Pruning old fruit trees course

Saturday 18 - Sunday 19 January 2020 
The course runs from 10am to 5pm in Stanmer Park, Brighton, and Barcombe, near Lewes.
Learn how to improve the health and productivity of old fruit trees by appropriate pruning. Skills learnt will also be applicable for pruning younger fruit trees and other trees/shrubs.

What will the Pruning old fruit trees course cover?

The course will provide participants with practical skills through hands-on experience of renovation and ongoing pruning of old apple trees. These skills are essential to anyone caring for mature fruit trees, but the expertise to carry out this work is not very widespread or accessible. Fruit trees that are not properly cared for often become unproductive and diseased, frequently causing them to die prematurely. Many of the techniques learned will have applications in the care of younger and newly-planted fruit trees, and other trees and shrubs.

A taste of what you'll learn

Who is the course for?

This course is open to anyone aged 16 or over. No prior knowledge of pruning is needed. However, due to its specialist nature, it will be of interest to experienced gardeners and professionals as well as the complete novice. It is a practically based course. Participants should be willing and consider themselves physically able to 'have a go'. Most participants are likely to want to use ladders to gain access to taller trees, but access to some of the smaller trees is feasible without leaving the ground. You must also be willing to spend most of the weekend out of doors.

Learning methods and outcomes

A discussion about what participants want from the course will be followed by brief theory sessions and practical demonstrations. However, the majority of the course will be devoted to practical hands-on experience with guidance from the tutor. By the end of the course participants will have the practical skills necessary to carry out renovation pruning of old fruit trees without supervision. Course participants who complete the entire course will receive a certificate, which will be sent via email after the course.

What does this course lead on to?

This short specialist course is not accredited. It does not lead on directly to any other courses but should provide a taster for those interested in progressing to work or courses in silviculture or horticulture.

Course tutor

Tuition will by provided by Bryn Thomas (see pic below), an experienced tutor/trainer who has been pruning old and neglected fruit trees professionally for over 15 years.

As featured in The Guardian Guide

The Guardian Guide


Day 1: Stanmer Park (near University of Sussex), Brighton, Sussex. Get directions to Stanmer Park.

Day 2: Private orchard/house at Barcombe, near Lewes, Sussex.

If you intend to book accommodation, please check availability before booking a place, as accommodation in Brighton can be hard to find, especially over the summer months.

Get details on local accommodation and Brighton Permaculture Trust supporters who can provide accommodation in their homes.


We would strongly advise that anyone who intends to prune trees should have good tools. Poorer tools are a false economy; they are harder work, give inferior results and do not last. It is advisable to purchase tools before the course as we only have limited/inferior tools to lend to people. We recommend the following tools, which are not available from the shops and are best bought well in advance:

  • A good quality pair of secateurs - we recommend Felco secateurs, model number 8 is Bryn's favourite, but model numbers 4 and 5 are good and are cheaper (left-handed people should buy model number 9). A leather holster is also recommended. Click here to visit a web site where these tools can be bought.

  • A good quality pruning saw - we recommend Silky saws. The Gomtaro 300 models are most universally useful and come with a holder that attaches to your belt, making them safer to carry when not in use, especially up ladders where the saw can easily be accessed with one hand while the other hand holds the ladder. Some people with short legs have commented that they prefer to use a saw with a shorter blade, as the larger holsters can uncomfortably jab in the back of the knees. The fine toothed blades (13 teeth per inch) make better quality cuts than the large toothed ones (8 teeth per inch) but are a little slower to use; replacement blades are available.  Click here to visit a web site where these tools can be bought. Alternatively, this site is cheaper but doesn't sell the finer toothed blades.

Recommended reading

This book is recommended but it is not necessary for those attending to buy/read it.

RHS Pruning and Training, Christopher Brickell and David Joyce


Fees include tuition, refreshments, handouts and information sheets.

