My friend’s Oxfordshire garden was suffused with the golden glow of a late September afternoon. It could have been the inspiration for John Keats’s paean to ‘mellow fruitfulness’ in his ode To Autumn.
Six years ago, this was an impenetrable jungle of nettles, brambles, rusting bicycles and even, bizarrely, the hull of an old sailing yacht.
The only hint of the treasures it might conceal, she told me, were a few inaccessible, gnarled, old trees shrouded in springtime with pink and white blossom.
There was much hard toil, clearing the brambles, stripping away ivy and digging over the soil of her long-neglected orchard.
She now enjoys (literally) the fruits of her labour. The branches of a dozen apple trees bend with greenish-brown Egremont Russets and cookers the size of small footballs. Interspersed among them, three tall pear trees are festooned with ripening Comice and Conference pears, while dangling clumps of plump Victoria plums seep juice through their dark purple skins.
Throughout the year, she shares this abundance of her reclaimed orchard – miraculous testimony to nature’s resilience and fecundity – with many visitors.
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