Main Promo Images
Ann & Norman Stanier - owners of Dragon Orchard help bring in the harvest. Our juices are all made from tree ripened, hand picked fruit.
Winners of BBC Food and Farming Best Drinks Producers
From left to right
Simon Day, Norman Stanier, Hannah Day, Pete Brown (Judge), Ann Stanier, Valentine Warner (Awards Presenter)
A sharp cider variety, ready for harvesting!
Three Counties Cider Shop
Our store in Ledbury is stocked to the rafters with not only our own produce, but cider and other drinks from 25+ other local producers from Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire (and occaisional guest ciders from further afield!)
We run two novel orchard schemes - Dragon Orchard Cropsharers and a Sponsor a Tree scheme - click on the menu for details
We host a number of tours and events throughout the year, from orchard walks and cider tastings to poetry festival events and more... See our events page for more details.
Ellis Bitter cider apple.
A full bittersweet variety, with lots of tannins and rich flavours - a lovely component in many of our blended ciders
Cool autumnal mornings are perfect for picking. Here, our Blenheim Orange trees are mostly harvested.
Cider apples ripe for harvesting. We allow the fruit to fully ripen on the tree for maximum flavour in the finished cider.
We take great care with our juice apples. These Egremont Russet are destined for our Russet & Bramley juice.
Pressing the apples
Golden juice runs from the press - a modern take on the traditional rack and cloth press. We press about 4 Tonnes per day.
Some of our range photographed in the orchard at blossom time.
Three Counties Cider Shop
Our Three Counties Cider shop can be found right in the centre of our pretty market town of Ledbury - a vibrant town with loads of unique interesting shops, cafés, pubs, and attractions.
Willow Sculptures in the orchard
We offer various events throughout the year, and we regularly host artists and sculptors during The Trumpet Art Trail and H.Art
Winter in the Orchard
Orchards can be beautiful places in snowy conditions!
This doesn’t refer to Wimbledon, but to the turning of blossom into fruitlets. There was a good flower on most of the trees and especially on the cider, although it was all very late. However, pollination has to take place but due to the continuing cold, damp and windy conditions in May there was very little insect activity, so not ideal conditions at all. Even if there is a good number of fruitlets there is often a significant June drop when lots of these fall off. We think that there is a good enough set for a reasonable crop, which after last year, is a huge relief.
Photo (Simon Day): "The "June drop" is happening in July this year. Pritt sticking these back on the tree isn't working!"
We have hosted a number of orchard walks recently and one was with Woolhope WI. We of course visit the Sponsor A Tree orchard and explain that Dorothy’s Orchard was named after Norman’s mother. Beryl Walker who is the wife of David, our local Haiku poet and sculptor told us that her mother was also called Dorothy and that they had recently visited Burford Church. There she had found a stained glass window commemorating Saint Dorothy, and discovered that she just happens to be the patron saint of orchards and small gardens. I feel Mother must have known that.
Ledbury Ox Roast - June 1st and 2nd
The Ox Roast Weekend to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was blessed with wonderful weather and turned out to be a fantastic event. On Saturday, the Ledbury Community Day, more than fifty local groups strutted their stuff in a massive open day and in the afternoon the Beast arrived in town in a trailer mounted mobile oven. We went into Ledbury in the evening for a jazz performance and the whole of the High Street was filled with the smell of roast ox.
On Sunday the day dawned sunny and bright and the streets were closed, a stage was set up, the Hereford Trow arrived on a low loader to be offloaded by two huge telehandlers and installed next to the Market House.
The Ledbury Reporter said that over 5000 people came out for the event. The sun shone, the bands played and the Food, Drink and Craft Festival celebrated local talent and producers. A full programme unfolded throughout the day with appearances from Charles Martell’s Coach and Four, vintage cars, a Grand Opening of the event by Dolly Tow and the hounds only snaffled a few ox rolls as they passed through town. The Ledbury butchers did a fine job carving the ox and hundreds got to enjoy the tasty rolls. Many of those who remembered the original event in 1953 pronounced 2013 even better than the original. The whole day was hugely entertaining and a great Ledbury community occasion and very much as Norman had envisaged it just a few months earlier.
There are lots of lovely photos at www.ledburyoxroast.org.uk
The Three Counties Show for this year had a new category in its Cider and Perry Competition. This was to encourage and recognise new and innovative products and attracted some strong entries. Simon entered The Wonder, the dessert pear wine, but was not told until just before judging that he was required to make a Dragon’s Den style presentation. He received quite a grilling from the panel, but obviously convinced them and came away with the first First Prize for Innovation. He has also picked up another first prize for this year’s Discovery juice at the Bath & West Show.
Recently, almost every time we go out into the orchard, we find someone holding a large aerial standing or lurking by a hedgerow. This is happening on all days of the week and in all weathers and is part of the Orchard Survey which is being carried out to look at the effects of orchard management techniques on wildlife and especially the birds. Individual birds have been caught and tagged and are being tracked, so that their every movement is recorded. They have no privacy at all, but some really useful information is being obtained.
