Simon and the Sugars
Timing is everything in fruit growing and picking and was one of the main themes in Charles Bennett's Orchard Days poetry collection. He visited us for one day each month to engage with the annual round of the orchard. He said he could understand that we knew what to do but was never sure how we knew when. Much of it comes with experience but there is also a degree of intuition and also, it must be said, a bit of luck with some good picking weather. However Simon is a trained biochemist and is much more scientific when it comes to harvesting. He checks and accurately measures the sugar levels which is just one of many reasons that he produces some outstanding drinks.
National Trust Core Principles
Browsing the latest National Trust Magazine, an article reminded me that about five years ago, Annie and I were part of a series of workshops held at two National Trust properties. The Trust was moving away from its visitors 'just looking' to have them being more participatory. Nowadays many of their properties are rediscovering their orchards and are making juice, cider and preserves to sell in their shops and using the fruit in the meals they provide in their cafes. We have also just found out that an orchard close to here that we have visited with Cropsharers has been donated to the National Trust. The National Collection of Cider Apples at Tidnor Wood has been given to the Trust by its owner Henry May and varieties from the collection are being planted at NT sites across the South West.
Following the success of the Chapel Pleck becoming the Championship Perry at the Bath & West Show, we somehow found ourselves being invited to attend the Summer Dinner of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers at the Haberdashers' Hall in London. The Chapel Pleck was used as the final toast from their ancient Loving Cup and we had to turn to guard our neighbour's back as they were partaking of the toast. All very traditional.
Recently we have had an orchard visit from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. It was only as they were arriving that the penny dropped with Annie that they were all gardeners and might take an interest in the garden as well the orchard. Sure enough the early arrival asked about design and planting and seemed to appreciate the 'relaxed' edge of orchard ambience of the garden. Luckily it was on to the orchard tour and tastings and then they were gone. Off to visit Sir Roy Strong's garden near Ross-on-Wye!
In September 1914, just before the outbreak of the Great War, the Dymock Poets collective of Lascelles Abercrombie, Robert Frost, Wilfred Gibson and Edward Thomas and their wives were invited to the home of a Mr & Mrs Farmer for a cider supper. The whole event was recorded for posterity by the writer Eleanor Farjeon. 101 years later, the event was celebrated at Putley Parish Hall complete with a groaning sideboard of food and copious amounts of cider, as described by Miss Farjeon and re-enacted for us by Mary Fielding. A splendid time was had by all and Jackie Denman's rendition of Gibson's "A Golden Room" sent us into the night deeply aware of the plight of many people travelling across Europe in 2015, as well as a poignant reminder of 1914.
Sweet Cider Time/Ripest Apples
Soon after we moved back to the Shire, we were introduced to Roy and Pat Palmer, one of the most creative couples we have had the pleasure to meet. Roy died last year and a glowing obituary in the Guardian revealed what an extraordinary knowledge he had of folklore and music, especially pertaining to apples. When the Big Apple Association planned its publication of Ripest Apples, to celebrate the English apple, Roy was the obvious choice to edit the work. As a celebration of his life, there are two events planned over the Big Apple Harvest Weekend. On Saturday 10th October, the vocal group Serenata are presenting an evening of music and readings entitled "Sweet Cider Time" at 7pm at the Hellens Great Barn. The following morning there is a Ripest Apples Walk with readings from the book which leaves Westons Car Park at 9.30 am on Sunday 11th October.
This lesser known gem of Shire poetry reflects the long celebrated theme of moving apples from storage box to mill. For the last 7 years, the shovel has been the preferred method, and then this was improved by use of a small elevator. Mid season last year saw a radical change with bins being tipped using a forklift truck but 2015 sees the arrival of the Bin Tipper itself. This well handy piece of tack coupled with a conveyor belt is set fair to save many sore backs and arms. And give more time for creative poetry!