Wassail 2016 – are you in good voice?

At the heart of a wassail is a good old sing song – a carol, a wassail song or something more like a hymn. Many of them are regional, a lot of them go back to the nineteenth century and even earlier.  So here are  the three we will be singing on 10 January (we meet at 2:30pm at the orchard.) If you can play a (portable, acoustic) instrument, by all means bring it along and join in. Personally I can’t read music, and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but that’s not going to stop me. The  purpose of all the singing is to make enough noise to scare evil spirits from the orchard, so I should be fine!

Wassail Here we come a wassailing Wassail Carhampton Trumpington Wassail 2013 002

Wassail 2016 – Holly Kings and Ivy Queens

I am very excited by the plans for the Wassail – it’s become a feature of the orchard year, something to get us out in the cold (and sometimes wet) and remind ourself that, eventually, spring blossoms must come.
This time we are looking into bringing a bit more of the wild wood into the orchard, in the person of the Holly King and the Ivy Queen. The story is a familiar one, another way of telling the endless narrative of the changing seasons – every year, after the harvest, the Holly King takes on the Oak King in single, mortal combat. Of course, the Holly King must win, but the Oak King will rise again in the summer. The winter cold belongs to the Holly King, and to the Ivy, his Queen. Together they represent life in the depths of winter, irrepressible greenery. Remember the carol “Of all the trees that are in the wood, the Holly wears the crown.”
So – be greenwood royalty for the day – come to our Wassail as a King or Queen and join in the revelry. There will be music, singing and dancing. You can signify your status with a few leaves, a mask, green clothing – or you can go full-on, like this marvellous Holly King from the performance company ‘The Lion’s Part’. Just mind those prickles….

Holly King from Bankside Wassail

Holly King from Bankside Wassail

Wassailling details: Meet at Trumpington Orchard Sunday 10th January at 2:30pm. Apart from costumes, wrap up warm, and bring a torch. The event is free but donations are appreciated. Be prepared to sing!

Moth Night 2015

Moth Night 2015 – Friday 11 September 8pm. Come to the Orchard at 8pm this Friday, where local expert Charles Turner (from Cambridge Natural History Society) will be luring moths down with a big light and a sheet. See how many different species we can identify this year. Obviously, wear warm clothes, bring a torch, and park with consideration on the local streets. Free event, donations appreciated. We will be finished (or in the pub) by 10pm.

Here’s one we got a close look at last Moth Night. We let it go straight away, of course.

moth night 2015

Choosing an apple tree for your plot or pot

It’s officially Autumn, and that’s my favourite time of year – apples to eat, and trees to plant. Now is the perfect time to plan an orchard of your very own, but what to look for?
Down in your local garden centre, any time about now (in the UK) you will find lots of fruit trees. These days most of them will be ‘container grown’ – that just means they’ve spent their whole life in a pot. If you order online from a nursery, you may receive ‘bare root’ trees, which means that they have been grown out in a field, pulled up, the roots wrapped up to stop them drying, and put in the post to you. If you’re planning an orchard I’d go for bare root, and if you are looking for a couple of trees for your garden, container grown trees are nice and strong, and you don’t have to put them in the ground the minute you get them.

With apple trees, as with so much in life, it’s all a question of size. I can rattle off various M numbers for rootstocks, and you can look these up (our friends at Orange Pippin have a really useful chart here) But in most garden centres, and buying online, what you have to look for is the word ‘dwarfing’. If a tree is grown on a dwarfing rootstock, it means it will not grow very tall. The rootstock gives the height and vigour of the tree. This means that you can grow a tree in a pot, on a sheltered balcony or patio or wherever you like, as long as the pollinating insects can find it. If you want a tree for your garden, choose one on a ‘semi dwarfing’ rootstock, that will give you a nice sized tree where you can reach all the apples.

There are now self fertile trees (Scrumptious is a very good variety), which means you will only need the one, but most trees need another one reasonably close by so that they can cross pollinate.

