[NAFEX] Fruit collection facing move or break-up

Clifford Cain cc_syorks at yahoo.co.uk
Mon May 21 18:37:16 EDT 2007

Sorry if I am repeating some of what you have said but the post was truncated.
I am a Friend of Brogdale and attended the Special General meeting of the Friends of Brogdale on 28th April at which I am pleased to say the Friends pleaded their support to the Trust, whilst they continued their care of the Collections at Brogdale

Brogdale Farm is important internationally because it has over 4000 cultivars of fruit growing on site, including over 2000 apple cultivars.  It is said to be the largest collection of its kind in the world.

In essence, the Government has but out to tender the curatorships of the collections, which has been undertaken by Imperial College, Wye who looked after scientific side of the collections and The Brogdale Horticultural Trust who provide for the husbandry side of things.  Brogdale farm is owned by a local developer (who is keen to see the collections preserved).  There have been tensions between the Trust and the Landlord, resulting in the trust not renewing their options for the plant centre and farm buildings.  This led to a loss of income.  The trust is in deficit by over £200,000 and not having a revenue stream from the collections, cannot afford to be on site.  The Government have allowed a potential bidder to move the collections else where.

The site was saved back in 1990, when the government basically ended its role into research at the fruit research station at Brogdale farm (though they kept ownership of the collection).  The Brogdale Horticultural Trust was formed.  Through a mortgage from the Dutch of Cornwall (the Prince of Wales farm enterprise company) and the local council Swale Borough Council  was obtained, but by 1997 that could not be repaid, and the land was bought by local developer Hillreed land.  During that time the Trust has rented buildings and sub let them as a revenue stream genreating over £130,000 pa.
For what ever reason the Trust fell out with the landlord.  On their part the Landlord is now investing £1million on upgrading the plant centre, restaurant and visitor centre.  The Trust, now short of money and unable to balance its books, says it will build a new facility elsewhere.  This was announced on a radio programme at 0600am.  The Friends, the Trusts supporters and providers of Cash to the organisation, had not been told.  Where the money for this will come from is not clear.
The tendering process has a requirement to look at alternative methods of preserving the collection (via cryogenics) and not be reliant on a living collection.  This is the side of things that worries me the most as who can guarantee that that come out of the deep freeze will produce fruit akin to a living tree.
The bidding for the contracts has now ended and a decision on the 5 year contract is due in September.  Who would want to go through the process of re-propagating over 4000 cultivars with only a 5 year contract, I do not know, for in  that time, you will not have even had any fruit to verify the authenticity of the fruit.

A new organisation Friends of the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale has been created and is developing its own web site etc.  Dr Joan Morgan has her own web site http://www.fruitforum.net 

Brogdale is just over 200 miles south from me.  Because of the climatic differences, the fruit from the apple trees at Brogdale differ from some of those up here, primarily in terms of colour.  At least we know the differences and can relate them to the Brogdale effect ( it is not farm from the coast so has a maritime warming effect).  There are 50 years worth of records concerning the fruit collection at Brogdale, but that include the history of where the trees graft wood originally came from.  So there is a "family history" concerning the trees.  Clearly moving (or more correctly re-propagating) the collections would be an expensive and long term task.  It is fraught with risk of mis-labelling .   At Brogdale there are  3 trees of each cultivar.

My hope is that all the collections remain at Brogdale, because there is no horticultural reason for moving.  The site is secure in terms of tenure, even if the curator does not own the land.


Clifford Cain
Bawtry, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, UK

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