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the apple picking trail – bilpin

September 24, 2013

Bells of Line Road Way back in May, right at the end of apple picking season, Koji and I decided that we should spend a Saturday hitting up as many apple related venues as we could find along the Bells of Line Road. It didn’t hurt that we’d started the day in the idyllic surroundings of Mill Paddock Cottage, or that we’d just devoured a breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes and toast. (And besides, I was far too excited about a Whole! Day! In! The! Country! after successfully completing a whole three months of working-for-myself to do anything sensible like sit around and watch the day go by). So we stopped at (just about) every stop, and I took as many notes as I could in between bites of apple pie. The apple picking season is well and truly over for 2013, but seeing as the stone fruit season starts at some locations as early as November I thought now would be a good time to get your travel juices going and Summer Holiday planning started. Pull up a seat, because this is going to take a while. Bells of Line Road

The blue mountains botanic garden – mount tomah

We decided that the boundaries of our adventure would be Pie in the Sky at one end (because I wanted a pie for lunch), and the Blue Mountain Botanic Gardens at the other. There are no apples at the Botanic Gardens, but they sure are beautiful. In fact, Koji’s cousin had recently held her wedding there, which in turn inspired our little trip. As it turns out, we’d arrived at the peak of Autumn and the park’s coloured foliage was at its best. (It also turned out that in my haste to get going that morning, I’d neglected to check the opening hours of the places we intended on visiting and so had a little over an hour to spend wandering around the various garden beds til the clock ticked over to 10am). So wander we did. Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens

Bilpin Saturday Farmers Markets

By 10am I was starving and greatly anticipating our arrival at the Bilpin Saturday Farmers’ Markets. The articles I’d read had painted it as the place to go for local produce in its bucketloads, so I was slightly confused at the sight that met me. Located in the Bilpin District Hall (you’ll need to take a somewhat hidden driveway off the Bells of Line Road to get to it), the Farmers Markets featured three flower stands, a couple of jam stalls and a row of table-clothed trestle tables across the middle of a carvenous hall. There is tea and coffee (and the odd bit of cake) served from the canteen at one end, though we only saw one person partaking during our short visit. More interesting was the gentleman who showed me how to crack a walnut, before letting me practice on a couple to ensure I was at ease with the process. We bought a 1kg bag of the freshest, most fragrant nuts I’d ever eaten immediately after for the bargain price of $5 (my mother, a certifiable nut fiend, was in heaven and ate most of the bag herself upon our return) as well as a jar of marmalade for Koji’s dad, and I suppose the nuts were, in themselves, reason enough to visit again. Bilpin Saturday Farmers Markets

shield’s orchard

Shield’s Orchard was the next pit stop and a popular one at that. We parked a short way down the street after searching in vain for a place in the very full car park and headed in. They were completely booked out and weren’t taking walk-ins for picking that day so we had to satisfy ourselves with the pre-picked variety. A peek out the back window had us kicking ourselves – there were rows and rows of apples left in red and green varieties, something we would later find quite rare this late in the picking season. A selection of home-made jams and locally bottled honey products had us feeling a little happier though, and we bundled up a couple of purchases before proceeding down the road. Pine Crest Orchard Pine Crest Orchard

The Local Harvest

My favourite stop, by far and away, was the Local Harvest – a produce shed run by Louise and Harry Saarinen focused on selling local, seasonal produce. It has limited opening hours and is said by many to serve the best apple pies in Bilpin. There are just six left in the heating tray when we arrive at 11:30am and I quickly reserve one for myself (a delightful apple and rhubarb version, baked that very morning) before browsing the rest of the produce. Unlike many of the stores along Bells of Line Road, the Local Harvest stocks Ray’s Apple Juice. We’re told that the apples in Ray’s are grown, processed and bottled right here in Bilpin, whilst the more prolific Bilpin Juice completes some of its processing elsewhere. (Needless to say, we snapped up two bottles without any further questioning). There were bags of jerusalem artichokes near the register and a ramshackle of old bits and bobs for sale out the back. I very nearly walked away with a set of tin cups before catching Koji’s expression and putting them back a little sheepishly. I pondered sneaking them back into my basket whilst he headed out to look at the giant logging truck out back, but thought better of it. And the pie? It was amazing. A thick, sugar studded, buttery shortcrust filled with just-firm apple and chunks of palest pink rhubarb. I highly recommend it. (If you can get one, that is. Just as we were leaving three local boys came in and bought the rest of the pies out of the counter with a swift “How much for the lot please?” Needless to say, I was quite pleased that I’d snagged one earlier!) The Local Harvest The Local Harvest The Local Harvest The Local Harvest The Local Harvest

the pines orchard

The Pines Orchard, a little way down the track, is not so much an orchard as it is a fruit and vegetable reseller that also serves hot food. There are a range of sandwiches, toasties, pasties and pies on the menu, but we only have eyes for a bottle of hillbilly cider. The Pines OrchardThe Pines Orchard

