First Pilgrim 400 apple tree officially planted

Sep 09, 2019

The very first Pilgrim 400 apple tree has officially been planted in a tiny English village that goes to the very heart of the Mayflower story.

The special variety of apple trees have been grown to commemorate 400 years since the sailing of the Mayflower to America in 2020.

Twenty have been grown as gifts to destinations linked to the Mayflower story across the UK and the US.

The first one was planted on Saturday at the annual Scrooby Show, a horticultural show held in the little Nottinghamshire village of Scrooby from where William Brewster was born and raised. It was also an important meeting place for the Separatist movement behind the Mayflower's voyage.

The Pilgrim 400 Apple Project was the brainchild of John Stirland, horticulturalist and BBC Radio Gardening Correspondent. John wished to mark the Mayflower 400th anniversary through a horticulture project associated with Nottinghamshire.  He broadcast a request in 2015 on Radio Nottingham seeking apples grown in Nottinghamshire that had been grown from a pip that might be cultivated.


Pilgrim apple

Before the programme had ended he had been contacted by a woman from Southwell who had just that. John spent the next five years growing saplings from this singular, unique tree and this has subsequently been authenticated, through testing its DNA by the Horticultural Research Institute in Kent. The Pilgrim 400 Apple project was born and has gathered international momentum.  It even has its own twitter account and Facebook page!

Word very quickly spread and demand for the trees is now exceeding production, a waiting list exists but John is limiting the first saplings to Mayflower Compact destinations until more trees are grown. In recognition that Scrooby, North Nottinghamshire is seen in America as the ‘spirtual home’ of the Separatists, it was chosen as the site of the first planting. 

Pilgrim Apple

On Saturday, crowds gathered around John Stirland and Nottinghamshire’s Lord-Lieutenant, Sir John Peace as they planted the tree.  John Stirland gave an amusing account of growing the tree and Sir John also addressed attendees and passed on Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth’s best wishes.  The tree was watered in by Cllr Simon Greaves, Leader of Bassetlaw District Council and Elaine Gargett, Manager of Scrooby Show.  It was a very moving experience as people reflected on what the tree and indeed, how the country would look when Mayflower 500 is commemorated in 2120.

Elaine Gargett said Scrooby Show was the busiest it had ever been and there was no doubt that the planting of the apple tree was a major draw and much appreciated by residents of the village.

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