Mists and mellow fruitfulness at Stoneywell

Stoneywell orchard in the autumn mist

Like the cottage, our orchard is small but perfectly formed. Late summer and early autumn is a truly lovely time of the year as the sweet little orchard comes into its own and makes a great spot to sit and admire the abundant autumn apple harvest or to enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation.

From small pips big apple trees grow........

Stoneywell was always intended to have fruit trees, and around 1902 a number were planted between the stables and the main drive entrance to  plan provided by Ernest Gimson, Stoneywell's architect and Sydney's younger brother. They were a mixture fruit trees, native trees, shrubs and bulbs including hazels, maples, elder, apples, pears, cherries, holly and yellow broom.

By 1950 all had died with the exception of a cox and crab apple tree, which too were gone a decade later. However, during the Second World War a second, smaller vegetable garden was added alongside the tennis court. This was converted into an orchard in 1950 for six apple trees

A plum from the paper

The varieties selected were a good mix, with reliable Bramleys for cooking and Newton Wonder and Worcester Pearmain for eating, later a plum tree was added, ordered from a popular broadsheet newspaper and which arrived as a small stick!

A plum on a tree in the orchard at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

The orchard today makes for a lovely spot to sit and take in the peaceful surroundings of the Stoneywell garden; you may just catch a glimpse of the orchard wildlife too, which like the apple harvest is plentiful. The surrounding dry stone walls provide a great habitat for small mammals, invertebrates,  toads and frogs. The compost heap near the entrance is also a great habitat for bank voles and slow worms which seem to thrive at Stoneywell. In the autumn, thrushes and blackbirds can often be seen feeding on the windfalls.  

 

Slow worm at Stoneywell
STWS Slow worm 2
Slow worm at Stoneywell

In terms of management, we prefer a minimalist approach and favour techniques which support the apple trees and the wildlife they, and the orchard, supports. Sensitive pruning of the trees maintains vigour and the grass is strimmed twice a year, half each time to minimise disturbance to wildlife. We have planted crocus bulbs which provide  a splash of colour in the spring and will naturalise over time. There is one ornamental tree - the Judas Tree which was a cutting from sister Janet's garden, and has since changed colour, the white wisteria grows through the orchard too, not the best for fruit but the gardener likes it.

And speaking of fruit; what happens to the Stoneywell apples? Well some go into the delicious recipes in the tearoom, some are left for wildlife and the remainder? Well they are for you to take home!

Apple ripening on a branch