Richhill Apple Harvest Fayre
By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 13 June, 2016
It’s a promising season for apple growers as our famous orchards are in full bloom. Eleanor McGillie speaks to Hamilton Loney to find out more about the Richhill Apple Harvest Fayre
ARMAGH’s famous orchards are alive again with their stunning pink blossoms which fruit growers say is showing very promising signs for this year’s crop for cider producers, apple processers and for fresh market traders.
Hamilton Loney, chairman of the NI Fruit Growers Association and chairman of the UFU Fruit Committee, recently hosted a tour of his orchards in Richhill during which he highlighted how the blossom is now at a critical stage for fruit growers.
Joining Mr Loney at his farm was Daryn Causby, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council’s Mayor along with Cllr Jim Speers and Dr Alan Turtle from Richhill, who are on the committee of the Richhill Apple Harvest Fayre – an authentic country fayre which is now celebrating its third year.
Showcasing the beauty and natural charms of the orchards, Mr Loney said the county’s orchards, and the fruit which they bear, are becoming more and more celebrated as the years go on but said what doesn’t change is the fact that every fruit grower is totally reliant on good weather.
Showing his guests around the orchards, Mr Loney said: “We have been so lucky over the last few weeks with the sun shining down on the trees but all it takes is one night of bad frost to cause havoc with the orchards. Ideally we need a long, dry spell during the blossom period and we only need one or two really good days of sunshine to get the bees out to pollinate.
“Robert Cassells, the beekeeper working in my orchards, has up to 70,000 bees in one hive. He would hope to get up to 60lb of honey from that one hive this year. He keeps four to five hives on the farm all year round.
“Without the bees we would be dire straits. There are, however, 70 other varieties of insects which will pollinate so we are not wholly dependent on honey bees for pollination.
“The Bramley, however, is not a self pollinator so we need a different variety of tree. There are a lot of varieties such as the Grenadier Apple Tree which is used to pollinate the Bramley but it is later coming out in bloom this year.
“The potential for this year’s crop is very good but we are not out of the woods just yet. We can only tell when we are out of the woods when the crop is picked.”
Mr Loney recalled his father, back in the early 1970s when his father was alive, telling him to look at the ash trees in the hedges which had been killed by a severe frost. Mr Loney recalled it was June 4.
“So we are not out of the woods yet,” he added. “A severe frost could hit us in June and wreak havoc with the fruit. A few years ago, in the middle of June, there was a hail storm. The hailstones tore lumps out of the apples which, at that point, were only the size of golf balls. So we are totally dependent on the weather being kind to us.”
Mr Loney was hosting the orchard tour on the day organisers announced a third Richhill Apple Harvest Fayre will take place.
For the past two years, the community of Richhill has opened up their village and welcomed people from across Northern Ireland to the fayre which is an authentic celebration of the Bramley Apple and Armagh’s orchards. It’s a fayre which attracted over 1,000 people in its first year and over 2,000 last year. It features products made from Armagh apples, cider producers who sell their apples to larger cider producers such as Magners as well as making their own ciders as well as featuring popular chefs doing cookery demonstrations using local Armagh products.
Mr Loney said: “The Richhill Apple Harvest Fayre is very unique to Armagh. We are delighted it will be on again this year because this is an authentic celebration of our connection with our land and the blossoms are key to what we can produce for the cider producers, the apple food processers as well as for fresh market traders.
“This fayre is a celebration at the end of the harvest which is becoming a key event in the celebration of our culture and heritage here in Armagh.”
The Richhill Apple Harvest Fayre will take place this year on Saturday, October 29 from 9am-6pm in the heart of Richhill Village. #liveitexperienceit
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