Part of Colwall Orchard Group's remit is education - and teaching practical orchard skills and sharing our knowledge is something we all enjoy doing. In early February we held a training day for Wye Valley AONB - we planted new trees, pruned trees, collected mistletoe ... and Martin is pictured here giving a talk on traditional hedge laying.
It’s mid January and after a two year Covid hiatus, Colwall Orchard Group once more celebrated the New Year Wassail. This year’s event was organised by the volunteers for the volunteers and their families. Many have worked for COG throughout the years and at previous wassails but have never got to take part in the ceremony. This year was for them. Over 120 people gathered by the British Legion with flaming torches burning brightly in the stiff breeze. Making lots of noise and cries of Wassail!, our fiery procession snaked across the muddy darkened fields following the the brightly lit flares that marked the public footpaths until we crossed under the decorated arches of the orchard bridge into Luggs Mill. We were greeted by the fruit trees twinkling with lights and a bonfire burned fiercely nearby. The procession formed a circle around the wassail tree where the Master of the Orchard made welcome and introduced the Butler who narrated the story of the apple tree from its beginnings in Central Asia hilariously re-enacted by Pomona and the bear. Our youthful volunteers played their roles of Jenny Wren and Tom Tit perfectly and made offerings of toast and cider to encourage the trees to put forth healthy buds and yield a bountiful harvest. Adrian, our very own Colwall bard shared a rousing Wassail poem and many then gathered around the bonfire raising their voices to sing wassail songs in the crackling glow. Afterwards we returned across the fields to the warmth of the British Legion to share drinks and snacks. Many thanks to the staff there who laid on extra snacks and made us so welcome despite our incredibly muddy boots. Big thanks too to Bob Levy who put so much work and thought into overseeing the organisation of this year’s event and of course to the volunteers who made it happen Waes Hael!
Alison and Sue spent a happy morning turning the compost during one of our Sunday morning volunteer sessions – one of the many jobs that are carried out by Colwall Orchard Group volunteers, perhaps not the most illustrious of tasks but at least they’re smiling!
There’s always plenty to do on ‘volunteer Friday’. This month the team are busy planting trees (a mere 174 of them), laying hedges and winter pruning. All out in the open air, keeping fit, learning new skills, and working with friends old and new.
Our volunteers are all members of Colwall Orchard Group. From just £6 per year we offer a physical, mental and social work out to beat the best gym membership around ….
At Colwall Orchard Group we …
Look after our land at Colwall Village Garden and Lugg’s Mill Orchard
Care for our local environment through traditional methods of hedge laying, building ponds, creating wildflower meadows, tending our fruit trees, adopting best practices for our local environment and biodiversity
Share our knowledge and enthusiasm for orchards and wildlife by demonstrating and teaching practical orchard skills such as pruning and grafting, meadow creation and hedgerow management
Hold our regular volunteer sessions to work both in our allotments and orchards. No experience necessary – just a desire to take part and enjoy a bit of exercise
Organise community events and enjoy being a key part of what makes Colwall such a wonderful place to live.
Do get in touch – we hope you’ll join us.
We kickstarted the festive season in early December with our traditional ‘Colwall Mistletoe Fair’. On a very crisp morning COG members gathered to sell homemade jams, juices, chutneys and jellies, beautiful handmade festive wreaths, handmade crafts and bird boxes, mulled apple juice and, of course, bunches of mistletoe harvested from a local orchard. Our thanks to ‘Provisions of Colwall’ for lending us the space, to all our members for their time and creativity, and thank you to everyone who came along to support us … making an early start on their Christmas shopping!
Wishing you a Happy Christmas, and a fruitful 2023.
For many of us, our love for traditional orchards is rooted in these being environments which are great for people and great for wildlife. This dual benefit finds its best expression in the early autumn when we are harvesting apples and producing our juice, and the apples are also being enjoyed by birds and four-legged visitors and residents, including the flock of sheep who graze our two sites. In Peter, our Master Juicer's garden at home, his Labrador apparently appreciates harvest time more than any other member of the household!
