England in Particular

Particular News Bulletin (Winter 2007)

Welcome to an irregular e-mail round-up of recent & forthcoming Common Ground events and activities.
(See/download earlier copies of Particular News HERE)

In this bulletin:





The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns us to act now if we are to avoid irreversible impacts. We can all point the finger at others with larger carbon footprints than our own, but there is no excuse for not doing our bit. We must all take responsibility for our own actions. The consequences of not doing so would be catastrophic.

Why not start with Christmas - which has become an excuse for a consumer bonanza, a nightmare of frenzied shopping for gifts people don’t need or want, a time for spending money we don’t have, and for wasting excessive amounts of food.

Here are Twelve Ideas for a Post-Consumer Green Christmas

1. Spend time, not money, with your family and friends.

2. Join with your neighbours to make a community advent calendar, like Saltaire, where artists and locals will be creating another 'living advent calendar' in 24 shop and house windows which light up at dusk from December 1st:

3. Celebrate seasonal customs: join in and support local events such as carol singing (write your own carol for your place), mumming plays, pantomimes and wassailing.

4. Celebrate winter and winter food. Make Stir-up Sunday (25th November) a family occasion with everyone helping to make the Christmas pudding. Try your farmers’ market for fresh local produce. Buy free-range meat. Look at the Soil Association’s list of organic and humanely produced food: http://www.soilassociation.org

5. Make your own Christmas food – the cake, pudding etc. Only buy just as much food as you need. Use leftovers and put final scraps out for the birds; see the RSPB web-site for advice on what to avoid:

6. Make your own or buy as many gifts as you can from your own locality; think about "Present Miles". Go for fewer, good quality, well made gifts such as books, clothes or other practical things. These are better than lots of trinkets that are likely to get thrown away.

7. Make your own decorations; grow evergreens in the garden, but leave plenty of berries for the birds. Avoid plastic decorations. Make your own wrapping paper out of newspaper; decorate it with apple prints and recycle it afterwards.

8. Decorate a tree in your garden with edible things for the birds.

9. Take winter walks; look out for the starlings and rooks flying in to roost. Watch the sunset, learn about the stars and moon.

10. Feed and water the wild life in your garden and park, especially when the ground is frozen.

11. Make your own greetings cards. Email them if you can.

12. Make "Less is More" your New Year’s resolution.



THE APPLE SOURCE BOOK - Particular uses for diverse apples
A great present for a better future.

The Apple Source Book from Common Ground was published in October. It is a celebration of nearly 3,000 varieties of apples we can grow in these islands, with their distinctive flavours, uses, places of origin, stories and associated customs. Taking the apple as a symbol of the physical, cultural and genetic diversity that we should not let slip away, The Apple Source Book demonstrates how anyone can make a difference. To a wealth of useful information (about apple identification, orchards, wild life, specialist nurseries, suppliers of fruit, blossom routes, Community Orchards, ideas for Apple Day, wassailing, juice pressing, cider making and a 40 page county by county gazetteer of where varieties originated), are added recipes from 52 chefs, food writers and gardeners.

You can read the chapter "The Case For Variety" on our web-site:

Reviews of The Apple Source Book ….

"a hymn to the diversity of the fruit and an invaluable supply of anecdote, fact and recipes"
Nigel Slater, The Observer Magazine, 21 October 2007

"a sort of all-in-one apple enthusiasts’ kit, containing everything from a raft of celebrity apple recipes and hints on cider making, to a gazetteer of where you can find your Ribston Pippin and your Blenheim Orange."
Michael McCarthy, The Independent Extra, 19 October 2007
You can read the complete article here:

“this informative and beautifully crafted book will open your eyes to the rich and fruity pickings closer to home. This is a book that deserves pride of place on the coffee table as much as it does in the kitchen."
Mark Taylor, CountryFile Magazine, December 2007

"A gazetteer, addresses and just about all the other apple orchard information you could hope for are to be found in it, plus a recipe section in which food writers, chefs and gardeners offer their own apple dishes."
Philippa Davenport, Financial Times, 28 October 2007
You can read the complete article here:

"Growing apples for cider has a long and illustrious history in Britain, as explained in the excellent new The Apple Source Book."
Elspeth Thompson, The Sunday Telegraph, 14 October 2007

"hurrah for Common Ground’s Apple Source Book, celebrating all things appley, a timely reminder of our largely unknown apple heritage."
Carol Trewin,Western Morning News, 20 October 2007

"The Apple Source Book is brimming with fascinating information."
Barry Forshaw, Amazon, November 2007

The Apple Source Book, by Sue Clifford and Angela King, with Philippa Davenport, Hodder & Stoughton (ISBN 978-0340951897), hb 304 pages, b&w illustrations £16.99

Read more on another part of this web-site:





Common Ground's much-praised book England in Particular (published by Hodder & Stoughton) covers nearly 600 subjects from alleys, allotments and apples to warrens, white horses, yew and zawns. It is a counterblast against loss and uniformity, and a celebration of just some of the distinctive details that cumulatively make England. It provides a way of looking, cherishing detail, patina, the commonplace and the particular. In 2006, it was 4th in The Times newspaper's Top Ten Books of the Year.

