Poor harvest highlights importance of Community Orchard
You wouldn't know it from looking at the supermarket shelves, and some local gardeners are pooh-poohing the headlines, but officially we're suffering from the worst apple harvest in 15 years.
Branches that were last year buckling under the weight of fruit are bare. It's the reason, say organisers, why the Marlborough Community Orchard initiative and this month's Apple Day are so important.
“This is a wake-up call,” says respected food writer and broadcaster Lynda Brown. “We need to encourage the growing of different varieties of native apples, so that when one crop suffers, others will provide us with a crop.
“We have become used to buying the perfect cosmetic fruit from the supermarkets. There are early, mid and late blossoming apple trees and some will fare better than others from season to season. Variety is the spice of life, and we shouldn't put all our eggs – or, in this case, apples – in one basket.”
This year's harvest has been hit hard by the wettest summer on record. “The cold, rainy summer discouraged the bees from flying at crucial periods,” says Lynda, “while the lack of sun has meant that apples haven't ripened on time
“And for the past couple of years we've had bumper crops, so yields have been worse as trees recover.”
Marlborough's community orchard scheme – conceived in 2010 with the ambitious aim of creating a town in an orchard – has already seen 35 trees planted around the town.
Ninety-one pre-ordered Wiltshire variety apple trees will be arriving on Apple Day and between 30 and 40 others will be planted in and around the town before next spring.
The showcase Apple Day event will be held in Marlborough Town Hall on Sunday, October 14 from 11am to 5pm. One of the leading experts on English apples, Dr Joan Morgan, will be on hand to identify apples for gardeners who have a tree, but have no idea what variety it is. Identification costs £15.
Other attractions include:
Opening welcome ceremony with cornet fanfare to greet the Mayor and 'Wiltshire Maidens': rare Wiltshire apple tree saplings specially grafted for Marlborough Community Orchard by Barters Nursery.
Announcement of the winners of the A4 Apple Art Competition and prize giving by Juliet and Peter Kindersley of Sheepdrove Organic Farm.
Apple pressing outside the hall, so everyone can enjoy freshly-squeezed apple juice.
Pip planting, face painting and other activities for children.
Fabulous retail line-up: local food and produce and hand-made preserves; local apple juice, honey and real cider; bee-beautiful local beauty products; bird boxes, ladybird houses, apple trugs and other bespoke woodwork ; hand-stitched linens and hand sewn gifts; Sarah Raven’s bee-friendly bulbs and seeds, gardening accessories and kitchenalia; Marlborough Community Orchard’s new series of limited edition apple cards; Apple Day treats for dogs, and much more.
Sumbler’s ‘Best -Ever Hog Roast’ with windfall apple sauce plus, new this year, scrummy cakes and drinks provided by Bow Belles@ Little Apple Café.
Gloucester Old Spot competition, sponsored by Haine & Smith, starring a sow and her piglets, specially filmed for Marlborough Community Orchard by Orchard Pig.
Display and tasting of rare native Wiltshire apples, growing advice from experts and Wiltshire apple saplings for sale.
The opportunity to sponsor orchard fruit trees for the new Diamond Jubilee Plantation on Marlborough Common and other sites around town.
Four-star luxury raffle brings the chance to win: Four tickets to a special performance of the Nutcracker, followed by afternoon tea at Sheepdrove Eco-Centre and Organic Farm; a case of fine wine from Waitrose; a three-course dinner for two at The Bell at West Overton; an hour long aromatherapy massage at Indulgence Beauty salon.