As this was the first Brightwell-cum-Sotwell Apple Day at the Red Lion we had no idea how many people would join us, but it proved to be very popular with, we estimate, over 150 people attending the event. Along with many villagers, there were visitors from Wallingford, Didcot, Abingdon and local villages, as well as apple enthusiasts from as far away as Oxford, Thame, Henley and even Maidenhead.
The pub garden was transformed into an orchard market. Paul Chilton presented a magnificent display of 24 different varieties of desert and cooking apples, all sourced from the village, including: Norfolk Beefing, Rev. W Wilks, Charles Ross, Monarch, Ribston Pippin, Peasgood Nonsuch, to name but a few. John Bloomfield had at least a dozen different varieties for tasting, including: Laxton’s Superb, Blenheim Orange, Lord Lambourne, and two Russets, Egremont and Golden. The Spartan apples were a favourite with the children, especially as once polished on a sleeve they produced a deep red shine, while the connoisseurs ‘apple of choice’ on the day appeared to be Ashmead’s Kernel. The main comment from visitors was how amazed they were to see so much fruit and have a chance to taste so many apples they hadn’t even heard of. All were very impressed with our village juice and there was much discussion and debate about the five different blends available; all 100 bottles sold out.
We started this project because we wanted to take an opportunity to showcase the village fruit, press some juice for people to try and celebrate the impressive number of varieties we have in the village. So far we have discovered 43 varieties of apple.
Throughout September and October apples were picked from gardens and. In all, Paul picked about 500kg of apples for pressing, display and tasting. The day before Apple Day we pressed our own juice using equipment kindly leant by Little Wittenham Manor. Using a hydro press and centrifugal crusher we pressed and pasteurised about 80 litres in 5 hours.
Thank you everyone who contributed to this autumn project, especially those who offered their fruit. We didn’t even scratch the surface of the 600 fruit trees in the village. Next year, if interest is there, we could possibly make a small dent in the village crop.
For more information about the history of Apple Day go to the Commonground website – http://www.commonground.org.uk/
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