"This book is a joy ... " Monty Don
"... as informative as an encyclopaedia, but far more gripping and more coherent." UA Fanthorpe
"... as vital as it is joyous, and as timely as it is inspired." Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
"This book should be at every curious Englishmanís bedside." Alan Titchmarsh

England in Particular, by Sue Clifford and Angela King, Hodder & Stoughton (ISBN 0 340 82616 9) hb
528 pages, 600 essays, colour and b&w illustrations. £30.00 rrp.

Read more on another part of this web-site:




The first weekend in December

Show your love for mature trees in the streets, parks and gardens. The decorating of trees is prevalent in many cultures throughout the world. Tree Dressing Day is a recent addition to the calendar, challenging people to share their traditions to invent a festival in which young and old, professional and amateur can share in a social celebration of the trees in the street or on the green. This multicultural community expression for everyday nature already includes music, dance, poetry and storytelling, as well as the hanging of ribbons, shapes, shining lights - anything that draws attention to the trees we take for granted. It began in 1990, when, to show that 'every tree counts', banners and 150 large, cut-out numbers were hung and illuminated, with the help of tree surgeons, on a group of three London plane trees at the junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and High Holborn in Covent Garden, London. They stayed up until Twelfth Night. This launched Common Ground's Tree Dressing Day; since then local communities, authorities, schools, colleges, arts groups, hotels, parks departments, health centres, theatres and sheltered homes have taken part, organising colourful hangings or simply gathering to read with candles under their favourite tree in the public domain. For some events in 2007 see another part of this web-site:

Buy a copy of our Tree Dressing Day Times and Manual for ideas and inspiration:





Apple Day came of age this year as we celebrated 18 years, with a bumper crop and glorious October sunshine. We are studying recent years' media coverage, and attendees' responses to the Apple Day events they have visited. Please send us any information you have about your Apple Day event, or one you might have visited, by the end of the year. Contact Sue Clifford at Common Ground for more details.

This year we started a virtual exhibition of apples and orchards. We asked art galleries and museums with permanent collections to feature relevant artworks on their web-site with a reciprocal link to ours. The V & A, in particular, created a wonderful exhibition - ‘A is for Apple’. It includes 25 images: apples in botanical illustration, apples as a representation of the seasons, apples as a decorative motif and apples as symbols. It can be seen on our web-site until Old Twelfth Night – January 17th.





The Apple Day 2007 WINNERS in the three categories:

Barney Hilken peeled 658cm from a Crispin apple at Acorn Bank Apple Day in Cumbria, National Trust, near Penrith, Cumbria.

16 & UNDER:
Alex Abbott who is 10, peeled 152cm from a Cox' Orange Pippin at Charlton Orchards Apple Day in Creech St Michael, Somerset.

Rowan Williams peeled a 262cm peeling at Wirral Wildlife Trust’s Apple Day at Brimstage Hall, Cheshire.

Winners received either an Apple Gift Box of mixed apple varieties donated by Charlton Orchards of Creech St Michael, Somerset or an Apple Map poster from Common Ground.

Charlton Orchards send out mail order apple boxes in several sizes - a delightful idea for a Christmas gift.





The importance of old orchards for wild life has at last been recognised. In August, DEFRA added traditional orchards to the UK BAP list of priority habitats. Old apple and other fruit trees support a wide range of species from hole nesting birds, and invertebrates that need decaying wood, to lichens and fungi. All orchards, both traditional and commercial, are still declining at an alarming rate: Natural England reports that the orchard area in England has diminished by 57% since 1950, and in parts of Scotland and Wales the loss is even more dramatic.

However, there are reasons for optimism. There is a huge demand for organically-grown apples for juice and cider from small-scale producers, who are popping up all over the country. Orchards are being planted by small landholders, in Community Orchards and Country Parks. The National Trust, and others are creating County Mother Orchards in their properties. In some they are making their own juice and cider.

Common Ground is campaigning for fruit trees to be grown everywhere – hedges, in fields surrounding villages, towns and cities (along with smallholdings), in schools, universities, hospitals, factories, parks, along canals, as well as in Community Orchards.

