RG 2005 April

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8289401_8cd6453906_s.jpg This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant

April, 2005



Powerstock festival

If any of you dear folk are going next friday evening, 15th April, please note that it is in Powerstock village hall, (not at the Three Horseshoes as shown on the Wiki) and it starts at 6.30 pm. Powerstock is a small village in the back of beyond, 5 miles north east of Bridport.

Nick, who organises it, told me that the Festival is going from strength to strength. Last year over 300 people attended. He said that the idea was to promote a resurgence in the growing of cider apples and the making of real cider in Dorset. It looks as though the aim has been met. When the first festival was held 3 years ago the contributors were mostly commercial makers from Somerset and beyond, whereas this year there is only one commercial maker, Nigel an excellent cider maker of Bridge Farm Cider, West Coker, near Yeovil ( almost in Dorset ). Now get this, the other FOURTEEN ciders available are produced by local amateurs! Nick said that the interest in real cider has grown phenomenally in west Dorset. We are beginning to rival Putley down here. Watch this space 3CCPA! Do not be dismissive of the term 'amateur' either. I was informed that the Chideock group make 1200 gallons and drink it all themselves! Can you picture it?

Those interested in the size of glass discussion we had recently, may like to know that this event sells the cider in wine glasses at 40p a go. It could still be a challenge to try all 15! Sorry 16....... they are going to try and squeeze a box of mine in as well.

Hope to see some of you there. (will wear one of Ray's ukcider badges)



The festival was a great success. The cider bar was so packed with people that it was more akin to a rugby scrum. It was a major feat to get round to see what was on offer, never mind being able to taste it all! I did manage to try a fair sample, by sheer persistence and was fascinated by the range of flavours. There was the inevitable old scrumpy partly ascetic style through to a deliciously smooth cider blended from Sweet Coppin and Brown's Apple. I also tried the Suicider from Devon. This had a rich and distinctive flavour that I enjoyed. It would have been interesting to ask what apple varieties were used but conversation was nigh on impossible. After all this excitement I was pleased to spot Nigel from Bridge Farm Cider and enjoyed a glass of his ever dependable Dry. Very drinkable and in my opinion, what real cider is all about. I had not expected to see perry down here, but there was a lot of interest in a perry on offer from Bo Rutter of Shaftesbury. I thought that it compared favourably with the excellent Gregg's Pit. Whilst I'm full of admiration for the organisers of this event, it is obvious that it is a victim of it's success and needs somewhere more spacious. There was just too much to fit into a village hall what with all the cakes, pies and home made jams. There was even a band within yards of the cider bar.


Ps. Glad to see I'm not the only one cursing Westons for their label glue. Roy, now you know why I gave you the 3 pinters! Will be trying the dish washer tablet next time. Sounds promising.

I have been talking to the landlord of the Royal Oak at Okeford Fitzpaine. He intends to have a beer and cider festival in June. This village is in the Blackmoor Vale just south of Sturminster Newton in what was once an intensive cider apple growing area. The old boys who' inhabit' the Royal Oak still remember those times and they just love the opportunity to taste some real cider. The pub sells Burrow Hill and Weston's Scrumpy. My cider has won the approval of this venerable tasting panel and will also be on sale there. I will post the date of this festival when it has been arranged. The landlord would like it to become an annual event.


Picking and storage

Q How to judge ripeness, and benefits of storing apples post harvest

A An interesting subject.

I appreciate the dilemma, being near 'Windy Wellington'. I have not forgotten how we were blasted out of Wellington harbour on the Picton ferry!

People often say that it is a big mistake to make cider from under-ripe apples, which is obvious since they have not developed their full sugar potential. Then there is the opposite wisdom where ripe fruit is stored to soften, as this facilitates milling and increases the juice yield. The cider makers of old often did this and there are famous photographs of huge heaps of apples outside cider factories and farmers putting apples in the loft of barns for preliminary storage. It is a job to know what to do for the best.

I can see the argument for softening the apples but I hate making cider with apples that are going bad, which is what seems to happen all too easily, if you leave them lying around. My present policy is to wait until the first apples fall. (We can have strong gales in the Autumn too). I then see if the rest can be shaken off. If so, then I will take the lot and mill them within the next few days. If the apples will not shake off I leave them and just mix those that have fallen prematurely with the apples from an earlier ripening variety. This seems to be a good compromise. The juice tastes sweet and the SG is usually promising. The workload is reduced as there are not many bad bits to be cut out. It seems instinctively to be the hygienic way of going about it.

It will be interesting to hear other views on this, as it is not easy to tell if a cider apple is ripe by tasting it.

community orchard

I have been trying to start a project of planting a community orchard on a piece of common land in our village. There used to be several little orchards here up until the 50s, one of these being totally planted with Tom Putt cider apple trees. It would be nice to put a little of it back again and we could hold village events there, like wassailing.

The Parish Council are generally in favour but one councillor is adamant that common land cannot be converted to orchard even though it would still remain open to the public at all times.

Does any one have any experience of the legal situation that is involved here? There is a fair bit on the web about grazing rights and the right to gather firewood, turf or acorns, but I can find nothing about orchards.


A Contact common ground (their book is marvellous).

