Volunteers collected over 65 kilogrammes of surplus apples from trees in the back gardens of houses in Sebright Road -- all destined for foodbanks and self-help groups across the London Borough of Barnet.


This was the seventh apple pick so far this autumn organised by Barnet Community Harvesters and takes their current haul to over 300 kilogrammes.

Because it has not been a great year for fruit trees, the group’s founder and organiser Daniella Levene doubts whether they will manage to pick anywhere near the 1,800 kilogrammes they donated in 2022.

But Daniella said it was so rewarding to be picking apples again in Sebright Road because in February last year Community Harvesters had pruned the trees to encourage fruiting buds.

“For the second year running these trees have produced a really good crop with some excellent fruit – and that shows the benefit of cutting out unproductive twigs and branches.”

Community Harvesters were established three years ago by Daniella and their aim is to nurture fruit trees across the borough.

The fruits which they collect, which also include damsons and pears, and which otherwise would go to waste, are shared out for wider distribution with the help of Barnet Food Bank hub in East Barnet, Colindale Food Bank, and New Citizens’ Gateway, Barnet’s support service for refugees and asylum seekers.

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Seen above celebrating their successful pick in Sebright Road are, from left to right, Sally Beale, Hiranya de Alwis Jayasinghe, Peter Berrecloth and their son Fredderick, Daniella Levene, Rob Wilkie, and Helen Harte.

Successfully harvesting apples from tall trees takes a great deal of concentration.

Once she had located a good-sized apple, Sally (left) had to manoeuvre her picker with care around the branches, and then pull down the fruit, ready for volunteers to fill up the trays below.

Helen, who welcomed the group with tea and cakes in her garden, said the pick had taken place just in time.

“The apples are ripe now and they are attracting parakeets and starlings who peck away and then that leads to even more windfalls.

“Last weekend I had to dump 12 bags of bruised and damaged fruit in the green bin – and that is such a waste when we know from foodbanks and self-help groups that there is so much demand and that the donated fruit gets straight to needy and hungry families and children.”

The apple pickers’ tea break was a moment for Freddie, who is ten months old, to taste his first slice of a community picked apple.

His mum Hiranya, who was expecting Freddie but still took part in last year’s Sebright Road pick, has had an eventful 12 months.

She is an Anglo-Sinhalese singer-songwriter, who lives in Calvert Road, and in June she released her first album of songs, Frangipani and Daisy Chains.

The songs grew from her experience of race and identity following the 2016 Brexit vote and explores migration, colonialism, and lineage.

“Half the songs are inspired by English herbs and the other by Sri Lankan spices – and there is even a song entitled Apple on it,” said Hiranya.

Her website --  https://hiranyarachel.com/home -- describes the album:

“Part personal nostalgia, part history lesson; it contemplates belonging through the plants that are rooted in England and Sri Lanka’s folk traditions.

“The musical pilgrimage, criss-crosses from England to the Commonwealth and back, and integrates her ancestral story into its broader political context.”