Cider maker Frank Naish collects rare varieties of apple trees for replanting at Piltown Farm
The world’s oldest cider maker has stepped in to offer sanctuary to dozens of rare cider apple trees – and he is looking for help to replant them.
Frank Naish, 89, has been making cider at Piltown Farm, near Glastonbury since he was seven, first with his father, William, and with his late brother Harold.
When Harold died, in 2004, at the age of 84, Frank promised to carry on making their award-winning refreshment with help from fellow cider-maker Paul Chant, who learned his skills at Harold’s side.
There is even an excellent cider apple named Naish, but the old varieties are disappearing as old orchards are grubbed up so when Mr Chant heard that a treasure trove of trees at a former nursery stood in need of a good home he went along to find out more and was staggered to see the range of famous old varieties.
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They are among more than 1,000 fruit trees, including dessert and eating apples, growing on land at Hinton St George, near Crewkerne, which once formed part of Scott’s Nursery.
The nursery went into voluntary liquidation five years ago and the trees, planted close together and intended for sale, are in urgent need of replanting.
Mr Chant will be digging up around 150 later this week in preparation for a grand replanting party at Piltown Farm on Saturday.
Anyone with a love of old varieties and old orchards will be welcome to go along with a spade to help. Bread, cheese and pickles will be provided to help fuel the workforce.
“There are more than 30 varieties, and some are very rare,” said Mr Chant.
“They have wonderful names. There is Hoary Morning, Frederick, Brown Snout, Sweet Alford, Broxwood Foxwhelp, Fillbarrel, and Stembridge Jersey, just to name a few.
“So many people are just planting bush orchards now with certain varieties and there is no soul in that. We have around 60 varieties here already so if we can bring in these others it will be a wonderful legacy. It’s our ambition to keep the old cider orchards alive. Frank is doing this to help the future generations.” Mr Naish said:“This will be safeguarding the countryside and saving some of Somerset’s heritage, the old varieties for the future.”
Gardener and hedger Roger Noble, 68, from nearby Pilton added: “I’ve seen a map from the 1920s which showed hundreds of acres of orchards of trees around Pilton, but a lot have been lost, some to development.
“It’s a great shame. There is no better place to put a beehive than in a cider orchard.”
Villagers at Hinton St George plan to create a community wood on the old nursery land, to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Many of the eating apple trees will go to a new home in Scotland. Among those helping to plant the trees on Saturday will be volunteers from Glastonbury Conservation Society.
It created new orchards and hedges in the area but the loss of a Somerset County Council grant has curtailed its work.