Pitmaston Pineapples, Jambs’ Owls and Skinner’s Rats

Basket of autumn produce at Woodlands Farm stall

Autumnal basket at Woodlands Farm

The atmosphere at Woodlands Farm Apple Day on Sunday was brilliant. The combination of a large, happy crowd, a perfect crisp, clear autumn day, the folk music of Skinner’s Rats and an appealing set of stalls made for a great afternoon. Not to mention more than 15 varieties of apples to try; 15 different varieties of English-grown apples, supermarkets take note.

The apples were obtained from Pippins Farm in Pembury who grow about 50 varieties of apple, and they included a few that I hadn’t tasted before. The most unusual was the Pitmaston Pineapple, much smaller than most apples and looking like a miniature Egremont Russet. It’s an apple that was first bred in the 1780’s but was presented to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1845 by a Mr Williams of Pitmaston. They tasted sweet and nutty, a little like a Russet, and I could only just about taste the pineapple flavour claimed in the farm’s description. It could be that the name refers to the warm yellow colour and shape, rather than the flavour. I added some to my bag to take home, together with some stripy red and yellow Cameos, some Cox-like Jupiters and some of my favourite apples, Egremont Russets.

One of Jambs Owls, possibly Eastern Screech Owl

One of Jambs Owls

Jambs’ Owls have become quite a regular participant at woodlands Farm events recently, but they still draw a queue. The well-trained birds sit patiently on their perches, or allow youngsters to pose with them for photographs, and accept gentle stroking. There was also a crowd sitting in the sunshine listening to Kent-based folk band Skinners Rats, who also play and call the steps at the Farm’s energetic and slightly chaotic barn dances. There were opportunities to join in on the (rather complicated) choruses, but most seemed happy to enjoy the music.

The Farm is right next door to the area where it is proposed that the controversial Equestrian Centre will be built. The problematic planning process for the Centre is covered very well in the 853 blog, but it was interesting to learn that before the Equestrian Center was announced the Farm had been negotiating with the Council for some time to lease the field, with the aim of using it for a locally-grown food project. This seems like a much better use for land that is designated as Metropolitan Open Land, and which is also part of the South East Green Chain described in the 2011 London Plan. This Plan gives such land the same level of protection as the Green Belt. Meanwhile the Blackheath donkeys who currently live on the land drew a small crowd as well, presenting themselves for grooming across the fence

Blackheath Donkey Foal 23rd October 2011

Blackheath donkey, may be moving home soon to make way for the Equestrian Cantre

The next Woodland Farm event is the Christmas Fair on Sunday 27th November.