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In The Orchards Of Kent

October 21, 2021
by the gentle author

Today is National Apple Day

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Five years ago, when I first visited the National Collection of Fruit Trees at Brogdale outside Faversham in Kent to enjoy the spring blossom, I vowed to go back in the autumn to admire the crop. This year, I fulfilled my ambition in the company of Contributing Photographer Rachel Ferriman and we were blessed with a golden October afternoon in the North Kent Fruit Belt.

Nothing prepared me for the seemingly infinite variety of fruit that exists in nature. Walking into an orchard of two-thousand-two-hundred varieties of apple, all in fruit, is a vertiginous prospect that is only compounded by your guide who informs you this is merely a fraction of the over ten thousand varieties in existence.

What can you do? Your heart leaps and your mind boggles at the different colours and sizes of fruit. You recognise russets, laxtons and allingtons. Even if you had all day, you could not taste them all. Despite the cold spring, it has been a good year for apples. You stand wonderstruck at the bounty and resilience of nature. Then you start to get huffy at the pitiful few varieties of mostly-bitter green apples available to buy in shops, always sold unripe for longer shelf life. How is this progress?

Yet this thought evaporates as you are led through a windbreak into another orchard where five hundred varieties of pear are in fruit. By now your vocabulary of superlatives has failed you and you can only wander wide-eyed through this latter day Eden.

That afternoon there was no-one there but me, Rachel and the guide. We were delighted to have the orchards to ourselves. But this is when you realise the world has gone mad if no-one else is interested to witness this annual spectacle that verges on the miraculous. Walking on, as if in a medieval dream poem, you discover an orchard of medlars and another of quinces.

By now, your feet are barely touching the ground and you hatch a plan – as you munch an apple – to return at this same time of year, decide upon your favourite varieties and then plant your own orchard of soft fruit. When you stumble upon such an ambition, you realise that life is short yet we are all still permitted to dream.

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Medlars

Quince

Plum

Mike Austen, our guide

Photographs copyright © Rachel Ferriman

The National Collection of Fruit Trees at Brogdale

You may like to read about my first visit

In the Cherry Orchards of Kent

12 Responses leave one →
  1. October 21, 2021

    A very beautiful text about a natural wonder that most people have become uncaring about. And it is nice when you regularly remember and recognize it.

    Despite everything: today the people in the small town of Aberfan in Wales also remember what happened 55 years ago… Maybe both memories can be connected somehow, so that you get the feeling: the world still surprises us again and again — whether in the positive or in the negative.

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  2. October 21, 2021

    Beautiful photos, the entire place looks so tranquil.
    Imagine all the fruit pies one could make. Delicious

  3. Sue permalink
    October 21, 2021

    Lovely pictures, so many varieties.

  4. Cherub permalink
    October 21, 2021

    I looked at all the lovely varieties of fruit here and it made me wonder why Britain imports so much when there is fantastic food on the doorstep. One thing I have enjoyed about the 5 years I have lived in Switzerland is the fact supermarkets source produce within a certain radius locally and people here still eat very seasonally, often shopping from day to day like my late mother’s generation of post war housewives.
    It just makes sense to people here as it supports local farmers, orchards, cheese makers etc. Apartment life makes me realise how much I miss the house and vegetable garden we had in Scotland!

    Also, thank you to Achim for mentioning the people of Aberfan today. I grew up in a Scottish mining community and this terrible disaster resonated with everyone, especially parents.

    Love and peace to Achim.

  5. Lorraine WHEBELL permalink
    October 21, 2021

    Wonderful..where does all this fruit go? Not to the supermarkets unfortunately 😕

  6. Esther permalink
    October 21, 2021

    I enjoyed your story about the orchyards 🙂 Reminds me of one wonderful day when hubby and me spontaniously visited a friend who lived on a farm outside Amsterdam and where we got invited harvesting all her pear trees. I am always surprised at people who have fruittrees in their frontgarden and who let all the fruit rot away; not caring about their trees. Would love to have a garden with an orchyard….

  7. October 21, 2021

    2,200 varieties of apples! 500 varieties of pears! It’s a priceless treasure. Absolutely priceless in a world where uniformity is slowly taking over. I have no words either, I’m stunned. All I can say is that it is marvelous. Thank you!

  8. October 21, 2021

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, enjoyed your essay and Rachel’s great pics of October’s bounty in Kent. Reminds me of the opening lines in Keats’s poem “To Autumn.”

    “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core…”

  9. paul loften permalink
    October 21, 2021

    An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I have a variety of sweet English apple daily. I dont know its name . I have a doctor but I dont know his name either There is always a grain of truth in old folklore..

  10. Joan Johnson permalink
    October 21, 2021

    Beautiful photographs and accompanying narrative.

  11. Saba permalink
    October 22, 2021

    GA, I draw flora and some fauna. People say my work looks medieval. Now, you have introduced me to medieval dream poems. Thank you. Now, I shall see where this goes.
    Your aesthetic and the photographs are gorgeous.

  12. Jill Wilson permalink
    October 22, 2021

    I am also an apple a day person so it was wonderful to see and hear about all the varieties of my favourite fruit… They all looked delicious! Thank you.

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