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Dramatic Storm over the orchard!And Still it Rains.....
Orchard mowing early on a June morning is usually one of the most enjoyable of rural chores, chugging along between the rows of trees relishing the sunshine and sparkling air and the gradual increasing warmth with the newly formed fruitlets proudly peeping through fresh green leaves. This morning the task began under leaden skies and I soon had to return to base for a woolly hat and gloves. Instead of becoming lighter, the skies darkened, the clouds lowered and the heavens opened. In just a few minutes surface water appeared and torrents began to wash down the aisles and filled the still to be ironed out ruts. Time to return to the house and strip off soaked clothes and warm up with a reviving breakfast. During May over 100mm of rain fell and the first five months of this year have seen almost all of the "average" annual rainfall. This has meant that the orchard has been saturated for months and water has been holding in pools in places. We have had a ground engineer come along and assess the state of the land drains. He has advised that the big 'goat' willow that has established itself over the years behind Hearst shed has probably blocked the bottom drains. Acer Tree Services have now come along and taken it down in a very timely manner. All gone in a day.


bluebells-smlOrchid on Putley CommonOn the Brighter Side.....
In the last blog, I wrote about the fantastic Dymock daffodils. The warm, wet conditions have led to a profusion of wildflowers and the buttercups appear even more buttery. On the May Cropsharers weekend we visited Putley Common which is being managed to promote a wide variety of wildlife. Kate Woollen, who works for the Forestry Commission and is an active member of the Putley Wildlife group, opened our eyes to the many different things growing and residing on the Common. We walked back through the Dingle and into Lady Wood which revealed an extraordinary carpet of bluebells under the trees. The following day we drove over to Malvern to see the Well Dressing and were astonished by the intensity of the colour of the bluebells on the hillside. If an artist had painted a picture of them, you would think they had gone 'heavy' on the blue! People have been coming from 'far and wide' to enjoy the amazing display.


Hartpury Orchard CentreThe Orchard Centre, Hartpury
We have been aware of the Orchard Centre for a few years now and were delighted to have the opportunity to pay a visit in May. The Centre was set up and built with an HLF Grant by a knowledgeable group of enthusiasts as the National Collection of Perry Pears and a centre of excellence for cider and perry production in the rolling Gloucestershire countryside near Hartpury. The Centre has purpose built facilities for cider making and is used for cider and perry production for 'Out of the Orchard' and is the base for Peter Mitchell's Cider making courses. The centre is managed by Matteus, who showed us around and I was delighted to be able to inform him that Hartpury takes it's name from the Old English for 'hard pear', which he didn't know. After the visit, we called by Hartpury Church to see the extraordinary Bee Shelter, an ornate carved stone structure in the churchyard that houses a plethora of bee skeps. Not something one comes across every day.


Cider with RosieCider with Rosie
This has long been a favourite book of ours and we have a CD of Laurie Lee himself reading extracts from his iconic story of his early life in the Cotswold valley of Sladd. The Wye Players performed a fine version on the Big Hug at Dragon Orchard on May Day afternoon. Supposedly a read through performance but many knew all their lines and the costumes and set were just right. Our friend and neighbour Jake Herbst was the narrator as the older Laurie Lee but the star turn was the orchard itself. Resplendent in its blossomtime finery with the cuckoo producing noises off stage, it all provided the most fitting backdrop for such an evocative piece.


Golden Fire
'Golden fire...that first taste of summer....." is how Laurie Lee described the cider consumed so provocatively by young Rosie. Golden Fire is the title that has been given to a contemporary project being proposed by the Rural Media Company who you may remember produced the extraordinary 'Ledbury Lives' piece last year. There are plans afoot for a multimedia platform – you all know what that means, of course – to celebrate Cider, its culture and place in our county of Herefordshire. Part of the celebration maybe a pop-up restaurant at Dragon Orchard. Watch this space and keep your glasses filled with the golden fire.


Summer PruningSummer Pruning
In the winter we made a determined effort to prune the apples, pears and quince in Dorothy's Orchard to contain some of the vigorous growth therein. However the stone fruit needs to be left alone during the winter and pruning takes place post blossom and fruit set. Despite our best intentions this often escapes our notice until too late but this year it has been firmly on our TO DO list and we have now managed to get it done. It is really hard to cut off branches festooned with little fruitlets but we kept telling the trees it was for their own good. After the recent torrential rain, it was really muddy underfoot and under wheel and we have had to pile the prunings into bins on the edge of the orchard as it is too wet to haul them up to the burning pile. We hope it won't be too long before it is dry enough to make that move.


