Archive for August, 2007

“Pears like districts where there is an equable temperature and a large expanse of water does ensure less liability to frost in the spring when the blossoms are out. Pears do well, for instance along the Medway valley, and in the Swale Estuary in Kent.”

The author of this observation, W. Shewell Cooper, the amateur gardening guru, was highlighting the area around Faversham on the Swale as being particularly good for pears and the same argument holds for all fruits.

This was written in the 1950s at the time when the Ministry – MAFF, now Defra – was wisely selecting Brogdale, just outside Faversham for the site of its fruit collections and fruit trials work. Shewell Cooper and the Ministry were both thinking of the best place to achieve good, regular crops. In other words, somewhere that was reasonably free from late spring frosts, the fruit grower’s worst enemy: there are no frost pockets at Brogdale. While benefiting from proximity to the sea, Brogdale is also in a slightly elevated position – at a couple of hundred feet above sea level – which has the advantage of holding back the blossom a little, making it a ‘late’ site and hence giving further protection. Closeness to the sea, however, can bring strong winds, but the whole of Brogdale is divided up into hectare plots by mature protective wind breaks. All in all then a splendid spot in which to grow fruit and ideal for a wide range of different fruits. It has the right soils and maximum hours of sunshine for the UK. Why on earth then would anyone want to move the Collections away from Brogdale?

The ability to grow good pears is excellent proof of a congenial spot and the coastal areas of East Kent, from Rochester, on the Medway, down to Faversham and Canterbury excel in this respect. Today’s prize winning pear-grower farms at Wingham near Canterbury. Mockbeggar Farm at Higham, near Rochester, produced fabulous pears and Macknade Farms of Faversham were leading pear growers in the inter-war and post war years. All fruits grow well here and have done so for centuries.

When MAFF chose Brogdale, it was locating the Collections in the heart of the UK’s, leading fruit growing area. Climate and soils are key factors and historically also proximity to the London markets – before the advent of the railways fruit was shipped by boat from Faversham and Rochester. All good reasons why Henry VIII’s fruiterer, Richard Harris, chose Teynham on the Swale, next to Faversham, to plant orchards of new varieties to supply the capital and which in time earned the county its lasting title – ‘The Garden of England’. It was said that Harris’s fruit trees became the ‘chief mother of all other orchards’ serving as a testing ground as well as a source of varieties for fruit growers from far and wide. Much as, Brogdale has functioned for the past 50 years. Surely we can hope that common-sense will recognise the value of this uniquely suitable terroir and lead Defra to leave the Collections at Brogdale.

Joan Morgan

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Cherry production in this country is a sad story. Total production is only around 1,000 tonnes. In 1994 it was 3,500 tonnes, and since 1951 the area under Cherries has fallen from 7,500 hectares to 380. Around 20,000 tonnes (worth £41 million) are imported. Fortunately there are enthusiastic cherry growers bucking the national trend, and one of them is on my doorstep at Ullingswick, Herefordshire. Clive Richards has been slowly increasing his cherry area by 4 hectare a year and all of it is under weather covers. This year he again won prizes at the Kent County Show. He scooped the top prize out of 109 entries with his Kordia cherries of amazing size and flavour. They were uniformly around 30 mm diameter – a 50 pence coin is 28 mm. He also won a class prize for his Stella. This was despite quite appalling weather which perhaps put off the strawberry barons – only 9 of them entered the show.

My own story for this year is a sorry one. April was such a glorious month and all the fruit had set well portending another great year. Sunburst – usually flowers late May to escape the spring frosts – was already in good fruit set. It is the first to ripen and the others were not far behind. We started picking in mid-June, a fortnight earlier than usual. However, it has been a rotten summer and conditions without weather covers very difficult. The cold, wet May arrested development of the fruit and conditions did not improve much. By June it was clear most of the crop would split and then rapidly rot but this does not save any labour. The rotting fruit must be picked and burnt to stop the fungal spores recurring next year. One has to be optimistic and I hung on to the hope that Sweetheart, the last to ripen, would pull something out of the hat. Alas, over 4 ins of rain on 20 July and another inch the next week did for most of them, although the few we had confirmed a delicious variety. Of course many other people fared much worse with flooded houses – I merely had a waterlogged orchard.

Summer Sun was the best performer bearing out previous years. The sad statistics: this year 170 trees produced 110 lb of edible fruit, against 1445 last year. My trees are on Gisela 5 dwarfing rootstock and I have 5 varieties: in order of ripening Sunburst, Stella, Summer Sun, Colney, Sweetheart.

