Photos from Downe Apple Day - 12th October 2019 (in the village hall due to the weather)
Downe Orchard Apple Day - Saturday 12 October 2019
Getting the orchard ready
A huge effort by the Bromley Countryside Volunteers, Friends of Downe Orchard and Downe Villagers to completely mow the orchard in readiness for Apple Day activities was undertaken in the week before the event. (The contractor had been unable to carry this out in time). However, as the weather hadn’t been great in the week, the decision to hold the event in the Downe Village Hall rather than in the orchard was to be at 10am on the day.
Apple Day – family harvesting
Family harvesting started at 1pm and the remainder of the apples - about 100kg were hand picked – this batch will form the basis of some cider making experiments . . . more to follow on this. Villagers braved the damp to complete this harvesting.
The Great Downe Apple Bake-Off, the Apple Day band and stands and stalls in the Village Hall
Stalls and stands
Down House, with very special raffle
The Bromley branch of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)
Local textile art and craft, included embroidered/beaded felt ‘apple’ brooches for sale
Local produce: honey from hives on North End Lane Farm; preserves- blackberry and apple jam; hedgerow jam; fresh eggs
Macmillan - preserves and cards for sale in aid of that charity
Local photography – John Howard’s work, kindly offered by his widow, Peggy (sales in aid of St. Mary’s Church)
Apple juicing – juice pressed from the morning’s harvested apples
Cider tasting and apple juice tasting (juice for sale)
Downe School stand with ‘Name the Teddy’ and ‘Find the Treasure’
Floral Design by Jodie T on display (Christmas wreath courses in the hall in November/December)
Burgers and sausages on sale on The Queen’s Head veranda
Music provided throughout by The Orchard Band, featuring the new song Orchard Day Blues. Steve Barnes on bass, Mike Phillips on guitar and vocals (From Kenilworth), Tony Brown (from Battersea) on drums. Thank you all, great to hear the new song and old favourites.
The Great Downe Apple Bake-Off
Sponsored by The Queen’s Head, with trophies and medals presented by Nigel Andrews
The judging team: Jayne, Mary, Michele, with Paula on admin. The judges were looking for quality in presentation, texture and apple flavour.
Big thanks go to Nigel and to the judging team – they had a hard job!
11 and under – 6 entries
1st: Hannah - sticky toffee apple pudding
2nd: Esme – apple flapjack
3rd: Hannah - spiced apple crumble
18 and under – 0 entries
Over 18 – 14 entries
1st: Eve Barnes – Downe orchard apple and raisin cake
2nd: Caroline Pizey (from Marlow) - maple and apple cake
3rd: Jane Wells - apple blondie
and a fourth category this year for all ages:
Preserves – 9 entries
1st: Sophie Sear - autumn marmalade
2nd: Mona Dimian – Downe orchard apple and berry jelly
3rd: Valerie Benington – Downe orchard apple and ginger chutney
As there were no entries in the 18 and under group, the judges created a special award for the overall winner – this went to Hannah Courtney who scored the competition’s highest marks for the sticky toffee apple pudding. Congratulations Hannah!
And congratulations to all the winners, runners-up and entrants – you gave the judges a really hard time marking – the standard was so high – well done.
Winners of the Raffle and Games:
‘Find the Treasure’ winner: Ben C
‘Name the Teddy’ winner: Dan T
Afternoon tea for two (N. Beston)
Cream tea for two (E. Dolan)
Family entry for 2 adults and up to 3 children (family Courtney)
Private house tour for up to 6 people (J. Trott)
Private garden tour for up to 6 people (D. Deverrill)
All raffle prizes were donated by Down House; many thanks Bryony Blackburn, Down House Manager
Thank you to everyone who attended.
Thanks too for all the kind words of appreciation to the volunteers for all their hard work in Downe Orchard over the last year.
A total of over £400 in donations and apple juice sales was made on the day. Fantastic!
