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The Cider Journey - Creating a new local drink!

Hey all,

I've just begun an exciting project where I am attempting to create a new cider drink from my own planted apple orchard. This is a long term project that will involve all aspects of the process. From starting with an empty field, preparing soil, planting trees, nurturing the trees and then harvesting (in years to come). Finally finishing with pressing the fruit and all the joys, trials and errors involved with making a decent drop of cider juice.

I've been keeping a blog on the adventure but I thought it might be a great idea to share it with people here, for enjoyment and feedback. Hopefully along the way we can learn a bit more about the delicious drink!

The first post:

I've enjoyed supping cider for many years.

It's that seemingly endless blend of apples which attracts me.
The depth of flavours which capture seasons and dance on the tongue reflecting the past summers and golden autumns.

Well, I had to have a go at making this crafted drink myself. So, in 2012 I found a field to start planting with trees and began an amazing journey discovering our diverse range of apples with an aim to create a new and unique cider.

A local artisan delight. The cider journey begins....

Looking very good, will be following with interest!      


Here's a bit more about the background of the farm:

My childhood was spent on my grandfathers farm in Wiltshire, often visiting every weekend and helping to bale crops and milk cows. He had a beautiful herd of Jersey cows which provided rich and creamy milk to local distribution depots but not without myself and my brother taking a sip when he wasn't looking. The milk quotas became daft during the late eighties and early nineties and dairy farming on this scale was difficult to match the larger establishments so the herd shrank and the farm was kept barely ticking along.

When he passed on the farm remained in the family but never produced on the same standard as before.
It has since existed as pony paddocks and small-time hay crops for the past 15 years until recently when I thought about exploring the idea of producing a local craft cider from my own stock of apple trees.

Orchards within Wiltshire have declined 95% since the late 1940's and it is even rarer to find an orchard utilised for the production of cider. Sure the county had cider, but historical accounts state this had been from apple fruit of varying varieties and qualities, a more 'scrumpy-ish' type of drink. It seems that the local folk were not looking for single variety drinks but were happy with farmhouse cider which was given freely as part-payment for agriculture labour after a hard day on the farm. I'm hoping to produce a range of ciders which explore the complex flavours blended from specific heritage apples. I may even attempt a Normandy style cider, low alcohol percentage but absolutely delicious.

The field (pictured above) is around an acre in size, a perfect area to establish an initial orchard to see if this idea is achievable. Not too big, nor small. It is my starting point and I assumed I would simply select some trees, plant them in the ground and await the rewards.....well, this is a journey of discovery and I have since discovered that my initial approach required a little more preparation.........

Brilliant Casper  Keep it coming.

Cheers Bodger, I also followed your own cider farm journey since last year and it's great to get some tips along the way (I may even be in touch if I get a bit 'stuck'!)

Here's a new post (From work carried out back in February):

It's begun!

Work has started clearing the hedges surrounding the orchard field. A few years of neglect has meant a bank of blackthorns have self suckered beyond the boundary. These hardy trees provide stunning blossom and fruit perfect for mixing with gin, but alas, there's just a few too many which are clogging the ditch. Upon clearing these prickly specimens I uncovered a badger sett which has been left alone, I'll be sure to see some of the residents from it over the next few months during dusk. Perhaps they can help gather fruit in Autumn?

When I started out on the cider journey I discovered that many similar artisan producers began to appear out of the woodwork. This small, but growing list of crafters have been an immense inspiration and fountain of knowledge to me, even in these early days of the project.

What attracted me the most was the willingness to share ideas and the sound advice given for many aspects of setting up an orchard. There hasn't been any 'special secret recipes' or guarded methods that you may find in other industries. It reminds me of groups of people who came together for a common cause, be it the jam makers, willow basket weavers or hay makers.

The initial stages of the orchard could have gone wrong without the input from these friendly groups and individuals. I underestimated the need for careful planning and consideration to the field, the crucial element to produce good quality cider apples. Since these conversations I now have a head crammed with everything 'apple' and my focus is purely on the dark stuff, the worms paradise....the soil.

Barters Nursery - Providers of grafted apples

This didn't stop me getting carried away though! I've already visited a local nursery who graft apple trees to order and have given a request for 40 local trees. These are in the process of being grafted onto suitable root stocks and will be available at the end of summer, ample time for me to prep the ground.
So, thankyou to Barters Nursery in Chapmanslade, Wiltshire, these trees are the first step to realising a dream.

Next time: Cutting the grass ready for a vintage ploughing display....

Today came a huge milestone in the development of the orchard field, we began ploughing!

A neighbour known to me as Dave was on hand to provide the equipment, in the form of a beautiful old tractor from the 1960's called a McKormick International. This old beast has seen many years of ploughing and as Dave explained also responsible for many ploughing competitions and had passed from his ownership years ago only to return by fate some time later.

We set to marking out the field which would be divided in two to allow for a central access strip upon a natural ridge.
Three coloured posts were positioned in the corners and middle, the tractor was lined up and with pinpoint accuracy and the first cut into the soil was made.

This was amazing, the field was never cut like this before in recent memory and I was eagerly waiting to see what treasures were unearthed.

Worms mostly.....

But, absolutely no stones what so ever, just lovely rich soil with shades of sandy parts, good stuff!

The hum of the tractor, smell of oil and the the distinctive 'shhtiiickk' sound of soil being cut and turned was absorbing. I attempted a run myself, slotting the tractor in gear and slowly releasing the clutch I created a expertly guided wonky furrow.
Dave was eager to jump back on and 'straighten the bugger out', a perfectionist no doubt.

For many years livestock roamed these fields, leaving dung and slowly changing the characteristics of the soil, making it more acidic - which is not ideal for growing apple trees.
The low laying land by nature leans towards a more acidic type loamy soil which has a thick matting of grass, perfect for the cows that were here before me.

To make the land into an orchard I will need to add lime to the soil to raise the PH levels. Correct application of nutrients and fertilizer make for better quality, healthy trees, though cider apples do tend to be better when there's little intervention.

A comprehensive test from the scientist boffins in Kent told me the correct levels to apply and over a set number of years.

As soon as the soil is settled I will manage any new growth from the grass and prepare the next stage:


So, more toys to play with....

bdooly hell! He ploughs a straight furrow.

bdooly hell! He ploughs a straight furrow.

