Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Curious Orchard

Going back to that park on Herlwyn Avenue, Ruislip, in my previous post: One particular episode on our rambles has kept coming to mind over the years. Sometimes I wonder if it was an early dream that I had, but it really did happen. One day as my brother and I were exploring the boundary of trees around the park, we spied a man and a woman standing in their apple orchard on the other side of the boundary. We'd never noticed this place before, perhaps because there was nobody in the orchard to draw our attention as we passed by. The couple seemed to be finishing up business soon after we spied them, and they retreated from the orchard to some unseen location. We found a gap through the tree line and entered the orchard. As we proceeded up the path under the apple trees, we became aware of tiny little sheds scattered about the orchard. Made of unpainted weather-beaten wood, they would have come up to between knee and waist height to an adult. They had peaked roofs and little latched doors and even a window in the side, just as though they had been built for use by gnomes or other wee folk. Through the tiny windows we could see in each shed two or three apples set on its floor. (I wonder if this is a detail added by my imagination later: The apples could have been resting on gingham cloth laid in the sheds.)

We easily could have helped ourselves to some apples, but I think we were held back by the strangeness of the situation. The popular books for British children at the time were full of fairy folk living in miniature structures deep in the woods, and here we were looking at little barns or sheds built to proportion for just such beings. The apples also looked so strange sitting behind their little windows as if they needed shelter like the little folk. We soon noticed that we were getting closer to the house of the orchard's owners and in sight of their own windows, so we returned down the path and back into the park.

I since have learned that apples need to be stored somewhere after they come off the trees, and perhaps the miniature sheds were a common method at one time in Europe or the British Isles. In all my years, though, I've never come across that particular storage method again.

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