Perry Pears at Dyrham Park

I have to confess I hadn’t much idea what a Perry Pear was before I went to Dyrham Park’s Perry Pear Day yesterday. I was lured in by the promise of a tour around the ‘old orchard’ and turned up with hopes of being let into a secret garden full of perfectly manicured fruit trees.

In reality the trees were a little, erm, larger than I imagined. But hey-ho you can’t have everything.

Having only attended an hour’s talk I won’t pretend I know everything. But there are some great resources (Gloucestershire Orchard Group) online that can tell you everything you need to know about how to choose, plant, and even juice Perry Pears in detail. But I will share some of the facts that I found interesting.

To harvest the Pears someone must climb a ladder next to the tree and shake the fruit out with a very long stick! And be sure to stand clear because Perry Pears are rock hard and totally inedible. You can’t eat them, nope, not even if you cook them for three hours first. Sheesh!

What you can do with them is make Perry, a fruity, and as it turns out very nice, alcoholic drink (it’s alright, I didn’t drink much in my state of impending motherhood). So like Cider Apples, Perry Pears are grown just to be made into Perry. In its hey-day Dryham had a vast Perry Pear orchard and in-house brewery. They produced flagons of the stuff, presumably to keep the servants and estate workers drunk very happy.

And the National Trust guide let us into the old orchard through this wonderful old gate in the orchard wall. It was like stepping into Narnia through the wardrobe.

I’m always amazed at how my childish fascination with walled gardens excites me anew every time I find one. There is something magical about the secret garden, locked away from view, quietly overgrowing itself until someone who cares comes along to reinvent it.

Anyway, if you’re inspired to get out into some secret orchards near you then this handy guide to the UK’s local orchard groups is a good place to start. Many orchards will let you ‘sponsor’ a tree and take home the lion’s share of the fruit each year. Maybe I’ll sponsor a Perry Pear tree and take home the lion’s share of the Perry – no, wait, bad idea.

11 Comments on “Perry Pears at Dyrham Park

  1. I’m glad its not just me who is obsessed with walled gardens. I think Harry Dobson has a lot to answer for!
    If your into your fruit trees, and live in the midlands, Pershore college do an amazing course on fruit tree pruning (the guy who runs it wrote the RHS book) I dont think I’ve ever learnt so much in one day (well two as I did the second part as well).
    My parents have some massive perry pear trees on the farm but we never do anything with them, perhaps I should invest in a fruit press….
    Love your blog

  2. Have you been to the walled garden at Kingston Lacy in Dorset?

    They’ve started to bring it back into production, as well as the rest of the old vegetable garden, some of which is now used for community mini-allotments. Once upon a time ot fed the family and staff at the big house, as well as selling some at market. Really fantastic to have a look round, especially on the odd day when they run guided tours :)

  3. It was a fab tour wasn’t it? And going through that secretive door to a place not usually seen by the public was the icing on the cake – very Secret Garden :)

    Shame I missed you – I didn’t get there until 2pm. We had the same guide – I thought he was really good. I’m pleased that grafts of the ancient perry trees in the old orchard have been planted in the new one.

    The fantastic place I stayed near Malvern in the spring has a perry orchard, which sadly is no longer harvested, despite the owner’s father once being aclaimed for his perry throughout Herefordshire. Perhaps we need to organise a meetup there next autumn for some mass scrumping?

  4. One of my favourite drinks! Broadoak (based in Clutton Hill, Avon) do a decent Perry which you may see now and again around Bath.

  5. Ah – VP we were on the 11:00am tour – the beauty of being woken up at 6am by a toddler is that you are always the first in line for everything :)

  6. I didn’t know there were such things as perry pears! I had always assumed perry was made from ordinary pears.

  7. This post has made me so jealous. I have a beautiful fig tree in my garden but I have grass is greener syndrome and now want a Perry Pear tree instead!

  8. Oh, if you love walled gardens, you’ll love this book:

    The review from School Library Journal isn’t exactly wrong–it’s not the very most inspiring or successful text, but in my opinion, the illustrations–all giant old walled garden and big old house surrounded by an ultra-urban landscape–more than make up for it. There’s something even better, to me, about a walled garden that’s a secret escape from the beauty of tall buildings and busy streets.

  9. I have no idea about Perry pears, although the drink sounds interesting so I will have to look out for that in future!!

    I just wanted to post to say congratulations on the “impending motherhood” – which I noticed you slipped in there very matter of factly…am I the only one that has only just found this out or is it new news to you too? Congratulations!!