Standen Street Orchard comprises over 300 individual plots with apple and cherry trees on the 50+ acre site. The majority of those are managed by the Orchard Association volunteers who carry out and arrange for pruning, mowing, maintenance of fences and gates, picking of fruit, and many more associated tasks.
A typical plot is roughly 45 x 15 m in size. Plots become available from time to time – if you are interested in buying a plot please contact us.
A little corner of paradise
This is the story of a how a local family heard about Standen Street Orchard, bought a plot, and never looked back
It all started many years ago on a wet Saturday afternoon in the autumn of 2008 when our HOH (Head of Household, otherwise known as Dad) was idly perusing the local newspaper and suddenly exclaimed: “There’s an Apple Day coming up at Standen orchard – shall we go?” To which the response from AHOH (Acting Head of Household, otherwise known as Mum and always eager to get out into the open) was “Where’s that – sounds good!” but merely elicited a shrug from TYMOH (third younger member of household, otherwise known as Son). Apple Day came and it was raining. Adolescent shrugging turned to vociferous objection but in the end we all trouped out of the house in our various rain gear.
Once at the orchard, the rain stopped and we started picking. There were no labels on the trees so the only way to find out whether the apples were any good was to take a bite. Biting and picking, we gradually moved further into the orchard, as if drawn in by magic. Son stopped objecting, in fact seemed to positively enjoy himself. After a while we counted our booty and tucked into our afternoon tea (that we had had the foresight to pack!). Sitting in the damp field, surrounded by hundreds of trees, some young, some old and hunched like giants, no living human soul in sight, just hearing the sounds of sheep, horses, and birds we caught a glimpse of orchard paradise. On our way out, we chatted to some of the Standen plotholders and committee members. You can buy a plot in the orchard? We were intrigued to find out more. How much? Around 250. Surely that cannot be £250,000 – can it really be only £250? We went home with lots of apples and lots of food for thought. And – we very quickly arrived at the (unanimous!) decision that we would like to own a plot ourselves.
It all snowballed from there. The Committee Secretary was able to put us in touch with a plotholder who was now elderly, had moved away from the area and was keen to sell. Soon the necessary formalities were completed – and we were “landowners”! Part of the beauty of the orchard is that there are no little fences subdividing the plots. But human nature being what it is you still want to know what’s ‘mine’. So HOH decided to resort to tape measure and a long, long piece of string, using some ingenious mathematical formula to establish our apple domain. We counted ten trees as ours, of middle age, somewhat leaning and nibbled by sheep, with two looking sad as though in terminal decline. We would need two replacements! So we researched organic nurseries in the vicinity and found Herons Folly Garden Nurseries in Mayfield, run by Patrick Treherne. He is a real apple guru with a passion for “breeding” traditional varieties. Reading through his apple catalogue, it was difficult to make up our minds, as all the varieties sounded promising and exciting. As the sale/purchase of our plot had gone through in the winter, we were a little late with the planting of our new trees – it was already late spring. And, as was to be expected, no sooner had we dug the holes, planted the trees and put stakes and netting in place, a very hot spell ensued. This meant frequent trips to the orchard with dozens of water-filled former milk bottles – to make sure our apple babies survived.
The necessity to visit so often proved a blessing in disguise. We saw the orchard come to life in spring and all the fauna and flora around it emerge with vigour. And the sheep returned! Lovely rounded organic sheep with long tails – very keen nibblers of young apple shoots and bark, if only given half a chance. Strong they were too, with the netting pulled down and unfastened by the little devils! I will never forget that day when they all followed us and then formed a semi-circle around us, just looking at us and making a hell of a noise. Then the frantic bleeting abated gradually and became just the occasional “baaah” – the lambs were jumping around us and the mothers had accepted us in their midst.
A hive of activity
When summer came, we had got so used to “our” orchard that we couldn’t imagine life without it. Favourite times were languid afternoons, checking the trees but also going for a walk or simply lying in the grass, just contemplating the sky and taking in all the natural noises around. A little picnic would enhance that experience further, making it even harder to tear ourselves away to reality outside the orchard’s perimeter.
Although mostly a heaven of peace, there are times when the orchard is a hive of activity. Pruning days in the spring for example when under the guidance of our orchard manager plotholders and associate members get stuck in with giving the trees a spring haircut. Hedge laying in the traditional way – a great day out in the orchard to watch one of the oldest crafts being practised. In autumn, apple picking and all the associated tasks: wrapping them for storage, making delicious jellies. Crab apple jelly is one of my favourites and great with cheese and cold meats, and I always keep a jar in the fridge for flavouring a gravy made from meat juices and red wine. Each year we enjoy the apple picking season more – not only do we know where the tastiest apples grow but we have also finessed our picking technique. We’ve now added a ‘picking noose’ to our equipment – a wire noose tied securely to a long cane. Although male members of the household were initially sceptical, the home-made device has been a great success as we are able to reach the tasty russets high up in the trees. You would have laughed out loud had you seen us in action – one of us the picker, the other two holding out a hammock underneath to catch the loot. It worked a treat – less bruises on apples. But you had to have your wits about you to avoid bruises on head!
A little bit of paradise
Well, I could go on and on about what we do at the orchard. Mostly when people ask: “But what do you do there?” I reply, “Not much”, which is true, really. I suppose it is a little bit like paradise – you don’t expect to do much there either. Which leads me to conclude that looking at the notices in the local paper that day several years ago was one of the best things we ever did.