Have a look at this thread that I started this afternoon. It certainly gives you room for thought as to what might be achievable.

Great link Bodger, thanks!

Dave the tractor chap is a great ploughman, I think he's done quite well in local championships. There was a lot of tweeking and adjustment going on as he ploughed, when I had a go all I could do was concentrate on steering!

It's a very inspirational read for sure. I like to follow the history of the smaller cider makers, such as yours and I regularly check back from time to time on your older posts to get ideas. It'll be great to hear how your own brewing is going.

I feel this project is early days yet, but all going in the right direction.

Tomorrow I'm heading to the field to do a bit of rotavating with a slightly smaller tractor we've recently brought especially for this project.

The ploughing we undertook in the last few weeks has settled down, each furrow began sprouting pasture grass but has since been knocked back a little.

The next step was to be rotavating, but just for the time being a few new opportunities arrived:

A few years back I went on a one day cider making course at The Orchard Centre in Hartpury, where as a hobby booze maker I learned how to correctly manage the juice I had pressed. In recent times the orchard centre has developed a thorough and expanded course in creating a cider primarily as a product for smaller first-time producers.

I'm going to sign up....quick as a flash.

This 5 day course explores many aspects of orchard management which will no doubt help greatly in getting this idea of the ground.

From planning and planting the course will ensure the apples I grow will be treated well. It's not cheap, but will be a once in a lifetime expense. I've already begun the long process of exploring grant opportunities for this venture and hope to secure further funding for ideas to involve local communities within the orchard. I really want to provide a space for people to come and learn where their fruit comes from, the nature, ecology and provenance of fruit and drink, (mostly the drink!)

So, that's the plan for the future, in the meantime I'll concentrate on the land and making it sure it is ready for the delivery of the first apple trees.

Community Projects - year long interest:

Fortunately the seasonal orchard calendar lends itself well to community events throughout the year:

January it is the Wassail.
February and March there's early bud burst
April and May provide stunning blossom displays and throughout the summer months the slowly ripening of delicious fruit begins.
September through to December the numerous varieties of fruit are ready for picking and eating/pressing

It is the autumn where the true magic begins, and this is a moment I savor in years to come where all this work provides that one fine apple, nestled in the palm of my hand.

An access strip remains through the middle of the field. We can drive vehicles and pick fruit easily from here in years to come. It also provides access to the lovely stream at the base of the orchard.

Other great news!!

I have managed to find another parcel of land to plant some more apple trees on. The owner is looking for a corner of his field to be filled with an orchard, though this time it will be on dwarfing roostock. The land is next to a working engineering firm and the idea is to provide fruit for the workers to enjoy and to use the rest of the space for

.....The Cider Journey continues....

Fascinating stuff, please keep us updated

Advice from the masters:

I had been putting today off for a while, hoping that our efforts at ploughing a few weeks back were not in vain. I was fearful that the clods of turned earth hadn't settled enough to starve out the pasture grass beneath and there would be tufts spurting out from every crevice.

Also, there was the task of strimming the grass edges to tackle. but thankfully the blackthorn I removed back in February has only regrown a little.

Today was an extremely hot day, even at 9am. Though I was very pleased to see that my initial fears were eased as the grass had died back really well, leaving just lovely loamy soil.
I kitted up with my strimmer and took to removing a 2 metre section of grass from the edges of the ploughed area. The grass that remained was incredible, it had so many species within it and became apparent that this was the very reason that my Grandad had used Jersey cows here for grazing. There was a vast amount of buttercups too.

Planning for the apple trees:

This info is a bit techy, but may be useful to others who consider planting their own cider orchard:

After strimming I decided to lay out a rough plan of the locations for the apple trees. I've decided on 8 rows of trees, containing about 20 to 25 trees in each row. These rows are spaced at 3.5 to 4 metres in all directions.

With bamboo canes and tape measure in hand I paced out the site and stuck the canes in at intervals.

Dosage rates as suggested by Brogdale in Kent

This was my guide to add some lime to the exposed soil prior to rotavating. The soil test I had done in December last year from the Brogdale Orchard Nursery in Kent has given me an indication of the amount needed to apply. At first I was unsure the best method to do this and settled on ploughing first, then adding lime and other fertilisers, followed by tree planting and then re-seeding with orchard friendly grass.

I've received some excellent advice from John Worle in Herefordshire ( who suggested that the lime can be added in stages during planting (into the hole) and then afterwards around the tree over the following 3 years.
This should be easier than attempting to add lime to the entire field, which could be costly in both time and dough.

I must add that preparing the land at this time of year is unusual We would normally start late winter or early spring but due to the bad weather (and waiting for the ebay orders to come through!) we have done all of this a little later.

This coming Tuesday I'll be rotavating the soil, to level it out and then this will be watched over for the next few months until it's ready to plant up in December/January time.

In a few weeks time I'm going to the nursery to see how my grafted trees are coming on, I can't wait, It's like having 40 new children!


In recent months there's been a large amount of field management in order to get the land into good shape for the trees this autumn. All that is left now to complete is a bit of rotavating on the recent furrows we ploughed. This will take the high soil ridges from the deep plough cut and create a finer tilth. I've added the initial amount of lime required with a view to apply more during the planting season nearer winter.

We tried out a new tractor bought especially for the cider farm, a robust Yanmar. It's been through its paces but still delivers and coupled with the new rotavator deck it's making light work of turning the soil. Locally is the derelict farm with outbuildings where we hope to house the new tractor.

The brook calmly passes by the orchard just along the tree line above

I've turned my attention to the hedgerows and surrounding land in recent days. The ground has remained completely organic since maps have began, with no chemical intervention and alteration. This has resulted in a vast diversity of species within the grasses and wild flowers that have popped up during these early summer  weeks. I hope to identify these species, with the aid of a fantastic book by Roger Phillips.

At one end of the orchard field is a brook that runs through one edge of the plot and doubles back to the site of an old mill, now occupied by a dogs home, they always accompany me with barking and howling when I visit.

I intend to use this space (photo above) as an area where there could be a camp site, somewhere to relax after tending to the orchard and to enjoy the fruits of my labour. I'm hoping to acquire a traditional shepherds hut for this purpose. I'll clear the access to the stream at some point and create a perfect spot to relax and contemplate everything apple.....with a drop of juice in hand!

