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Pam Reed at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse's Apple Day. She will be glad to see the back of the 2012 season after a succession of setbacks to her fruit crop caused by the weather. picture by Ian Burt.
By MARK TWEEDIE
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Feeling your mouth watering as you inspected the assortment of scrumptious fruit all around, you could be forgiven for wondering why some apple growers will be mighty glad to see the back of 2012.
But tales of woe in Norfolk’s orchards and back gardens this season could be heard at the annual Apple Day event at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, which drew thousands of people from far and wide to the museum today.
At Ashill Fruit Farm’s stand, Pam Reed and son Philip were doing a brisk trade serving customers with everything from the ubiquitous Bramleys and Braeburns to lesser-known varieties including Pam’s clear favourite, Norfolk Royal Russet (“It’s got the most intense, sweet, delicious flavour,” she says).
But she added: “It’s just been an an awful year altogether.
“It was a combination of things for us, really. The weather was so bad, and so were the bumble bee numbers. I think the early broods must have died off: there was just no foraging for them.
“Then we had late, sharp frosts, oh, and then it hailed...”
However, Pam said she would continue to put faith in the 15 or so acres of apple orchards that her family had tended in the village near Watton for more than 20 years. And that’s good news for those, including her, who lament the loss of so many of Norfolk’s apple trees in modern times.
“It’s very sad. They are part of our tradition, and the varieties are all so different,” she said.
One reason to be more cheerful was the number of people visiting the East of England Apples and Orchards Project marquee to find the ideal apple tree for them to grow on their plot: the pale green Robert Blatchford, perhaps, a yellow-skinned Horsford Prolific or a vivid-red Norfolk Royal.
Apple Day is the Gressenhall museum’s biggest single-day event of the year and attracted people of all ages. Apart from crunching whole fruits, they could sample apple juices, mulled or otherwise, and cider, munch toffee apples, see displays of crafts, bygone engines and machinery, watch dancing and join in with the afternoon parade.
Proving quite a draw was a come-and-try session run by Downham Market-based Grey Goose Archery. At the William Tell-themed attraction, all-comers could try firing their arrow at an apple - though for the inexperienced it was attached to a Golden Shot-style conventional target rather than being perched on someone’s head.
Hannah Jackson, of Gressenhall’s organising team, said: “We thought it would be popular. With the Olympics, archery has been in everyone’s minds this year.”
A “shoo-before-shooting” policy to control pigeons has been described by a leading Norfolk farmer as “completely bonkers”.