Artisan liqueur maker Raisthorpe Manor is launching a campaign to revive Britain’s shrinking damson crop, urging people to plant more of the forgotten fruit in an effort to save the “damsons in distress.”
The Yorkshire Wolds business ““ home to the UK’s first Damson Port ““ launched the ‘Damsons are Forever’ project this week, planting a new orchard of Merriweather damson trees on the Raisthorpe Estate to kick-start the campaign.
While anecdotal evidence shows damsons were used in the dye and cloth manufacturing industries in the 18th and 19th centuries and damson orchards were widespread until the Second World War (used in commercially-made damson jam), after this date changing tastes and the relatively high cost of British-grown fruit caused a catastrophic decline. Only a tiny handful of new plantings have taken place since the 1960s.
Owner Julia Medforth and the Raisthorpe team use the fruit from the hedgerows on the estate in order to capture an essence of Yorkshire in bottle for its range of fruit liqueurs, including its award-winning Damson Port, and are concerned that without new trees being planted, this valuable crop may be lost forever.
“With each tree having an average lifespan of 50 years, once they die out we could be left with no British-grown damsons at all, and so they really are damsons in distress!” says Julia Medforth. “We collect damsons by hand annually, from a nearby orchards and gardens in the area, for our Damson Port, and we want to see this rare countryside gem continue to flourish. To ensure ‘Damsons are Forever’, we’re planting our own so this neglected fruit is given a chance to survive.”
Raisthorpe Manor will continue to campaign to see damsons reinstated as a national fruit in 2015. The 8ft trees have been planted in National Tree Week, (1-6th December) the perfect time to launch the campaign.