Ampleforth’s Unique Orchard

For a brief few weeks in spring it’s quite a sight, 2,500 apple trees all in bloom. The Ampleforth Orchard is unique. Planted some 120 years ago by the monks of the Benedictine Order who worship and teach at the famous Ampleforth Abbey and College the orchard has been a precious part of the estate for some 120 years.

It’s not only the size of the orchard but its diversity that makes it special. There are 80 different apple varieties, a heritage collection with evocative names like St Edmund’s Pippin, Belle de Boskoop, Ashmead’s Kernel, Beauty of Bath, Blenheim Orange, and Yorkshire’s own Ribston Pippin, first grown at Ribston Hall near Knaresborough

At first the apples were grown for the table but 40 tons worth of apples every year far exceeds the school’s needs for apple crumble and the fruit bowl. Tim Saxby the Orchard Manager and self-confessed ‘apple nut’ reckoned the only way was to begin juicing and today they press apples for excellent and distinctive single variety apple juices and artisan cider.

Harvesting begins in August and with successive ripening runs through until mid-November. It’s quite a sight in autumn with the trees heavy with fruit, not organic but unsprayed because fruit for pressing doesn’t have to look perfect explains Tim. ‘We grow for flavour.’

At a time when thousands of acres of English orchards have been grubbed up, and our supermarket apple varieties are limited to a handful of varieties and too often foreign imports we should treasure Ampleforth’s very special orchard and enjoy its produce.

Apple juice and cider is for sale at the Ampleforth  gift shop, the Cider Mill  or online

There are tours of the orchard that can be combined with lunch or afternoon tea at the Ampleforth tea room.

T: 01439 766000

And if you want to plant your own tree, the excellent R.V. Roger, just outside Pickering on the Malton road, is a specialist tree nursery with 240 apple varieties who are well placed to advise on what to grow where.



Apple Days

Why have I never been to Kent, other than to catch a ferry? I’m not sure that the cliché of it being the Garden of England is entirely true, but on my first visit  it looked pretty good, and my interest is fired as I turn off a trunk road onto a dusty lane to check out one of the biggest apple orchards in the country.

Chegworth Valley make and supply organic juices to some of the best shops and markets in the country, and it’s a treat to be shown round the huge farm by the lovely owners, David  and Linda Ingram, who have been growing here for 27 years. During this time they’ve planted over  30,000 apple and pear trees of many different and some rare varieties, adding raspberries in 1990 and strawberries and other soft fruit five years later. Of all the juices on offer, the apple and raspberry was my number one, closely followed by apple and beetroot – earthy, great colour !

Pickers are from Eastern Europe, speak little English, and live on site in what might best be described as rudimentary accommodation, but they seem cheerful and every single one of them is beautiful. Have they been hand-picked themselves? Models 1 could sweep up here.

In the early days the Ingrams sold their fruit to major wholesalers and supermarkets, but became disillusioned as they were under increasing price pressure, and the conglomerates weren’t interested in the taste and texture of the fruit, just its uniformity. It isn’t why they became farmers so they decided to take the chemical element out of the growing and deal directly with customers who were passionate about traceability and sustainability. Thus the juice business was born, and they’ve never looked back! They started growing more and more old English varieties, bringing some species back from the brink of extinction, like the Worcester Permain. Now they supply retailers up and down the country, from Borough Market in London to the Ilkley Vaults in Yorkshire and everywhere in-between; in the last few months they’ve opened their own shop in Notting Hill.  How posh is that?!

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