08 February 2012

The Secret Orchard

Gardening in the snow is unusual for most people, but not for those who are paid to do it every day,  pre-dawn to post-dusk. I have discovered recently that it can be better to work outside in sub-zero temperatures than to do garden-related things inside. At some point yesterday I found myself tidying the potting shed, which looked as though it had just been tidied. As I swept out a further shed my attention began to wander... and I found myself behind the buidings in an ancient orchard. I knew of its existence but had never seen it before; it's a little out of the way.

There are apples and pears and plums and it's hard to tell what else but it's guaranteed that they are good varieties which have done a lot of giving over the years. The bottom half of each tree is stoutly goblet-shaped, pruned in exemplary fashion. The top halves are wild and gnarled in a mass of dark twigs, looking very dormant indeed. Each branch supports a national collection of lichen and moss, with ivy spiralling around. The place is not completely abandoned: the grass is strimmed but the trees have not been tended for years.

The orchard is only a field or two from the big house but far enough away to be forgotten. The parasites growing all over the once-perfect wood may not survive a planned pruning. For now, we are all in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter.


  1. This sounds a magical place and I wonder what the varieties are. If help is needed identifying them, the East of England Apples and Orchards Project may be able to help. They are keen to identify old trees of varieties that may have been forgotten. I have no connection, merely thought they could be a useful resource. Like you, I volunteer in a garden, a large kitchen garden and I love to read your comments and observations.

    1. Thank you Anon, I will pass on this information.