Orchards at Chartwell
The orchards were important to Churchill, and they’re important to us, too. They make up part of our very own ecosystem here at Chartwell, so it’s vital that we take good care of them.
History of the apple at Chartwell
Before it occupied the space it does now, the Chartwell orchard was near to where our current greenhouses are. But Churchill decided to move it closer to the building which would later become his studio.
We have a wide variety of apple trees, many of which are original to the Churchills’ time at Chartwell. We grow a selection of both culinary and dessert apples including Bramley, Pippin, Crab, Sunset, and Duchess’ Favourite. Whilst you can eat dessert apples straight from the tree, you need to cook culinary apples prior to eating – hence the name.
Not long ago, we planted a 'Winston' apple tree in the main orchard. It’s still a bit of a twig, but we can’t wait for it to really get growing.
Caring for the orchard
Although many orchards are pruned in the summer months, we do things a little differently here. Thanks to our wildflower meadow preventing easy access, it’s much simpler for us to tidy up the trees in winter.
Pruning allows for good airflow and encourages the right amount of fruit each season. Our preferred timings also mean that we can let the various apple blossoms flourish unimpeded in the springtime.
We switch things up when it comes to ‘thinning’ the orchards, too. That is – we don’t do it. Apples grow in bunches, which means that as the bunches get bigger, the apples will get smaller, since they have less space to grow.
So, many orchards choose to ‘thin’ the bunches to just one apple, in order that larger and more equally sized apples can be grown.
This is often a resolution to a purely aesthetic issue and is one for those who like to have consistency in their product. But since all our apples go straight into the juicer, it doesn’t make much difference to us.
Instead, we like to focus our attention on the orchard’s little residents, like butterflies, moths and bees. For most of the year we manage the orchard grass as a meadow, which, aside from dictating when we prune the trees, allows a variety of wildflower species to flourish.
This in turn ensures that we offer a consistently rich habitat for local wildlife. Churchill had a lifelong passion for conservation, so it’s something we work hard to honour as we care for his orchards.
Apples mean apple juice
Harvesting gets underway in September, with both staff and volunteers pitching in to help. To us, beauty is on the inside when it comes to apples. So that nothing goes to waste, we make sure to collect up all the windfalls as well. Once they’re in the juicer, they all taste just as delicious as each other.
We then send them off to a local farm to be pressed, before they return to our shop shelves as delicious Chartwell apple juice.
Our apples often sneak their way into our honey as well, thanks to the bees that help to pollenate our orchards.
Be sure to stop by our shop this autumn for some delicious Chartwell apples and a bottle of our very own apple juice.