- give me one kiss in apple-blossom
- give me one wish, and Id be wassailing
- in the orchard, my english rose
kate bush, oh! england, my lionheart
orchards....two thirds lost since the war, mostly to arable monocultures, horses and housing, orchards are a perfect intersection of the cultural and ecological - often rich in wildlife, they indicate fashions in fruit variety, eating habits and community customs such as wassailing (of which more in weeks to come)
partly due to the difficulty in categorising them (are they copse, woodland, pasture, meadow, all of these and more?), orchards have been largely unprotected, and offer just about the best example what is happening to our food supply as a whole....with so many devon varieties of apple, plum and other fruit, how can we muster only half a dozen in our local shops, with most of these from abroad?
'that without function is up the junction' - probably the first law of the countryside (well, in my book anyway), and with the supermarkets dictating an ever decreasing market for local types of apple, with their many shapes and colours, orchards simply werent economically viable in many cases.....and so they vanish
in our last place we planted a devon quarrenden, an old variety largely ungrown these days, along with some newer disease-resistant, vigorous apples and plums, and it grew like none of the others....how odd to be amazed when it all makes complete sense....grow a tree in the soil that suits it, in the climate that suits it, in the ecosystem that suits it, and it flourishes, simple
so the first orchard we're planting is a devon orchard, with apple, plum, sorb and other fruit trees from the area....cider - fair maid of devon among them, eaters including devonshire quarrenden, cookers like landkey yellow plum, with more to come....
landkey mazzards for one - a strange cherry particular to the west country - introduced by the huguenots 200 odd years ago, they were virtually wiped out until recent years when orchards live, and organisation based in north devon, helped revive interest in them
in time this small piece of condensed culinary county will be a larder for the house, a source of fruitwood for grafting and somewhere to hammock my bony backside in years to come