I don’t know about you, but we had an amazing apple crop this autumn. So many we gave them away at the gate from the time they began falling in mid September right up to early December. Regular dog walkers (we’re on the South Downs Way so there’s no shortage of them) know that there’s always a dog bowl for their thirsty hounds so for about ten weeks they had no excuse for not baking Dorset Apple Cake, brewing their own cider or concocting Crumbles of various sorts. Our five trees are fairly ancient so we’ve no idea what varieties they are though we have worked out that we have three separate types of cookers, one of which ripens to become a very edible eater. Delving into a book on Sussex Apples I came across a old variety called Alfriston which had similar characteristics to one of ours: bearing a local name it presumably was first grown locally so might easily have been planted here. If that logic bears fruit that just leaves the other two varieties a mystery.
What isn’t a mystery though is the need to prune the damn trees. I really shouldn’t refer to them in such a fashion but for all their summer beauty and autumn mellow fruitfulness when it comes to winter they are a curse…hopping up and down ladders in the cold and rain is enough to make anybody cross. If one can convince oneself that pruning has therapeutic value or that the finished article is akin to an art form and better than anything in Tate Modern then it becomes marginally less irksome but after five days at it and only two trees done I’m beginning to doubt my own propaganda. The only consolation is my trusty iPod and a constant stream of Wagner, Bach, Mozart and the Beatles. (Talking of pruning as an art form though, if you’re ever near the other West Dean - the one near Chichester - pop into their Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden and admire their apples and pears pruned and trained into exquisite traditional shapes and espaliers. And be inspired.)
As for my remaining three trees, what will tomorrow bring? Procrastination, exertion, perspiration, satisfaction. In that order. I hope.