2014 children’s orchards plan bears fruit

2014 children’s orchards plan bears fruit
Rob Edwards, The Herald

That is the vision of a new campaign launched at Holyrood later this month to plant apple, pear and plum trees across Scotland. If the organisers have their way, fruit trees will bloom on housing estates, parks and canal banks, and in the grounds of schools, universities, hospitals, churches and businesses.

“Our vision is an ambitious one, that all children across Scotland will grow up seeing the fruit trees they planted blossoming and bearing fruit, near where they live,” said John Hancox, director of the Commonwealth Orchard, the voluntary group launching the campaign, “

Across the UK it is estimated that 90% of orchards have been lost to development or agriculture over the last 100 years. Scotland has been left with just 105 commercial orchards. covering less than 50 hectares.

The UK used to boast as many as 6000 different varieties of apples, only a tiny number of which are now grown. There are more than 40 types of apples specific to Scotland, including the Coul Blush from Easter Ross.

The Commonwealth Orchard, set up by the award-winning Children’s Orchard project, aims to plant as many fruit trees as possible to create a legacy for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Its campaign for a “fruitful Scotland” will be launched on “Holyrood Apple Day” at the Scottish Parliament on 24 September.

“Give people the permission, a spade, the skills and the confidence and we can make a more fruitful ­Scotland,” declared Hancox. “We hope to get many more children planting trees across Scotland now, so that in years to come they will bring their children and grandchildren back to pick the fruit.”

He added: “Why plant spiky and boring ‘amenity’ bushes and trees which seem to be everywhere catching litter, when you can plant beautiful fruit trees that will feed us for free? When you see a tree that you have planted bearing fruit, and you pick and eat it, that is real job satisfaction.”

Hancox said there used to be orchards in Perth, Stirling and other areas that are now built-up. Part of the Merchant City in Glasgow was a pear orchard.

Recreating the orchards of old would help reduce imports, he argued. It could also help encourage healthier eating and bring together communities.

“When I was a kid I used to pick plums from a tree in my aunt’s garden, and I think that’s something everyone should experience,”

The campaign has been backed by Mike Blatt, the regius professor of botany at Glasgow University. “These are excellent moves afoot that will help meet the future needs of Scotland and the UK,” he said.

“Local fruit-growing is an important way to reduce the environmental cost of food production and local produce is a way to expand the variety and quality of the foods we eat.”

Many of the unusual apple varieties that are no longer commonly grown are “wonderfully tasty”, Blatt said. “The Winesap is my favourite.”

Cate Keetley has just started to help the Commonwealth Orchard as a volunteer. “It’s about bringing together local communities, becoming more sustainable, educating our children and each other as well as improving our landscapes,” she said

The Commonwealth Orchard: http://www.commonwealthorchard.com

The Children’s Orchard: http://www.childrensorchard.co.uk/


The Tower of Glamis used to be the pride of the Clyde valley. It was one of the distinctive varieties of apple grown in the area, which was home to some of the best orchards in Scotland.

Other areas also had their special apples, according to Glasgow University’s professor of botany, Mike Blatt. The Galloway Pippin was grown in Wigtownshire, the White Melrose blossomed in the Borders town of the same name and the Coul Blush thrived in Easter Ross.

Other old Scottish apple varieties included the Lass O Gowrie, Scotch Dumpling, Love Beauty, Golden Monday, Bloody Ploughman and King of the Pippins. Some of the better-known Scottish varieties are James Grieve, Charles Ross, Discovery, Laxtons’ Fortune and Ribston Pippin.