The orchard of mix and match

By Richard Wright

Published on Friday, December 14, 2012 - 11:12


The orchard of mix and match

Hannah Blake, nine, centre, dedicated her tree to the founders of Yarmouth’s recreation ground, where five generations have played. Picture by Thomas Cowley.

GARDENING ALL gardens have a tale to tell but those often fascinating stories are frequently lost in the passage of time.

Who exactly planted that magnolia which delights each year with its magnificent blooms? Why is there a forgotten, overgrown orchard marooned at the back of a modern housing estate?

What traveller threw an apple core from a train window on a now-defunct line, which sprouted into an unusual variety?

As I say, in most cases we will never know or there will be a vague inkling backed by little confirmation.

But, in the case of an embryonic community venture in Yarmouth, the tales behind every tree will be documented in perpetuity and the results — should the saplings mature in their windswept environment — will be free for the community to relish and to help wildlife survive.

The imaginative and apposite reasons for the choices — 30 apples and hazels so far — and the community effort that went into it will make as fascinating reading for the historians of the future as it will, I hope, for the observers of the present day.

The scouts helped with the planting on a triangle of land at The Mount on the fringe of Yarmouth, digging for those who found that problematic.

It was an event dedicated to creating an orchard celebrating local heroes. People came forward to dedicate trees to a wide variety of local contributors to the community.

The trees chosen for the retained fire service, who turned up in uniform, were red-leaved hazels, which turn a fine fiery colour in the autumn. The police had Jubilee, a blue plum, as their tree and the community police support officer, Catherine Quinn, had Morgan Sweet, a West Country cider apple.

Other organisations and their trees included Yarmouth and Calbourne Football Club — Charles Ross variety, which grows in most soils and was apt because the team will play on most pitches — Yarmouth Carnival Committee — Ellison’s Orange, which was introduced close to the date when Yarmouth’s carnival was first held — Yarmouth medical staff and those from the pharmacy — Tom Putt, a cider apple — and those who founded Yarmouth Rec-reation Ground, which has given so much pleasure over the years, were commemorated by nine-year-old Hannah Blake, who is in the fifth generation to enjoy it. She planted Discovery.

All those who have taught sports to local children as well as all who helped with the youth and the canoe clubs were honoured with the blue-leaved hazel, Purpurea, sometimes known as the Atlantic hazel.

Those who have been associated with Yarmouth CE Primary School were honoured by Lord Lambourne, which has child-sized apples.

There were individual dedications to grandfathers.

These included Walter Cotton, coxswain of the lifeboat from 1924 to 1944, during which time 134 lives were saved, Albert Hayward, lifeboat mechanic from 1930 to 1949, who was recognised for bravery, coastguard Victor Henderson, stationed at Yarmouth and the West Wight, and, interestingly, Henry Cooper, bee-keeper of Thorley, whose talents we need for food security today. His tree was Steyne Seedling, a local apple.

Stuart Dyer was commemorated by Paul Buckland, who worked with him at the IW College, with the Hunthouse apple variety, reputedly taken to sea by Captain Cook to ward off scurvy in his men. The link is that both Paul and Stuart were in the Navy.

Ninety-two-year-old Effie Pitman, brown owl for many years, joined Carole Pitman, the recently retired brown owl, to commemorate brownies.

Deputy mayor Cllr Sylvia Mence’s nominated plum tree, Herman, was planted in recognition of the women of Thorley and Yarmouth, who have served in nursing, the WRVS, the Land Army and Lumberjills and as first aiders in war and peace. It was planted by Luke Richards, of the IW Orchard Group, and his four children.

Rita Dedman, who has lived at The Mount since the houses were built, was there to see the Bembridge apple, Howgate Wonder, dedicated to her husband, Ken, who was born the year the apple was introduced. She and her neighbour, Pat Fletcher, held a little party afterwards.

The project has become reality thanks to Yarmouth Town Council, with the active support of the mayor, Cllr Steve Cowley, and his wife, Jill, who are both great fans of preserving unusual varieties.

The council obtained crucial funding from the West Wight Landscape Partner-ship and was encouraged and advised by Alison and Dave Harding, from Brighstone, whose website is a mine of apple information (

Steve said: "I’d hope other communities might follow this and find a bit of land to plant some fruit and nut trees.

"If the ash trees are decimated, who wants sycamores to take over the world?"

• All the tales are on the website in an archive, which will be updated.

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