Grafting is an ancient technique for propagating apple varieties. If you plant an apple pip of one variety, say a Histon Favourite, that pip will not grow up into a Histon Favourite apple tree. It will be a unique tree, maybe better, maybe worse. So if you want to get another Histon Favourite tree, you have to take some wood from the tree and somehow attach it to a rootstock. The rootstock helps to control the height and vigour of the tree. This process of ‘sticking’ the variety wood (the scion) to the rootstock is called grafting. Last week staff from Cambridge city council and a couple of orchard volunteers came along to learn about grafting fruit trees and practice their grafting techniques. It’s great to keep these skills alive. We also noticed the bees were very active, making natural honeycomb in the observation hive.
We will be holding a Blossom Day celebration in the orchard on Sunday 30 April 2023, between 2pm and 4pm. As well as an opportunity to enjoy the blossom, there will be guided tours around the orchard, introducing visitors to the swift tower, the beehive and the stool bed where we are propagating rootstocks. Bring a picnic and enjoy the orchard with us.
Orchard Blossom Day was an event launched a couple of years ago by the UK Orchard Network, but of course fruit tree blossom has been celebrated for centuries, and by some very famous artists including those shown below – Millais, Van Gogh and David Hockney. Why not take some photos or bring your sketchbook (digital or paper) and make the most of this fleeting beauty? We would love to share your images of the orchard here.
We’ve had a swift tower in the orchard for over ten years now, and we’ve had resident swifts for the last few years, enticed by recorded swift calls coming from the tower. However, we have noticed that some pesky squirrels have been gnawing at the entrance holes in the swift box. The squirrels might want to move in, or even predate any eggs and chicks they find. So, with further help from the Swift Conservation charity, we have squirrel-proofed the swift tower.
A group of orchard and swift conservation volunteers wrestled with scaffold towers ,scaffold boards and rope and managed to remove the damaged front and sides of the swift box. They emptied ten years worth of nesting material and replaced the front and sides with a slightly different profile – this includes some metal reinforcements to deter squirrels from chewing the nest box entrance holes. At the same time they have moved the lower bat box on the tower to above the other bat box, in the hope that this will also make access to the nesting area harder for the squirrels. Fingers crossed that our resident swifts like their improved home when they return.
Many thanks to the magnificent team of Astra Zeneca employees who came down to the orchard and donated their own time and effort last week. They worked really hard, and the orchard looks amazing as a result. They weeded and mulched the circles around the trees, repaired the herb garden and waged war on the brambles. Astra Zeneca also donated some funds for the mulch and some other supplies, and we are very grateful for this help.
Bugs and Swifts for the Heritage Open Days Sunday 18 September 2022 14:00 – 16:00
Take a tour around our small plant-filled oasis designed to enhance the community and promote biodiversity and educate people about fruit production, wildflower meadows and conservation.
Innovation is not just technology, but the integration of sustainable food production with biodiversity and conservation is an innovative approach to a new way of living to minimize consumerism and maximize a positive environmental impact.
The visit will highlight how the community orchard and wildflower meadow contribute to biodiversity, illustrated by the bugs found. In addition the swift tower and observational beehive illustrate the possible contribution to conservation as both swifts and bees have been in decline (sadly this year swifts have been added to the red list, emphasizing the urgent need for action).
Trumpington Community Orchard illustrates how nature needs to be the central consideration in all INNOVATIVE community planning.
No booking required, just turn up. Please park considerately in this residential area. The event is free but we rely on donations to keep the orchard going.
We took the hard decision not to hold a wassail (a traditional ceremony to honour the apple trees) this year. I know other orchards held large and enthusiastic wassails, but our space is small and we have to think about the potential risks.
