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Damsons in distress
Bad weather has been blamed for the spectacular failure of this year’s damson crop in south Cumbria.
Growers in the Lyth and Winster valleys, an area famed for its usual abundance of the fruit, report bare branches.
And it is set to have a knock-on effect for sup-pliers of niche damson products, from gin and wine to chocolates and cheese, that rely on a successful harvest.
John Holmes, of the Westmorland Damson Association (WDA), said: “Nobody is sure why the crop has failed, but there is a suggestion that the bees couldn’t get out when they should have to assist with pollination.
“It is a disappointment to say the least; the growers have lost the cash crop they normally rely on.”
Mr Holmes said the WDA froze around six tons of the fruit each year for sale to people involved in cottage industries.
He said: “We have about two tons left and have had to restrict its release to just locals to support them.”
Dorothy Stubley, who owns Hazelmere Cafe and Bakery in Grange-over-Sands, makes her own jams to sell and serve with the cafe’s popular cream teas.
She said it had been a ‘diabolical’ crop and would affect her badly. “I have a few of my own trees but get the majority from growers in the Lyth valley. I looked the other day and I have got about six damsons.
“Luckily we buy a lot each year and freeze them; we have enough now to get through the next month or two but then I will have to source some from else-where.”
Victoria Barratt, who with husband Oliver at Cowmire Hall in Cros-thwaite produces a popular damson gin, said they were also relying on frozen stock.
“It will only last a year though,” she said. “We couldn’t manage if it happened again. I think it is possibly down to cold and windy weather back in March when the trees blossomed.”
Naomi Darbishire, owner of Agnes Rose which produces damson vinegar, has also had to stock up on frozen damsons and predicted the price of products would go up over the next year.
And Lizzie Smith, of Penrith, who has won awards for her damson cheese, said she was considering other fruits for her products.
“I source from neighbours here in Penrith and growers in the Lyth valley. There is some fruit but nothing like there was last year. I will just have to make it last as long as I can,” she said.
Anne Wilson from the WDA said the famous Damson Day held in April would not be affected. “We will continue to support the growers and producers and the event will go ahead – weather permitting,” she said.