Luckily apple season has commenced at Shields Orchard. Pack the kids for a day trip to Shields Orchard, which is an easy 1.5 hours drive or 91km from Sydney and located on the main road of Bells Line of Road, so you can't miss it.
Bilpin Orchard has been exceptionally hectic due to the influx of Rainbow Lorikeets, in numbers never seen before - perhaps a sign of how good the apples are this season. Netting has been placed over the apple trees to keep the birds at bay but the stone fruit wasn't covered in time, so don't expect many peaches.
The orchard sprawls over six hectares, mainly growing apples, some stone fruit, quince and potatoes. As it's the start of the season, there's plenty of apples to pick. The hot weather has ripened the fruit nicely with varieties such as Cox Orange Pippen and Bramley coming into their own.
Cox Orange Pippin apples originate from England, with the term 'orange' referring to the apple's orange flush. It is known for its wonderful flavour, excellent crunch and juiciness. Bramley is another apple from the United Kingdom with a sharp acidic flavour, making it perfect for any apple dish.
Our taste buds were overwhelmed by the true taste of delicious tree-ripened apples. We were taken by the sweetness of the fruit after the first bite. The trees were small in size and grown from dwarf stock, removing the need for the ladders and kids can easily pick the fruit.
You can spend the whole afternoon discovering this delightful orchard. It is recommended to ring ahead and meet with Bill and Julie to get a rundown on what apples are ripe for the picking.
With caution signs in place, there are only a few simple rules to follow. Watch where you are walking due to uneven surfaces, supervise the kids when picking (for an apple to land on one's head isn't pleasant), pay for what you pick and use the rubbish bins provided to keep the farm clean.
Buckets in hand, we strolled along the painted blue line to the rows of apple trees, whilst the kids scampered about searching for the 'ripest' tree. With loud exclamations clamouring that they've found the tree, they eagerly picked their body weight and more in apples. And guess who had to carry it all back! My advice is to perhaps pick the apples closest to the shed so the biceps don't need to work so hard.
You can taste the fruit as you go and pay for what you pick at $2.70 a kilogram or in our case, as we picked over 10kg it was $2.50 a kilogram.
Having had picked our children's weight in apples, we headed back to the shed to weigh and pay. Shields Orchard have thoughtfully provided cardboard boxes and packing tape so we could easily pack our apples to take home with us.
Fielding questions left and right from my inquisitive wannabe scientist about where our food comes from. I thought it was only poignant that we go and see the local producers and understand the labour that goes into growing our food as well as educate the kids on eating seasonally when produce is at its best. I found visiting Hawkesbury harvest trails and markets and talking to the locals a worthwhile experience. Just as the Harvest slogan says, a country experience on the doorstep of Sydney.
Reconnect with mountain surroundings with an apple or cold apple cider. Don't forget to ring ahead to let Bill and Julie know that you'll be coming. Pick Your Own is available between 10 am & 3 pm, Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat & Sun.
Entry is free with parking available at the front of the shed.
There is ample signage leading up to Shields Orchard but if you are driving from Sydney, the orchard is located on your right, so give plenty of warning to the cars behind when your turn right into the car park in front of the shed.