Orchards, Trees & Orchard Produce
'The Changing Face of Devon' (1979) showed that more than 6,000 acres of orchards had been lost since 1905. The loss of commercial orchards continues, but in parts of Devon, thanks to efforts by Devon County Council, North Devon Save our Orchards Campaign, South Hams District Council, Orchard Link and others, traditional farm orchards (mainly cider orchards) are being saved and re-planted. These orchards are of tall, well-spaced trees and grazed underneath by sheep or cattle with varieties with wonderful names such as Slack Ma Girdle, Fair Maid of Devon, Spicey Pippin, Tremlett's Bitter and Whimple Queen.
Many of these Devon orchards were captured for a Common Ground exhibition by the photographs of James Ravilious between 1988-89 and exhibited throughout the south west and beyond. The exhibition with 44 framed black and white photographs is available for hire from Common Ground as is a simple laminated panel exhibition for village halls, libraries etc. Some of the orchards which he photographed are now just memories, a reminder that fruit trees are vulnerable to the vagaries of markets and fashion. See his image of West Park, Iddesleigh.
Landkey Mazzards: The parish of Landkey in north Devon has been reviving a part of its heritage. The mazzard, a type of cherry peculiar to the west country, and probably introduced by the Huguenots during the c18, was once the focus of a thriving market industry. The mazzard was in danger of becoming extinct, but Landkey residents are keen to resurrect this part of local life.
Until world war two, Mazzard Greens, as the orchards are known, covered 100 acres around Landkey with varieties such as Dun, Bottlers and Green Stem Black. The trees often reached 50 feet. The fruits are smaller than most cherries, but they are sweet and delicious, and the trees are resistant to bacterial canker.
Michael Gee of Orchards Live has been helping the villagers of Landkey to create new mazzard greens. A Millennium Green has been created, part of which is a Mazzard Green comprising five varieties of Mazzards and 3 local apple varieties - Listener, Limberland and Stockbearer - 65 trees in total. Contact Dick Joy, +44(01)271 830325 for details.
The Plymouth Pear is a rare wild pear, a species of national importance, growing wild in a handful of hedgerows in Plymouth and Truro, although further research may turn up other areas. It has been included on English Nature’s Species Recovery Programme. In an initiative by Plymouth Tree Wardens, the Plymouth Tree Partnership, the City Council, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and the International Tree Foundation, the Plymouth Pear has been given legal protection under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.
The Dittisham Plowman or the Ditsum Plum as it is known locally, is a plum variety grown around the village of Dittisham in South Devon. It ripens in July and August and is used for eating, cooking and especially jam making. The Plum Project Book: Recipes, Stories & Memories is a celebration of the 'Ditsum Plum' collected into a book 2004 by the Ditsum Plum Committtee and Once -Arts and Ceremonies. 1500 were printed, and given to every household in the village. Available for sale from the Dittisham Village Hall.
Cider with Roadies - in Autumn 2006 the Common Players Theatre presented a pilot tour of their mobile Apple press (pictured left). Commissioned from Sculptor, Jon Rodney-Jones, "Pomona" is an unique trailer which weighs, washes, crushes and presses apples into juice. Accompanied by live music, 12 small communities in Devon welcomed a day of "pressing" activity in farmers markets, orchards and village squares. Apples were brought along and were pressed into juice which was sold, the profits benefitting local causes. In addition, 10 primary schools spent half a day with Community Artist Mary Richards, creating sculptures and pictures inspired by local apple varieties which were then exhibited on the day of the Apple Press' visit. In Autumn 2006 they pressed 2,400 litres of apple juice!
In 2007 the tour from 8 September to 5 November will include family plays, the first of which is THE BIG SQUEEZE which will be presented after an afternoon's apple pressing. There will also be the Apple Educator who will work with schools, and the Apple Animateur who will be on hand at pressings to collect apple stories, traditions and identify local apples. IF YOUR COMMUNITY WOULD LIKE TO HOST CIDER WITH ROADIES FOR THE DAY CONTACT mary[at]ciderwithroadies.org or for more information and tour dates see www.ciderwithroadies.org
Apple Day Events
Where to get help
Orchards and Community Orchards to visit
Where to buy apples and orchard produce
Dishes to look out for
Where to buy fruit trees
Some Devon Fruit