In the meantime I need to consider my options for the hedgerow. The field has hedges on all sides but one and this particular edge (photo) suffers from a particular brisk wind in winter, which is no good for apple trees. The original tenant had a go at hedgelaying which as resulted in some new growth this year and I hope to add more to this with some additional planting. I've received some advice to avoid Hawthorn as a hedge as his could be a host to fireblight, a seriously damaging disease for apple trees. Instead it will be a Blackthorn, Spindle and Maple mix with a few patches of Holly thrown in. I hope to use some crab apples too within the hedge as these help to pollinate all the varying groups of apple trees.

Groups of apple trees you ask? I'll explain more later in the year, not so straight forward as planting a tree in the ground!

Thanks for the update

No's to all the other local cider producers out there. Hope it makes for a good read and useful for others to gather tips along the way.

It sure makes me thirsty getting it ready!  

Your place looks like heaven to me.

Next weekend, we're off to Broom Farm, the home of Ross cider, now that  definately is a heavenly place.

It looks idyllic there Bodger, the orchard look nice and mature....and with 300  years of history and experience under their belt you should enjoy a good drop of cider!

Earlier this year I was involved with the Food Champions scheme run by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and attended a grafting course with other members of local community orchards. The course was fantastic and gave me the skills to take cuttings from exisiting fruit trees and to 'graft' these onto suitable roots and to grow them on before planting out.

It's a fantastic skill to learn, especially if you have an older apple tree in your garden that you would like to keep in the form of a brand new tree with the same desired fruit on it. It may be a family heirloom tree that could remain 'living' for many years to come.

A few years back when I began to become more involved with everything apple I wrote an article which was published in Living Woods magazine titled 'The Art of Grafting'.

If you have considered having a go yourself at grafting fruit trees please  get in touch where I can send you the original article with instructions on how to successfully graft your own apple tree.

Purchasing lime for the field was quite expensive but it's the small achievements that have made this journey so enjoyable and today I've found that those tiny influences have worked wonders.

The lime I added was needed to correct the pH levels in the soil and a few months back I danced around the field broadcasting lime powder left and right in rows. I knew that apple trees prefer a very slightly acidic soil and that this field was just too low for them, at around 5.90 pH.

So that was then and I thought that this small amount of powder wouldn't do too much. I've just performed a soil test taken from the orchard field this week, I have to say I'm delighted with the results.

From the photo above you can see that the pH has been adjusted to almost 7.0pH with a slight orange tint in the test tube which puts it nearer the 6.5 mark....fantastic! This means that I can sit tight for the remainder of the summer and will re-test the soil nearer to planting time where I may need to add just a touch more lime in the planting holes.

It just leaves the other small task of weed control....I'm attempting to keep the field as organic as possible so this means rolling up my sleeves and giving each weed a stern talking to.

Thistle pulling in the early morning June heat wave

Yet another super read Casper. Although I've put loads of nest boxes up in and around the orchards, I still use Roundup around the base of the trees. At this time of the year, I'm also cutting the rest of the grass with a large petrol lawn mower about twice a week.
I do however leave the margins for wildlife.

The one thing that I'm really envious about is that you're not doing this alone. You have friends with a shared interest that are joining in with the scheme and helping out. I'd love to get the sort of community spirit going that your posts show so well. I've been more or less on my own trying to get my cider dream off the ground and I don't work well on my own. Its been myself and Karen doing everything and we're so far away from any like minded people.
Keep your posts coming, I find them quite inspirational.

Can only add brilliant posts...I read them and then again...thanks Casper keep them coming....  

Cracking post (again) Casper, a really good read

And Bodger, you know I would if I could!

Thanks for your kind comments, really appreciated.

The whole project has really been a one man band too really, just myself and a trusty spade. Though certain characters become involved along the way based on their skills. Mostly my Father gets dragged along to drive something, not too labour intensive for him!

I hope to have many more people involved in the future and will be approaching the local community orchard group and wildlife trust who are trying to find somewhere to run a tree planting course. There's 40 apple trees currently growing for me at the nursery which I'm sure could be used for that purpose, plus it gets my orchard of to a flying start! Should be a good forum post in the winter if it gets organised.

I'm just drawing up my final list of cider trees to go in for years 2 and 3 (to address the biannual cropping issue). I'll post that here so that we can compare varieties, should be pretty interesting!

Enjoy the summer sun everyone, sure is cider drinking weather out there

CasperF wrote:

Enjoy the summer sun everyone, sure is cider drinking weather out there

Hic......   ...What slummmmmer          

Digindeep wrote:
CasperF wrote:

Enjoy the summer sun everyone, sure is cider drinking weather out there

Hic...... ...What slummmmmer


Today has been quite eventful, so to think things through I've decided to stock up on a few bottles of local's helping to lubricate the gears,

The photo above is taken from the local newspaper and shows the residents of the village where my new orchard will be based. It seems that a development is planned for the area and unfortunately I was completely unaware that this had become an issue. I live some 20 miles from the village and visit only at weekends when I get the opportunity and have yet been able to bump into any local folk. There's been a couple of interested people who I've had the pleasure to talk to about my fruit plans, the local horse owner and another resident who lives near my Grandfathers old farm.

So, here's what the grapevine has told me:

A public display of a 35 acre proposed industrial park development was on show at the beginning of July. The new development, on greenbelt land will back onto the village, right next to my orchard. This is prime, untouched and historic agricultural land.

I'm keeping an open mind at present as it's just in the preliminary stages and outline permission is yet to be granted. Overall, this shouldn't affect the orchard too much, though I held plans for a tranquil setting for the trees, as a place of beauty with far reaching views. This may now change as the industrial units will be within 40 metres of my hedge boundary. I will however benefit from a line of trees, which would make a useful wind break if they choose suitable varieties. It may be time to phone up a planner or two.

My other concerns are all the additional things that come with a working industrial park, namely: Noise, Traffic, Lighting, Security, Waste disposal.

But most importantly, I am concerned for the local residents, who have been there many years and have to suddenly deal with this change to their landscape and homes. I hope to become more involved with their cause and to understand their stories.

So, watch this's only 6 months in and may all change.

'Back of a cigarette packet' diagram - the final layout

Back to business

So, I can't stop now, even though there may be a change in the future I've already started that apple snowball. I'll be carrying on as normal. Heck, there's trees waiting for me at the nursery!

