Apple Day on 21st October has been celebrated by thousands of apple lovers around the country for 30 years. Although there won’t be any Apple Day gatherings this year, here’s a look at how some of our apple-champions are still celebrating Dorset’s bountiful apple harvest.
One of our favourite signs of Autumn is the sight of juicy apples flourishing in gardens and orchards. We celebrate our love of apples, and the historic landscapes they sit within, through poems and stories featured in the Stepping into Nature project’s Seasons of Stories Autumn.
Hear more about the inspiration behind the book from the creators storyteller Martin Maudsley and poet Sarah Acton in a short video filmed from, where else but, a beautiful Dorset apple orchard!
The Seasons of Stories Autumn book features ‘Lazy Lawrence’ just one of the stories, myths and legends inspired by orchards. Of course we have a rich culture of countryside writings in Dorset, with the William Barnes poem ‘My orcha’d in Linden Lea’ being a fine example!
Visit the Stepping into Nature webpage to request a free copy of the Seasons of Stories Autumn book or to view it online.
Not every county has an abundance of orchards and apple trees like we do in Dorset – the deep loam and clayey soils of West Dorset in particular have borne a long history of orchards, with 10,000 acres of cider orchard in the late 1700s.
In Hardy’s Dorset, there would have been an apple orchard and a cider press on every local farm. Cider formed part of a farmworker’s wages, particularly during the harvest.
Slack-ma-Gurdle, Golden Ball, Hoary Morning, Green custards and Greasy Jacks are just some of the traditional varieties of Dorset apples!
Although many orchards in Dorset have been lost, West Milton Cider has been has been working hard to safeguard some of the old Dorset cider apples. Rescuing over 20 traditional varieties and nurturing them in their orchards, they have matured enough to produce enough apples to make cider from each variety rather than blending many together. A blind tasting sounds like the perfect way to celebrate! Read more
It’s also great to see new orchards flourishing such as Bridport Community Orchard. Despite the pandemic, they’ve been busy making apple juice, apple cake and preserves, all available at Bridport Farmers Market. Read more
For many of the people in the West Country, cider is described as the nectar of the Gods and once you’ve tasted these locally brewed ciders using fruit grown in Dorset, you’ll be inclined to agree!
The historic way, or as some might say, the right way, to make a cider is from fermented apple juice. Of course, there are lots of different apples available and all of them will make a slightly different cider, so depending on your preference, keep an eye out for the various apple cider varieties.
In the UK, there are two main traditions of making cider, the West Country method and the East Anglia method. With the West Country method, the drinks are made using a much higher percentage of the true cider apples and so are richer and sharper in flavour, while those from the east of the UK tend to be clearer and lighter.
Marshwood Vale Magazine have been delving into to the colourful history of Dorset cidermaking, with illuminating film footage from the Marshwood Vale cidermakers, shot in the 1960s. This is just one of the treasure trove of films archived by the Windrose Rural Media Trust as part of their Close Encounters Media Trail.
As well as a tasty harvest – for eaters, juice and cider – traditional orchards are also great for wildlife. As autumn turns to winter, fruit left on the ground are welcome food for birds such as redwing and fieldfare but they provide a haven for wildlife all year round.
Dorset Wildlife Trust continue to wave the flag for Dorset’s orchards, and even boast a orchard nature reserve of their own, just north of the AONB near Sturminster Newton.
From the start, Apple Day was intended to be both a celebration and a demonstration of the variety we are in danger of losing, not simply in apples, but in the richness and diversity of landscape, ecology and culture too.