NOSTALGIA: Everything stopped for damsons

Jean Bland

Jean Bland

First published in News

Jean Bland, 79, brought up at Grayrigg and Skelsmergh, says that diversification is not new

September on our farm at Grayrigg in the 1940s included the time-consuming job of picking damsons.

The orchard in front of the house had been planted by my grandfather in the early 1900s to provide an extra source of income to support his growing family.

My grandmother was born and brought up in Witherslack in the heart of the damson growing area and this perhaps influenced his decision.

I think the aim was to make enough to pay the rent but I don’t know if this was ever achieved.

All other work on the farm was kept to a minimum. Cows had to be milked and animals fed – but otherwise it was picking damsons.

Ladders and buckets and walking sticks to reach branches were our tools and the damsons were brought back to a large room in the farmhouse called the dairy, where butter was made.

Bits of twig and leaf were removed and the damsons weighted into round wicker hampers.

We sold them to either Mr Winder, who travelled with a large van buying eggs or to a Mr Hully, of Orton.

My mother made damson pies for us to enjoy, as well as damson jam and damson pickle for the winter.

In addition to the damsons, the orchard had a large pear tree, three Victoria plum trees and a number of apple trees, including Bramblies to keep for winter.

No doubt the fruit provided us with a good supply of Vitamin C at a time when wartime rations were very basic.

A stream ran alongside the hedge on one side of the orchard, where red squirrels lived. Sadly, all are long gone.

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