Today I headed to the field and carrying a bundle of bamboo canes under my arms began to measure the field for the final spacings of the apple trees. It was fun to do, to see the orchard develop in stick-form. I could visualise the final layout and also make crucial adjustments and feel pretty satisfied that this is the final design:

2 orchard 'fields' - separated by a central access strip
4 rows in each 'field'
20 trees in each row
40 local varieties
120 cider varieties
a few 'sneaked in' crab apples - for pollination
This may all seem a bit fastidious, and you're right, but it enables me to carefully plan for every penny spent as the budget is quite limited and it is just a hobby at present, with high hopes!

....And finally, every cloud..:

The willow looks upright but has fallen into the orchard field

I had planned for a delightful relaxing area near the stream in the orchard beneath the willow tree. Alas, due to the dry, hot weather the mighty tree has fallen. It's huge, and will be sorely missed. I took a close look at the remaining trunk and it was very rotten, to the core but with a busy bumble bee nest inside (useful pollinators for the apple trees!)

Earlier in the week I had been researching suitable mulching materials for the apple trees once I planted them. I think my solution has naturally presented itself - this tree will have enough wood chip to mulch the entire orchard, I couldn't have predicted that![img][/img]

Here's the article :

Things have got quiet in regards to the recent planning application. I felt it was best to continue what was started and finish a few jobs before autumn and winter sets in.

We had one final rotavation of the field today to blend in the final spread of lime dust. When I arrived there was a distinct smell of the beach and seaside, an indication that the lime was distributed across the exposed soil. The tractor and gear did a stellar job of mixing this final lime into the soil and it's now safely locked up in the brown dirt awaiting the trees' arrival.

A huge surprise awaited me today which I must have completely missed before. Within the hedgerow was a massive crab apple tree with multiple stems. Upon closer inspection the tree appeared to form part of the hedge which had been 'laid' in the past. Its roots were near the stream and it's head was high in the air, fully laden with billions of tiny fruits, which were utterly disgusting to eat! They will be interesting to put into a final blend of cider, should be quite a sharp taste.

This tree will also provide a wealth of blossom to help pollinate my trees from luring in beneficial flying creatures. I couldn't believe I had missed it....probably due to my focus on looking down in the dirt for so long!

Other jobs included marking out the final locations for the trees - a couple of bamboo canes in the ground seemed to be easiest. I was pleased with the spacing, there will be plenty of room for the trees to have equal growing space and allow for grass cutting between the rows. Each tree will be spaced at almost 4 metres apart.

Other news:

I've received my first quote for the cider trees for the orchard. These will be slightly less than originally planned so that I can ensure an annual crop. Many varieties of trees only produce heavier crops of apples every two years. In order to combat this it's best to plant a batch of trees in year one and then the same variety again in the following year - this will provide you with fruit every year.

Once confirmed, I'll post the cider trees I've chosen and explain the art of the 'blend'.

We've decided this weekend that we're going to plant a new orchard this winter. Its going to be quite away from our existing orchard and we'll be giving a bit more space between rows than we did in our first orchards. It'll be interesting to exchange notes.  

Good idea bodger, be good to see what the soil is like and the design you go for. Is this a site on a hill or pretty level?

Its pretty level with some good soil onto sand and gravel. I'll get some pictures over the next few days. All I have to do now, is to decide wether to plant juicing or cider varieties.  

Since the last blog post I've been sifting through hundreds of apple varieties trying to decide upon which mix of trees we'll plant this winter.

In order to create a well balanced and cider full of flavour and depth it is important to use a range of apples containing certain qualities. If you were to create a cider from one type of apple such as Bramley or a small selection of eating apples the resulting drink won't hold any interest. It would no doubt be alcoholic but may taste 'thin' and insipid.

Parts of the UK use whatever apples they can lay their hands on, using mainly sweet and sharp apples. But here in the west country we are blessed with the right conditions to grow a diverse range of cider apples. We utilise a more bitter apple.

When you bite into a cider apple fresh from the tree you may be disgusted by its tart taste. It may be like a crab apple, not very palatable. But this quality is perfect for cider. Known as a 'sharp' apple it holds flavours and tannins that give westcountry cider it's developed and deep flavour.  

Other ranges of apples are noted as being either 'bittersharp' or 'bittersweet'. By selecting apples from a range of these qualities the subsequent drink has a certain matured flavour.
The real art in cidermaking is getting this mix right and blending the apples either at the time of pressing or mixing juices from storage units.

The trick for me is to get this blend correct at the start, to plant apple trees from a range of sharps to sweets and to suit my taste and the taste of the public. Fortunatly I have a source of other apples which are non-cider varieites and these will provide an additional taste to the cider. The resulting drink could have many hundreds of combinations of flavour!

So in brief, choose a selection of trees which are 'sweet', 'sharp', 'bittersweet' and 'bittersharp'.

Time for shopping:

My initial selection of trees are from the excellent Adams Apples ( who are based in Honiton, Devon. I've used these guys in the past and some trees I purchased from them 5 years ago are thriving in a small orchard near Bath.

Here's the selection due for delivery this December:

Yarlington Mill - bittersweet
Evereste (crab)
Black Dabinett - bittersweet
Browns - sharp

These are two year old trees and give a good head start to the orchard. There are 21 trees in total with another 40 varieties of eating apple being planted this winter.

The following year (December 2014)  I will be receiving the following trees, another 45 in total:

Camelot - bittersharp
Somerset Redstreak - bittersweet
Ellis Bitter - bittersweet
Northwood - sweet
Major - bittersweet
Stoke Red - bittersharp
Frederick - sharp
John Downie (crab)

So, over this two year period a total of 106 trees will be planted with a view to add another 45 in the field on the following year. This cider orchard is a slow, drawn out process but one I'm happy to take my time over. These trees will take at least 5 years before they start to properly crop and within 10 years should be providing much more fruit.

As I wait for the trees to grow I'll continue to research (and moslty sample) the world of cider as much as possible. I'm in the process of planning for other orchards as well as acquiring premises to process the fruit

I've taken advice from a couple of sources over choosing which cider apples to have in the orchards.

I have 25 Kingston Blacks, 25 Dabinett and 10 Michelin that have been in for five years.
Last year, we planted eight trees of thew following varieties. Somerst Red Streak, Brown Snout, Major, Tom putt and browns apple.

