I had Saturday all planned out: a morning at the allotment and an afternoon at the National Apple Day event at Gloucester Folk Museum. The rain put paid to my plot plans so I wandered down to the Folk Museum in the morning instead. I’m so glad I did and hung about for several hours sampling the delights of tree ripened locally grown apples and talking to people with a great passion and knowledge about all things apple.People like Peter, a teetotal vintage cider maker dressed as the Butler of the Wassail, who was intriguing passers-by into the museum to see the horse driven cider press. The Wassail (a form of salutation ‘Wes hal‘ meaning ‘Be thou whole‘ in old English) takes place in January and gives thanks to the apple tree for it’s harvest and blesses the coming year. Wassailers share a toast from the Wassail bowl, add pieces of toast to the branches of the tree and speak this response to the toast sung by the Butler:
”Old apple tree we wassail thee,
And hope that thou will bear.
Hat fulls, cap fulls, 3 bushel bag fulls
And a little heap under the stairs.” *
Checkers is a 23 year old half Shire horse (tell tale signs in the knees apparently) who, with the gentlest of nudges from his handler Faye, provided a demonstration of the vintage cider press in action when I got my camera out. Video footage of Checkers to follow when I’ve edited it for web streaming as well as other digital snippets from the day including: a chat with Martin the apple man about why we should give gas stored fruit the boot and buy from local orchards or farmers markets.a demonstration of a 3-in-1 Victorian apple peeler/corer/slicer and local folk band Way Out West’s ace cover of Jarvis Cocker’s ‘Common People‘ (recognise the accordion player?). I left long after lunchtime with a camera full of stories and a bag crammed with apples and leaflets (and minus the rumbling tummy thanks to generous sized apple slices from Martin the apple man while I made up my mind which variety to buy). As well as lots of fruit filled fun I learnt a thing or too about the humble apple, have a guide to making my own vintage cider and a greater awareness of local orchards in my area. The Gloucestershire Orchard Group had about 30 different varieties of apple on display and if you think that’s impressive you can view the definitive guide to over 100 native Gloucestershire apples and plums on their website (a labour of love created by Charles Martell of Stinking Bishop Cheese fame and 337 pages long!).
* from ‘Everything you need to know about a Wassail‘ booklet produced by CROW, the Campaign for the Revival of Wassailing.