23 March 2017

The start of the new season

The group annual meeting was held yesterday to look toward the new season and make plans for activities and events for 2017.  The overwhelming consensus was that we should have an Apple Day this year.

We have set the date for Apple Day on Sunday 15th October 2017.  Obviously, it depends on whether there are any hard frosts at the critical blossom stage.

We also wanted to thank Paul Chilton for all his work for the group and for the village.  As a retired fruit farmer, Paul is our resident expert on anything to do with fruit trees and fruit growing.

This project started in 2009 with a survey of all the apple trees in the village.  What started as a curious question (why do we have so many?) has resulted in Brightwell cum Sotwell being identified as the village with the most fruit trees and also the most varieties in the whole of south Oxfordshire.

It is this record that wouldn't have been possible without Paul.  You can give him 10 different apples, all looking the same to the eye, but Paul will be able to name each one straight away. No other village has identified 91 varieties.

We  presented Paul with a copy of  The New Sylva a Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees by Sarah Simblet and Gabriel Hembery of the Sylva Foundation (from our neighbouring village Long Wittenham). The illustrations are just wonderful and Paul was clearly pleased.

25 February 2017

Shaping up

The hawthorn trees bounding the orchard had grown really high and were encroaching on the trees planted around the perimeter. They were taking out a lot of light as well so it was felt that the trees needed to be tamed.

The adult crew of volunteers were joined by 10 cubs and one beaver. No slouching or nipping off to climb trees these kids were really keen and got stuck in. In two hours we had really made a difference to the light and access and the beetles and fugus will benefit from the wildlife stacks created in the undergrowth.

3 February 2017

Learning how to prune apple trees

Saturday 4 February - 10.00
We had the opportunity to learn how to prune apple trees in a traditional orchard in the village. It looked a bit daunting at first but the trees are all a reasonable height and we had plenty of time to learn from the expert and practice our new skills. You've just got to take the plunge and make that cut.

Saturday 11 February - 10.00
This session in the community orchard required a real working party with muscle and wheelbarrow.  We pruned the 45 trees, cleared the weeds at the base and spread manure around the trees.

3 January 2017

Wassail 2017

Did you go to Wassail this year? - it  was excellent, full of all the old traditions and festivities.  Paul estimated that there were about 230 people at the start of the celebrations, significantly more than last year.

The weather was perfect, the dancers Armaleggan were as impressive as ever, the musicians and singers provided the good cheer, our Master of Ceremonies did a splendid job and this year we had two guns to drive away the evil spirits. This year the evil count in the mummers play wore a hard hat and brandished a spade, much to the crowd's delight when he was defeated by the valiant king.

We also had two unusual guests - a mare and a hare; the hare made the fantastic costumes. I'm not sure who they were!

The fireworks were a fantastic end to our wassailing.

Our master of ceremonies at the start of the procession

The two guns who will drive away the evil spirits from the orchard

Musicians for good cheer and the Wassail song

The mare and the hare


Full dressing up

Wake up! Wake up!

All the trees are visited and told to wake up for the new spring

The crowds and the mare

Armaleggan dancers

The mare

and the hare

Fine musicians

Wassailing the village orchard

By torchlight as the day fades

22 December 2016

Cubs Centenary Celebrations

The Cubs worldwide celebrated their centenary on 16 December 2016.

Brightwell cum Sotwell has a wonderful pack of cubs and they all wanted to celebrate with a party and something to mark this momentous milestone.

As with the Mulberry tree planted in the village to mark the 90th birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II, which was also donated by the Orchard Group, the idea of a Cubs Centenary tree was another great opportunity to plant something for the future.

Paul Chilton, our fruit tree expert, made a presentation to the cubs earlier this autumn, talking all about the particular trees which would grow well on the recreation ground next to the Scout Hut.  He suggested 8 different types and the cubs chose two hollies (one male and one female so there would be berries for the birds), a sweet chestnut and one silver birch.

In years to come, whether some of these cubs live in the village or return for a visit, they will be able to remember planting these three trees as young boys and girls.

23 October 2016

Pressing at the pub

Our second pressing at the Red Lion was a great success.  We pressed over 700 lbs / 300 kgs of apples picked from gardens and orchards in the village.

I checked this morning and Waitrose only had 8 varieties of apple for sale; the normal commercial crop and all perfectly formed. We had picked Blenheim Orange, St Cecilia, Cox's Orange Pippin, Charles Ross, Bramley's Seedling, Egremont Russet, Spartan, Ashmead Kernel, Lord Lambourne and Adam's Pearmain.

The under 8 football team had just finished their match at the rec so we had a whole team of enthusiastic boys with very muddy knees helping to make another batch of juice.  With the crusher and hydro press luckily it didn't take very long before they were filling bottles with juice to take home.

1 October 2016

Pressing Day Cakes and Coffee

The shop will be running a pop-up cafĂ© in the Stewart Room of the Village Hall as part of the Apple Pressing Day. The aim is to raise money towards a new Epos till. It doesn't sound very glamorous but it will make yet another great improvement to the running of the shop. There will be, of course, plenty of cakes, pies, chutneys, and local food, many with an apple theme. Why not enjoy a cake with your coffee and maybe even buy a pudding for the Sunday lunch?