MUCH as I’ve been enjoying my ongoing correspondence with the local motoring community, this week’s column is road-free. So apologies if you’ve been waiting all week to tell me how the best way to reduce congestion is stopping immigration: see how you like these apples instead.

In that scraping for silver linings in this year of years, let’s instead turn our attention to something more fruitful. Back in the first lockdown, that wonderful run of good weather laid the groundwork for a bumper apple harvest: it was dry when it needed to be dry, and then rained when it needed to rain. Such was the harvest that the National Trust ended up giving away its heritage apple windfall in return for donations.

But 2020 hasn’t just been about the quantity of apples: it has offered up new varieties of the fruit as well. Last week, it was revealed that our region is home to a new type of apple. The as-yet-unnamed apple was discovered in Wiltshire’s Nadder Valley, on a tree hidden away on a wooded track. The finder was Archie Thomas, a keen runner and member of conservation charity Plantlife.

“I was on a run,” Archie explained to me earlier this week. “I’ve been listening to audiobooks while I run, including Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life and Robert Macfarlane’s Underland. I like to think that under their guiding influence, I’d become more open to spotting and appreciating wonders in the natural world. I’m really no apple expert, but it did immediately strike me as somewhat unusual; the colour – pale cowslip – and vivid ‘spider’s web’ mottling made it arresting.”

Archie used his conservation connections to contact the Royal Horticultural Society’s fruit specialist for more information. Having inspected several apples from the tree, the RHS concluded Archie had found a hitherto unknown variety of apple, which was a cross between a traditional crab apple and a more cultivated brand. The tree the apples came from, whose location is currently being kept secret, is reckoned to be over 100 years old.

In a way, Archie’s discovery is a microcosm of the apple’s own long history. Crab apples are a native British variety: more traditional eating apples can be traced back to the Tian Shan mountains between Kazakhstan and China, with travellers along the Silk Road helping spread the fruit worldwide.

Archie is now set to join West Virginia’s Anderson Mullen, who discovered the Golden Delicious seedling, and Australian grandmother Maria Smith (you’re ahead of me here, aren’t you?) in finding and naming an apple. His son has suggested he call it Ronaldo after his favourite footballer, but Archie is still to decide. If you’ve got any good ideas, let me know.