On a cold January day in lockdown, what could be better than reflecting on the successes of All Ways Apples 2020, in a year that was so very different for us all. Read on for the full report from Tess Wilmot and a beautiful video to boot.
Food Plymouth’s All Ways Apples Festival 2020 was ‘different’ due to COVID-19 restrictions. We couldn’t hold our usual BIG FESTIVAL at Devonport Guildhall because of this, so instead we went on tour with a series of micro events across the city!
Dave Curno’s amazing apple pressing trailer made this possible, as it was designed to make it easy to work with very small groups of volunteers and keep everyone safe by social distancing. Between August and October, All Ways Apples held 13 apple events, including harvesting apples at the Goschen Centre and a pasteurising session. We pressed more than 400 litres of juice. It was wonderful to visit so many different orchards across the city and take advantage of the abundance of fruit. We worked with the orchard volunteers, encouraging new people to get involved in these wonderful spaces. Check out our short film made by Russ Floyd here and download the full version of the report at All Ways Apples on Tour report 2020.
Plymouth City Council’s Green Minds project was our key funder this year, with additional funding from the Council’s Public Health team, the Millfields Trust, Nudge Community Builders, Stonehouse Residents Association and Keyham Green Places. The Food Plymouth All Ways Apples team really appreciated the support and funding which made these events possible during such challenging times.
On 24th August we ran a trial session at Keyham Green Places. This was to test the mobile unit’s workings and to adjust accordingly. Keyham Green Places always has an abundance of windfalls from their beautiful old apple tree. Together with their volunteers and Carmen Wong from JarSquad, we turned the apples into juice. This was shared with community members and some was frozen to use during the winter. We were invited back at the end of September for a second apple pressing as the tree was so prolific!
On the 5th September residents of Weston Mill village at the western end of Ham Woods invited us to come and help them harvest their apples from their orchard. It was a wonderful day with residents of all ages working together and learning how to make juice. At the end of the day a bottle of juice was delivered to every house with plenty left to preserve for future village events.
24th September saw our second visit to Keyham Green Places to keep pressing the windfalls from their wonderful old apple tree which has provided the community with masses of apples for many years. The apple pressing events meant that they had lots of juice to share with local people. They also borrowed the JarSquad dehydrator for a week to make dried apple rings. It all links in with Keyham Green Places’ community growing, community kitchen and their Food Bank which runs on Mondays and Thursdays.
On 26th September, The Millfields Trust and the Stonehouse Residents Association funded the apple pressing day in the community garden at Stonehall Flats Community Garden for local residents. Clan-Kind joined some of our events to encourage people to create an ‘Orchard Clan’ with six online workshops –history, foraging for apples and creative activities.
11th October featured our largest event in Ham Woods with nine dads and their children as part of Plymouth’s new Dangerous Dads project. Ian Blackwell, founder of the Dangerous Dads network, organized the event. The group was divided into two, with each group harvesting and preparing the apples in turn. Most of the apples in the orchard had already been harvested so we explored the woods to find the hidden apples in trees and bring them back to the trailer to prepare. Dangerous Dads are looking forward to holding regular events and exploring other green spaces in the city and returning to Ham Woods in the future.
On 12th October we visited Ernesettle. Ernesettle has two young orchards with plans for another one soon. It was lovely to have the regular volunteers helping to make the juice. Due to the bad weather, the event was delayed by three hours until 2pm when the rain more or less stopped. The sun even came out for a while. Dave kept nice and dry under his shelter. Ray, Richard and Barbara also came to the pasteurising event at Leadworks in Stonehouse. They wanted to find out how the pasteurising process works as it won’t be long before they have lots of apples in Ernesettle from all their trees.
13th October was a day of harvesting at the Goschen Centre. For the past seven or eight years we have harvested lots of apples from the trees at the Goschen Centre in Keyham for the Festival each October. When the City College was using the building, we used to organize groups of students to help harvest the fruit for the Festival and they would keep plenty to make chutney together. Recently Babcock Internationalhas taken back the site and is planning to redevelop the area. Dave and Tess had met Richard Cooper from Babcock at the Enrich programmein 2019. They took the opportunity to highlight the value of the trees and explore the potential of restoring and caring for this distinctive linear orchard. We had our first event this autumn with Roger and two members from the Babcock environmental team, exploring the orchard and harvesting the fruit. We are working together to create a proposal for regular seasonal maintenance of these fruitful trees.
