Crab apples – our native apple. c Philip Precey

Recently Cumbernauld Living Landscape’s Saturday nature group headed out into the woods on a special mission. “Wassail the trees, that they may bear, many an apple and many a pear…

While the domestic apple is not native to the UK we do have our own version – the crab apple. A member of the rose family, its small fruits taste quite tart (crab is an old word for ‘bitter’ or ‘sharp’) but they are beloved by wildlife like blackbirds, foxes and badgers. Our ancestors believed apples were the ‘food of the gods’ – in fact the word ‘paradise’ originally meant ‘a place where apples grow’. Fittingly at this time of year apples were also the fruit of love, they were used in all sorts of love spells and it was believed that an apple tree was so full of concentrated love that nothing evil could happen around it.

Our wellbeing group will walk through the woods looking for these magical trees and when we find one we will ‘wassail’ it – we’ll make lots of noise to wake it from its winter sleep and then we’ll make a meal of toast and hot apple juice over a fire and share it with the tree to give thanks for the apples it will produce. If we don’t do this now there will be no apples to eat in autumn!

It is well known that spending time in nature like this is incredibly good for your mental and physical wellbeing. Our ancestors knew this too, in folklore apples gave life, health and knowledge to all who ate the fruit and cared for the trees and woods.

We’ll be continuing these free Saturdays sessions throughout the coming months, if you’d like to join then get in touch with Paul – p.barclay@tcv.org.uk – and come along.

Paul Barclay