Ampleforth Abbey: A View from the Orchard

They say the best time to plant an apple tree was ten years ago, and the second-best time is of course now. It is over 50 years since Fr Edmund Hatton OSB planted a new and modern orchard on former pasture. A collection of varieties selected to provide a succession of ripening apples from early August through to December, with late storing varieities keeping the community and apple pie beyond Easter.

Their 50 year old trees, grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks, are now reaching the end of their lives – lasting much longer than similar trees in commercial orchards. To help future proof the orchard they are now replanting, taking out the most diseased and least productive trees to make way for new ones, a fantastic opportunity to introduce new varieties. Some have been chosen as they are less prone to disease where as others offer the opportunity to extend their range. This includes Belle de Boksoop and Ashmeads Kernel, two richly flavoured heritage apples, robust and very well suited to their location. In addition, they have also added Foxwhelp, Fillabarrel and Tremlett’s Bitter all ‘bitter sweets’ that will add a real bite to their cider.

Ampleforth cider already boast over 70 different varieties of apple! Some way off the 2,000 in the National Apple Collection at Brogdale, Kent. Many commercial orchards only grow around seven types! They are using their replanting programme to showcase more of their apple heritage and will be sure to delight the many visitors on the Orchard tours.

The Orchard tour makes a visit to the Abbey and surround valley well worth is. They begin each year with the first apple blossom and continue until the end of harvest in the autumn. Not only can you see a fully functioning Orchard first hand you can also taste apples that will never be found in supermarkets, such as Beauty of Bath, Irish Peach, Ribston Pippin and Pitmaston Pineapple.

The management of the orchard is of course of great importance and interest too. Although not certified organic, no chemicals are applied, preferring instead to manage pests and diseases by careful husbandry, selective pruning and by encouraging beneficial insects and birds. Their mowing regime means that the grass sward beneath the mature trees is now left uncut, helping to protect soil, reduce water loss and minimise compaction. It also enables small meadow flowers to flourish, and these, along with the trees and shrubs on the orchard’s perimeter, provide additional forage and habitat for beneficial insects and birds. These things all add interest for their visitors and help fulfil a mission to practice good land stewardship.

We can’t recommend a visit highly enough. But if you can’t make it to North Yorkshire then you can at least sample their cider by ordering from here – Ampleforth Products


Tim & Steve, the Ampleforth Pommeliers