Producing the Goods
Damsons in the Lyth Valley
Damsons are lovers of limestone, and it is not surprising that the cultivation of damsons is a long-established feature of the limestone-fringed Lyth and Winster valleys of Westmorland. Changing social and economic conditions led to the gradual decline of the orchards after World War II, but this has been reversed since 1996 when Peter Cartmell founded the Westmorland Damson Association.
As well as the restoration of the linear orchards planted along the field boundaries, hedges and stone walls, small orchards in field corners and near farmhouses, damsons have been put to use in many guises – in damson gin, damson beer, in ice cream, wine, gin, vinegar, pickled and in tarts, chutney, pies, jam, jelly, damson ‘cheese’ and damson chocolates. These products are made locally and are available all year, but are brought together amongst the blossom on Damson Day in mid April, now a popular celebration of this versatile and undemanding fruit. The success of the Association in finding local uses for damsons is ensuring the survival of the orchards, their nature, culture and the continuity of a beautiful and distinctive landscape.
Contact: Bill Clifford
Secretary, Westmorland Damson Association, Greenside, Crosthwaite, Kendal LA8 8JL.
e-mail: enquiries [at] lythdamsons.org.uk