Campaign launched for special status for the historic Denbigh Plum

A historic plum tree with its roots in the Middle Ages could soon be given its own special regional identification status.

Research suggests that the Denbigh Plum was developed in the town by medieval monks and spread across North Wales and into England.

It is due to be celebrated at the fifth annual Denbigh Plum Feast in the Vale of Clwyd town on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, November 2 and 3.

In the meantime organisers of the Plum Feast are seeking protected geographical indication status for the succulent fruit whose background has been researched by historian Helen Williams, from Mold.

Helen, a BA History graduate from Glyndwr University, has spent six months digging into the past of the fruit and has come up with a mountain of evidence to support the campaign which would see the Denbigh Plum given the same recognition as Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton cheese, Arbroath smokies and Newcastle Brown Ale.

The bid has been welcomed by Plum Feast sponsor Mario Kreft, of Pendine Park Care Homes, Wrexham, who said: “The Denbigh Plum would be the first Welsh fruit to be granted this special status and that’s something to be celebrated.

“The quality of food from the Vale of Clwyd is wonderful and that’s what the Denbigh Plum Feast is all about.

“Recognition for the Denbigh plum would be a real boost to food producers in Denbighshire and help put them on the national food map.”

Helen said: “The earliest record of fruit-growing in Denbigh is in the 13th century when the monks at the friary were grafting fruit trees which almost certainly included plums.

“The friary is long gone and only ruins remain but it was in Abbey Road in the town and there are still some very old Denbigh plum trees in a garden there which could possibly be the descendants of those developed by the monks.

“Fruit orchards would have developed in the area and would have been supplying the markets of Denbigh until Victorian times though before the 19th century not much is known until the late 18th century.

“But you can trace the Denbigh plum as a nursery tree which would have been sold to gardeners and also through the Vale of Clwyd Horticultural Society which held a show every year and prizes were awarded to the best Denbigh plums.

“The first mention of it in literature was in the 1840s but it would already have been very old by then and certainly it was growing in the gardens at Erddig, near Wrexham, because metal plate labels have been found with Denbigh seedling plum stamped on them.”

The origins of the Denbigh plum may have become muddied thanks to one of Britain’s best known fruit growers, Richard Cox, of Cox’s Orange Pippin apple fame, who appears to have remarketed the plum as the Cox’s Emperor in the first half of the 19th century.

Ian Sturrock, the only commercial grower of the Denbigh plum , who is a longtime supporter of the Denbigh Plum Feast, reckons that references to Cox’s Emperor plum mention its origins being “confused” but it is likely to be linked to the Denbigh fruit.

Helen agrees and said: “I think it may have been a marketing ploy by Mr Cox but I am sure the Denbigh Plum is a distinctive species of fruit which was developed here in the Vale of Clwyd and continues to be grown here and is becoming more and more popular.

This year’s Denbigh Plum Feast will again celebrate the fruit in a local food fiesta which will also feature top Welsh chef Aled Williams, Head Chef and Manager of Beaumaris’s acclaimed Cennin Restaurant and Moo Baa Oinc café, delicatessen and butchery.

The 31-year-old culinary star who has worked with Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal is looking forward to sampling the Denbigh Plum himself and said: “Our produce is amazing and that’s why I’m taking part in the Denbigh Plum Feast – it’s a native fruit from a corner of North Wales and it’s vital to preserve those signature foods.”

There are a host of other attractions over the weekend with Denbigh Chocolate Shop, on Vale Street, Denbigh, serving up a Welsh take on a French favourite, dried plums soaked in Welsh whisky and coated in chocolate while the Denbigh Brewery will have a Plum Ale to sample.

There will be more than 50 stalls selling a variety of food products, including plum bread, jam and pies, as well as arts and crafts from Rhodd Dinbych, who have helped organise the event.

There will also be a stage where local bands and musicians will play and a storytelling tent, buskers, and on Sunday, guided walks and children’s activities in Denbigh Castle.

Ian Sturrock will be offering advice on cultivating the tree which is available locally from Green Fingers Garden Centre, in Denbigh.

The Plum Feast kicks off on Saturday (November 2) at 9am in the town centre and goes on until 4pm while on Sunday there will be a series of walks and trails including a Heritage Walk and a Halloween Walk for 4-16 year olds.

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