OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the time we first bought Pear House and planned the woodland planting we also hoped to establish a traditional orchard with the long-term aim of sharing this with the local community, for enjoyment of the environment and the produce. Once the wood was planted and established we started planning for the orchard project. I had read that the National Trust was running a Traditional Orchard Project ( http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356399709941/  and  http://www.orchardnetwork.org.uk/content/orchard-project-celebrations  ) and contacted them in case any work on northern orchards might offer inspiration and guidance. They described their reinstatement of a Victorian Walled Garden at Malham Tarn, including planting up the orchard area. Their aim, like ours, was to choose trees that would have been typical in the north of England at the time, and emphasising a need for hardiness; they chose Balsam, Court Pendu Plat, Dog’s Snout and Egremont Russet. They sourced their trees from R V Rogers nurseries ( www.rvroger.co.uk ) in Pickering, North Yorkshire.

When we visited RV Roger’s website we were overwhelmed by close to 200 different apple varieties, and we were also looking to include some pears and plums, further increasing the challenge. We drew up some criteria:

  • Cooker, dessert or dual
  • Early or late fruiting
  • Blossom resistant to spring frosts
  • Overall hardy
  • Reliable cropping
  • Attractive blossom
  • Traditional northern variety

Based on these we drew up a long list, then asked the teachers at Gunnerside school if the children would help us make the short list and help again with the planting. We were glad to have their help! The final list was

  1.  Apple Acklam Russett, rare Yorkshire variety from mid-1700s, dessert, late fruit
  2. Apple Balsam, also known as “The Farmer’s Wife’s Apple” “once grown in nearly every garden and orchard in Yorkshire”. Dessert, consistent cropping and attractive pinkish-white blossom
  3. Apple Bismarck, from Bismarck, Tasmania around 1870, mid-to-late season cooker, colourful apple and very hardy
  4. Apple Court Pendu Plat, one of the oldest Known varieties with Roman origins, very crisp dessert, hardy and frost-tolerant
  5. Apple discovery, disease resistant, , good pollinator of other early flowering varieties, long shelf life dessert
  6.  Apple Dog’s Snout, a rare Yorkshire apple, good pale pink blossom, distinctive flavour dessert or cooker, hardy and reliable
  7. Apple James Grieve, 1st recorded in Edinburgh in 1893, almost full yellow, prolific September fruiting dessert, flowers resist early frost and good pollinator
  8. Apple Newton Wonder, one of the best cooking apples with large fruit flushed with scarlet. Raised at King’s Newton in Derbyshire in 1887. Hardy and frost tolerant, long shelf life
  9. Apple Ribston Pippin, originated near Knaresborough c1707, rich aromatic flavoured dessert
  10. Apple Sunset, “the best substitute for Cox’s Orange Pippin in the north of England”, very colourful blossom, dessert
  11. Damson Farleigh, origin from Kent 1820, small oval blue-black fruit with good flavour
  12. Gage Cambridge, small round green fruit with good flavour and consistent cropping
  13. Medlar Mespilus Germanica, attractive may blossom (related to hawthorn), tolerates wide range of soils
  14. Pear Hessle, 1st recorded 1827, probably from near Hull, extremely hardy and reliable
  15. Pear Jargonelle, one of the oldest of all pear varieties, possibly Roman, first recorded in England in 1629, one of the best early pears, hardy
  16. Pear Williams Bon Cretien, an old English varierty from 1760s, renamed Bartlett when taken to USA in 1797, sweet, juicy and hardy
  17. Plum Valor, from Ontario Canada in 1933, blossom frost-resistant, hardy, late season
  18. Plum Victoria, good for eating and jam making, probably from Sussex around 1830, one of the best loved of all fruit trees
  19. Plum Yellow Pershore, from Worcestershire in 1827, fruit keep well if picked early, good for jam and freezing. Frost-resistant blossom, hardy and disease resistant
  20. Quince Vranja, ornamental tree with delicate foliage and sprays of white flowers in spring, also relatively reliable for fruit

We planted the 20 trees the last week in March 2012, having prepared the planting holes with rotted horse manure mixed with garden compost the autumn before. Only one tree failed to survive; this Ribston Pippin succumbed to rabbit damage, has since been replaced and is now thriving. Click on the “Orchard” link to see the arrangement of the trees… new orchard

The height of the final grown tree is largely determined by the choice of rootstock onto which the cultivar species is grafted. We wanted trees that we could easily reach to harvest (so a semi-dwarfing rootstock) but we also eventually would like to under graze the orchard in continuity with the rest of the field. For apples we chose to plant maidens on M106 rootstock, for plums St Julien A rootstock and for pears Quince A. We let them grow on without pruning for a year giving at least 4 feet clear stem below the first branches aiming for smallish half-standard trees (rather than a smaller bush size) hopefully permitting under grazing in due course.

The trees will probably not be fruiting until 2015 but like Robert you will be welcome to walk into the field, sit down for a break, and enjoy the view at the same time as checking how the trees are growing.

james withrobert wall pear house robert on wall at Pear House






Here is a view of the orchard and portraits of the trees in March 2015; we’ll see if my prediction for fruit this year is true…














Balsam, Bismarck, Court Pendu Plat and Medlar















Sunset, Ribston Pippin,



Damson Farleigh, Discovery


















Dog Snout, James Grieve and Victoria plum




























Quince Vranja,





Jargonelle pear and Valor plum






















Newton Wonder and Hessle pear


Yellow Pershore plum














Acklam Russet and Williams pear









When we initially established the orchard we put a gutter along the back of Pear House draining into an old galvanised drinking trough (in Granny’s Garden; it can be seen in the picture above). We took an overflow pipe round to the west of Pear House and down to a water butt at the top of the orchard to help with the early watering. This system continues to help with any new planting that we need to do, and is easier than drawing buckets across from the stream which runs down beside the track below the entrance gate.


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