It's that time of the year when orchard competitions add interest to the summer as a precursor to the new season which is now only weeks away.
Over the next couple of weeks, orchards will be judged and prizes allocated.
The first to be decided was the 68th Goudhurst & Paddock Wood NFU Orchard Competition and on Wednesday evening close to 100 attended the presentation of Trophies at Burrs Hill Farm Brenchley in West Kent.
Prior to the presentations attendees enjoyed a walk of the winning farm hosted by Ian and Nick Overy.
Ian and his son Nick farm on three sites: Mascalls Court Farm, Paddock Wood; Crouches Farm, Horsmonden and Burrs Hill Farm, Brenchley.
The evening started at Crouches Farm with an introduction by Nick Overy before a walk of the Gala orchards. We then set off for Burrs Hill Farm, just a mile 'or so' away.
At Burrs Hill we walked the orchards before returning to the newly completed storage complex where the presentation of trophies to the winners of the various categories took place.
In his introduction Nick Overy told the attendees that the family have farmed in the area for 170 years. The family started farming at Mascalls Court at Paddock Wood.
Below - an extract from Paddock Wood history mentioning Mascalls Court and the Overy family
The Manor of ancient times called 'Marescalls' was recorded in the reign of King Edward II, about 1307.
In the very early days of Paddock Wood when the Rev. Edwin Pope was the vicar, it needed two Church wardens. They were Mr. Charles Overy and Mr. Thomas Fielder Fuggle who were appointed on the 18th November 1860. This was the only Church administration in those days. These two very outstanding Christian personalities carried tremendous responsibility.
They were leading hop growers, Charles Overy farmed at Mascalls Court Farm and Mr. Fielder Fuggle at Fowle Hall just beyond Queen Street. Both are interesting men, Mr. Overy's family predated the present Overy family which itself dates from the 1870's. Mascalls Court Farm at one time reached past the village centre down to the railway.
Fruit size is good at Crouches and Burrs Hill in this 'rain free' summer and Nick explained they have always maintained good soil health strategies; composting is an integrated element of orchard management.
Nick said Mascalls Court was a Wayleaves Court dealing with 'rights of way' the last Court was held in 1880 when half a dozen farmers sat down in the old granary and decided they footpath was no longer needed, so that ended the Wayleaves Court at Mascalls Court. the family was religious and 'teetotal' - but that changed!
Today the family farm the three farms; Burrs Hills was bought in 1986 and they now grow about 10 hectares of apples - 'all Gala' on the three farms. At Crouches it's Mondial Gala (old trees) at Burrs Hill Gala Galaxie apart from one orchard of Royal Beaut and the one Gala Galaxie orchard at Mascalls Court which grew 70 tonne per hectare in 2017 and looks set to repeat that this year.
The Overy family also grow 100 acres of Blackcurrants.
Nick acknowledged the pruning and tree management of Bill Payne who came to work with him a few years ago; Bill is acknowledged as one of the best fruit farm managers of his generation and Nick Overy said the input of Bill was the prime reason for the Overy family winning the Goudhurst & Paddock Wood NFU Orchard Competition.
Discussing the potential crop, which Nick described as 'a good crop' not 'a bumper crop' he highlighted the influence of the summer sun on fruit quality (taste) as the blackcurrants had recorded sugar levels of circa 25%!
Nick anticipated the harvest date for his Gala as around 7th September.
Below: Gala at Crouches Farm
Below: Gala at Burrs Hill
Below: Gala Galaxie at Burrs Hill
Gala Galaxie is the favoured Gala clone for the Overy's but one relatively young orchard had been planted with Gala Schniga; unfortunately these Schniga trees proved to be poor quality and the Nursery replaced them with Gala Royal Beaut which are doing well.
Below: Both; Gala Royal Beaut at Burrs Hill
Discussing the new orchard Nick said they have the advantage of sufficient land which allows time to 'properly' establish a new site before planting. This new orchard has an area which needed drainage; this has been done and the whole site subsoiled to ensure perfect soil conditions. Nick stressed the importance of establishing good soil conditions ahead of planting and acknowledged their land availability as an asset.
The support structure is in place and the alleyways will be grassed down in advance of planting. The spacing planted at 1 metre x 3.5 metres; much more intensive than the farm has been historically planted at; 1.5 metres x 4 metres.
Below: left; this new orchard will be Gala Galaxie when it is planted this winter and right; NFU Group Secretary Martin Webber introduces the NFU South East Regional Director - William White prior to the Prizegiving
William White - NFU South East Regional Director is a regular at the Goudhurst & Paddock Wood event; William delivered an updated position on NFU's determined efforts to ensure our Government is fully aware of the issues of great importance the agricultural community faces 'post Brexit' not least the importance of harvest workers. William assured growers present that NFU would keep battling away at Government to recognise the danger to home grown food production without a clear plan for post Brexit!
Below: left; William White and right; Nick Overy receives the BASF Championship Trophy for 'Overall Winner' from Martin Webber
Below: left; Ian Overy receives the Dow Agrosciences Trophy from Martin Webber and right; Nick Overy receives the Norman Collett Trophy Class 1 from Martin Webber
Below: listed; the Prize-winners of The 68th Goudhurst & Paddock Wood NFU Orchard Competition
Below: a trophy laden 'Father & Son' celebrate their success
From the prize-giving attendees moved into the storage complex where a generous display of refreshments welcomed the 'thirsty and hungry' visitors.
While tucking into the 'tasty fare' we had the opportunity to inspect the new block of Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere (DCA) stores. The panel stores were erected by Bill Hobden, the refrigeration installed by Castle Refrigeration and the DCA control system by UKCA Ltd.
Below: the new storage block; panel stores constructed by W D Hobden Coldstore Services
Below: left; Refrigeration installed by Castle Refrigeration and right; DCA technology installed by UKCA Ltd.
Below: Isolcell DCA equipment installed by UKCA Ltd.
Next week The English Apple Man is visiting growers in the Wisbech area and will be featuring some of the highlights in the Journal of Fruit Focus which took place in Kent last week.
Until next week
The English Apple Man