The Tamar Valley was once a renowned area for market gardening, including flowers and fruit. Much was transported to London via the River Tamar and then the railways. Early springs and south facing slopes meant that early season produce was in demand. But the markets declined throughout the twentieth century, as refridgeration and air transport meant that year round produce could be readily made available.
1890 OS map showing local orchards
Around twenty-five years ago there was an upsurge in interest in all the old apple varieties, and in the Tamar Valley cherry trees as well. Common Ground launched an annual Apple Day, and locally James Armstrong Evans started collecting and grafting old varieties. The top photograph is his orchard, just across the valley from Treragin. This was later taken up, amongst others, by Cornwall County Council and Endsleigh Gardens, who sell quite a few varieties from their commercial nursery at Milton Abbot. Now there are all sorts of initiatives out there, with a community orchard being set up in our village, and a much bigger one having been planted at Cotehele, the National Trust house just down the road from us. James has a lot to answer for, or more accurately take the credit!
We’ve planted a few specimens in a small area of Treragin, in an area once kept as a small nursery for young trees being stored for big planting schemes. Three were planted about ten years ago, but were neglected (oops, always too much to do) until I cleared the nursery and planted some more fruit trees two years ago. The varieties have a wonderful range of odd names, including Plympton Pippin, Oaken Pip and Pig’s Nose. The old fruit varieties are well adapted to the moist west country weather, but tend not keep as well as many modern varieties.
Old cherry surviving at Middle Metherell Farm
Wildlife highlights if the last fortnight have been seeing a Tawny Owl twice, and earlier this week a young slowworm, no more than four inches long. I’ve seen grass snakes and lizards at Treragin before, but the slowworm was a first for me.