The National Trust say 81% of traditional orchards in England & Wales have been lost, and that the situation is worst in the South West.
Located in Bristol’s Abbots Leigh, ‘Far Orchard’ is the closest cider orchard to Central Bristol.
The 15-acre orchard’s last crop went almost entirely to waste because its owner could not find a market for most of his apples.
The orchard was planted in 1951 by Redvers Coates of Coates Cider, a major cider brand of the early 20th century. Redvers Coates was closely associated with the Long Ashton Research Station, which was responsible for many innovations in the cider industry. Far Orchard was designed to showcase some of the very best apple varieties for cider making.
“Redvers Coates wanted to make the best tasting cider possible so he insisted that only Somerset cider apple varieties were used in Coates cider. Nowadays the flavours of mass produced ciders are so simple that they can be made with any old apples. That’s why so many cider orchards are under threat. We created Branch to help preserve our local orchards by turning their world class apples into ciders Bristolians will love” says Gibson.
Last year Gibson made some small batches of cider under the Branch name with apples from other local orchards, to highlight the varietal character of these local apples. The ciders went on to win 2 Gold Medals at the 2022 British Cider Championships at the Royal Bath & West Show. They’ve since been sold at a handful of bars and taprooms in Bristol. The reception has been phenomenal.
Gibson committed to buying as many of Far Orchard’s apples as he could at its next harvest. “We want to make great cider that gets Bristolians excited about these local apples…we want to take the passion and pride of Bristol’s cider drinkers and channel it into helping preserve our local orchards.” It is now harvest time and Branch is launching a crowdfunder to ask Bristolians to help purchase these apples.
The Branch crowdfunder aims to:
• Save Far Orchard’s entire apple crop
• Help secure the future of Bristol’s local cider orchard.
• Establish a model that Branch can use to support other endangered local orchards
• Give Bristolians more access to cider made with their local apples
• Raise the profile of the West Country’s apple varieties and orchards
Supporters will be invited to special events where they will be among the first to enjoy ciders made with the apples from Far Orchard. A donation of £25, enough to pay for half a tree of apples, will get each supporter £25 worth of cider at these events. Find details and support the campaign here.
“We’re asking Bristolians for their help. Chip in a few quid to help buy these apples and we’ll make some really tasty cider for you in return. It’s like a cider savings account, donate £25 towards the apples now and get £25 of cider later. Make a downpayment on some great local cider and help us secure the future of this wonderful Bristol orchard” says Gibson. Branch is a zero-waste cider company that makes cider celebrating local apple varieties. Their ciders are currently available on tap in select Bristol pubs, they plan to launch returnable, refillable bottles and a refillable alternative to bag in box in the near future. Find out more on Branch’s website and social media.