Keith Grumbley

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There seems no doubt that both the Brogdale Horticultural Trust and MAFF, now Defra, regarded Brogdale as the permanent site for the National Fruit Collections in 1990 when the Trust bought the site and in 2000 when it was sold to Hillreed. That was the position taken when the Friends of Brogdale constitution was drafted. But now the Trust has said that it wants to see the Collections moved. So, as Robert White asked in a recent post why is there a ‘U-Turn over Brogdale by Brogdale Horticultural Trust?’ And doesn’t that mean that the Trust has no right to be involved in plans that seek to relocate the Collections away from Brogdale?

The aims of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust as displayed on the Charity Commission web site are as follows.
The Trust was established in order:
to advance the education of the public in the art and science of horticulture;
to undertake research into all aspects of growth cultivation, utilisation and nutritional
properties of fruit trees, bushes and other plants producing edible products;
to disseminate the useful results of such research for the public benefit; and to preserve the collections.


The place where this work should be carried out and the site of ‘the collections’ is not specified. However, the Trust’s aims are spelt out in the constitution of the Friends of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust, drawn up by the Trust in 2001 to gain more control of the Friends, and here there is more detail on the Trust’s conservation activities. The Friends’ constitution opens with the following statement.
The aims of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust are:
Conservation – to progress its fruit conservation centre which provides the permanent location for the National Fruit Collections and other collections of temperate fruits.
Evaluation …….
Education ……
These are also the aims of the Friends of Brogdale.

What was understood by the ‘fruit conservation centre’ at this time was unequivocally Brogdale. The Friends had already been in existence for 11 years, being founded shortly after the Trust was established in 1990. There would have been no doubt in any Friend’s mind that Brogdale was the permanent location for the National Fruit Collections. This is what they had been formed to support, this is what they had been committed to for the past 11 years and this was what they were continuing to support under the constitution.

We also have the evidence contained in a letter between the Head of Research Policy and International Division at MAFF responsible for the National Fruit Collections and Swale Borough Council dated 6 May 1999 (Swale Borough Council Planning Application No SW/99/0087, which we have quoted in a previous post). This letter confirms MAFF’s approval of Hillreed as a purchaser of the land and future landlord. There is also clearly no doubt on MAFF’s part that Brogdale is the permanent home of the Collections. It states that: ‘ The management arrangements involve a contract with Brogdale Horticultural Trust to pay for the maintenance, husbandry and upkeep of the National Fruit Collection on the 50 leased acres at Brogdale Farm.’ ’The Ministry’s lease runs from 7 June 1998 and expires on 6 June 2016 … [and] we would plan to commence negotiations for a new lease in the year 2010. …. Our present intention is to re-negotiate/renew the current lease.’ …… ‘Hillreed Homes …. readily agreed to the protection and extension of our current lease arrangements in respect of the National Fruit Collection.’ MAFF regarded Brogdale as the the Collections home then and for the foreseeable future. By continuing the Trust’s maintenance contract, this remained their view and that of the Trust in 2001, when the Friends’ constitution was drawn up by the Trust.

The Friends of Brogdale were explicitly bound by the Trust to remain tied to the Collections at Brogdale. None of this, of course, affects Defra’s right to move the Collections if they wish. But good faith would surely bind the Trust itself to Brogdale, morally if not in the strict letter of the law. What a shame that such a distinction has to be made. One cannot believe that any Friend would see it otherwise. And, indeed, how can the Trust ask its Friends to support this move when it is against their own constitution?

Joan Morgan

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Pear details please?

Does anyone have any information on the Belle de Jumet pear?

Caryn Lacey


belle-de-jumet1.jpgBelle de Jumet

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Apple Day: 21 October

Apple Day will be celebrated for the 18th time this year. Since running the first on October 21st 1990 it has been Common Ground’s intention to encourage the popular creation of a calendar custom around which all aspects of orchards and local distinctiveness can cling.

In what ways has Apple Day been useful in broadening and deepening the ripples of awareness and action around orchards and top fruit of all kinds? We should welcome information, comment and stories about Apple Day’s contribution.

We ask anyone who is running an Apple Day event to send us details for the online Events List as soon as possible to kate.ofarrell@commonground.org.uk

Sue Clifford

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In both 1990 and 2000 Brogdale Horticultural Trust successfully argued that the National Fruit Collections should be kept at Brogdale.

