Saturday, 17 October 2015

The apple train

Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway, known in our family as the Chinnor Chuffer, is a local railway that has a mixture of steam and diesel trains running on weekends and special occasions. It's run by a group of very keen volunteers who maintain the trains, track and station and all seem to have a lovely time playing trains! It originally ran as a passenger service between 1872 and 1857, at which point it was closed to the public and used solely to transport goods to the cement works in Chinnor. British Rail closed the line in 1990, handing it over to the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway.

It's a pretty little station that's appeared in Midsomer Murders several times
Today was Apple Day, so we decided to take a ride on the chuffer and find out a bit more about our local apples. The Mid Shires Orchard Group were on hand with a display of apples, including several found along the line, and to let us have a go at pressing some juice.

We jumped on the train and trundled off down the line (for 3 or 4 miles) while a guide pointed out interesting apple facts. The railway runs along the bottom of the Chilterns where the chalk escarpment meets the clay of the Aylesbury Vale. This unique geology provides soil that the fruit trees thrive in, making the railway line apple trees particularly bountiful. Although this year all of the apples are about four weeks behind where they should be at this time of year because of the bad summer we've had.
This tree grew from an apple core thrown out of the train window
We saw apple trees that were planted in 1880, making them over 130 years old. The cottages are long gone, but the orchard still exists and the trees are doing well. Grafts have been taken from them to preserve them in case the trees are blown down in a storm or become diseased.

Several of the trees from the display of apples were pointed out, including an apple that looks like a lemon but tastes like an apple, and an apple that looks like an apple but tastes like a lemon!

Down the line - looks like a lemon and gets its name because the tree is
'down the line'
Thame Junction - the tree is at the point that the train returns for home and
the apple tastes like a lemon
There were other fruits growing along the line, including bullace (a type of wild plum), sloes, rosehips and a large quince tree.

Quince tree - the train stops here so somebody can hop out and open the gates
for the train to go through. Then the gates are closed and the person jumps back on

Quince - too woody to eat raw, but it can be cooked down to make jam
The view of the Chilterns was wonderful and we could really see the leaves starting to turn. We passed below an open area of Chinnor Hill called The Plain that we had been stood on a month ago looking down on the train below. You can see that here.
Chinnor Hill and The Plain
On an earlier train journey they had seen deer in the fields, but we didn't see any this time, making do with red kites instead.
Red Kite in a field next to the train
 Back at the station the kids helped to make some apple juice.
Lots of apples waiting to be juiced

The apples are chopped, the milled and put into the press

A small, excited child turns the handle on the press

Out comes the juice
The apple peeler was quite a big hit too. It was quite clever!
It cored, peeled and sliced the apple
A spiral of apple

Very long peel

We had a lovely time and headed home with plenty of apple pie and juice to enjoy.

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