Archive for October, 2007

116-Year-Old Orange

Some visitors to this website may have seen the item in the news today (30 October) about the 116-year-old dried up orange which has been donated to the Potteries Museum. It had formed part of the lunch intended for miner Joseph Roberts who was fatally injured in an explosion at the Racecourse Colliery in Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent, on 19 February 1891. His lunch box had been given back to his family, who had kept it. The orange – completely blackened and dried out and with the pips rattling inside – has now been donated to the Museum by Mr Roberts’ great grand-daughter and is on display there.

Heather Hooper

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I am in Jersey, Channel Islands and loaded with apples for the first time and thought of juicing them; is there a guide somewhere? What equipment do I need – e.g. processor or hand press? Any varieties which are definitely not good for juicing? In addition, ever the optimist and thinking ahead to next year, is there a relatively cheap apple storage kit available as I have the space in a garage or shed?

Colin Ireson

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I don’t know anything about cider apples, but I have some apples that may be suitable for cider production. The problem is that I have no idea how to find out if they will make a palatable cider. Is there a way of telling from the taste of the fruit or somebody or some place that I could send samples to for comment?

Ian Sturrock

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The Curate’s Vinery?

A week or so ago I tasted some Black Hamburg grapes grown in a Ground or Curate’s Vinery. They were sweet and good. The berries were not as large as those grown in a glasshouse, but nevertheless a credit to the Curate’s Vinery and the fruit department of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gardens at Wisley. As its titles imply this vinery does away with the need for a large expensive glasshouse. Instead the vine is housed in what is essentially a long frame, but one which ripens a choice variety, such as, Black Hamburg.

A Victorian invention, described as a ground vinery in the Dictionary of Gardening of 1888, does anyone know when it acquired its other name and has anyone else been successful this year in producing such good grapes in this mini-glasshouse?

Joan Morgan


The Ground Vinery from the Dictionary of Gardening (1888)


The Curate’s Vinery from Read’s Nursery Catalogue

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Flower of the Town

Flower of the Town from Yorkshire

The apple variety Flower of the Town from Yorkshire, which has been highlighted by Barry Potter on the main website has now received the following comment.

The National Fruit Collections have it, and brief details, plus photos are within the NFC section of Brogdale Horticultural Trust’s website: www.brogdale.org/nfc_plants1.php?plantid=7. Then go to ‘Search Alphabetically’; click ‘F’ and you will be at the beginning of the F varieties; scroll a bit more and onto the second page to get to this variety. But is the fruit from Yorkshire the same variety?

Jeff Bull

Flower of Town (Potter)Flower of the Town (Barry Potter)
Flower of Town (NFC)Flower of the Town (National Fruit Collections)
Sections of Flower of the Town
Flower of the Town- Potter (left), National Fruit Collections (right)


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Brogdale and the National Fruit Collections are ‘the subject of a bitter-tug-of-war between the the site owner, HillReed and the Brogdale Horticultural Trust’ claims Trevor Sturgess in the October issue of ‘Kent Business’, a supplement published not only in Faversham News but county wide in all the Kent Messenger Group newspapers – see ‘Split to the Core – the two sides in Brogdale dispute’ see here and see here.

‘Those who want to keep this resource in Faversham’ Sturgess writes, ‘fear it may be switched to East Malling, a move apparently backed by the Trust.’ This refers to the partnership, now an open secret, between the current managers of the Collections – the Trust and Imperial College at Wye – and East Malling Research who are bidding for the future Defra management contract and seeking to move the Collections to East Malling, near Maidstone, about 20 miles away. The reasons given elsewhere by the Trust for relocating the Collections are the difficulties of working with its landlord and the landlord’s longterm intentions.

Sturgess questioned Tony Hillier of Hillreed about his plans for the site. Hillier ‘insisted that he has the guaranteed future of the collections at Faversham as his top priority’ and pointed out that ‘a move would not only be bad for Brogdale, it would be disastrous for Kent and Swale.’ Hillier went on to say ‘we’re looking to grow the economy, to grow jobs and prospects for the area. For the Government to take this project out of Swale would be a real disappointment for the area.’

