At this time of the year the Japanese have their beautiful Hanami celebrations as they enjoy the spectacle and fragrance of their own sakura. In Godshill we have our own, more secret version, Godshill Cherry Orchards.
This 10 acre orchard is just a few steps away from the High Street and I was lucky enough to spend an hour or so this morning walking through row upon row of gorgeous blossom as the bees from the hives on site went about their important business in the sunshine.
Simeon Medway, owner and manager, explained the clock rotation of the trees which provide cherries from twelve different varieties of tree over the duration of the summer. This season they have a new variety of late white cherries coming into their very first bloom. These will eventually yield their fruit late in the season, catering for a growing late summer demand from customers who have tried their well-know white cherries that are available only early in the season.
The weather this year has prevented the blossom from appearing as usual, holding it in near suspended animation for quite some time – until now. All this means that the first fruit will be a little later this year, probably not until the end of June.
The metal hoops you see over the trees serve a very important purpose. Once the cherries start to appear there is a population that wants to get at them before you do – the birds. So, Simeon and a couple of helpers spend a week of very long hours knitting together 5 huge nets which cover the whole site. Following that, as the fruit starts to reach maturity, enormous plastic sheets replace rows of netting as the fruit needs to be protected from the rain so as to ensure the fruit does not split.
Come the picking season, which runs for a couple of months, the merry band are up at the crack of dawn, well, almost, around 5am and hand-pick the cherries all day long, often not finishing until daylight has gone late in the evening. Then, if you are lucky enough to be in Godshill, you can pick up your punnet of the very freshest of cherries the next morning. And would you believe it, the price of a punnet of cherries has not increased for 11 years, now there’s a beautiful and tasty bargain for you.