In a nod to apple day, the National Trust’s Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire is celebrating its recent National Collection ‘award’ for its apple collection, making it just one of five collections culinary apples in the country.
The status, granted by plant conservation charity, Plant Heritage, has been bestowed on Clumber’s collection of 72 apple varieties which are all cared for by by the small team of five staff and over 50 volunteers at Clumber’s Walled Kitchen Garden.
Chris Margrave, Head Gardener at Clumber Park said: “These wonderful old varieties are just as much a part of our national treasure trove as Drake and the Armada or a Lennon and McCartney song. To receive national recognition for our work in keeping these rare and traditional varieties alive has given the garden team at Clumber a real buzz and provides a further impetus to finding more ‘lost’ varieties.
Varieties include; Bess Pool originally discovered in Nottinghamshire and named after the daughter of a nearby inn-keeper in the 1700s, and Ribston Pippin which has been grown here from a similar time, but have struggled for recognition to compete against the modern day producers’ desire for quick growing, attractive fruit.
Chris continued: “The crops bring with them their own stories, not just about what people ate, but about how communities worked and lived. The varieties in the collections are rare because they are not suited to modern food production techniques and demands – for example, the apples may bruise easily, don’t yield heavily enough or don’t produce enough regularly shaped, evenly sized fruits.”
There are just 600 plant heritage collections in the UK with many of these focusing on ornamental plants, making Clumber’s culinary award even more significant. Clumber also received an award for its rhubarb collection which with over 130 varieties is the largest in the UK.
Commenting on the news, Plant Heritage Conservation Officer Mercy Morris said: “I am so pleased that Plant Heritage has recognised the value of these unique collections. The more local varieties of fruit are conserved, the more of our precious horticultural and culinary history is saved for the future.”