Bilpin fruit bowl

Across the road is the famous Bilpin Fruit Bowl, which boasts a larger-than-life-sized bowl of slightly metallic fruit out the front. This is another pick-your-own location, but with prices that are slightly higher than others we had seen along the road. It makes sense though, the operations seem much larger, the choice of fruits to pick far wider and the cafe had far more variety than others we’d seen. After pottering around and staring at the ready-picked fruit, we settled on a jar of honey comb and a mug of hot chocolate before heading off for a different kind of snack. (But not before I ogled the apple pies and asked if I could buy a whole one for lunch. Koji didn’t so much disapprove as ignore my question entirely).
The Bilpin Fruit Bowl The Bilpin Fruit Bowl The Bilpin Fruit Bowl

Tutti fruitti

The stomach saved from whole-pie-eating was well rewarded just a few minutes later at Tutti Fruitti. “It says ice-cream! We should stop!” And stop we did, along with three roaring Harley Davidsons, the owners of which told us that they always stopped here along their ride for ice-cream. Vindicated, I ordered a cone of mixed berry to share. The machine on the premises is an odd one. The berries are thrown in along with scoops of vanilla ice-cream from a freezer cabinet and a couple of seconds later, out comes a swirl of soft serve in vivid pink! It’s enough to share between two, and we licked at it whilst trying not to coo too loudly at the ducklings for sale on the front porch before escaping to sit in the shaded garden. (Yes, I did ask Koji if I could have a duckling, and yes, his reaction was identical to when I asked him if we could buy a family sized apple pie for lunch).
Tutti Fruitti Tutti Fruitti Tutti Fruitti Tutti Fruitti

roadside alpacas at madison’s mountain retreat

“Stop! Stop! Pull over! What’s THAT?” There was a crowd of people standing by the side of the road and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. As all good busybodies (such as myself) know, a crowd of people can only mean one thing. Something worth stopping for. After a couple of quizzical stares, I realised what was happening. Alpacas lined the fence hoping for a taste of a tourist-held apple. I hopped out of the car. “Are you coming?” “Um, I’ll stay here. You can play tourist for both of us.”
alpaca farmalpaca farm

pie in the sky bilpin

I suppose he had good reason to stay in the car. The sooner I got back, the sooner we had lunch. And today’s lunch plans involved pie. Pie in the Sky to be exact, a stalwart of the Bilpin dining scene, and one of my favourite pie stores around. Order at the counter, take a seat and before long you’ll have two piping hot pies and a gigantic lime milkshake before you. Koji’s chicken pie was delicately flavoured with a flaky crust and a filling that dribbled down your chin if you weren’t careful. A mixture of shredded chicken and chicken chunks were scattered throughout and he was most pleased. I was doubly so with my pepper steak pie. Behold! A layer of crusted pepper just below the upper crust! It was so peppery that I had to sip on the milkshake periodically to quench the tingles on my tongue (much as I dislike lime milkshakes, this one was quite alright… perhaps it’s the pepper burn talking). Chunks of tender meat in a rich gravy, a firm bottom and a crisp top had me wondering if I could fit in a second one. (I couldn’t, but that didn’t stop me from buying one on the way home the next day, oh and a family sized apple pie “for the family!” whilst Koji waited in the car.) We had dinner plans that night so spent the rest of the afternoon napping and watching the television whilst trying to digest all of the apples we’d eaten. pie in the sky bilpin pie in the sky bilpin pie in the sky bilpin pie in the sky bilpin bilpin pies 5 (Large) pie in the sky bilpin

the fruit stall, mountain lagoon road

After checking out of Mill Paddock Cottage on Sunday morning, we took the time to stop by one of our favourite little spots on this trip. A tiny corrugated iron pantry nestled in along the side of Mountain Lagoon Road with a billboard advertising its wares. There is a tin inside with a rock to weight your payment down and show ribbons along one side advertising the quality of the wares within. We’d been on the hunt for figs ever since Friday night, when we first spotted the sign, but Saturday’s wares were limited to jams, pastes and persimmons in amongst the apples. Sunday morning bore a different tale – no figs on the display sign, but a quick peek inside revealed six in a bucket! Three white Adriatic figs and three of the more common purple skinned variety were snapped up for a just $4.50 (along with a tray of pink ladies and another of persimmons for mum). roadside stall roadside stall roadside stall

