Its Harvest Time at Shandon Farm and Appletree Cottage. The trees have begun dropping their fruit so its time to pick. There are around 350 trees on the farm with 48 varieties of apples including many old Scottish varieties.
The soil in some parts of the farm has quite a high iron content which can mean that the red apples turn out very red! The variety shown here is Discovery.
Once the apples are picked they are juiced, bottled pasteurised and sold locally. One favourite is a variety called Beauty of Moray which is shown here. A green dual purpose apple (cooker and eater) it produces a very clear sharp fruity juice. Once tasted many people come back for more.
Each year we do a pressing entirely of red varieties. This produces quite. a red medium sweet juice. Another very popular choice.
The bottles we sell contain pure apple juice and nothing else - no sweetness, preservatives, salt or pepper. Just pure apple juice.
Once bottled the juice is pasteurised which means a bottle will keep for over a year.
In addition to the apple juices we produce apple jellies and marmalades - again from our own fruit.
Be sure to ask about our produce when you come to stay at Appletree Cottage.
About a twenty minute drive from Appletree Cottage along the A811 towards Stirling takes you to Kippen roundabout. Turn left here and a couple of miles down the B road takes you to the entrance of Flanders Moss Nature Reserve
After turning off the main road at the sign a single track road takes you down to the free car park. Here, in this peaceful setting are a couple of picnic tables. Thoughtfully the tables have a block on which to place a portable barbecue.
From the car park a path takes you over a small bridge and along a woodland path which winds its way between the birch trees...
We chose to climb to the top of the viewing platform before going any further. A couple of stories high and timber built the platform is a substantial structure giving fantastic views across the Forth Valley
From the top of the platform one can see Stirling Castle, Wallace Monument, the village of Thornhill and the mountains from Ben Ledi in the north across to Ben Lomond in the west.
The reserve has a long circular path running around it so once back on ground level we began to explore, keeping an eye out for birds, butterflies and bees...
The paths are all decking built above the bog to prevent visitors' feet getting wet.. A great place for kids to run about.
All over the reserve there are information boards to tell you about the flora and fauna dan history of the site. For more information you can visit this website: www.nature.scot/enjoying-outdoors/scotlands-national-nature-reserves/flanders-moss-national-nature-reserve
Flanders Moss Nature Reserve is a great place to visit for nature lovers and walkers alike.. We'll be back again.
Appletree Cottage has completed certification for Visit Scotland's "Good to Go" scheme.
The good to go scheme verifies that self catering properties and other businesses are invoicing and adhering to government guidelines during the Covid 19 pandemic thus providing an additional security for guests welfare.
We spotted this male roe deer in the gardens of the cottage last week munching away at the hedge. . The wildlife has become a little braver as the cottage has been closed since March..
Even so, as soon as the deer saw us he was away like a shot.
The cottage re-opens on 17th July - but we're sure there will still be lots of wildlife around.
A large hare was seen bouncing around Appletree Cottage garden this morning. The first sighting this year.
Walking from Appletree Cottage
Croftamie used to have a handful of water powered mills and one of the larger ones was a sawmill. The site of this sawmill is visible by way of some overgrown flat ground to the left of the path between the path and the burn. The site has been completely cleared however and almost no evidence of this ancient industry remains.
After a pleasant walk we're out of the woods and into the open courtesy of an old iron gate. The views are excellent. To the north west we can follow the Endrick Water as it makes its way to Loch Lomond. It passes under the former Forth and Clyde Junction Railway Bridge which is now used to carry a section of the water pipe way which runs from Loch Lomond to Edinburgh. There is now a pedestrian and cycle bridge built over the pipe way and this forms part of both the Sustrans Cycle Route 7 (which runs from Sunderland in the north of England to Inverness in the Highlands) and the John Muir Way.
Walking south, along the route of the Endrick for a bit we have great views of Killearn in the distance. Before the bridge at Drymen was constructed there were various ways to cross the Endrick. One of these was a ferry at more or less the same place where the bridge is now. Otherwise fords were the order of the day. Many of the fords have washed away but the old roadways leading up to them on either side can sometimes still be discerned either by ground levels or by lines of trees or both.
At Dalnair Castle
Our route across the parkland took us back to where we had come in - the former service entrance gates. From there we walked back into the village and down to where the former Fourth and Clyde Junction Railway used to cross the main road. The station house is still visible on the eastern side of the road. From there we walked up the former railway track which is now a cycle and pedestrian walkway forming part of the John Muir Way.
Back to Appletree Cottage
The former railway line forms an excellent short cut from Appletree Cottage to the village of Croftamie. In the village the former famous Wayfarers Inn has undergone major refurbishment under its new owners. It was to re-open in April as the But & Ben bistro but due to covid this has been delayed. We are hoping that all is well and that the new owners will open with huge success when the pandemic is over.
On the railway path the gorse (known in Scotland as Whin) and the Broom are in full bloom.
In Autumn there is also a huge display of sloe berries which are popularly picked by locals for their home made sloe gin.
At the top of the railway path we join the back road leading to Appletree Cottage and Shandon Farm. This road is quiet with occasional farm traffic making it an excellent route popular with walkers and cyclists. There are good views across the landscape towards Stirling and Killearn giving a beautiful open aspect to living in and visiting this area.
Appletree Cottage, Loch Lomond, Scotland
When things ease up after lockdown Appletree Cottage is the place come and visit. Set in beautiful rolling countryside at the southern edge of Loch Lomond it is the perfect location for walking, cycling and exploring in clean fresh air.
The cottage itself has its own private garden and every bedroom has its own private bathroom with shower, w.c. and wash basin making it ideal for post-covid get togethers.
