Quantock Hills Blog

Quantock Apple Heritage Day attracts large crowd

- Prof. Peter Coates writes about appley goings on at Fyne Court

Prof. Peter Coates

Posted by Prof. Peter Coates on 22 October 2013

Quantock Apple Heritage Day attracts large crowd 21 October was National Apple Day. The first Apple Day event was held in 1990 at Covent Garden, organized by Common Ground, the Dorset-based organization that celebrates local distinctiveness and activities that promote a sense of place. Since then, the number of events associated with what is effectively Britain’s national fruit has steadily proliferated, with a cornucopia of events occurring the length and breadth of the country between 19 and 26 October.

With funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC),  researchers in the Department of Historical Studies at Bristol University (the local university for the Quantock Hills area!) entered into an additional phase of their collaboration with the AONB Service -  now into its fourth year. (It all began with an e-mail to Chris Edwards back in 2009.) This financial support allowed us to make our own distinctive contribution to Apple Day on Saturday 19 October at Fyne Court.

I got the idea for what grew into Quantock Apple Heritage Day when I found out about the opportunity to apply for follow-on funding to facilitate further dissemination of the findings of our recent Orchard Mapping Project.  ‘Fallen Fruits: Mapping the Disappearing Orchard Landscape of the Quantock Hills’ has received funding from three sources - AHRC, the Quantock Hills Sustainable Development Fund and the Lady Emily Smyth Agricultural Research Station (LESARS) bequest for horticultural research (which is administered by Bristol University’s School of Biological Sciences).  Working closely with Iain Porter, Dr Marianna Dudley and Dr Nick Nourse identified and scrutinized data derived from aerial photographs, Ordnance Survey maps and digitized tithe maps and related records. They deployed this evidence to create a graphic visual representation of the former significance of orchard cover as a landscape ingredient in the Quantock foothills - an area of the county not usually considered part of Somerset’s ‘cider country’.
Saturday’s five-hour event attracted over 600 visitors, which is particularly impressive since it threatened to rain for much of the day (and when it did actually rain, it was mercifully short, just half an hour, and it was already mid-afternoon).  As well as apple pressing and apple juice and cider sales (not to mention a wildly popular hog roast, chocolate fountain, story-telling and various other activities for children), we provided an apple identification service courtesy of Liz Copas, the National Association of Cider Makers’ Orcharding Advisor and Field Trial Officer, and author of the definitive guide, A Somerset Pomona: The Cider Apples of Somerset. Les Davies (MBE), the authority on West Country apples and orchards, and all things rural, was also on hand to field inquiries. The queue for Liz and Les stretched around the proverbial block and didn’t seem to get any shorter until mid-afternoon.


At the core of Saturday’s event were a series of poetic performances, which were recorded by ‘Alice’, the outside broadcast vehicle of 10Radio, the community radio station based in nearby Wiveliscombe. The poets who signed up with enthusiasm for Apple Heritage Day were James Crowden, Ralph Hoyte, Pete Stevenson and Deryn Rees-Jones. Deryn came down from Liverpool, and her participation was arranged by my Bristol colleague, Professor Ralph Pite of the English Department. These four poets delivered their specially commissioned, apple, orchard and Quantocks-themed poems in a variety of styles and in various indoor and outdoor settings.


Another feature that set our Quantock Apple Heritage Day apart from other apple days around Britain was a memory-gathering exercise that tapped into local residents’ apple and orchard recollections and reminiscences. This side of the operation was very ably staffed by two volunteers from the History Department’s MA unit in Public History (Sara Davis and Heather Hammer - both of whom are American and recently arrived in Bristol). Marianna and Nick were drafted in when back up was needed, wielding a microphone in one hand and a swine burger in the other.
A very handsome exhibit in Fyne Court’s Music Room displayed the aims, methodologies and findings of ‘Fallen Fruits’, and I hope that these six large boards will see plenty of re-use. The activities of the ‘Fallen Fruits’ team included two intrepid and hugely enjoyable Orchard Hunts: firstly (back in late April) to perform a reality check on remnants of historic orchards, and then, a few weeks ago (on another gloriously sunny day), to gather apples for identification purposes (assisted by Shannon Smith of Horfield Organic Community Orchard, in Bristol, which held its own Apple Day on Sunday 20th October).
From a small seed, a mighty apple tree has grown over the course of the past eight months. A major contributor to the event’s success was our ability, through AHRC funding, not only to pay for poetry but to procure the services of an experienced local event organizer, Rachel Kelly, whose extensive local knowledge and range of contacts were indispensible to the project’s effectiveness - and increasingly ambitious scale. Rachel ensured that we received extensive coverage in the local media, including Exmoor Magazine, the Western Daily Press, Country Gardener and BBC Radio Somerset. Georgie Grant of the AONB Service played a key role too. I’m also grateful to former senior ranger Tim Russell and to Volunteer Coordinator Nichola Penn for accompanying us on our two Orchard Hunts and making sure we didn’t get lost (or into trouble).


Quantock Apple Heritage Day is a vivid example of the ethos of connected communities, on which the Arts and Humanities Research Council places so much emphasis, and gives real meaning to modish buzzwords such as co-design, co-production and co-delivery of knowledge. The AHRC’s Gail Lambourne and Alex Pryce joined us at Fyne Court and Alex is making a podcast about the event and the project that inspired it.

 

Peter Coates is Professor of American and Enivronmental History in the Department for Historical Studies at the University of Bristol.

Pete Stevenson with James CrowdenCyder bookApples


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    Bruce Nottrodt

    04 Dec 13

    This was a useful and fascinating piece of research which I would love to see extended into the parts of the parishes not inside the AONB.
    Sadly I missed the apple day event but would be pleased to see these repeated in the future.


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