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Bewdley Town Council

July in the Forest

By Town Clerk's Office Bewdley Town Council

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

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July in the Forest

We look after one of the many old cherry orchards in the Wyre Forest. These were planted early in the 20th Century to take advantage of the high prices that could be obtained for fresh fruit taken to Birmingham and other urban areas by the newly-constructed railway network. Harvesting the fruit was (and is) a very labour-intensive job, especially when the fruit is growing on an old-fashioned standard tree. I now appreciate the origin of the term ‘cherry picking’, referring to taking only the best: you can only pick the fruit that is ripe making return visits necessary in the hope that the birds haven’t found them first. Add to this the danger of climbing long ladders to reach the branches and you can understand why the fruit commanded a high price. In the heyday of cherry production there would be a man to move the ladders for a gang of 8 to 10, usually casually-employed, women pickers. Many who worked in the carpet factories during the day would squeeze in some extra employment in the orchards at this time of year.

When we came to Uncllys we set about planting new cherry trees and over the years since have pruned the old trees to keep them standing as long as possible. Even when dead they provide a habitat for some of the forest’s rarest creatures, such as the Noble Chafer beetle. Spring brings a wonderful show of blossom, but this is only the second year in 13 when we have anything like a good crop of cherries. Some of the new trees are fruiting at last and nearly all of the ‘old ladies’ are having a go, so we are being vigilant at checking on the progress of ripening and trying to get the ladder to the trees in time. We have a number of varieties which ripen consecutively from June to the end of July, with each variety yielding ripe fruit over about 9 days. We can’t put the time in to visit the trees every day, so the pigeons, jays and thrushes help with the picking and other nocturnal visitors clear up the fruit that gets knocked to the ground.

The Cherry Fair, a revival of the traditional annual market, celebrates the harvest on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd July at Bewdley Museum from 1pm to 4pm each day with music, children’s activities, crafts, food and drink.

Now, is it to be cherry ice cream, cherry clafoutis, summer pudding, chocolate and cherry gateau…….?

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The Guildhall, Load Street, Bewdley, Worcestershire, DY12 2AH

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