GROWERS in the Vale say they have been left hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket after wild summer weather caused severe damage to their harvests of fruit.

At what should be a celebratory time of year for fruit growers, with the Pershore Plum Fayre set to take place on August Bank Holiday Monday, many are counting the cost after seeing much or even all of their crops wiped out.

The damage occurred when the hot summer to date was broken by a "once in a lifetime" hail storm that hit the Vale earlier this month, slicing into plums and apples leaving them battered and bruised.

Nicholas Dunsby, of family apple growing business Paul Dunsby and Sons, in Mount Pleasant, near Broadway, said the storm hit all 130 acres of their orchards and could cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"It pretty much destroyed the entire crop," he said. "It left big cuts and marks in all the apples. We have orchards in four parishes, Hinton, Childswickham, Wickhamford and Aston Somerville and it hit the whole lot.

"The storm hit when we had just started harvesting apples, but the majority are harvested in September.

"Instead of selling what we harvest now we will sell them for juicing or cider, which is a much reduced price.

"It will have cost us a lot of money, hundreds of thousands. It couldn't have happened at a worse time because we have spent all the money growing them. But it was a once in a lifetime storm. The hail was very sharp and angular so cut into the apples."

Neighbouring farm, D G Print and Sons, also of Mount Pleasant, said they had lost a substantial amount on both apples and plums.

Julia Print said: "We have 12 acres and we rely on it. We are retired and it is our income. It ruined the whole crop.

"We have Victoria plums and they have gone rotten and the apples are damaged. They are not top quality now so you can't sell them to the supermarket.

"There is no recourse for us either, just loss, we don't get anything from anybody."

Stuart Nightingale, of Nightingale Orchards, Longdon Hill, Wickhamford, was expecting a bumper crop this year of large plums, but said they were left battered and bruised by the storm.

"Having spoken to other orchard owners around the Vale of Evesham, they are in the same position," he said.

"I am finding nine out of 10 plums damaged whilst picking. There is going to be a shortage of good quality local plums for the rest of the season.

"Some orchard owners say they are not going to try picking any at all but I will still have some plums to sell to my customers in my seasonal farm shop as some plums on the lower branches of my trees seem ok.

"It's just one of those things. The hail was the size of gobstoppers. Initially it just seemed to have made a little mark, but that rotted. It's a shame because they were big this year."

The storm also affected growers of vegetables.

Bal Padda, of Vicarage Nurseries, said some of his polytunnels had been damaged and this had led to some of his crop of strawberries being damaged.

But it didn't hit everyone and Chris Groves, from Hampton Farm Shop, said they had narrowly missed the storm and their crops remained in tact.

"We have three orchards and we got away with it," he said.