This year has been surprisingly fruitful. It was a harsh summer, but we have seen lots of fruit on our trees and that fruit has been as juicy as ever, in spite of the serious lack of rainfall. That has meant a good supply of apples, from our own trees and from the many friends of the Orchard Group who have so kindly allowed us to harvest fruit from their land.
This is a particularly busy, but enjoyable time, for our volunteers who have been climbing ladders to collect fruit, and then processing it back at the Apple Shed in Colwall Village Garden. For our ancestors, the processing of the fruit would have meant a lot of very physical labour, but we are fortunate in now having an electric scratter, which turns whole apples into apple pulp at the flick of a switch, and a superb hydro press which uses the pressure of tap water to extract up to 95% of the juice from that pulp. After letting the juice rest, we then pour it into bottles which we pasteurise in our four kettles. The end result is a good supply of pasteurised juice available for sale through our on-line shop-and that is an important source of income. More money, more trees!
But it’s not just about the money! We also want our wider community to fully appreciate the benefits of traditional orchards, and that means a serious educational role where juicing plays its part. For many/several years now, we have had local schools visiting Colwall Village Garden at this time of year to see how fruit can so easily be turned into juice. That’s when we put away all our modern equipment and bring out the traditional equipment, because if you are six years old, turning the handle on a traditional press is so much more fun than flicking a switch! And then tasting fresh juice straight from the press is a taste you will never forget.
That educational role also sees us juicing for visitors at Apple Day, where this year we were kept busy by visitors bringing apples for us to press for them (at a modest charge) as well as offering advice on how best to keep your juice. Freezing and pasteurising are your main options.
Our juicing season is now over, and we will be putting away our equipment for another year, but in doing so a big “thank you” to our volunteers, to the tree owners who have invited us to take their fruit, and to everyone who has been to see what we do.
Please keep buying the apple juice which is available from our online shop!
Over the years Colwall Orchard Group has demonstrated its partnership working with the more aesthetic and refined world of the arts. Examples are the annual Wassail drawing on folk songs with inventive percussion playing, the woven ‘hands aloft’ statue greeting visitors to the site, the willow tunnel loved by children, the varied scarecrows which featured in the village trail and, over the last few years, a venue for H’Art.
Keen readers of the arts columns in the press or media may have noted in the summer that the Glasgow Centre for the Contemporary Arts hosted an exhibition from July to September called ‘We are compost / composting the We’ which in their words sought ‘to follow the cyclical processes of composting – first the knowledge, then the materials and finally the histories, to ask what new kinds of transformation are possible when we read, share, shred, till, test, plant, and grow collectively with the land and the soil.’
Three works featured in the exhibition with titles such as Absoprtion, Gaia Glossary and Eating the Ancestors. The explanations of their artistic objectives were somewhat above the intellectual understanding of the author of this article. However one feature of the exhibition was that visitors were able to take away a free small bag of compost to use in their domestic and community involvements.
What a good idea to spread the value of composting.
We were delighted to have a couple of return visits by staff, helpers and pupils from the King's School in Gloucester who have joined us in previous years to do the same fruit juicing sessions.
Once again we were blessed with fabulous autumn weather and the children enjoyed the full orchard experience - picking apples from trees; cutting up fruit; scratting; pressing and tasting the resulting apple juice!
There was even time for a romp around the orchard, a tour of the allotments and some play time in the willow worm, on our play tractor and in our other attractions.
These were lovely visits which proved popular with staff, pupils and helpers alike. The kids were an absolute joy as the pictures below illustrate...
First in the queue to try out our new disabled access compost toilet are COG Trustees Clive and Jilly.
The toilet, handily located by the entrance to Colwall Village Garden is a NatSol unit. It is fully part 'M' compliant with easy access via a new concrete path adjacent to the existing communal tool store and Apple Packing Shed.
The toilet houses both a sit-down loo pedestal plus a gents' urinal. Solids compost down in a below unit vault, whilst liquids go to a small underground vessel and soakaway. A rooflight provides natural lighting. There is no use of mains water nor electricity so this is in line with our ambitions to minimise unnecessary use of resources.
This installation is part of our long-term strategy to make the Colwall Village Garden accessible to as many different people as possible.
