13 October 2023

If last week was quiet, then this week (not through choice) was quieter still!

My schedule for last week was a simple one.

Sunday: COVID

Monday: COVID

Tuesday: COVID

Wednesday, still COVID

Thursday: more COVID

Friday: COVID… oh, hang on, wait an hour or two… now no COVID!

Saturday: Yay! Freedom… and just in time for the Trowbridge Apple Festival!

The Apple Festival is an annual event run by the local charitable project “The BIG Community Grow”.

 The festival aims to celebrate both the local history of apple growing and the traditional skills and crafts associated with a more self-sufficient and self-reliant lifestyle: growing our own food, basket weaving, knitting, woodturning, and many more skills.

 First staged at Courtfield House in 2012, the festival moved after a few years to a new venue in Town Park, and from there to Emmanuel’s Yard on Church Street. It’s been held at Emmanuel’s Yard for the last three years, and this year featured not just the inevitable apple crushing and pressing demonstrations, the “longest single peel” competition (it’s quite remarkable what some people managed to achieve), and a fantastic array (and tasting opportunity) of more apple varieties than I ever knew existed, but also artisan cider makers, wood turners, and basket weavers. You could even use an apple to create your own greeting card!

 But it wasn’t just apples; there was crochet work, knotted and felt products, and a wonderful assortment of small local craft businesses showing their wares. One in particular really peaked my interest, and I hope to find out more about this particular small local start-up producing conservation-themed hats, socks, etc. soon, at which time I’ll share what I’m told because this is exactly the sort of business we should be encouraging here in Trowbridge.

 Anyway, back to the apples.

 A popular and integral part of the Apple Festival is the annual apple pie competition. This competition was started alongside the festival back in 2012, and Mary Pearce, the former owner of Courtfield House and well-known and well-regarded pillar of Trowbridge civic life, was not just a keen champion of the festival but a committed judge of the competition during the first few years of the festival’s life. After Mary’s sad death in 2015, the organisers wanted to remember her and her enthusiastic judging, and the apple pie “bake-off” now awards the Mary Pearce Cup to our star baker each year.

 Mary was a truly fascinating local character, once head of Roundstone Preparatory School and principal of Morphew School of Dance. She was a long-term member of the Town Council and went on to become the first female chair of Trowbridge Town Council (and later of West Wiltshire District Council). In 2012, she was deservedly awarded the annual Civic Award for her years of commitment to and involvement in Trowbridge.

Ah, yes… back (again) to the apples.

This year’s crop of apple pies may not have been the largest ever, but it certainly was impressive! One perk of being mayor and judge of the contest is that I get to sample all the wares entered!

I have to say that for me, there was a clear winner. Now, that doesn’t detract from the quality of the “opposition.” It’s just that, in a very subjective judgment, I’m going to go with what I like. The winning entrant had a very French feel to it. It was almost a lattice-topped “tarte tatin”, the pastry was perfect, and the apples retained crispness whilst being perfectly cooked (and spiced). For me, it was everything I wanted in an apple pie, and I was happy to vote for it as the overall winner.

In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I must admit that the decision was not unanimous. There were three judges, the other two being Stewart Palmen and Steve Oldrieve, and while my choice prevailed, it was only by a two-to-one majority. That was probably fair, as although I really loved my pie of choice, I also really enjoyed the other contender’s offering.

I do, after all, like my apple pie!

That’s it for now, so until next time, keep safe, and please be kind to each other.

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