Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Apple Day at Church Farm – 30th Sept

Apple Day

Vicars Orchard contains apples, pears, plums, greengages and damsons, crab apples, cherries, quinces, nectarines, peaches and medlars. Most are traditional varieties rarely available in the shops today. A lot originated locally, so there are many 19th and early 20th century varieties from River’s at Sawbridgeworth and Laxton’s at Bedford. Some like the Comice pear or the Mirabelle plum have been known since Neolithic times. There are approximately 130 different types of trees and over 700 individuals.

The orchard was laid out in spring 2008 and most of the trees were planted then. Most would have been two years old when planted here, making them 11 years old today. Most are grafts which means that the main trunk and root system is from a vigorous variety which would not have very interesting fruit, and the upper branches (and fruits) are from a more interesting variety which would struggle if planted in the soil.

This is an organic orchard. Instead of artificial fertilizers we use manure from the red poll cows, which over-winter alongside the orchard. No insecticide or herbicides are used and the orchard has resident bees: take care around the hives! Windfalls feed the pigs on the farm.

This is still a young orchard. In years to come when the trunks of the trees thicken and the fruiting branches are stouter and higher, it will be possible to combine fruit growing with grazing sheep or geese, allowing for natural fertilization and mowing, and then the trees will no longer be susceptible to rabbit damage which is a major problem at present.

pick your own

Make a Day of It—Saturday, 30th September 2017

Join in Apple Day Activities at Church Farm Orchard
Free Entry all Day and Free parking at Church Farm Ardeley

4.00pm Optional Farm Tractor & Trailer Talk & Tour (£4.50)
5.00pm Pre-Show Drinks in the Jolly Waggoners Pub (pay at bar) and
5.00pm Pre-Show Barbecue/Buffet & Bites from the Farm : Introduction (£5.00 )
5.55pm Walk to the Village Hall
6.15pm No Finer Life : Play Begins (Tickets £9 )
7.30pm Interval
7.45pm Audience with Graham Harvey, Author & Agricultural Editor of The Archers Q&A
8.30pm Retire to the pub : Cheese & Desserts (£5.00, pre bookable online)

Book online: www.churchfarmardeley.co.uk, Events (from the home page)

 

 

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Vicar’s Orchard

Damsons, plums, greengages, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, apples and medlars: seven hundred and twenty trees in Vicar’s Orchard: mostly of local varieties. The orchard was first laid out and planted in 2008. Lots of local people came to help plant it. Next year we will be inviting them back to see how their trees have grown. It will be the tenth anniversary of planting, though the trees will be twelve years old. After planting, the orchard got a bit neglected and the labels on the trees wore off, so we didn’t know which was which. We had to recreate the grid on which the trees were laid out. We did this using recycled roof tiles painted with letters and numbers. Then we could match the printed plan to the actual trees. After that I inscribed 710 aluminium labels naming the trees, giving each of them an address and set them twinkling in the branches.

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Some trees had died, so last year we used a memorial fund for Daniel Gomm to purchase replacements in his memory. His relatives and friends came to plant 32 of them. Each tree has to be staked, fitted with a rabbit guard, swaddled with a mulch mat, manured and given a couple of cans of water, so planting a tree is quite hard work, and the orchard soil is often very stony. This year we planted another 12 trees and there are still a few gaps left to fill.

Under Darren’s guidance, Dave pruned the trees this year, and Mary and I scraped up the prunings. Many prunings on the ground had been gnawed, so we decided to pile them around the edge of the orchard, hoping that rabbits and voles would gnaw these rather than the trees themselves. Dave was awarded the title of Supreme Shit Shoveller of the Year, for barrowing over 700 loads of manure, one for each tree. Rabbit guards had to be checked frequently, leaning trees straightened with stakes, and weeds strimmed around the trees – and all this recorded in the orchard log which keeps track of each tree.

Shit award

Blossoming in the orchard starts with the damsons and plums, followed by the cherries, nectarines and peaches and by the end of April the apples and pears are in bloom. There’s some mowing to do but until fruit picking time it’s now mainly down to the bees.

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Roger Gomm

 


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The Tree of Knowledge

The second weekend in October saw our third effort at holding an Apple Day, and it was pleasing to see how things have changed over the last couple of years in terms of people’s interest and knowledge about this annual event.

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A Display of Vicars Orchard Apples

Church Farm only started taking part in Apple Day celebrations in 2014 and have made great strides in popularising the Vicars Orchard supply.

