AUTUMN might usually be associated with the shedding of leaves from branches, but for one Hexham community group, the season is all about the harvesting of delicious fruit and the juice that can be squeezed from them.

Environmentally-focused community group Transition Tynedale has been organising apple picking and pressing events for seven years, and members have mashed and juiced hundreds of apples in that time.

“Every apple tree provides a great source of food and drink, Transition Tynedale organiser Kate Bramfitt said. “But they are often overlooked or tucked away in unknown locations, so end up rotting away unused.

“The events have not only helped combat food waste across the county, but help to bring the community together.”

The idea of collecting apples occurred to Kate after she stumbled across a farmer’s field full of apple trees whilst out walking her dog in Hexham.

“I saw this mass of untouched fruit, and I didn’t want it to go to waste,” Kate said. “So I called the farmer whose land the trees were on, and he said I could collect as many as I wanted.”

From there, fellow members of Transition Tynedale joined the apple scavenger hunts around the local area, keeping their eyes peeled for unwanted or windfall apples in public areas.

“My partner Pat, who is also part of Transition Tynedale, made an apple press for us, and that meant we could turn them into juice and give them away for free at the farmers’ market.”

When word got out about Kate’s endeavours, she began receiving donations from friends, neighbours and farmers, who all had unwanted apples to spare.

Apple picking days were then organised by Tynedale Transition, and the apple press became a regular feature at the October farmers’ market, allowing the public to make, and take home, fresh apple juice.

“People can bring us cooking apples, blemished apples and eating apples to be converted into juice, so it can be whatever they have lying around in their garden,” said Kate.

Over the years, the organisation has seen young families, grandparents and tourists gather together to mash up the apples and say cheers to their success over a glass of home-made juice.

“It’s a chance for everyone to get involved and muck in and create something which is healthy, nutritious and free of chemicals,” Kate said.

Along with being a tasty way of preventing food waste, the events are also educational, as they teach children about the origins of their food, and to learn about what nature has to offer.

“We’ve had children come along to events who were shocked to find out that apples weren’t created at the supermarket,” Kate said. “I feel it’s important to teach children about where their food comes from, and what food resources they have at their fingertips. It’s also a really rewarding experience for the children, tasting something they’ve contributed to making.”

Kate is also passionate about helping children to reconnect with nature, which has been proved to be beneficial for both their physical and mental health (although bicycle helmets are advised when picking apples to save a bump on the head from falling fruit!).

“At it’s heart, the events are about tasting local produce, helping reduce food waste, and and having fun whilst doing it,” she said.

Transition Tynedale events can be found on their website