This winter I'll be putting in another 40 cider trees but have seven varieties to choose from. I'll no doubt be seeking more advice before I make the final decision. The choice is between:-

Black Dabinett
Dunkertons Late
Harry Masters Jersey
Hereford Red Streak
Morgan Sweet
Tremlets Bitter
Gilly ( a new variety )

I hope that you aren't paying too much for your new trees Casper. Get in touch if there's any doubt

I can't do the maths on that   What's the grand total and have you space for anymore in the future after this lot? I think you'll certainly have a diverse range of apples and combinations to try for the cider.

Harry Masters was recommended to me also, especially if the orchard was to be totally organic.

My trees were quite reasonable, there was a 30% discount over a certain total..

I'm paying 5.05p each

You'll have to pm me the supplier.....

Im going to stop at what I have - 35 trees.
This year the best cropper is the 6 yr old Reinette d'orleans - the tree is bowed with the amount of fruit.  Its nice in pies, as a sharp eater and in cider.  have had a few mouldy apples on it, but think its not getting enough air due to a leylandii close to it (which will be clipped back severly).

I'm paying 5.05p each

That's good, I'm paying closer to the 6 pound mark.

The Reinette apple trees are good - I look after an orchard where I work which has Reinette de France and de Canada - a great russet - lovely flavour

The cider trees will soon be collected from the nursery and will take at least 5 years before they begin to produce a heavy crop of apples. In the meantime we've been acquiring (scrumping) apples from other sources and using the existing orchard to produce some first pressings of juice.

The main apple in this 3 part mix is Bramley with the other two being a bit of a mystery - though the juice they provided was a vibrant golden amber colour and had a fine sweetness with a 'bite' of acidity. Very delicious!

Our fruit press is being put through its paces and we estimate that its yielding only around 50% juice from each press - so an upgrade is due and also a more robust pulper, to mash up the apples.

We add a touch of vitamin C to the apple juice to retain its golden colour and once pasteurised can be stored for about a year. Next plan is to have a tasting session from different mixes of juice to see which is preferred...though I'm quite partial to them all!

Im currently having a discussion with Bodger as to alternative cloths for the rack and cloth press cloths that you get from a certain supplier.  Ive had some samples sent and also bought a cloth off ebay.  What kind of cloth are you using Casper?

Hi there,

I'm just using some muslin cloth from the local textiles shop - doubling up sometimes depending on the coarseness of the apple pulp.

I have been known to cheat a little and use a table cloth sometimes!

I hope to try the true method of using straw some day...though this might be more hassle then its worth....bits in the booze.

There shouldn't be a problem with straw. The juice goes into buckets direct from the press and then to strain the bits out, just pour the juice into barrels through a muslin bag.

Tomorrow is Christmas for me. That's the day when I will be collecting the first batch of apple trees that were kindly grafted at Barters nursery in Chapmanslade, Wiltshire.

I'm quite fortunate in my day job as a gardener to be able to discover unique fruits in the countryside. The photo above shows a medlar fruit, an interesting ancient delight made popular by the Victorians and these particular medlars are one of my favourites.

They are best harvested once soft, almost rotten - an unusual process known as 'bletting'. The fruits up to this point are hard and inedible but left longer to linger on the tree and after a good frost the fruit inside becomes like a smooth delicious paste. The medlar makes a stunning jam and would have graced the breakfast tables of rich country estates across the UK.
As with apples the medlar trees are abundant this year with almost every twig bearing fruit. It is a shame though to disocver that due to redevelopment in the grounds where it exisits this particualr ancioent tree has an uncertain future and it may be the last year it will fruit.

A bumper harvest!

I manage a few established orchards locally and have seen a wide range of heavy cropping trees this year. Some branches have almost touched the floor in some cases - which can make for easier picking! I'm always amazed by the vast diversity of the apple in terms of colour, size, shape and flavour. It's astonishing to think we only have approximately 5 or 6 varieties commonly available in supermarkets when we have access to hundreds of native apples across the country. Part of the reason I started this project was to re-address this situation and to see if I could save some of the heritage varieties from my county - after all, it's about provenance.

People living locally should enjoy their local types of apple either to eat or drink in the form of juice and cider. The trees I am collecting tomorrow are the start of this exciting venture into good local food.

Like the medlar tree above, many local fruit trees have an uncertain future. This could be through neglect or redevelopment or perhaps not just 'fitting in' with a particular garden design. The trees I am planting will provide fruit to turn into juice over a 30 year period but by also taking grafting wood from each one I can extend their characteristics over many more decades.

The tree pictured above is a recent discovery found in a semi-derelict walled garden which I am in the process of helping to restore. Its fate is also uncertain but its fruits are incredible!

It's a cooker for sure. One of the largest cooking apples I have ever seen and the tree managed to handle these hefty fruits with ease - no broken boughs or complaining branches (see the picture below - it's not photo

Every apple tree has the potential to provide wood that could be grafted on to new rootstock and this can enable hundreds of people to choose what variety they would prefer. Apple trees can then be planted in the garden, nurtured to maturity and unique to that particular individual or family - no more settling on generic supermarket apples - you can eat what you really enjoy. Sorry granny smith.

Just adding the latest post again here - Just realised I put it on it's own page by mistake................

This is it, the trees are going in! Nearly two years of planning have come down to a simple and humble task of digging a hole and popping a tree theory!

It was a little bit more tricky considering the decision to plough the field earlier in the Spring - the job of digging and planting resulted in heavy clods of earth on our boots which felt like moon boots after a while. I swear I grew by half a foot by the end of the day!

We had 40 trees to plant which consisted of unique local apple varieties best suited to the climate and soil conditions of the region. I had previously placed bamboo canes throughout the field at intervals measuring 4 metres by 4 metres. This would allow ample room for the trees to grow and enable access for a small tractor to mow the grass between the rows and for harvesting later on. There was also an area left for storing harvesting baskets and crates in addition to a barn to be constructed - somewhere to have a good cup of tea.

