All posts tagged: dorset

It is always very exciting when I have information of new cider makers that I have not properly investigated.

So with a free weekend at blossom time, my family and I jumped into our camper van and drove directly West from Sussex to Dorset. We were going to use the 2012 Olympic venue and holiday town of Weymouth as our base, and staying at the new Premier Inn. Opened only 3 weeks ago!

Why Dorset?

Well, this county has always had cider, it has just not been in the spot light as often as its neighbours – Devon and Cornwall. However, over the last 3 or 4 years there has been a subtle emergence of exciting, passionate, small scale cider makers – that have a healthy supply of local West country cider apples.

It is also the home of the Powerstock Cider Festival – held every May. Which takes place in a village hall. It’s a great opportunity to taste the different ciders that are made from local apples unique to the area, as well as a chance for the cider makers to share knowledge and ideas about cider making. Over a glass or two of the good stuff of course.

What to do in a weekend?

Here’s what we did so you know what is possible in a weekend of cider filled adventures:

Friday:

Start with dinner at the Stable in Weymouth, (they also have one in Bridport) I first had to aclimatise myself in the Dorset pace of life, and then take a few moments to browse the extensive draught and bottled cider menus. Everyone is happy, they make yummy pizzas the traditional way, and have long tables which make tasting the ciders a really social event.

A modern cider house? It is certainly encouraging to see lots of different ages enjoying only real cider.

Saturday:

After breakfast and a play on the beautiful sandy beach in Weymouth, we hopped into our van, and visited the Millhouse cider museum for the morning.

They have a historic collection of cider presses and equipment which has to be seen to be believed. The shop is small, but carries a plentiful supply of Dorset and West country bottled ciders and perries, they also have their own cider on draught which is very pleasant. If you are in the area in the autumn, they open up the apple presses for everyone to juice their own fruit.

If you are visiting a cider maker and their premises, it is always worth checking they allow visitors, and always phone ahead to check this is OK. This is what I did with my visit to Dorset Nectar in the afternoon. You can see the photos in the slideshow below of the orchards in blossom. They have orchards will can produce close to 300 tonnes of apples per year. Last year was 48 tonnes, which just show how poor production was in this area due to flooding and other extremes of weather.

They have been managing an orchard of, 25-30 year old trees for 6 years now, and have fully embraced the good life. As well as an orchard of 3000 trees, you will find under the trees – pigs, bees, chickens, and vinegar production, all of which they sell –  as well as the sculptures they exhibit around the country. I’m not sure how they have time to do this all!

Sunday:

We had Sunday lunch at the Castle Inn at Lulworth. Their sign outside the pub boasts a permanent cider festival. This is the result of hard work of campaigning for real cider and perry at the pub by Alex Halliday. Being awarded rural pub of the year last year (East Dorset region).

The walking around this area of the Jurassic coast is sublime.

If you are visiting Purbeck – The Square and Compass, which has been in every edition of the Good beer guide since the first edition is an absolute gem, and the Purbeck Cider company, Dorset’s newest cider maker – are not to be missed.

Here’s our list of recommended Dorset cider makers

You would be hard pushed to find more ‘real’ cider than these tipples – there was some cider in the Nectar bottle, but it didn’t last long.

Dorset ciders

From L-R: Marshwood Vale, Dorset Nectar, Cider by Rosie, Lulworth Skipper

The producers listed above are all found in Dorset, from east to west of the county. You are never far from quality! The majority of them winning recent National awards, so other cider lovers think so too.

Slideshow of Dorset cider tour 2013

Dorset cider map

Recommended pubs and outlets for enjoying Real Cider in Dorset


Credit – Cider by Rosie website

Know any other great cider makers in Dorset?

Leave your comments below if you know of any good cider or perry makers in Dorset, to share with the readers on the Real Cider community website. And I will add them to the listing page (link below).

View the full listing of Dorset cider makers

This is what cider making is all about. Watching nature do it’s magic. Here is the cider fermenting after 10 days.

This video was filmed by Lulworth Skipper, who makes cider in Dorset. He explains the simple reason why he does this:

“Always fill to the brim and keep topping up to eject any debris as can be seen”.

