Friday, 28 October 2011

Autumn Colours at Stourhead

We hadn’t planned to visit, but after a whole day of rain we needed to get out for an autumn ramble. Helpfully the evening before Radio 4’s PM programme had interviewed the head gardener from Stourhead.  The passion he displayed for the garden was infectious and helped us to decide that a visit to see the Autumn colours was a must. We were not disappointed.

Situated in Wiltshire just off of the A303 it is one of the best landscape gardens in the world. With tremendous views, situated at the source of the river Stour, which then runs south all the way through Dorset until it reaches the sea near Bournemouth.

Its a great garden for kids, as well as everyone else. There was a tree trail highlighting champion trees and a simple spotter’s guide on offer. However there was no play area. None was needed.

The garden was very busy – lots of people must have been listening to Radio 4. There were lots of families with children and all seemed fully occupied with the endless opportunities for collecting leaves – we played a game matching the red of my son’s jacket, running around, clambering over tree trunks and stumps, jumping in puddles and mud courtesy of the previous day’s rain and playing under branches full of beautifully coloured leaves.

The vistas were spectacular, the light superb and the refection of water from the beautiful lakes mesmerising. No human being could be unaffected by the rich tapestry created by the trees. It is a garden that has a restorative effect on adult and youngsters alike. 

Now enough of me waxing lyrically.  I just hope that everyone sometime somewhere gets to experience such beauty.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Apple Day and the Abundance Project

Picking apples from a tree must be one of the most valued childhood memories. Its great to have apple trees in your garden, but the harvesting, storing and preparation of them can be a mixed blessing. Having given away loads of our apples to family and friends and stored away several box full we were still left with rather a surplus. Kingston’s apple day solved our problem for us.

We took our apples and some empty bottles to Kingston Environment Centre. Here we washed them, cut them up into large pieces and put them, core and pip and skin as well, into an apple grinder. Next the pulp was placed into an apple press. A couple of turns of the screw and hey presto we had our own apple juice. Ours was particularly pretty as the addition of some apples with pink flesh added a perfect blush to juice.

Apple day events are held all over the country usually as close to Apple Day on the 21 October. A friend of mine who lives in a village in Somerset takes all her apple to the village apple press. It would be great if urban communities could have something similar.

Yesterday we learnt how easy it was to make pressed apple juice with just a bit of arm power. I also found out about Kingston’s Abundance Project. There is no more a sorry sight that seeing fruit rotting on the ground because nobody has harvested it. The project aims to rectify this by harvesting the seasonal glut of local fruit, such as apples, pears and plums and redistribute the surplus to the Kingston community on a non-profit basis. A great idea and we will certainly be helping to pick next year.

There is also a national fruitshare scheme where you can register as a fruit seeker of a fruit sharer. Rather like the landshare scheme.  With projects like these lets hope in years to come we will all be eating local apples and fruit going to waste will be a thing of the past.
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