For the second time in 3 weeks, The English Apple Man visits Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.....
This week The EAM accompanied a small group of Dutch Growers, who had a particular interest in cider production.
So; The English Apple Man has lots to talk about, but not all in one Journal. This week we will look at a small 'SELECTION' from each of the German and Dutch visits.
Two weeks ago, the German group visited Michael Bentley at Castle Fruit Farm and David Morton at Aston Fruit Farm. These two growers were also visited by the Dutch group this week.
The German group also visited Stephen Ware at Throne Farm at Weobley, Tillington Farms (the former co-operative fruit farm in Herefordshire) and Westons Cider at Much Marcle. The German visit programme concluded with a visit to Matt and Grit Foster at Dingle Farm in Worcestershire.
My Dutch friends had a very long day on Monday, collecting a hire vehicle at 8am (Dutch time) before making their way to Eurotunnel in Calais for the shuttle journey to Folkestone. Unfortunately the vehicle broke down and they lost two hours while waiting for a replacement. This resulted in a two hours delay before the EAM met the Dutch 'bus' at Maidstone and set of for Gloucester at around 6pm. After a very wet journey we arrived at the Travelodge in Gloucester around 11.45pm......
On Tuesday morning the first visit took us to Tillington Fruit Farm where we were shown around Cider and dessert apple orchards by John Helyar from Farmcare: Farmcare are the farming company managing the former Co-operative farms now owned by the Welcome Trust.
Below: left; John Helyar (centre) with Dutch visitors in Tillington Cider Orchard and Cider Trees at Tillington
Below: Tillington grow a variety of dessert varieties with Discovery the first to pick and right; Junami trees
Below: Dutch Grower Group with John Helyar: left to right: Konstanz Stevense, Jacco van Kessel, John Helyar, Tonnie van Kessel, Marije Hoogendoom & Henny Balkhoven
From Tillington the Dutch group visited Castle Fruit Farm. and after an excellent lunch at The Kilott Inn at Newent spent a couple of hours with David Morton exploring his Aston Fruit Farm.
Below: left; Conference pears at Castle Farm and right; Jazz is the most financially rewarding apple grown at Castle Farm
Below: left; Jubileum Plums and right; Marije Hoogendoom presents Castle Farm Manager Clive Maile with a selection of Dutch Cheeses
After an excellent lunch at The Kilott Inn at Newent spent a couple of hours with David Morton exploring his Aston Fruit Farm.
Below: left; 'dark clouds' over Aston Fruit Farm soon resulted in heavy rain and right; the Lake will be topped up by the fresh rain
Below: Marije presents David Morton with a basket of famous Dutch cheeses
After leaving Aston Fruit Farm we drove to the Yew Tree Inn at Peterstow just North/West of Ross-on-Wye, where we met a 'larger than life' character; Gabe Cook - The Ciderologist for a very educational and entertaining hour learning about how cider is made, the subtle differences between the many (250?) cider apple varieties and tasted the a range of single variety apple and pear ciders...
During this time, he has made cider, developed cider, talked about cider and judged at National and International cider competitions across three continents. He has even presented a bottle of cider to the Queen!
He has received considerable demand for his services, including cider tasting sessions, training opportunities, cider making consultancy and presentations, which will see him travel to Luxembourg, USA and New Zealand over the next six months.
Unsurprisingly, Gabe is excited by these new developments.
"It has been a longstanding ambition of mine to turn my hobby of talking about cider into a full-time profession," he told the Hereford Times.
"To now be doing it is utterly thrilling! It just shows that there is a demand to know more about our indigenous products and that people are becoming more discerning in their drinks purchases."
Gabe has also found himself in the TV limelight in the last 12 months with a number of appearances on Channel Four's Sunday Brunch programme as their resident cider expert.
He also spent time with Matt Baker on BBC 1's Countryfile programme last October as they focussed on the heritage and tradition of perry, of which Gabe has considerable experience.
Below: left; Gabe Cook educates and entertains and right; Marije Hoogendoom presents Gabe with some famous Dutch cheeses
From the Yew Tree and The Ciderologist, we drove the short distance to The White Lion at Wilton on the banks of the River Wye for another excellent meal at the White Lion - my Dutch friends commented; are we lucky? Or all English Pubs delivering great food.......
Wednesday morning and the Dutch group set off for Westons Cider at Much Marcle, where the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) were holding a their 'annual' machinery day with the opportunity to tour the 'Weston' families farm and hear from the management and a number of cider industry experts on various subjects of importance to the production of cider.....
Held at Westons own farm and hosted by Helen Thomas, the Great Grandaughter of Westons founder - Henry Weston, Helen is now MD of Henry Weston and Chairman of The National Association of Cider Makers.............
Below: left; Helen Thomas MD of Westons Cider opens the NACM Cider Machinery Day and right; Amanda a Cider variety trialled at Westons
Below: left; 'Vicky another Cider variety being trialled and right; on the Tuthill Stand the 'Tuthill Cider Apple Harvester
From Westons we made a short journey to the Walwyn Arms in Much Marcle; another excellent meal before returning to our notel in Gloucester...........
So, this weeks' Journal is just a 'taster' of my visits to The West Midlands with representatives of German and Dutch fruit growers. In the weeks ahead a more detailed look at some of the particular items of interest to The English Apple Man.....
And my apologies for the late publication of this week's Journal; my mother came through an operation for a broken hip today and not surprisingly we have been preoccupied with her '24 hour journey' from a bad fall to a successful repair.......she is tough....92 years old in just five weeks time.....tonight she was 'tucking into' a cup of soup, jelly & ice cream, a banana and to finish of a mug of hot chocolate.........this morning we were anxious for her future......tonight we are marvelling at her fortitude........
The English Apple Man