English Apples

A bowl of apples rests on a table in our hallway. I’m repeatedly drawn to it, with its honey-gold fruit. Each apple is identical. I’m bothered slightly by that. The crop must have been very precisely engineered to be so. But the honey and rose colours draw me back to the fruit bowl. The apples have a country scent. It tantalises though. It’s elusive.

It has echoes of ‘flora and the country green’  – but distant. The bag these apples came in proudly bore a union flag logo.

I remember  an abandoned orchard planted a century ago or more. The farmer was long gone but a few of his old trees still grew beneath the Mill Hill East railway line.

They were untended  but the fruit still came each year. Over the fence, by the railway track the bramble bushes densely grew. Every autumn I climbed the fence and, with a thumb stick cut from an ash plant, carved my way into them to gather the dark blackberry fruit.

Stewed with the misshapen, multi-sized apples from the old unpruned trees, these fruits of the autumn earth, were delicious. In another county and a generation earlier, they would have come with with home-made cream. Eaten raw the apples gave a flavour and fragrance of which the fruit from the supermarket were  a mere echo – and tease.

I had two of those ancient trees at the bottom of my own garden. And a massive, battered pear tree, but its fruit was either eaten by starlings or rotted before they were ripe.

You can’t be a commercial farmer and be that profligate with your products but the savour and fragrance of wild, secret, English urban places which I loved – were and are a refreshment for the soul.

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3 Responses to English Apples

  1. churchmouse says:

    Hello, Llew —

    Fascinating post. I believe apples still grow on a few trees near Mill Hill railway station. There is an industrial park where the actual trees are — hard to get to, because there is a metal fence with spiky tops over which one would have to climb. I wondered how the trees got there. The fruit is beautiful and bountiful.

    Looked at an English gardening catalogue today and have dog-eared certain pages — a columnar cherry tree and some green gooseberries (worth a post — couldn’t find any in the shops this past summer, not even at the greengrocer’s).

  2. lleweton says:

    Yes, the countryside of old Middlesex – or is it Hertfordshire at Mill Hill? – is everywhere mingled in with the architecture of suburban north London. A 90-year-old gentleman ( the term deliberately used here), a local resident, whom we met when my then young children and I were exploring , once pointed proudly across the fields from Mill Hill School to Totteridge and said: ‘And this is London NW7’. Good luck with your garden hunt. Your words take me to another, nearby place, London N3 and a road which was lined with flowering cherries – all too briefly – every Spring…
    Come to think of it this blog does have its origin in questions and thoughts involved in memory.

    • churchmouse says:

      I think it’s Herts after Mill Hill.

      There was also in NW London a road — Salmon Avenue, I believe — that was also lined with flowering cherries. We used to drive down it every Spring. The last time, however, maybe 10 years ago, there were fewer trees. Sad — it was just a Metroland street with semis, but the trees at that time of year made it breathtaking!

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