Saturday 3rd February 2018 saw a large and enthusiastic group gather in the Orchard in the dark (in cold, drizzly weather) to perform perhaps the best-known orchard tradition – Wassail. This ancient custom grew up around the idea of encouraging good health and good growth in the orchard. The word Wassail comes from Anglo-Saxon ‘waes hael’, literally to be whole, be in good health or be fortunate. The ceremony traditionally takes place between Christmas and 17th January (old Twelfth Night), but in Chorleywood we have decided to delay until early February and so avoid a more recent (and far less life-affirming) custom practised by some people – Dry January.
Guided by flaming torches, the group gathered around the largest tree in the Orchard and threw cider at its roots, noisily beat its branches with wooden sticks and hung toast on them. Wassail verses were recited and finally a Wassail song was sung (thanks to Chris Lawley for leading the singing). Mulled cider was drunk to keep us warm and most people then went on to enjoy more cider (our local vintage of course) at the Black Horse with a Burns-themed supper of haggis, neeps and tatties.
The whole experience is perhaps best summed up by this quotation from Pete Brown’s lovely book “The Apple Orchard”:
“… it fills my heart with trembling-lipped pride to join thousands of people across Britain who… go out into fields and orchards at the coldest time of the year and celebrate the continued existence of apple trees by drinking as much of their produce as possible.”
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Wishing you all a joyful and relaxing festive season. If you are thinking of making New Year Resolutions, how about resolving to plant a fruit tree in 2018? Even a small garden can usually accommodate a fruit tree and if you choose well you will enjoy blossom, fruit and autumn leaf colour. Crab apples can even last the winter in some cases, providing much needed food for birds. See this photo of Malus Evereste in Chorleywood Orchard taken during the recent snowy weather – the Robins and Blackbirds were loving the fruit.
PLUM PICKING AT BULLSLAND FARM – AUGUST 2017
13 volunteers accepted our annual invitation to pick the fabulous plums in the orchard at Bullsland Farm. In less than 2 hours we came away with about 120kg of fruit, all of which was then distributed around Chorleywood, to be made into delicious jams and chutneys for sale at Apple Day, as well as pies and crumbles to be enjoyed with friends and families. Destinations included the Christchurch Junction lunch club and a craft gin maker – we are looking forward to tasting the Mirabelle gin! Thanks as always to the owner and manager of Bullsland Farm for having us. And thanks to Chorleywood Magazine for using our photo to make the cover image for the September issue.
CHORLEYWOOD VILLAGE DAY – JULY 2017
Volunteers from Chorleywood Orchard and Cider Club again ran a stall at Village Day serving cider and apple juice based cocktails (or mocktails). Local elderflower cordial mixed with juice or cider and sparkling water made delicious and refreshing drinks – perfect on a warm summer day and very popular with the many visitors.
CHORLEYWOOD BEAVERS – JUNE 2017
Our enthusiastic Beavers didn’t need any encouragement to apply liberal quantities of water to the trees recently, partially compensating for a prolonged spell of dry weather. With the trees now 7-8 years old we had not expected to still be having to water them but climate change in our corner of Hertfordshire seems to be resulting in blocked weather patterns and below average rainfall. See the photos to realize how much fun can be had by small boys and girls armed with a bucket or watering can.
AGM TALK – Growing Apples and Pears in the Garden
To coincide with our AGM in June we enjoyed a visit from Gerry Edwards, Chairman of the RHS Fruit Group and expert in all matters related to growing fruit trees. Gerry gave a fascinating talk covering rootstock selection, which varieties of apples or pears to choose, how to grow and care for them and the pruning requirements of different forms of tree. Gerry was also able to answer lots of questions from our members and we hope they now feel encouraged to have a go and plant a fruit tree at home – every little helps to counteract the dramatic loss of orchards over the last few decades. And we can promise that fruit trees are both productive and decorative, they are low maintenance and truly garden-worthy.
With the Orchard now a few years old and just starting to bear fruit, we felt it was time to introduce the ancient mid-winter ceremony of Wassailing, a ritual whereby the trees are blessed and exhorted to bring forth crops of apples in the next growing season. In February 2017 members of Chorleywood Cider Club wrapped up warm one dark and cold Saturday evening and, using only the light of burning torches, filed in procession to the Orchard. Master of Ceremonies Roger Dyer then read aloud some Wassail verses and handed round cider which the participants poured on the ground around the roots of the largest tree in the Orchard. Toast soaked in cider was also hung in the branches – much to the bemusement of dog walking passers-by the following day! And then it was back to a warming Burns Night supper at a member’s house.
