Summary of the day written by St Nicks Events Officer Ivana Jakubkova; more great photos can be found on Lewis Outing’s website
We couldn’t have wished for a lovelier day on which to hold our annual Autumn Fayre this year, on 15th October! We had plenty of sunshine to keep us warm and there was a great buzz around the place. Local poet and St Nicks’ patron, Anneliese Emmans Dean of the BigBuzz fame was very busy asking our 450+ visitors what they liked best about St Nicks or the event. She helped them write two acrostic poems, which you can read here and which summed the day up very well.
On top of having a fun afternoon, we also raised just under £1,000 for this year’s Lord Mayor’s charities: St Nicks, York Racial Equality Network, York LGBT Forum and York Civic Trust. Many thanks to all who contributed to that by eating cake, playing tombola, buying produce or just making donations! Below is a summary of the day’s highlights.
Lord Mayor & Climate Speak Up
The start of the afternoon was marked by the arrival of Lord Mayor and Civic Party who were given a lift by an electric York TukTuk. Beside it being an enjoyable quiet ride, it also helped to link our event with the Speak Up campaign of the Climate Coalition. Switching to electric vehicles powered by renewables is just one of many ways in which we can all help to fight climate change (as well as improve the life of thousands of people who currently suffer from air pollution in the UK). We had invited both York MPs along to the event to celebrate the people, places and things we want to protect from climate change, such as St Nicks.
Green spaces around the UK are already experiencing impacts of climate change so we were pleased to welcome Labour MP Rachael Maskell who talked about it and other issues with visitors and stall holders. She even added a line to one of our acrostic poems and we have since forwarded our visitors’ messages to both Rachel and York Outer MP, Julian Sturdy.
Nature walks and activities
The main reason for organising the event was to celebrate and showcase the nature reserve as well as the conservation work and ecotherapy that St Nicks does. Our Volunteer Co-ordinator Maria and volunteer Freya led four activities, giving visitors a chance to get to know St Nicks and its wildlife as well as do something to help. We worked on improving one of our community orchard sites, planting new apple trees and various wildflower bulbs. Thanks to the help of those who took part, we now have extra apple trees that will provide habitat for wildlife and act as a food source for both the wildlife and the community alike! The addition of wildflowers will also increase the biodiversity of the area, attracting invertebrate and bird species. Not to mention, it will look beautiful come spring time.
We also had a water vole wander, surveying for voles. We had some great detectives to help us look for them and we successfully spotted some clues that told us they were close by but sadly the voles themselves were being rather elusive. And it wouldn’t be Autumn Fayre without an apple pick – we had some great apple pickers this year, collecting loads of lovely apples which were pressed into delicious juice.
Thanks to Sustrans we were also able to offer a bird walk through the reserve and along the adjacent Foss Islands cycle track, plus a very popular foraging walk led by Wild Food Specialist, Mina Said-Allsopp (as seen in Country Living and The Guardian). Mina enthusiastically shared her knowledge of what could make a tasty snack when you’re out and about in nature, and what to avoid. Walk participants also received her simple guide to foraging for wild foods, optimistically entitled “How not to kill yourself when foraging!”.
For those who prefer more straightforward health benefits, Karen Heldt was kindly offering free tasters of Nordic walking while our colleague Kathy was talking to visitors about benefits of ecotherapy.
We had 11 great entries for the Bake Off, which got judged and disappeared rather fast. The contest was won by Bistro Guy whose ‘Spiced ginger, English apple & pumpkin cake’ was a clear winner. The Good Food Shop, which kindly sent two cakes, was very closely behind but all the cakes were scrumptious. The contest raised £175 so our heartfelt thanks go to the four home bakers – Jane, Ginnie, Bill and Giulia – and cafes/groups who took part: Brunswick Cafe, Olivia’s Artisan Bakery & Cafe, Bicis Y Mas and Blueberry Academy.
Apple juice, produce & booze
Around 100 litres of juice were pressed and drunk on the day – it was so good we only managed to keep a few litres for turning into cider. We’d had a lot of apples donated to us so we’re able to leave most of ours unharvested for birds and other wildlife to enjoy in the nature reserve. Leftover picked apples have gone to Abundance who will distribute them around the city. Big thanks go to all volunteer juicers and to John for lending us his press!
We were also very pleased to see our pre-made produce tasted and enjoyed on the day. We’d done our best to use ingredients from the nature reserve and the Centre garden – from hawthorn berries and sloes to courgettes and tomatoes – to make chutneys, jams, ketchup and cordial, as well as alcoholic drinks. Our hawthorn ketchup (which we’d accidentally mislabelled as ‘Haw Sin Sauce’ – we made that last year) generated particularly good feedback – including from Mina Said-Allsopp who led the foraging walk and called it a “magic sauce”. Searching the internet will give you plenty of recipe results to try out.
Our own concoctions were supplemented by local honey, local beer from Brew York (who make beer without the use of any animal-based products, which is surprisingly uncommon) and Yorkshire cider from the Real Cider Company. All went down very well.
Apple Olympics & activities for children of all ages
Most activities on the day, except for alcohol drinking and Nordic walking, were suitable for children. More than 80 took part in the day and enjoyed them but we also organised some especially for the younger audience such as as story telling, meeting author of Tomtes books Brenda Tyler or Apple Olympics.
However, that did not stop adults from having a go too and the Lord Mayor literally dove in with apple bobbing. He was not the fastest apple bobber we had – that accolade went to an 8-year old boy who got an apple in 2 seconds! – but he was certainly the most distinguished one.
Young and old alike also enjoyed having a go at throwing pots under the guidance of experienced potter Roy Parsley, who makes it look so simple. Our Eco-Crafters were also here sharing their needle felting skills and selling their crafts. They are a jolly friendly bunch and are currently seeking new members to join them on Wednesday afternoons (wearing knitted beards is not compulsory).
Longest peel contest
This year’s clear winner in the adult category was Simon who peeled an impressive 91.5inch/232.4cm while May in under 16s won with 8inch/20.3cm. These are very good results although last year set our best record so far when Pasquale peeled 124.5 inch/3.16m!
However, the world record for the longest unbroken apple peeling is held by Kathy Walfer (USA) who peeled an apple in 11 hours 30 minutes with a peel length of 52.51m/ 172ft 4in, at Long Ridge Mall, Rochester, New York on 16 October 1976. The apple weighed 20 ounces (0.5kg).
Community stalls – see photos in the gallery below
While the focus of the day was on celebrating autumn with the local community at St Nicks, we also wanted to showcase other good work being done in our neighbourhood and around York. As members of the One Planet York initiative we aimed to highlight some of the principles of One Planet Living. We were therefore delighted to be joined by the following groups and sorry that several others were not able to make it: yourcafe, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Abundance & Edible York, York Racial Equality Network, York Civic Trust, Sustrans, Kyra – Women’s Project, Greenfields: School & Community Gardens, FrackFree York, York Community Energy, Fulford Community Orchard, The Conservation Volunteers and Eyup Cycling.
The Autumn Fayre was a great community effort, and we used the opportunity to find out how we might make it even more so and even better next year. Feedback from the day can be summed up by this quote: “Our family had a wonderful afternoon and I would definitely come again“. It mostly suggests that people would like to see more of the same so we’ve already started planning improvements for next year. Quite a few comments also suggested more publicity was needed but most of the local media we have used to publicise the event were not quoted as the source of knowledge about it – most people found out through the word of mouth. Please do keep telling your friends and colleagues about St Nicks, thank you! We look forward to seeing you all at Autumn Fayre 2017.
Last but not least, we would also like to thank the following for supporting the event in other ways: