Celebrating apples at Hardy’s Cottage

AUTUMN is peak apple season and the National Trust team at Hardy’s Cottage, near Dorchester, is celebrating the nation’s favourite fruit in October and November with an invitation to visitors to taste the fruit from Hardy’s orchard and have a go at apple pressing and see cooking demonstrations.

The team has been delving into Hardy’s writing, picking out apple references from his stories and poems to share with visitors. Hardy’s poems are being displayed in the orchard and visitors can have a go at writing their own poem and adding it to a poetry tree in the apple pressing shed.

Rachael Raine, visitor experience officer, says: “We are inviting visitors to have a go at apple pressing and join in our apple-themed festivities. Freshly pressed juice is just delicious, and so much tastier than the juice we normally drink from cartons.

“Each batch tastes slightly different depending on which apples go through the press, and it’s fun to try out different combinations. It feels special to be continuing the apple harvest as Hardy and his family would have done each autumn, and then to cook the fruit using traditional recipes that he would have recognised and enjoyed eating in his childhood home.”

The Hardy family had their own apple orchard and as a boy Hardy recalls helping his father with the apple harvest and climbing the trees with his sister, Mary. Hardy’s orchard was largely replanted in the 1970s so it is uncertain whether any of Hardy’s own apple trees remain. Today there are a mix of apple varieties including eating apples, cookers and cider apples.

According to an inventory of the orchard in 2009 apple varieties included Lane’s Prince Albert and Newton Wonder, both reliable cookers; a Somerset Russet, and Orleans Reinette, both dessert apples with a very good taste. Also listed is an old Dorset variety, the Warrior, which is rarely found outside the county. This apple can be eaten or cooked but is commonly used for making cider.

Who is this coming with pondering pace,
Black and ruddy, with white embossed,
His eyes being black, and ruddy his face
And the marge of his hair like morning frost?
It’s the cider-maker,
And appletree-shaker,
And behind him on wheels, in readiness,
His mill, and tubs, and vat, and press.
– from Shortening Days at the Homestead, by Thomas Hardy

Pictured: Apples in a barrow at Hardy’s Cottage, National Trust/Chris Collins