When we first viewed the property that would eventually become our home, it really was love at first sight. What was slightly amusing about that first viewing though, and has become something of a running joke between us, was that when we discussed the property in the pub later, mulling over the pros and cons as you do, I could only really remember the garden with any clarity, and the small overgrown orchard at the top in particular. "So what did you think of the kitchen then?"... "Kitchen!... err, what kitchen was that? What about that nice little orchard though..."
This will have come as no great surprise to Karen, I've never been much of a home bird, and of course the prospect of serious cidermaking and a bit of space for an orchard were at the forefront (as well as most of the foreback and sides) of my mind at the time. This place came with a stone walled ciderhouse (aka the garage) and a ready-made orchard, who needed a kitchen!
Back then, almost all of our neighbours had similar plantings, mostly cooking apples, Bramley's Seedling as far as I could tell. Remnants of what would have been a much lager orchard associated with the nearby 'Big House' and the workers cottages that served it. Ours was more of a mixed-bag, a true cottage garden orchard with pear, dessert and cooking varieties, covering all bases which was often the case when householders actually relied on their home grown crop for cooking and preserving. Sadly most of these trees, and the orchard in general, had seen far better days. Even a cursory examination of the trees revealed too much rot and bad pruning, a legacy of old age and more recent horticultural neglect. In fact most of the fruit had a disappointing tendency to rot on the tree before reaching anything like full ripeness. I did consider leaving things as they were, to decay naturally for the benefit of wildlife, but this was a long-term project and the orchard had to be of some benefit to us too. We decided to re-plant the orchard with new stock grafted with varieties that would be useful to us. So a weekend of heavy chainsaw action ensued...
Since the tree was still rooted, and in no danger of falling any further, we mulled things over for a few weeks before enlisting the help of a local tree specialist and his chainsaw. This also gave us the chance to pick some of the better apples for storage, and clear up some of those which littered the orchard floor. The reason we hadn't heard the tree falling was presumably because it had settled onto its thick canopy of branches quite slowly. This meant that there was very little damage to the tree or root system (though sadly one of our hapless cider apple cultivars took the full weight of the tree and will now need removing), making it an ideal candidate for trimming, re-shaping, and preparing for life as a recumbent apple tree.