Outside the vegetable and walled gardens, there are approximately one-hundred-twenty-five fruit trees, at least a hundred of which are apples. It would appear that five or six separate plantings have occurred during the last seventy to eighty years. A dozen trees have been recently planted, fifteen in 1999 and twenty-three trees in the Bee Orchard might be ten to twelve years old.
The oldest trees are located near the Show-barn. These date from Grandfather’s time and are parallel with the taste of the times. ‘Beauty of Bath’, ‘John Standish’, ‘Golden Pippin’, ‘Adam’s Pearmain’, ‘Lord Lambourne’ and ‘Newton Wonder’ were popular varieties in the 1920’s.
The apple trees planted near the composting area are, with the exception of a magnificent ‘McIntosh Red’ all culinary varieties, and contemporaries of the above. These include, ‘Lady Henniker’, ‘Gladstone’, ‘Annie Elizabeth’ and ‘Blenheim Orange’.
The thirteen large trees in the main and chicken orchard, comprising ‘Ashmead’s Kernel’, ‘Ribston Pippin’ and ‘Norfolk Beefing’ date from the 1930’s. All of these old trees have become biennial bearers, a want of neglected trees. However, nobody could deny that these are trees of a remarkable, even gothic character. The green woodpecker and later fieldfares, followed by redwings all comprehend the owner’s dislike of pruning – moreover, there is nothing more convivial for the myriads of marauding insects than regular attacks of woolly aphids and umpteen blight affected diseases. Besides bearing small and misshapen fruit most old trees proudly display their crop of parasitic mistletoe, which is harvested for medicinal research. These trees however, are assured longevity, if not as trees then as fallen monuments, for there they lie prostrate; part of the Estate’s inherent organic mien.
In England a culture has evolved around the humble apple elevating it above any other fruit. More than 2000 varieties attest to man’s passion to cultivate the ‘perfect’ apple. However, man being man, and taste being somewhat fleeting, perfection is presumably never likely. Part of the mystical atmosphere felt in an old Rackham-like apple orchard may well have been hinted at when Robert Hogg (The great English pomologist) writing in 1851 said: “There is no fruit in temperate climates so universally esteemed, and so intensely cultivated, nor is there any which is so closely identified with the social habits of the human species as the apple. Apart from the many domestic purposes to which it is applicable, the facility of its cultivation, and its adaptation to almost every latitude, have rendered it, in all ages, an object of special attention and regard”.
A visit to our orchard is well worthwhile. In October a special apple walk is arranged where many forgotten and old-fashioned varieties can be tasted, and where freshly pressed juice can be savored. Apples can also be purchased at the Farm Shop.