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The Fordham

Community Orchard


The Fordham Community Orchard

Since 1990 Essex has suffered the fastest loss of orchards in eastern England. A survey in 2007 revealed that, of 251 orchards in 1990 only 148 remained, and most of these were in a neglected state. Many of the traditional regional fruit varieties once sold in local markets and shops are often now little known or hard to find, with most people shopping in supermarkets, which offer a limited choice, often of foreign origin, and chosen more for aesthetic quality than taste. With this has come the decline in associated community events and once important activities such as cider and perry making.

The idea of a community orchard was conceived when the Woodland Trust came to Fordham and they agreed to make land available for the project.

After a public meeting in the village hall in 2008, opinion was gauged to be in favour of proceeding with a village orchard project.

It was hoped to create an orchard to help with the preservation of old traditional varieties, for and involving the Fordham community, with maintenance sessions, (where people might learn to prune and manage trees), harvesting events, an annual " Apple Day " fete (possibly apple bobbing, cider contest etc.), and school involvement all envisaged. It should be a nice place to visit and might incorporate a footpath and picnic area, with natural wild flowers growing. The size of the orchard should produce more than enough fruit for those that want it.

The story so far

The Woodland Trust have kindly agreed to allocate us a plot of land, and a licence for this is being drawn-up. An area of land in the corner of the field opposite the new houses in Rams Farm Rd, of approximately 2 acres has now been chosen for the site.

Fifty seven fruit trees including apples, pears, plums and cherries have been chosen, with the emphasis put on preserving local, east of England, traditional varieties, and for reasons such as their interesting names, historical interest or for their attractive blossom.

The majority of the trees will come from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, and the National Collection at Brogdale Nursery.

The cost of the trees has been covered by a grant of £700 from the Essex Biodiversity Project, who have ordered them on our behalf, to be with us and ready for planting in January 2011.This should also buy some wire netting for tree guards.

The original plan for a boundary fence and gates has now been discarded in favour of a hedge which it was felt would be more attractive, cheaper and harbour wildlife.

The supply and funding for this is being investigated at the moment; we are hoping to get a grant through the Essex and Suffolk Water, Abberton Scheme, Neighbourhood Fund which is for communities affected by the work on a new pipeline through to Abberton Reservoir, which will come through Fordham.

We had a promotional stall at the Fordham Garden Fair where despite the inclement weather, we talked to lots of interested folk and managed to raise nearly £100 in sales and donations.

Planned events

We are now planning a public meeting, to be held this summer where we hope to form an official Fordham Orchard Group and discuss how the orchard should be administered and funded in the future, and perhaps sign up members, vote in a committee, and approve a draft constitution which has been drawn up.

A village Apple Day fête has been planned, to be held at the school on Sunday 26th September 2010, where there will be talks and demonstrations from a bee-keeper, Neil Catchpole (who collects old farm implements and songs), Andrew Tann (a fruit grower from Aldham who grows many of the old varieties and to whom we are very grateful for help and advice), lady clog-dancers and live music from Roger Digby and friends.We would welcome any more ideas/stalls/help for this

In future years this event this event might be held at the orchard.

It is hoped to have some planting days in January 2011, where help to dig holes, erect tree guards etc would be most welcome but due to the delicate nature of the new trees they will have to be planted by the experts.

The Trees

The following fruit trees have been chosen and ordered. There is still room for a few more to be added later if somebody feels strongly about a particular variety or feels we have missed something important.

