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Follow the SOMERSET CIDER TRAIL

Thatchers cider shop Thatchers cider shop

Sarah Ford
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
5:00 PM

Royalty, Hollywood stars and holiday visitors have already discovered Somerset cider. A new updated map will help you find local producers on your doorstep

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A new colourful map of 30 cider and apple juice producers will help you find your way around the county’s cider trail.

The guide was originally put together in 2001 and since then more than 80,000 copies have been distributed. The updated version includes new award winning producers from across Somerset.

The leaflet was created by tourism consultant Nell Barrington and the Somerset author, poet and broadcaster James Crowden with financial support from the producers and the Interreg 2 Seas Fish & Chips project.

James says: “Quite a few new producers wanted to be on the map, which is a very good sign.”

Good climate, good soils, history, and a great liking for the stuff, makes Somerset a great cider making county, adds James, whose favourite is bottle fermented sparkling cider and perry.

Somerset cider producers have given the new guide the thumbs up. Heather Bennett of Bennett’s Cider in Burnham-on-Sea, whose children are the fifth generation to be involved in cider making, says the map was much missed while it was out of print.

Fruit and Orcharding Manager at Shepton Mallet Cider Mill Bob Chaplin says: “There is a good article on the back regarding the history and making of cider.”

It’s an excellent guide for people looking for artisan producers, according to John Lawrence of Lawrence’s Cider, whose hobby has grown into a small business in Corton Denham,.

He says: “How would I describe cider’s place in Somerset? I don’t think I have to; when people think of Somerset, they think of cider.”

The leaflets are available at visitsomerset.co.uk or from Tourist Information Centres in Somerset.

Thatcher’s Cider Company Ltd, Sandford

Anyone following the trail is in for a real treat, says Martin Thatcher.

“To have all these cider makers in Somerset together in the guide, makes you realise what a hotbed of cider making expertise we have here in the county.

“My great grandfather William was a farmer and he was well known in the area for making cider – as well as selling it locally, he would use it as part of his workers’ wages on the farm.

“We’ve been able to trace cider making in our family back even further. We’ve unearthed an old ad that appeared in the Bristol Mercury, dating to 1878, for ‘prime new cider at 30 shillings per hogshead.’ That ad was produced by Benjamin, my great, great grandfather, so I think it’s fairly safe to say that cider making really does run through our blood.

“This year as a company we are supporting Weston HospiceCare and we like to support events and charities on our doorstep. This September we are helping organise the Sandford Harvest Home - the first time the village has had one for 20 years.

“Our open day here at Myrtle Farm is on 14 September, from 11.00 to 3.00.

“We get a lot of passing trade in our Cider Shop.

“Famous customers? Nicholas Cage came into our pub, The Railway, not so long ago.”

Barrington Court Cider, near Ilminster

There are nearly 10 acres of orchards here, where cider making started up again in 2006 to tie in with Barrington’s centenary.

Pommelier Rachel Brewer is charge of the apple juice and cider project. She says: “I think making cider in such a traditional way really caught the imaginations of everyone involved, from picking the apples on beautiful cold, crisp autumn days to the long hours of milling and cranking the press well into the night!”

The apples are milled on the National Trust property on a 150 year old mill before being pressed on a traditional 200 year old cider press.

Burrow Hill Cider and The Somerset Distillery

Pass Vale Farm has been making cider for at least 150 years and Julian Temperley has been making it for 40.

They have some of the largest orchards in the west, growing more than 40 varieties of vintage cider apples.

An important part of the business is Somerset Cider Brandy, some of which they age for 20 years.

“We now sell to some of the top restaurants in the UK. Gidleigh Park, No1 in England and the Lebury No 1 in London,” says Julian.

“We run the Cider Bus which has iconic status at the Glastonbury Festival where we have had both Jodi Kidd and Serena Miller serving cider along with my daughter, the fashion designer Alice Temperley.”

Gold Rush Cider, Aller near Langport

The skill of cider making has been passed down the generations since about 1880 and today, Chris Smolden’s young children are also involved with picking up apples.

“Most of our customers are served at the farm gate and are a mix of locals and tourists,” he says.

“Our claim to fame, according to a high level caterer who stocked our product, is that the band U2 drank our cider the night before they played Glastonbury Festival in 2011, when they were at a private garden party near Bath.

“We are impressed with the cider map. If I were on holiday, I would use it instead of my Sat Nav system.”

Sheppy’s Cider Ltd

The Sheppy family have been making cider for at least 200 years. The longest-serving member of staff is Orchard Manager Martin Studley who has been with them for 35 years, since he was 16.

Louisa Sheppy says customers come from all over.

“Quite a number tell us they always called in with their parents when they were children as part of their holiday ritual, and they continue to do the same now with their own.

“I think because cider is so closely connected with our agricultural past many people have a genuine fondness for the product, especially from the smaller family producer; seeing it as natural, earthy, honest and something they can connect with. Many of us have a certain yearning for a slower life and look to our agricultural past and all that went with it - at least all the nice things!”

Rich’s Farmhouse Cider, Watchfield

Cider has been made at Mill Farm for over 60 years, says Jan Scott.

“Russ Salway came to work for my father Gordon Rich in 1972 when he was 12; he delivers Cider all over the West Country.

“Martin Rich, my cousin, has been here since 1975 and learned from my father the way to make farmhouse cider to keep the family tradition going.

“Many visitors from all over the world come to visit us at Watchfield and our shop at Cheddar Gorge called the Legbender Cider Shop.”

“We have been surprised by visits from many famous people, including Prince Harry with his polo team on route down to Cornwall. They stopped off and took some Rich’s Cider with them.”

Worley’s Cider, Shepton Mallet

Cider making is the kind of activity that glues a community together, says Neil Worley who began producing as a hobby 10 years ago.

“We’ve received a huge amount of goodwill and support and are extremely grateful for that.

“We get regular tourist visits from other parts of the world. Typically, a group of around 15 travellers from Australia, USA, Canada and New Zealand will turn up to be shown around and taste some ciders. We usually put out some local cheeses and pickles and sit in the sunshine in the farmyard. The initial reactions can be quite amusing, but they soon settle into sitting around a farm drinking cider and usually leave with broad grins on their faces.”

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