Fruit Routes Loughborough

A row of test tubes with different plants, some with berries, standing in water.

Fruit fueled days of harvesting, pressing, walking and exploring the campus catching the autumn sunshine and avoiding most of the rain!

Had the pleasure of walking the route with John Newling (artist) on Wednesday. His work on creating soil from composting books and using them as a growing medium was particularly brought to mind in the Transcendental Orchard which is situated right next to the Pilkington Library – the traditional hearth of knowledge and learning on the Campus.  We discussed our shared thoughts on Fruit Routes’ potential as a locus for research and learning not only about tree ecology but also human ecology, community and ourselves (bringing to mind also Shelley Sach’s project University of the Trees).

Most of the trees are thriving and healthy, just a missing walnut and looks like three trees that haven’t made it, which we will replace next February.  Particularly astounded by the thick foliage on the towering Almonds in the Transcendental Orchard.  The grounds team has done a great job of creating an espalier wiring system for the apricot and quince growing and fruiting on the David Davies building. We are going to plant a couple of new trees alongside them in the hope they do as well (peach and probably another apricot).

On Thursday I managed to do an early morning harvest at the Sweet Chestnut at Harry French Halls of Residence, which had a huge crop. I also set to work tagging apples and leaving them for people to find across Campus…Each apple comes with a message or invitation to do something (share with others/bake/pass on to someone else/give to a friend etc.) I enjoy sneaking them into pigeonholes and bike baskets and then getting tweeted responses or just imagining micro stories unfolding around them.

Had a very abundant harvesting session on Friday with Jess, Daisy (students from Australia and China) and Gillian (staff) at Ashby Road Orchard. We filled up Mark’s pick-up with delicious apples. Still loads left to fall to the ground or for wildlife.  We used different picking methods – hand picking, shaking and climbing. Later I went to the tree outside Cogs on Telford Way and picked a load of pears. Unfortunately didn’t have time to harvest the trees in the Telford Warden’s garden or the three apples at West Gate (good for juicing) .

Photos by AMC

We had easily enough fruit for two days of pressing with the Transition press. We did get a generator but had enough people power to use the hand scratter and enjoy our chatter rather than the sound of an engine!  Fresh Apple juice was taken away by loads of people, some was saved for cider and a few bottles pasteurized.  It was great to work together with LAGS (Landscaping & Gardening Society) Transition Loughborough on these two busy days all in all attended by around 300 people. Highlights for me were leading a walk around the Fruit Route with lots of new people – particularly families and local community members who seemed delighted to be made so welcome on the campus and also some repeat walkers coming back to deepen their knowledge.

Photo by Jo Salter

We walked around the sites of all the new planting and looked at a number of foraging plants and berries. Also came across Paul (Conneally) our ‘fruit routes’ poet in residence…underneath a spreading chestnut tree…recounting this popular folk rhyme and also referring us to its origins (Longfellow’s The Blacksmith) and its more darker/more reflective adaption by Orwell (Underneath the spreading chestnut tree – I sold you and you sold me) in 1984.

Photo by Jo Salter

We returned to the Shed for hot soup and bread and then people got stuck into apple pressing, a samosa workshop, chutney demo, pumpkin carving, lantern making and chestnut roasting.

Photo by Susan Forrester

As night fell Paul led a Topping Out ceremony for the new LAGS shed. In the half light, one by one we climbed the ladder and blessed the group and the shed with humour and joy.

Photo by Kev Ryan

Everyone gravitated to the blazing fire where we ate together and listened and then danced to Solana (a great folk band from Sheffield). So many different people and conversations and the night ended just before the rain started to fall.

Photos by Kev Ryan

Hope to see you at the next events in February – pruning (with a master class from Phil Corbett) and planting 14& 15 February.  Tell us if you have a particular favourite fruit tree or variety and we can add it to the new planting.. And a final pic of Jo Shields delicious  Campus Cake – Fruit Routes recipes to follow soon…..

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