Planting of new apple tree marks history of Pilgrims in Bassetlaw

Green-fingered volunteers teamed up to mark the area’s Pilgrim roots with the planting of a special apple tree in Retford.

By Lucy Roberts
Monday, 16th March 2020, 1:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 5:29 pm
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A ‘Pilgrim 400’ apple tree was planted in the therapy garden at Idle Valley Nature Reserve, off North Road, Retford, by volunteers from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and charity Muddy Fork.

The trees have been grown to commemorate this year’s landmark anniversary to celebrate 400 years since the sailing of the Mayflower to America, thanks to a project launched by broadcaster John Stirland.

The reserve was one of the very first to request a tree once the project, designed to mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower and its connection with the Bassetlaw area, was announced.

Volunteers plant the new 'Pilgrim 400' apple tree at the nature reserve in Retford.

Idle Valley Nature Reserve covers more than 450 hectares of the Bassetlaw landscape alongside the River Idle but the tree has been planted in the special therapy garden maintained by Muddy Fork.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s head of communications Erin McDaid said: “I had worked with John Stirland for more than 20 years in his role as a BBC gardener and I knew he had a soft spot for the Idle Valley, so we felt it was an ideal location for one of these special apple trees.

“We’re delighted that John was able to join us for the tree planting ceremony and that the tree will be nurtured by Muddy Fork in their therapy garden.”

The first ‘Pilgrim 400’ was planted at Scrooby, where William Brewster was born and raised. It was also an important meeting place for the Separatist movement behind the Mayflower’s voyage. Others have been planted at linked locations across the UK and it is hoped that others will be planted in the US.

Muddy Fork was established in 2016 as an independent charity after a previous green therapy project run by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust at the reserve was unable to secure ongoing funding. The charity helps people improve their wellbeing and mental health through volunteer conservation and wildlife gardening in Nottinghamshire.

The ‘Pilgrim 400’ apple was developed after a request for new apple varieties grown from pips in the county was broadcast on BBC Radio Nottingham in 2015. John spent the next five years growing saplings from this singular, unique tree.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​