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No beating around the bush at Mulberry event

Picture courtesy of Richard PittsPicture courtesy of Richard PittsA special version of the old rhyme “Here we go round the mulberry bush” was performed with gusto on Marlborough Common on Sunday afternoon (28th April), as part of a mulberry tree-planting ceremony.

The words “on a cold and frosty morning” were changed to “on a cool and cloudy Sunday”. New verses included “this is the way we pick the fruit”, “this is the way we stir the jam” and “this is the way we eat our berries”. The singing and appropriate actions were performed by 1st Marlborough Brownies in Oscar-winning style.

An enthusiastic crowd of about 150 attended the event, which Philippa Davenport of Marlborough Community Orchard described as “the culmination of our achievements –so far.”

“We are proud to be one of just 60 parishes nationwide to receive an award from The Tree Council to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee,” she said.

“We choose a black mulberry tree because it is very handsome, exceptionally long lived, deliciously fruitful and it has such strong royal connections: so appropriate for the crowning glory for our Diamond Jubilee Plantation.”

Marlborough’s black mulberry is a variety called King James. It is descended from trees planted in 1608 by the king himself and by thousands of loyal supporters throughout the country. One of the king’s very own trees was still fruiting in 1931 in a site now within the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

King James urged people to plant mulberry trees because he hoped to start a silk industry here. Unfortunately for spinners and weavers (but happily for fruit lovers), he chose the wrong colour. Silkworms thrive on a diet of soft, easily chewed white mulberry leaves. The leaves of the black mulberry are too leathery for them to munch willingly.

Guests of honour at the event were Sue Clifford and Angela King, founders of the award-winning environmental charity Common Ground, creators of Apple Day and the inspiration behind the revival of the community orchard movement.

Sue Clifford told the crowd that she had visited countless of community orchards in recent years: “Yours is a special favourite. I have always dreamed of somewhere following in the footsteps of seventeenth century Norwich to create “a town in an orchard”. You are achieving just that and it is fantastic. Planting fruit trees in small groups, here and there all over the place, means every single person in your community can share in the benefits.”

“It is truly inspired – and I know you have inspired other communities too. I’m told you have planted (or caused to have been planted in surrounding areas) 171 rare Wiltshire apple varieties that were in danger of extinction; 28 other varieties of apple tree; plus 18 quince, medlar, pear, plum and damson. That’s an impressive 217 edible fruit trees. And today we will plant the 218th.

Addressing the children present she said “Learning how to care for orchard trees and the wildlife they support, and how to harvest and use the fruit, is important. Be sure to teach your children and grandchildren too, so this mulberry tree, which may live for 400 years or more, can delight and feed many future generations.”

She loved the idea of making mulberry jam and sending a pot to the Queen. “Maybe you should call it Marlberry Jam,” she suggested.

Councillor Edwina Fogg planting Marlborough's mulberry tree, in one of her last official duties as mayorCouncillor Edwina Fogg planting Marlborough's mulberry tree, in one of her last official duties as mayorMarlborough’s mulberry tree was duly planted by Mayor Edwina Fogg, Sue Clifford and Angela King of Common Ground, and Alison Galvin-Wright, widow of landscape and garden designer, Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, who designed Marlborough’s lovely Diamond Jubilee Plantation and was such a valued member of the Community Orchard committee.

The spade used for planting was loaned by MTC Head Gardener, Richard Beale, who reported that The Queen herself had used it a few years ago. This made the Brownies happier than ever each to take her turn at adding a spadeful of soil round Marlborough’s royal tree.

The Rev Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy blessed the mulberry and the crowd with holy water, then invited the Brownies to sprinkle water over him. They did so with relish before delighting everyone with their rendition of “Here we go round the mulberry bush”.

The party then withdrew to Marlborough Rugby Clubhouse to look at a little display of mulberry-related exhibits (including a silk moth and some silk cocoons; and a photograph of The Queen laughing and talking with mulberry jam-makers) and to enjoy a taste of royal scones and mulberry jam.

The scones may not have been baked by the Prince of Wales’s own fair hands but they were his Duchy brand (kindly donated by Waitrose), generously spread with Tiptree’s Mulberry Conserve.

“We’ve had a right royal time” enthused one departing guest. “I can hardly wait for our very own jam session”.

Marlborough’s mulberry tree-planting event is to be recorded in a special book to be presented to The Queen.

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  • Silbury-Sunset---10-06-08-----07
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  • Town-Hall-2011-05-03 08-
  • Marlborough-2013-04-18 St Peters