In 2014, we were blessed with a lovely orchard and 700 trees as well as a guest appearance by a Japanese violinist and Geoffrey and Aimee.  A small display of apples was on view but no visitors to the Vicars Orchard.

2015 saw a beautiful Autumnal Sunday, a packed car park and Aimee and the Apple Jacks playing to a long line of apple pressing children and a Rural Care Harvest Party with a Goat.

We had a Radio broadcast, as well as the Offley Morris Dancers celebrating their 60th anniversary.

The Orchard had been tended and fed and was bountiful for the first time since its creation in 2008 and producing apples for the day and for the coming weeks.

This year over a hundred people made it out to the Orchard, Aimee sent a band called Mosaic, including a harpist, and Geoffrey made it three years out of three, despite his budding music teaching career.

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Local musician Geoffrey entertaining outside the Garden Room

 

Apples were pressed almost non-stop by Austrian and English alike and we ran out of apple juice and sold out of toffee apples by lunchtime.  The weather hadn’t been as kind on the day, but the interest in locally grown fruit and vegetables certainly seems to be a rising trend and nature’s bounty continues to provide us with fruit from just 500 or so yards away for the Farm Store, Café and box scheme.

Comments from those tasting their freshly pressed juice included “the best apple juice I have ever tasted,” “much better than from the supermarkets,” “mmmmm,” “good,” “lovely.”

When asked whether they enjoyed drinking the juice or making it more, children seemed torn between the two, perhaps “making it” just shaded the result.

Maybe the growing popularity of allotments, of visits to farms and of an interest in home grown food is coming home to roost and Apple Day is becoming a measure of how this movement is progressing.

Thank you to everyone who came to the farm again this year for Apple Day with big thanks to Mosaic and Geoff and everyone else involved.

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Three of the Beauties of the Farm
A Three Generation Family enjoying Apple Day

 Chicken Dave

 


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A Day to Remember

orchard-roger-wheelbarrow

November is the month when we traditionally remember the people that went before us, and is a good time to reflect on a day back in April.

In April this year we planted 32 trees in memory of my late husband, Dan Gomm, and in 2017 we will plant the same amount again to replace some of the trees that have died.  60 friends and family came together and dug holes, planted trees, put in tree stakes, manured around them and erected benches.   The children also made some lovely bug hotels.  After that we ate a lovely stew.

orchard-planting-scene

The trees are traditional varieties of fruit trees and were purchased from the Brogdale Trust, the national fruit tree collection.  Some of the trees  are so rare, that they have to be specially grafted for Church Farm and are only available in 2017.

Darren, our Church Farm orchard expert, made sure every tree was planted to the correct depth and with the required care to ensure their best chance, whilst Roger and Mary Gomm, my parents-in-law, painstakingly mapped out the grid of where the trees were going. Roger has also engraved up to 300 labels for the fruit trees on permanent aluminium labels, giving a new sense of energy to the orchard.

Why Church Farm?  Church Farm orchard seemed an obvious choice in the end.  Dan loved apple trees, we got married at Church Farm during his illness, Mary and Roger lived locally and volunteer on the farm, and I set up Rural Care and spend most of my life here.

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There were no flowers on Dan’s grave, instead people donated money towards the fruit trees.  He will get blossom every year in the spring from now on, and apples, nectarines, pears and gages in the autumn.  And heaps of wild flowers and wild life!  Just as he would have liked.

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Maybe the orchard will become a place to remember all of those who we have lost at Church Farm, like Roger Waygood, Wendy’s dear husband, Tim, Adrian and Jackie’s father; Tim Monohan, the Co-Farmer; Kevin Doires, a dear volunteer; Jason Kay, the butcher; and Terry Lauezzari, a dear neighbour and friend of the farm.

Planting the trees in memory of Dan was an amazing day, if not physically and emotionally exhausting! But it was very much a positive action to take in memory of him.  For anybody who knew Dan Gomm and would like to help with planting the rest of the trees in memory of him, the next tree planting day will be on 25.03.17 from 10-3.  Please RSVP with me at ann@churchfarmardeley.co.uk.

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If anybody would be interested in a similar event and plant a (few) tree(s) to remember a loved one please contact darren.edwards@churchfarmardeley.co.uk or charlotte.smith@churchfarmardeley.co.uk.

—Ann, Manager, Rural Care

Photos by Nick Hooper
www.nickhooperphoto.com