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Transatlantic Apple Tree A new brand of apple to mark 400 years since the Pilgrims left the UK. Photo courtesy Bassetlaw Council

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Pilgrim 400 Apple to Cross Atlantic
A Transatlantic cultural cross exchange will see a UK Apple Tree planted in Provincetown

Published on April 16, 2019

As part of celebrations in 2020 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower, a special project has emerged from Nottinghamshire involving a new breed of apple which will be known as the Pilgrim Apple. As part of the project, a Pilgrim Apple Tree will be planted in Provincetown in the grounds of the Pilgrim Monument. The Monument commemorates the first landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620, and will be the only US based location where a Pilgrim Apple Tree is set to be planted.

The project has been organized by Bassetlaw District Council in the UK and the Provincetown 400 team in the US. In the UK, it is Nottinghamshire based John E Stirland who is growing the trees. Writing for the Pilgrim Trail Newsletter, Mr Stirland said that "during the summer of 2015 I was thinking of a way to celebrate, in a horticultural type of way, this anniversary which I knew would be something special when it arrived and I also had five years to get it all sorted. A few ideas came along including a new rose or even an apple but it had to be something that originated in Nottinghamshire, the home county of the religious separatist’s movement.

"Move on now to October of that same year and I happened to be talking to Celia Steven at the Bramley Festival in Southwell and she was telling me that down in Devon they were looking for an apple which could be named Mayflower. This chat was the catalyst for my search here in Nottinghamshire and from then on, our new horticultural representative for the 2020 celebrations had to be an apple, Mayflower from Devon and Pilgrim from our county.

"Fortunately, I was gardening advisor on Radio Nottingham at the time which gave me the opportunity to broadcast a request for anyone to come forward who thought that they may have an apple in their garden that had been raised from a pip. Well, before the end of our gardening phone-in, a lady rang up to say that there was an apple tree in her garden that had, indeed, been planted from a pip sown by the previous owners of their house."

Having viewed the tree, Mr Stirland was given permission to take some of the tree's apples away. After a DNA test, Mr Stirland explained "I was pretty sure, from its history and my initial examination of the original Southwell Pilgrim 400 that it was genuinely from a pip but better to be certain. During late summer Celia sent me the results of the test and one little box on a very colourful sheet told me that our tree was 'Unique' which verified that the apple I had found during the autumn of 2015 was, indeed, a brand-new variety of apple from Nottinghamshire."

That brand new variety of apple will now be the foundation of a special celebratory project in the UK and the US to mark the Mayflower 400 celebrations. Sandra Withington of Bassetlaw Council said that "We are delighted that Provincetown will be home to one of the first Pilgrim 400 apples, together with other significant sites in the Mayflower story such as Scrooby, Plymouth and Dartmouth. We are especially pleased that the tree unites Nottinghamshire, birthplace of the Pilgrim 400 apple with the United States, home of the apple pie!"

You can keep up to date with Bassetlaw's Pilgrim 400 celebrations by going to the Bassetlaw Council website. You can also follow events in Provincetown by going to www.provincetown400.org.

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