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Norman's blossomtime update '23

“Spring has sprung, The Sap has ‘ris,

I wonder where them birdies is,

Some say the bird is on the wing,

But that’s absurd,

Because the wing is on the bird!!”


Well here in The Shire at Dragon Orchard, Spring has sprung after being rebuffed by snow and

freezing temperatures mid March, followed by much rain and gale force winds. The old saying of

March coming in like a lion and out like a lamb is somewhat out of kilter and we have had

snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils and primroses all out at once and the local wild daffodils of

Dymock and Kempley, much loved by the Dymock Poets, have been a delight.


This update is to let you know that we have survived the winter and have emerged, blinking into the longer, hopefully sunnier days and are gently making preparations to welcome you back to Dragon Orchard which is here, as ever, for your delectation, pleasure and delight.


We got ahead with the pruning this year much better than in 2022 when we were both struck

down by Covid in February which was not at all conducive to physical work in a wintery orchard.


The Cider Trees have either been hand pruned by our good selves or sided up by a tractor

mounted bar cutter with a pulveriser at the back. Some trees have had their tops cut off by a

fearsome set of circular saws atop a track mounted machine that could do justice to a dystopian

film. We now need to clear the alleyways of the brash before the grass starts to grow again but

the recent rainy weather has delayed this, as the orchard is so wet.


Other winter orchard jobs include getting most of the machinery serviced rather than thinking

about it in the Spring and realising that time is too tight and it may well have to wait. During the

dry weather in February, we moved the pigs onto fresh ground with a new enclosure up along

the wooded boundary line, giving them some interesting ground to explore. They seem to have

very much appreciated the change of scene judging from their even more enthusiastic early

morning breakfast greetings.


Now that we are providing accommodation at Dragon Orchard, we're also into fettling, sanding,

polishing and dusting to make ready for the forthcoming season. The Dragon Nest has provided

very cosy accommodation throughout the winter. Cai Yurt, which is in a sheltered corner at the

edge of Dorothy’s Orchard, hunkered beneath an oak and protected by a couple of large quince

trees stayed up all winter and we had an intrepid Nurse who, with her terrier Buddy, braved the

sub-zero temperatures for almost three weeks in December. She became adept at using the

Wood Burning Stove and had to carry water as all the outside taps were well frozen. In a little

while Ash Yurt will be re-erected with newly sanded and treated woodwork and linings and will

be ready for use from mid April. Full descriptions of all the accommodations are here and if you would like any more information, we would be delighted to hear from you.


We have always been an integral part of the Big Apple Association. The Big Apple which is the

longest running apple festival in the UK and even predates Common Ground’s Apple Day,

celebrates all things apple and orchard related in and around the Marcle Ridge. In January we

had a wonderful Wassail event at Newbridge Farm in Little Marcle when over one hundred and

fifty folk of all ages gathered together to ensure that the trees were encouraged to bring forth

bounty and fruitfulness in the following year. When Big Apple revived the wassail some twenty

five years ago, just a few of us met at Putley Mill and carried out an ancient burning bush

ceremony and had such a good time outside on a cold January night that we invited more

people the following year. Now the lure of fires, mulled cider, flaming torches, hot rolls, music

and dance to say nothing of loud noise and shotguns to ward off evil spirits provides a wonderful

community focus.


The annual Blossomtime weekend is approaching, incorporating the cider and perry trials all

over the May bank holiday weekend which is an important event in our orchard calendar. As

part of the May Day celebrations, since the pandemic when we all had to stay local, we have

met on the top of the Cockshute on the north end of the Marcle Ridge to watch the sun rise

over the Malvern Hills. It is a gentle two miles uphill so gives just enough time to wake up and

warm up and be ready for a sip of mulled cider and a celebratory song or two. Then it’s time for

the now traditional cooked breakfast and the warm glow that always seems to follow a virtuous

early start and the greeting of the dawn when most around are still abed. May Day itself will see

a full programme of activities based around Putley Parish Hall including walks, cider, perry and

juice tasting and sales with locally provided lunches and teas. Simple heartwarming fare in

every way but the stuff that cements families and the local Community and which are very much

part of the Dragon Orchard ethos. Visit ww.bigapple.org.uk to learn more.


We had an interesting outing recently, joining a most creative collective of growers and cider

makers at Little Pomona Cidery, just east of the Market Town of Bromyard. Susannah and

James Forbes moved down from London a few years ago having been intricately connected

with the wine trade, ultimately seduced by the siren call of The Shire. They set up Little

Pomona, named after the Goddess of Apples and have established themselves at the vanguard

of innovative cider making. They are currently working on a project they call “A Sense of Place”

and exploring the concept of “Terroir” in Cider. They have taken Dabinett apples from seven

different orchards, including Dragon Orchard, fermented each batch in as like and consistent a

manner as possible, and the auspicious company assembled to taste them. As you might have

expected they were all different, prompting many discussions as to the myriad reasons and the

many factors that may have contributed to the differences. As Gabe Cook, the one and only

ciderologist noted, the project will produce far more questions than answers and also needs to

be a long term study, that we are delighted to take part in.



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