Armed with all this knowledge, what should you look for when you choose a tree? Look for one that is nice and upright, and where the union between the tree and the rootstock is clean and even. Some of the leaves may be brown or dried, that’s fine. As long as you can see healthy leaves too, and no injuries, the main concern is the shape. Walk past any that have, for example, one really long branch leaning one way, and one short one the other way. Although these things can be corrected with pruning, start off with the best shape you can get.

Bare root trees will usually be only a year old, and look like one upright twig. Don’t let the rootball dry out before you plant them – get them in the ground as quickly as you can (have the holes dug before the van turns up!) and be prepared for a couple of failures.

Happy planting! And if you have any questions visit our Facebook page and post your questions and photos there. We’d love to see your new trees.

Where to buy trees:

Cambridge Community Collection – update

The Cambridge Community Collection, an ambitious art project that will involve planting one of every type of apple tree, is going well. But the trees that have already been planted, close to the orchard, need our help to get them through this hot weather. So, we have organised a joint maintenance session for all interested volunteers.
Meet at the orchard at 11am on Sunday 12 July. We intend to spend an hour looking after the trees there, before moving on to those we planted along the Guided Busway. Please wear outdoor, working shoes and bring a waterproof and/or a bottle of water to allow for all types of summer weather.

This photo shows all the lovely new trees that have been grafted at Brogdale, all growing happily away in the best of conditions.

Midsummer picnic – do we have secret helpers??

Down in the orchard
Hidden from view
The fairies created
Some glittery clues

Under the hedgerow?
Behind a tree?
Fairies hide treasure
So carefully.

We’ve written some hints
To show you the way
To find out the pebbles
Join in, this Sunday!

And if you are careful
And use all your mind
At the end of the puzzling
Some treasure you’ll findfairy pebblesThe Midsummer Picnic is happening this Sunday, 21st June, from 12:30 – 3pm. There is story telling and an art activity as well as a treasure hunt around the orchard. Look for full details on our Events page.

Midsummer Picnic 21 June 2015

As I write this, the rain is lashing down outside, and the temperature is ‘well below the seasonal average’, which is Met Office speak for ‘too flipping cold.’ However, we are nothing if not optimistic in the Orchard, and so I am looking forward to our Midsummer Picnic. We are holding this on Sunday 21 June, from 12:30pm. There will be story telling, a treasure hunt and art activities (suitable for young children.)
Bring your own picnic and a rug, and come along to enjoy the atmosphere of the orchard on Midsummer’s Day. This event is just £2 per person or £5 for a family group.
We will be on hand to give advice on the care of fruit trees in your own garden, and on all related topics.
I am looking forward to this event so much – bring on Summer!


Apple blossom time

The blossom is looking lovely here in our community orchard in Trumpington , so why not take a bank holiday outing to see it, or to visit a community orchard near you? If you take any photos, email them to me and I will put them on the website or Facebook page.
apple blossom2 apple blossom1

Harston Community Orchard Spring Walk

Today I cycled across from one village to the next (negotiating that Cambridgeshire rarity, a slight incline) to see Harson Community Orchard. The weather was perfect, the people were happy and the cakes were all home made.  There were demonstrations of wood craft from the Green Wood group and Cambridge Wood Works, and the Wildlife Trust was there as well. What more could I want from an orchard open day? Well, I got an excellent tour from one of the volunteers, Andy. He really knew his stuff and his enthusiasm for the orchard shone through. The orchard is a remnant of one that was planted about 60 years ago, and it’s sited next to the Recreation Ground. New trees have been planted, and the whole site is being managed to support wildlife and biodiversity. As you can see from my photos, the older trees have real personalities. I am going to make another expedition there when the blossom is fully open in a couple of weeks. I’ll have to bring my own cake…
harston 1 harston 2 harston 3 harston 4 harston 5 harston 6 harston 7 harston 8