An Apple Festival – Gorse Hill Nature Reserve

This weekend David and I visited Gorse Hill Nature Reserve in Ormskirk. The attraction was their annual apple festival. Since 2005 an organic orchard has been established with heritage varieties such as the Ribston Pippin and Worcester Permain.

apples 1

Worcester Permain

The 2017 apple festival ran from Saturday 7th to Sunday 8th September, with opening hours of 11 to 4pm. We arrived around 12 noon after a half hour drive from Liverpool. There was free parking. Sadly Saturday was a bit of a wash-out weather wise. It was cold, wet and dreary all day. Though there were a good number of people enjoying the cakes and coffee in the cafe.

On the day, there were regular tours of the orchard with interesting histories of the heritage apple species grown onsite. An apple press demonstrated apple juice production with the opportunity to purchase the juice at £2 a bottle and there was even access to a short woodland walk.

Firstly, David and I headed towards the barn where the main attraction was, the produce of some 100+ fruit trees from the orchard. There was an apple tasting table where you could taste samples of the likes of Sunset and Katy. I tried the Ribston Pippin but found it too hard. I then tried the Ellison’s Orange and it was a much softer, sweater texture.

From the taster table we perused the produce, there were varieties such as Egremont Russet with its rough skin, Brambley and the humongous Mere de Menage.

The main reason we went was so I could obtain some Discovery apples as they are a personal favourite. However for the past two years I have not been able to buy them in the supermarkets. Sadly they are a seasonal early, are usually ripe during September and unfortunately spoil very quickly, hence only seeing them early autumn. Indulgently their taste and smell conjure up memories of childhood, the nervous excitement of returning to school after the long school holidays, (still felt some 30 years later). Of sitting in a darkened room with the curtains open, the street lights outside making the room glow orange, the gas fire burning warmly and children’s programmes blaring brightly on the TV. The sense of safety is overpowering. I’m still wearing my school uniform of royal blue cardigan and navy skirt while biting into an apple that has soft flesh, the pulp bruised pink and the taste sweet yet tart. I’ve been following this echo for so long….

We went on the short woodland walk along Cabin Wood. Since the weather was against us, there was no head nor tail of any insects and the air was silent of bird song. I can imagine of a spring or summers day the air teaming with life. Instead, we wrapped our arms around ourselves and enjoyed the many sculptures along the path.

ellison orange

Ellison’s Orange

Returning to the apple barn I decided to buy some Discovery and Ellison’s Orange, both had the scent of autumn to me. In all I bought 12 apples and at 4 for £1, the total cost was £3. I felt that was really cheap. I was ready and willing to pay more.

In hindsight I wish I had bought more of a variety, but I had intended to get Discovery apples and Discovery apples I got!

I am happy I have discovered this little gem of an orchard and will definitely visit again.

Have you visited a fruit festival? What is your favourite apple?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve

Still nursing a bit of a hangover from 30 Days Wild. Our forays into nature have continued.

Sunday dawned bright and cheerful. While David got up at 7.30am, I turned over to snooze for longer. However five minutes later David came charging back into the bedroom, ‘we’re going out, he said. We had been debating the previous evening whether to stay at home or visit a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. It all depended on the weather.

‘Shall I get up now?’ I mumbled sleepily. I guessed the weather was favourable.

‘No, later.’ So I snoozed until 8am when I got up for breakfast. We were out of the house by 9am! We drove for an hour to Ormskirk and Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve and spent the next three hours walking along woodland paths and gazing over lakes.

On our bimble we saw many fluttering red admirals and a wonderful comma butterfly. Flashes of blue damselflies darted about and brambles were covered in hundreds of bees and hoverflies. The woodland scented air was filled with the hum of insects and the chatter of birds. Calls from great tits, wood pigeons and dunnocks graced the airwaves.

Thanks to a kind gentleman, we even spied a great crested grebe during a visit to one of the hides. I think David has captured the Grebe beautifully.

The great crested grebe is a conservation success after being nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage during the 19th Century. The grebe has adapted to the aquatic lifestyle and is cumbersome on land and in the air, preferring to dive under water to escape or hunt. During spring they have an elaborate courtship dance of fluffing their crests and mirroring each others’ head twists.

We walked a total of five miles around the three main paths of Mere Sands Wood, and visited a meadow with selfheal, where small white butterflies flittered over head. It was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

As the day progressed and the sun burned down the reserve and car park grew busy. There is a £2 charge to park all day with a licence plate recognition camera. There is also a visitor centre with literature and gifts.

Have you ever visited Mere Sands Wood? What is your favourite Wildlife Trusts nature reserve?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x