At their first member’s meeting of 2017, Ferring Conservation Group had the pleasure of welcoming horticulturist and apple expert Peter May from the Brighton Permaculture Trust to talk to them on the subject of – The History of Apple Growing in Sussex, and Sussex Apples. This was particularly relevant to the Group as they were just approaching the first anniversary of the planting of their Community Orchard at the Glebelands recreation ground in the village, and all the apple trees in the Orchard had been propagated by the Trust.
Peter firstly ran through details of some of the 30 or so varieties of Sussex Heritage apples, including First and Last, Saltcote Pippin and Golden Pippin which make up part of the Ferring orchard.
He then informed the Group that the Sussex apple story started far away in the remote mountains of Kazakhstan in Central Asia, as all of today’s orchard apples are direct descendants of the apples that still grow in the natural forests there. There were then references to apples in Saxon times with local place names such as Apuldram, Crabtree and Appledore, followed by details of tithe and tax returns from the C14th including from Ferring when cider was mentioned.
The 1950s was the peak time for Sussex apple growing with many thousands of trees being planted after the war across the County. Locally the East Preston area was a hot spot for growing, as well as in North Ferring, but the most important area was the East Sussex border with Kent, and this is still the case today, although the majority of orchards have sadly been lost in Sussex. This is why the initiative of Community Orchards is so important in maintaining our history of apple growing.
Later in the meeting, Tricia Hall in her Nature Notes section reported amongst other things tens of Lapwings being seen in the fields just west of Ferring Rife near Kingston – quite a rare but welcome sight these days. Vice Chairman Ed Miller reported on a planning application just off Sea Lane in Sea Drive to demolish a house and replace it with a block of 8 flats – something to which the Group would be objecting. He also reported that Arun District Council in their emerging Local Plan would now have to find a total of 1000 new properties every year in their area, as well as the likelihood of Persimmon Homes soon submitting plans to build 475 new homes in the Worthing part of the north Goring Gap near to Goring railway station. This disastrous move for the local area especially in relation to the inevitable traffic problems will be fiercely resisted by the Group in partnership with fellow Goring groups and others.