Dorothy Reigns SupremeAwards from the International Cider Competition 2014
The Hereford International Cider Competition held annually at the Cider Museum in Hereford has regularly seen some decent results for Once Upon A Tree and 2014 was no exception. Priggles Perry took a prize, as did a fine single variety Dabinett which Simon bravely let ferment with its natural wild yeasts rather than using wine yeasts. However pride of place was awarded to Dorothy's Orchard Draught cider which is made from all the dessert fruit in the sponsored orchard. There has been growing interest in recent years in making ciders from dessert apples and this one has a lovely soft flavour with a long finish but without the normal cider tannin. Against some stiff competition from some fine cider producers the first prize was awarded to Dorothy's Orchard. So well done to Dorothy's with a good bit of help from Simon and Emma.


Getting Ready for Ben & Helens wedding

The Cuckoo-oo

The Cuckoo this year has been well on song and has apparently been paying heed to the old poem: The cuckoo comes in April, Sings his song in May,
Changes tune in the middle of June, and then he flies away.
We heard the first notes on April 24th, my Granny's birthday anniversary. She was always delighted if that was when the cuckoo made its appearance. We have heard the call every day since and noted the tune has made a distinct change. The 'oo' at the end of the 'cuck' is now an 'oo-oo' with a distinct uplift of the final 'oo'. It's probably on Youtube but for us it means the solstice is approaching.


Apple blossom with bee and bugsFlowering
Late April and early May saw a very good strong blossom and it was well timed for this year's Big Apple Blossomtime weekend over the May Day Bank Holiday. However the cooler temperatures since have meant that there is not a huge set. Perhaps just as well as a heavy crop might have needed thinning if they had all come to fruition. Note the precise meaning of the word in this context!
One thing that did come to fruition was the display in Putley Parish Hall of a set of portraits of local cidermakers painted by Jean Nowell, artist and perry maker extraordinaire. Jean spent time with them all in their natural habitat, took photos and made sketches before creating the large portraits. These were 'curated', as I like to call it, by Hugh and myself hanging them from the hall roof supports. So displayed, the cidermakers were looking down on their drinks arrayed on the tables below. Jean presided over a reception on Sunday evening with her typical modesty and erudite wit. The portraits may well go on display again elsewhere.


WeddingsTrees lit up in the evening
The middle weekend in May, when the Michelin cider trees behind the Big Hug were shouting their loudest, was the time when my godson Ben Godsall celebrated marrying his fiancé Helen Meredith at Dragon Orchard. The official legal bit had been held the previous Tuesday in St Faith's Chapel at Westminster Abbey, where Ben's father (one of my oldest friends) has been doing some part-time work. He is a priest would you believe. However Ben and Helen very much wanted their main celebration to be held here and 180 guests enjoyed a fantastic event with Weston's Shire horses and dray bringing the bridal party to the orchard. There were shotguns and blossom and many sides of beef and copious amounts of Once Upon A Tree drinks to wash it down. Ben and Helen have just completed doctorates at London Zoo, so had a quite a collection of conservation friends who delighted in the orchard setting and the shire ambience.


This week Annie and I are conducting a couple of Putley based walks for the Herefordshire Walking Festival. We will be celebrating the Herefordshire Pomona with a stroll around the parish exploring the links between Gladstone's Balance of Payments deficit in the 1870's, the Woolhope Club and my great Grandfather. Later in the week we are wandering over to The Wonder landslip site. We shall be sampling the Chapel Pleck sparkling perry, the Wonder dessert pear wine and the draught cider Tumpy Ground – all linked to the 1575 landslip. Now that really is what passes for a good time round here!
There will also be a summer solstice celebration in the orchard organised by walking artist Jess Allen. This will mark the end of her 'Trans-missions' walk following the power lines right across
Herefordshire and concluding here with the June 21st event. See


ShowingsNorman collects the Trophy for Champion Perry, Bath & West 2015
We have just been to the Three Counties Show and done a day on the cider stand at Malvern. It still retains its local agricultural flavour and it very much provides an opportunity for the coming together of the Farming Community to 'show and tell'. However we have also visited the Bath and West Show near Shepton Mallet a couple of weeks ago. A first for us and well worth the trip as we were able to pick up a cup. It is the largest Cider & Perry Competition and Simon had entered a number of classes. I was delighted to receive the trophy from Lord King for our Chapel Pleck, awarded the Champion Perry.
Our neighbours Brian and Fran Robbins collected an award for the Best Single Variety Cider for their Yarlington Mill and Tom Oliver received a well deserved Lifetime Award. So Herefordshire brought some prestigious prizes away from Somerset, where they seem to believe the best cider is made!  [We also had first place in sweet cider & gold award for our Blenheim Superb, although we didn't realise until a few weeks after! - Simon].


