Fairmaid of Devon, Tom Putt, Ashton Bitter, Hangy Down, Payhembury, Golden Bittersweet, Polly Whitehair, Sops in Wine, Slack ma Girdle, Pigs Snout and Sweet Alford to name but a few…
Collecting, picking up, shaking and plucking – we’ve been harvesting our apples.
In March 1994 we finished restoring our derelict apple orchard and were ready to begin planting new trees. We’d spent many an hour pouring over fruit tree catalogues from nurseries that had stock of scarce and rare varieties of apples no longer commonly found. We chose a mix of dessert, culinary and cider.
Full of eager anticipation for the years ahead we enthusiastically set to with our planting plan. Each of the boys, and us, had specific trees that were ‘ours’ – chosen, naturally, from the fabulous names! Lovingly and carefully planted, in wide holes to encourage root growth, with barrow loads of collected topsoil and muck; beautiful, heavy gauge guards built around each individual to give protection from our grazing sheep: we waited.
We waited with bated breath for the first of our trees to produce fruit. We waited, and waited, waited, and waited a little more. After seven years our maiden whips still looked like…maiden whips! We’d lost a couple, replanted a few, hung over the gate feeling less and less and less enthusiastic. The wonderful wild fruit hedge we’d planted on the restored hedgebank around the orchard was growing great guns and looked a picture – wild cherry, crab apple, wild pear and bullace. But apples? Nah!
And then, a couple of years ago the orchard exploded in an abundance of fruit. Unfortunately we were unable to harvest them to their full potential that year, and rather thought that it could be a massive effort on the part of the trees before they finally succumbed to Locks Park sodden clay. But no, they soldiered on, and this year, though nothing like the crop backalong, it was decent enough to pick. So with the generous donations from our neighbours’ ancient apple trees and the big-hearted offer of the use of a friend’s apple crusher tomorrow, we’ll make the first Locks Park cider…and apple juice. To celebrate, of course, a dry, sunny summer and bumper harvest (of everything) in 2009! We’ll see you there. Cheers!