One of our members has just brought this piece in the Guardian newspaper to our attention.
It's a reminder of how orchards are as beneficial to people and nature whether they are in London, or Ledbury, so we shouldn't think that fruit trees and orchards are only relevant in rural areas.
We are very grateful to receive this account from Colwall C of E Primary School of their recent visit to us to do an apple juicing session.
This is definitely one of our favourite annual activities of the year and it's fabulous to have the children, their teachers and adult helpers coming to Colwall Village Garden and getting hands-on with the process of juicing apples.
With thanks to everyone at the school, especially to teachers Caroline and Tracey. We look forward to repeating this again next year.
Our media campaign to celebrate Apple Week took an unexpected turn recently as BBC Hereford and Worcester radio contacted us to do a feature celebrating Apple Day (21st October).
Rising to the challenge our Secretary, Wendy, did an early evening chat with Kate Justice which was live on air just after 7pm on Wednesday 21st October.
You can listen to the interview with BBC Hereford and Worcester using the Download button below. The discussion ranged around the origins of Apple Day, our themes for Apple Week and the state of this year's apple harvest.
More on Apple Week at our events page at https://colwallorchardgroup.org/events
We are big fans of our friends and neighbours from the Big Apple Association. Like us, they've sadly had to cancel their usual annual autumn celebration of apples.
As an alternative they've produced a very interesting short film tour of Dragon Orchard at Putley.
A timely reminder that we're at the geographical heart of something very special in the way of fruit cultivation and processing, and an enlightening insight into the current science of apple growing and the art of cider making!
It's not just birds and people who are making the most of this year's bumper crop of apples. Here in Colwall there's a significant population of muntjac deer who are also enjoying the autumn bounty.
These shy and elusive creatures are usually only seen rarely at dawn or dusk, or make their presence known by the characteristic barking sound that they make whilst hidden away in quiet corners of large gardens or secluded woodland. However, the temptation of sweet, abundant food has made them considerably bolder.
Twice within the past few days we've encountered muntjac during the daytime in one of our favourite traditional orchards - Stamps Orchard on the public footpath between Mathon Road and Old Church Road in Colwall. On the first occasion there was just a solitary deer, but on the second the word had got round, and it was a pair making a visit...
This is just another timely reminder of the wildlife value of traditional orchards, and how they continue to add interest and variety to our own daily experiences.
As the nights slowly start to draw in, and we become more inclined to seek more time indoors, now seems an opportune time to bring your attention to a new book.
Orchard - A Year in England's Eden, written by Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates, is a truly enlightening and entertaining read. It describes the story of the apple and the development of orchards, and then focusses on the nature and wildlife of a Herefordshire site comprising traditional mixed fruit orchards, over the course of a calendar year.
For us, here in Colwall this has especial resonance since the old farm and orchards that are the subject of the book (kept anonymous at the request of the current owners) are to be found only a handful of miles from our village.
So this is definitely a book to look out for, and which will provide anyone with 'orchardy' tendencies with many hours of pleasure and delight, and which serves as a timely reminder of the value and importance of traditional orchards to us all.
Andy was on top of the world this week. Ok, in reality, just a ladder...!
Nevertheless this week was something a bit special for us with an invitation, via Malvern Hills AONB, to help the National Trust (NT) with picking a bumper fruit harvest at The Firs (Edward Elgar's birthplace), near Worcester.
Dawne Middleton, the National Trust's gardener for the site, introduced us to some lovely fruit trees, originally planted circa 2000, and now fruiting well under her expert care.
We enjoyed a very quiet couple of hours in lovely surroundings, (the property is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic), and picked 16 bale arm crates worth of fruit.
The apples will be used by Colwall Orchard Group to produce fruit juice for sale to help us with our work to restore, promote and celebrate traditional orchards, and any surplus will be donated to local Food Banks.
So this has been a very mutually beneficial visit and it's great to see such a fantastic top fruit crop this year.
Okay, so for the purists amongst you we concede that these aren't apples but are instead a representative selection of potatoes all grown by one plotholder on his allotment plot at Colwall Village Garden this year. It's been a superb growing year for our allotments generally and despite the challenges of the weather we've had some bumper crops.
We had suggested to John earlier in the year that it might be worth growing potatoes to help clear the ground of weeds on his newly acquired plot. He took our advice on board and his allotment has simply been characterised by a plethora of potatoes, and is a joy to behold!
We are used to some fantastic names for apples but it has been an education to us that potatoes have such a rich culture of naming too.
