Once travelling to Spiti in winter, the weather was challenging, heavy snow made the going very slow. The jeeps wheels kept getting clogged up with snow and we had to stop frequently to clear it out from the mudguards. This slowed our progress and once it gets dark its too dangerous to travel on the mountain roads.
Finally, we reached a village we stopped at a house and asked if we could stay the night? My driver and I were welcomed with such warmth as if we were nomads down from the high pastures. The warmth of the kitchen was such a relief as our frozen bodies sat by the fire, it was minus 27C outside everything was frozen solid.
It was late in the evening our kind hostess set about cooking us a meal. As an aperitif while the meal was simmering on the stove she went to her store room to get some apples, these were frozen too, so she put them into the kettle of boiling water to defrost. Then she cut them into slices and offered them as a starter. I was very touched by her sense of care for her unexpected guests.
After the meal in the cosy warm living room where the family slept and so did my driver, but it was not quite right for me to be there too, so I was shown into the front parlour with icicles on the windows – it was freezing cold! With my sleeping bag, hot water bottles and all my clothes bar my boots I settled down for the night. It was hard to keep my face from freezing but I was so grateful to be there and thanked the universe for such kind people!
Watching a programme earlier this year of HRH The Queen walking round the garden of Buckingham Palace with David Attenborough praising the interesting variety of the magnificent trees planted by many dignitaries over the years. If this is the year of the trees, I thought how can this be equated to Spiti and came up with the idea of Apple trees. One of the positive sides of Climate Change is that the valley is wetter and warmer in summer. Farmers have been encouraged to grow Apple trees and have created orchards of 50 to 100 trees and they are thriving very well. However, there are no fences around their orchards, the children love to go in and pick apples, a great treat for them that they have not had before, but not good for the farmer!
Then we had the idea that if we could provide each household with two apple trees the problem would be solved and the farmers would be left with their apples to harvest and sell. I remember as a small child after the war, my mother was able to buy one pound of apples per week – 3 – 4 apples. She would cut them in half and give half each to my brother and I, we relished this treat and even eat the core!
So I invite you all to give £100 to provide each Spiti family with apple trees. Rich in vitamin C and an extra treat for young children.