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  • From: "Lon J. Rombough" <>
  • To: NAFEX <>
  • Subject: [NAFEX] One more story on the Bardsey Apple
  • Date: Sun, 30 Dec 2007 17:03:46 -0800

Sent by UK NAFEX member Clive Simms. He isn't on this list.
-Lon Rombough
Grapes, writing, consulting, my book, The Grape Grower, at Winner of the Garden Writers Association "Best Talent in Writing" award for 2003.
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The Sainted Apple

When you plant them as young trees, one apple variety looks much like another, but once they fruit you can spot the winners. So you might think that creamy-pink apples with a refreshingly juicy, lemon-scented taste that have ripened on a single, gnarled tree on Bardsey Island off the northwest coast of Wales would have attracted attention years ago. But the Bardsey Island apple has remained a secret for generations. A birdwatcher who used the apples to attract ground-feeding birds did not recognise the variety, and brought some to the Bangor-based orchard specialist, lan Sturrock.

"The apples had such a pungent lemon smell," says Sturrock. "It was not like the fruit of anyother apple trees in our part of Wales. The tree is very old and gnarled and is clinging to one side of Plas Bach, the grandest house on Bardsey." Sturrock explains that the island was a place of pilgrimage from Celtic times and, according to legend, the burial place of saints. The remains of a 13th-century abbey attest to its lasting appeal as a holy site. "There’s no evidence of an orchard but the monks were presumably self-sufficient and might have had walled gardens. This tree could be the last survivor from the early Middle Ages.”

Sturrock contacted the Bardsey Island Trust, and it was agreed that he should take wood from the tree to propagate it. Patiently, he grafted buds from the tree on to a series of rootstocks and nursed them through the first couple of years. By early this year, he had 175 trees to .sell and once word got out. they were all snapped up within days. Graftwood from the tree has been sent to Brogdale Horticultural Trust, which has some 2300 varieties of apples as part of the
National Fruit Collection. The Bardsey apple will he observed and compared with the existing varieties. Only than can it be pronounced an undiscovered rarity - or matched with an existing one.

Sturrock notes that in spite of regular salt spray and the lashing gales that abrade its branches against the stone wall, the tree has no disease. He suggests that the saints, or rather their bodies, may have something to do with its sturdiness. "If there were hundreds of saints buried there," he theorises, "maybe there's plenty of bonemeal in (he soil."

Malcolm Smith (The Times, 2003)

Bardsey Island apple trees can be purchased from lan Sturrock on 01248 371573 or uk

  • [NAFEX] One more story on the Bardsey Apple, Lon J. Rombough, 12/30/2007

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