Thursday, 31 March 2011

It All Depends How You Look

I am considered a grown up now, and I have two young children myself. I am keen to get then familiar with the world outside and all the wonders of nature and her perpetual cycles of birth, growth, death and rejuvenation. I want to educate them about wildlife, trees and plants – not computers and mobile phones, these things will change with time. Hopefully nature will not. Personally, I cannot imagine a more healthy, vital and wholesome activity for a family than climbing a tree in order to pick and eat fresh wild fruit.

I work on a computer in my current job and I make a point of getting out of the office every lunchtime for a walk or jog through pleasant woods and fields nearby. While habitually doing this, I began to notice the passing of the seasons more closely and took note of which trees blossomed in the spring. I then began to identify some of these trees as plums or damsens (always first to bloom in spring), cherries and apple trees. They were effectively wild trees or on public/common ground.

Do you see traffic or proto-plums?

Once I became able to identify these trees I started to spot them wherever I went. It all depends how you look. It’s a bit like, when a friend gets a new car or bike, you know what it looks like and you keep an eye out for them on the road. Suddenly you begin to see similar vehicles all over the place, it soon becomes hard to believe that you hadn’t noticed how many there were on the road before – they seem to be everywhere. As you might expect, it’s exactly the same with trees, only the opportunity to benefit from this new found skill is going to be far more fruitful, than car identification.

Once I tuned in to these trees, I started to notice apple trees in the car parks, in hedgerows, in housing estates and in recreation grounds, it’s even easier when they have fruit on them or on the ground under them. I spotted cherries surrounding the B & Q car park and all along the main road into town, beside the railway track and in the community centre grounds and even outside the building in the industrial estate where I worked. Naturally, if you identify the blossoms, when they first arrive in spring and note their locations down (this is easy with modern mapping technology) you will be the first one ready when the fruit ripens.

Do you see the cars or the Cheries that will be here in June?
Cherry trees are considered ornamental due to their florid blossom that shows shortly after the plums herald the onset of spring. Consequently, they are often planted along avenues and by roadsides I have also found them used in and around car parks. People though seem to overlook the fact that they are cherry trees and that this is where cherries come from. The same thing is true for apple and pear trees, which blossom slightly later.

Do you see industry or Cherry trees?
Orchards and apple trees enjoy a rich heritage in our cultural history. Almost everyone eats apples, or so it seems, and there are a myriad of different types. Interestingly if you plant an apple pip and it grows, a completely new and random type of apple tree will result and the fruit will taste quite different from its parent tree. The only way to propagate as same type of tree/fruit is to graft a branch onto new rootstock, but that’s all getting a bit unnecessarily technical. Instead of preserving familiar types of tree, you could always try to create your own new type – although it may taste horrible or even bear no fruit, at least it is original.
Can you see Cherry trees and Hazle stands or just a dog walker?
My wife spotted a pear tree on waste ground near the children’s school and picked a few that were easily in reach. Then she noticed several apple trees in the local swimming pool car park. We drove to the pool with some friends and picked a veritable hoard by standing on the roof of our car, then throwing them into picnic blankets held out by our enthusiastic children. They were delicious rosy red apples with pinkish flesh! We named them Flemming Park Reds after the leisure centre. I also began collecting fruit during my lunch hour, initially just eating a couple of plums and bringing some home for the family. Then I started finding apples, which my son and I tend to eat every day.

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