PRUNING WORKSHOPS 2017
In early February 2017 we invited Bob Lever back to Chorleywood to run two one-day workshops. As well as our volunteers receiving expert training in the vital skills of fruit tree pruning, by holding the workshops we were able to complete the pruning of our young apple trees over the course of the two days. Those who attended really enjoyed themselves and learnt a huge amount from Bob. Textbooks always show perfectly shaped trees needing only a few tweaks to tidy them up, but in real life apple trees grow in some eccentric shapes, suffer disease or are damaged by birds, resulting in the need to carry out remedial surgery. Bob guided us gently but firmly and a few months later the trees are looking great!
CHORLEYWOOD CHRISTMAS FESTIVALS 2015 and 2016
Chorleywood Cider Club were again enthusiastic participants in this annual Chorleywood event, serving mulled or fresh locally produced cider and apple juice. The Cider Bar was the ideal place to socialize and enjoy the adjacent live music.
DECEMBER 2013 Formative pruning workshop
In early December sixteen volunteers were privileged to be instructed and supervised by Bob Lever in learning about and actually carrying out formative pruning of our young apple trees. Often described as the most important pruning in the life of a fruit tree, formative pruning aims to establish a strong, productive framework for each tree. We learned many things about the different growth habits of different varieties of apple and how individual specimens can have their own agenda or be shaped by particular experiences (crows for instance have a nasty habit of damaging a tree’s leader so that pruning has to try to compensate by encouraging a lateral to take over the role). Bob was inspiring and his knowledge and experience were invaluable. The afternoon session saw us putting our newly acquired knowledge to the test, tackling the trees in our Orchard. We successfully pruned all the apple trees, accepting in a few cases that they are never going to look like the trees in pruning manuals – but looking on the bright side, eccentric growth habit will impart some character when they are mature! Stone fruit trees (cherries and plums) are not pruned in winter as silver leaf disease can result.
OCTOBER 2013 Launch of Chorleywood Cider Club
At Apple Day this year about 20 cider enthusiasts signed up to join this new venture. Since then more members have joined, regular meetings have been held at the Black Horse pub (over a glass or two of traditional cider) and, most importantly, we made lots of delicious cider. The record harvest of apples this year meant there was no shortage of fruit to use, so several different batches were blended. Sampling along the way was essential and a very jolly Christmas party was held!
The club also organised and ran a stall at the Chorleywood Christmas Festival serving a selection of Hertfordshire ciders as well as mulled cider and apple juice.Traditionally made cider is a world away from commercially-produced so-called cider. Did you know that UK regulations only require “cider” to contain 35% apple juice, with much of the remaining ingredients comprising industrially produced corn syrup? And even the apple juice itself can be made from apple juice concentrate imported from eastern Europe.
Plans for 2014 include a trip to Somerset to visit an award-winning cider brandy company and of course more meetings and tastings. If you would like to join the club, please email Dick Mander for details.
JUNE 2013 Lichen Survey
Members of the Community Orchard undertook a survey of lichens in the orchard in May and June this year. Lichens consist of two or more organisms living together – a fungus and an alga. Lichens are particularly sensitive to air pollution so monitoring the changes in the spread of lichens is important for understanding how our environment is changing. The diversity of lichen in lowland England was devastated by the effects of the pollution during the Industrial Revolution, but significant re-colonisation has occurred in recent decades.
A cold and very wet Saturday in May found a small group of volunteers looking for examples of the 24 most common lichens found in orchards in the East of England. Over the following few days, we carried out detailed studies of lichens on all 140 trees by using a strong ten magnification hand lens. All 140 trees (except the one planted just 6 months ago) had examples of lichen and several trees provided a habitat for six or more different types of lichen. Lichens do no harm to the surface on which they are attached.
The results of our survey have been forwarded to The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network to be collated and used to monitor the changes in the environment.The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network is an initiative managed by Imperial College London, and is open to anyone with an interest in nature.They aim to create and inspire a new generation of nature-lovers by getting people to explore, study, enjoy and protect their local environment. We expect that we will undertake further surveys over coming years that will measure the changes in variety of lichens as the orchard ages.
Have a look at the photos, but remember if you want to see lichens for yourself on the trees, you will need a strong magnification hand lens!
OCTOBER 2012 Beaver Scouts learn about the Orchard
Wet weather prevented the Beavers coming to the Orchard to clean and oil the benches before winter as part of their community service, but instead apple-themed evenings were arranged in the Scout Hut. Apple crumble was made and eaten, apples were peeled and tasted, games with an apple theme were played and the song “Johnny Appleseed” rounded off the evening. The leaders worked hard and the boys and girls were full of energy and enthusiasm!
SEPTEMBER 2012 Montessori school visit again
We hosted another visit from Little Cakes Montessori School, involving the children (aged 2-4) searching for apples on the trees, tasting apples and taking away some local apples to bake into apple crumble (with a little help from the teachers!).
