CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cheshire Life today click here

The Cheshire Orchard Project and fight to bring local apple varieties back to the public

PUBLISHED: 00:43 09 September 2013

Katie Lowe inspecting some Cheshire 'Millicent Barnes' apples

Katie Lowe inspecting some Cheshire 'Millicent Barnes' apples

Archant

Cheshire once had a great name for apples. Now the fight is on to popularise the Cheshire varieties once again

Cheshire 'Millicent Barnes' applesCheshire 'Millicent Barnes' apples

Look at the apples in most supermarkets and you’d think England barely grew them, though Kent and Somerset may feature. Yet Cheshire once had a great name for the fruit, supplying Liverpool and Manchester, and the Cheshire Landscape Trust (CLT) and some of our grandest gardens are fighting to bring local varieties back.

‘There’s a long tradition of growing fruit trees in Cheshire, particularly in Victorian walled gardens,’ says Katie Lowe of the CLT: ‘And there were quite a number of nurseries here that developed their own varieties - places like Eaton Hall, the Duke of Westminster’s home. The head gardener at Eaton Hall at the turn of the last century, Nicholas Barnes, developed several.’

The Cheshire Orchard Project coordinated by the CLT has discovered some 33 local cultivars so far, and there may be others waiting to be identified and disseminated.

‘We work most closely with Norton Priory, they have an orchard at the museum of specifically Cheshire Varieties, established about 15 years or so. Tatton Park is another good one, with a fine orchard, they reinstated their kitchen garden a few years ago and planted fruit trees,’ says Katie.

Norton Priory is a good place to learn about the old cultivars: ‘We have apples in the walled garden and some at the museum,’ says Walled Garden Ranger Paul Quigley: ‘They’re labelled so visitors can identify them. Of the Cheshire varieties we have Arthur Barnes, Millicent Barnes, Sure Crop, Withington Welter and Lord Derby.’

To help spread the word, and the cultivars, Norton’s experts are teaching fruit-tree skills to the public: ‘We ran a grafting course earlier this year, and we’re hoping to do more – we’d like people to come along, learn how to graft, prune, and actually grow these old Cheshire varieties on,’ says Paul.

Katie cites several reasons for maintaining the old varieties, among them bio-diversity and disease resistance, and of course taste: ‘Local varieties like the Withington Welter are very tasty indeed. The Lord Derby cooker is good, the Millicent Barnes is really excellent, a nice eating apple. One of the Cheshire apples is brilliant for cooking – the Withington Welter, it’s a huge cooker, the size of a grapefruit, that cooks down to a fluff so it’s cracking for purees and sauces, and it has a lot more flavour than the Bramley.’

Sentiment and history are further spurs to the project: ‘They are important too as part of our heritage and culture,’ says Katie: ‘A lot are named for local places, so they’re very specific to those spots – Eccleston Pippin, Moston Seedling, Elton Beauty, the Chester Pearmain, the Wareham Russet - Wareham is the old name for Weaverham - there are links to that still, a primary school in Weaverham and various roads there with russet in the name.’ At Norton Priory the trees are a reminder of the orchards the Augustinian canons kept in medieval times.

It’s not just great houses where the work is being done: ‘For the past few years we have been running a community orchard project, where we’ve got money via grants to plant them across the county. Over the last two years we’ve planted more than 30 sites like school grounds, or public spaces, so open for people to visit at any time,’ explains Katie. These orchards can be found across the county, for example at Hopyards near Northwich, at Anderton on Daisy House Meadow, Ashton Hayes Community Field, Delamere Primary School, Nantwich Riverside, Whitby Park in Ellesmere Port and Stanney Fields Park in Neston.

The grafting classes and tree planting will give future generations more chances to try the flavour of apples like Rakemaker, Rival and Rascal, but for those too impatient to wait Norton Priory offers a short-cut: ‘We sell some of the apples at reception, and celebrate Apple Day in October, this year the 13th, when people come along for various family activities,’ says Paul Quigley.

Some Cheshire varieties

Eccleston Pippin – keeps its shape when cooked, nice yellow flesh

Elton Beauty – soft fleshed dessert apple, suggestion of berry flavour

Lord Derby – sharp cooker suited to pies

Millicent Barnes – crunchy eater with bite

Sure Crop – dual purpose, rich cooker to Christmas, mellow eater afterwards

Withington Welter – great for flavoursome apple sauce

0 comments

More from Food & Drink

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Weep no more wine fans, we may face high prices for our favourite tipple as a result of Brexit but we always have our home-grown vintages to fall back on.

Read more
Carden Park
Friday, October 6, 2017

Mere Brook House at Thornton Hough on the Wirral is a high-end B&B with a difference, discovers Martin Pilkington

Read more
Luxury Break Wirral
Friday, October 6, 2017

He’s an actor and a pub owner so who better to take over the restaurant at the Royal Exchange Theatre? Rupert Hill is more than ready for the challenge, as Janet Reeder discovers

Read more
Manchester Restaurants
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Great offers on food and drink at Allium by Mark Ellis over autumn until December.

Read more
Friday, September 29, 2017

The good life, Italian style, is alive and kicking, writes Louise Allen-Taylor

Read more
Manchester Restaurants
Thursday, September 28, 2017

When Olympians Liam Phillips, Jessica Varnish and Fran Halsall joined forces to launch a coffee shop, Common Ground in Altrincham, there was only ever going to be one result, writes Kate Houghton.

Read more
Cafes Altrincham
Thursday, September 28, 2017

Private dining takes on a new element at the chic award-winning King Street Townhouse in Manchester, writes Louise Allen-Taylor

Read more
Manchester Restaurants
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Now taking bookings for Christmas & New Year!

Read more
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mark Ellis was one of the stars of BBC’s Great British Menu, and the head chef at Peckforton Castle for nine years. All that experience goes into his new restaurant with rooms, Allium in Tattenhall, writes Louise Allen-Taylor

Read more
Cheshire Restaurants
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Digest this mini review in 60 seconds

Read more
Italian Food Cheshire Restaurants Hale
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Cheshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Cheshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search