PAUL and Margaret Haywood didn’t exactly plan to become fruit farmers 30 years ago although it’s a role that appears to suit them well.

The couple, both working as teachers in 1986, were looking to move into the countryside and went to view a property for sale on the main A44 to Evesham near White Ladies Aston.

While they were there they spotted another property – Walsgrove Farm - a few yards away which was also up for sale and the owner was keen to sell as he had already found another house.

Margaret, a former geography teacher at Worcester Sixth Form College, said: “We had no intention of buying a fruit farm. We wanted to have a look at a bungalow and saw the fruit farm for sale. We came and had a look.

“The owner had already bought a house and was keen to sell this property. We had a look around and made him an offer.”

Part of the deal was that the owner would give them advice on running a fruit farm for the first year. “We knew nothing about fruit and he said he would give us some advice for the first year.”

For around the first 25 years Paul and Margaret ran the farm while continuing to work in education – the fruit was originally going to market but that became uneconomic due to the cost of packaging and transportation.

Now they supply a number of local green grocers, sell fruit from their on-site farm shop and invite customers to “Pick Your Own”. Customers regularly turn up from the Black Country and West Midlands as well as closer to home.

Margaret said: “The Pick Your Own has grown – people see it as a bit of an afternoon out and there are not as many places doing it now. I think there has also been a revival in jamming and people experimenting with flavours.”

Despite the small acreage – just eight acres – there are around 1,600 trees on the farm – mainly apples but there are around 200 plum trees and this weekend – August 19 and 20 – the farm is staging its own plum festival called Pictures, Plums and Pimms.

The aim is to celebrate the fruit, which has a long association with Pershore and the surrounding villages, learn about the 20 or so varieties grown at Walsgrove Farm, sample the 12 currently available and raise money for local charities.

“We have been doing our plum festival for about five years,” she said. Paul will be taking tours around the orchard and answer questions while visitors will be able to try dried plums as well as sampling fruit on the trees.

Margaret and Paul are teaming up with The Cameraderie Camera Club and the Spetchley Artists, which will be exhibiting their work in The Woodpecker building on the farm.

The festival will be open from 10am to 6pm on Saturday with orchard tours at 11am, 2pm and 4pm. It will be open from 11am to 5.30pm on Sunday with an orchard tour at 1pm. Pimms will be served at the Woodpecker from 3pm and all donations will go to White Ladies Aston Church (roof fund) and Macmillan Cancer Support.

“It is just a bit of fun and we are raising money for Macmillan as the local committee has just celebrated its 21st anniversary. I’ve been a volunteer with Macmillan for 20 years.” Both Paul and Margaret are also actively involved in the local church.

Asked whether they made the right decision when they bought Walsgrove 30 years ago with no knowledge of fruit, Margaret said: “It was hard work carrying on teaching and running a fruit farm but it has led to an interesting life and we have met a lot of different people. It is also a nice location.”

For more information about the Walsgrove Farm plum weekend visit or call 01905 345371.

The Pershore Plum Festival Weekend is being held in the town on Saturday August 26, Sunday August 27 and Monday August 28 with a huge range of entertainment, stalls, activities for children and families and attractions. For more information visit, call 01386 565373 or email