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St Michael's Community Orchard Haselbury Plucknett

In 2012 a new venture at the centre of Haselbury Plucknett was inaugurated.  St Michael's Community Orchard was set up in the Glebe Field, which is found in Claycastle. Historically the field has been rented out for the grazing of horses, which has provided an income to contribute to the maintenance of the church as was intended in the original covenant.

At the time the organisers stated their aims as follows:

We hope that the Community Orchard will be

  • a resource to support community spirit and village life in Haselbury Plucknett
  • a place for a traditional Somerset environment with standard apple trees and other fruit trees. We will use local varieties wherever possible, celebrating our local heritage
  • a community initiative which can provide an income stream for St Michael's Church, as the Glebe Field is entrusted to do
  • a chance to promote other activities within the orchard - such as bee keeping, grazing
  • a project that will enhance the landscape in an environmentally sensitive way, that will benefit the whole community
  • something that will provide a focus for community activity for people of all ages.

They invited the local community both inside and outside of Haselbury Plucknett to become members of the community orchard association. In doing this they will:

  • be supporting a valuable community initiative that will be enriching village life and helping to support Haselbury's historic church
  • be part of a project enriching the local landscape by providing an environment of traditional fruit trees which are also important for wildlife
  • receive two newsletters a year about the community orchard
  • e entitled to a small discount on social events
  • be entitled to collect a jar of home made apple chutney or a bottle of cider (ultimately members will be entitled to a share of fruit produced by the orchard)
  • have the opportunity to get involved in planting trees and orchard maintenance and other related activities

People were invited to express their interest in this project, and given the opportunity to become
Business sponsors (£33), Tree sponsors (£15),  or Members (£5)

In October 2012, the Community Orchard began operating.

The first social event for members was a Saturday of apple picking and cider making on 20 October.

The second social event, which was open to non-members as well, was "Appletalk" on Saturday 24 November with two of Somerset's best known apple experts.

Julian Temperley runs Buroow Hill Cider and the Somerset Cider Brandy Company. He is one of the country's best known cider makers and his cider brandy has won countless awards. Jonathan Hoskyns of North Perrott Fruit Farm needs no introduction in our area. For more details see the EVENTS page on this website. The evening will give an opportunity to begin choosing types of trees to plant in the orchard. If you want to be involved, come along. The event was well attended and proved extremely informative and enjoyable.

Enough money was raised to buy the first 20-30 trees that winter.

People were invited to make apple chutney following a recipe by Mollie Rendell, a well-known local resident and benefactor of the village, who has written a history of Haselbury Plucknett and is the grandmother of Orchard Chairman Matthew Bryant.

 

Mollie Rendell's Somerset Apple Chutney

Ingredients (makes about 4 lbs)

1 lb onions, 1/2 pint spiced vinegar, 2 lbs apples (after peeling and coring), 4 oz sultanas, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 12 oz sugar (can be brown if preferred).

Method

  1. Peel and finely chop onions and put into saucepan with 1/8 pint vinegar and simmer until nearly soft.
  2. Chop apples and add to pan with sultanas, salt, ground ginger and just enough vinegar to stop the mixture burning.
  3. Cook gently, stirring from time to time, until fruit is soft
  4. Add the rest of the vinegar and thoroughly stir in the sugar. Bring to the boil and boil steadily until the chutney is thick.
  5. Pour chutney into clean, warm jars and seal. Can be used immediately, but will improve with keeping.

Jars of this delicious chutney were available at the first social event the following summer: a well atte4nded family picnic in the orchard. It turned out to be a rather windy day, but everyone found it most enjoyable.

Since then there have been regular maintenance days, where orchard members banded together for grass cutting and other necessary work. The trees are growing apace. This spring they sported lovely blossom, and this autumn we might just be able to pick the first apples.

Update August 2015

The orchard is in good shape going into the autumn and there are even a few apples on our young trees.  Hedley Martin has done a great job mowing through the summer.  Over the next few months we will be cider making - so look out for details of this and if you would like to join the mailing list for community orchard events (including maintenance mornings) please contact Matthew Bryant by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Two EVENTS coming up are:

Friday 11th September - South Somerset Cider Sampling, Hinton St George village hall, from 6:30 onwards.  This is a great event to try local ciders and meet cider makers.  As well as our community orchard cider there will be North Perrott Fruit Farm apple juice, and some well known cider makers such as Burrow Hill.  Tickets are £3 to include a free sample, and there is food and live music.  Tickets on the door or from North Perrott Fruit Farm shop.

Saturday 10th October - Apple Picker's Ball

North Perrott Village Hall (as part of the North Perrott apple tasting week-end), 7.30 onwards

Tickets £6 adults - £5 community orchard members - £4/3 for under 16s