Hundreds have gathered on Palace Green to celebrate Britain's favourite fruit. A ring of stalls encircles the damp grass, some here with specific apple-related activities, others merely to flog stuff.
The Scouts are planting pips in pots, while the WI have baked you-know-what sponges. The apple juice guys are doing a roaring trade selling home-crushed bottles, and more usefully have warm cider punch for immediate ladling. The burger vans, meanwhile, have merely shifted pork and apple to the top of their menus. A basket of apples is up for grabs for whoever can most closely guess how many fruit are within. There's also a "longest apple peel" competition, for which it's alleged many have been practising for several weeks, although you'd not guess from looking at the results.
Instead of a coconut shy there's an apple shy, where teenagers are busy hurling balls at cookers to win eaters. The Mayor and his wife are at the Farmers Market stall, he bedecked with ceremonial chain, she resplendent in a floppy feather hat. Even the local health club have got in on the act, handing out all their usual promotional material along with a dubious leaflet relating the fruit's supposed health benefits. "Apples lower cholesteral" is their starter for ten, before moving on with "Apples keep you slim" and a triumphant "Apples may fight cancer".
Over by the museum a small band of morris dancers are jigging to the sound of a fiddle, like they do in these parts. A larger band of musicians has gathered outside the refectory, their faces painted, and with scraps of coloured handkerchief hanging from their clothes. The couple who booked the noon wedding in the cathedral probably weren't expecting to have quite so many spectators looking on... and look like they wish they'd wrapped up warmer.
In one tent a group of orchard owners are holding court. They've brought along samples of a hundred or so different varieties of apple, from humble Bramleys to Kidd's Orange Green. They're laid out in a wooden grid, in alphabetical order, with dates and places of origin typed neatly underneath. The idea is that visitors bring apples from their own gardens to be identified, although few are taking up the offer, and most seem more than happy to scan the racks in reverent awe. With so much choice the message is clear - why would you ever pick up a bag of Golden Delicious at the supermarket again?
Harvest home, a celebratory crunch, and roll on autumn.