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Blushing apples and delicious damsons

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Posted: Thursday 17th August 2017 by WildBlog

By Nicole Daw, Avon Wildlife Trust People and Wildlife Officer

This is the time for squeals of delight and gasps of anticipation as our urban orchards come into abundant fruit over the next month or so.

As late summer greets autumn, the effect of months of long days (and some sunshine) on fruiting plants becomes ever more apparent. Boughs of apple and pear trees hang low, laden with fruit. Bramble bushes glisten with blackberry jewels, and hedgerows are a delight of different shades of red berries - from haws, to rowan berries to rose hips. 

I volunteer at my local urban orchard, Woodcroft Community Orchard in St. Anne’s and after a couple of weeks away on holiday I popped down to see how things were going and was welcomed by so much fruit fattening up on the branches that I couldn’t believe my eyes. A hard winter of pruning, mulching, feeding was finally paying off. Our orchard, now five years old is suddenly flourishing and those of us involved can’t quite contain our excitement.

This summer we were treated with gooseberries that ‘actually taste like jam’ and jostaberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants in such abundance we could barely pick them fast enough. Our cherry crop was a little sad, I think we just about managed one each, but there is always next year! Now the real bounty begins with apples, pears, quinces and damsons ripe for picking from now and for the next month or so depending on the variety. Oh, and then come the raspberries! 

But this urban orchard isn’t the only one in Bristol and the surrounding area, in fact there are many mature orchards hidden away in parks and open spaces all over the city. Some are neglected, almost forgotten whilst others are enjoying a resurgence as they are rediscovered by local people. Most recently I visited one in Saltmarsh Drive Open Space in Lawrence Weston and had good fun nibbling the apples to distinguish between eaters, cookers and cider varieties. Biting into the first ripe eater, wow, sweet and juicy, food has never tasted so good! 

Stockwood Open Space boasts a wonderful orchard in its midst, and half has been carefully restored by Friends of Stockwood Open Space and Avon Wildlife Trust volunteers so picking here is easier. Similarly in Manor Woods Valley recent scrub clearance by the council, Avon Wildlife Trust and the local volunteer team from the Malago Valley Conservation Group mean for the first time the trees are easily accessible. All are also surrounded by bramble bushes so you are set for your apple and blackberry crumble! 

Once you get your keen ‘free food’ eye in focus you will start spotting orchard trees all over the place. As I cycle home I look for one particular tree, passed by hundreds of commuters each day, waiting for the right moment to pull over and pluck the fruit as each day they develop a deeper, richer shade of red. Yum!

Find out more about Woodcroft Community Orchard on their Facebook page or see how you can get involved with your local green space as an Avon Wildlife Trust volunteer.

Photo credits: Summer pruning workshop (Chloe Juyon), Nicole apple pressing and the Kingston Black cider apples (Andrew Backinsell)

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