Downe Orchard Apple Juice for Sale
If you would like to purchase any Downe Orchard Apple juice, please contact: email@example.com or Zoë on 07973696272
Web: downe-kent.org.uk/orchard Facebook: Downe Village Orchard
Zoë Knight, Secretary, Friends of Downe Orchard
The Downe Orchard Blues song lyrics - written specially for 2019 Apple Day
Well I woke up this morning
I got those orchard apple blues
Well I woke up this morning
My head is feeling so abused
Six pints of that old Downe Cider
Left my brain so confused
I went down to Downe orchard
Just to see them apples grow
I was down in the orchard
Just to see my source of woe
It’s the fruit on them old apple trees
Has got me really in their tow
Well we wassailed in the January
And we apple-day’d in the fall
One thousand kilo cropping
Those apples – we picked ‘em all
And once they been all juiced up
We felt ‘bout ten feet tall
We worked hard thru the winter
Pruning trees and chopping logs
Them locals was a sweating
And working just as hard as dogs
Despite the cold and rainin’
Dripping down their warmest togs
I went to see the doctor
Told him ‘bout my aching head
Went to see the doctor
Told him I couldn’t get outta bed
He said, son no more cider…
Just stick to the juice instead
Well I woke up this morning
I got those orchard apple blues
Well I woke up this morning
My head is feeling so abused
Six pints of that old Downe Cider
Left my brain so confused
(c) 2019 Steve Barnes
New for 2019 - Bromley Biodiversity Partnership reports
Click on the reports below to read about toad, house sparrow, hedgehog, swift and purple emperor butterfly. See below also for how we can all help with planting native shrubs & trees
The "Wassail" in the orchard - Saturday 12th January 2019
Downe Apple Day - Saturday 20th October 2018
Downe Apple Day with the ‘Great Downe Apple Bake Off’, cider and apple juice tasting was held on Saturday 20 October 2018
A great big effort by more than 30 villagers resulted in the harvesting of just short of 700kg of apples (separated into hand picked and windfall) - a tremendous achievement by all - and we were joined by enthusiastic visitors from Beechwood Avenue (Shire Lane)- thank you! (They found us on Downe Village Facebook)
The harvesting followed by the Bake Off at mid day. There was a fantastic standard of entries: apple cakes, apple and almond cake, apple and fruit loaf, apple cookies, apple and chocolate cake, apple lattice cake, stout and apple wheaten bread, apple and custard fairy cakes, sage and apple sausage rolls.
The under 21 trophy was deservedly won by Ben with his very tasty apple cookies- runner up was his sister Esme with a very beautiful apple lattice cake. Sarah won the over 21 category with the stout and apple wheaten bread- Bake Off judge, Jayne, noted that this bread would be a great accompaniment to home made soup! Mary’s runner up apple and almond cake was beautifully presented and tasted delicious.
Thank you so much to Jayne, managing to get to the orchard on crutches- and to give us such valuable feedback on each of the contestant’s entries.
Thank you to Geoff who masterminded the cider tasting and to Paul who got the scratting and pressing going so we could all taste the apple juice from the morning’s harvest.
Nigel and Jackie, Queens Head, sponsoring the trophies
Wendy and Geoff whose encouragement, support and commitment made sure that the Apple Day would happen
Friends of Downe Orchard on the day: John, Mark; Kay, Declan, Paul and Zoë
Net donations received on the day: £144.90
Green man leads the 2018 orchard wassail (well done Paul)
Orchard pruning day (10 February 2018). Also featured below one of the greengage trees donated by Jill and Marion
The 2017 "Apple Day" (on 21st October 2017) - held this year in the village hall due to inclement weather
The Downe Apple Day "bake off" competition winners
1st place - Nigel Andrews
2nd place - Jackie Duke
3rd place - Val Trott
Planting the final pear tree (of five in total) to celebrate 25 years of the orchard
Pictures from Downe Apple Day (21st October) - just below, intrepid volunteers pick the final apple crop of this year
Apple Day is held in the village hall, and Declan then plants the final donated pear tree in the orchard. Go to the orchard page for more news, and to see winners of the Apple Day "bake off"
Orchard achievements in 2016/17 (Kindly supplied by John Fisher)
A number of workshops, training and workdays were undertaken – a very successful harvesting day involving 14 people was held.
An apple day and a wassail day were held.
We continue to be supported by Ella and Bob from the orchard project who have also undertaken Apple id training and identification.
We successfully restored and reseeded the wildflower meadow at North End lane and a large amount of ground was cleared of brambles and blackthorn coppiced.
The main gate and post and rail fencing was refurbished.
The north end lane dead hedge was replenished and the live hedge was trimmed.