Harry Taylor's Thrown HatHarry Taylor
Harry was my great Grandfather who spent most of his working life planting up and managing the Putley Court Estate for Squire John Riley at the end of the 1800s. Recently we have been discussing the creation of a range of less alcoholic ciders to sell as a draught and also carbonated in 50cl bottles. Simon has just released the Harry Taylor range which includes the medium cider Thrown Hat and the dry cider Crooked Branch. The label quotes Harry saying, "If an apple tree is pruned well, you can throw your hat through it' and continues ' Harry's descendants are still here, throwing hats and growing fantastic fruit – with quality that is evident to the very last drop! So hats off to you Harry!'


Anna Beck 1946-2015Anna Beck
I first met Anna at a rugby match at Twickenham in the early 70s, having become friends with Roger during our teaching practice at Devonport High School in Plymouth. We not only remained firm friends from then on but they became fantastic supporters of Dragon Orchard. Anna, as a Management Consultant supplied wonderful advice for both the orchard and Wallwalkers over the years. Whenever we were musing on what to do, Anna was always available with wise counsel. We saw her just a few weeks before she died and even though she was in some discomfort, she remained keenly interested in everything that was going on.
Her Memorial Service was held in a wonderful woodland setting near Christchurch and fittingly the rain that had been heavy all morning relented and the sun shone as we sent her on her way.

2012-06-28 10 26 52

Optimum Conditions for Growing Apples

We are often asked what it takes to produce a good crop of fruit and we often ask ourselves the very same question. Having come up with various responses over the years, we have now concluded that the answer largely divides naturally in half. The first half is to do with conditions that can be controlled ie selection of site, choice of rootstock, interstem and variety, care with planting, staking and protection and then skill in husbandry, pruning, mowing, fertilisation and picking. The second half concerns other variables connected with cropping, climate, flowering and set, conditions that are not easy to control. For a decent crop one hopes for good fruit bud to be set the previous summer, unstressed trees, hard winter ensuring dormancy and spring vigour, strong flowers, good pollination and enough fruit set for a medium crop.

Should you wish to choose conditions for a poor crop then 2011/2012 will turn out to be a text book example. We have experienced the following:

  • Heavy 2011 crop but drought conditions producing small low juice fruit.
  • Trees stressed as struggling for moisture
  • Poor conditions to produce fruit bud
  • Mild winter so minimum dormancy
  • Little vigour in spring
  • Weak flowering
  • Sunny March
  • Frosts in April and May
  • Exceptionally wet May with poor pollination
  • Damp and mild promoting growth of fungi
  • Heavy grass growth providing competition for nutrients
  • Thick leaf canopy cutting down light to existing fruit and making spray droplet penetration difficult

Cue lots of depressed fruit growers all consoling themselves with a pint of Tumpy at the Three Counties Show.

More Show Success

Kay Sally Vigo TrophyYou may remember that last year the Discovery apple juice won Best in Show at the Bath and West and was awarded the prestigious Vigo Trophy. Well this year the trophy was retained as the Spartan juice was judged Champion Apple Juice. Recognition indeed.

We also had some excellent results at the Three Counties in the middle of the month. Annie and I were there on the Friday, when the awards were made and I looked after the stand while she went off to the prize giving. She returned with a third for the Carpenters Croft Sparkling Cider, a first for Priggles Perry and the award for the Best Herefordshire Cider and Perry Producer. We had to rearrange the display to show off all our certificates and rosettes, plus a rather fine three handled tankard which we are still trying to figure out how to use.

photo na

Herefordshire Walking Festival

The Herefordshire Walking Festival is now well established and gives an excellent opportunity to explore the lesser known corners of the county. We usually lead a walk but also try and attend a couple of others, especially if they are in our neck of the woods. The Dragon Orchard walk this year was "The Wonder of Pigs and Apples" and the idea was to visit The Noggin, where Sarah and Will Grant keep British Lop pigs. After a tour of the current herd of some 130 pigs and piglets happily residing in varying amounts of mud, we enjoyed a tasty hog roast accompanied with cider and juice. On our return journey we explored the delights of The Wonder landslide and toasted said event with some previously secreted Chapel Pleck, before returning home for tastings, cake and tea. We were delighted that the walk was fully booked, the weather was dry and nobody slipped over on the still soggy ground.