Yet in 2007 Brogdale Horticultural Trust admitted that in its Defra bid it had proposed moving the National Fruit Collection from Brogdale. At the Special General Meeting of Friends of Brogdale in April 2007 the Trust said that there were pros and cons both for keeping the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale and for moving them from Brogdale.

Is it not time for the Trust to explain to Friends and fruit lovers its U-turn and break with the past in proposing to move the National Fruit Collections from Brogdale.

Robert White

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I am starting a botanical illustration project on the Laxton orchards in Bedford and would really like any information relating to this. I am planning to illustrate certain varieties but would really like any information.

Teri Gipson

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‘BETRAYED’, so accused the banner headline in the Faversham Times of 24 May 2007. This charge made against the Trust is one with which I agree; and is the reason why I have withheld, for the time being, my £25 sub to the Friends of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust, due on 6 August – for how can I be sure of the manner in which it could be used. And why I am most willing to be a signatory to any Friends’ proposition which might confound, what I think is, the Trust’s devious intent to move the Collections away from Brogdale.

I list some of The Trust’s questionable acts, and which The Trust will not explain, preferring to regard any questioning of its actions as insubordination from Friends’ ‘getting above themselves’. I limit myself to ten, from an unconscionably long list, each of which I find to be dubious and the whole an alarming set of deficiencies.

1. Why did the Trusts’ chief executive claim that the word ‘BROGDALE’ was in the ownership of the Trust and state that the Trust had plans for the Collections, even if it failed in its Defra bid for their management? (South East Farmer, April 2007)

2. Why did the chief executive continue to declare unshakeable loyalty to the Brogdale site, even, I have been told, after visitors from East Malling said, most openly, that sites for the Collections were ready and waiting ‘when the Collections were moved?’

3. Why has the Trust been meeting in secret, for years with a view to moving the Collections, in part or in toto and to one or more sites? Plans that were revealed by a former Trustee at the Friends SGM on 28 April. (see SGM report here – ‘Friends Reaffirm Brogdale as the Permanent Location for the National Fruit Collections’)

4. Why will the Trust refuse to describe one single one of the ‘deficiencies’ which it has discovered in the site so recently and reported in the letter 1 Feb 2007 to Friends. Not one is registered in the 50 years of the terroir and cultivar notes and Dr Hennessy of Defra has written to a Friend that she has no record of any.

5. The Friends of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust include nationally and internationally regarded fruit experts. Why was not one of them consulted regarding these ‘deficiencies’, so dire were they as to require the Collections to be moved? If ‘deficiencies’ were the reason for the Collections moving, why did the chief executive complain that it was all the landlord’s fault at meetings and in informal discussions with Friends: a ‘property developer of the very worst kind’, and wants the Trust ‘off his property’.

6. Why were the ‘doings’ of the Trust so secret that even its President let alone Friends could not be trusted to be privy to them?

7. Why after continued breast-beating about loyalty to the site, did the Trust flounce off and try to lead Friends to believe that the site was no longer open to them after the Trust had left ? (communication of 27 March 2007 to Friends)

8. Why, having refused to attend to any pertinent questioning by the Friends and thus forcing them into calling a Special General Meeting, did the Trust:
(a) attempt to scuttle it, by calling its own ‘Friends’ Meeting;
(b) importune selectively for proxy votes to be used to oppose any motion which would ‘discredit’ The Trust, and
(c) having failed to subvert the democratic wish of The Friends, most handsomely, why were not ALL Friends appraised of this lack of trust – the recent Chairman’s letter of 6 July failed to provide any factual information on the SGM.

9. Why did the Trust refuse to publish the Spring issue of Fruit News containing the reasons for calling for an SGM and the names of those 50 or more Friends supporting the call for a change in their constitution. In my opinion a scandalously reprehensible act, which resulted in the cessation of a long and worthy publication.

10. Why, having registered his contempt for Friends and labelling all dissenters as ‘gossips’ – a bit rich coming from a quarter which refuses any elucidation – does the Chairman persist in ‘friendly’ ’Messages from your Leader’? The most recent being on 6 July.

The above and many other happenings have led me to form a most disturbing opinion, which is that the Trust, in covert collusion with others, violated its constitution and betrayed its stewardship of the Collections at Brogdale for some minority benefit, the nature of which is yet to be revealed. All my endeavours to discover its exact nature have been thwarted, but it appears to me much akin to attempted ‘asset stripping’.