Pictured above are a selection of varieties including Yetholm Gypsy, Red Emmalie, Kerr's Pink, Shetland Black and Arran Victory.
We are delighted to report the sighting of a Kingfisher at our Lugg's Mill Orchard on a bright, sunny day at the end of August. A jewel-like flash of blue flying low above the stream in a South-North direction initially brought the bird to our attention. Then the Kingfisher perched on a fence to watch the water just near the site entrance onto Old Church Road before it continued flying over the road. A rare treat indeed!
We have always thought that this quiet orchard site, with a deeply incised stream with good tree cover of alder, ash and field maple, is ideal Kingfisher territory so this is a welcome and exciting occasion.
Have you also seen this bird at Lugg's Mill Orchard? We'd love to hear of other sightings so please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Work on the new footbridge over the stream at our Lugg's Mill Orchard continues apace with Deb and the mini-digger arriving on site to create a graded approach to the bridge from the West side.
In the foreground Bob and Kath are hard at it with some hands-on manual labour, whilst in the background Andy and Alan look pensively on, clearly wondering where they'd left their spades (which they usually use to lean on...).
Webmaster note - A big THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed to our crowd funding appeal for money for this bridge. We've already had a fantastic response, but would still welcome further donations. Please see www.colwallorchardgroup.org/support-us
Taking advantage of some unseasonably wet weather we've been busy getting some Ragged Robin plug plants in the ground at Colwall Village Garden.
We've already had very good success in year one of our pilot orchard wildflower meadow project at this site, but we're keen to do more, so we are introducing plug plants of a few additional species. Pictured are volunteers Ron and Bella busy at work a few minutes before yet another showery deluge ended play for the day...
We are exceptionally fortunate in having volunteer members of the Orchard Group who seem to be able to turn their hand to absolutely anything!
Here you can see the large quantity of very healthy looking Ragged Robin plug plants lovingly tended by Carol over the previous few months. We also planted Cowslips that she has similarly nurtured, and we will be sowing seed of other choice meadow plants soon with a view to eventually growing them on as plug plants for planting out in the orchard next Spring.
Are we jinxed? Sometimes it seems so!
Just an hour or so into works to locate, expose and fix some of the buried water irrigation pipework at Colwall Village Garden disaster struck with our hired mechanical mini-digger developing an electrical fault on the oil pump.
Fired up and raring to go, we couldn't stop Deb from going straight to alternative equipment in the form of her own plan 'B', as a very patient and helpful man from the hire company completed repairs on the 'real thing' in the background...
We are pleased to be able to report that the mini-digger was successfully repaired and that we are making progress with the irrigation system, and hope to soon be moving on to use the equipment at Lugg's Mill Orchard where we also have some groundworks to complete.
Work has started on our new footbridge across the stream at Lugg's Mill Orchard. This will provide better access across the site to connect to the public footpath network and will provide an attractive circular route within the apple and cherry tree orchards currently divided by the stream.
The bridge has scaffold pole support piles, dwarf blockwork walls to retain soil on the stream banks, and will have a main timber structure. The design has been devised by Deb, one of our trustees, and the intention is that the bridge will be accessible by wheelchair.
Construction is being carried out by our volunteers, and as ever, we are delighted and amazed at the range of talented, hard-working and enthusiastic people from within our membership.Funding has been from a variety of sources including COG itself and generous donations from our members and supporters. A crowd- funding appeal is still in operation and donations can be made via this website at https://colwallorchardgroup.org/support-us
We've had three days working on this to date, all of them exceptionally hot, so Deb and Alan are to be excused for taking a well-earned break from work on the retaining walls!
We look forward to the project developing over the coming weeks and hope to see the bridge in place by the end of September.
Working out when apples are ready for picking is a tricky decision for most of us. Commercial growers will use a variety of visual and physical indicators, their experience, and possibly even the use of science in the form of a Starch Iodine test to determine the state of maturity of their fruit and when to harvest it.
For those of us growing fruit on a less intensive scale there are a few rules and indicators that can give us a good idea when to pick fruit. A distinction also needs to be made between the right time to harvest fruit and the time to eat it - which can be quite different.
Detailed below are a few helpful tips and rules that may assist you with decision making before you start to take precious fruit from your favourite apple tree...
Know your apple variety - It's exceptionally helpful to know what you are growing. Perhaps the best introductory book on apple growing is 'The Apple Book' by Rosie Sanders. This beautifully illustrated book contains invaluable information on around 150 commonly found apple varieties and when they are ready to harvest, store and eat.
