Saturday was a busy day for the Quantock Hills AONB Service, two deer walks and also a Juicing and Cider Making Workshop led by Neil MacDonald from Orchard Park farms / Orchard Pig Cider.
Starting in Aisholt and Merridge Village Hall in front of a lovely open fire, we all discovered how to turn our wonderful Quantock fruit into juice and cider. Some people attending had already had a go at creating their own brew, others were only in the early stages of creating and restoring their own Quantock orchards, but all were interested in tasting the juices and ciders and learning from Neil about the art and science of blending apples to come up with an individual and drinkable product.
Also joining us was local Spaxton farmer and cider maker, Peter Williams. He shared his family’s experience and knowledge of managing an orchard and producing cider for over a century. In the afternoon we travelled down to his rustic farm to see the beautiful and buzzing orchards which have been producing cider since his childhood. With apple trees generally having a life cycle of around 80 years, Peter is working towards gradually replanting around 100 trees and has a range of both the old and young in the orchard. Neil was keen for us to tour the orchard, taste the apples and use our palette to decipher the best apples to blend rather than relying on names and varieties. This worked fantastically well and the range of apples on offer gave us a great chance to experience all the flavours on offer.
Next the really fun hands-on bit. Armed with buckets, the group collected apples and had a chance to mulch and blend their own juice using hand presses and also the much quicker and easier electric mill and hydro press. The results were very tasty and hopefully the flagon of juice we treated (using our skills acquired in the morning) and left with Peter to ferment will produce some equally tasty cider, maybe ready for our next orchard planning and planting workshop in February 2017!
Anyone thinking of planting or restoring an orchard might like to take note of the Quantock Hills AONB Greater Quantock Landscape Development Fund. It can provide grants of up to £20,000 to local communities, farmers, landowners and individuals for project such as tree planting, works to manage hedgerows, orchard planting or restoration, planting of wildflower meadows, management of small woodlands, willow pollarding or pond restoration. See here for more info http://www.quantockhills.com/page/double-column/greater_quantock_landscape_fund/