Each tree had a specific routine as we planted - I'm quite fastidious about this as we have many wildlife visitors who like to munch on young saplings - For these local trees it should give a good start as it grows (based upon our soil and aspect) :

Dig hole (one spit depth - a spades depth)
Hammer in sturdy wooden stake
Fertilise hole with Phosphate and Potassium and on removed soil pile - blend
Apply mycorrhizal powder to establish natural beneficial symbiotic fungi
Place tree in hole - make sure it's at the same level as the pot/below graft
Replace some soil - firm in with toe lightly
Add remaining soil - firm in with heel firmly
Use tree tie
Fit a vole/mice guard at the base of the tree
Fit a wire mesh cage around the tree - protoects from deer damage (we have a few of these!)
Attach apple variety label
Attach a small block of smelly soap - keeps the deer away
A good glug of water

The local variety apple orchard - snugly in the ground
Specific apple types can only pollinate specific others so I have about 5 of each variety planted - these run in rows east to west on the field to aid pollination with a few crab apples which pollinate all varieties equally.

Here's the plan! Local varieties are in green at the top with remaining cider varieties in red below. The black lines indicate access routes - useful when we collect and store the fruit. I've left some space to add extra trees and to have a small camping site near the stream.

40 trees are planted - Bamboo canes mark out the remaining orchard

Each time I visit the orchard I'm greeted by a couple of friendly (and hungry) horses - they never fail to slobber all over my car|! I'm sure that given the chance they would scrump the apples in the future!

Happy New Year to everyone...

here's to 2014 - which should have some of the best tasting cider for years based on the bumper apple crops in the autumn!

Wish you all the very best also Casper for 2014....con-cider-ing all the effort you put into 2013....  

Good to see your still with us...OTG..that is... have a good one  

Looking forward to the next stages Casper!


Just a quick update...A before and after photo - One year on.

Finally planted the orchard. There's about 120 trees here (I've lost count slightly). They are mostly cider apples with around 40 eating/cooking types and a handful of crab apples too.

This field is higher than the land around and is relatively dry though the last two holes I dug were a bit of a concern as the recent rain had created a water table about a foot below the surface and the holes filled with water quickly!

The surrounding fields are a mess though, completely saturated with water and the ditches have filled to the brim. I think I may need to invest in a small digger this summer to re-dig the perimeter ditches.

Back to the orchard field - There's enough space to add another 50 or so trees in the future and a small camping/harvesting area.
Tomorrow I'm heading to Somerset to visit a cider orchard owned by 'The Orchard Pig' where I'll be learning a bit more about the art of pruning, mainly for commercial trees.


This months Living Woods magazine has a short piece I wrote on the countryside tradition of wassailing - read how the orchards banish their demons!

Issue No.32 Jan/Feb.

Available from:

First of all, that new orchard looks really neat and smart.

I haven't seen that magazine before but I might get a copy to look at.

PS. Come to our place and practice your new found pruning skills.

Might be an idea that have you been getting on with your extra planting this winter?

Cheers for your kind words on the orchard....I am a tad fussy on neatness when I plant or garden even though I was once told "There's no straight lines in nature"!

Looks very impressive, well done!

Now that the awful winter weather has passed I've been able to gain access to the orchard again to find the Spring blossom emerging. The first to show their flowers are the crab apples which were planted purely to aid pollination for the rest of the orchard trees. The photo above is of the variety named 'Evereste' and it's promising to see so many flowers on a young tree. It is particularly satisfying to see the trees responding to the hard work carried out over the previous 12 months.

The rest of the orchard is slowly waking up and the very tips of the stems are showing buds bursting into life. In particular a new variety of local apple called 'Monster' has sped ahead of the rest and has most of its leaves showing. The photo above shows an experiment we're trying where we've allowed the grass to return naturally on one side and the other side after ploughing remains bare. We are removing weeds around the bases of all the trees to stop competition for nutrients and water and may re-seed the right hand side in early summer.

In the few months without an update on this blog I've been busy clearing hedges, grass cutting, protecting access points from roaming deers and planting new hedgerows. All the more satisfying work which doesn't involve the hard labour of digging in trees and ploughing!

I have some varieties in full blossom but have others that are hardly showing a leaf. Casper its a nice feeling to see the stuff that you've planted growing isn't it?

Sure is Bodger! I have a few trees like yours that are still waiting - or most likely sulking.  Really good to see if they have all survived.

Now I need to build somewhere to start processing some apples!

Fussy or not its a real credit to you nd your hard work Casper  

Many thanks....a labour of love. I'm looking forward to the day when I can sit in the shade under one of the trees on a hot summers day drinking a few glasses of the golden juice.


I'd love to be there on that special day....        
Well done Mate....its truly a credit to you    

Hi Bodger,

I was at the Bath and West show recently (post to follow) and saw John Worle and Frank Matthews there - Just wondered what prices you were paying for your trees?

We planned to go to B&W, but just couldnt get the time.  We wanted to check out the cider competition.

Hi Casper,
Bought my trees from "Adams Apples" Good range, good service.
I paid 7 per tree (25 or more) I think the price is 7.50 now.
They also sold me some root stock which I have practised my grafting skills on.

Thats interesting that they do root stock.  I did my first grafting this year - all 5 trees have been successful.
What rootstock do they have?

Hi Lorraine,
They don't list rootstock for sale, I phoned and asked. I got 25 two year old MM106. 1.25 each plus VAT.
They list trees for sale on MM106, M25 and M9 so I assume they will have them but I don't know if they do any others.
Well done with 5 out of 5
I was pleased with 19 out of 25 at my first attempt  
I plan on redoing the failed 6 again this winter.

Hi Brewer, Yes, I got mine from Adams apples too....about 120 of them in the end!

They seem to be growing fine but I have space for more and will look to try another supplier....the two year old trees that John Worle provides look mighty fine.

Congratulations of the grafting everyone - extremely satisfying when it works!

Had 100% success so far from a batch of twenty trees which came from a parent stock that were unfortunately removed from a garden.

Thanks guys.

Im collecting John at Exeter airport and then we are going for a visit and a chat at Vigo.  They are damned expensive, but as Im taking my technical expert Im hoping he will say  "I can make that" to a lot of my wants.

Im thinking of a orange juice container for storing the finished cider, but would prefer a big BiB system - say 200L bags.  Anyone know where I can buy these?  It would be the perfect storage solution.

Ok, Back to the Cider Journey.