The dispute has involved the local Swale Borurgh Council and the Kent County Council (KCC). Swale has written to Defra saying there is an ‘overwhelming case’ for keeping the Collections at Brogdale. ‘In terms of the economy of this part of Swale, Brogdale is a vital ingredient with a brand name that is known worldwide and with prospects for considerable regeneration of the locality.’ But Kent County Council has taken the opposite view and backed the Trust and relocation. KCC have said in a letter to Defra that the Trust’s bid, ie removal to East Malling, provides ‘the most robust scientific future for the Collection.’

That the Collections have enjoyed 50 years of robust scientific activity at Brogdale has been ignored, it seems, by KCC, as also the 50 years of records and the fact that for 50 years East Malling have been coming to Brogdale to use the Collections. This is another spurious reason for relocation, along with leases coming to an end and the Trust’s difficulties over the Brogdale site.

The Collections have become the victim in a saga mired in politics and self interest. Of course, the landlord and Swale wish the Collections to remain at Brogdale. Why KCC should back their relocation is an open question, but it is not difficult to see that East Malling would welcome the prestige of hosting the National Fruit Collections. The Trust, set up to provide a permanent home for the Collections at Brogdale, wants to move them away, which is a rejection of its original objectives. But given that the Trust has moved out of Brogdale and set up its administrative offices down the road in Abbey School, it is clearly in the Trust’s interest to move the Collections. The Trust appears to have ‘burnt its boats’ at Brogdale and if it does not win the bid to manage the Collections has no reason to exist. Failure to win the contract to be part of the management of the Collections from 2008 would spell the end of the Trust and the jobs of those who it employs. In a piece in Faversham News of 4 October, by Liza Murley, we learn of further difficulties for the Trust. The Trust’s Plant Centre relocated to a Garden Centre in Faversham will be on the move again following the Centre’s closure on 30 September.

‘Kent Business’s article is largely an interview with Tony Hillier. The Trust’s Chief Executive declined to put ’its side of the story’ or ‘speak about the situation until Defra announced the winning bid’, expected later in the year. All the Trust would say was that ‘the bid had gone in.’ A ‘source close to the Trust’, however, was less reticent stating that Hillier ‘had kicked the Trust off the site’ and ‘proved impossible to deal with.’ The source added ’It’s Hillier’s land and there is a big question as to whether or not the National Fruit Collections ought to fall into the hands of a private developer.’ However, any ‘source close to the Trust’ should have known that this was impossible – the Collections belong to Defra wherever they are located.

It has to be said in Hillier’s defence that so far he does not appear to have acted like the villain. His purchase of the site in 2000 bailed the Trust out of a deep hole and saved it from bankruptcy. During the past seven years he has stuck with the project and is now investing £1million in refurbishment that has already made Brogdale a much more welcoming place. As the Trust’s source says ‘It’s a terrible shame that the two sides haven’t got together and sorted this out.’

But what is much more tragic is that the future of the Collections has become bound up in such a family squabble. The Collections are fine and secure where they are, in a site that is perfect for growing a wide range of fruits. Why move them and subject them to this lottery? The Collections are part of our own and the world’s cultural heritage as well as a valuable genetic resource; they need to be celebrated not threatened!

Joan Morgan

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Bids for the future management of the National Fruit Collections were received by Defra for the second revised tender on 21 September 2007.

Rumour has it that another bidder has emerged and that there are now five competing for the new contract. It is also rumoured that three of these five bidders wish to keep the collections at Brogdale, which is excellent news. The balance is in favour of ‘no move’.

However, Defra have not modified their intent to consider relocation in the new tender document. Nor have they changed their views in a letter received by Alan Rowe via his MP from Lord Rooker and dated 19 September.

Defra has not made any decision to move the collection from its existing site at Brogdale, Lord Rooker states, but then later comments: The collection could move from Brogdale as a consequence of a current open competition. This is not a problem, as there are a number of suitable locations in the UK. The South, South-East and Midlands all have fruit growing industries and would, therefore, have the right growing conditions. Moving trees and bushes is relatively straightforward, indeed the whole collection was moved from Wisley to Brogdale in the 1950s and fruit trees are regularly repropagated as a matter of course.

The possibility that the Collections may be moved away from Brogdale remains. And given other comments in this letter one can assume that Lord Rooker has not moved his position as of last May at all!

Lord Rooker writes: The collection is currently maintained by Brogdale Horticultural Trust but they do not own the land, have limited access to site, and the lease between Defra and the landlord runs out in 2016. As Lord Rooker himself acknowledged in a letter to Jim Streeton in July the future of the Collections is in no way linked to the fortunes or desires of the Trust: The Trust cannot move the Collection since they do not own them and therefore do not have the authority to do so.

