Wind your way up the hill from Greenmount, past the bunkers and the farm animals and you arrive at the lovely environs of Holly Mount school and the converted church. You would be forgiven for seeing only this, but behind this quaint façade things are beginning to stir.
Here the orchard that has been undisturbed for decades is being transformed - no longer a tangled mess of nettles and Balsam but a glorious hidden idyll of apple and pear. A place reborn out of sheer toil, a little bit of blood and plenty of fun. This is a small slice of old England – producing fruit the old fashioned way.
Following the hugely successful inaugural Incredible Edible Apple Day last October, the start of 2011 was used to reinstate a tradition long since lapsed. The Orchard Wassail is an enlivening event, a ceremony to wake the trees and flush away evil spirits in the hope of a bountiful harvest come the Autumn. It is also an excuse for making merry and a little cider imbibition, and if singing at the trees helps, then this year’s crop should be huge.
The turnout for this awakening was fantastic, around 50 hardy souls braving the gusts to bring along cakes and pastries, decorations, sweets, fruits and of course – gallons of cider. Hardcore Incredible Ediblists, local residents and some new recruits all lent a hand for this new ceremonial routine. Despite the ankle deep mud claiming an early victim, with the more insensitive volunteers preferring to take pictures than come to the rescue, the conditions could not dampen spirits. Festivities included songs accompanied by our trio of stringed instrumentalists – David Archer, Ian Mayer and Julie Corrie – and of course the ritual of recycling the apples by bathing the roots in cider.
Many thanks go to David for his song writing skills – reworking classics to cheer everyone through the mud and wind. The Wassailing of the orchard is an imprecise science, but with the collective will of IER and a little cider, the orchard should thrive in the coming months.
With the singing and music complete the wassail was over and it was back to work for IER – preparing the ground for the spring ahead. The true results of the day’s activities won’t be obvious for months, but the camaraderie and spirit growing within Incredible Edibles will ensure that the new projects are treated with the same inspiration. As the ancient wassail says, “Every twig, apples big. Every bough, apples now.” Cheers, we can all drink to that.