We are very grateful to DEFRA for their Farming in a Protected Landscape (FiPL) initiative which has fully funded the toilet project, and for assistance from our partners at the Malvern Hills AONB who have administered the grant locally. From the COG community we are indebted to Andy for the preparatory work for the grant, investigating different suppliers and installers, and obtaining planning permission; to Deb for doing drawings for the planning application and to Clive for arranging all aspects of the installation.
We're certain that this will be a welcome and useful long-term addition to the community facilities on the site.
Wow! Is it really a year since we last had our Apple Day? Time seems to have flown by...
Another sunny October Saturday and another great Apple Day event at Colwall Village Garden. We had over 250 attendees, with a lovely family atmosphere and a mix of people of all ages.
There were a host of attractions available. 'Jimmy Juggle' (pictured above) showcased and educated with a diverse selection of circus skills; musicians from the band 'Banjaxed' provided musical entertainment; Mike Tebbett provided a vintage car for us all to admire; COG volunteers juiced apples with help from members of the public; our apple specialist Tim Dixon identified apples with a bumper number presented by tree owners for consideration; an apple catapult, set up in the community orchard, provided a dynamic way of disposing of damaged fruit; the Orchard Cafe served tea and cake whilst our cob oven and BBQ did a roaring trade and sold out of pizzas and burgers; and finally, our friends from Farr's Field Orchard served artisan apple and pear beverages.
So, a really lovely day and it was great to see friends old and new and to celebrate this season of bounty.
An enormous vote of thanks goes to all those who worked so hard to help host this event and whom supported us to make this happen, with especial mention to Hannah and Wendy who did all of the organising.
A selection of images from the event can be seen below.
We're busy preparing for Apple Day on Saturday 15th October.
Here Chiara is hard at work harvesting fruit from a lovely privately owned orchard in the nearby village of Cradley.
A small group of us spent a lovely session harvesting fruit from this orchard collecting a remarkably large and diverse crop within a couple of hours.
Our thanks to Clare, the orchard owner for her generosity.
Proving that many hands make light work Bella and Rita help with moving this year's apple harvest.
Apples are a remarkably bulky and heavy form of produce which is why traditionally fruit orchards were sited in areas close to houses and settlements.
Our 'Master Juicer' Peter looks remarkably calm for a man almost totally surrounded by apples.
We are temporarily storing apples in our traditional apple shed.
They are slowly being used either to help demonstrate the art of fruit pressing to local schoolchildren or they are being pressed, bottled and pasteurised to make blended apple juice for us to sell.
We are lucky to live in an area where there is an abundance of fruit growing; in orchards, in gardens and on allotments. Many of us growing fruit find we have more that we can personally use, while on the other hand, many of us don’t have any fruit trees and would love to be able to gather some of the harvest that’s all around.
COG’s new Fruit for Free scheme aims to connect those with surplus home-grown fruit (such as apples, pears, plums) to give away, and those wanting to receive fruit.
The scheme has just been launched and is accessed through a new page on our website at https://colwallorchardgroup.org/fruit-for-free
This acts as a notice board; those with fruit to give away can enter the details of their offer (eg 2 Bramley trees, heavily laden, in Colwall). We will then post the offer up on the website where anyone wanting to receive fruit can see if this is something they would like. If so, they can make contact with the donor directly and arrange to go and pick and collect the fruit.
The scheme is for anyone living in the parishes of: Ashperton; Bosbury; Coddington; Colwall; Eastnor and Donnington; Ledbury; Little Malvern; Malvern Town; Malvern Wells; Mathon; Wellington Heath and West Malvern. It will be open until 15th December and then closed until 1st July next year.
So please make use of this new resource and spread the word to anyone you know locally who has a surplus of fruit.
Ledbury Food Bank will also accept donations of good quality, fresh produce. Please check their website for details at https://www.ledburyfoodbank.org
We are getting ready to do our annual tree order.
If you are thinking of planting fruit trees, native trees, ornamental trees or soft fruit bushes please get in touch as soon as possible and by the end of September at the latest. The earlier we order the better the chance of getting the variety of trees you want for your orchard, woodland, garden or allotment.