In 1938, PTH Pickford, Cider Orcharding Advisor to the National Fruit and Cider Institute [Long Ashton Research Station] wrote in an article:

According to many farmers, Dorset was the first county in England to make cider. It is claimed that the art of cider-making was first introduced into this county by monks from northern France who settled in a village near Bridport some time before the Norman Conquest. . . . Whether this be true or not, Dorset certainly ranks with the counties in the West of England which have produced cider for centuries.’ P T H Pickford

The Cider Institute was founded in 1903 largely through the backing of the Bath & West
Agricultural Society, with the main aim of improving the quality of cider. By the mid 1920s, much work had been done and much knowledge of good cider-making gained. Cider had become a purer more refined drink and had achieved the status of a wholesome national product and a prosperous home industry. Pickford’s survey at the time revealed that the custom of ‘cider as wages’ was dying out and the surplus farmhouse cider, usually a dry, often sharp beverage was only popular with the older members of the farming community.

The pressure to produce a more marketable product led Pickford to initiate a series of extremely popular and successful cider-making training courses in regional locations. His notes give us a clear picture of the extent of Dorset cider orchards in 1938, and also provide us with vital clues towards rediscovering those that survive to this day.

Although the acreage of Dorset’s orcharding is small compared with that of the other counties, it must be remembered that apart from the comparative size of Dorset, the soil in a big proportion of the county is of the type totally unsuitable for fruit culture. In those areas where the soil is suitable however the orchards thrive and are numerously planted and here the production of cider fruit is as much a business as it is in Somerset and Devon.

The largest cider orchard area lies in West Dorset towards the Devon border including and around the neighbourhood of Loders, Powerstock, Netherbury, Beaminster, Broadwindsor and Stoke Abbott. There are smaller areas around Thorncombe, Whitchurch, Wootton Fitzpaine, Chideock and Symondsbury. Most of these orchards are planted in medium loams derived from the middle lias, but there are also quite a number planted in the very light soil of the Bridport sands, in particular around Melplash.

In other parts of Dorset the orchard areas are smaller and widely scattered throughout the county. There is a considerable acreage around Leigh and Chetnole where a good proportion are planted in heavy loams from the Oxford clay. Scattered orchards are found around both Gillingham and Shaftesbury and again around Sturminster Newton, but cider orchards are more numerous in the neighbourhood of Child Okeford, Shillingstone and Hammoor where a good deal of cider is produced. Yet another area worthy of mention is that around Piddlehinton and Piddletrenthide where numerous orchards are found growing in the alluvium of the narrow valleys.

Unlike the other cider counties, Dorset has never had any major cider producing factories such as Whiteways or Showerings. Sadly, because of this and in spite of Pickford’s professional instruction, cider-making never re-gained a secure status in Dorset, but remained an extremely local pursuit. Orchards that once supplied the liquid requirements of many staff and farm workers have now declined to a skeletal echo of their pre-War status. Our visits so far in 2004 have shown us a little of their former strength. The remnants of some of the old orchards contain grand old trees clearly dating back to more prosperous times.

Typical West Country varieties appear; Crimson King, Woodbine and various dual purpose cider/kitchen apples. Interestingly, and perhaps because of Dorset’s rather inaccessible terrain, many of the cider apple varieties grown are peculiar to the county and are seldom seen across the borders into Somerset and Devon. Traditionally Dorset cider is soft, sweet and mild in astringency. This regional distinctiveness comes from Dorset’s own varieties, some of which we have already re-discovered such as Buttery Door, Golden Ball, Slack-ma-Girdle, Syme’s Seedling and Golden Bittersweet. Some will be the last remaining trees of these distinctive regional varieties and they deserve to be looked after and re-propagated before they disappear. The Long Ashton records reveal many other Dorset cider apples that could still be found.

Although by far the majority of Dorset’s orchards were primarily cider orchards, some such as Stubbs Orchard, were clearly planted [before 1890] to supply large quantities of ‘commercial’ fruit, eaters and cookers. Here we discovered growing together with the cider apple trees, a selection of excellent and popular Victorian varieties including Harvey, Ribston Pippin, Royal Jubilee, Blenheim and Lord Derby, all of which are still happily being used by the present owners to create an excellent home cider.

Reference: Liz Copas 2004 The Symondsbury apple project