Orchards are a way of life in Herefordshire, a treasured part of our landscape and communities, the basis of people's livelihoods and a foundation of the local economy, particularly our cider industry.
Orchards help to mark the seasons, every year they demonstrate the cycle of life. They fill the year with expectancy: In winter the stark form of the bare trees; the sight and scent of blossom signalling the spring, farm animals sheltering with their young; the ripening fruit in the summer waiting for harvest; the fruit picking, cider and jam making in the autumn as the year's work, man with nature, delivers its crop.
Orchards help us feel the seasons, and in working with nature, to feel the generations. Back in 1664 the diarist John Evelyn wrote "Herefordshire has become in a manner an entire orchard" and today we have more than 3,000 orchards, more than any other county in the UK. An orchard is defined as where there are more than five fruit trees growing together in a land parcel. There are both traditional standard orchards with large trees and more closely planted bush orchards. Each orchard, through its trees, the planting pattern, position and aspect has its own feeling.
In the biblical story of the Garden of Eden and in wassailing on Twelfth Night, orchards hold a special place in our culture - and are a source of inspiration for artists and poets.
laden with fairest fruit that hung to th'eye
tempting, stirr'd in me sudden appetite
to pluck and eat"
Extract from Milton's Paradise Lost.
Orchards are special; places to experience and appreciate. Indeed in the seventeenth century John Beale attributed the long lives of Herefordians to"the apple trees purifying the air".
This article is mainly based upon the thoughts of visitors to the Big Apple celebrations and the findings of Herefordshire Orchards Community Evaluation project.