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Apple Day 2012


Sunday 14th October


The news was not a good: Apple growers face grim harvest with worst yield for 15 years [Guardian September 16], A burst of early summer too early in the spring, before a sharp frost and a summer of rain, detering bees, bashing flowers. So rather than the fruit, our theme this year was Apple Orchards - community and village orchards. Two had recently been established in Metfield and near by at St James. The rain was beneficial here.


Yet again, we were blessed by a glorious October day. Linked for the 5th year with Wakelyns Agroforestry and Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, we mustered a good number of around 30 people. At Metfield Stores, some preparation was necessary:

Village Kitchen had prepared some delicious apply cakes for sale, and Miranda, Jan and Bridget had stocked up on juice, and icecream.

On the day Julia over from Mombassa took charge of the artistic direction of the fresh display - a dozen varieties of apples from local Holton orchard, juices and cyder. Kit arranged pin boards of passed Apple day photographs.



  Tessa arrived to cut and offer apple tasting, bringing with her a superb chili plant resplendent with lipstick red hot chillies. Finally after we had done our tasks, John provided excellent hot coffee. The two Austins were the volunteers for the day, John and Linda, with Robert Vierra on organising tea and coffee for the gathering walkers and cyclists. Eddie and Julie Krutyza (Hatton Farm Nursaries) arrived with a trailer of apple trees and bright berried hedgerow fruit from.
  Led by Eddie, we set off on bicycles, foot and car, pausing by The Huntsmen and Hounds cider apple tree.
  Metfield Communiy Orchard was planted in 2011 (on a wet day thanks to volunteers from British Telecom, imaginatively organised by Barbara) Today it is a little haven at the base of bustling alotments, including community chickens. Anticipating our climate changing, included in the native apples, gages, and plumbs are almond, apricot and peach trees. All were growing well after this great year of rain.


  The walkers continued round Metfield, while the bicycles set off for St James Village Orchard, up the hill (!), in a triangle of a field just before the village. With abundant sky around, it was well sheltered by diverse hedgerow, neatly laid out with kindly benches around and a shepherds hut to shelter in. The inspiration of Christine Smith, the project garnered imaginative funding, and the fruits will make it self sufficient for the next 10 years and beyond. It was a peaceful place.


  One of the restorers of the Shepherds hut, Jeremy, told us the story of its creation, of grafting in situ, and the pleasure the project gave to those involved. The quinces were spectacular, as Stephen said, like yellow light bulbs.


  The timing was to perfection, when the bicycles joined the walkers and cars at Wakelyns Agroforestry, where Prof Martin and Ann Wolf, took us back 4 million years. To when we were hunter gatherers, when the living was easy, when the imprint of man on the landscape was small. Down hill all the way, says Prof Martin, when nomadic man started to settle, and with interest in accumulating possessions, and demarkating land. 10 thousand years ago, we had 90% tree cover, now we have less than 20%.


  The symbiotic and collaborative relationship between tree and crop, so well described by Martin, is a no brainer. And so is his observation: that over the years, he’s found it far more effective showing people round his north south axis plantation of trees with alleys of crops, than writing articles or papers on the methods. Shade and shelter, mycorrhizael associations - the mutually beneficial relationship between the plant root and tree root. The cyclical systems, of hazel coppicing for his Austrian wood burners, so when you’re in your hot shower, you can imagine hazel growing rather than the oil tanker costing you money.


  Finally on to the apples. Planted 16 years ago, not in conventional orchard rows, but once again on the North South Axis with manure clover in between. Not altogether, but mixed in with Italian Alder, Oak and Ash - diversity being a key to checking disease. Many of the apple trees this year were part of an EU project (Cofree) so they had been left untouched, unpicked, all the more for us to see on their bowers, and there were plenty of Orleans Reinette, a delicious and sweet C18th century apple (we tasted one that had fallen...). We ended at the Kentish Quarrendon, deep red fruit, smaller this year and late to harvest, but full all the same. Such a spectacular site inspired us to have our photo taken under it’s bowers, which Gill did with her new state of the art Lumix camera.

  As we cycles arrived back at Metfield Stores, small drops of rain started falling. Ah such luck of timing. The oven on, I began the pleasurable ritual of making Tart Tatin.
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