We own one orchard and look after three others where we manage the orchard and pick the fruit. The long term goal is to rely just on these few orchards but while we are getting established we occasionally pick fruit from other local orchards which are unsprayed (and often otherwise untouched), usually to find a particular variety of interest or useful chacracter. All of the orchards we pick from or look after are traditional orchards with large trees, grazed by animals during the spring or summer.
Home Orchard (Limcburn Hill)
Our 4.5 acre orchard has been planted as an orchard since at least 1760, and must have gone through several iterations in that time. We have a few old trees which are in their nineties, while most are around 15-25 years old, planted by the previous owner during restoration work. We have gapped up the orchard completely now with another 35 trees, and planted a new small 22 tree orchard in the next door field. We have also embarked on a top working project to convert the Bulmer's Norman and Michelin trees to sharp and bitter sharp varieties to bring the orchard into balance. The main bittersweets here are Dabinett, Major, Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jersey. The new top worked varieties are Foxwhelp, Porter's Perfection, Court de Wyck and Kingston Black. We have planted Stoke Red, Cap of Liberty, Knotted Kernel, more Foxwhelp, Pennard Bitter, Improved Lambrook Pippin, Gin and Dymock Red. In ten years time this orchard will be where we want it. The soil is variable, clay or heavy loam over clay with limestone in places. It slopes gently south and is fairly exposed to the wind from the Mendips. Since February 2019 this orchard and the rest of the farm has been certified as Organic.
An extraordinary orchard on Ditcheat Hill, which slopes quite steeply south and gets all of the sun going. The soil is deep loam at the top, thinning out down the slope to clay and heavy clay at the bottom. In the loam drainage is good and the underlying rock is limestone. The varieties existing are Yarlington Mill, Ashton Brown Jersey, Browns Apple, Dove, Improved Hangdown, Red Jersey, Bulmer's Norman, Sweet Coppin, Harry Master's Jersey and Dabinett. We have added Kingston Black, Stoke Red, Porter's Perfection and more Dabinett into gaps.
We are lucky enough to look after part of the old Coates' Cider orchard in Abbot's Leigh, just outside Bristol. Planted in 1951, it was an experimental orchard and some of the trialled varieties were subsequently top worked in the 60's. Predominantly the varieties are Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Dove, Tremlett's Bitter and Bulmer's Norman, but there is one row of Stoke Red, a couple of Browns and one Nehou. The trees are huge, and probably grown on seedling rootstocks, they must initally have been trained as goblet bush trees, but have ended up with a number of tall, hardly branched trunks with the canopy very high like giant broccoli. The soil is heavy loam over limestone with high organic matter and lots of diversity in the understory. We have embarked on a pruning programme to reduce biennialism, raise fruit quality and let more light into the understory to encourage grass growth and improve the landing and keeping on the floor.
The original old orchard here was replanted in the 90's with help from Somerset County Council, when they were promoting traditional orcharding. There are a number of dessert and cooking apples as well as cider apples Yarlington Mill, Harry Master's Jersey, Dabinett, Kingston Black, Tremlett's Bitter and Bulmer's Norman. The trees have previously been well pruned in a centre leader shape and we are getting them back to a good state. Soil is clay over limestone.