On 16th October at Southway Valley Community Orchard, working with Rachel Dobbs, we brought together a small team of community activists who have ideas to do more over the coming years. Rachel shares her thoughts below:
I loved taking part in All Ways Apples on Tour at Southway Community Orchard. I’ve been working with Southway Community Group over the last year or so to map local resources and assets, and to think about how we can do things differently in the area by injecting some more creativity into what goes on here. The apple pressing day gave us a great opportunity to get together and think about new possibilities for future projects in the area! This has been especially important at a time when Covid has put everything else on pause. It was great to meet outdoors, enjoy the fresh air, the orchard and the green space at Pendeen.
Everyone could get involved in a way that felt comfortable for them, and we all got to enjoy the fruits of our labours with the yummy apple juice we produced. The All Ways Apples event brought lots of different threads from different projects and ideas together – we could share some of the jams we’d made through JarSquad, catch up on how everyone at Southway Community Group was doing, learn new skills, find out about Clan-Kind’s Wassailing ideas, and continue the work that had been put in motion through Take A Part’s mapping project. It was an ideal situation!
We went to Efford Marsh on 17th October. We parked in the green space at the top of Deer Park Drive where a new orchard site is being proposed. The apples we pressed included some heritage apples donated to us by Saul Walker who maintains the grounds of Stonelands House near Teignmouth. We used the apples for pressing and saved the best apples to offer for sale at the new Sustenance Food Hub at The Plot in Union Street in December.
Our final event for 2020 on 26th October was the joint Pasteurising and JarSquad event at Leadworks in Stonehouse. We pasteurised all the spare apple juice that we had frozen from the autumn’s community events so that they could be preserved and enjoyed over the coming year. This event was in partnership with JarSquad and extra apples were used to make chutney, jams and other preserves. Rachel Dobbs and Carmen Wong from JarSquad had been involved with several of the apple pressing events during the autumn and the collaboration was really beneficial all around.
One young participant Eva said:
When we arrived, I felt like the atmosphere was very friendly and everyone seemed to be fully concentrated on the setting up. There were already a few baskets full of different varieties of apples on the tables and to add to the collection we also brought a big tray with apples and pears from our garden. The harvest was plentiful this year! Tess was busy pouring some apple juice they made the week before into bottles to sterilise [pasturise] it. She greeted us and showed us how to use a spiralizer, that green machine peels and takes the core out as it spiralises! Brilliant!
We got quickly involved in doing small tasks and met Carmen who helped my brother with laying the apples on the tray to dry them off in the small oven. Carmen made us try a sample of dried apples from their last batch – really delicious! We only stayed an hour but we completed various tasks, like helping cleaning the fruits to make jam. Carmen also showed us a short video about the process of pressing apples before ending up in bottles. When we had to leave we were given 2 bottles of apple juice and 2 jars of jam; they taste amazing! Carmen and Tess are part of a group called JarSquad which collects empty jars and re-uses them to fill them up with their homemade jams, jellies and other recipes. I think it is a great idea to re-use jars to fill them with delicious local goodies! My mum said we might be joining the group and help out at the end of November. I am excited! Overall, it was a great and very fun morning, we learnt new things and I hope we can go again.
In conculusion, despite the restrictions around COVID-19, we managed to adapt what we usually do and take All Ways Apples on Tour across the city. We visited 10 different community orchards.We took part in the Union Street Party and shared all the juice we pressed. We were given lots of apples from private gardens, schools and community orchards. We harvested lots too. We gave away both apples and fresh juice to volunteers and passers-by. We pressed more than 400 litres of juice. Any juice that was not shared out at the events was frozen and then pasteurised. We provided apples for the Village Hub project in Stoke and took part in the Sustenance Food Hub at the Plot in December as part of the wider Sustenance Partners project. Karen Evans from Clan-Kind joined some of our events and developed an ‘Orchard Clan’ and we will be collaborating together to do a Wassail in early 2021. This is a lovely legacy to carry forward.