How many apple varieties would you guess there are in Gloucestershire? Ten, twenty, 50? More than 100 apple varieties have been documented: Eating apples, cooking apples and cider apples.
There is no better place to see and taste the apples than at Day’s Cottage where they grow an amazing number of the documented apples. If you live locally, you might have seen them on sale at Stroud Farmer’s Market too.
The colours, shapes and sizes are so varied. The tastes are equally different. Whether you prefer crisp or soft, there is bound to be an apple for you.
Day’s Cottage Orchards
Back in 1912, Lucy Great Aunt of the current owner Helen, planted an orchard. In 1923, she planted more trees. Astonishingly, some are still standing. They are huge trees with wide spread boughs. Picking entails shinning up the tree with a ladder.
In another orchard, sits a museum of apple trees. Two of each variety. In spring, covered in blossom it’s difficult to tell which are pairs. Some are a little easier than others to distinguish due to their growing habit.
In the autumn, it is easier. Your eye tunes into the colours. Gorgeous bright red apples, next to almost acid green and further away a very fetching almost purple variety. This one turns out to be a cider apple. No sprays are used on the apples.
Many apples have great names including Kill Boy, Hen’s Turds or Wick Whyte Styre (a styre is a cider apple). Often you can track down an apple that originates from your village. There are many that are great cookers that break down nicely when baked and have a nice acidity.
In the 1803 edition History of the County of Gloucestershire, Thomas Rudge describes how many apples were long lasting
“You may see the highways cloathed with trees, not by the grafter’s hand but by the nature of the ground itself . For the earth of its own accord rears them up to fruit and that, excellent in flavour and appearance, many of which wither not within a year, nor before the crops appear to supply their place”
This year the harvest started two weeks earlier than last year. Luckily, the cider apples can be shaken off the tree, but the eaters and cookers will be gathered over a long period as they reach maturity by a small team.
In one building, the apples are pressed. Some are destined for Day’s range of juices, others for cider or vinegar. On Apple Day, anyone can bring their own apples along to be pressed and put into bottles to take away. One kilo of apples produces about 750 ml of juice.
Last year, we went to Apple Day specifically to choose some apple trees for our garden from their small nursery of fruit trees. An exciting day for us! One apple we chose is a cooker, Cambridge Queening raised in very own our village. It will be a while before we can harvest our own fruit, but the wait will be worth it.
Dave and Helen seem to have a knack of picking a day with good weather for the Apple Day and there’s plenty of visitors. We pop into the yurt to check out the cakes on sale thinking we’ll have one on our return from the library orchard. The other visitors thought the same and by the time we get back, it’s all gone.
We are charmed by the apple “photo booth”. Children are instructed to sit and wait for two minutes for the photo to be developed. Inside, in fact, is an artist drawing each “photo”. We enjoy music from the Orchard Band (Dave and Helen included) playing a variety of instruments celebrating the wonderful apples.
A highlight for us is the opportunity to taste and purchase different apples and gaze at the display of the many different varieties with some interesting descriptions.
It’s a truly magical place.
Find out More
Changes in agriculture and in the way that apples are sourced and bought by supermarkets has meant a 75% reduction in Gloucestershire’s orchards over the past 50 years. For the past 20 years the Gloucester Orchard Trust has worked to conserve the genetic characteristics of the 100+ apple varieties that are unique to Gloucestershire. Find out more about Gloucester Orchard Trust’s Orchards
Listen to Dave and Helen of Days Farm on BBC Radio Gloucester. Look out for the Day’s Cottage stand at Stroud Farmers’ Market each week.
Try my bread made with local cider recipe.
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