ringmer community orchard

Beautiful new sign for Ringmer Community Orchard

By Emma Chaplin

Owena from Baulcombes Barn brought three Bluebell House members along to Ringmer Community Orchard for a very special reason. Baulcombes regulars Ash and Sue, along with Paul, have developed a keen interest in pyrography, also called poker wood, or wood burning, which is creating art in wood by burning a design with a hot tip.  

I was hugely impressed. It's a wonderful piece of work, with beautiful apple designs. The lettering must have taken a lot of work to be so accurate, neat and well-spaced.

Ash told me about how it come about:

"Last year Ben, Bluebell House Occupational Therapist, asked us if we'd mind creating a sign for Ringmer Community Orchard, after Flourish asked if it might be possible, having seen one we'd done for Baulcombes. "

"It took about two and a half months, which is nine or ten sessions. We all had pyrography machines and worked on it together, three at a time. We bought the wood online. We wanted something to last. This is birch ply. It's nice and thick, which is good for  pyrography. "

"It's the first time we've tried something so big. We have tried pine in the past, but it was too soft." 

"In terms of the apple designs we chose, it was a joint effort. Sue drew the designs on paper. We all chose the font. Natalie from Bluebell House printed the letters off for us. We wanted it to stand out. Paul did all the measuring to fit the letters in. We traced the lettering because we found that using graphite paper didn't work."

"We did the burning together. Then we put on about three coats of varnish - and the varnish does pong! You've got to be careful about breathing it in. We kept it in a separate room."

"The last piece we made was a 5th birthday design for Bluebell House."

"We've really enjoyed it and us doing pyrography has inspired other people to do it at Bluebell."

Owena took a look at the sign to see if she could put it up there and then, but, looking at it, we all felt it needed some extra bits of wood to fix it properly to the gate without putting holes in the sign in a way that would spoilt the design. So that will happen at a future date.

Owena had bought some art supplies for Emma to present as a thank you from Flourish to Sue, Ash and Paul for all their incredible hard work.

Katharine and the Orchard members will be hugely delighted to have such a wonderful sign.

Tourist Information Window - celebrating three years of Flourish

We decided to celebrate three years of the Flourish project with a display in one of the Lewes Tourist Information Centre windows. The Lewes TIC is situated in the centre of town, so lots of people see it, and many service users can take a look as they pass by.

We wanted to involve users in the display, for it to be entertaining and engaging, to tell a story through pictures, in the most part, and to show what we do, offering positive images of people with learning disabilities and mental health challenges at the sessions that we run at our three sites.

We included quotations from service users about how they'd felt after their sessions in the 'clouds'.

The overall look of the display was designed by graphic designer Suzie Johanson. Photographer David Stacey helped with lots of the planning and thought processes, and did a fantastic job compiling letters of the project using photographs. Michi Mathias created the pictures of the horse and stable door as well as the apple tree and apples that you can see in the photos, representing Baulcombes Barn and Ringmer Community Orchard. Lewes Community Allotment is in the centre, represented by a hazel obelisk, as well as two watering cans, two trugs (one full of knitted fruit and veg on loan from Brighton and Hove Food Partnership), and various gardening tools.

A team of myself (Emma Chaplin, project manager), Suzie, Michi and Lois gathered at the TIC with handfuls of props to set everything up. The TIC kindly lent us the astroturf, and we used the struts and fishing line to dangle everything. We stuck the photos up with push pins, added apples with blu-tac (which I got upsidedown to start with!) and laid out all the other bits and pieces, adding straw and the knitted veg. 

We've included a number of wildlife creatures we see at the allotment in the window for people to find - including a blackbird, a caterpillar, a bee, a hedgehog, a lizard and two butterflies.

Michi also created a fantastic poster which features various animals from Baulcombes Barn as well as quotes from members of Bluebell House Recovery Centre, who attend regular sessions.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped! It was Maggie's idea to do it in the first place in the TIC. Thanks to Lois Parker, for the great butterflies and lizard, and for helping out with the window set-up. James McCauley, who heroically helped with sorting, editing and printing all the project photos (on the post on the left hand side). Arnold Goldman lent us a trug, as did Anne Turner. Janet Sutherland lent a watering can and old seed packets.  Billie from Leadbetter and Good, who lent us the pig.

And thanks to everyone in the Tourist Info, who have been so helpful and supportive. 

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

Peter May's Guide to apples.. and more!

1. Some information about the apple varieties we grow at Ringmer Community Orchard  Ringmer Community Orchard

ADAMS PEARMAIN

1826 The origin of the apple is Herefordshire or possibly Norfolk. Its first name was “Hanging Pearmain” because it stays or hangs on the tree for a long time without dropping off.  The apple was later renamed Adam’s Pearmain after Robert Adam an apple enthusiast.

Rich, aromatic nutty flavour.  Orange red colour with greenish, yellow and gold.  The tree is scab (a fungal disease) resistant and tends to fruit one year with few apple the next.

ASHMEAD’S KERNEL

First grown by William Ashmead who lived in Gloucester. A vigorously growing variety that needs lots of space. The apple has a strong sweet-sharp flavour. Greenish-yellow fruit with some russeting.

EDWARD VII  

1902 Rowe’s Nursery Worcester. This is a very late flowering cooking apple with a green skin that becomes more yellow as it ripens. Named after the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.

LORD LAMBOURNE

1907 raised by Laxton Brothers of Bedford. The fruit is sweet and jucy with a slight strawberry flavour and some acidity.  Bright red skin with stripes over greenish-yellow background.  The skin becomes greasy as it stores

Orleans Reinnette

ORLEANS REINETTE

Probably originated in France and first described by a Mr Knopp 1776.  The fruit has an orange red and gold colours with an aromatic, nutty sweet taste.

RIBSTON PIPPIN

First grown at Ribston Hall in Yorkshire from a pip brought over from Normandy in about 1688. Intense, rich, aromatic flavour.  Brownish orange flush and red stripes over yellow green.

 

 2. A Guide to Apple Picking, Grading and Storage

 Different apple varieties ripen over a long period from August to October.  You will know when the apple is ripe because it can easily be picked from the tree by holding the apple gently and giving it a slight twist. Other signs of ripeness are the fruit developing bright colours and the pips turning from white to brown.  Sometimes you have to pick the fruit early when birds start to peck the fruit.

Apples need to be picked with care with the stalk intact because damaged or bruised fruit does not store well.  Also customers will not want to buy bruised fruit.

the apples should gently be placed in the picking container and then when the container is full, carefully emptied into the grading bins.

The grades are:

Grade 1 Largest fruit without any blemishes or spots.

Grade 2 Medium sized fruit with occasional marks

Grade 3 Juicing grade fruit. Small and marked fruit

in modern orchards there are machines which measure, grade and wash each size of fruit automatically.

Once graded the apple bins should be clearly labelled with the variety and grade, then moved to the apple store.  At Ringmer this is a building in the coolest part of the orchard.  A cool temperature helps to slow down the ripening of the fruit and allows it to be stored for several months.  Some varieties will store longer than others. Edward V11 will store till January while Orleans Reinette quickly becomes soft.

Modern orchards have very sophisticated apple stores which allow fruit to be kept for nine months.  This is achieved by keeping the fruit at a low temperature and then reducing the amount of oxygen in the store which slows down ripening.

More information about Ringmer Community Orchard