East of England Apples

  • Banns: Received from Norfolk 1928. Large, sweet scented flavour, reminiscent of elderflowers.
  • Barnack Beauty: Raised c.1840 at Barnack, Lincolnshire.Showy, bold red markings. Strong brisk taste. Ornamental tree, striking in fruit and blossom. Also used for cooking. Bright orange red flush, red stripes over gold, russet dots.
  • Chelmsford Wonder: Raised c.1870 by a mechanic near Chelmsford, Essex. Makes good apple sauce. Soft and juicy when baked. Still found in old Essex orchards. Diffuse pink orange flush, faint red stripes over yellow.
  • Cottenham Seedling: Raised by Robert Norman, Cottenham Cambridge. Attractive light flush over gold. A good sauce apple.
  • D'Arcy Spice: Found c.1785 in garden of the hall, Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex. Hot spicy nutmeg-like flavour by new year. Fairly sharp but sweetens. Traditionally picked on Guy Fawkes day and stored in sacks hung on the trees. Bright greenish-yellow, becomes dark, brick red flush over gold.
  • Desse de Buff: Exhibited 1900 by Laxton Bros., Bedfordshire. Sharp firm keeps shape when cooked.
  • Golden Noble: Discovered in old orchard at Downham, Norfolk, by Patrick Flanagan head gardener to Sir Thomas Hare, Stowe Hall, Norfolk. Very good for pies and baked has a creamy texture, needs little sugar. A prized Edwardian and Victorian cooker. Pale light green turning gold.
  • Grey Pippin: Found at Mount Bures c.1980 by John Tann, fruit grower of Aldham, Essex. May be an old Essex variety exhibited c.1883 by Mr. Saltmarsh. Quite sweet fruity and pleasant. Golden, heavily strewn with russet dots.
  • Herrings Pippin: Probably raised by Mr. Herring of Lincoln. Recorded 1908. Not a local fruit but the name is significant to Fordham. There was once a Herrings Wood at Fordham, William Herring was Rector of Fordham church 1839-1868, the Herring family gave money to build the village hall 1920, and Herrings Way now stands on part of the old orchard site. Striking, large bright red. Crisp, juicy, flavour of aniseed
  • Isaac Newton Tree: Propagated from a tree growing in Isaac Newton's garden at Woolsthorpe Manor,Near Grantham, Lincolnshire. Cooks to a sweet delicately flavoured purée. Large heavily ribbed.
  • Macleans Favourite: May be a variety raised c.1820 by Dr. Alan Maclean of Colchester, Essex. Rich, sweet sharp, almost pineapple flavour.
  • Maxton: Discovered 1939 by R. Heseltine, Assington, Suffolk. A local clone of Laxton's Superb. Sweetness is its main feature, quite juicy flesh. Deep reddish purple, red stripes over greenish yellow.
  • Schoolmaster: Believed raised c.1855 either from seed or imported Canadian apple in old Stamford Grammar School garden, Stamford, Lincolnshire. Cooks to a sharp white froth or purée. Good fruity, brisk taste.
  • Stanway Seedling: Essex. Recorded 1899. Large, quite sharp.
  • Sweet and pleasant when cooked.
  • St. Edmunds Russet: Raised by R. Harvey at bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk c.1875. Sweet, juicy, rich densely textured, pale cream flesh. When really ripe tastes like pear flavoured vanilla ice cream. Disappointing if picked too early. Light russet with silvery sheen over greenish yellow gold ground colour.
  • Sturmer Pippin: Arose in the garden of Mr. Dillistone, Rectory House, Sturmer, Near Haverhill, Suffolk. Sweet, crisp, juicy but needs plenty of autumn sunshine to build up sugar and flavour.
  • A popular Victorian garden apple. Slightly orange brown flush over greenish yellow, turning to pinky brown over gold by February.
  • Tun Apple: An Essex apple from the village of Sandon, between Chelmsford and Danbury.
Guest Apples
  • American Mother: U.S.A. Worcester County, Massachusettes. Recorded 1884. Flavour of pear-drops. Aromatic with exotic quality. Popular in 1920-30s. Found in many old orchards, and was growing in the old orchard in Fordham. Margaret "Girly" Playle's favourite apple.
  • Ananas Reinette: Netherlands. Recorded 1821 by German pomologist Diel. Formerly much-grown in Germany where it is still valued. Used in cooking and for juice. Develops pineapple flavour by November, with intense sweet, sharp quality. Crisp, juicy.
