Tricia Harris – Helmsley Walled Garden
As the unseasonal cold weather whips the blossom from the fruit trees, it’s hard to think of summer and apple harvests. But sure enough, if the bees have done their work, the branches will have plenty of fruit for us to collect to turn into pies, chutney and juice by then.
Helmsley Walled Garden has over one hundred different apple trees. One particular collection surrounding the community allotments, is the Yorkshire collection. This is a collection of apple trees that have proven to grow well in cooler northern climes. Some, like Acklam Russet, first recorded in the village of Acklam in 1768 have been here for centuries. Others, like Charles Ross, were originally first grown in Berkshire, but have grown well up here for over 100 years. But whether it’s Keswick Codlin or Ribstone Pippin; Hunthouse or Cockpit, all do well in Yorkshire.
All of these apples were grown for their taste and keeping qualities. Cooking apples such as Lane’s Prince Albert and Alfriston, if stored in a cool, dry place without touching, will keep throughout the winter. The original Walled Garden was created to supply the fruit and vegetables to the nearby Estate House – Duncombe Park – and had plenty of suitable storage space. The current office buildings against the north wall would have had an apple store, a root vegetable store, a grape room plus dark forcing rooms for chicory and early rhubarb. These rooms and the gardeners’ ingenuity, ensured that as required there were supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables all year round.
If you want to find out a bit more about local apples, come and see the local collection here at Helmsley Walled Garden. The Garden will be having an apple day on 3 October when you will be able to try some of them and get to appreciate the subtle differences of taste, smell and texture.
You can also read up on a wide range of apple varieties on websites such as www.orangepippin.com to find out more about Britain’s favourite fruit.
Traditional Orchards are one of the United Kingdom’s priority habitats. Priority habitats are semi-natural habitat types considered to be the most threatened and therefore requiring conservation action. Traditional Orchards are one of the rarer priority habitat types in terms of area. This composite habitat is defined as groups of fruit and/or nut trees planted on vigorous rootstocks at low densities in permanent grassland; and managed in a low intensity way. An important part of the biodiversity of a Traditional Orchard is the diversity of the fruit itself, valued as something worth conserving and not allowing to be lost for want of trying.
Traditional Orchards are still important for landscape and local heritage, alongside biodiversity. Historically many farmsteads and sometimes villages would have had their own small orchard, you can see this on historic Ordnance Survey maps where little tree symbols are set out in neat rows next to habitation. In the North York Moors Traditional Orchards are mainly still found on the southern edge, in the dales in the Esk Valley, and around Whitby.
Traditional Orchards are an example of a semi natural partly contrived habitat where man has manipulated the natural environment and biodiversity has adapted – perfect little ecosystems producing an end product of value to society. Like many semi-natural habitats, Traditional Orchards need management to survive.
For more information on how to manage a traditional orchard – see here.