‘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, 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.
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. 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. Orchards Live has been helping the villagers of Landkey to create a Mazzard Green comprising five varieties of Mazzards and 3 local apple varieties – Listener, Limberland and Stockbearer – 65 trees in total. .
The Plymouth Pear is a rare wild pear, a species of national importance, growing wild in a handful of hedgerows in Plymouth and Truro. It has been included on Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme and 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.
Devon orchard groups
To find community orchards local to you, see our community orchard map
- Growing Orchard Communities – South Devon AONB working with Orchard Link on a new community orchards project. Over 20 community orchard groups are taking part, from the edge of Plymouth right over through Torbay and from the coast up to the edge of Dartmoor. There is a great range of sites and groups, which means that there will be plenty of expertise and shared experience to draw upon and learn from. This project will run from the launch in November 2015 to the final celebration event in June 2017. The main period of engagement for community orchard groups will be Jan 2016 – March 2017.
- Orchard Link – Saving Traditional Orchards since 1998. Orchard Link is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation established in 1998 by apple and cider enthusiasts in south Devon concerned about the rapid decline of traditional orchards – with all their environmental and cultural value. Profound changes in the local agricultural economy have meant the loss of both orchard knowledge and the means to make productive use of crops. Orchard Link offers its members technical advice, a programme of events, courses and activities, and makes key items of equipment – mills, presses and pasteurisers – available for hire.
- Orchards Live – set up to save orchards in North Devon and wider Exmoor. The group runs courses, talks and visits so that in a two year cycle all aspects of ‘standard’ orchard management are covered. The group has run training events on all aspects of orchard restoration, establishment, management and production and have been involved in establishing an annual Apple Day at Rosemoor (with RHS) and Apple Fair at South Molton. They organise informal walks, social events and networking opportunities. They have been active in locating old fruit varieties for propagation and are developing www.devon-apples.co.uk as the county-wide source of technical information and Devon’s Pomona listing all locally-grown apple varieties. The group has acquired cider and juice making kit and other equipment for members to use. They are looking at ways to ensure that orchard products find markets and are used well and are working with other bodies in the region to encourage orchards.
- Plymouth Community Orchards Network is a partnership of organisations working together for the conservation and management of community orchards in the City of Plymouth. Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Community Homes, along with other organisations, have been planting orchards around the city to try to halt further decline in orchards, increase biodiversity and connect people with growing food in their local area. Communities, Schools and Friends Groups have also been getting involved. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tavy & Tamar Apple Group – the Group is based on the Bere Peninsula in West Devon and is mainly concerned with orchards on the Peninsula. They encourage the rejuvenation of local orchards through best practice and sustainable management. They hold an annual wassailing event, pruning and grafting courses, members days and an annual Apple Fest in October. They also hire out apple pressing and crushing equipment to members (who are trained in its use) This includes a mobile hydraulic Vigo Press, crushers and pasteurisers etc.
Where to buy trees in Devon
- Thornhayes Nursery – Large number of varieties of apple including many local types,cider varieties, plum, pear, including perry, Devon specialities including mazzards and Tamar Valley cherries. St Andrews Wood, Dulford, Cullompton EX15 2DF 01884 266746
- Adams’s Apples: Talaton Plants have over 100 varieties of apple trees, that can been sent out mail order. Also plums, gages, damsons, pears and cherries. Varieties include Cornish and Devon apples. Egremont Barn, Payhembury, Honiton EX14 3JA. 01404 823185
Where to buy orchard produce in Devon
- Ashridge Cider – produce sparkling ciders – Vintage and Devon Blush – using the traditional champagne method. Also produce some bottled bottled organic vintage ciders made from 100% apple juice, using up to fifteen different varieties of bittersweet and bittersharp cider apples from old organic orchards in Devon. Draught cider (Bag in Box) and organic sparkling soft drinks also available. Online shop.
- Barnstaple Panniers Market – Francis Hancock sells varieties apples on Fridays at the market from August to Spring. He grows 40 varieties of apples (mostly dessert and culinary) on his farm at Harford Barton plus pears, plums, damsons and mazzards.
- Bramley & Gage – have created liqueurs from Dittisham plums, Bramley apples and quince. Other fruit liqueurs include damson gin, sloe gin and Slider – in which the sloes used in sloe gin are reserved and infused with Devon cider. Widely available in farm shops, delicatessens, and restaurants. Also online.
- Cider Apple Trees – About 50 varieties of cider apple trees available and 50 eating and culinary varieties. Also plums, pears and damsons. Specialise in supplying standard apple trees. 01963 220855 or email email@example.com
- Ye Olde Cider Bar, 99 East Street, Newton Abbot – one of few remaining cider houses in the UK.
- Dittisham Post Office – sells Dittisham plums direct when they are ripe in August.
- Four Elms Fruit Farm – produce apple juice. Juice and fruit available from farm shop and juice available in local shops.
- Hancock’s Devon Cider – traditionally produced cider. Clapworthy Mill, South Moulton EX36 4HU. 01769 572678
- Heron Valley – Cider and apple juice, unsprayed and organic. New orchards feature some of the oldest heritage apple varieties from the West country. Sells apple and pear, and apple and orange juice etc. Wide variety of juices. Available online. Heron Valley Cider, Crannacombe Farm, Loddiswell, Kingsbridge 01548 550286
- Luscombe Juice & Cider – pure organic Devon apple juice and cider. Wide range of juices and soft drinks. Luscombe Farm, Buckfastleigh, South Devon TQll OLP 01364 643036
- Lyme Bay Winery – Fruit and country wines, meads, ciders and liqueurs including damson and sloe gin. Widely available, also Winery shop and online. Shute, Axminster, Devon EX13 7PW, 01297 551355
- Ostler’s Cider Mill produce cloudy apple cider vinegar and scrumpy cider using apples from own organic orchard. Eastacott Lane, Northleigh Hill, Goodleigh, Barnstaple 01271 321241
- Sam’s Cider – range of ciders available online. Western Barn, Hatherleigh Road, Winkleigh EX19 8AP 0183 783560
- Yarde Cider – Real Drink Ltd – produce cider and juices from apples picked in local orchards which are managed traditionally and all the apples used are free from any chemical sprays or fertilisers.
- Yearlstone Vineyard – produce range of white, rose and red wines and some cider. The vineyard was planted in 1976 by the pioneering viticulturalist Gillian Pearkes. There is a mature orchard with many apple trees, harvested to produce their own cider, sold in the vineyard shop and café. Wide range of local stockists for the wine and available online. Bickleigh EX16 8RL
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