The Priory has an orchard once more. Working under the guidance of Brighton Permaculture Trust and Action in rural Sussex, and with the help of pupils from Priory School, the Trust planted six apple trees in a corner of the site of Lewes Priory Park on 8 February 2013.
The orchard planting is part of Local Fruit Futures, a lottery-funded project which has enabled the planting of over 40 small orchards in schools, parks, housing estates, care homes and village greens.
The small orchard serves as a reminder of the much larger orchard which once existed. The trees are old Sussex varieties, now mostly rare. Monasteries were repositories of orchard skills for hundreds of years and we know from records that apples, pears and plums were all tended by the monks at Lewes Priory. Unlike today they were not often eaten raw, but cooked and many apples were turned into cider. Students also took part in an apple cookery session although the cider making will be a project for the future!
The varieties planted are (left to right from the top of the slope):
2 Crawley Beauty
3 Saltcote Pippin
4 Tinsley Quince
5 Wadhurst Pippin
6 First and Last
Those involved in the Local Fruit Futures project have produced a paperback book Apples and Orchards in Sussex, by Brian Short with contributions and editing Peter May, Anne-Marie Bur and Gail Vines.
This exciting project was the first planting to take place in the Priory's historical setting, since medieval times, and it required the presence of an archaeologist in case anything left by the monks 500 years ago was unearthed.