Tracking the apple trees of Lewes is now a core school subject

A project is under way to map the apple trees of Lewes.

Today, Sussex apple orchards are weighted towards the Weald and north of the county because the thin and chalky soil of the open and windy South Downs is not a good environment for apple trees.

But the county town provides safe havens and environments for small-scale cultivation of numerous apple varieties, sweet or crisp, large or small, green or red and never bland because the varieties have been enriched by generations of partnership with the local climate and soil.

Mark Ridgwell said the Lewes Apple Abundance Project is an extension of the town’s OctoberfEast ambition to stimulate more awareness and appreciation of local sustainable food and drink.

He said: “Now that Lewes is well embedded in the South Downs National Park perhaps we should take more note of this local, abundant and healthy natural fruit growing within our town.

“Now, perhaps, is the time to increase awareness and care of the trees that grow here and maybe even to find some ancient varieties tucked away inprivate gardens and not recognised as such.”

Young children are going to lead the way, mapping the apple trees of Lewes with information from OctoberFeast and learning how best to enjoy their local apples with the help of the book, ‘Our Apple Orchards’ produced by Action in Rural Sussex and the Brighton Permaculture Trust.

St Pancras, Western Road, Southover and South Malling Primary Schools are excited by the project and, as spring finally happens, their children are beginning to spot trees in theirs and neighbours’ gardens.

“With their help we can begin to map the apple trees in Lewes,” said Mark “During the summer, helped by their parents, they will be taking note of how the trees, their leaves and the fruit develop and taking pictures.

“In the late summer and autumn, when the fruits mature and are ready to pick they’ll cut the fruit open so that they can record how the fruit looks inside and discover how apple varieties can differ in so many ways.

“When they return to school for the winter term, OctoberFeast will collect the information they gather and every one of the clues provided by the children will help OctoberFeast to record not only where the trees are growing, what they look like during the season and the nature of their fruit but to then, with the help of experts, try to name the varieties and maybe even discover some traditional Sussex varieties long thought lost to the town.

Any other primary schools that would like to take part in the project – or individuals of any age – should email for a report form.