The Tanat Reviver tells a story of resilience: of one veteran apple tree, discovered in the gardens of a Tanat valley resident back in 2006, now in the National Welsh collection, and here in my own Mother tree collection just a few miles away on the Shropshire/Welsh border. It’s one fascinating local piece of a nation-wide picture of rare, heritage varieties which were once so abundant up and down our British Isles, with almost every town and village at one time the proud purveyors of their own regional speciality.
After a process of DNA testing and identification to confirm the uniqueness of the variety, documented by Francine Isaacs in her earlier Chronicle article, my passion for rare and heritage fruit varieties led me to play my part in the story of the Tanat Reviver, with an invitation from Francine to take graft wood from the 150-year-old specimen tree. Taking this propagation material ensures that the variety will not be lost, should the original be damaged in a storm, or compromised by pests or disease, and allows more people a second chance to discover and enjoy such characterful and unique cultivars. After establishing a Mother tree in 2020, last year I began grafting with budwood from my very own Tanat Reviver, available this Winter as nursery trees on MM111 and M116 rootstocks, suitable for a variety of growing sites and conditions.
At my agroforestry site in Weston Rhyn, I am building a collection of trees well suited to the local environment, that can stand up to the long, wet Winters and unpredictable Summers we often experience in this part of the UK. Taken from rare, specimen trees throughout Wales and the Marches, Shropshire, Herefordshire and beyond, many of the varieties I cultivate have a resistance to the fungal diseases found in fruit trees, such as scab and canker, which can render fruits inedible, and can eventually cause the death of the tree. With these problems in mind, it’s proving ever more important to cultivate diversity! Alongside the old varieties, I also grow some select modern cultivars: for their taste and particular disease resistance, honed by plant breeders over the years. I’m steadily augmenting my collection with local varieties from all over the country, with the goal of helping steward plant biodiversity, and ensure our living heritage can be enjoyed for generations to come. This winter, I’ll be expanding my orchard, with three new rows currently being established after a two year period of soil enrichment.
Once ubiquitous at almost every farm, smallholding, and back garden; apples, pears, plums, quince, and cherry can now offer diversification crops for farmers, growers, community gardens and allotments, providing an income and food source, and allowing us to celebrate the best of heritage and tradition, whilst embracing innovation. In a recent webinar in collaboration with The Tree Council’s Trees Outside Woodlands project, I gave a presentation on incorporating fruit trees into the farm – more on this in the next blog post.
Since I began managing the site in late 2018, I have sought to follow the principles of agroforestry: the combination of agriculture with trees for healthier soil, increased yields, and wildlife habitat creation. The potential for cropping combinations with agroforestry are virtually limitless, and as varied as the people practicing it. All manner of trees and shrubs can be mixed with livestock, arable, and horticultural crops to create resilient edible landscapes that are great for biodiversity, produce the food we need, can cope with adverse or unpredictable conditions, and are a pleasure to spend time in.
This year, my very own Tanat Reviver has produced fruit for the first time, with a crop of yellow-green apples developing a subtle red blush with the Autumn sun. I’m assured they are sweet enough to eat, and cook down easily too, whilst also providing a delicious juice… or perhaps cider!
So, here’s to apple season, and the next 150 years of the Tanat Reviver.
Tom Adams is a fruit tree specialist based on the Shropshire/Welsh border offering Soil Association Organic certified bare root nursery trees including very rare heritage varieties and modern varieties, suitable for traditional orchards, commercial settings, smallholdings, and the home garden. He has taught on the accredited Certificate in Community Orcharding award and offers educational site tours, consultancy, and a range of courses including pruning and grafting.
This blog post was taken from my recent article in the Tanat Valley Chronicle, a local newsletter magazine serving the areas of the Tanat, Cain and Vyrnwy valleys. Thanks to Sarah Chambers (editor) for helping us to share this unique local story.