A survey of the trees and other growth at Rookery Road was completed to inform winter work at that end of the Orchard.
For the first time every fruit tree was pruned. All cuttings were burnt or removed as appropriate, including old cuttings from previous years.
Conference pears were purchased and will be planted on Apple day.
A survey of all the lichens on the trees was completed, followed by a lichen workshop led by Ishpi Blatchley.
We will harvest at least double the weight of apples we did last year.
We have received the fruit/cider from the 2016 harvest.
There is money in the bank from blinding quiz night performances, and we received £500 worth of orchard equipment from the Orchard Project
Bromley Countryside Volunteers have done a great job on "hay rake" day in clearing the grass and overgrowth
Harvesting the orchard – 13 September 2017 (John Fisher)
We had a memorable day in the Orchard on Wednesday 13 September – an anniversary – some great experiences, some best of moments, and some new learning.
It is 25 years since the allotments were converted into an orchard and the first apple trees were planted. I think it is fair to say that all that early hard work, optimism and enthusiasm slowly drained away over the next 20 years or so – the great thing is that we have shown it can be revived and that villagers are happy to do so with the right support.
In terms of experience, as always, I try to start the day with a walk round the orchard before anyone else turns up – just to see everything is all right and get a sense of the place.
It was great first of all to see that the perimeter path had been cut to the right height and the right width by the contractor. That means we can experience what the orchard has apart from its trees. A little ragwort – important for day flying cinnabar moths that are coloured like a catholic cardinals robes; the last of the lovely cornflower blue field scabious; my favourite the purple coloured field vetch and, although I should be against this garden escapee – a huge show of sweet peas. On the day we were also joined by some newly minted and very beautiful red admiral butterflies.
Now, onto the best moments. There were 14 of us. On a Wednesday. Doing harvesting work. I think – although Downe residents will of course know better – that’s a record since the initial planting in 1992/1993. I would like to personally thank again the following people who turned up and pitched in:-
Alan Dear, Declan Wells, Gill Rountree, Jane Shaw, Julian Moore, Mary Aquilina, Marian Hooson. Marion [sorry I did not get your last name], Michael Bingold, Paul Knight, Steve Barnes, Val Trott and Zoe Knight.
One of the best of moments for me was when we all realised that with the tools we had [some donated by the Orchard project] we could really harvest the whole crop – quickly – and with little waste. We were so good however that we rapidly had to improvise crates to carry the apples, trucks to transport it in and places to store it.
Last year we harvested some 728kg of apples from the whole orchard – this year – on just one day and from only 9 of the orchards 70 plus trees – we took 580kg. That means we could easily harvest 4500kg in a year – which converts to 2250 litres of juice or cider – half of which we keep after paying for processing/brewing – so 247 gallons!. So after a bit of sober reflection – required after sampling the cider from 2016 – the friends of the orchard sat down and thought about what we had learnt and what we need to do next.
We need to explain a bit more about why we do what we do and what time we do it [e.g. why the hay cut is on 27 September this year]. We need to somehow bring alive the balance between fruit production, a space which promotes wildlife in all its forms and a public space for people to enjoy. We need to understand what a harvest of 4500kg of apples means to us – not just collecting it – but how we manage it, transport it, store it and convert it into something we – might – sell. How all this fits in with the community more generally – not just our apple and wassail days.
Kind regards all
Helping Bethlem - Pictured below are Peter and Chris who manage the occupational therapy service for the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Shirley. The hospital has 300 beds and 8 specialist units that care for an awful lot of inpatients/outpatients.
For a number of years Sarah - who worked at Bethlem and is married to the ex- gardener at Down House - collected apples from the orchard for Bethlem - they have loads of fruit trees but nearly all are Bramleys - so our apples are used to sweeten their juice, juice making is used as part of their therapy sessions. So we continue to give a little contribution to the huge work they do (JF)
Some photos from 13 September
Downe Orchard Lichen study walk - 10 June 2017
Is it a crustose, foliose or a fruticose?
A small but enthusiastic band met together at Downe Orchard on the beautiful Saturday morning of the 10th of June to soak up the teachings of the nationally acclaimed lichen expert, Mrs Ishpi Blatchley*.
