Common Ground was founded in 1983 with a remit to seek imaginative ways to engage people appreciate their local environment. In 1990 they pronounced Apple Day as 21st October. This would link the apples we eat with the people that grow them and the places they are grown, and would raise awareness of our relationship with the land and the connections between local production, social customs, culture and ecological care.
Although Apple Day was to be a celebration of the apple in its own right, it would also raise the profile of the incredibly wide range of heritage apple varieties, some of which are quite rare, and in danger of being lost. One reason for this is that commercial growers prefer to concentrate on the more recognised varieties that tend to be more reliable and easier to maintain and harvest.
Bridport Community Orchard chooses the most appropriate date in October to the 21st October, and it is normally on the second Saturday of that month.
Bridport Apple Day is a fantastic fun event, with a wonderful atmosphere and lots of apple related attractions. Our first event was in 2008, and we’ve had one every year since. Attractions include a children’s play area, sales of cakes, cider, ploughman’s lunches, preserves etc. There are other attractions such as information on bees (we have three bee hives in the orchard to assist with pollination), and apple tasting.
We also have entertainment attractions, with music, dancing and even a specially written Mummers Play! The event has grown in popularity, and now attracts several hundreds of people each year. It has become a firm favourite on Bridport’s very varied and busy entertainments calendar.
For Apple Day, one of our main objectives is to showcase our fantastic home pressed apple juice, and for this we take an approach that has two strands. In the three months ahead of Apple Day, we gather apples from the community orchard as they ripen (for early varieties such as Discovery, this can be early August) and we press them using a proprietary apple press. This juice is then frozen for use at future events such as Wassail, or is bottled and pasteurised and made available for sale at local events in Bridport, and is available for purchase until stocks run out early the following winter. Then, on Apple Day itself we press apples to produce fresh apple juice that is sold to visitors, and is greeted with wide acclaim from adults and children alike!
Whilst our community orchard is relatively young, we need to supplement our apples with others that are grown locally, and local residents are pleased to allow us to gather some of their apples. Without their generosity, our Apple Days would have been very ‘dry’ affairs! However, as our trees mature and become more productive, we will become less reliant on local donations, and be more self sufficient in terms of home grown fruit and it’s associated juice.
Apple Day is our major annual fund raiser, with the proceeds contributing to the orchard maintenance expenses, the development of exciting new orchard related attractions, and ensuring the infrastructure meets necessary standards.
With very grateful thanks to Sue Clifford and Angela King from Common Ground, and their book “England in Particular” published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2006, from which some of the background described here has been obtained.