The walks that we attended around Fownhope took us along paths less travelled.  We heard about the life of Tom Spring, the undefeated bare knuckle champion fighter of All England in the 1820s. He lived in the village and his fighting prowess brought him Royal Patronage, fame and fortune.

Our second walk was called 'Tasty Tarrington' where we visited Swan House, an award winning bed and breakfast, and had Waller's breakfast sausages served with apple juice made by Once Upon A Tree. We also met Richard Bradstock and his herd of pedigree Herefords at Freetown Farm. Their prize bull will meet The Queen when she visits Hereford on July 11th. The walk then crossed the River Frome (known to locals as the Frummy) which when the leaders had reviewed the walk two days earlier had been running bank high due to all the rain. We then reached Yarkhill Church and by chance met a man who was lime washing the interior of the tower. He told us with great enthusiasm that 8 new bells were to be hung soon to commemorate the life of Fabian Steadman. Fabian who was born in 1640 was the son of the Yarkhill vicar and one of the founding fathers of English Change Ringing and many of the peals that are still rung today were devised by him. We were invited to the top of the tower, past the old bells and out onto the roof which gave stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The church sits close to the remains of a medieval, fortified manor house and as the river Frome was in flood the moat of this former house was visible. A very fortuitous and timely encounter.moat

Mr Ps BeesDuring the May Day Bank Holiday last year David Pealing of Mr P’s Bees took the first super from the hive and spun it in our garage, so that we could actually sample the honey there and then. This year, not only was there no honey to be taken, but David has actually had to feed the bees because there was not enough flower for them to feed themselves sufficiently. April 2011 was the sunniest on record, April 2012 the wettest. What a difference a year makes.

One thing we have certainly been talking about for a year is our Orchard Trail and on Saturday 5th May we were able to take our Cropsharers around it for the first time. There is a marked map showing the shorter Gobbits Trail and the longer, hillier Hursts Trail, both named after our two orchards. On the ground there are marker posts with snippits of information on each which give an overview of Dragon Orchard and Once Upon A Tree. Simon has done a fantastic design job on the information boards and we were delighted when our neighbours, who run an internationally recognised tourism company, told us they felt there was just the right amount of information on each board. There is a QR icon (quick response) on the first board, so that the cognoscenti with smart phones can simply point their device at it and up pops the website. The QRs are also on the drinks labels and being used by many more people.

Our Dragon Orchard Cropsharers Spring Weekend over May Day Bank holiday coincides with our local Big Apple event and came at the end of a period of really heavy rain. We had just got the pruning finished and the brash burnt before it became really wet. But since then we weren’t able to get on the ground at all. We erected the marquee and got all the flags up and left it as late as possible to try and cut the grass. Once up the side of the drive was enough to confirm that even the wide low-pressure tyres on our garden mower were going to make too much mess. However, we really did not want to complain about the rain because up until then it had been so terribly dry and the trees really needed moisture to get them ready to produce leaf and flower. Temperatures had been low enough to inhibit early growth, which is just as well as there had been several hard frosts. Jo Pardoe, who farms near us, has organic cherries on the side of the Cockshoot and spent a fortnight putting up covers to protect them from hail and frost. The gales at the end of April just about shredded the lot, so that now all that remains are tatters of plastic.


