Common Ground’s Apple Map of Britain, published on Apple Day 1993.In the 1980s, Common Ground had been working hard to interest people in taking more care of trees in both city and country. Our fellow conservationists had a blind spot: they regarded all orchards as commercial, short-lived, intensive, profusely sprayed and hence hopeless for wildlife. Moreover, growers had bowed to the marketing onslaught of Golden Delicious from France and had countered by ditching many varieties coveted locally, and specialised instead in Bramley and Cox. And yet three thousand varieties of eating and cider apples had once been grown here in Britain. What could Common Ground do? We launched a campaign to Save Our Orchards and plant new ones, and in 1990, we invented Apple Day, holding the first ourselves in Covent Garden and then inspiring people across the country to celebrate annually in their own ways on 21 October, preceded by All Fruits Eve. We encouraged the revival and invention of apple games and customs, local recipes and seasonal activities, and we connected nature, landscape and tall fruit trees. In reasserting the things people were forgetting to value we fuelled a movement which brought grants for orchards, local researches, micro cider-making, hundreds of Community Orchards and celebrations of Apple Day, and demand for more locally grown varieties to be made available to buy. There are county and city organisations that actively promote good practice, wassailing has seen a great revival, and belated research into orchard loss has proved our point – nearly two-thirds of English orchards have been lost since the 1950s. There is still much to be done. In our small island the blossom, the bees, the beetles, the birds and the badgers need these places as much as we do. In orchards of tall trees humans have achieved an exemplary relationship with the world, one that is mutually beneficial and life enhancing. Orchards demonstrate how we could, and should, live with nature, as friends and collaborators.
Explore our limited edition, The Herefordshire Pomona – the most comprehensive study of apples and pears in Britain ever undertaken.