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Bramley-inspired tale for children will help foodbank

Susan Allen and Jenni Harding
Susan Allen and Jenni Harding

A children’s book by an American author inspired by the story behind Southwell’s Bramley apple tree will help to raise money for Newark Foodbank.

Susan Allen, who has been a children’s author, teacher and entertainer for more than 30 years, travelled from her home in Savannah, Georgia, for the book’s launch at Southwell Library.

She said she had come across the Bramley story while researching another book about apples.

“I had never heard about Bramleys before but when I happened to come across the information I knew that I needed to use it in another story,” she said.

Susan contacted Southwell Town Council who put her in touch with Celia Steven — granddaughter of Henry Merryweather, the teenage nurseryman who first spotted the Bramley apple tree growing in a Southwell garden.

The tree grew from an apple pip more than 200 years ago planted by schoolgirl Mary Ann Brailsford.

“That must have been a really special apple,” said Susan.

The cottage garden changed owners several times.

When it was seen by Henry Merryweather it was owned by Mr Matthew Bramley, who agreed that cuttings could be taken as long as the fruits were called Bramleys.

“I knew it would make a lovely children’s story with the addition of a little bit of fairy magic,” Susan said.

The book, Mary Ann And The Apple Tree, tells of a little girl who comes across an enchanted apple tree guarded by fairies.

She learns that by sharing the tree and its fruit with others one person can make a big difference in the world.

Susan paid several visits to Southwell and the original Bramley tree while researching her book.

On one of her most recent visits she was told about the Newark Foodbank and decided that as her story was about what happened when people shared good fortune, some of the proceeds from it should go to the charity.

'A great honour'

Volunteer Jenni Harding said it was a wonderful gesture.

She said that while they were grateful for all the donations of food and other items, they also had overheads to meet so fundraising was important too.

“It is a great honour for us that an international author has looked for a local charity and decided to support Newark Foodbank,” Jenni said.

Mr Roger Merryweather, a grandson of Mr Henry Merryweather, was at Susan’s book launch event.

He said there were already several books about the Bramley apple but they were horticultural ones.

“It is nice to have a book directed to the younger generation,” he said.

Ahead of the launch, Susan visited William Gladstone Primary Academy in Newark to read her book, which is in rhyme, to the pupils.

She also spent two mornings in Southwell Minster sharing the story with schoolchildren under the commemorative apple window in the cathedral.

To help them remember the book the children made an apple-shaped Christmas tree decoration and were given a signed copy of it for their class.

The 24-page book, which has been illustrated by Scott McGovern, can be bought from the cathedral shop on Church Street, Southwell.

It is also available through Amazon.

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