Simone Kane: I talk to the trees. Well, now's their chance to answer back
Sunday 19 September 2010
Autumn is an appropriate moment for visitors to take a bite out of the new Talking Trees Trail, an apple orchard tour just launched by the National Trust at Cotehele in the Tamar Valley, Cornwall (nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele).
But this isn't just any old food trail – instead the latest technology is used to bring Cotehele's orchards to life, with the aim of educating us about the importance of protecting the hundreds of apple varieties grown in the UK.
Visitors can get the trees to "talk" by swiping a pen device over apple logos dotted around the 45-minute trail to trigger 15 audio clips, which have been recorded with the help of local people. Each describes different apple tree varieties, as well as allowing other orchard occupants such as bees to "talk" about their short lives as pollinators and honey-makers. There's even a traditional wassailing song and a recipe for apple crumble along the way.
"The beauty of this trail," says Chris Groves, Cotehele's orchard officer, "is that it allows people of all ages, particularly children, to learn outdoors and at their own pace."
Visitors can wander through the characterful Old Orchard, which dates from before 1731, and the Mother Orchard, which is home to 300 trees and 120 types of apple – many of them heritage varieties.
Hear the Colloggett Pippin talk in local dialect about how it makes a superb cider, or the Beauty of Bath dessert apple explain that it was first raised in Somerset in 1864.
"We hope," says Chris, "that the trail will capture the imagination of many visitors to ensure our orchards are protected for ever."
Meanwhile, other destinations are using trees creatively to tempt visitors this autumn. From 22 October to 7 November, Bedgebury National Pinetum, in Kent, will be transformed into an "Electric Forest" (theelectricforest.co.uk).
Culture Creative will illuminate the world's finest conifer collection to produce a family-friendly two kilometre trail through the trees, complete with sound, music and interactive installations.
And, with an eye on half term, Kew Gardens has teamed up with Chiswick Moran Hotel to offer the Kew Family Package (moranhotels.com). Visitors can stay a short hop from the national botanical collection, where they can make the most of the autumn colour, tree identification tours, and other child-friendly activities.
With so many arboreal opportunities, you won't be able to see the wood for the trees.
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