Traditionally October 21st is National Apple Day and there are quite a few events in East Anglia to celebrate this, which is great (Common Ground http://www.england-in-particular.info/cg/appleday/index.html). Locally people have got together to press their apple juice too. This year has not been a great year for Orchards as the cold and wet weather in the Spring meant poor pollination and therefore poor crops. Here our cherries, plums and damsons suffered. We had a few pears but our apple crop has generally been good although a couple of trees including our Cox's Orange Pippin didn't fruit.
At one time the whole area around here was farmed as apple orchards and the stores on the farm were used as cold stores for apples. I have an aerial photo from the early 1970's showing the orchards before they were grubbed up. When we arrived in 1993 there was only one apple tree left! However I went to the record office and found a plan of the garden on an Ordnance Survey map from the 1870's and also details of the orchards in a sale document of 1951 - both of these helped me when restoring the garden and planting the orchard in 1998.
The new orchard has 36 trees and each one is different - it might seem strange - but this is how orchards used to be planted to give a succession of fruit rather than having one variety all crop at once as with modern methods. I had great fun researching old fruit varieties and finding ones that had an Essex/Suffolk connection - so of course we have a Sturmer Pippin and a D'Arcy Spice! I went on an Orchard Planting day at Brogdale in Kent, home to the national fruit collection http://www.brogdalecollections.co.uk/index.html and I also went on a pruning day run by the Norfolk Smallholders Training Group http://www.nstg.org.uk/ - both very useful. I sourced apples locally from Ken Leech who was an apple grower in our village (Bulmer) as well as from Brogdale who grafted some specially and Deacon's Nursery on the Isle of Wight. All were planted as whips and trained. Trees were selected for their flavour and also for the coloour of their blossom, also taking in account pollinators. The orchard now is quite mature and the trees are doing well - to the east is a row of cherries, to the south plums and gages, to the west pears and in the middle apples. There are also two crab apples which act as pollinators.
We make apple juice and often freeze it so that we can drink it throughout the year, using a little Vigo masher and press which works well. There are always plenty of apples for visitors, friends and family too!