Farifield’s Apple Day was started five years ago in celebration of our historic orchards and the hard work that has been done to restore them.

The orchards were originally planted to provide work and produce for patients at the hospital. After the hospital’s closure in 1999, they were neglected and nature began to take over. The old trees became straggly and the orchards were overgrown with nettles and brambles. The trees were dying. 

Thankfully, a small group of residents noticed and wanted to do something about it. The Friends of Fairfield Orchards was founded and the rehabilitation began. The scrub was cut back to reveal the underlying structure and design. The varieties were identified and labelled. Arborists and environmentalists were engaged to advise on the restoration. There was a lot of pruning and shaping to be done and volunteers carried out much of this themselves, with experts engaged for the more specialised high tree work.

As the orchards began to thrive again, focus shifted to the question of what to do with the fruit. Residents were encouraged to collect apples for their own use, but a lot still went to waste. An Apple Day was the obvious answer. These annual celebrations of apples and orchards are increasing in popularity across the UK and embrace everything from fruit variety identification to apple and cider tasting and bring-your-own juicing services. 

Fairfield’s Apple Day is also, as you have hopefully experienced, an excuse for a community event rejoicing in our own local produce, bringing in other local traditions  – notably the morris dancers, who always draw a crowd – and just having a really good time.

There are further plans to preserve and enhance the orchards, all of which aim to be mindful of the natural environment. Watch this space for new orchard proposals, along with opportunities to get involved.

Many thanks to Bella Kane, Thierry Bontoux, Antonia Polito and Jill Haine for the photos used in this feature.