  • Bold russet freckles over gold. Very decorative.
  • Anisa: France. Best-known of the "Anise" apples of the Basse Pyrenees dating from 19th century. Sharp strong aniseed flavour.
  • Pretty red cheek under russet.
  • Blenheim Orange: Oxfordshire. Discovered c.1840 by Kempster at Woodstock. Good with cheese, larger fruit used for apple charlotte. Orange red flush, red stripes, russet patches.
  • Cox's Orange Pippin: U.K. Raised c.1825 by Richard Cox, retired brewer at Colnbrook Lawn, Slough, Bucks.
  • Sweet, intense aromatic flavour. Orange red flush, red stripes over greenish-yellow, turning gold.
  • Cornish Gilliflower: Found in a cottage garden Truro, Cornwall c.1800. Becomes intensely flavoured in late October, rich, aromatic.
  • A popular garden variety. Dark red flush, red stripes over gold.
  • Court Pendu Platt: France. Mentioned by J. Bauhin c.1613 who found it growing among Gallic Roman ruins at Mandeure, Doubs, Franche-Comté. Rich, fruity with strong pineapple-like flavour.
  • Among top ten Victorian dessert apples. Prized for its vermillion flush. Very decorative.
  • James Grieve: Raised by James Grieve in Edinburgh, introduced by Dixon's Nursery where he was a manager c.1893. Savoury, juicy, strong acidity early in season. Makes sweet delicate stewed apple. Red flush, stripes over green-yellow.
  • Keswick codlin: Found on a rubbish heap near Ulverston, Lancs. Introduced by J.Saunders, nurseryman of Keswick 1793. Makes good apple jelly, good dessert apple. Very decorative blossom, used for arbours and tunnels. Pale green, pale yellow, darker yellow flush.
  • Oxford Beauty: Raised by F.N.Wastie, Eynsham, Oxford. Gascoyne's Scarlet cross Scarlet Nonpareil. Recorded 1944. Beautiful clear red flush. Sweet, lightly flavoured, white flesh.
  • Pigs Nose Pippin: Hereford c.1884. Attractive, small with a wide shallow basin, making the top of the fruit look like a pig's nose. Sweet crisp flesh.
  • Reverend W. Wilkes: Raised by J. Allgrove, manager of Langley Nurseries, Slough of Messrs JamesVeitch.
  • Thought to be Peasgoods-nonsuch cross Ribston Pippin. Named after Rev. W.Wilkes secretary of the R.H.S. Good baking and exhibition apple. Pale cream, mottled orange, splashed red stripes.
  • Stonehenge: Canada 1927. Monolithic, very large, ribbed, refreshing, light taste, quite sweet.
  • Sweet Merlin: Cornwall 1954. Very sweet, almost no acidity. Slightly scented, probable cider apple origins.
  • Yellow Ingestre: Raised c.1800 by T.A.Knight, Shropshire. Cox's Orange Pippin cross Golden Pippin. Best in early September. Recommended in 1890s as " A charming lawn tree on account of its beautiful drooping habit". Very decorative in blossom. Fruit greenish-yellow, turning yellow.
Cider Apples
  • Browns: A traditional English variety originating from Devon. Known for its sharp juice.
  • Kingston Black: Thought to have arisen from the village of Kingston near Taunton Somerset, late 19th century.
  • Bittersharp. Dark maroon flushed. Small.Produces a full-bodied cider with a distinctive flavour.
  • Tom Putt: Raised late 1700s by either Rev.Thomas Putt Rector of Trent or his barrister uncle, Tom Putt at the family estate Gittisham, near Honiton Devon and brought to the vicarage.
  • Bright red flush, stripes quite sharp, but sweet. Widely grown in the west-country and midlands up to early 1900s.
  • Yarlington Mill: Found growing from a wall by a watermill at Yarlington, North Cadbury, early 1900s. Transplanted and propagated at Yarlington Mill probably by nurseryman Harry Masters. Widely planted in orchards of Somerset and West Midlands. Produces a slightly astringent medium bittersweet cider with good aroma and flavour. Flushed red over pale yellow.
East of England Pears
  • Beurre Bedford: Raised by Laxton Bros, Bedfordshire 1902 and introduced 1921. Cross Marie Louise and Durondeau. Medium yellow, pink flush, sweet, slightly aromatic flavour.
  • Gansels Bergamot: First recorded 1768. Believed raised at Donyland Park, Colchester by Lt. Gen.Gansel, may have French origins. Medium green, some russetting. Coarse, sweet flesh.
  • Johnny Mount Pear: Well-known in Colchester area pre1900. Exact origins unknown. Medium green, russet, sweet.
