Unable to be in two places at once, I tend each year to alternate my main Apple Day outings between the excellent display customarily put on at Harlow Carr by the Northern Fruit Group or the all singing, all dancing event at the National Fruit Collection’s home at Brogdale. This year it was Brogdale’s turn but, following some earlier, puzzling uncertainty about whether the traditional Apple Day celebrations at Brogdale would happen, I was relieved and delighted to hear that this important and popular event would after all be taking place. Not to have an Apple Day celebration on Apple Day, at the home of the National Fruit Collections would have been bizarre and unthinkable. Top marks and thanks therefore to both groups of Friends of the Brogdale Fruit Collections, Brogdale staff and to our landlord, for making sure that it happened.
Making the long trip from Yorkshire worthwhile there was the usual bustle of activity with food stalls (I did enjoy my curry!), a cider stall, cookery demonstrations, music, old friends to talk to, fruit to taste and buy and of course, the display of varieties. Fruit from the Collections was not however on display. I gather that this was because, despite there being plenty of fruit available and knowledgeable people willing to gather and display it, the Brogdale Horticultural Trust had forbidden this to happen. Consequently, there was not the usual vast display of varieties.
It was disappointing for Friends not to be able to see fruit from the Collections that they have supported so loyally for so many years, on display in their established home. However whilst the display produced by Friends was smaller than hitherto if anything, the quality was better than usual and it did exactly what is needed for the non-specialist general public by showing them that apple varieties exist in a profusion of shapes, sizes, colours and uses that they never dreamed possible. They could taste a good range of varieties and having learned that apples do not all taste the same and that different members of the party had different preferences, buy the ones they liked at a price that encouraged them to do so. Those who wanted to see more varieties could however do so in the field for, despite everything, plenty of our enthusiastic guides had turned out and it was encouraging to hear people being advised to ‘wait for the next tour because this one’s already a bit full.’
People turned up with fruit to identify and questions to ask and such was the demand that, even as a bystander, I ended up being roped in to answer some of them. It was all great fun! Importantly, young people, the customers and hopefully the fruit growers of the future, were there in good numbers, clearly engaged by what they saw and enjoying themselves. Although I have seen this many times before, I have never quite got over the surprise I feel when I see a younger generation, reputed to care only for computer games and other electronic entertainment, openly enthusing over a display of apples. Seeing this gives me as much pleasure as seeing the displays themselves.
Finally, and there is no other way to say this, for the Brogdale Horticultural Trust to exhibit elsewhere, broadening public awareness of the collections, was no bad thing. To do so at the expense of the Apple Day celebrations at Brogdale was however a silly and quite unnecessary own goal that can only have done further damage to their standing with their Friends at a time when what they most need to do is rebuild bridges.