Just as Eve knew, forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest. The apple trees at RHS Wisley don’t provide the knowledge of good and evil, but for many their fruits are absolutely irresistable.
We often go to Wisley to enjoy the beautiful gardens, including the extensive apple orchards. Beautiful during Spring, in Autumn the boughs heavy laden with fruit are not only a visual treat and fragrant with apples, but the fruit is pretty tasty, too. (I’m told.)
Signs within the orchard advise visitors that picking fruit is strictly not allowed and that even windfall apples are used for scientific monitoring or cider. But the sheer volume of rotting apples on the ground suggest otherwise.
The rot sets in
The English are a law-abiding lot in general. They like to queue. They like things to be orderly. They are respecters of rules and regulations to a degree which has occasionally seemed stifling to me (a natural born scofflaw). But when it comes to gardens or flower shows, all that goes out the window. Little old ladies will elbow and shove to get a better view of a show garden at Hampton Court. The scariest moment I’ve ever had on the Underground was the press of gardening groupies shoving to get out at Sloane Square on their way to the Chelsea Flower Show. Fortunately, extra police had been laid on. There’s also a well-known problem of keen gardeners taking a little cutting here or pinching a few seeds there from the garden of the Royal Horticultural Society (of which I am a member) and the blooming borders of stately homes.
And when it comes to the apples at Wisley…
I should first add that every single person who walks through the garden gates at Wisley is outwardly respectable. No slackers or slouchers. Generally people dress up a bit, smart casual – as they say. These are not people who would steal produce from the grocery store or filch a newspaper or make an illegal download of an old episode of Gardener’s World.
But the apples at Wisley, for those in the know, are irresistable. A bit of scrumping is not unknown.
From the urban dictionary (for the sensitive, please skip past the first definition)
Definition 2: Stealing fruit, especially apples, from someone else’s trees. British. It’s considered less bad than, say, shoplifting, but adults still disapprove.
Defintion 3: The act of stealing apples from a cider orchard. (The word comes from Scrumpy cider) This term cannot be applied to a town or city enviroment. For example you couldn’t steal a stereo and call it ‘urban scrumping’
There are different approaches to middle-class scrumping. Some people slink between the rows of apples trees, making a quick look around to see who’s watching before furtively taking some fruit. Some walk brazenly through the central avenues, chomping apples, juice on chin and pockets stuffed with apples for later.
Some are justifiers. One middle-aged couple saw us picnicking in the orchard without any visible purloined fruit. They were enjoying an apple each. “It’s alright to pick up the windfall,” they said.
Others are instigators. Another couple who might have been bankers or teachers or government regulators held-up some half-eaten apples “These are the most delicious apples. It’s called Melon. So sweet – they’re just over there.”
And us? Well…I’d like to say that we stayed above it all and had every intention of following the rules if we hadn’t been led astray by Scrumpy Bill. This is my story, and I am sticking with it.
Bill slept through our early tour of Wisley, but I woke him up in the orchard as I wanted him to see the apples on the tree. He was grumpy at first, but then realised he was in an apple wonderland. He loved running through the rows of apple trees.
Trying his hand at a bit of harvesting:
Finding the perfect windfall:
We couldn't stop him.
And sharing the biggest apple ever:
That's a mighty big apple
Viewing in Facebook, originally posted at my blog Skimming the Surface.