Seven very special apple trees were planted recently at the new riverside development Abbey Mews with the help of the Isle of Wight College’s horticulture department, local ecologist from Arc Consulting, Ian Boyd, Paul Creer and developers David Wilson Homes.
The new houses sit on the site of an earlier Victorian villa and garden, once the home of a keen horticulturalist who specialised in pomology and who cultivated a large apple orchard behind the former Dairy Crest site. One of the trees grown there was reputed to be the Isle of Wight’s very own apple, the world’s largest variety and record holder, the Howgate Wonder.
To ensure the pomologist’s work and the tree species were preserved, a small experiment was undertaken with the help of Paul Coleman at the Isle of Wight College. Cuttings from the four kinds of apple were taken and placed in a cold store at the College before sending them on to Deacons of Godshill for grafting. The grafted plants were then returned to the College where they were containerised and grown on. Now almost 4 foot high, the trees have been returned to the site and planted to create a new mini-orchard.
Ian Boyd from Arc Consulting who instigated the project as well as Adie Morgan from David Wilson Homes were on hand to finish off the planting while local residents have volunteered to keep the trees watered throughout the summer. Further work to restore the Lukely Brook’s riverbank will be carried out by David Wilson Homes later in the summer, adding another section of restoration to the Environment Agency and Newport Rivers Group’s earlier deculverting of the Lukely further downstream. The Abbey Mews area will be open to the public by early autumn.
Paul Coleman from the College explains:
“We have tried to plant a selection of trees to make the most of the fruit season, so local residents can benefit from a very early eating apple as well as a late cooking variety. Whilst there is no positive identification of the apple varieties collected, at least one of the trees now planted at Abbey Mews is a Howgate Wonder.
“We hope the Dairy Crest pomologist would be pleased by the new orchard and that passersbys let Arc know if they spot a world record-sized apple. The College will receive a donation from David Wilson Homes via Arc for their support on the project”.