Saturday, October 10, 2015

Common Ground

Although it seems like it has been around for much longer, Apple Day – a celebration of British apples - has only been in existence for 25 years. The charity Common Ground held the first event on 21st October 1990 to raise awareness of the range of apples produced in the UK. Common Ground hoped to tempt people away from the anodyne uniformity of the supermarket Braeburn by drawing attention to some of the other apples grown in these islands: there are approximately 2,300 varieties to choose from and many of these are specific to local areas.

Local Distinctiveness is an idea that underpins the work of Common Ground. In aiming to explore and promote the relationship between nature and culture, the charity identified the importance of apples to local landscapes, communities and food. Since then, they have used the apple as a symbol of physical, cultural and genetic diversity in their work. Common Ground was founded in 1983 by environmentalists Sue Clifford, Angela King and Roger Deakin. Clifford and King still run the organisation but Deakin died in 2006. His legacy lives on, not only through Common Ground, but in a trilogy of books that contain the very best writing about our relationship with nature. If you have not read Waterlog, Wildwood or Notes From Walnut Tree Farm, I highly recommend any, or all, of them.

Apple Day has grown since its inception to the point that it is celebrated all over the country on various dates, mostly in the latter part of October; but sometimes it is earlier, sometimes it is not a day but a weekend and sometimes it is a festival. Most Apple Days involve buying, eating and drinking and usually have apple-related games: in many places you can stock up on lesser-known varieties, sample apple-based recipes, drink cider and compete at apple peeling or bobbing.

My nearest Apple Day takes place at the local allotments. The Herstmonceux Allotment Association’s (HAA) event has run every year since 2008 and tomorrow morning I and my fellow allotmenteers, friends and families will band together to pick apples on the fruit farm that houses the allotment site. Being paid the picking rate by the farmer for each giant crate filled with Cox's Orange Pippin, it is an opportunity for the HAA to raise some funds and a fantastic way of getting the community together on the common ground of the harvest. Most years, we have been blessed with glorious autumn sunshine and have had some idyllic Apple Days (above); but on two occasions the weather was unkind and we all got soaking wet. The forecast for tomorrow looks bright, so we are hoping for a good turnout as we need to raise enough money to buy a new mower for the paths. We will pick for two hours in the morning and then retire to the communal plot for soup, apple bread and cakes, and a game of pin the stalk on the apple. And we might drink a bit of cider…

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