COMMUNITY ORCHARDS offer ways of reinforcing local distinctiveness, of saving vulnerable old apple, cherry, damson, pear, plum orchards, providing opportunities to plant new ones and thereby helping to counteract the massive loss of orchards since the 1950s. They are simultaneously places for quiet contemplation, open air-classrooms and centres for local festivities, acting as carbon sinks, reservoirs for local varieties of fruit, and refuges for wild life.

Our Register includes over 300 Community Orchards, excluding school orchards. The information we are gleaning from them will be contained in a Community Orchards Manual to be published in spring 2008.





With the revival of interest in traditional orchards and the growth of Community Orchards, wassailing is re-asserting itself in the calendar. Wassailing the apple trees usually occurs on January 6th or 17th (Twelfth Night old style), but in some places it is on Christmas Eve.

'Wassail' comes from the Anglo-Saxon waes hael - to be healthy, so wassailing apple trees has been a way of encouraging a good crop in the following season. Often farm workers and villagers carrying lanterns, a pail and pitcher full of cider, shotguns and horns, walk to their local orchard, which is sometimes lit by bonfires, and gather round the largest or most prolific tree. This tree is known as the Apple Tree Man and is feted as the guardian of the orchard. Cider or beer is poured on its roots and pieces of soaked toast or cake put in the branches for the robins - guardian spirits of the trees. Often the tips of the lowest branches are drawn down and dipped into the pail of cider.

The wassailers fill their earthenware cups with cider and toss it into the branches. They then refill their cups and drink and sing a toast to the tree ... To drive away evil spirits and wake up the sleeping trees, cow horns are blown, trays and buckets beaten and shotguns fired into the upper branches - as much noise as possible is made ...

A list of Wassailing events for 2007 is on another part of this web-site:





Of all the things you ever buy, a souvenir ought to be a memento of a place. If we are travelling then the souvenir’s only journey should be back home with us.

But you know how it is … you search for something to take home from a place you have enjoyed visiting and all you can find is a local postcard stuck onto a box of fudge made 130 miles away. Or, happy with some small emblem, you glance underneath and find it is made in China. People have forgotten that a souvenir is an ambassador as it travels and should leave local ecological, cultural and economical benefit, instead of a trail of devastation in far away places.

For positive examples think of the lighthouses of turned serpentine marble from the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall; Carshalton Lavender Oil, grown on old south London allotments where it historically grew; earrings of Whitby Jet; seasonal and place-based foods such as cheeses (Charles Martell’s Single and Double Gloucester is made from milk produced by Old Gloucester cattle in the Severn Vale), and beers (Southdown Harvest Ale by Harveys of Lewes who identify strongly with their place and its festive and seasonal round).

SOUVENIRS IN PARTICULAR, Producing the Goods 3 (published in the summer) is a call for action to designers, makers, educational, cultural, heritage and tourism agencies and tourists too, to create a new climate of expectation for the things we take home from places we have visited.

Common Ground’s campaign for locally distinctive and sustainable souvenirs aims:
to challenge practice to give positive feedback into locality, its culture and nature as well as its economy
to create a new climate of expectation from souvenirs
to show what is achievable by using good examples
to challenge makers/designers to produce souvenirs that reflect and come from specific places
to challenge tourism chiefs from town to region to facilitate the sale of locally distinctive and sustainably produced souvenirs

Please send a stamped (48p) A5 envelope for a copy of Souvenirs in Particular (after 1st January 2008 these will cost £2 inc p&p)

Read more on the PRODUCING THE GOODS pages of this web-site.

See also Adam Nicolson’s article about this for the Telegraph Weekend, ‘War on Tat’, 23 June 2007:





For regular news on Common Ground activities and publications, calendar customs and country-wide events related to wild life, environment and local distinctiveness, visit our Calendar pages online. They are updated for the first day of each month. Click on the NEW! Icon at the foot our our index page:





Common Ground director Sue Clifford will be speaking at the Visit Britain Sustainable Tourism Conference in London (27 November); Hay Festival Winter Weekend (30 November - 2 December) and on the Isle of Wight as part of "Celebrating Islandness" (Newport, 17th January). Watch our on-line events list for dates and times as they become available:




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C o m m o n  G r o u n d
Gold Hill House, 21 High Street, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 8JE
Tel. +44(0)1747 850820
Email. info[at]commonground.org.uk

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Visit our MARKET PLACE on www.commonground.org.uk for gifts, publications and cards ideal for Christmas and the winter season.

See/download earlier copies of Particular News HERE

Common Ground publications include:
England in Particular: a celebration of the commonplace, the local, the vernacular and the distinctive, Hodder & Stoughton 2006
The Apple Source Book: particular uses for diverse apples, Hodder & Stoughton 2007.

We are grateful for funding from Defra EAF, Cobb Charity, Garfield Weston Foundation, Headley Trust, The Tedworth Trust, South East Tourism and others.