The benefit to you of making a tree order via Colwall Orchard Group is that you’ll get a good price, along with some advice from us if you need it. By combining lots of tree orders we ensure that we get trade discount and we share that with you. The benefits to
us are that we support the purchase and planting of more traditional fruit trees which benefits nature and the environment, and we raise funds to contribute to restoring traditional orchards in the Colwall area.
If you’d like advice please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get you started take a look at the details of local fruit varieties on our website or you can look through the online catalogues of our main nursery suppliers: Frank Matthews, Walcot Nursery, R V Roger and Lodge Farm.
The second very hot spate of summer weather saw us doing a quick, early morning walk around the community orchard at Colwall Village Garden to see what stone fruit was ready for harvesting. None of our apples or pears are quite ready for picking but by mid August the plums on some trees were fully ripe and already being enjoyed by plentiful wasps and flies.
Out of the many varieties present we found a few varieties definitely soft fleshed and ready for harvesting. 'Blue Tit' usually does well for us providing many small, blue plums and they formed our first bounty.
A pleasant surprise was the variety 'Belle de Louvain', a cooking plum, with our tree cropping well - with very big, juicy, blue plums. This is a traditional cooking variety originating from Belgium; hardy, disease resistant and very good for making tarts, pies or jam.
Our reliable and heavy cropping 'Victoria' plum tree yielded a few early fruit but most were still on the tree, slowly ripening. A tip with this variety is to thin the plums before they reach maturity. It crops so readily that the branches can tend to snap under such a heavy amount of fruit.
Finally we looked at the cluster of Pershore Yellow (syn. Yellow Egg) plum trees near our traditional Apple Packing Shed. The plums from these are especially good for bottling although in our experience they are somewhat lacking in flavour. Nevertheless they are prolific, always providing a reliable harvest and yet again our trees are laden with fruit.
Over now to the other talented members of our volunteer team who transform the crop into tasty products such as jams and chutneys.
We're finding large quantities of the Apple Ermine Moth caterpillar on our apple trees this Spring.
Their presence is obvious by areas of eaten leaves, brown foliage and a protective web which covers the caterpillars and their frass. The caterpillars are a light brown colour with a black head and rows of brown/black spots along the body.
Whilst the caterpillars can, in some cases, do what looks like considerable and unsightly damage, on older trees the trees will usually recover the following year. Therefore, human intervention is not usually necessary.
On younger trees it can be prudent to reduce the leaf damage and hence the loss of vigour to the fledgling tree, by hand picking off the culprits and disposing of them.
We're joining in a Colwall Village initiative to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. Around the village over the jubilee weekend people are putting up displays depicting events - international, national, local or personal - from some of the 70 years of the Queen's reign.
Our chosen year is 2018 when the Government published A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment. To see our display, and to see first-hand our local work to help combat the climate emergency and improve biodiversity, pop down to Colwall Village Garden, over the jubilee weekend. The site is located in Old Church Road near to Old Orchard Lane/Orlin Road.
If you wish to purchase maps to see where all of the displays are these are available from 2 Brighton Villas, Walwyn Road, Colwall which is close to Cafe Morso. The cost of the map is £1.00.
The money raised from this community event will help pay for tree planting at Colwall Primary School.
We fully appreciate the benefits of orchards as places for people and nature. We were therefore very interested to see some breaking news from The Orchard Project - a national charity dedicated to the creation, restoration and celebration of orchards. They have a particular enthusiasm for bringing orchards to urban areas and to less prosperous communities.
Working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, The Orchard Project is assisting in the goal of having a well-maintained orchard in every prison in England and Wales.
This sounds a very interesting initiative and will play an important part in nature recovery, and will bring benefits to prison staff and inmates, alike.
Please click on the button below to visit The Orchard Project website to see more details.
Learning more about the flora, fauna and geology of our site
We are indebted to our friends at Ledbury Naturalists Field Club who kindly undertook field surveys of our sites at Colwall Village Garden and Lugg's Mill Orchard, during 2021. Please use this PDF viewer to read their excellent report in its entirety.