Distributing Sheffield’s rich abundance of forgotten fruit

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Lily Colley (12 - left) and Holly Beer (13) at the cemetery beehive
Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Lily Colley (12 - left) and Holly Beer (13) at the cemetery beehive

Few people can imagine how much fun you can have with a mechanised apple peeler. “Look at this,” said 13-year-old Hannah Beer, dangling a swirling length of apple peel. “Shall we show you how it works?” she asked some intrigued cub scouts.

“We’re making use of what’s growing round here,” said Burngreave Cemetery Apple Day organiser Patrick Amber. “If people aren’t aware of it, they’ll often neglect it.”

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Cub scouts Jade Green (10) and Cullen McMaster (9) with a fish lantern

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Cub scouts Jade Green (10) and Cullen McMaster (9) with a fish lantern

The case in point is the existence of a lost harvest of local apples growing in neglected patches of land all around Sheffield.

Patrick’s apple collection last Sunday came from Parkwood Springs and Sheffield’s long-established Abundance project to gather and redistribute the city’s forgotten fruit.

“If it’s local, it’s better for the local area than apples brought in from elsewhere,” said Saleema Imam from the Friends of Burngreave Chapel and Cemetery, explaining that apples grown on the slopes of Sheffield have adapted to our climate and should flourish here, if we’d only value them.

“So many of our local varieties are disappearing, and we want to keep those apple genes going.”

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: artist Patrick Amber and cub scout Jacob Colley (10) having fun with apple peel

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: artist Patrick Amber and cub scout Jacob Colley (10) having fun with apple peel

It’s the same for bees, she added. The cemetery has two hives, the hope being that the Burngreave bees will adapt to their local environment and become stronger as a result. The Friends have been planting flowers and training up local enthusiasts along with the Sheffield Beekeepers Association to help.

Sunday’s apple day included coring, juicing and the less traditional nutribulleting of local apples, along with teams of all ages constructing willow lanterns ready for the Parkwood Springs beacons lantern procession on October 15. Then there was the Burngreave zeppelin.

Inside the chapel was the 1/48th scale cardboard, willow and tissue paper replica of the infamous warcraft that flew over Burngreave on September 25, 1916, killing 29 people and destroying or damaging almost 90 local buildings.

An exhibition about the raid (along with the replica zeppelin made by Patrick Amber) is in the chapel until the end of October, to be followed by a further exhibition about Sheffield links to the battle of the Somme, with a commemoration at the cemetery on November 20.

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Zahid Khan (9) and aunt Razia Jilani with a willow lantern

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Zahid Khan (9) and aunt Razia Jilani with a willow lantern

“We want to remember the civilians as well as the soldiers of the First World War,” said Christine Steers from the Friends. “During the exhibition, we’ve spoken to several people who say their grandparents remembered the zeppelin as it flew over.”

The 12 to 20 members of the Friends of Burngreave Chapel and Cemetery do their best to look after the site, especially the old chapel which is in desperate need of renovation, said Christine. The Friends are fundraising to improve the toilets and kitchen, and have already raised enough money to restore the old clock to working order.

The next (and most urgent) priority is the chapel roof. Artist in residence (and Friend) Victoria Smith said a recent fall of plaster meant she and her colleagues had to clear fragments and dust from the chapel floors and furniture in order to keep the zeppelin exhibition open.

“If there are any roofers out there who could help out, we’d love to hear from them,” she said. “If it’s not fixed, we might not be able to open to the public.”

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Patrick Amber (left) and Martin Currie with some of the collected local apples

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Patrick Amber (left) and Martin Currie with some of the collected local apples

Although a short-term repair is the priority, Saleema Imam said that a full restoration of the roof will cost close to a million pounds, with the toilet and kitchen work needing more than £30,000.

The Friends raise some money by helping family historians with research, but hope soon to negotiate the transfer of the chapel lease from the city council, which will then enable them to do more fundraising themselves.

Apple days, willow workshops and zeppelin sculptures are perhaps not what the Burial Board of Brightside Bierlow had in mind when they opened the cemetery in 1861, but it’s clear there’s every intention of keeping the chapels and cemetery in public use.

Martin Currie, for example, runs the now internationally famous ‘Cheap Thrills’ zero-budget film nights at the chapel. “The internet found out about the last one and we got 760 entries,” he said. “The highlight for me was The Walking Bread, about mouldy bread coming to life. It was entertaining, if a little gory.” Given the chance, locals will bring plenty of their own enthusiasm to former public spaces and buildings, he insisted.

Visit www.friendsofburngreavecemetery.btck.co.uk or chris.burngreave@blueyonder.co.uk for more information.

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Cub scouts Jade Green (10) and Cullen McMaster (9) admiring their fish lantern

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Cub scouts Jade Green (10) and Cullen McMaster (9) admiring their fish lantern

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Lily Colley (12 - right) and Holly Beer (13) with spirals of apple peel

Apple Day at Burngreave Cemetery: Lily Colley (12 - right) and Holly Beer (13) with spirals of apple peel