With Ollie and Wilbur our canine companions safely aboard their crate in the hold – ready to guard our precious cargo (or try and break into it in Wilbur’s case!), we left the sunny, but rather chilly south, in our Fetch the Drinks van to visit some of our wonderful cider producers and stock up on some truly scrumptious ciders. First stop was Oxfordshire to visit Rory Souter, founder of the Cotswold Cider Company and stock up on Yellowhammer (6% – a medium, rich and fruity cloudy cider), No Brainer (6% a classic dry cider with a great depth of flavour), Side Burn (5.4% a medium bottled cider with toffee apple infusion) and Blow Horn (4% with a botanical blend of Indian chai-spices) – all great favourites with our customers. It was great to catch up and hear about some exciting new developments for 2017. Watch this space for new products later in the year.
From there we headed across into Wiltshire to see Nick Howard, who founded Circle Cider near Swindon in 2011. He’d been busy pressing recently as someone had very kindly given him a load of apples on Christmas Eve. Here we loaded the van with some delicious Bag in Boxes of Butcher’s Dog (7% sweet), Cat’s Tongue (6.1% dry) and Roundabout (5.6% medium).
On into Somerset to Millwhites Cider based in Rookridge, where orchard pruning was underway. The dogs enjoyed a good run around the paddock before we all headed off loaded up with Bag in Boxes of Rum Cask (7.5% made from West Country cider apples and aged in barrels from The Jamaica Rum Company – full of flavour with a subtle rum finish), Blackberry Blush (4%, a medium dry real cider blushed with blackberry juice) and Rioja Cask (6.7% aged in Rioja casks – dry with a glow of red wine and hints of wood tannin). By now it was absolutley freezing! On our way south we passed The Willow Man Sculpture near Bridgwater, originally unveiled in 2000 to mark the Millenium. Very impressive 3 tonne structure of willow woven on a steel framen and sometimes referred to as The Withy man or Angel of the South.
Devon and Ventons Cyder next. Here we caught up with Mark Venton in the lovely village of Clyst St Lawrence (so named due to the River Clyst running through Devon). Freezing still but sunny (Mark assured me it was not cold though! I begged to differ but then I’m always cold!). Here we enjoyed a glass of his Bath and West Show award-winning cider in the paddock before loading up Bag in Boxes of Skippy’s Scrumpy (6% dry, traditional straw-pressed cider) and Apple Vice (6.5%, a medium fruity straw-pressed cider) both made from vintage Devon apples.
Our last stop of the day took us to Hecks which has a lovely farm shop where I took the opportunity of picking up some delicious Smoked Cheddar Cheese made on Batch Farm near Shepton Mallet and some Caramelised Onion Chutney from Rose Farm near Wedmore in Somerset – perfect accompaniments for cider tastings later that evening! Hecks has been producing Traditional Farmhouse Somerset Cider for 6 generations since 1841. This time we collected some single variety Bag in Boxes for a festival order and some BiBs of their Traditional Farmhouse medium.
This trip saw us breaking our journey with a lovely stop at the wonderful Wheelhouse B & B at Gawbridge Mill in Kingsbury Episcopi on the Somerset Levels. Here we were treated to the most amazing homemade scones on arrival and fresh flowers followed by a delicious breakfast the following morning with oodles of fresh fruit, warm compot, homemade yoghurt and a wonderful full English breakfast wih the choice of duck or hen’s eggs.
The evening was spent at the Wyndham Arms pub in Kingsbury Episcopi drinking some of Julian Temperley’s Burrow Hill Cider and Somerset Cider Brandy – perfect for such a cold night. Ollie and Wilbur certainly enjoyed the evening and the heat from the roaring fires. Needless to say tastings continued back at the Wheelhouse accompanied by some lovely smoked cheddar.
After a leisurely walk (us) and run (dogs!) round the paddock before and after breakfast – (with Wilbur thoroughly enjoying his freedom after several months of lead walks due to an elbow problem) – we drove just a short distance to Burrow Hill to collect some more lovely Traditional cider (dry and medium dry or ‘Alf N ‘Alf as they call it!). Here we were fondly greeted by a very muddy Fudge, one of their farm dogs and had a quick tour round the very impressive Somerset Cider Brandy distillery courtesy of Laura.
We then headed off to Perrys Cider, beautifully situated in Dowlish Wake near Ilminster where the family has been making cider since 1920. Here there was a lovely farm shop with many enticing products – (not all alcohol I hasten to add!) although I did get distracted by an appealing bottle of ginger liqueur which I’m sure will have many medicinal benefits!
We spent a long time talking to a wonderful gentleman who’d worked there for over 40 years and enjoyed a quick visit to their museum before heading off with Vintage Pathfinder (7.2% medium) on board.
Final official stop – Green Valley Cyder located at Darts Farm on the outskirts of Exeter where we collected some lovely boxes of Vintage Cyder (7.5%) and spent some time catching up with the wonderful Larry of Green Valley (pictured below). This also provided the perfect opportunity for a yummy lunch stop – delicious hot chocolate, pork and scrumpy pie and millionaire’s shortbread. There was also a great dog park for Ollie and Wilbur to go wild in before heading back home with a slight detour for a sunset walk along the bay at Lyme Regis.
Another perfect road trip collecting cider ready for you to order through our website or trade department for commercial sales!