Don't miss The Flourish at Lanark's Tolbooth

The Clyde Valley was once known as the fruit basket of Scotland, thanks to a perfect micro-climate for apple and plum trees and, later, tomato and strawberry plants.

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A community orchard has been created in Kirkfieldbank by the Co-operative, with many local varieties including Cambusnethan Pippin and the Bloody Ploughman!
A community orchard has been created in Kirkfieldbank by the Co-operative, with many local varieties including Cambusnethan Pippin and the Bloody Ploughman!

However, mass production at the start of the 20th century put paid to the industry and many of the orchards which helped feed it.

Fast forward to 2010, a group of like-minded volunteers decided to do their bit to protect the remaining orchards and restore trees that were long since lost. Clyde Valley Orchard Co-operative has done much in the last 12 years to do just that.

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Funding from the Renewable Energy Fund and the Clyde and Avon Project enabled the volunteers to buy trees. South Lanarkshire Council donated a hilly piece of land at Kirkfieldbank for a community orchard, where the group planted hundreds of trees.

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    Since 2010, more than 2500 trees have been planted.

    Scores more were donated to local schools and community groups to form their own orchards – just five trees constitutes an orchard so even people with redundant garden areas can have their very own!

    With that in mind, during lockdown in January last year, co-operative members launched their 200 trees project – donating trees in batches of five to schools, community groups and keen gardeners, enabling 40 new orchards to be born.

    As a result, the co-operative has succeeded in planting over 2500 young fruit trees in the Clyde Valley since its inception.

    Now, members are celebrating that success – while recruiting more volunteers – with an exhibition at Lanark’s Tolbooth.

    Launched on Monday and running until June 4, The Flourish celebrates the Clyde Valley’s rich history in fruit growing.

    Sandra Gunn, co-operative chairwoman, said: “The Flourish is the local name given to the beautiful blossom which graces the fruit trees during the spring.

    “The exhibition tells the story of the past, present and future of orchards in the Clyde Valley. It highlights the many aspects of fruit growing, food making and the ecological benefits of today’s orchards.

    “The Clyde Valley was once referred to as the Fruit Basket of Scotland, when it commercially produced fruit on a large scale.

    “Today traditional orchards are being restored and new ones developed by the co-operative to produce local fruit, juice and support the special ecosystems which orchards provide.”

    The co-operative sells the produce it makes to help run the group. Members also press apples to make juice which is sold in farm shops across the Clyde Valley; again, all profits are returned to the maintenance, creation and health of orchards in the Clyde Valley’s unique landscape.

    As well as finding out more about local orchards, visitors to the Tolbooth exhibition will also be able to purchase juice made by group members.

    Anyone interested in joining the not-for-profit co-operative, or finding out more, should email [email protected]

    As part of the exhibition, a series of talks will take place at the Tolbooth on Saturday (May 21).

    Co-operative member Anne Armstrong will kick off at 2pm, looking back at the story of fruit growing in the Clyde Valley.

    At 2.30pm, Susan Hart from Lanarkshire Beekeepers will discuss the Buzz about Lanarkshire – and how many orchard growers are helping to produce local honey.

    At 3pm, Julian Rae from Lanarkshire Larder will discuss the group’s food trail which celebrates local produce and retailers.

    And at 3.30pm, Stuart McVicar from Biggar Gin will bring the day to a close with a talk on fruit and botanicals in gin production.

    Entry is free and people of all ages are welcome.