In 2009 we planted some perry pear trees to celebrate the birth of our first four grandchildren.
The first planting was Winnal’s Longdon which has special significance as the variety originated in Weston-under-Penyard where Brian was born. As more grandchildren arrived in subsequent years we planted more trees.
We now have Brandy, Blakeney Red and the one bright spot of 2020 was a sufficiently good crop of Hendre Huffcap and Yellow Huffcap to make single-variety batches. Both had reached a specific gravity of 1010 by New Year’s Day. Our chief taster, Fran, declared them up to standard and we have put some in champagne bottles to mature. In a few months’ time we’ll report on progress.
As for the orchard the emergence of daffodil shoots reminds us that we need to be finishing pruning. This will include trimming off lower branches broken by muntjacs and higher branches by fallow deer.
Our popular Jack’s Tipple cider recognizes the previous generations who have managed our traditional orchard. Planted in 1959 by Fran’s father Jack Greenway it has supplied cider apples to Bulmers and Westons. Jack would meet his friend Norman Weston in the Slip Tavern in Much Marcle (beware any visitor who occupied their barside stools) and discuss business as well as share village gossip. There may be some truth in the family story that payment was in cider rather than money.
Another snippet of family history from that era, verified by Fran’s mother, was of the postman nipping into the cellar to pour a horn of cider from the barrel to sustain him on his round.
As those who have visited Woodredding will know we have stunning views of the Malvern Hills with Bredon Hill and the Cotswolds in the distance.
The sun we can see rising behind a snow-covered May Hill is real enough but this year’s Big Apple Wassail will only be virtual.
Cider making is finished for this season and the juice is bubbling away quietly even in our unheated cider house. We’re trying very hard to leave it to Mother Nature and resist the temptation to taste but we will soon be extracting a drop from the fermenting barrels with a turkey baster.
The orchard may appear dormant but, regardless of what might be happening in the world beyond, the trees will still need pruning and the battle against mistletoe will continue.
We’ve been bottling some Yellow Huffcap perry which will now bottle condition until 2022 and hopefully by then the nightmares of 2020 will have receded into folk memory.
The other task in this new year has been labelling our popular Yarlington Mill and Jack’s Tipple ciders.
We can only guess at what it will be like in the ‘new normal’ but we hope that those who have discovered our cider and perry online will want more. More information on how it's made and how you can buy some.
— Fran and Brian Robbins