apple picking

A lack of planning found us facing closed doors aplenty on the Sunday. Many apple picking locations had closed for the year, and those that remained open had decided to close on the Sunday we were there, so we were left on a bit of a long limb in trying to find a place to pick! Luckily for us, some sharp eyes spotted a sign on the side of the road which proclaimed “Pick your own apples! 1km” and so 1km later, we pulled in. (I haven’t been able to find the name of this particular orchard on the map, but if you head North West along Bells of Line Road, it’s about half way between Mountan Lagoon Road and the Botanical Gardens, not far from the District Hall, on the left hand side of the road). There was no-one there but the owner when we arrived, and he apologised for the lack of choice. “Only granny smiths left, so I hope you’re not looking for red ones.” We were happy with anything at this point, but were particularly interested by his next statement. “These here have got to be the best grannies we’ve ever harvested. They’re hardly like grannies at all.” And when we tried one, we wished we’d picked more. Less like the astringent pie fruit I’m used to, these apples lay halfway between a pink lady and a fuji, with crisp, sharp juice and a sweetness beyond any granny I’d ever munched on. The mottled dirt on the outside, our farmer explained, was due to them not using any chemical fertilisers or waxes on the fruit. I didn’t mind the dirt much at all, not when the fruit was so good.   apple picking_03 (Large) 4pple picking_01 (Large) apple picking_02 (Large) apple picking_01 (Large)

mountain view apple pies

On a whim (and somewhat high from our apple picking success) we stopped off at the giant pie truck for a snack. Mountain View Apples is a large cafe that looks over an apple orchard. The outer deck is a calming place to sit whilst sipping a hot chocolate (as we did), though we weren’t as tempted by the display pies as we had hoped to be. mountain view pies1 (Large) mountain view pies (Large)

shelley’s shop

We were, on the other hand, very tempted by the produce on sale at Shelley’s Shop. Shelley (who was at the counter that day) only opens when she’s got produce to sell, and that day she had a variety of apples as well as some juices and jams. The board behind the counter helpfully sets out what fruit can be expected in which season and I’ve already made a note that her berries and stone fruit will be out come Summertime. All of the produce sold here is grown on a family owned orchard just a couple of kilometres away and is washed and bagged before being sold at the stall. We picked up a two kilo bag and (with a boot full of apples and pie on the brain) set off back home. shelleys shop (Large)

Where we stopped

 

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

Bells of Line Road, Mount Tomah Open 9:30am – 5:30pm daily phone (02) 4567 3000

Bilpin saturday farmers markets

Bilpin Distric Hall Bells of Line Road, Bilpin Open 10:00am to noon every Saturday

Shield’s Orchard

2270 Bells Line Of Rd, Bilpin Open seasonally (closed for the rest of 2013) phone (02) 4567 1206

The local harvest

Corner of Bells of Line Road and Johnsons Road, Bilpin Open Mid November to late June Friday – Sunday only from 10am to sunset phone 0414 671 154

the pines orchard

Across the road from Bilpin Fruit Bowl (see below)

tuitti fruitti

1917 Bells Line Of Rd, Kurrajong Heights Open weekdays from 10am to 4pm Open weekends from 9am to 5pm phone (02) 4567 8436

pie in the sky roadhouse, bilpin

1858 Bells Line Of Rd, Kurrajong Heights Open Monday to Saturday 9am – 6pm Open Sundays from 9:30am to 6:30pm phone (02) 4567 8921

shelley’s apple shop

Bells of Line Road, Bilpin (near the intersection with Hanlons Road) Open seasonally


  • #1
    September 24th, 2013

    Ah The Pines! We used to stop there for an apple juice on the way to Orange when I was little! I haven’t been there for years and clearly I have been missing out on that Hillbilly Cider. Great post 🙂

  • #2
    September 25th, 2013

    alpacas! they r so funny looking! ive waned to go to biplin for apple picking for the longest time, must go next yr!

  • #3
    Jen
    October 30th, 2013

    Reading and looking at your photos made me smile. The fires have roared through the Blue Mountains and I feel for all those who live there and have been affected. Seeing your photos and reading your notes is very motivating to go up there and support the local businesses. I have spent so many wonderful days in the mountains, like you describe, as a little girl and a big one! It is a very special and beautiful place.

  • October 30th, 2013

    Thanks Jen, I’d been watching the news of the fires approaching Bilpin quite anxiously as I fell so in love with that township over our stay. I’m so glad that it’s now classified as smoky but safe 🙂

Shez