JUNE 2012 Jubilee picnic
After the Saturday morning working party this month we held a picnic to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. Amazingly, the weather was kind and we gathered by one of the benches to eat delicious shared contributions and drink local elderflower cordial. The Orchard makes a great picnic spot, well away from traffic, so if the weather ever improves do try it out.
MAY 2012 Cubs go wild about Orchard bugs
Having decided that the weather (officially the wettest drought since records began?) meant we didn’t need to water, we set the Cubs to work counting and reporting on caterpillars and other bugs which were attacking the trees. They relished the challenge and provided us with lots of useful information – ranging from “minor munch” to “critical” on one or two trees! All bugs collected were rehomed.
APRIL 2012 – 3 French cherry trees introduced
After much planning and liaising with our twin town Dardilly in France, we were delighted to receive a gift of 3 French cherry trees to mark the twinning of Chorleywood and Dardilly. Our gift to Dardilly comprised 3 crab apple trees, delivered at Easter and ceremonially planted in the Beffe Communal Garden. The addition of the 3 cherry varieties completes the planting plan of 140 trees in Chorleywood Community Orchard. To find the French trees, look for them in positions A1, C5 and C6 near the boundary with the Lawn Cemetery.
DECEMBER 2011 – 20 more trees planted
On 3rd and 10th December sponsors turned up to plant 20 more trees in the latest phase of planting. The Russell School and Chorleywood Primary School both turned up in force to plant their apple trees, completing the representation of all 3 Chorleywood primary schools in the Community Orchard. The Russell School PTA even managed to press gang Headteacher David Peel to turn up and wield a spade – well done, Mr Peel! As well as apple, cherry and damson varieties planted, 6 cider apple trees were added, holding out the promise (long-term) of Chorleywood cider!
Montessori Visit To Orchard
Chorleywood Community Orchard welcomed a group of children from Little Cakes Montessori School in September. The children played hunt the apples, enthusiastically covering the whole length of the Orchard on their little legs! They also helped peel some fruit with our clever gadget, and enjoyed tasting the resulting apple spirals. The photograph shows them investigating a sample of different apple varieties, comparing the different sizes and colours to be found. They returned to school with a basket of apples, which the teachers then used to get the children involved in cooking.
Village Day 2011
A number of volunteers manned the Orchard’s pitch at Chorleywood’s Village Day on the Common this weekend. A suprisingly large number of people were educated as to the existence and location of the orchard with many vowing to drop by and take a look at what goes on with the project. Congratulations to Sue Mander, who won the competition to guess the weight of the apples – the answer was 2lbs 10oz or in metric terms 1,191gms.
On just 4 planting days this Winter (2010/11) we increased the number of trees in the Orchard from 48 to 117. These recent plantings saw the introduction of many more unusual Hertfordshire varieties of apple, as well as the first cherries, plums, damsons and crab apples. Visit our Tree Varieties page for the full list. Tree sponsors who were able came along to plant their own trees, and we also had a wonderful band of volunteers helping out, including representatives from the 1st Chorleywood Cub Scouts. The Watford Observer was also present to take a look at progress at the Orchard – to see their report follow the link here.
Volunteers needed for working parties
We are always looking for volunteers to come along to the Orchard to help with maintenance. we are down there at 10am on the first Saturday of each month for general chores such as watering, weeding & edging. It can be uselful to bring tools such as a fork, edging shears and watering cans. Don’t forget your gloves.
Second planting phase a great success
A big thank you to everyone who came to the Orchard on 5th December 2009 to help plant the second phase of trees. The day was a great triumph. As the Orchard grows, its size will start attracting more wildlife and interest from the public. The next phase of planting will take place later this year.
Since we launched the idea of sponsoring trees in the Orchard in late 2008, we have been bowled over by the public’s generous response. Our hope was to cover at least some of the cost of buying and planting trees, ideally keeping pace with the phased planting of the Orchard over 3 years. In fact, we now have to report that the Sponsorship book is closed – just 9 months later – with all trees sponsored.
Grant news – Summer 2009
Three Rivers District Council’s Leisure Committee has recently announced we are to receive a grant of £1,000. This will pay for an apple press and crusher, which will enable us to make our own fresh apple juice – initially from donated apples, but longer-term from the apples grown in the Orchard.
Waitrose Community Matters – Summer 2009
If you shop at Waitrose, Rickmansworth, you may have seen that we were one of the three Community good causes being supported during the month of July. Shoppers posted green tokens in the collecting boxes of the chosen Community projects and we were certainly the most popular. As a result, we received a cheque for £420. Thank you Waitrose and thanks to all the shoppers who voted for us!
The planting of the first 24 trees took place on Saturday 28th February 2009.