Monday, 13 July 2009

Wonderful weekend walk in orchards

To anyone who lives in the south-east of Britain, or in London, take note; visit the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale Farm (just south of Faversham in Kent). What a magical place! As one enters, it looks a little unpromising - "a bit pop", to quote the older friend I was with on Saturday. There's a market area, a fudge stall and a café, and if you look for it (quite hard) there's a very good plant sales area. But push on through all that and go for a walk through the orchards, because that's where the magic is. Rank upon rank of fruit trees, cherry, apple and plum, literally hundreds of varieties of each; Kentish cobnuts and hazels; finally a huge field of currants, with red and black berries gleaming like beads of coloured glass among the foliage. It's the height of the cherry season and the cherry orchards were a joy to behold, shadowy and quiet, and jewelled in the shadows. The air smelled of ripe cherries.

In the plum sections the trees had all been grown on dwarfing rootstocks, so that the young plums were as if on display, held out before us; small and violet-blue-blushed, slightly furry, still hard and undersized but ripening and waxing like hundreds of small moons.

I know the official purpose of Brogdale is as a repository for genetic diversity of agriculturally useful fruit species. But the atmosphere is startling; it is like walking through a vast open-air shrine to the blessedness of Earth's fertility. Walking through the trees evoked an atavistic power, a sense of potency and of unabashed and endless growth and renewal; and of our eternal debt to, and reliance upon, Mother Nature. I wanted to write a poem about the trees and their fruit and the fact there is always fruit, every year, as the wheel of the year turns now towards autumn; about nature eternally supporting us though we do nothing but attack and undermine her, and the Earth, Our Mother.

But when I thought about it I realised that the great Orcadian poet Edwin Muir said what I wanted to say, better than I ever could, though he was not writing about trees; check this out

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