• 19/03/14
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Seed Truck on the road

At a time when most plants – and most gardeners – are not yet wakened from winter hibernation, late winter is in fact the best season to be out planting fruit trees. Hence the the Seed Truck embarked on its latest project, the Silver Bough – an exploration of the cultural heritage of Scottish apples, the upsurge in community orchards and their significance in relocalisation of our food system.

Seed Truck storyteller Marie Louise Cochrane tells the tale of our recent tour of Scotland, from Galloway to Sutherland, planting seven heritage orchards.

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The last week in February saw the Seed Truck leave Fife burgeoning with apple trees, gardening expertise and a good crop of apple tales and interesting facts as we embarked on the Silver Bough Tour.

Our mission: to inspire and promote dialogue about local varieties of apples by planting heritage varieties of apple trees in schools and community projects in 7 parts of Scotland.

My job as a storyteller was to impart some of the amazing history and stories about apples that might encourage the children to feel a sense of both wonder and connection to these trees as they grow. As well as planting the trees we were keen to involve the participants in some kind of welcoming action or ceremony. I recounted the Seed Truck version of the Somerset tale of the Apple tree man who can be summoned to reinvigorate ailing orchards, and of Wassailers of old, serenading and feeding their trees as well as loudly driving out anything which may cause them harm.

This provided some ideas for each group to do something unique of their own to mark the trees arrival.

Auchencairn Orchard

Auchencairn Link Allotments, Galloway.

With Auchencairn Primary School

Planting in Auchencairn

Trees planted:

Galloway Pippin (C)

Siddington Russet (E)

Tam Montgomery (E)

Lemon Queen ( E)

Maggie Sinclair ( D )

Clydeside ( C)

Thorle Pippin ( E )

Our first stop was Auchencairn Primary in Galloway where enthusiastic P4 and 5 and their teachers and community gardener Phoebe Marshall processed from their school dressed variously as Johnny Appleseed and the King and Queen of the Wassail complete with ladies in waiting to keep their cloaks from the mud, accompanied by bells and penny whistles. This drew a number of neighbours to witness the spectacle.

Cloaks were replaced with coats as they planted their 7 trees including a Galloway Pippin in their community garden in the horizontal sleet. We then read out a specially composed verse to welcome the trees which the children had written as a group.

 

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Bonnyrigg Orchard

Hawthornden Primary School, West Lothian

With Mondo Loco Foundation

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Trees planted:

Hawthornden (C)

Tam Jeffrey (E)

Lord Rosebery ( E )

Clydeside ( C)

Cutler Grieve (E)

East Lothian Pippin (C)

William Crump (E)

 

Our next visit was to Hawthornden Primary in Bonnyrigg where we were joined by Paulo and friends from the Mondo Loco Foundation who are already actively involved in gardening activities at the school.

The P1’s couldn’t get enough of digging and then creating a loud noise as we marched round the Hawthornden tree three times clockwise for good health.

Melrose Orchard

Melrose Abbey (Historic Scotland), Borders

With Greener Melrose and Melrose Primary School

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Trees planted:

White Melrose (C)

Stobo Castle (D)

Grenadier (C)

Yorkshire Aromatic ( C)

Cambusnethen Pippin (E)

Tam Montgomery (E)

Liddel’s Seedling ( C)

 

That same day we travelled to historic Melrose Abbey where we were joined by the local primary school eco-group and lots of adults from the local transition group, Greener Melrose.

They heard tales of the monks bringing varieties such as the Melrose White and the Arbroath Oslin originally from France to add to Scotland’s apple varieties. We had a ceremonial procession to plant the trees in special barrels. We hope to return one day to find the trees “planted in the context of a Medieval garden.

Errol Orchard

Errol Primary School, Carse of Gowrie

With Carse of Gowrie Group (COGG)

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Trees planted:

Bloody Ploughman (E)

Weight (C)

Lass O Gowrie (E)

Lady of the Wemyss (C)

Port Allen Russet ( E )

Lord Rosebery (E)

Tower of Glamis (C)

Our next stop was at Errol in the Carse of Gowrie famed for its apple orchards in the past. The children heard the tale of the Bloody Ploughman seedling which was found around 1880 growing in a midden. The original apple was said to have been stolen by a ploughman from nearby Megginch Castle. The poor fellow was caught in the act and shot by the gamekeeper, which resulted in the apple’s red-coloured flesh. We were joined by lots of fascinated children at playtime keen to know what we were doing digging up their playing field. The trees were given a warm welcome including a rendition of Pharrel Williams “Happy”.

Montrose Orchard

Montrose Academy, Angus

With Angus Council Tree Officer

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Trees planted:

Chivers Delight (E)

Tower of Glamis (C)

Hood’s Supreme (E)

Arbroath Oslin (E)

Scots Bridget (C)

Thorle Pippin ( E)

Eve Apple ( D )

At Montrose Academy we worked with amazing teacher, Iain Taylor and Angus Council Tree Officer Fred Conacher to plant our trees in the internal garden of the school. After a legend of the Norse gods kept young forever by magic apples, each wee group planned their own idea to mark the planting of the trees and so they were then variously sung to, embraced, named. One even had a lucky coin buried with it.

One of the trees has a local connection although it hails from Cambridgeshire. The Chivers Delight was raised by the same Chivers company that had a factory in Montrose.

Little Assynt Orchard

Lochinver, Sutherland

With Culag Community Woodland Trust, Lochinver Primary School and Stoer Primary School

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Trees planted:

Coul Blush (E)

Beauty of Moray ( D )

Scots Bridget ( C )

Eve Apple ( D )

Thorle Pippin ( E )

Tower Of Glamis

Cutler Grieve

 

At Lochinver we travelled through spectacular landscape to plant our trees in an area fenced off from deer. Children from the local nursery and primary joined to hear stories and do some planting. With the help of Fiona Saywell the Woodland Officer, P3s and 4s had even written their own story about each variety. These were read out as we stood by each tree and we then welcomed them with percussion and a tune on the pipes from Fergus.

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That night we enjoyed a warm welcome and apple themed s stay complete with a tour of the Walled garden at Newbold house in Forres. We were able to give them a Tower of Glamis apple tree to add to their orchard.

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Forres Orchard

Bogton Road Community Garden, Forres, Moray

With Transition Town Forres, Dyke

Primary School and Moray Steiner School

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Trees planted:

Beauty of Moray (D)

Scots Bridget (C)

Thorle Pippin (E)

Eve Apple (D)

Tam Montgomery ( E)

Golden Monday ( E )

Maggie Sinclair ( D )

Our final visit was to Transition Forres where we were reunited with some old friends Carin and Donald there and also Laura from Velocity café in Inverness whom we had met on last summer’s Seed Truck tour.

On a glorious sunny afternoon we shared stories and Fergus explained the significance of the Silver apple bough of Celtic lore which could serve as a passport to the land of Tir nan Og should the fairy queen require the pleasure of one’s company. Trees were planted and watered then welcomed by a musical procession with instruments children had brought especially for the occasion.

So ends the journey of the Silver Bough tour but the trees are just starting to grow and so we hope this is just the very beginning of a dialogue and interest in all of the amazing Scottish varieties of apples.

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Thanks to Marie Louise, Seed Truck storyteller, Rob Davidson, Seed Truck gardener, to all those in schools and community gardens and other  organisations who helped make this happen, also to Andrew and Margaret Lear for supplying trees and advice, and of course to the People’s Postcode Lottery and Awards for All for supporting our work.