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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 October 2005, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
'Ancient' apples put to the test
Erddig Hall
The hall has impressive orchards and gardens
Fruit growers have been given the chance to find out whether the apple trees in their back gardens have a direct link to ancient Rome.

The annual Apple Festival, held at Erddig Hall, near Wrexham on Saturday and Sunday, delves into the history of one of Britain's favourite fruits.

The stately home is inviting visitors to bring a home-grown apple along to be identified by experts.

Erddig's own orchards boast more than 100 different varieties.

Apples were first cultivated by the Romans over 2,000 years ago.

"We have a tremendous amount to be grateful to the Romans for," said Erddig's Erin Robinson.

"If it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be any apple pie, apple cobbler, apple fritters, apple cider or even apple butter. Simply expressed, there would be no plump, juicy apples."

apples generic
The Romans introduced many apple varieties

When the Romans invaded in 55BC, they brought in their own varieties and also blended them with the then wild British crab apple.

There are now an estimated 6,000 different varieties of the fruit being grown here.

Organisers of the festival are hoping for a good response to their appeal for local apples.

With the major Roman city of Chester is only 12 miles away from Erddig Hall, and evidence of Roman activity spread over the area, they are hoping for some interesting discoveries.

"There are 32 different varieties of apple specific to Cheshire alone which, due to sheer geography, must have some Roman influence within them," Ms Robinson said.

"It's not only this; a few years ago the Berkeley Pippin apple was thought to be extinct until identified at a similar apple day - which shows why people should bring their apples along to Erddig for ID, just in case."

The festival, now in its 15th year, has become a popular annual event. Attractions on offer are all apple-linked, and include basket weaving, archery, an arts and crafts marquee, food, music, and dancing.

And no apple festival would be complete without cider, of course.

"We have a cider press set up which will be taking the apples grown in Erddigs own orchards and crushing them down ready for making cider," Ms Robinson said.

"The fermentation period for the drink is four months, but those wishing to sample the brew needn't worry, as we've plenty we prepared earlier!"

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