It's been a busy few months lots of developments at the orchard with some exciting plans ahead. Though, in the meantime, here's a piece about showing off your well crafted drink:


During the many months of late 2013 cider makers both small and large were sipping, blending, testing and perfecting their drink for the new season. This amount of effort is represented by the widely sought after first place prize awarded at the British Cider Championships of the Royal Bath and West Show in Somerset. Some of these brews have had the simplest of treatment by crushing to release the juice and simply decanted into large barrels or plastic vessels. They sit quietly fermenting under their own natural yeasts in the corner of a darkened barn or the cupboard under the stairs in your semi-detached. Other drinks are finely crafted like a french champagne through a method known as keeving or others are pressings that require the expert mixing of a wide range of apple varieties (up to 30!) to produce a well rounded and palatable cider.


But it isn't just the one grand prize that people seek - thankfully there are other categories which represent the diverse range of ciders and perry on offer across the country.

Sadly, the public cannot sample the submitted drinks but the ample amount of bars and stalls selling the alcoholic beverages is more than enough to satisfy your thirst. Or if you're driving a wide range of fruit juices were available and apple juice in particular held it's own competition too, which was won by Perrys. It was quite a backdrop in the bar to sit and enjoy a pint with a huge selection of demijohns and bottles stacked around you - they reminded me of a science lab with rich colourful intoxicating chemicals inside.


Other stalls in the cider marquee featured the excellent John Worle with his beautifully nurtured fruit trees. The man himself was on hand to provide advice to the public on planting techniques and suitable regional varieties of apple and pear.


The fantastic Vigo were present to show off some smaller hand operated fruit presses along with larger more commercial machines - both equally sort after and ready to break the bank!

The showground has its own small mature orchard where the public can enjoy their drinks and soak up the atmosphere and also watch live demonstrations. In particular the old technique of pressing apple pulp through a bed of straw (cheeses) was on display by (apparently) members of the Wurzels. The old timber fruit press creaked and groaned but still produced a huge quantity of juice from each pressing. (see video on my website ).

So, here are the winners of the many categories with overall winner Broadpool cider, a variety from Shepton Mallet, Somerset (very local to the showground!)


Great pictures and write up.

Great feature Casper, I've competed in lots of wine and beer competitions but in this part of the world cider classes are like hens teeth.
I'll have to look "down south"  

Casper, a couple of months ago we visited Sheppys in Somerset. You've probably been there before, but it was well worth a visit.
They'd recently planted  up quite a few more acres down to orchard and how they'd done it was amazing. I'll see if Kaz has still got the photos but they'd used a new planting method which meant they were able to plant hundreds and hundreds of trees per acre.

Excellent write up Casper.

Fantastic array of colours, I would love to have sampled some of those.  

Great write up and pic's. thanks for sharing

No problem everyone, glad you like dit....those ciders were crying out to be drunk! Or I was drunk crying out?

I remember going to Sheppys many years back as a kid with my parents (my Dad was one heck of a scrumpy lover) They've refined the drink more these days so I'll have to return and pay them a visit. Would love to see the pictures Bodger. I took some advice from the co-owner of The Orchard Pig cider company who said that modern intensive cider apple planting means you can have them spaced within a metre of each other!

He said I could plant twice as many trees in the space I've got. If I acquire more land in the future it'll be for the dense bush trees - only viable for about 30 years but produce quickly and heavy loads.

And do come down south, there's some mighty fine cider to be sampled - just hire a camper and set off!

Cracking write up, thanks for taking thr time and trouble to do it!

Thats a really good write up, thanks.

We were hoping to go to B&W but work just got in the way.

Next year definately - especially after your write up.
Re the championships -no really small producers - is there a reason d'you think?  If you only have to exhibit say 2 bottles then Im surprised there arnt more...or were there loads of entries and only some listed on the results sheets?

There was quite a few smaller producers submitting their drinks - I think over 500 in total I read somewhere!

Many were supplied in these bottles:

The bigger players manage to come out tops - though occasionally a more interesting producers creeps in.[/img]

That's good news for me, I'm a smaller producer and a creep.



Now - the apple trees I grafted in the early spring - all have taken - Can I just plant them out now with some secure stakes and rabbit protection?  They are currently in big black plastic pots, but Im going to have to deal with them sometime.

You could sink them in their pots for the short term, with the protection.
Ideally they would need a good year of growth for the roots to fully develop and then plant them out in very early Spring next year - Late Feb/Early March. That'll give you good time to prepare the site and keep the weeds at bay.

Thanks.  Will submerge them in the nursery plot.  Ive already got a hazel and a new vine in pots in there.

Thank the apple god for the rain - it's been pretty dry recently!

Here's an update of the growing season:

Our first orchard was planted in 2007 and is maturing well. It has been created in a traditional style instead of the intensive rows of trees featured in our new cider orchard. This year has seen the heaviest crop of apples so far which is fantastic considering the poor stone soil it is planted on. In recent years we've increased our beehives which has greatly aided the pollination of the trees and keeps the local farmer happy too with his crops.

This orchard consists of mainly eating apples and some for juicing. Each tree is grown on the larger M25 rootstock which will allow much taller, natural trees which will mature in a more traditional setting. The variety 'Beauty of Bath' originates less than 2 miles away and has been a great success this year with vibrant glowing red fruits

Beauty of Bath - Originates from Batheaston

Bardsey Island - Huge crop - needs supports!

A great variety - 'All Doer' - This blemish free apple is a brilliant duel purpose which is best used as a cooking apple or for cider

The new cider orchard trees are growing fairly well (despite a pesky deer munching a few). The grass seed hasn't faired so well due the incredibly dry weather over the summer - huge cracks appeared throughout the field large enough to slide my hand into. Amazingly the weeds still manage to grow and we've resorted to treating the weeds immediatly around each tree to stop competition for water and nutrients.

Next winter I will be pruning all the trees to obtain the 'pyramid'shape for cider apples. This was over-looked in the eagerness to plant up and as such many of the trees are quite leggy.

I had noticed that the trees had effectively 'shut down' and stopped growing in this dry spell. With no access to water for the orchard at this time we had to fill giant containers (which will one day hold cider!) and load them into a van to take to the site, man handling two buckets of water per tree. Back breaking work - but worth it. At the last inspection every tree had sprung back into life and had put on another 2-3 inches of growth.

I've turned my attention to the next season and the new batch of trees. There's enough space for another 24 trees to be planted in winter 2015 - beyond this I think we could squeeze another 30 in a new row and in the gaps.