It is a fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Whilst the Collections remain at Brogdale, their physical and philosophical dimensions will be enriched; moving any part or parts would destroy their integrity. They are after all an unique World Treasure.

All of which just goes to confirm yet again, Joni Mitchell’s depressing observation:

‘Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
’til its gone?’

Alan Rowe

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Following a surprise announcement last Friday, 3 August, Defra reissued the tender for management of the National Fruit Collections, having declared all the bids to the previous tender unsatisfactory. (See new Defra Tender)

For those of us who want the Collections to remain at Brogdale, this would seem a welcome temporary victory, but there is no respite. Defra continue to open the door to the possibility of moving the Collections.

For Defra this new tender is a clean sheet. They have drawn a line under the first one and the allegations of partiality surrounding it, after Lord Rooker declared the decision had already been taken a year ago to move the Collections. Thereby giving rise to suggestions that those bids wishing to retain the Collections at Brogdale were at a disadvantage. Subsequently letters from Defra and Lord Rooker have stated that all bids would be judged on merit, irrespective of the location of the Collections. Now we have a fresh start, with the submission date for new bids within two months – 21 September 2007.

Does the new tender differ significantly from the previous one? The answer is by and large – no. The threat to move the Collections away from Brogdale remains – ‘Bids can, if appropriate, also include plans for relocating the Collections.’ The specifications for managing the Collections are the same except for three additions under ‘Maintenance and housing’: ‘Applicants must provide strategic scientific leadership for plant genetic resources and be a player in the national and international plant genetic resources community.’ As well as leaders in the field, Defra want an effective chain of command: ‘Clear management responsibilities and accountabilities must be identified.’ And they ask for evidence of financial credibility: ‘All applicants … must supply figures for the last two years for their turnover, profitability…., liquidity … and shareholders funds ….’ This may prove taxing for some partners, knowing the Brogdale Horticultural Trust’s impoverished position in 2006. (see posts ‘Should we entrust the National Fruit Collections to Brogdale Horticultural Trust’, ‘Friends Reaffirm Brogdale as Permanent Location for National Fruit Collections’).

There is no mention, however, of the Collection’s current long term security at Brogdale: Defra has an automatic right to renew their lease on the Collection land at Brogdale to 2041 and the landlord has offered to extend this to 2050. Nor have they pointed out to bidders that the requested ‘plans … for the continued exploitation of molecular tools for verification for the major Collections’ need to take account of the contracts already awarded to East Malling Research for fingerprinting the entire Apple and Pear Collections. (see posts ‘Brogdale site for National Fruit Collections secure to 2041’, ‘Defra Economical with the Facts’).

Defra are pressing bidders to satisfy all their requirements with an additional final ultimatum: ‘Applicants are reminded of the importance of, and need for, all the above points to be taken into account and addressed in any proposal submitted. Failure to do so will lead to automatic failure of the bid.’ The points include investigating cryopreservation and ‘innovative solutions to …. collection management, including layout and organisation of accessions.’ Does this mean rationalisation of the Apple Collection, in particular, by, for example selecting a ‘core’ collection to retain as bush trees and putting the remainder on cordons or in the deep freeze? These options were among those raised in ‘Safeguarding the National Fruit Collection – Desk Study (GC0137STF)’ undertaken in 2005. (http://www2.defra.gov.uk/research/project_data/More.asp?I=GC0137STF&SCOPE=0&M=CFO&V=ULICCW)

One wonders if Defra only wants to fund a ‘core’ Collection, that is a small ‘selection’. But how would this satisfy their desire that ’applicants should consider the Collection’s wider use. In particular, educational and public good aspects …[and] ‘as a national resource’? This is surely best achieved through, as now, a complete living Collection, but may be, like the ‘use of the Collections for public good’ Defra does not want to fund it.

The new tender gives existing bidders the opportunity to revise their submission but, in theory, there is nothing to prevent new partnerships forming and new bidders emerging.

Joan Morgan

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Friends of National Fruit Collections at Brogdale have launched a Petition to keep the Collections at Brogdale and sent their first batch of signatures to Defra last week. We collected over 400 signatures during the Brogdale Cherry and Strawberry Festival and these have been fowarded to Hilary Benn and Lord Rooker.

The Petition is ongoing and posted at Brogdale; please come along and sign or contact us directly via this web-site or at http://www.nfcfriends@hotmail.co.uk/PO Box 264, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3UY. Support is all the more necessary with the reissue of the tender for management of the Collections and the continuing possibility that the Collections will be moved away from Brogdale

Simon Brice

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