Hansnett Farm

Hansnett Farm at Canon Frome is a very interesting enterprise owned and run by a fantastically creative family. They hosted us for a visit with our Cropsharers and delighted us with their interest and enthusiasm. Sue Farquhar, who moved to the county some twenty years ago, keeps and shows Shropshire Sheep and Ruby Red Devon cattle. The Shropshire sheep are being increasingly used for keeping down grass and weeds in both conifer plantations and, more recently, cider orchards. Sue’s daughter, Jo Butcher, keeps rare breed hens which produce an astonishing array of eggs of many different colours. She sells her eggs and day old chicks, as well as point of lay and is dispatching her poultry at these various different levels of development all over the country. Her daughter also has her own business, called appropriately Ellie’s Eggs and although Ellie is still young, she is turning into an eggspert entrepreneur. Guy Butcher finds his creativity through wood and the quality and sheer craftsmanship of his work does need to be seen to be believed. He has both his workshop and gallery at the farm and it is well worth a trip to savour the sheer brilliance of the work. You can also look at it online at and

The Movie Bus

cropshare 2012 057A wonderful addition at Big Apple this year was the Vintage Movie Bus. In the halcyon days of the Labour government when Anthony Wedgewood Benn ran the Department for Industry, or whatever it was called then, he commissioned a fleet of specially built mobile cinemas. Resplendent in 60’s coachwork, they sped the length and breadth of Britain bringing information about current working practices to industrial sites. Putley Parish Hall was the venue for the sole remaining Wedgie Benn Movie Bus which has been carefully restored and now shows a range of local interest old films and newsreels. Each performance was fully booked and gave a real focus for the weekend. The Movie Bus spent the night at Dragon Orchard, snuggled against our shed, dreaming of more gentle days and glad to be back in a quiet rural community.

orchard photoSponsor A Tree Weekend

Our Sponsor A Tree Weekend was held on the second weekend in May. We were blessed with fine weather, having suffered cold and wet conditions for most of the previous month and experienced a very cold Bank Holiday Monday with Cropsharers. We had an excellent turn-out of enthusiastic tree sponsors who were able to enjoy the new orchard trail in the morning, sample a delicious Dragon Orchard lunch and then go on the walk to The Wonder in the afternoon. An excellent reunion of some 35 tree sponsors.


Other Orchard Events

The last Saturday in April saw Richard Crompton running another of his photographic workshops. Although it was a cold and windy day there was just enough early blossom to capture on film. In the afternoon, a local expert brought an amazing variety of birds of prey. It is difficult to know which is the most extraordinary sight - eagles and owls flying over our lawn or them being snapped by a myriad of intrepid photographers. It was also a good test of the photographers’ outdoor clothing and for them to find out exactly what to put in all their fantastic array of storage pockets in their especially designed waistcoats.

The following Monday we were hosts to a Bulmers Foundation 'Art in the Orchard' session. This is the second year the event has been run and Dragon Orchard was asked to be a venue. Various special needs groups worked under the wonderful guidance of Green Eyed Monster, a group who specialise in creative outdoor arts. The students all contributed to a fantastic piece of sculpture and spent a really constructive time in the orchard. The expert tutoring and their enthusiasm really blossomed at Dragon Orchard and we hope to welcome them back before too long.

International Cider Competition at the Hereford Cider Museum

Simon-with-Awards-May-2012Four years ago Annie and I were in Italy with our Cropsharers and received a text from Simon with the results of the very first competition that Once Upon a Tree had ever entered. He had done rather well and since then has not been out of the medals at the competition, which is held annually at the Cider Museum. This year was no exception for as well as coming third in the medium cider, Once Upon A Tree took two firsts. One for the best dry cider for 2011 Marcle Ridge and the other for the best single variety, The Dabinett. See the latest News item on our website for more details. The dry summer last year made it a particularly difficult season but when the going gets tough Simon Day gets going.

three countiessm
The orchard is empty of fruit and the press has fallen silent after the most difficult growing and harvesting conditions we can recall. It is with some relief that I write these words as it has been a very trying year for all producers, but as a potato grower said to me recently “At least your crops grow above the ground”. Many of the potato fields have had to be abandoned as the machines simply couldn’t work and the mud on the roads has been a real problem for all concerned. However, here at Dragon Orchard we are able to grow a good range of apple varieties and some of these were fine. Plums and pears were all poor but the Kidds' Orange Red apples are excellent, as are the Herefordshire Russet, Red Devil and Tydeman’s Late Orange. We were short of some individual varieties to make our usual single variety juices, so have combined the earlier ones to make a Summer Blend and the later ones for an Autumn Blend. These are now in the bottle, labels are away being printed and they will be available by the end of November. As the ground was so wet and we had a lighter crop, we altered the way that the main cider crop was harvested, by only making one pass with the harvesting machine down each aisle. The machine could get down once without causing too much damage, but the ground became churned up if we tried to go again. So, after the first pass, the remaining apples were blown through the rows with a fan mounted on a lightweight orchard tractor and thus damage was limited, apart from the headlands. Come the spring we will flatten these out with power harrows and roll it and hopefully do a good reinstatement job. Other orchards have had harvesting machinery so bogged down they have had to be towed out and the enormous holes will have to be filled in with a JCB or a digger. Not a pretty sight. In spite of all the work and worry, it did all get done and we are glad it is now finally, as it says in the English Hymnal, “All safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin”, which have now begun with a vengeance.