  • £247.50 - Sponsored/organisation rate
  • £247.50 - Individual income more than 25k/yr
  • £200 - Individual income 18-25k/yr
  • £152.50 - Individual income less than 18k/yr
  • £52.50 - Individual, concessionary rate (check eligibility)*

* Concessionary places are limited. If places are not available check back two weeks before the course/event as more may be available then.

We endeavour to make our courses and events affordable to all. Unfortunately, we do not receive any external funding for most of these and rely on large amounts of voluntary input.

See the cancellations and refunds policy.

Booking Pruning old fruit trees

Booking is essential, as most of our courses/events are fully booked weeks in advance. However, if places are still available, then bookings can be made until midday the day before the course/event. A place is not secured until we have received the requested payment.

Please do not book unless you are able to pay for your place.

Paying for your place

Please read this section carefully.

When you complete the booking process, you will receive a confirmation email from us. If you haven't received that email within the next few hours, please contact us immediately, as this email contains vital information regarding your booking.

You can pay when you book your place using a credit/debit card or PayPal, or you can tick the 'Pay later' box (in the Event Fee section), which gives you the option to pay by BACS or send us a cheque after you have booked. If you choose to pay later, you will have 7 days to pay for your place. Bookings that remain unpaid on our system for longer than that will expire. You will receive notification of this expiration by email. If you then decide you want to come, you will need to contact us to see if there is a still a place available for you.

If you are booking within two weeks of the course, or the course is nearly full, you will not have the option to pay later. Instead, you will need to pay immediately at the point of booking using a credit card or PayPal.

Be certain that you understand ALL the information on this page, then:

Book the 18-19 January 2020 course 

  • Janet
    "The course was just what I needed to guide me in pruning a large old vigorous Bramley apple tree in my new garden that hadn't been 'hair-cut' over the years. I will be able to tackle it with confidence. Thank you."

    Janet Bradshaw

  • Matthew
    "The course was one of the best I've attended. The teaching and administration were first class."

    Matthew Walker

  • Brian
    "Once over the panic that I could ruin this person's supply of fruit for a year or so, it became very pleasant to try and shape and form the trees. Thank you for a pleasant and instructive weekend!"

    Brian Beney

  • Hashida
    "Good recommendations on tools and equipment and access to these. Knowledgeable and caring tutors and volunteers. Lovely participants. Thank you!"

    Hashida Dave

  • Jeremy
    "Excellent, very enjoyable and leaves me with enough confidence to not only tackle my own trees, but those others I care for."


  • Jennifer
    "I enjoyed being able to benefit from the experience of the tutor and the helpers. The areas covered were relevant and enjoyable, and it has given me the confidence to have a go at my own and clients' trees."

    Jennifer Moore

  • Ali
    "Really enjoyed both days...useful, inspiring and came away feeling excited and almost confident to tackle pruning alone."

    Ali Mack

  • Millar
    "Bryn was very engaging, and his obvious enthusiasm and knowledge made it a pleasure to listen to and learn from."


  • Colin
    "I went from knowing virtually nothing on how to prune to feeling that I can do it and would be willing to do so."

    Colin Dunn

  • Nick
    "The sliding scale of fees depending on income was very welcome - thank you. Visiting and working in Sandy's wonderful orchard was definitely a privilege."


  • James
    "Just what I wanted. As several people said, the books only tell you about perfect trees, not how to tackle trees which have been neglected for years."

    James Roe

  • Flo
    "Good comprehensive theory followed by practical hands-on learning. A unique course which offers the permaculturist's way of pruning."

    Flo Scott

  • Leon
    "The 2nd day was absolutely brilliant. We were very well looked after and very lucky to get access to such a great variety of old fruit trees."

    Leon Burgess

  • Chrissy
    "Fantastic range of fruit trees to study. Both the commecial orchard and the private orchard gave good learning outcomes. All information had been tried and tested by a man that has a true understanding of his subject!"


  • Suzy
    "[I enjoyed] the way it was taught and so beautifully run, to the point and very hands on. For a two-day course, I learnt a lot and came away totally inspired and enlightened. Thank you."

    Suzy Cole

Contact us

For further information or if you have problems with your registration, please contact us.