But never fear, our Maintenance Session volunteers saw to it that the trees received their usual blessing of a libation of apple juice poured at their roots, and pieces of toast hung in the branches. When we started this orchard over a decade ago, our first wassail was three of the founders (including me) singing some kind of song and banging a saucepan, and a few neighbours came out to see what the racket was. Since then the wassail grew into a really sizeable and popular event, and we have had everything from lantern processions to a wheelbarrow orchestra to folk dressed as Green Men and Women, and as penguins. In the last few years wassailing has been re-discovered, re-invented and revived across the country (I think we were way ahead of the trend.) Wassailing is certainly a tradition of this orchard, and it will carry on, in some way or another, every year.
On Saturday 11th September 2021 from 2 – 4pm in the orchard, we will be searching for as many bugs and minibeasts as we can find. All creatures, once examined and recorded, will be carefully returned to where we found them.
Come along and see what you can find. No experience necessary, and no knowledge of bugs required.
Last time we did this, we found a lot of bugs!
This event is part of Open Cambridge It is a free event, but donations to keep our orchard going are much appreciated.
It looks like none of us are going out much this winter, so once you’ve watched all the box sets that you ever wanted to see, remember there are these things called books. They have the power to lift you off your sofa and out into the natural world, if only in your imagination. Or maybe they will send you into your kitchen. Whichever, here are my personal reading recommendations for the long winter evenings.
Monty Don My Garden World Published last month, this latest book from Monty is more of a personal memoir than a gardening handbook. That’s a good thing, as far as I am concerned. Monty’s role seems to be as chief encourager of gardeners and would-be gardeners, rather than giving us the exact instructions. (If I want exact instructions I turn to Geoff Hamilton’s books) Monty gives his observations on the natural world going through the year, and on the wildlife and wild flora that come into his garden, from Barn Owls to Goshawks to foxgloves and wild apple trees. And of course, dear old Nigel, his ever-present best friend. I won’t say anymore on that except make sure you have your handkerchief ready when you reach the epilogue. The book is enhanced with Monty’s own photographs, and it is nicely made although on very cheap paper. Definitely one you can give to anyone who loves gardening and nature in a warm, fluffier sort of way.
Raymond Blanc The Lost Orchard: stories and recipes by Raymond Blanc Raymond Blanc has set out to revive and restore the fortunes of many old varieties of apple, planting a massive orchard of 2,500 trees at Le Manoir, his world-famous restaurant and garden in Oxfordshire, and another one in France. Raymond says he is ‘a chef who loves art, gardens, music, design and food’, and these interests show in this book, which is gorgeous, with a section of photos, gold lettering on the cover and beautiful woodcuts for each section. The majority of the book describes the results of his ‘great apple tasting’ of over 100 varieties, which took place over two weeks in October 2018. And there is the issue with the book. I wish he had taken longer to write it, because the originality of it comes from the tasting notes, and it is very frustrating to read about several varieties that the apple was not ready, so could not be tasted, or even that he had lost the notes. If Raymond had waited one more year he could have learned, and given to us, so much more. The book also covers pears, quince, fig, medlar and stone fruit trees. There are useful lists, such as ‘best fruit for growing in a garden’ and a delightful section of recipes. It is a very enjoyable book, oozing with the undeniable charm of Raymond Blanc, but I hope that he carries on growing, testing and tasting and publishes a revised edition in the future.
Naomi Slade An Orchard Odyssey This is a cheerful book, stuffed full of high quality, evocative photos and also lots of practical advice for starting your own orchard, even in the most urban of locations. Naomi is big on community action, from orchards to smaller growing schemes, and she shows clearly how every little bit of green benefits the whole habitat, including the humans who live there. Her enthusiasm shines through this book, giving us no excuse for not getting out there and getting involved. I would recommend giving this book to anyone who wears their eco status with pride, and to anyone thinking about starting any kind of community green project, not just an orchard. Although the more community orchards there are, the better, of course.
Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates Orchard: a year in England’s Eden. This is an evocative, poetic book about an ancient orchard from January to December. Beginning with a brief history of the apple, the book then describes the rich life of the orchard, each writer taking a month each. Both have an eye for the details, and both appreciate every creature that is drawn to make a home in the orchard. There are some wonderful photographs too. The orchard is a magical place, full of atmosphere and history. This book reminds us how precious and how endangered such places are, and how much could be lost.
Gill Meller root stem leaf flower It’s been a good year for cookery books, and I think this is the best and most original of the lot. Gill has been chef at River Cottage for eleven years, and it shows in the quality but simplicity of these recipes. Every dish is seasonal, and vegetarian, or ‘veg-centric’, which, as he says means that seasonal ingredients ‘become special, like a friend you rarely see, or a song you’d forgotten you loved.’ Apples feature in some of the recipes, together with other orchard fruits – who can resist a recipe for ‘Quince Fumble?’ So put together Gill’s thoughtful introduction on the importance of eating vegetables and fruit, together with delicious recipes, interesting photos and even some poems, and you have the perfect book to read all around the house, not just in the kitchen.
If you choose to buy one of these titles, there are many options, both online and on foot. However, if you choose to buy through Amazon Smile, you can select the East of England Apples and Orchards Project as your designated charity against all your purchases.
Well here we are in the second lockdown of the year, and because of the restrictions there have been very few apple day events across the region. Such a shame when the apples were looking lovely this year. Still, my interest in apples and orchards has been able to continue in the virtual world, so I thought I would give the links to a few sites that I have found interesting while I have not been able to get out and about. For those of you who prefer a good old fashioned book to read, I will discuss my favourites next week.
First, I am happy to say that the East of England Apples and Orchards Project has had a full make-over of its website. Have a look at the wealth of information on their website. If you are looking for a sustainable Christmas present for an orchard fan, membership of EEAOP is only £15 per year, or you can sponsor a tree in their heritage orchard.
Our friends The Orchard Project have been doing amazing work setting up urban orchards and other fruit projects all across the country. At the moment you can meet Mervyn Mouse, and listen to a free bedtime story about him read by Alys Fowler, which is perfect for getting your children interested in apples. If you are a little too old for Mervyn, I learned a lot from the Project’s interview with apple expert Joan Morgan, on the importance of heritage varieties.
Here’s a site that has kept me entertained – Random Street View Which, as it says, brings up a different view of anywhere in the world. You can travel from Greece to Singapore to Sweden in three clicks. I like to see if I can guess what country, or at least what part of the world the view shows, before I peek at the little map. Sometimes you’ll see some fruit trees like these or a grove of bananas, or olive trees, but I’ve yet to see an apple orchard. If you find one let me know.
If you are on Instagram you are welcome to follow me @cambsfairy. I post mainly shots of gardens, plants, sometimes more personal pics like those of my Halloween pumpkins. I follow a few apple-related ‘grammers, (I don’t think there are many) including @pomme_queen who is taking the most beautiful portraits of American apples and @someinterestingapples who has a really unusual project going on, assessing wild and seedling apples that are found growing in hedgerows. Others whose posts I particularly I enjoy are @acambridgediary to see Cambridge and the surrounding area in all its beauty, whatever the season. @gill.meller and @dianahenryfood give me inspiration for my next meal, and @themontydon shares personal views of Long Meadow and words of wisdom. And finally I am sure that @chunk_the_groundhog will bring some joy into your day. He lives in his very own garden, where he eats apples with maximum enthusiasm, but minimal manners. Cute as he is, I am glad we don’t have groundhogs in the U.K, I don’t think the apples at Trumpington Orchard would stand a chance.
The Swift Tower at the orchard is now home to at least three nesting pairs of swifts. These marvellous birds, that weigh the same as a Creme Egg, have travelled all the way from Africa to nest here. The Swift Tower is designed to play a recording of the swift’s cries, in order to entice them in. Apparently no swift likes to be the first swift to make a nest in a particular spot, so you have to fool them that the nest tower is already popular. Whatever the swift psychology, it’s worked. And we are delighted to welcome them.