With our hand lenses, she showed us a new world of crustoses, folioses and fruticoses. Was it flat and spotty, bulbous and leafy or upright and pointy? All the lichens had Latin names, not a commoner among them- and Downe Orchard has some pretty rare examples, so we found out.
It was a fascinating introduction to this micro world- and all the better for knowing that the good health of our orchard environment was reflected in the types of lichens growing there. Thanks so much to Ishpi.
* "Ishpi Blatchley has been studying lichens for about thirty years and has developed a great interest in recording churchyard lichens as these places provide a variety of different substrates and niches for lichens in a relatively small and defined space. As a member of the British Lichen Society’s Churchyard sub-committee she has recently been involved in recording lichens in churchyards across London for the Heritage Lottery Funded London Churchyard Ecology Project."
A message from John Fisher (Bromley Countryside Volunteers) - "a great big thankyou to everyone who helped us in the orchard on Wednesday (5th April - see pictures below) - including the 3 people from Downe. We got far more done than I hoped we would - including coppicing part of the blackthorn to encourage nesting birds and to reveal most of the north end lane laid hedge from within the orchard, replenishing the dead hedge, clearing and burning most of the cut hay and blackthorn from previous years and all the remaining pruning, clearing and removing the moss and ash from one of the fire sites. A huge difference - could Steve pass on my appreciation please. Steve showed me a picture of all the tools that the orchard project have provided and its good to see that they have been delivered.
On top of the cowslips you have a number of primroses too - and another species of wildflower on top of a great drift of bluebells in the seedbank we cleared last year. I am really proud of what we are creating.
Secondly, I attach a revised copy of the draft management plan following ella's comments. I think i should get sign off from bcv and idverde [i would be worried if i dont] so all that remains is for downe people to have their say. Its not hugely urgent - but it would be very helpful if we could get this put to bed over the summer.
Finally we were joined on Wednesday by Martin Jordon from the Friends of High Elms who has been working hard to help us secure funding for new trees in some of the gaps. I think its too late now to do any planting before mid autumn. It has been very dry and any transplanted tree of any decent size is going to be very thirsty indeed over the summer and relatively vunerable. Still on our radar of course.
I've also copied in Declan who has worked in the orchard for a number of days and has been a real help - not least when I lost my cigarette lighter"
NOTE - John has produced a draft Orchard Management Plan which is being reviewed at the moment, and will be available on this web page when ready
Pruning lessons - led by Ella Hashemi from the Orchard Project on the weekend of 28/29 January 2017
Wassailing event - Downe village "Wassail" event was held on Sat 28 January 2017 - imploring the trees to produce a good harvest. Pictures show all enjoying the cider and nibbles, and our very own "Green Man" (Paul Gubby) - leading the Wassail
Wassail slideshow - click the button below to view a slideshow of the January orchard wassailing event kindly put together by Vicky Taylor
Recently uncovered is a newspaper cutting on the creation of the orchard in 1992 (thanks to Nick Cutmore)
The Orchard Project have been supporting us in Downe with the maintenance of the orchard. As can be seen above, two pruning workshops were held on 28/29 January, and this was followed by a very successful "Wassailing" event on the same Saturday.
Below is some correspondence from John Fisher (Bromley countryside volunteers) and Ella Hashemi (The Orchard Project):
From John Fisher:
Great to see you thinking about more events - I thought it might help to tell you what work we intend to do. I'm putting forward a case this week to an organisation called the peoples trust for endangered species that gives grants for purchasing fruit trees for orchards - if successful we can plant up the vacant spaces during march. You may want to leave the two vacant tree spaces in the centre of the orchard free to give you room for future events.
We as Bromley countryside volunteers are scheduling in at least one day to complete the pruning on the 30 odd remaining trees - however if I can't get that scheduled earlier than main blossom time then we might decide to roll over this work into next winter. In any event next winter I want us to coppice 3 large hazel stools that we have uncovered - that will mean that we will have a source for hedgelaying materials in the orchard later. In the meantime I will at least spend a couple of days over the next two months pruning back lower branches [on the trees not already pruned] to enable the late summer mow. If we are not going to do a full prune of the 30 remaining trees - we will still do a tidy up - there is moss to be removed from site, stuff requiring stacking and the fire sites cleared.
I would like us to conduct an experiment during April/May with one row of trees to take out and space some of the blossom to produce less - but higher quality - fruit.
