An important collection of cider apples which includes almost 300 varieties of tree has been given to the National Trust.

Cider apples

Cider apples Image by Rebecca Siegel / CC BY 2.0

The “national cider apple collection”, containing varieties such as Slack-ma-Girdle, Netherton Late Blower and Billy Down Pippin, has been established over the course of more than a quarter of century by collector and donor Henry May. He has gifted the collection, grown at the Tidnor orchard in Herefordshire, to the Trust which has propagated varieties it does not already have, and they will be planted at orchards in the county they originally come from.

Orchards in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Devon, Dorset and Herefordshire are all set to receive the cider apple trees, which are expected to fruit in around seven years when it is hoped they will be used to make cider. David Bullock, head of nature conservation for the National Trust, said: “To be given this collection is a fantastic privilege. The National Trust is committed to looking after and protecting traditional fruit orchards, which are not only a beautiful spectacle for visitors to enjoy, but are incredibly important for many species of insects, birds and plants. Orchards are part of our national heritage so it’s vital that this collection is protected for future generations to enjoy. Each variety will be planted in two locations to help future-proof them from diseases while ensuring that there are plenty of opportunities for our visitors to enjoy them too.”

The National Trust, which looks after more than 100 orchards across its gardens, will be planting the new collection at Killerton, Devon; Brockhampton, Herefordshire; Montacute, Somerset; Tyntesfield, North Somerset; Barrington Court, Somerset; Glastonbury, Somerset; Westbury Court Garden, Gloucestershire and Golden Cap, Dorset.

Mr May said: “I’ve always enjoyed collecting things and so when I found Tidnor orchard up for sale, I saw that there was an opportunity to collect cider apples, having been beguiled by their names for many years. I was keen, too, to save the old varieties that could have been lost and I was driven by a passion to help the cause of biodiversity. I am delighted that the National Trust has become the custodian of this collection and, really, I could not have asked for a better result.”

As well as producing fruit, traditional orchards – 90% of which have been lost across England in the past 60 years – are important habitat for a range of species including mistletoe, the mistle thrush and the corky-fruited water dropwort.

(Press Association)