Historically most Buckinghamshire orchards were to be found in the south of the county around High Wycombe and south of Aylesbury. Cherry orchards were the county's speciality. To-day, the overall picture in Buckinghamshire is bleak:
"Changes in agriculture have (also) meant that orchards of cherry, plum and apple which were once common south of Aylesbury were reduced by over 90% between 1938 and 1994 and are continuing to disappear. The County Council's 'Survey of Orchards in Southern Buckinghamshire' revealed a 39% loss in orchards between 1975 and 1995 in one of the areas previously most important for fruit production. The condition of those remaining orchards is generally poor."
The Landscape Plan for Buckinghamshire, part 1, Landscape Character Assessment
The Aylesbury Prune, a black plum or damson, grown in Weston Turville and Totternhoe (Beds) in the upper greensand belt, was used for making jam. It is now a relatively rare hedgerow plum. The Totternhoe and Eaton Bray areas which once had extensive damson orchards and industry. There is currently debate as to whether the skins were used to dye RAF uniforms around WWII and hats for the Luton hat trade. Aylesbury ducks grazed beneath the trees. Eaton Bray’s village web-site features a photograph of its orchards in the 1950s. Bernwode Plants have it in their catalogue (along with other rare Bucks apple trees), and hope to have small numbers of another rare local plum, the Stewkley Red, and the Prestwood Black cherry during 2005.
"... Buckinghamshire ... thinks highly of its "chuggies", as the jet-black cherries are called locally, that the first Sunday in August is observed there as "Cherry Pie Sunday". This marks the completion of the cherry harvest with the gathering of the late Prestwood Blacks, and it is the custom for cherry pie, or other delicious recipes such as cherry turnover or cherry duff, to be served in cottages and farmhouses".
"The Plough Inn, in the little Buckinghamshire hamlet of Lower Cadsden, celebrates the gathering of the last of the black cherries, usually the first Sunday in August, the traditional date of Cherry Pie Sunday. A wooden counter is placed outside and is piled high with cherry turnovers brought from the inn kitchen; over a thousand were made for the occasion last year (1960), and crowds were waiting to sample them long before 7pm."
Rita Allen, 1961
Seer Green Cherry Pie Fair (nr Chalfont St Giles), June 22, still continues, and recently has been part of Seer Green's Village Day, where there are locally made cherry pies for sale. They are keen to keep the fair going and the parish council has allocated money for cherry trees to be planted in the village. We may be able to buy cherry pies from the supermarket at any time of year, but nothing replaces the enjoyment of seasonal festivities such as these.