Gorse Hill Apple Festival, 24th September 2023

We have passed the autumn equinox, and as we walked up Long Lane, Aughton, ripe conkers were falling around us. The Rowan and Guelder Roses are full of bright red berries. We thought we glimpsed either a Swallow or a House Martin over the houses, quite a late stayer. Then we crossed the A59 Liverpool Road and headed up Gaw Hill Lane and Holly Lane to Gorse Hill nature reserve for their annual Apple Festival.

They used to have their apple weekend in mid-October but now the apples are ripening two or three weeks earlier, another sign of climate change. The orchard wasn’t looking its best. A group of Roe Deer visited last winter and barked a lot of the trees. The affected trees have survived but are now protected with tree guards around the trunks. They have borne smaller apples this year. Then they had a shortage of volunteers in the spring to thin the apple buds, so even on the undamaged trees, they have more and smaller apples than they would have liked.

But there were still plenty of apples on display in the sales barn, of dozens of varieties.

We mad a quick visit into the woods to look at the rare (for Lancashire) Wayfaring Tree, which was starting to fruit. We also admired a Pedunculate Oak with its acorns forming well. It had fewer knopper galls than we see in Liverpool parks (possibly because the wasp’s co-host, Turkey Oak, hasn’t been planted here.) The little red structures in the middle are next spring’s buds.

We returned over the fields, passing the ponies from the nearby riding school, who were posing prettily as if for a family portrait.

Public transport details: Ormskirk train from Central at 10.17, arriving Aughton Park 10.45.  Returned from Aughton Park at 2.40, arriving Central 3.10.

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