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Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Thursday, 2 September 2010 11:45 UK
Rescued orchard bears fruit for people of Conwy again

Snowdon Queen pear
Conwy Community Orchard sells fruit, chutneys and jam at the Conwy Feast

A group formed to rescue an abandoned orchard in Conwy have proved so successful they're inviting people to pick fruit for free.

The medieval orchard in the shadow of the town walls would have provided sustenance to the townspeople for centuries. But it had been neglected since the early 1900s, until the Conwy Orchard Community Group stepped in.

"We've been working on the orchard for a few years now," said committee member, Mark Watson-Jones.

"Keep Wales Tidy provided us with a grant a few months ago to buy tools to help sort it out - to do some pruning and clear out the brambles to make the trees more accessible."

New apple, pear and plum trees have been planted from grafts off old local specimens. As they mature, Mark is looking forward to a good harvest from both new and established trees.

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Now the group are preparing for the first orchard open day on 18 September.

"But as the orchard has been designed to provide fruit over a sustained period of time, we'll be having another harvest day in mid-October," said Mark.

One rare variety discovered growing at Conwy by fruit expert, Ian Sturrock from Bangor, was the Denbigh plum.

"Conwy has the most healthy Denbigh plum trees in the world," said Ian, who has noticed a resurgence in interest in local fruit varieties.

He said that, while supermarkets seem to have been selling fewer and fewer fruit varieties, he was encouraged that garden centres in the area were now selling more native fruit trees.

Gardeners have finally realised the fruit trees that will grow best in north Wales are the those that have been grown here for centuries, says Ian.

"You don't have to spray them because they've adapted to breed in this area," he explained.

Conwy Community Orchard
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Some of Ian's favourite local varieties include the Pigs Snout apple, which might take off commercially as he thinks pigs snout pie would sound good on a menu.

"I'm just introducing an apple from Bontnewydd too, called Afal Shampên (Champagne Apple)," he said.

"It's a brilliant pillar box red and was named by Lady Anglesey. She gave it to a friend who's had the tree growing in her garden for years."

Ian has also recently sent off a specimen of a Penrhyn Castle pear tree to the National Fruit Collection to verify that it is unique.

"It was growing by a nice warm wall though, so I need to test it first before selling it to gardeners locally," he said.

"I have two orchards where I test new varieties. I give them a really hard time; it's all unkempt and I don't use any fertiliser. If they do well there, I will begin to propagate them."

Conwy Community Orchard is close to the town's Morfa Bach car park.

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