Every year we avidly await the arrival of the cuckoo and expect that according to the ancient rhyme that “He’ll whistle his tune ‘til the middle of June and then he’ll fly away”. However with this late late year, here we are at the beginning of July and the cuckoo is still ‘cuckooing’ and not flying away. An excellent illustration of this particularly strange tardy season.
Having just launched our new dessert pear wine, I am being asked how we came to name it "The Wonder".
As well as being appropriate in terms of dictionary definitions,
- "Wonder" - a thing or a quality of something that causes wonder // - a surprising event or situation
- "Wonder" - a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar...
the main reason is a local landmark known as "The Wonder", a land slip that occured in 1575 on the nearby Marcle Ridge. This description hangs in the nearby "Slip Tavern" in Much Marcle:
On the 17th February 1575 a very remarkable landslip occurred here: on the evening of that day Marcle Hill began to move, and in its progress overthrew the chapel at Kinnaston, together with hedges and trees and after destroying many cattle finally rested at its present position on the 19th.
Camden gives the following account: “near the conflux of Lug and the Wye, east, a hill which they call Marclay Hill did in the year 1575 rouse itself as it were out of sleep and for three days together shoving its prodigious body forward with a horrible roaring noise and overturning everything in its way, raised itself to the great astonishment of the beholders, to a higher place.
The place where this hill originally stood is now a chasm 40ft deep and 400ft in length. About 1840 during the ploughing of the site of the landslip at a place called “The Wonder” the bell of Old Kinnaston Chapel was unearthed and brought to Sir James Kyrle Money, Lord of the Manor, who placed it in the tower of Homme House, where it still hangs.
I particularly like the following quote from the book "The Natural History of Selborne", by Gilbert White (1720-93) who quotes the words of John Philips, describing how whole trees were uprooted and transported into neighbouring fields:
'I nor advise, nor reprehend the choice Of Marcley Hill; the apple nowhere finds A kinder mould; yet 'tis unsafe to trust Deceitful ground; who knows but that once more This mount may journey, and his present site Forsaken, to thy neighbour's bounds transfer Thy goodly plants, affording matter strange For law debates!'
In Victorian times people came from far and wide to view 'The Wonder'. It is shown on the Ordnance Survey map at reference SO6236.
Apples are between 60 to 80 percent juice, which means, after pressing, we have between 20 - 40 percent of the original weight of apples as used pomace. Over the full harvest we end up with around 30 Tonnes of waste pomace. This waste is difficult to compost, and posed a bit of a problem as our production levels increased, with the majority going to a composting facility at considerable cost.
Since last harvest, we have teamed up with nearby Noggin Farm who keep pigs up on the Marcle Ridge. Fortunately the pigs love the pomace, which still has considerable nutritional value, owners Sarah and Will get several trailer loads of pig feed for free, and we get rid of our waste - everyone wins!
For the latest Big Apple Harvestime festival, we also supplied our Tumpy Ground to the Noggin, for a special apple & cider sausage recipe. One of 5 different cider sausages - all very different, but all excellent!
(photo credit: Noggin Farm)
It's just over two weeks before we know if we're winners in the BBC Food and Faming Awards for Best Drinks Producer...
We've met the judges, Victoria Moore and Pete Brown, and have a lovely time with them showing them what we're all about, and tasting the ciders, and I think they went away happy! At the same time we were recorded by Toby Field for the Radio 4 food Programme, and this snippet has gone online on the BBC website, with Norman talking about Putley's long association with good cider:
Victoria also mentioned us in the Weekend Telegraph last weekend - click on the picture to read more:
Now we have the almost unbearable wait to know our fate on the 28th November at the awards ceremony at the NEC. Everytime I think about it, my stomach does somersaults! I've never felt quite so nervous and excited about an award before. I have a feeling that this could be a "game-changer" and really get Once Upon A Tree & Herefordshire craft cider to a much wider audience. We've already seen an increase in enquiries since being finalists, which is causing us to look at increasing tank space for next harvest....
The other two finalists look very strong and worthy contenders, Kilchoman Distillery in Islay and The Kernel Brewery in London. Whatever happens, I'm very much looking forward to trying their products!
A HUGE THANK YOU to those who have supported us so far, have sent us messages of congratulations on becoming finalists, and to those who are keeping fingers crossed for us (and to those who are coming along to the NEC - I hope we don't dissapoint on the night!)
It's not just the blossom that's providing colour in the orchard at the moment...
Annie's sister Sue had a wander through the orchard yesterday, and with a fine eye for wildflowers counted no less than 34 different species currently in bloom!
This is a really good indicator that the orchard biodiversity is healthy, and makes for an lovely walk around the orchard.
Here is the list of flowers:
Dead Nettle, red, white and yellow
Violet, purple and mauve
Forget me Not
Ladies Smock or Cuckoo Flower, mauve and white