During the next couple of months I would also like to take an inventory of what is in the scrub/tree border on the right hand side [looking up from north end lane] - we know there are plum suckers in there and it would be good to know what else. I will try to write something on lichens for you this week.
From Ella Hashemi:
What a fantastic January for the orchard ! We have pruned half the orchard and the Wassail was just great - full of energy and enthusiasm. Well done to the team and especially Eve for embracing the unknown and taking the lead on organising.
I will post photos from our pruning days on our facebook page here:
https://www.facebook.com/WeAreTheOrchardProject/. Let me know if anyone wants higher quality versions for reproduction, I'm happy to send them on.
John - is there anything we/I can do to add capacity to your intention of doing another pruning day in the orchard this month? Happy to publicise or create an Eventbrite page for bookings if that feels relevant.
Regarding new fruit trees, filling in the gaps with a PTES grant sounds great. We have a few tree nurseries around London with 1 year old apples that we have grafted, a few different varieties and rootstocks. If PTES doesn't work out then I can look into selling on some of those.
Next up on our orcharding year is Grafting! Grafting workshops are a chance to learn how to make fruit trees, with the option of taking a tree you have grafted home. We will be running 4 regional workshops across London to make sure each of our orchard groups has fairly local access to a workshop space. The nearest workshop to Downe will be at Chinbrook Orchard, Lewisham. There will be up to 5 spaces for Downe orchardists, if there is more demand than places from people on this email group I will pick names at random. Do fill in your availability for the workshop here: http://doodle.com/poll/bcf6afufz28rd6z9
Really like the sound of an April blossom day or May Day being in the orchard, it would be a great use of the space. Ishpi the volunteer ecologist who documented the rare lichens in the orchard is really excited about what is happening in the orchard and would like to offer the possibility of doing a Lichen Walk/Workshop when the weather gets warmer. I am happy to organise this and publicise nearer the time, I will speak with her about what time of year is appropriate.
Last but not least, does anyone have contact details for the woman who was talking pictures and films of the Wassail? She intended to send on the footage but has not got in touch.
Orchard Restoration Project Manager, Celebration of Orchards
The Orchard Project
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The Orchard Project is the working name for The Orchard Project (Cause) Ltd, a registered charity (no. 1139952) and company limited by guarantee (no. 06902160). Registered address 48 Collier Street, London, N1 9QZ
Downe community orchard - an article by Brenda Powell from the Parish Magazine a few years ago:
You may recall seeing old photos of cottages built to the road edge in front of Walnut Tree House, known as Ivy Cottages. Long since gone, but in compensation for not having a garden, Lord Avebury allocated strips of land for his tenants to grow their own on the now orchard site. The cottages were demolished and allotments created for villagers.
Formerly known as the Downe Allotment Site, there was only one allotment in use, the rest was overgrown and derelict. In November 1991, a meeting was held in the Village Hall between the Sub-Committee of the Residents’ Assn., with Colin Buttery from Bromley Council. It was agreed to create an orchard, with old Kentish varieties of apples, in an effort to replace some of the lost orchards in the ’87 and ’89 storms. A special invite was extended to Len Jones of Weller Place, who had a lifetime of expertise in managing orchards. He presented Colin with a book printed in 1946 “Fruit Tree Growing” which Colin was delighted with, as it would save so much time researching the older varieties. The fruit would be for the benefit of the parishoners.
The Spring of ’92 saw whole families arriving onsite to start the planting programme. 50 people came to plant the trees and stake them under Colin’s guidance. The children put their names on the trees they had planted so they could watch their progress. This was the first batch, as to obtain 76 trees of a particular variety posed a problem with nurserymen, the second planting took place in the Autumn. When each batch was completed, we assembled to toast the orchard with cider (apple juice for the children!) and reflected on the unbelievable improvement the old allotments had undergone. It really was great fun, thoroughly enjoyed by all.
The Rangers from High Elms were assigned to care for it and contractors cut the grass twice a year. The first ‘cut back’ (excuse the pun) came with cutting the grass once a year. This made it impossible to use the site as intended for village gatherings, as the planting of three mature apple trees at the North End Lane end
encroached on the reserved events area. We had a couple of Apple Days, some of us worked hard on mulching, and we also helped with planting mistletoe seeds on the branches.