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Centuries old tradition marked at fruit tree planting

Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, Richard Shaw, Philippa Davenport, Kate Hosier, and Janet and Neville Hobson, of the Marlborough Community Orchard committeeJeffrey Galvin-Wright, Richard Shaw, Philippa Davenport, Kate Hosier, and Janet and Neville Hobson, of the Marlborough Community Orchard committeeIn an English tradition dating back centuries, town councillor Richard Pitts planted a plum tree on Sunday to commemorate the marriage of his nephew Charlie Taylor to Fran.

The couple, who live in York but are frequent visitors to the town, took place in August. The tree will form part of the community orchard on Marlborough Common.

A number of community volunteers turned out on the blustery Sunday morning – the second day of National Tree Week – to plant pear, plum, damson, quince and medlar trees, although in nothing like the numbers for last month's planting of the Jubilee apple trees. 

“It's symbolic, isn't it?” said Cllr Pitts as he shovelled the last spadeful of soil around the roots of the Victoria Plum.

“It's an English tradition going back centuries. The tree grows as the marriage grows. And it bears fruit, representing all the children Charlie and Fran will have... maybe.”

Cllr Richard PittsCllr Richard PittsThe councillor then put his spade to good use helping Marlborough Communities Market to plant a Nottingham Medlar.

The medlar is one of the orchard's most uncommon fruits – and not one likely to be found on supermarket shelves today, although the Tudors couldn't get enough of them.

Large white blossoms give way to a rock-hard fruit with russeted skin. Eaten raw they are tart, but once bletted – left to rot until soft and brown – they make excellent jelly with a taste resembling toffee apples, according to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

On the other side of the orchard, the committee of the Community Orchard committee were planting a Merryweather Damson. Native to the UK, the fruit is today less far popular than its close relative, the sweeter dessert plum, but makes tasty jam.

“By the end of the year we will have planted 198 trees in two years,” said Marlborough Community Orchard committee chairman and food writer Philippa Davenport. “We are creating a living larder – local food for local people.”

The trees, and their sponsors, are: Jeffrey and Alison Galvin Wright (Quince 'Vranja'); Charles Taylor (Plum 'Victoria'); U3A in Kennet (Pear 'Conference'); Marlborough Choral Society (Damson 'Merryweather'); Marlborough Community Orchard (Damson 'Merryweather'); Marlborough Communities Market (Medlar 'Nottingham'); Marlborough History Society (Medlar 'Nottingham'); The Trustees of the Merchant's House (Damson 'Merryweather'); North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Plum 'Czar'); Visit Wilshire (Pear 'Beth').

Communities Market committee members Ellie Gill, Alexandra Wax, Gerald Payne and Richard PittsCommunities Market committee members Ellie Gill, Alexandra Wax, Gerald Payne and Richard Pitts Happy couple Charlie and Fran Taylor, pictured at their wedding in AugustHappy couple Charlie and Fran Taylor, pictured at their wedding in August

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