Our Bramley apple trees were old and overgrown when we moved to this house in the early 1980's, but every spring they're covered in blossom and produce more fruit than we can ever eat. Woodpeckers nest in the hollows, mistletoe flourishes, and squirrels, pursued by our cats, traverse the garden in their high branches. We thought last year's hot dry summer would result in a small crop, but instead the tallest tree produced enormous apples, many of which smashed to pieces as they fell on the hard-baked earth.
One whole one that I picked up weighed 580gms or 1lb 4.5ozs - just 4ozs short of the quantity needed to make Apple Crumble for 6! It seems that these trees continue to be productive to a very great age: the book "Great British Trees", published by The Tree Council, tells me that the original Bramley Apple is still growing in private grounds in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.
It was grown from a pip by Mary Ann Brailsford between 1809 and 1815. The pip is thought to have come from an apple tree in her garden and grew into a fine seedling which was planted out and bore its first fruit in 1837. Twenty years later a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather, recognized the apple as an excellent variety and asked Mr Bramley, the then owner of the tree, for permission to take cuttings. Mr Bramley agreed but insisted that it should bear his name - hence Bramley's Seedling, when it really should have been Brailsford's Seedling!
In about 1900, the tree fell over but, as it remained rooted, it continued to grow and produce new roots where the trunk touched the ground. Nottingham University recently cloned the tree and a new specimen is now growing in the garden. The original tree, however, is still producing heavy crops of Bramley apples.