CIDER ORCHARD

Teals Somerset - Cider Orchard - Unearthed Articles

This is cider country: undulating green hills cut by narrow, winding lanes lined with newly cut hedges of beech and bramble. Around the higgledy piggledy stone villages, late summer roses hang on to their yellow petals in the warm summer sun, deep purple buddleia attract pale butterflies. And in every garden, there is an apple tree.

On closer look, many of these are cider apples. All farms around here, whether arable or livestock, would have always had a cider orchard, large enough to provide cider for the farm, its workers and the village beyond – wages were traditionally partly paid in cider. This is the root of craft cider making in the UK, going back nearly 400 years.

Our own orchard which sits right up against the shop would have provided for our home farm, Montgomery’s. Taking a walk around it with Jamie Montgomery, is a lesson in identification -the names ripple off his tongue with ease. Stembridge Jersey, Dabbinet, Yarlington Mill and the magnificently titled Improved Dove and Brown Snout.

Teals Somerset - Cider Orchard - Unearthed Articles
Teals Somerset - Cider Orchard - Unearthed Articles
Teals Somerset - Cider Orchard - Unearthed Articles

These are varieties that have been making the best of cider for centuries. The boughs are weighed down with apples this year; burnished reds mixing with pale green fruits – some trees have grafted themselves together, and show two different varieties from one trunk.

The life of an apple tree spans about a century: During the first third, it is establishing, the middle third is its peak and the final third in decline. From the look of the trees – up to 6 or 7 metres tall, with some signs of splitting in some trunks, Jamie estimates that ours is at the height of its productivity, about 60 years old. Planted in the early sixties, this area would have been entirely different: fields mostly given over the dairy herds; the A303, a single lane, quietly connecting Stonehenge to the beaches of the South West.

There’s a reassuring aspect to inhabiting land next to an orchard: we are constantly reminded of the turning of the seasons. The fruit from ours will go to local cider-makers, and some to make our own raw cider vinegar. Soon, unpicked apples will fall, nourishing the roots for the coming year. We look forward to knowing you better by then.

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