The Silver Bough: planting Seven Heritage Orchards for Scotland

  • 25/02/14
  • Comments: 1

The Fife Diet’s Seed Truck project announces an innovative nationwide orchard project.  This spring we are launching a new initiative to explore a key and vulnerable part of our food and plant culture by planting seven orchards around the country, all featuring heritage varieties.

Fergus Walker said: “It’s about starting a cultural conversation about apples – and wider biodiversity and food sovereignty issues. Why do our apples come from Chile? What’s the story behind our own apple varieties and how can we resurrect them?”

The project, led by the Fife Diet’s Fergus Walker, celebrates diversity in the face of contemporary monoculture, and reconnects communities with their apple-history.

Launching this Wednesday in Galloway, the Seed Truck will weave its way across Scotland planting each of the seven orchards in the next few weeks. Each orchard has a particular tree chosen for the tale that it tells. In Sutherland it is the Coul Blush, Scotland’s most northerly apple; in Moray the Beauty of Moray, and in Angus the Chivers Delight tells of the history of the Chivers jam factory that was a pioneer of industrial food production. In the Carse of Gowrie we’ll be planting the Bloody Ploughman, the red-fleshed apple named after the unfortunate ploughman caught scrumping at Wemyss castle and shot by the gamekeeper; in Lothian, at Hawthornden Primary school we will plant the Hawthornden apple, in the Borders we will plant the White Melrose at Melrose Abbey, where the variety was originally raised. The apple tour kicks off this Wednesday with the Galloway Pippin.

The project, which aims to connect community groups and schools up and down the land, reconnects rare heritage apple varieties with the people and places of their origin, it retells stories that have laid hidden and it speaks to the need for diversity in food against the modern trends of monocrop and uniform taste owned and sold by a handful of giant companies.

Food and food growing belongs to us all. By meeting old friends like Thorle Pippin, Arbroath Oslin, Tam Jeffrey, Cutler Grieve and the Lemon Queen we’re reconnecting with a food heritage and, in practical terms, planting diversity back into the ground.

Each orchard will be looked after by a local team who will be trained and supported to do so.

Editors Notes

1. The Seed Truck is a joint project between WWF Scotland and the Fife Diet, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

2. The Silver Bough by F Marian McNeill is a classic of Scottish folklore. The Silver Bough of the sacred apple tree, laden with crystal blossoms or golden fruit, is the equivalent in Celtic mythology of the Golden Bough of classic mythology. Story-telling will be an intrinsic part of the project.

3. Itinerary:

Wednesday 26th February: Auchencairn Link Allotments and Auchencairn Primary, Galloway

Tuesday 4th March: Hawthornden Primary (with Mondo Loco Foundation), Bonnyrigg, West Lothian

Melrose Abbey (Historic Scotland with Greener Melrose), Borders

Wednesday 5th of March: Errol Primary School, Carse of Gowrie

Montrose Academy, Angus

Tuesday 11th March: Culag Community Woodlands, Lochinver, Sutherland

Wednesday 12th March: Transition Town Forres, Moray

4. Full list of apple varieties:

Coul Blush

Beauty of Moray

Scots Bridget

Eve Apple (a.k.aManks Codlin)

Thorle Pippin

Tower Of Glamis

Cutler Grieve

Tam Montgomery (a.k.a. Early Julyan)

Golden Monday


Chivers Delight

Hood’s Supreme

Arbroath Oslin

Bloody Ploughman


Lass O Gowrie

Lady of the Wemyss

Port Allen Russet

Lord Rosebery

Tam Jeffrey

Maggie Sinclair


East Lothian Pippin

William Crump

White Melrose

Stobo Castle


Yorkshire Aromatic

Cambusnethen Pippin

Liddel’s Seedling

Galloway Pippin

Siddington Russet

One Comment
  • Ingrid Glendininning March 1, 2014 at 10:23

    It’s great to see the passion that Fergus has for this project. I love all the names of the apples. Culorss Palace is doing a free grafting workshop Friday 7th March 2014 if anyone is interested, and it is usually only apples, native to Scotland. They have the Bloody Ploughman there as well.
    There is nothing better than picking something that you have nurtured and grown yourself, the taste is just not matched by anything from the other side of the world bought in a supermarket.