Their book is also a treasure of mine. In fact it was the glorious picture of the May festival at Lustleigh in this book that inspired me to introduce the May Queen festivity in my own orchard last year. I also went to see it at Lustleigh last May. They have an old cider orchard right in the middle of the village that was bequeathed to the people there, as a community orchard. Their May festival is a well established tradition that has been performed every year since the 1950s on the first Saturday of May. It will be May 7th this year and I must go and see it again. It is such a beautiful event with all the apple trees in bloom and the children's maypole dancing is superb! Lustleigh is about 20 miles west of Exeter, if I've tempted anyone to go.

I did contact Common Ground and they suggested that I asked Hartley Wintney Council about their orchard which is planted on Hunts Common close to their village in north Hampshire. I contacted the parish clerk who was most helpful and sent me a pamphlet describing the history of their project. They did not have an easy time of it. The idea was first mooted in 1994 as way to celebrate the Millennium, but the first trees could not be planted until Autumn 2000 due to bureaucratic obstacles. Surprisingly, the Hampshire Wildlife Trust seemed unable to accept that the landscape we currently enjoy was essentially shaped by mankind and the proposal to plant an orchard on meadow land was anathema to them. They briefed the District Council against it, but to cut a long story short, the Parish Council won in the end, by sheer persistence.

I can be persistent too!


A Orchards should really only be planted on agricultural land which is already wildife-poor.

Perhaps I should not have used the emotive word 'meadow'. Nobody with even the slightest feeling about conservation would want to do anything to spoil a wild flower rich meadow, such as for example the famous preserved meadow land at Kingcombe in west Dorset.

I have never been to Hartley Wintney so I do not know anything about the conservation status of Hunts Common. However the Council brochure states that they have planted 63 trees on 2 1/2 acres. This is low density planting by any standard, so there will always be plenty of light to encourage meadow flora and wild life. It is also their intention to mow only once a year to assist wild flower propagation.

The trees they have planted are mostly old or threatened varieties, some of which were Hampshire varieties specially grafted from the National collection at Brogdale. It seems to me that they have added greatly to the conservation potential of the land, rather than detracted from it.

From cover to cover the Common Ground book 'Orchards' is a eulogy of the multiple value of orchards for people as well as flora and wild life conservation. The 'Sharing with Nature' chapter lists a great many varieties of birds insects and grassland flora that thrive in traditional orchards. One of James Marsden's essays is lyrical about the birds and butterflies he has seen in his orchard. The other extols the intrinsic protection from pests due to the healthy population of beneficial insects. There is very little that is negative in the whole chapter, save for the scathing reference to commercial orchards with high planting density and herbicide strips. Obviously irrelevant to the community orchard.

I started my own orchard on 2 acres of barren farmland 15 years ago. I manage it without chemicals and I only trim the hedges by hand when they get really overgrown. I love to see the hawthorn blossom burgeoning out of my hedgerows in May and the dog roses in June, yet I have only lost one tree to fireblight. It was a Czar plum and plums are especially vulnerable.

The hedges are 8 ft thick and bursting with God's creation. In fact, it has worked against me as the badgers passed TB to my beloved Jersey cows and one by one they have had to be slaughtered. It is amazing how the bird population has increased. My Ashmead's kernels get pecked to shreds if I try to leave them into December. To begin with I could grow more soft fruit than I could cope with. I am lucky if I get any at all nowadays, as I can not be bothered with netting. The wild flowers also increase year by year. It does not take all that long for a new orchard to become a wildife haven!

As for our proposed community orchard, the small piece of common land is no more than a bramble patch with potential to become a dumping ground. I have no doubt at all that an orchard would make it a great deal more attractive to people and all manner of wild things.


I can confirm that Roy's orchard promises to be a very pleasant 'component in the landscape'. He has also altruistically planted a good number of perry pear trees. Apple trees takes ages enough to give a useful crop. Planting pear trees is for posterity!

May Festival

Stephen just prompted me about this. YES it is still on for May 21 st, here in Winterborne Houghton not Worth Matravers. Charlie's cider festival at the Square and Compass is always in November.

Our May Festival started as a cider tasting social event for our little village ( pop. 200 ) to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee and to help raise funds for our main event on the Day itself. This just involved local folk and was held in our cottage. It was quite a success so last year we decided to move it to the orchard call it a blossom time celebration and reintroduce some of our old English customs such as Crowning the May Queen and Morris dancing plus a tasty barbecue.It was wonderful and made a lot of people happy ( I have to say that my cider played a little part in this!!!)

Ukcider members are warmly invited. It would be good to see you especially if you can bring some of your own cider to add to the "tasting".. ..(Sorry can't sell it--No license)

The event will start at 3.30 pm with the May Queen Crowning and procession which will be followed by Maypole dancing. Then there will be morris dancing and folk music played by our local Bulbarrow Band while we enjoy the delights of barbie & cider. There will just be a small charge to cover the cost of the food.

So if you feel like doing a West Country mini break , why not call by? I'm sorry I can't offer any accommodation. We will be in a pickle as the cottage is being rethatched in May. However if you want to spend the night in the orchard it is Ok to bring a tent. There is a loo and running water available in my barn, but no electricity.

Let me know, off group, if you want to come and need further information, how to get here etc.