip and grow a tree that will produce the same apple. Our courses teach people the ancient arts of grafting and buddin
g, and give them the satisfaction of creating a new tree for themselves, sometimes from a much loved old tree in a relative’s garden.” explained Helen.
The centre, nestling amongst the old orchards at Day’s Cottage, is designed to be as low impact and sustainable as possible, with temporary buildings using local resources wherever possible. The unique 12 sided, canvas roofed outdoor workshop is constructed from local sweet chestnut with pegged joints. A warm indoor space is provided by a locally made yurt surrounded by a circular garden of fruit trees, grown as cordons and espaliers.
A demonstration orchard has also been planted for pruning courses, and a new nursery bed for newly grafted trees for sale, mainly of local Gloucestershire varieties. The facilities also include a composting toilet (with a stained glass window!) A beautiful outdoor wood fired oven produces tasty pizzas for workshop participants and other users of the site.
Helen and Dave are planning to make the facilities available for other rural skills workshops and aim to gradually develop an annual programme including living willow, basket making, green woodwork, dry stone walling and hedge laying.
For more details of the Centre and current courses visit the Day’s Cottage website.
Please note that the Centre is not open for casual visitors, please only visit by arrangement or at events or courses.
The Orchard Centre at Hartpury
The Orchard Centre at Hartpury is set in the midst of the National Perry Pear collection, with over 100 varieties of Perry Pear. The oak framed Centre building provides information and is a unique specialist centre for training in the production of cider, perry, juice and orchard fruit-based products.
The Centre and the Perry Pear Collection are owned and managed by the Hartpury Heritage Trust.
The National Perry Pear collection has at least two examples of every known variety of perry pear. Graftwood can be supplied. It was started by Jim Chapman in 1999 to replicate and extend the Malvern Perry Pear collection established by Charles Martell from 1991 onwards. Jim gave 25 acres to the Hartpury Heritage Trust to establish the new collection. This land includes the orchards, a wetland nature reserve and, from 2008, the Orchard Centre building.
In 2015 the Centre was extended to include a library and office space. By then the perry pear collection had increased to 105 distinct varieties. To improve bio-security, it was decided to spread the collection between the sites and in 2016 the Malvern collection was enlarged to 75. By way of comparison the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale includes only 20 perry pear varieties.
Visitors are welcome at any time – parking (if gates closed) is on hardstanding outside the main gate, and access is via kissing gates.
Hartpury Heritage Trust, the charity which owns the Centre and manages the National Perry Pear Collection, is a small village charity. Other than support from Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship programme, it currently receives no financial support for its activities, although the National Association of Cidermakers did provide annual support for 3 years.
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