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The English Apple Man


12th Aug 2023 - Harvesting new season apples 'under way'

The new season is upon us as the first pick of British Apples is under way!


The English Apple Man 'popped in to see John Dench at Ringden Farm in East Sussex where the harvest of Rosette started on Monday.


British apple growers range from small enterprises like, Ringden to huge operations farming more than 1,000 acres.


As our growers face mounting challenges of large cost increases of labour, materials and energy, and resistance by Supermarkets to increase prices back to the grower sufficient to cover these huge production costs, even the largest, most efficient growers are unable to generate a profit!



While this is an ongoing conundrum, my visit to Ringden Farm where John Dench and his family have managed to make a success of what is just 30 acres of apples, pears and some plums.

John Dench is the third generation to farm at Ringden Farm where his grandfather Ben Dench put down roots in 1963.


Originally founded in 1949 after the sale of land belonging to the Seacox Heath Estate. Ringden Farm was a just a bare 17 acre field.


Purchased by John and Robert Hunt from Brenchley, they felt the site was suitable for growing fruit. They planted up the land with apples, pears, plums and even a few peaches. These young trees formed the backbone of a quite mature holding when in 1963 they moved to a larger farm in Sedlescombe and Ben Dench bought the farm.


Click to visit - The English Apple Man's visit to Ringden Farm in 2022 for the opening of their new farm shop.


Below: The first bin of the 2023 season at Ringden Farm - ROSETTE


Rosette is a new early dessert apple. A lovely bright red apple with an unusual pink speckled 'rosette' pattern that penetrates deep into the flesh.


The best flavoured pink fleshed apple available, light and sweet flavour with a hint of summer berries. Delicious eaten fresh and produces an attractive tasty apple juice! The tree is compact in habit which makes it ideal for the smallest of gardens. Very heavy cropping and is also easy to grow. This variety is sometimes sold commercially in the shops as Rosette tm Raspberry Ripple tm


History: Worcestershire 2005.


Pollination Partners - Apple Annie Elizabeth, Apple Charles Ross, Apple Discovery, Apple Ellison's Orange, Apple Gala, Apple Kidd's Orange Red, Apple Laxton's Superb, Apple Lord Derby.


Below; Discovery pollinators at Ringden Farm





My visit to Ringden Farm embraced a walk with John Dench through some of the varieties planted in recent years.


We stopped by an attractive red apple of Japanese origin now in its 4th leaf: A variety named Akane. In 1953, one of the new hybrid seedlings was selected, initially known as JW-50, and was the product of a cross between Worcester Pearmain, an English apple, and Jonathan, an American cultivar that had been one of the top varieties in Japan since its introduction in 1872.


Worcester Pearmain x Jonathan cross initially known as JW-50, and was the product of a cross between Worcester Pearmain, an English apple, and Jonathan, an American cultivar that had been one of the top varieties in Japan since its introduction in 1872.


Below: John Dench and right. Akane a Worcester x Jonathan cross




Next: Valstar a clone of Elstar which harvests in early September with higher red colour than Elstar. . A Sport of Elstar found by Mr. Charles Andre. Also John has planted Cabaret now in its 5th leaf. Suffers bit of canker.




Next - Mariella a late season variety that keeps well in cold store. a two row bed of Cox due for grubbing next year and carrying a heavy crop (it's called sods law)


Below: left. Mariella and right. Queen Cox



The Queen Cox was planted in 1991 with bench grafted trees by John's Dad Chris and Chris Levett, with Discovery and Egrenmont Russet as pollinators.


Below: Concorde planted in 1980 in the same year as John was born


Concorde supplied by East Malling Research in 1980.


John's parents Chris and Lesley both worked at EMR in their youth and when EMR set up field trials on a number of specially chosen sites in 1980, Ringden Farm was one of the sites chosen. Now 43 years later they are still producing fruit.



Strolling back to the farm yard, John and I discussed the benefit of their operating philosophy. Nothing is wasted, everything has a value. Apples, Pears, Plums are either sold to farmers markets across the South East and/or in their Farm Shop. Any .visually sub standard fruit is made into juice. Juice represents 60% of their gross turnover.


John said even the poorest visual quality, which is made into Cider Vinegar returns a decent value.





Back at the farm shop, I bought a tray (24 cans) of the delicious Lightly Sparkling Apple & Ginger juice - my wife and I find this very refreshing on a warm summer's day! a punnet of Kent Cherries and John gave me a few Rosette for tasting.



Below: left. Kent Cherries middle. Lightly Sparkling Apple & Ginger juice and right. Rosette apple



That is for this week, but next week The English Apple Man will be reflecting on an article written by his Grandfather Ben Dench in The Fruit Grower magazine in 1971 in which Ben expounds his views on the future of apple growing if/when the UK joins The European Common Market



Take care



The English Apple Man