We have had another very full and successful year. But this has only been due to the support of what we call the Core Group of volunteers who regularly attend the monthly planning meetings, run the events and manage the orchard and allotments.
Thanks go to Liz and Diana for all the minuting, Chris for supporting me as Vice-Chairman, Mark for holding the money, Nick and Annie for the website and social media pages, Nick for looking after the St Clement allotment, Paul, Andy, Mark and Denis for mowing the orchard, Denis and Gareth for all their training and expertise, Eileen for all the support with workshops, noticeboards and hedge clearing etc, Pete and Linda for all their support at various workshops and pressings, and all the Core Group for keeping this charity going, and especially volunteering at Apple Day.
We must remember that as a charity we have a few key formal aims described in our Charitable Objects:
Plant and maintain community apple orchard in middle of Stamford.
Plant and maintain allotment/nursery for English apple trees and relevant fauna.
Organise annual apple day event in Stamford to promote our group and to raise funds.
Preserve the wildlife lost in the destruction of old orchards.
Encourage local schools to use orchards, both new and restored, as an educational resource.
But over the last few years we have developed these so that now we research and try to propagate some of the “lost” local varieties, do more training, loan equipment, volunteer in different orchards, and give advice to gardeners and other groups about setting up and managing orchards. So we have grown and developed over the last 16 years.
SCOG's community orchard is now over 14 years old. Unfortunately the 40 or so apple trees did not not fruit well last season. are developing well Mark Davies, as our local “orchard caretaker” has kept a close eye on all the various issues arising in the orchard. Eileen completely restored and repositioned the noticeboard and Peter restored his wonderful carved apple notice. Adam and Mark scythed the orchard for the first time this year, after Mark and Eileen were funded by SCOG to attend a scything in orchards workshop at Emorsgate Seeds near Wisbech. Andy valiantly mowed the paths several times in the spring and summer with his own small mower. So we paid for his mower to be serviced.
We have two free allotment – thanks to the Stamford Town Council. The St Clements Allotment has our tool store and stock of young growing trees, as well as a rootstock stool bed. It is managed by Nick Faux, who also uses a small portion for vegetable growing. We have labelled and re- staked the trees and passed about 20 trees on to local schools as we no longer sell trees.
The Uffington Road Allotment has a selection of apple and gage varieties – many unidentifed as yet. As they are maturing in a small space perhaps we should consider grafting them onto new standard rootstock and planting in Priory Fields Orchard.
Denis has continued to travel the region in his attempts to dig out (more properly graft) lost and re-discovered varieties. We continue to send off about 5 samples of several unidentified trees for genetic DNA testing. We had a great day in the now derelict traditional orchard identifying some old local varieties at Loddington Hall, followed by a sumptuous tea.
Programme of events
Our programme of events published at the beginning of the year gave us some structure to the year. In March we had a very interesting talk on growing and showing apples by Adrian Baggeley, of the RHS Fruit Group. In June we had our regular orchard picnic in the community orchard interspersed with some summer pruning and maintenance.
This is the highlight of our year and takes the most planning and organising. So thanks to all the 20 or so volunteers who came to help in our 16thyear. It was felt to be a great success.
We had three short presentations in the cellar bar from professional orchard groups from Hungary, Germany and Poland, who were visiting as part of the European Core Orchard project. We also had a great display of art work from Ryhall Primary School who set up one of the orchards as part of our Lottery-funded SCOGG project.
We had more visitors than the previous year and made more profit than other years - thanks to the tombola, sales of apples and recipe books, and exhibitors fees. All this was thanks to our SCOG volunteers who helped with the children's activities, the apple pressing, the tasting and sale of apples, the tombola, the identification desk, the information desk and the welcomes at the door.
As in previous years most of the income was from the tombola which had many contributions from local shops and businesses, thanks to Annie Hall and Richard Swann. Yet again Martin Skipper and his team of identifiers from the East of England Apple and Orchard Project have splendidly supported us with their identification table and fantastic display of over 300 apple varieties.
Diana Whetton and Sally Uttley have each year performed the thankless task of persuading exhibitors to join us. We have now decided to only ask those exhibitors that have an interest in apples, orchards, their products and nature. So thanks also to the exhibitors who put on such a good show.
We had our 6thannual wassail in the community orchard in early January. Thanks to Annie Hall's last minute organisation we had a splendid wassail event . Over 100 people arrived in the orchard with torches and kitchen pans. The Woven Chords choir were there in force while Robina performed as the Wassail Queen and Annie as the organiser kept the proceeding moving along. So we now only have to wait for a better apple harvest than last season.
Denis Smith and Gareth Powell again offered to train people during the Grafting and Pruning workshops. However only a few people came to the 2020 workshops. They have now trained well over 100 local people over the last six years. So perhaps we have satisfied the local demand for the moment.
Adam and Mary Cade also ran another successful workshop at the Nene Park Trust on using and preserving apples and tree fruit. They also hosted a very jolly community juicing in Ketton with a range of presses. Much juice was pressed even though the weather was appalling and so many less people attended than last year.
We seem to have had a lot of coverage in the local newspapers – Apple Day and the wassail are obviously pretty photogenic. We now have a mailing list of over 300 people who have attended events, workshops etc. and want to keep involved.
We should be very proud of our website, thanks to Nick Faux our webmaster who has now developed a very comprehensive site with event booking and blogging. Unfortunately we are still looking for a volunteer to help with our social media.
This year we loaned our three presses to about eight different groups and schools. As this is a very popular free service we bought a new press and sold an old one to Denis Smith for his own cider production.
Community and School Orchard project
As the last part of our Lottery funded project we publish a new guide to Apples and Orchards which is now selling very well.
We received £2,000 funding from InvestSK (part of South Kesteven District Council) for a project to publish a set of cards and a poster. These were based on a commission we gave to Barbara Clemence for some original botanical paintings of six of the heritage apple varieties that was raised at Brown's Nursery, Stamford. Thanks to coordination of this project by Chris Hulbert and tree samples provided by Denis Smith, we now have six wonderful botanical paintings. We are now exploring a launch of the cards and poster together with the botanical paintings.
We are about to loose one traditional orchard for planned housing development in Ketton. But we are now caring for and extending the wonderful traditional orchard in Priory Field, Ketton, which is owned by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and managed by John Bristow.
We are also working as volunteers in the huge 11 acre walled garden at Burghley House with Joe Whitehead,the Head Gardener at Burghley House. This has involved surveying and summer pruning of some of the 150 or so espalier fruit trees.
We are always looking to record and map local orchards and contribute to the National Traditional Orchard Survey being organised by the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species.
Lastly we have developed good links with a number of other orchard and tree projects – The Woodland Trust's Tree Charter, The UK Orchard Network and The European Core Orchard project.
As to the future, we are still trying to encourage more people to join our Core Group. We have new opportunities on the horizon – for example in working with the East of England Agricultural Showground in Peterborough, the Gravity Fields Festival in Grantham, and the proposed Heroes Orchard in Grantham. I think as a charity we do need to review, update and re-confirm our aim and objectives, as well as clarify our policies and management objectives and plans for our community orchard and allotments. Personally I am trying to encourage and educate more planting and management of traditional orchards, especially on farmland with wide spacings, multiple use and standard rootstock. I'm also keen to produce artisan cider vinegar (Adam's Apple Cider Vinegar) as a small enterprise – perhaps with a stall at next Apple Day. Overall things are looking healthy for SCOG. I have enjoyed being Chairman over the last year with the support of the Core group.