Dorset orchard extension in progress

It’s been a relatively cold winter for being outdoors, but we’ve braved the elements to do some much-needed work on the land. We’ve been preparing a 2½-acre extension to Temple Orchard, our home Dorset orchard. This extension will bring the total area of the orchard to just over 5 acres.

With extensive land-drainage repairs now complete, sturdy tree guards made, and 120 new trees collected, we’re finally ready to get started on planting.

Tree guards for Dorset orchard
Tree guards ready and waiting

What apple varieties are we planting?

The new trees include a few of our old favourite varieties that we’ve used in a number of ciders previously, such as Yarlington Mill, Kingston Black and Stoke Red. In addition there is Egremont Russet, which is a new one for us, and also some more unusual varieties. Most excitingly, we have a selection of old Dorset varieties such as Tom Legg (sweet), Kings Favourite aka Crimson King (sharp), and Frome River (bittersweet). These old Dorset varieties all feature in Liz Copas and Nick Poole’s excellent new book The Lost Orchards – Rediscovering the forgotten cider apples of Dorset. We highly recommend the book to anyone interested in traditional orchards and real cider.

As with the original area of Temple orchard, there’s been much debate about which planting layout to use. Hexagonal layout? Or perhaps Quincunx layout? Quincunx is a great word if nothing else. It involves each 5 trees being planted as in the layout on a die.

Propagating an unnamed variety

Grafting is another task on the to-do list, with the aim of propagating new trees from a DNA-tested unnamed variety of which there are four very old trees in a Somerset orchard we harvest from. It is a sweet apple that we’ve trialled as a single-variety cider and had very pleasing results, so it will be great to have some of these trees in our Dorset orchard.