We'll be using John Worle this time for the cider apple trees as I've been impressed by the skills of this nurseryman who was once orchard manager for Bulmers cider. He has always been available for advice and is fountain of knowledge when it comes to apples.

The new varieties we've selected are:

Harry Masters Jersey
Sweet Alford

The variety 'Angela' is a fairly new addition to the cider world. A third generation apple bred from research developed at Long Ashton in Bristol. Since 1985 these new varieties have been managed to ensure a reliable, disease free and regular cropping batch all with female names. So far nearly 800,000 new varieties have been planted in trial fields and orchards consisting of 29 new types.

These varieties came from selective breeding of reliable apples such as James Grieve, Worcester Pearmain and Dabinett.

And finally, we have fruit from the trees - well, just the crab apples this year! A variety known as 'Evereste'

Ive just picked some Discovery, and a couple of Cornish varieties for eaters.

We have a fab crop again this year, and Im now weedkilling around the bases to keep them clear.  Saves John going in too close with the strimmer.

Has anyone visited John Worle in Hereford? I'm picking up some new cider trees later on in the year, travelling up from Bath. Is it easy to find?

We have planning permission!!

As I planted trees and dreamed of apples there was a constant thought in the back of my mind...where will I take all these apples when they're ready? We really needed somewhere to gather together the fruit, press the apples and store barrels of lovely cider. Fortunately a space was redundant on a patch of land in our family which would easily accommodate the new home of the cider barn. So, after a few late nights, bottles of cheer, many sketches and diagrams later we forged a plan.

This morning we received the much sought after permission to build the barn. It was a relatively pain-free experience and supported by our local council as an agricultural and rural start-up business. I'm very pleased we have been recognised as an asset to the local community and allowed to begin this cider journey.

Above is the basic layout of timber barn which will house all the cider/juice making equipment as well as beehives and a honey processing area. (The bee colonies are quietly increasing ready to be moved to the new orchard in a years time). The large double doors will be flung open to allow fruit to come and go and there will be ample space for racks of barrels.

At present the design is fairly simple, though I hope to add a small overhang to allow for fruit pressing away from the elements.

So, just as I was hanging up my shovel and saw - looks like another busy winter ahead of us!


That is brilliant news - well done you!

We have expanded what we are doing, but Ive run into a cash flow situation and Im looking to free up some savings to invest in commercial BIB storage.

Since doing the cider thing I have had a new lease of life and am thoroughly enjoying life a lot more.
France is looking a fair way off at this time!

It's very nearly Christmas but you could be fooled into thinking it's still late Autumn as we have one final batch of cider bubbling away. After the bumper crop of apples this year we had a small amount left over which were stored in the shed until a rainy day.
The rain never came, but we still had to deal with these fruits - a variety known as 'All Doer' which is a fantastic apple due to it's duel use as either a cooking type or cider. The cider is particularly good as it holds the right balance of sharpness with a sweet edge. This fruit remained on the tree for a long time and held it's shape well, even in storage - in fact a good month after picking.

This will become a mostly single variety cider with the addition of a handful of Bramley apples chucked in for good measure. We don't have this tree in our large orchard, that holds many west country types (Somerset/Dorset/Glos). Though, if this trial batch turns out well then we will take some grafts next year to create some new stock - I may create a video on doubling or TRIPLING your orchard from taking grafts - it's easy, rewarding and incredibly satisfying. I have grafted nearly 50 trees over the past year from stock that I already owned - which is great if you consider each tree could cost 10 each!!

Other developments - We have been frantically clearing the land which will house our new cider barn. It's perfect at this time of year when the undergrowth has died back allowing us to gain easy access to trees and brambles to cut back. Plenty of bonfires have been started, brews of tea and coffee slurped and badly made sandwiches consumed.

After clearing the land we will be making space for a concrete slab to be installed which will also contain a few service pipes for waste. It's taken a while to decide on a particular style of building and also to keep costs at a minimal - we've had some wild quotes! I think because it's not a standard box shape or equestrian stable which many companies prefer - like an 'off the peg' design.

Our design is 'L' shaped to allow for a deeper cooler area to store the barrels in as the juice clears. This will also allow for extra space to store the equipment. We also own bees, so will be keeping much of this kit along side the cider items too. These frantic bees have pollinated many of the apple trees and without them we wouldn't of had such an excellent crop.

I have been brushing up on some of my cider making skills and have drawn up a method which I will be sharing over the Christmas period. This particular method will be useful to new comers to the craft though will utilise a 'helped' approach by adding champagne yeast to the mix. Personally I prefer the natural cider making technique, with no additions - but it's always good to try two batches of the same juice to see what the outcome could be.
maine moose

Casper F  I know this sounds like a silly idea but have you looked at getting your barn shipped in from the states there's a lot on the net especially from New England who specialise in these protects. A good starting point would be Yankee magazine seen them advertised in there. Just a thought    

Thanks for the advice Maine Moose - I'l be sure to check that out. We've been going through heaps of suppliers and due to the bespoke nature of the design it's becoming a bit endless!

Hi everyone, been away and busy on a few things (what have I missed?)

Back again with some new developments that you may like to follow:

This week saw construction start on the first stages of the footings for the new cider house. The building will contain all the equipment and storage space required for producing the golden juice from our apple orchards in addition to having somewhere to develop new ideas and products.

The structure will be a traditionally built oak framed building nestled within the existing small orchard allowing for easy access and outside work areas to process the apples as they are harvested. Any additional features on the building will be sourced from reclamation yards or second hand depots. We want the building to mellow into the landscape quickly and without any modern 'plastic' features.

It is a huge area to build upon - a lot larger than I thought in the end! But the opportunities it presents are immense - we can now move away from our small kitchen and create larger quantities of juice and cider in a dedicated space with new shiny equipment. Heck, there will even be a long sofa inside ready for a rest after a hard days cider making.

I've been keeping an eye on the orchard and will post an update on the situation there - mostly positive - lots of new fruit to discover!

When we planned and laid out our cider barn we thought it big enough - now only 6 months on its too small.



Hi Casper,  I saw your blog and wanted to get in touch as I have just started down the same road as you.  I have just bought in Feb this year a plot near East Grinstead in West Sussex and I'm in the process of clearing to see how much space I actually have for planting!  I wonder if it would be possible to come a see what you have done?

All the best,

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