An unexpected discovery at an abandoned allotment in Coventry led to a project to preserve the city’s trees.
While walking around Charterhouse Park, Coventry University researchers Liz Trenchard and Sam Green came across apple blossom growing at the abandoned allotment site. They believe the trees could be at least 50 years old.
Liz, an assistant professor, and Sam, a research assistant from Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), were searching for somewhere to site a community tree nursery after applying for funding from the Forestry Commission Tree Production Innovation Fund for their Growing Connections project on Community Tree Nursery research.
Now they have launched a pilot project focusing on preserving heritage apple trees.
Liz said: “There are several interesting local Warwickshire varieties, including the Wyken Pippin, and it is likely that the veteran apple trees at the Charterhouse site are older, heritage varieties. Many are over 50 years old.
“According to the local community, the allotments have not been cultivated for many years. We think they were first created in the 1930s just before the Second World War, but later abandoned in the 1980s, when the allotments fell out of fashion.”
Liz and Sam mapped the veteran apple trees and sent samples for variety identification. They are now working to develop the project further and are applying for funding to take a community-based approach to locate and preserve heritage apple varieties found throughout Coventry.
Sam said: “It is difficult to preserve heritage varieties by collecting apple seeds. A better approach is to collect scions (a young shoot or twig of a plant) and graft these onto rootstock and grow the saplings in pots before planting. This is labour intensive and time-consuming, and finding and preserving local genetic resources of these local apple trees is best achieved with a community-based approach.“
“We can test this approach by creating a community tree nursery to preserve Coventry’s heritage apple varieties.”
As well as the apple tree project, Liz and Sam are still working on their Growing Connections project and focusing on community tree nurseries as an alternative way of producing trees compared to much bigger commercial nurseries.
“The benefits of community tree nurseries are that they gather seeds or tree material locally, grow the trees locally and distribute trees locally, which reduces the incidence of diseases as we’re not bringing in trees from overseas,” said Liz.
The aim is to set up a community-run tree nursery in Coventry to provide local provenance trees and propagate locally important trees and tree species for planting projects in the city.
Liz and Sam were also recently awarded a further £1,500 from a Social Impact Challenge Fund for a pilot Coventry University Community Tree Nursery after a “Dragon’s Den” pitching event organised by Coventry University Social Enterprises (CUSE).
About Coventry University
Coventry University is a global, modern university with a mission of Creating Better Futures. We were founded by entrepreneurs and industrialists in 1843 as the Coventry School of Design. We continue to have strong links with the public and private sectors, providing job-ready graduates with the skills and creative thinking to improve their communities.
With a proud tradition of innovative teaching and learning, Coventry University has world-class campus facilities, the UK’s first standalone 5G network and a digital learning community. Our students are part of a global network with 50,000 learners studying for Coventry University degrees in more than 40 countries and partnerships with 140 higher education providers worldwide.
We have greatly increased our research capacity and capability, focusing on impactful research delivered for and with partners to address real-world challenges and support businesses and communities to grow. The depth and breadth of the rapidly growing research portfolio were validated by the latest UK research assessment, which saw us jump 22 places in the research power rankings.
Over two centuries, we have flourished in Coventry and Coventry University Group and delivered access to high-quality services and partnerships through bases in London, Scarborough, Belgium, Poland, Egypt, Dubai, Singapore, and Africa. We will be teaching students at a new campus in China in a joint institute with the Communication University of China shortly.
In April 2022, we were honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the category of International Trade, the UK’s most prestigious business award. In recent years, we have won many awards and vastly improved our rankings in the league tables that matter to students – but what matters to us is delivering transformational change for our students, partners and communities worldwide as we continue to evolve into a global education group.