Church Stretton Apple Fair

PUBLISHED: 18:18 21 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:52 20 February 2013

Church Stretton Apple Fair

Church Stretton Apple Fair

The furire is rosy thanks to events like Church Stretton Apple Fair, says Debbie Graham

The future is rosy

thanks to events like Church Stretton Apple Fair, says Debbie Graham

Shropshire might not be the first place you associate with apples. That honour more readily applies to its neighbour Herefordshire with its orchards and world-famous cider. Nevertheless, one small town in the South Shropshire Hills has become well known for its association with apples and is home to an apple fair which has run every other year, since 1992.

The Church Stretton Apple Fairs beginnings were simple.A group of environmentally-conscious residents, headed by John Lloyd, were keen to promote new, green ideas and raise awareness of the loss of Britains biodiversity, which they partly blame on supermarkets and mass production. We have lost local greengrocers, says team member Roger Wilson. How many high streets do you go down and find an old-fashioned greengrocers or fruiterer?

And with the loss of greengrocers the many different species of the English apple were under threat.

If the supermarkets put the greengrocers out of business that market has disappeared for the small apple grower because the supermarket isnt interested in one trailer load; they want metric tonnes of the stuff and they want a particular type of apple, says Roger.

It was quite clear that a number of old varieties of apples were disappearing, agrees John. I remember, from my boyhood in Essex, that we used to have a Blenheim Orange in the garden and I have never seen them in the supermarket or the grocery stores so I thought where are all these going?

Now coming up to its 10th occasion, the Church Stretton fair is firmly established on the towns calendar. There will be apple-themed food, apple tasting, competitions including the longest apple peel, apple juicing, a cider bar, tree advice, apple identifying and a large central apple display that details each of the apples history. This has grown from showcasing 50 different species in the first year to an anticipated 130 to
150 this year.

There will be cider apples, dessert apples, eating apples, cookers and crab apples, says Roger. And who knows what the public will bring in for identification? In 2004 there was an amazing success story when a couple bought in apples from their garden that were identified as the previously thought extinct Gypsy King.

This was the sole remaining tree for this apple anywhere in the world, and since then grafts have been take from it and there is a good handful of new generation Gypsy Kings around now, says Roger. It is a real biodiversity success story, a tiny little pinprick in the issue of biodiversity but nonetheless a little achievement.

Apple days are now common (although John firmly believes Church Strettons remains the one to emulate), with the National Trust and Common Ground all holding themed events throughout October. This, according to Roger, is having a positive effect on some supermarkets and they are responding to customers who are demanding local produce.
So perhaps, thanks in no small part to the people of Church Stretton, the English apples future will be positively rosy and our children and grandchildren will all enjoy the apples our grandparents and their grandparents grew up on. It would be nice to think they could.


Apple events

October 17:"Church Stretton Apple Fair
The Silvester Horne Institute, High Street, Church Stretton.
Tel: 01694 723143

October 9: Apple day
The Green Wood Centre, Station Road, Coalbrookdale.
Apple pressing, tasting, bobbing, cider bar, crafts, stalls.
Tel: 07532 021507 www.shropshireappletrust.co.uk


Attingham Park, Atcham
Visit the orchard. Apple pressing, juice to taste, cider, crafts, produce.
Tel: 01743 708123
www.nationaltrust.org.ukOctober 9-10: Apple Weekend

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