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Simon Tests the Apples
Simon and the Sugars

Timing is everything in fruit growing and picking and was one of the main themes in Charles Bennett's Orchard Days poetry collection. He visited us for one day each month to engage with the annual round of the orchard. He said he could understand that we knew what to do but was never sure how we knew when. Much of it comes with experience but there is also a degree of intuition and also, it must be said, a bit of luck with some good picking weather. However Simon is a trained biochemist and is much more scientific when it comes to harvesting. He checks and accurately measures the sugar levels which is just one of many reasons that he produces some outstanding drinks.

National Trust Core PrinciplesNational Trust Core Principles
Browsing the latest National Trust Magazine, an article reminded me that about five years ago, Annie and I were part of a series of workshops held at two National Trust properties. The Trust was moving away from its visitors 'just looking' to have them being more participatory. Nowadays many of their properties are rediscovering their orchards and are making juice, cider and preserves to sell in their shops and using the fruit in the meals they provide in their cafes. We have also just found out that an orchard close to here that we have visited with Cropsharers has been donated to the National Trust. The National Collection of Cider Apples at Tidnor Wood has been given to the Trust by its owner Henry May and varieties from the collection are being planted at NT sites across the South West.

Worshipful Company of Fruiterers DinnerWorshipful Companies
Following the success of the Chapel Pleck becoming the Championship Perry at the Bath & West Show, we somehow found ourselves being invited to attend the Summer Dinner of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers at the Haberdashers' Hall in London. The Chapel Pleck was used as the final toast from their ancient Loving Cup and we had to turn to guard our neighbour's back as they were partaking of the toast. All very traditional.


Worshipful Company of GardenersRecently we have had an orchard visit from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. It was only as they were arriving that the penny dropped with Annie that they were all gardeners and might take an interest in the garden as well the orchard. Sure enough the early arrival asked about design and planting and seemed to appreciate the 'relaxed' edge of orchard ambience of the garden. Luckily it was on to the orchard tour and tastings and then they were gone. Off to visit Sir Roy Strong's garden near Ross-on-Wye!





Poets SupperCider Supper
In September 1914, just before the outbreak of the Great War, the Dymock Poets collective of Lascelles Abercrombie, Robert Frost, Wilfred Gibson and Edward Thomas and their wives were invited to the home of a Mr & Mrs Farmer for a cider supper. The whole event was recorded for posterity by the writer Eleanor Farjeon. 101 years later, the event was celebrated at Putley Parish Hall complete with a groaning sideboard of food and copious amounts of cider, as described by Miss Farjeon and re-enacted for us by Mary Fielding. A splendid time was had by all and Jackie Denman's rendition of Gibson's "A Golden Room" sent us into the night deeply aware of the plight of many people travelling across Europe in 2015, as well as a poignant reminder of 1914.

Ripest Apples by Roy PalmerSweet Cider Time/Ripest Apples
Soon after we moved back to the Shire, we were introduced to Roy and Pat Palmer, one of the most creative couples we have had the pleasure to meet. Roy died last year and a glowing obituary in the Guardian revealed what an extraordinary knowledge he had of folklore and music, especially pertaining to apples. When the Big Apple Association planned its publication of Ripest Apples, to celebrate the English apple, Roy was the obvious choice to edit the work. As a celebration of his life, there are two events planned over the Big Apple Harvest Weekend. On Saturday 10th October, the vocal group Serenata are presenting an evening of music and readings entitled "Sweet Cider Time" at 7pm at the Hellens Great Barn. The following morning there is a Ripest Apples Walk with readings from the book which leaves Westons Car Park at 9.30 am on Sunday 11th October.




Bin TipperBin Tipper
I'm not a bin tipper
I'm a bin tipper's mate
And I'm only tippin' bins
Cos' the bin tipper's late

This lesser known gem of Shire poetry reflects the long celebrated theme of moving apples from storage box to mill. For the last 7 years, the shovel has been the preferred method, and then this was improved by use of a small elevator. Mid season last year saw a radical change with bins being tipped using a forklift truck but 2015 sees the arrival of the Bin Tipper itself. This well handy piece of tack coupled with a conveyor belt is set fair to save many sore backs and arms. And give more time for creative poetry!





Yesterday we had our Herefordshire Year in the Orchard April event - Photography in the Orchard - led by two multi-award winning photograpers Richard Crompton and Linda Wright.

About 14 people were on the course, all hoping for Richard and Linda to reveal their secrets, and enable us to get closer to their standard.

We were not dissapointed!

Rich led the workshop with some back to basics work on how cameras "see" and how best to overcome your camera's limitations, to achieve the depth of field and exposure you want. He then moved onto composition, demonstrating some of the rules with his own photos. Each session was punctuated with an opportunity to take shots ourselves, including help with portrait work - something I know I stuggle with!

In the afternoon, Linda told us her techniques to capture stunning wildlife shots, and gave us the chance to take photos of a Scops owl and a young Kestrel brought by the International Centre for Birds of Prey based in nearby Newent. We managed to take shots, close up and in flight with our two very obliging and beautiful models!

Our final assignment (after a tasting session!) was to capture the essense of the orchard, using the techniques learned throughout the day.

All in all, everyone really enjoyed the day, and went away enthused and more knowledgable than they arrived.

A big thank you to Richard and Linda for an excellent day!

Click on "Read more" to see some of my photos I took on the day:

Writing poetry in the orchardA delightful day at Dragon Orchard at a poetry workshop held in conjunction with The Ledbury Poetry Festival and part of Herefordshire Year in the Orchard.

The day was run by local sculptor, artist and poet David Walker with the orchard input from Chris Fairs of Bulmers and Norman Stanier.

David Walker displays his Haiga

Some of the contributions:

Machines for pruning
do mothers work
I miss her

An apple a day
twenty tons per acre
eat drink and be merry

Not looking for perfection
tells it all

Flat hidden buds
you grow from
sustainable joy

Warm the rain
share the colour
of my umbrella

I was looking for Pupitres to borrow, rent, or even buy to "riddle" our Champagne method sparkling cider and perry before our new automated riddling machine arrives. Whilst searching for "pupitres" on ebay came across someone selling this excellent postcard:

Pupitres in BulmersPupitres_in_Bulmers_Back

What an incredible sight that must have been - 200,000 bottles turned by hand every day. Assuming a 3 week cycle, they would be able to make nearly 3.5 million bottles per year. This traditional cider is all but lost, big volume production costed out of the market place by an extortionate duty regime, but we are doing our bit to revive quality traditional method sparkling cider and perry! We will be riddling around 5,000 bottles of the 2009 vintage this year, releasing by the end of May. We'll keep you informed!

By the way, you can see some of the racks, and original disgorging equipment at the Hereford Cider Museum - worth a visit!


Pupitres full of cider and perryOur new Champagne pupitres arrived this morning, and I spent an hour loading them with our 2009 traditional method sparkling perry and cider.

I will riddle these bottles twice a day in an attempt to get the yeast on the crown cap in time for the Big Apple Blossomtime Competition! - a bit of a tall order....  I've got 16 days... normally it takes 24 days... wish me luck!

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