three counties shop
Three Counties Cider Shop

These mid-November Wednesday evenings have seen a series of gatherings at 5a The Homend in Ledbury to celebrate the opening of the new cider shop, right in the middle of town, directly opposite the clock tower. The Three Counties Cider Shop came into being as we have been supplying more and more produce to various other shops. The Bristol Cider Shop, the Essex Cider Shop, the Real Cider Company and the nicely named Merrylegs, have all increased sales and we realised that in the three counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire there has not been a dedicated cider shop until now. 5a The Homend became available as the previous occupant, a sweet shop owner, has moved just across the alleyway to the other side of the Homend Mews. So after some debate and discussion, much crunching of numbers and scratching our heads, we decided to go for it. The licence was applied for and we undertook the fitting out and were able to go for a soft opening in time for the Autumn Big Apple and Cropsharers' Weekend in mid October. The shop looks stunning with the left hand wall completely covered with our wooden apple boxes, full of cider and perry bottles and backlit. On the right hand wall a fine dresser is arrayed with other local products. At the back, behind the counter, the end wall has a row of twelve wooden taps, dispensing draught cider and perry, the best the three counties can offer. Visitors seem genuinely impressed and positive and sales are on target and, like many good ideas, the simplicity and the elegance of design is what carries it through.

The Three Counties Cider Shop, 5a The Homend, Ledbury - where a warm welcome awaits.

draught cidercider jar

BBC Radio Four British Food and Farming Awards 2012


In early October we had a call from Radio Four asking us to send some samples of our products to the Food Programme as we had been nominated and then shortlisted for the Drinks Producer of the Year Award. The shortlist had been whittled down from well over 100 nominees and we were delighted to have progressed that far in such a prestigious competition. We thought no more about it but then had another call to ask us to be sure to listen to the Food Programme the following Sunday. There it was announced that the three finalists in the Drinks Producer award category were Kilchoman Distillery on Islay, the Kernel Brewery in London and Once Upon A Tree from Putley, Ledbury, Herefordshire. The judges, Victoria Moore and Pete Brown visited on the last Thursday of October and we met them at Ledbury Station and immediately took them to visit the newly opened cider shop. We then toured round the orchard, having duly warned them to bring willies and visited the shed where pressing was going on and they were able to taste liquids dispensed straight from the tank. They then sampled the finished products, finishing off with soup and local cheeses for lunch and got them back into Ledbury Station just in time for their afternoon train. Now we are off to the Good Food Show at the NEC on November 28th to find out the final result. Whatever the result, we are absolutely delighted to be the only cider and juice producer in the final and have greatly enjoyed the whole experience.

winepressFurther pressings

Five years ago in 2007, just as my mother sloughed off her mortal coil, we had just begun our very first pressing of apples with the newly purchased Voran press. Now in 2012 we have pressed our first load of grapes from a vineyard in the Cotswolds with our newly acquired wine press. The equipment has come from nearby Coddington Vineyard, which has recently changed hands. Once Upon A Tree was able to purchase the wine making equipment so our green shed is now full of shiny stainless steel fermenting kit with all the caboodle that goes to turn grapes into wine. However, the press that we have acquired has also been able to crush perry pears, which are extremely slippery and difficult to do on the apple press. It has made it a much less messy and more efficient operation and Simon has been a very happy chappy playing with all his new toys.


In complete contrast Annie, Simon and I recently visited the cider mill just outside Ledbury, which is owned by Heineken and is the largest apple mill in Europe. The scale of it is mind boggling and it can process 2,500 tonnes of apples a day. At that rate it would take two hours to process our entire cider crop this year. All the juice it produces is evaporated into concentrate, which looks, tastes and smells pretty much like thin treacle. It is so heavy that the road tankers used to transport it into Hereford where it is fermented, have to be reinforced with a massive steel frame. I always wondered what those massive tankers carried and now I know.

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