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21-03-2013 : ORCHARDS FOR THE GLOUCESTERSHIRE AND SHARPNESS CANAL

Canal Boat Holiday guests cruising the Gloucester And Sharpness Canal this week will see a lot of tow path activity taking place.

The Canal and River Trust are planting new apple and pear trees on joining a movement aiming to reverse a trend that has seen a 75 per cent decline in orchards across Gloucestershire over the last 50 years.

Over the past two centuries Gloucestershire’s canals have reflected the region’s cider producing heritage, with fruit trees being a common part of the landscape.

Now the towpath orchards that flourished in the days of early working boatmen are being replenished, with the new trees being planted at Parkend this Friday 22.

Volunteers will join staff from the Canal and River Trust and local expert David Kaspar.

It is hoped that in the future it could become a site for budding scrumpers.

Laura Plenty, Canal and River Trust ecologist, said There has been a sharp decline in orchards across this region over the last five decades, which is such a shame given the strong cultural association they have with Gloucestershire.

An example is Purton, with the village’s name coming from an Olde English, pre 7th Century, word pere meaning pear, and tun, an enclosure or orchard.

The Gloucester aand Sharpness Canal itself has historically been a haven, with small orchards sited at lock and bridge keepers houses, which were planted and used as a free larder by generations of Bargees.

When the trees mature, we hope they will be enjoyed in just the same way by boaters and visitors.

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