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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Attempt to save ancient orchards
Some of the trees could pre-date the Act of Union
A campaign has been launched to save some of Scotland's most ancient orchards that experts say could be wiped out in the next few years.

Fruit trees in the Carse of Gowrie in Perthshire were first planted hundreds of years ago by monks.

The number of plantations has steadily decreased, thanks to competition from fruit producers around the world.

A survey has been started to assess the number and condition of the remaining orchards to try to secure their future.

Some are home to unique varieties of fruit, and conservationists fear the area's historical heritage could be lost.

Extremely old

Monks from Coupar Angus and other neighbouring monasteries planted the orchards on land gifted by the Hays of Errol in the 14th Century.

Agriculture consultant Dr Crispin Hayes said the main plantations were created 300 years ago and some had survived until the present day.

He said: "The Carse, like the Clyde, was once one of the major orchard fruit growing areas in Scotland.

There has been a long slow decline - trees have been getting older and are not being replaced
Dr Crispin Hayes
Agriculture consultant

"These gnarled 'old grannies' can be extremely old, especially the pear trees, some of which are probably over 200 years old.

"That puts their planting before rail travel and ahead of the Battle of Waterloo.

"Some of them maybe even have been around at the time of the Act of Union - nobody knows yet."

Dr Hayes warned that the number of orchards in the area had dwindled from 40 at the start of the 20th Century to just 10.

He said: "There has been a long slow decline. Trees have been getting older and are not being replaced.

"Where they are on agricultural ground they are not seen as economic in agricultural terms and are being cleared to make way for building development."

Healthy future

Dr Hayes, along with staff from the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust, will conduct a survey of the remaining orchards.

He added: "The first phase is to locate the ones that remain and the next stage is to work out what we want to do with them to try and preserve them."

Paul McLennan, manager of Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust, said: "I am pleased the trust is now able to turn its attention to these fantastic old orchards.

"Many have been lost and we hope to work with landowners to ensure that the handful that remain have a healthy future."

The results of the survey will be unveiled at a public meeting on 16 October.

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