Use a general rule of thumb - Most apples varieties will need to be harvested sometime between early August and late October. If they are to be used for human consumption they should be gathered before the first winter frosts.
Let the tree guide you - When fruit is ripe it will fall from the tree.That's a common perception. Whilst that's sometimes true there are many exceptions to this including those varieties that resolutely continue to have apples hang on trees well after ripening; the 'June drop' when trees naturally shed excess fruit in early summer in order to give the remaining fruit the chance to mature; premature shedding due to environmental factors such as high winds or drought; shedding due to the presence of pests such as codling moth larvae which feed within the apples.
Palming - If you take a fruit gently in the palm of your hand and lift it slowly upwards with a slight twist it may snap readily where the stalk joins the branch. That's generally a good indicator that the fruit is ready to pick. If there's resistance and force is needed to detach the fruit then it's still not ready for harvesting.
Colour - Apples often take on a brighter external colour as they ripen. This will be especially true with exposure to the sun so apples should not all be picked at once from the same tree but instead picking should usually be undertaken over several weeks.
Pips - If you cut an apple open the pips are another good colour indicator of readiness and they will change from white to brown as the fruit ripens. If an apple is shaken and the pips rattle then the fruit is also likely to be ripe.
The time for picking can often be different from the time for storage or eating.When fruit is picked it is not killed but instead the cells are alive and will continue to develop dependent upon the air temperature surrounding the fruit. That leads us neatly onto different subjects of storage and when fruit is ready to be eaten at the 'peak of perfection' - which are suitable subjects for further articles of which more to follow...
A recent article within the Herefordshire Green Network weekly email bulletin reminded us of the Marcher Apple Network (MAN) and the excellent work that they do providing authoritative guidance on identifying rare heritage apple and pear varieties locally and managing their own orchards to ensure that this gene pool continues to thrive.
Colwall Orchard Group (COG) has long-standing connections with this partnering organisation which we are keen to maintain and develop. We would highly recommend this is an organisation that the orchard aficionado should consider joining. In common with COG their annual membership fee is exceptionally good value, for which MAN charges £10.00.
MAN has also just had a refresh of their website which is well worth a visit at www.marcherapple.net . There is a wealth of good orchard-related content available presented in an easily accessible style.
Their website was given a makeover with financial assistance from yet another excellent partnering organisation - The Three Counties Traditional Orchard Project (sadly no longer in existence). There's strength in numbers, and partnering is a fantastic way to share resources and get things done so we look forward to working more closely with MAN in the future.
An opportunity has arisen for anyone who’d like to be involved in a meadow / orchard restoration project in a spectacular location at Breinton Common to the west of Hereford in the Wye Valley.
Partner funders are invited to join a small consortium to buy a remnant traditional orchard with flower rich pasture overlooking the River Wye and the Black Mountains. See https://www.sunderlands.co.uk/farms-land/property/breinton-common-hereford-6002
The auction is on July 29th 2020 with a guide price of £90,000. There are already four shareholders committed to 13 of the total 25 shares and they are setting up a company with a simple structure to manage the land for the following objectives:-
Shares are available from £5,000. Anyone who is interested please phone or email for more information -
Dr Patricia Ronan email@example.com 07903054699
or Caroline Hanks (from Herefordshire Meadows) 07779 080940.
On a pleasant Saturday evening we were pleased to finally be able to celebrate the opening of a short new stretch of footpath making our Lugg's Mill Orchard site even more readily accessible from the existing public footpath network.
Due to the vision and generosity of Lindsay and Jane Williams (pictured above, right; with Colwall Orchard Trust's Chair - Andrew Spray, left) Lugg's Mill Orchard can now be reached via a linking path from public footpath CW29 (Old Church Road to Walwyn Road).
The path crosses their property - Brookmead - with contributions to the costs of the path coming from Colwall Orchard Group, Colwall Parish Council, Malvern Hills AONB and Lindsay and Jane themselves. We are also indebted to practical input from Colwall Orchard Group's volunteers who assisted with some of the preparatory work.
Upon entering Lugg's Mill Orchard the path then crosses the newly planted cherry orchard on the South East side of the site to connect to public footpath CW24a (Old Church Road to Mill Lane).
As part of the plan for developing Lugg's Mill Orchard in future months the next stage is to create a new footbridge over the stream in order to give walkers the opportunity to cross the site in an East-West direction to further improve accessibility.