Horticultural experts from Reaseheath College are helping to bring a rare Cheshire apple tree back from the brink of extinction by grafting saplings for a community orchard.

Members of the Weaverham Community Memorial Orchard Group approached our horticultural department for help in preserving the Wareham Russet, a heritage variety limited to just one old verifiable tree.  The apple trees used to grow prolifically throughout Weaverham but the orchards were replaced by housing development after the Second World War.

Last year RHS Master of Horticulture Harry Delaney along with fellow lecturer Anne Harrison grafted over 50 cuttings from the tree onto rootstock.  These are now planted in the community orchard where they are thriving.

Last week he repeated the process, but this time most of the 20 newly grafted trees will be given to schools in the Weaverham and Hartford area so children can watch them grow. Harry carried out the skillful procedure, which dates back hundreds of years, in front of students on the college’s RHS Level 3 practical course. He also prepared grafts of another rare Cheshire apple, ‘Rakemaker’, which will be planted in the orchard.

  • Harry discusses the ancient method with Brian and Jacquie Williams

The Weaverham Community Memorial Orchard was created by an action group from the village in 2014, a year which commemorated 100 years since the start of the First World War. The orchard, which is just under one acre and is leased from The Woodland Trust, has 12 other local varieties of apple and pear trees which can be picked and enjoyed by the public in a few years’ time.

Group treasurer Brian Williams explained: “We approached Reaseheath because we needed professional help with the grafting and we were so glad that Harry and Anne could help. The Wareham Russet is a very rare variety and we wanted to give the young trees the best opportunity to survive.

“We’re delighted to be back at Reaseheath for this latest phase of the project, which will hopefully result in everyone enjoying their local apple for years to come.”