Core values

Liz Nicholls

Community orchards

Alison Bloomfield offers a slice of apple knowledge ahead of Brightwell cum Sotwell’s Apple Day on Saturday, 15th October.

When someone mentions apples you might think of apple crumble or the healthy bit of your lunch or cider from Somerset. You might have seen glorious pink blossom in spring or trees along roadsides full of fruit in autumn.

All of these represent just a fraction of the world of apples.

Oxfordshire might not be a famous fruit growing county like Kent or Herefordshire, but traditional apples are being rediscovered in the south of the county. The combination of geology, spring lines and soil type in this part of Oxfordshire are perfect for growing apples. From the late 1800s until the mid-1970s, orchards extended in a line from Harwell in the west to Ewelme in the east, growing all kinds of “top fruit” – apples, pears, plums, and cherries. Many of these original old trees ended up in gardens or abandoned in orchards no longer being farmed. These trees can be over 100 years old and keep on producing blossom and fruit even if they are no longer needed or loved.

But there is now a resurgence of interest in local food and heritage farming.

Community orchards

Many communities are planting orchards in their schools, allotments, village greens or new housing developments. To be classed as an orchard all you need is a minimum of five fruit trees. In London there is an orchard on a canal barge and an orchard was planted at the Olympic Park! Brightwell cum Sotwell villagers planted their community orchard in 2014 and since then more villages have planted their own, such as Blewbury, Appleford, and Long Wittenham and two have been planted this year right in the heart of Wallingford.

It can be great fun researching and choosing which varieties to plant in a community orchard and this provides an opportunity to ensure that heritage varieties continue to be grown throughout the country. The message of healthy eating, local food miles, and preserving heritage farming is a strong driver for locals and enthusiasts to plant valuable fruit for the future.

Apple Day

Apple Day is now an established countrywide autumn harvest event celebrated in villages, towns and even in large cities. It could be in both newly planted, or abandoned orchards (sometimes rediscovered by accident). It is a fun way to celebrate everything and anything to do with the apple harvest. Often there is traditional pressing to make juice, cider tasting, apple cake competitions, and a formal display of the different varieties grown nearby. The best bits are usually all the apple harvest games – pin the maggot on the apple, toffee apples, apple printing, apple bobbing, decorating chocolate coated apples, and, of course, the longest peel. A particular challenge can be the apple and spoon races!

What’s in a name?

Apples do not grow true from pips. If you plant a Bramley seed (pip) it will not produce a Bramley apple. The fruit produced from that seed will be a completely new variety.

Some of the wonderful names might be the name of the grower, some local dignitary or the town, or some characteristic of the apple. Pitmaston Pineapple, King of the Pippins, Chivers Delight, Peasgood Nunsuch, and Beauty of Bath conjure up pure whimsy. Would James Grieve, Revd. W Wilks, Charles Ross, Lord Derby, Lord Lambourne, William Crump, and Arthur Turner be on the local cricket team? Might Ingrid Marie or Annie Elizabeth be the name of a wife or sweetheart?
So, if you are thinking of planting an apple or a pear tree in your garden find a supplier of heritage varieties and have fun choosing one that suits your garden space or taste. The apple trees seen growing along roadsides might be a happy coincidence of motorists throwing their cores out of the window. Why not try growing your own tree with your next apple?

All welcome!

You will all be welcome at Brightwell cum Sotwell Recreation Ground, OX10 0RT (turn down the side of the Red Lion pub) for free Apple Day fun, 11am-4pm. There is going to be a great apple harvest this year as there are masses of apples around in gardens, old orchards and the community orchard too.

The most spectacular feature will be Paul Chilton’s stunning display of up to 100 varieties of apple that are grown in the village. Laid out the length of the pavilion you will see apple varieties dating back to the 1700s all the way through to those we know in the shops today. Egremont Russet, Spartan, Blenheim Orange, Annie Elizabeth, Edward VII, Peasgood Nunsuch, and Norfolk Beefing, to name just a few as well as the more well known Katy, Cox and Bramley.

There will be the fabulous apple and juice tasting as well as chutneys and cakes competitions; a bit like a food court focussed on apples! We will be picking masses of apples to press but why not bring some of your own and add them into the mix. Bring along some bottles or cartons and take away some really lovely juice – for free. A great way for kids to get their five a day!

We will have tours of the community orchard and there will be plenty of children’s activities! All apple-themed of course – pin the maggot on the apple, bobbing apples, apple face painting, apple printing, decorating chocolate apples are always great favourites.