The one downstairs bedroom is ideal for elderly friends or relatives who find difficulty climbing stairs. A large open plan downstairs communal living area and patio provide plenty of space.
To avoid crowds and visiting busy supermarkets, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Asda and Tesco all deliver to the cottage. For last minute requirements there is a well stocked mini market within four minutes drive as well as a pharmacy, newsagent and excellent butcher. These shops operate strict rules of allowing only one or two people in the shop at one time (depending on which shop it is) maintaining the safety of shop staff and customers.
The roads around Appletree Cottage are all quiet single track roads with occasional passing places. The road past Appletree and beyond forms part of the national Sustrans Cycle Route 7 which in its entirety runs from Sunderland in the north of England to Inverness in the highlands of Scotland. As these roads are quiet they are also popular with cyclists and walkers who are just exploring them for a day out.
In the United States Muir is credited for being instrumental in the protection and foundation of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. More can be read about John Muir here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Muir. In Scotland the John Muir Trust was formed to protect wilderness and more can be found about the trust here: www.johnmuirtrust.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrKnu7czl6QIVQuztCh0OAQ9jEAAYAiAAEgJI0_D_BwE
Cycling and Walking, Loch Lomond
From Appletree Cottage there are plenty of places to cycle and walk. One of our favourites is to cycle down to the village of Gartocharn and from there to go along the path through the nature reserve by the shore of the loch. At the end of this beautiful trail through the woods the views up the loch are spectacular as are the collections of wading birds to be seen.
Cottage Garden enhancement
Whilst Appletree Cottage has been closed to visitors during the Covid-19 pandemic we have taken the opportunity to enhance the garden area by adding a small rockery with a picket fence and gate to protect it from any harsh wind. We have also planted up rows of willow and refurbished the lawn areas. We hope that you'll chose to come and visit us when we re-open (hopefully July / August) and are able to enjoy the many advantages and beauty of Appletree Cottage!
The orchard at Shand0n Farm, home of Appletree Cottage was in full bloom last week.
The trees - the oldest of which were planted six years ago grow bigger every year.
Despite the mild winter the blossom on the trees is quite amazing
There are three orchard areas - the main orchard planted in March 2014, the western orchard planted a year later and the paddock orchard planted in 2018 & 2019. The western orchard is the closest to the cottage and was successfully added to last year.
Creating a wind break
One of the first things we did, at the same time as planting the main orchard was to also put in a wind break. For this we chose Willow and Hornbeam. The willow, which went in as pencil sized sticks can be seen on the left of the picture below. Hasn't it grown!
In all we have planted 48 varieties - many of them Scottish. Some are surprised to discover that there was a lot of apple growing in Scotland - particularly in the Clyde Valley, Lothian and Fife. When the supermarkets became popular and centralised their distribution Scottish apples didn't fare so well - partly because they bruised in transit. Many orchards were grubbed up in the 1950's - 1970's. Recently there have been revivals of the old Scottish varieties and orchards are being planted across the land - albeit on a relatively small scale. Below is one of the excellent Scottish strains - Beauty of Moray. This apple, although a cooker produces a beautiful crisp clear juice which we bottle, pastuerise and sell locally.
The eastern or paddock orchard was planted in 2018 and 2019. By way of variation we planted the centre of this area on the same mm106 rootstock as the main orchard but the peripheral rows are on mm9, less vigorous stock with the trees closer together.
Over by Appletree (luxury self catering cottage for 8 people) is the western orchard. This was planted in 2016, much of it on what was a former stock yard. The soil here is not as good as the other areas so the trees have required more feeding. Drainage was also initially a problem but works undertaken over the intervening period have alleviated the situation.
In this area we have also planted blueberries, cherry and plum trees.
In total we have planted 350 trees. With all this blossom our fingers are crossed for a good harvest this year!
For the third year in a row we are having a long, dry, sunny period in Spring. Whilst very pleasant we do have to keep an eye that recent plantings and young flora don't run dry. Here are a few things which are in full bloom in this beautiful weather....
This year we tried a selection of Tulips. These bulbs produce flowers in many different colours and styles. Particularly satisfying were the red and yellow variety we planted in an old fam feeding trough.
Forget-me-nots grow wild now having been introduced as a small clump. Pretty and tenacious they have spread to many parts of the farm. We're encouraging them to take over even more as they are very attractive at this time of year.
Daffodils are a good reliable favourite. This double crown offers an alternative to the common variety.. Near the Appletree sign by the gate there are some with miniature heads.
Stone feeding troughs which we inherited when we took over the farm have proved very useful planters. A few holes drilled in the base and they're ready to go...
Wall flowers are very attractive - especially when planted against the white harling. This particular one has been coming back for year after year..
During the Covid 19 lockdown we've taken the opportunity the start a rock garden in the cottage garden along with picket fence and gate. Two colours of rhododendrons (red and white) have been planted along with grasses, primroses and a large selection of bulbs.
With the beginning of May the apple trees around Appletree Cottage and Shandon Farm are coming into full bloom
The trees around Appletree Cottage are part of the more recent planting.
The glorious sunny weather we've been having provides great opportunity for the bees and other insects to do their bit. The blossoms on the trees range from white to deep pink.
As well as around 350 Appletree's we have 2 pear trees - which this year are looking very promising. We may get our first pears yet if this blossom is anything to go by.
The Beauty of Moray trees are a very similar shape to the pear trees and have a similar amount of blossom this year
The first trees were planted in March 2014 and have now started producing apples in reasonable quantities. After picking we press the apples - mixing varieties together - to produce juice which we bottle and sell locally.
During the recent lockdown for Covid-19 it has been sad to see the cottage empty of visitors during such spectacularly beautiful weather. Hoping that you'll all come and visit us when things get back to normal. In the meantime stay well and stay safe.