Researchers uncover 73 ‘new’ Welsh apple and pear varieties
A £500,000 lottery-funded project has uncovered 73 previously unrecorded varieties of Welsh cider apples and perry pears, bringing the total number varieties native to the country to 101.
The two-year study, which involved finding, cataloguing and preserving new apple and pear varieties in the country, has been jointly run by University of South Wales and the Welsh Perry & Cider Society.
Begun in 2016, ‘The Heritage of Orchards and Cider Making in Wales’ project has increased the number of known varieties in Wales from around 30 to over 100.
The researchers involved have now published their findings in a document entitled ‘The Welsh Pomona of Heritage Cider Apples and Perry Pears’, which includes photos and information about each variety.
The Welsh Perry & Cider Society and its partners worked with 13 community groups across the country in order to plant new trees and regenerate old orchards.
A total of 200 trees were DNA-tested as part of the project while 926 trees have been planted at orchards in Anglesey, Conwy, Gwynedd, Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Wrexham.
The newly discovered varieties have been used to form the National Collections of Welsh Cider and Perry Trees which have been planted at ‘museum orchards’ at Aberystwyth University IBERS campus, National Trust properties Erddig Hall in Wrexham and Dyffryn Gardens in the Vale of Glamorgan and at the society’s own orchards, split across two sites, one at Llanarth and one at Llantrisant.
The society has also fermented juice from 29 fruit trees for single-variety taste trials, the results of which will be shared on its database and made available to the country’s cider and perry producers.
Commenting in the Pomona, chairperson of the Welsh Perry & Cider Society, Sally Perks, said: “When we launched this project none of us could have foreseen the huge success of the DNA testing results that would come from it. We hoped to find some unique varieties, but we didn’t envisage that there would be some many varieties of cider apple and perry pear that have only been found in Wales.
“This success in itself led to challenges for those closely involved in the project, with much more follow-up work than we initially anticipated. Without the help and assistance of so many experts and supporters of heritage varieties we could never have achieved such comprehensive results in such a short space of time.”
Among the new varieties of cider apple are bittersweet variety Jac y Do (the welsh word for Jackdaw), which was found growing in an old orchard just outside the walls of Conwy Castle; sweet variety Tanat Reviver found on a 160-190 year old tree in the Tanat Valley, Oswestry; sweet variety Anglesey Sweet Jane found in Anglesey on land once owned by Lord and Lady Boston and bittersharp variety Afal Tudwal found growing in an old orchard attached to a vicarage in Llanstadwell, Pembrokeshire.
The new varieties of perry pears include Dingat found on an old tree at Fishpool Farm in Dingestow; found growing at old orchards in Llantrisant, Usk and Welshpool, Gellygen Godidog found at Ty Canol Farm in Llangorse, near Brecon, and Seren Scethrog found on a farm in Scethrog, near Brecon.