The thriving orchards of East Yorkshire in Wilberfoss

PUBLISHED: 15:47 07 July 2011 | UPDATED: 12:04 28 February 2013

The thriving orchards of East Yorkshire in Wilberfoss

The thriving orchards of East Yorkshire in Wilberfoss

Chris Titley pops in (or should that be 'pips in') to the East Yorkshire village of Wilberfoss Photographs by Neil Holmes

Getting there: Wilberfoss is off the main A1079 road about seven miles from York.

Where to park:
Theres plenty of free on-street parking.

What to do: Enjoy a walk round the village and some peaceful moments in the wildlife area. Pop to the Village Inn for a drink or bite to eat.

The print version of this article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life

We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here

Have you bitten into a Belle de Boskoop recently? Maybe youve munched your way through a Cornish Gilliflower or even a Court Pendu Plat?

Not your common or garden Granny Smith, these exotic dessert apples are grown at Yorkshire Orchards on White House Farm, Wilberfoss, a few miles east of York. The farm has been in Alec Allisons family since 1918, but in 2002 he and wife Angela decided to replace their poorly performing hay meadow with an orchard.

It was something completely different to what everyone else was doing, Angela explained. A lot of our neighbours are into pig farms, farm shops, that type of thing.

We had trouble locating trees initially to get the varieties. Once we did, we found there are more out there than you realise. We went for varieties that would be fairly reliable here in the north. Some of them do better than others. Its a steep learning curve.

They learned - and expanded - quickly. Having started with 300 trees, they now have nearly 2,000 across six acres, producing 200 varieties of apple. These include dessert apples, cider apples, cookers and duals - which can be eaten or cooked.

Dessert apples are our bestsellers, Angela said. Some people do want unusual cookers. And equally we get the cider buff who wants a box of odd things to make cider.

Every year they host an Apple Day and line up around 150 varieties on a bench. At one end are the sweeter varieties, with names like Jonagold, Sweet Society and Red Elstar. Among the sharper ones at the opposite end are Topaz, Winston, Cornish Gilliflower and Court Pendu Plat.

The latter, according to Angela, has a pineappley flavour. They really need the sugars to develop and mature but some people like to eat them straight off the tree when theyre toe-curlingly acidic.

The Allisons like to grow older varieties - the oldest is Decio, dating from Roman times. And Yorkshire apples are favoured too, naturally enough: Ribston Pippin originated at Ribston Hall near Knaresborough.

Yorkshire Orchards is a family business. Alec and their son Stuart, 13, sell their apples at weekend farmers markets, and daughter Fiona, 15, gets stuck in too. As well as the apples, they make a variety of juices - apple and beetroot is popular, as is apple and elderflower - plus apple jellies and sauces.

Harvesting starts in September and can run through the winter, when apples are available direct from the farm on a weekend.

Angela is waiting anxiously to see if a warm Easter followed by a sharp frost has done a lot of damage to this years crop. The harsh winter killed many apples last year.

But these worrying moments are balanced by the rewards of helping to preserve ancient varieties and enable a new generation of people to taste real apple flavours. People as far apart as Aberdeen and Kent have ordered from them.

Supermarket apples are often kept for months and taste rather bland despite looking almost too perfect, waxed to a shine.

We dont treat ours with anything like that, said Angela. Supermarkets would have a dicky fit at our apples because theyre all different sizes, all different shapes.

Its always a big moment when a new variety fruits for the first time.
The blossoms are all different - some are pink, some are white, some are crinkly, some are smooth. Even at that stage its quite exciting, said Angela.

Then you get this apple which suddenly develops into something with a lot of colour. You dont know whether its going to be red or yellow or orange or even purple.

We joke that weve got everything bar blue.

Wilberfoss has always been a farming village. In the 19th and 20th centuries there were usually between 15 and 25 farmers in
the village.

Today its a handsome place, with leafy lanes and a sense of pride. The oldest surviving houses are found on Middle Street, leading to the beck. Across the way is the church of St John the Baptist, parts of which date from the 13th century.

Popular pub The Village Inn is known for putting on a fine knees-up, with lots of live music as well as active pool, darts and dominoes teams. And that community spirit can also be seen in the Wilberfoss in Bloom group who have not only brightened up the streets but created a special wildlife area.

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