. . . . . . . . . . .The red Yardley plum . . . . . . . . . . .
The History Group was approached by a gentleman called Robert Moore who works for a local environmental group who amongst other things are interested in the preservation of ancient orchard. They do this by grafting part of existing trees onto modern rootstocks.
Robert was passed onto me and I was asked to try to locate any trees of the two plums once so prevalent in the village, I met him a week later and together looked at a possible tree. There were two varieties that have been written about and remembered by some of the older members of the community here.
1. The Harvest or Wheaten plum, a small blue plum, very early, ripening at harvest time.
2. The Yardley plum, red with a dry taste not suitable as a desert plum but good for preserving. Apparently this plum was grown in quantity for use as a dye probably for use in the textile industry.
I spent about a week between 14th and 23rd of September knocking on doors of houses that had been built on land once part of an old orchard or backing onto one, or old cottages with large gardens with the possibilities of trees being in the hedges.
The outcome was finding at least four trees that appear to match the description of the red Yardley plum. I found that they didn’t really look very red because of the bluey bloom on the skin, once rubbed with a finger they were definitely red. I needed of course to taste the plums, some were too sweet which probably meant that they were a cross with a more modern sweeter plum although they looked from the outside exactly the same, medium sized with the same bloom on the skin.
Of the four, two trees were related to the large orchard in the middle of the village formerly known as Quick’s orchard, one to a small orchard alongside the churchyard, another to the field previously a market garden in Moorend. The other sweeter plums seemed to be related to the Pear Tree Cottage orchard opposite Kerry farm.
Of the Harvest or Wheaten plum I was only able to ask people about these as I suspect it fruits early August as in the school log book the children broke up from school late July to help with the harvest. This plum I have been told has been noticed in at least three places. One that doesn’t seem related to an orchard but may have been in a garden hedge. All of these I have to investigate next year.
Mrs Shakeshaft enjoyed the Yardley plum and she was brought these plums by someone living in Prospect House, probably before Orchard Close was built and I suspect they came from the Workhouse orchard that ran behind the house. William Glenn kept pigs and chickens in this orchard (up to about 1950), I have been told by his daughter that he would take orders for the plums and would leave them outside the gate for his customers. I am not sure if they were the red or blue plums, probably both along with other types.
I have recently read an article in the Chronicle and Echo dated 9th September 2006 which tells that the grafting is going ahead in Flore on the indigenous plum there, believed to go back 1000 years. “they were probably developed as part of the textile industry and used for dyeing. They are probably very close to the Yardley plum.”
If you have any stories about these plums or know of the whereabouts of any of the trees I would be pleased to hear from you. Contact me Brenda under CONTACT US at the bottom of page.
Brenda Pittam Oct 2006
. . . . . The Blue Wheaten or Harvest Plum . . . . .
I had all good intentions this year to see the trees in full fruit. I went around on August 16th expecting to see the fruit on the trees that I suspected to be the harvest plum that fruited at about harvest time. What I found was that they had already fruited well and what were left were on the ground and quite soft. I was able to find a few in good enough condition to photograph. I visited another tree which I am told fruited very well this year and there were none to be seen just a few stones on the ground. I ate one of the plums and it had quite a sweet flavour.
Brenda Pittam 17th Aug 2007
In about 2013 I grafted a piece from the yardley plum in the pocket park onto a modern root stock obtained from Buckingham Nursery. This year, 2017 it fruited for the first time, there were about 20 small plums none survived to be fully ripe, the birds seemed to like them while they were small. Better luck next year. B. P.