  • Laxtons Record: Raised by Laxton Bros.,Bedfordshire c.1900. Cross Marie Louise and Doyenne du Comice. Medium large, yellow/green flushed red patchy russet. Sweet, soft flesh.
  • Robin: Norfolk pre 1900. Once very common in Norfolk . Might be the lost, old variety "London Sugar" listed in the 1796 catalogue of George Lidley, Catton, Norwich. Small flushed red, sweet.
  • Suffolk Thorn: Raised at Clavering Hall pre 1841 by Andrew Arcedeckene. Parentage probably includes Gansels Bergamot as very similar in appearance. Green flushed orange. Sweet coarse flesh.
Perry Pears
  • Blakeney Red: The most common perry pear, also known as Circus Pear, Red Pear, Painted Lady, and Painted Pear. Originating from the village of Blakeney, Forest of Dean. Known to be in existence in 1600, some trees are now over 300 years old. Has been considered a desert pear, and could be stewed and used to dye soldiers' khaki uniforms. Medium sweet and full-bodied, is popular for single variety perry making. Greenish/yellow with a red flush on the sunny side.
  • Malvern Hills: Widely known as Moorcroft, originates from Moorcroft Farm, Colwall, Malvern, Worcestershire. Also known as Malvern Pear, and Choker/Choke Pear (a possible reference to the tannic qualities of perry pears). Another name is Stinking Bishop, which was posthumously named after the breeder, Mr.Bishop who had a particularly ugly temperament. Perry from this pear is used in the production process of the notoriously foul smelling Stinking Bishop cheese. Renowned for producing an excellent perry.
  • Pyrus Communis: Britain's native wild pear, and known in Northern Europe for thousands of years. May originally have been introduced by man. Possible Chinese origins. Species from which most orchard pears are derived, and widely used for rootstock grafting.
  • Cambridge Gage: Believed to have originated in the Cambridge area from a greengage seedling. Adopted by Chivers and Son, Cambridge who sent it to the National Fruit Trials 1927. Now favoured as a commercial crop. Good as dessert plum, and for jam making. Green skin with heavy bloom. Yellow flesh, rich flavour.
  • Coe's Golden Drop: Produced by Jervaise Coe, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, late 1700s. He believed the original seedling to be a cross between a Greengage and a White Magnum Bonum growing nearby. Golden yellow with red/brown specks, Juicy yellow flesh, stone free.
  • Early Laxton: Raised by Laxton Bros., Laxton, Bedfordshire, 1902. Cross between Catalonia and Rivers Early Prolific. Received Award of Merit from R.H.S. Good for cooking and early dessert plum.
  • Small-medium fruit. Yellow skin with pink/red flush and red spots. Lavender bloom.
  • Goldfinch: Raised by Laxton Bros., Bedford 1906. Cross between Early Transparent Gage and Jefferson's. Award of Merit from RHS 1952. Large yellow fruit, rich sweet flavour.
  • Late Transparent Gage: Raised at Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, 1882. "Transparent" refers to the transparent skin-the stone may be seen when the fruit is held up to sunlight. Probable French origins. Yellow, sweet, dessert use
  • Victoria Plum: A very well known plum, included by popular demand. Originally found in a garden in Alderton, Sussex and bought by a nurseryman, Mr. Denyer of Brixton, London, who introduced the variety c.1840. Popular dessert and culinary plum. Pinkish/red skin with a pale blue bloom. Yellow, grainy, firm flesh.
  • Polstead Black: "Polstead Cherries, Polstead Cherries as red as the blood of Maria Martin". This was the cry of the cherry vendors on Sudbury market, referring to the victim of the infamous Red Barn murder which brought notoriety to Polstead in 1828. A book from 1831 notes this cherry growing in other areas known by the local names, Merry Cherry, Common Black of Buckinghamshire and Mazzard. The Polstead fruit was known as "Merries" from the French Merise, a shortening of Amère Cerise meaning Bitter Cherry. This is however a sweet cherry. Small and black.
Probably derives from a variety introduced by the Romans.

Three more cherries a quince and medlar to follow


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