Fifteen years ago, when I moved to Thorntree Cottages, there was a line of saplings planted along the wall of the orchard - cherry, pear, plum, and apple. Every year the plum tree produced a sweet golden-green fruit on one branch, and the rest of the tree was barren. By the time we bought the orchard, five years ago, the tree was about twelve feet high, and no longer producing plum, but instead a small yellow fruit a little bigger than a damson. We thought it had somehow transformed into a Greengage – perhaps the original sapling was grafted onto Greengage root – but further research revealed it most likely to be a French Mirabelle – though our French neighbour swears that it’s not.
Whatever it is, the tree is now huge and lovely. The trunk forks from the base. One side, supported by wooden props, forms an arch over the gate. In March and April it’s thick with white, sweet-scented blossom, and humming with bees and butterflies. In July and August it’s so abundant in mirabelles that we collect buckets of them every day, giving them to neighbours for cooking and preserving – they make delicious sour-sweet jam and compote. Lying in bed at night, you can hear the quiet plop of fruit falling onto the roof of the shed and the lawn. They lie, plump, warm and marble smooth, in the long grass, and the air is filled with the yeasty smell of fermentation.
Here are George Peck’s wonderful photographs, taken a few days ago.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.