As to the lease between Defra and the landlord, Defra have an automatic right to renew this lease to 2041 and furthermore the landlord has informed Defra that he will renew the lease to 2050, which Lord Rooker recognised in a letter to Georgina Connors in July: Prior to the publication of the specification for the open competition Defra did not receive formal notification from the landlord that the lease could be extended till 2050.[ie before the first tender was published in January.] Clearly this option will be taken into account when a decision on the open competition is made.

Without doubt, we need to remind Defra of the strength of our opposition to any possibility of taking the Collections away from Brogdale. We should write again stressing that there is no good reason to relocate the Collections. They are fine at Brogdale – thriving and secure, backed by 50 years of unique records. The ten good reasons for keeping the Collections at Brogdale still hold and we print them below.

Please write to Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Lord Rooker, who continues to be responsible for the National Fruit Collections, at Defra, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR.

Please write also to your own MP and the MP for Faversham, Hugh Robertson at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

Joan Morgan

(See the following posts for the quotes and further discussions: The New Defra Tender; Brogdale Site for National Fruit Collections Secure to 2041; The National Fruit Collections – no good reason to move them!)

Ten Good Reasons for Keeping the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale

1. The Brogdale site is ideal for a fruit collection from both the point of view of horticulture and history; a situation not necessarily found elsewhere. Brogdale has the deep fertile soils needed for fruit growing. The site is near the sea giving some protection from spring frosts. East Kent receives maximum sunshine for the UK. East Kent also has centuries of history in fruit and our oldest fruit growing area.

2. The Collections have long term security at Brogdale. The owner of Brogdale , Tony Hillier of Hillreed, has told Defra that he will extend the lease on the land on which the Collections grow to 2050.

3. To move the Collections would put them at risk. Varieties may be lost. The Collections may be dispersed destroying their unique feature – a wide range of fruits all growing on one site. The Collections may be conserved in a different way – as cordons rather than bush trees, for example, and Defra is keen to explore the possibilities of cryopreservation, which would mean no living trees at all.

4. At a new location they may not be open to the public.

5. To move them would involve huge expense and time – a minimum of five years and probably ten years to re-propagate, plant and verify the new collections.

6. The Collections are not in need of re-propagation. The Cherry, Plum, Bush Fruit and Nut Collections have all recently been re-propagated and verified (with the exception of the nuts) as part of the routine schedule of husbandry. They are all cropping well and in their prime for at least another 20-30 years, similarly the Vine Collection. The Pear Collection has been re-propagated and ready to be planted. The Apple Collection is coming up for renewal but could wait for another five years.

7. The National Fruit Collections have been growing at Brogdale for 50 years and have 50 years of continuous records. This is an unique record for any fruit collection anywhere in the world and provides invaluable information for research studies on fruit growing in relation to climate change.

8. The Collections have 50 years of international reputation and good will at Brogdale. No other country has a central national collection of fruit; it is the envy of the world. European collections are considerably smaller and dispersed. The US has large collections but these are located in different places – the apples in New York, the pears in Oregon, for example.

9. Brogdale and the Collections are associated both nationally and internationally. To move them would destroy the link for the general public and the fruit specialist. It would take years to regain this precious asset.

10. The Collections are fine where they are – flourishing and secure. Moving the Collections is unjustified, unnecessary and a great waste of public money.

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Many column feet have been written of late in regard to Defra’s decision to invite tenders for maintenance of the National Fruit Collections, but one point, which I feel is vital and has not been mentioned by any of the illustrious contributors, is that the Tender Document states only that the Apple Collection must be preserved, as it is the subject of an International Agreement and if the bidder wishes to keep any of the other fruits they must justify it. (See Defra Tender)

The Soft Fruit Collection at Brogdale, which is very comprehensive, was repropagated some years ago on a new site and is cropping well, is not even mentioned, as also the Cobnuts and the Grapes

Thus I see that the choice that the present Collections will either stay on their present site or relocate is simplistic. There remains, in my view, the possibility that the Collection will remain at Brogdale, which I sincerely hope, but with only part of the Collection supported by Defra. This would raise the necessity of raising private money to support the remainder.

Howard Stringer

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