Ringmer Community Orchard

Juicy! Final session of our 2017 apple course with Plumpton supported interns

For the last session of our three day 'apple course' with Plumpton College supported interns, we visited the Elephant and Castle pub on White Hill, Lewes. Huw Jones the landlord is a terrific person for the group to talk to. He's a local business person/employer who has always been keen to support our work.

The fourteen interns began by having lunch in the pub. Then we all headed upstairs to the function room, where Huw began to talk about his job. He used to work for Harvey's Brewery, he explained, and at the Pelham Arms, but has been landlord of the Elephant and Castle ('the Elly') for fifteen years. The Elly is a strong community hub. Lots of groups meet there. the Folk Club, the Headstrong Club, the Boardgamers group, a choir, a dad and baby group. Plus they have big screens for sporting events and are the HQ of Commercial Square Bonfire Society.

He told he used to have his own microbrewery where he made his own beer in the cellar, which was fun, but that all the sterilising  before and afterwards became a bit of a chore.

One of the things he told us was that he plans to sell up in the next year. Not because the pub isn't doing well, but almost the opposite of that. He and his wife Hannah (who runs the pub kitchen) have a daughter about to start school. The problem with running a pub is the antisocial hours, he told us. It's not a family-friendly business to be in. It was hard, he explained, for the whole family to spend time together.

The interns asked him lots of interesting questions. Huw talked about when he needs to employ bouncers (for big games and Bonfire), how long his days can be, the different jobs in a pub (bar staff, cleaner, kitchen porter, cook), what they pay, and the qualities he is looking for in his staff (reliability, punctuality, honesty, enthusiasm, good communication skills, basic numeracy).

One intern asked "how has the pub industry changed in the last 15 years?". Huw said it has changed a lot - pubs have become more food-orientated. The price of beer compared to wages has increased a lot, comparatively. He also said, in terms of staff, the advent of smart phones mean that, in quiet periods, his staff might want to be checking Facebook or Twitter. But he has a list of chores that need doing (a cleaning rota or wrapping cutlery for pub meals, for example), and his best staff get on with those jobs when they're not busy serving.

Huw talked about some perks of the job - tasting new beers, you get a meal when you're working a full shift. He talked about managing customers who are difficult or who have drunk too much. Overall, he said, he feels he will miss pub life when he leaves it. Being such a crucial and valued community hub, as the Elly is, means a lot to him.

The interns then showed him their label designs, which were fun, then thanked him for his time. It was a really interesting and stimulating visit.

Best of luck in all you do Huw, you're a legend!

Emma Chaplin, project manager

Apple Course with Plumpton Supported Interns

On a sunny day in early October, a group of 13 Supported Interns from Plumpton College came along to Ringmer Community Orchard, where Peter May, Stephan Gehrels (from Brighton Permaculture Trust) and facilitator Mark Gilbert greeted them and put on a day of learning about apples; picking them, grading them and weighing them. The group worked very hard and managed to pick lots of apples, mostly Red Falstaff with some (green) Edward VII. They also tasted some juice from the Fruit Factory at Stanmer Park.

Here are some photos (taken by Mark Gilbert):

One week later, the same group went to the Fruit Factory at Stanmer Park where Stephan of Brighton Permaculture Trust showed them how to wash the apples, cut out the rotten bits, then crush them in the macerator, put the pulp in the hydropress, and press the pulp into gallons of lovely raw juice.

The group then tasted it, poured some into glass bottles and some into plastic containers. The glass bottles went on to be pasteurised, the group could take the raw juice containers away, one each, to drink (within three days).

A passer-by came over to buy some raw juice for her grandson, which was fun.

Here are some photos of the day (taken by Emma Chaplin):

In the afternoon, after a lunch break, Bryn from Brighton Permaculture Trust (BPT) joined the group to give a tour of the orchards at Stanmer. He talked about how orchards were planted in order to produce food and drink, for people to enjoy and learn in, to support wildlife, and to provide blossom for bees to produce honey. He showed us the bee hives.

He explained that BPT help schools and communities to plant orchards. Each orchard will feed three or four generations of people because apple trees can last to be over 100 years old. Trees get less productive as they get old. Pruning helps refresh growth. Sometimes older branches fall off and leave holes. These are good for insects and birds. Blue tits and great tits love them, and they also eat green caterpillars. 

The orchard we first looked at holds the national collection of Sussex apple trees, and each had a beautiful ceramic name label, made by Anne-Marie Bur.

We looked at the moss and lichen -  Bryn said that there are 60 species at Stanmer - and told us that lichen is an algae and a fungi living together. 

Members of the group asked lots of questions as we walked around. Bryn asked us to think about why trees produce fruit in the first place - and what we concluded, was that it means the tree spreads its seeds - after the apples are eaten. These happened by means of horses, pigs and bears in Kazakhstan, where apple trees originated. 

We looked at some Golden pippin apples. It's thought the Romans might have eaten apples similar to these. The Romans were skilled at grafting, and we know they cultivated orchards. Surviving Roman mosaics certainly depict apples.

Bryn showed us the Sussex collection, which has a row of trees planted at an angle so that they stay small - also, Bryn explained - branches trained to grow sideways produce more fruit. 

We looked at the Knobby russet - which tastes nice but has rough skin, like a toad.

Bryn showed us a large lump at root of tree which he told us had come from the grafting process. 

We discussed why there are so many types of apples, and we thought it was because they all taste different, their ripening times vary, and each has adapted to grow in a particular place. 

We talked about the Great Storm of 1987 and the fact that it led to a lot of damaged and destroyed trees in Stanmer.

After this really interesting walk and talk, the group headed back to the Fruit Factory, where Stephan had finished pasteurising the juice. The bottles were warm but ready for the group to take back to their base at the Linklater, where they can design their own labels. These they will show Huw at the Elephant and Castle pub, the last part of the apple juice project between Flourish and Plumpton. Then their juice bottles can be sold towards a charity of the students' choice. Here is a link to the work done by last year's students.

Thanks to Stephan, Bryn, Peter and Mark for all their hard work - and thanks to the interns for all of theirs too.

Emma Chaplin, Flourish Project Manager

Apples! Flourish User Group outing to Ringmer Community Orchard

Flourish were delighted to be able to hold a meeting of project users at the Ringmer Community Orchard. Orchard coordinator Katharine Finnigan had suggested it would be a good time to come, since lots of apples are ripening at this time of year. 

We welcomed the St Nicholas Day Centre group, who normally attend Lewes Community Allotment, and a group from Bluebell House, who usually go to Baulcombes Barn every week.

None had visited the Orchard before, but they have tried the juice, and it's been very popular.

The groups had been warned to wear sensible footwear, which was a good idea since the grass was long and wet. Emma and Felicity Ann welcomed everyone and Peter May then took the group on a tour to explain about the history of the site, how it had come to have so many varieties of Sussex apples as well as other fruit, as well as explaining a bit about the differences between each apple variety, how they grow and when they ripen. 

People were able to meet each other, learn about apples and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

Felicity Ann had brought some wonderful apple cake, bramble jam and crab apple jelly tarts she had made from Allotment produce.

Everyone picked some Lord Lambourne apples to take home.

Emma spoke to everyone about the newsletter and planned project-wide exhibition in June 2018, with the hope that people can think about what they'd like to be included, or what they might like to contribute.

Emma said she'd be pleased to arrange another opportunity for people to visit.