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Research ripens into Orchard Heritage Day

Poet Deryn Rees-Jones

Poet Deryn Rees-Jones

Some of the Orchard Heritage Day organisers

Some of the Orchard Heritage Day organisers

22 October 2013

Researchers from the Department of Historical Studies made a distinctive contribution to this week’s nationwide Apple Day events, by co-organising Quantock Apple Heritage Day.

Professor Peter Coates secured funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to help disseminate the findings of his research project, ‘Fallen Fruits: Mapping the Disappearing Orchard Landscape of the Quantock Hills’. The result was Quantock Apple Heritage Day, held on Saturday 19 October at Fyne Court, a National Trust property at Broomfield, Somerset that also serves as the headquarters of the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Service.

For Professor Coates’ project – funded by the AHRC, the Quantock Hills Sustainable Development Fund, and the Lady Emily Smyth Agricultural Research Station bequest for horticultural research (administered by the School of Biological Sciences) – researchers Dr Marianna Dudley and Dr Nick Nourse worked closely with the AONB Service to examine data derived from aerial photographs, maps, and related records. They used this evidence to create a graphic visual representation of the former significance of orchard cover in the Quantock foothills.

Saturday’s festival, which attracted over 600 visitors (including AHRC representatives), featured an apple identification service courtesy of Liz Copas, the National Association of Cider Makers’ Orcharding Advisor and Field Trial Officer; apple advice and answers from Les Davies MBE, an authority on West Country apples; and at the core of the proceedings, a series of poetic performances by James Crowden, Ralph Hoyte, Pete Stevenson, and Deryn Rees-Jones.

The Heritage Day also included a memory-gathering exercise that tapped into local residents’ apple and orchard reminiscences, staffed by two volunteers from the History Department’s MA unit in Public History, which Professor Coates leads.

‘The project’s findings are being communicated to all Quantock parishes,’ said Professor Coates, ‘we hope that the dramatic changes in orchard cover – not just since the 1960s but since the 1840s – will provide arresting evidence for those who wish to encourage the planting of community orchards in the area.

‘This particular apple event in the depths of rural Somerset’, he concluded, ‘is a vivid example of the AHRC ethos of connected communities, and gives real meaning to modish buzzwords such as co-design, co-production and co-delivery’.



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