How it started:
After a few years of foraging fruit we started to find large abandoned orchards in forgotten places. These finds were often bittersweet, there was plenty of fruit to pick but it was obvious that the trees were very old and near the end of their productive life. Around the same time we became aware that the traditional plums and damson trees we picked from could be easily propagated from “suckers” young trees sprouting from the roots of old trees. With access to these free trees in the winter of 2018 we distributed 140 damson and plum trees to people at our local market and local schools.
Moving forward we are distributing trees through two routes:
- Donating trees to community groups, schools, social enterprises and tree planting charities such as those involved in the Northern Forest. Once the trees mature and fruit is harvested these groups can use the fruit however they wish, or sell the fruit back to Fruits of the Forage to raise much needed funds.
- Work with farmers to plant trees in fallow areas, hedgerows and rejuvenate old orchards, this can include planting new hedgerows and filling gaps in existing hedgerows to increase biodiversity.
There are many reasons for planting fruit in hedgerows. Hedgerows are an essential part of sustainable farming systems, they reduce soil erosion by providing windbreaks and preventing surface water runoff. Hedgerows and traditional orchards provide habitats for wildlife at a time when scientists are warning the world is entering a period of mass extinction and act as wildlife corridors linking existing habitats. Traditional fruit varieties are dying out and people have lost their connection to the land. Planting, caring for and harvesting local heritage fruit brings communities together in the outdoors, to work toward a common goal while preserving the biodiversity of our rich botanical heritage.
How we source our trees:
We gather suckers of historic Pershore cooking plums, once famed as the best plums for jam, and Shropshire prune Damsons in bulk from our foraging spots in the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire. In addition to this we gather hundreds of suckers from our local area around Macclesfield in Cheshire. We find three varieties on our home turf - the Shropshire Prune Damson along with two lovely plums great for both cooking and eating fresh one unknown Greengage and a small purple plum known as the Jacobs plum.
In addition to plums we have started grafting historic apple and pear varieties. We have gathered some extremely rare varieties from the orchard planted by Tony Gentil, who was once one of the most respected experts on historic British fruit varieties in the country, and have begun to distribute these trees to farmers.
In the future we hope to add other wild plants such as elderberry and crab apple to our tree distributing mission.
Examples of tree planting projects we are engaged in:
Greenheyes Farm, Middlewich, Cheshire – We are working with farmer Phil Smallwood to plant new Damson hedges on his farm and replace dying fruit trees in his orchard with traditional local varieties.
Paul Griffiths Farm, Shropshire – We are proving trees to Paul, a keen conservationist, to plant Damsons in his hedges which were once full the fruit. His farm is in the heart of Damson country in Shropshire and we have provided him with trees to replant an old orchard on his farm with plums, pears and apples.
Forest of Mercia – We have donated 70 trees to the Forest of Mercia who will plant them in projects across Staffordshire and we plan to collaborate on projects with them in the future.
Friends of Turn Moss – A community group increasing the biodiversity and rejuvenating old hedgerows of Turns Moss in Greater Manchester.
City of Trees - A tree planting charity, part of the Northern Forest, which is committed to planting 3 million in Greater Manchester
Guerrilla Orchard by the River Mersey – we have planted an unofficial orchard of wild cherry plums, plums and damsons at a location in Greater Manchester near the River Mersey – if you can find it your welcome to the fruit!