To be involved with a railway like ours you need a passion for steam locomotives, and this is certainly the case for James Evans, the owner of ‘Velinheli’. However James has another passion which is now the subject of a book – Cornish Apples!
In 1980, James and his wife Mary Martin discovered an old cider press in their native Tamar Valley, and restored it to working order. Fired with enthusiasm to produce cider traditionally from Tamar apples, James and Mary embarked on a mission to find these local varieties such as the ‘Pig’s Snout’ and ‘Colloggett Pippin’. With the orchards that the Tamar Valley had been famous for having all but vanished by this time, and recognising that many of the local species of apple trees would become extinct unless rescued, they established their own orchard in which rescued varieties of tree – not only apple but also cherry, plum and pear – could be nurtured and catalogued.
Today their orchard contains around 200 varieties of fruit trees saved from around Cornwall and West Devon. Recognising that their collection needed a permanent, public home, James and Mary have also assisted with the establishment of an orchard at the National Trust property Cothele, which contains over 100 varieties of the apple trees they have saved. We also have several apple trees at the railway which are varieties from James and Mary’s collection; these include the ‘Bowman’s Beauty’ (a unique variety which was found alongside the railway, named after the LSR’s owners) and the ‘Mary Martin’ (a variety bred by James to give the best characteristics of two separate varieties – no prizes for guessing where James got the name from!).
As a record of over three decades of work, James and Mary have now published a book ‘A Cornish Pomona, a selection of West Country apple varieties’. The book details and illustrates over 170 varieties of West Country apples, with snippets of local history. The book will be available in our shop for £7.50 early next week, or can be bought online here for £10.00 including postage.