Apple Blossom in Sandford

Apple Blossom looking good in Sandford, despite the frosts, don’t worry, your cider is safe !

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Planting Dabinett Apple Trees

I’ve been busy photographing Thatchers planting Dabinett trees in one of their new orchards in Somerset. The great thing is that Thatchers get there office staff out to help out at these busy times and even MD Martin Thatcher spent hours if not days helping to plant 5 thousand trees. copyright Neil Phillips photo and film.

Late spring Apple Blossom, Somerset.

On saturday morning I popped down to Thatchers wonderful Shiplate Orchard to check a retrieve a time-lapse camera and discovered that some of the orchard was still in Blossom.  I took a few shots.

Straw Man

  1. I’d photographed Dr Hugh Tripp pressing apples through straw to make cider in a deeply traditional way around five years ago. Watching how he did this, on a smallholding that had barely changed since Victorian times, was inspiring and I was determined to film him. However, our calendars never seemed to match up; that is until a dark and damp December day last year when I finally managed to link up with him, joining him for the last pressing of the season. I filmed him picking up the final few useable apples lying alongside already decaying fruit; apples that had already given up, and were slowly returning to the earth.

    Dr Tripp uses straw to press cider not just for historical reasons or to be deliberately ‘traditional’ but because it’s practical, as the straw aids the composting of the apple pomace (the skin, seeds and pulp of the fruit which remains after pressing), helping it to return quickly return to the earth.

    This is a short film about making cider in a way rarely seen today. It’s also about the changing seasons, and understanding and working with the rhythms of nature to produce the very best the land can offer.

    Link to film here

    https://vimeopro.com/neilphillipsphotoandfilm/west-country-stories

Dr Hugh Tripp, East Pennard sparkling wine

Dr Hugh Tripp, East Pennard sparkling wine

The Oak Vats, a rare view

Many a Cider Drinker has probably dream of spending day of two in a 120.000 pint vat of Thatchers.

But the skilled craftsman pictured here are the master coopers who are ensuring the cider makers gigantic 150 year old oak vats remain in top condition for maturing it’s Somerset cider

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Alistair Simm, on top of the 150 year old Oak Vats

 

I spent a couple of hours with cooper Alastair Simm and his team, depending deep into the vats  and getting a rarely seen view from the inside. The 11 30ft tall vats each hold 120.000 pints, but occasionally they do need to be left empty so they are able to receive some expert care to keep them in top condition.

Alastair Simms, Britain’s only master cooper and owner of White Rose Cooperage is entrusted with the upkeep of the vats at Thatchers headquarters Myrtle, at Myrtle Farm, Sandford.

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Kean Hiscock depends into the deep dark Vats

A  fug of cider and sharp apples hangs heavy in the vats, which can, unsurprisingly,  make you feel rather light headed

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Alistair Simms descends into Vat 10.

Constructed of three inch thick oak staves, each of the vats has it’s own character. They were built by Carty and Sons of London, dating back to the 1040s. Each Stave is numbered from 1 to 200 ish  (I forgot to do a final count) with the year roughy scrolled into the wood in Roman numerals.

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All the Staves are numbered.

Apart from when the coopers are visiting, the Huge vats are full of cider.If the wood dries out, it can shrink.

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The oak is fitted and finished using a traditional block plane

Even though the wood has been cut it is still a living product, so the speed of work is essential to complete the work within 48 hours – the longest they recommend a vat is empty for.

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Alistair at work

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Rush Vines are used to seal the gaps between the vats. It is a technique that dates back to the Egyptians.

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Sean does a final check  before sealing the vats

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White Rose Cooperage 

 

While the cider is held in the vats, usually for around six weeks, the oak softens and rounds the flavours, allowing the apple characteristics to shine through. Every Friday the Thatchers cider makers taste the cider from each vat, to judge if it is ready for next step of it’s journey

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All photography copyright Neil Phillips Photography 2015

thanks for Penny Adair and Tina Rowe

http://www.neilphillipsphotography.co.uk

The Picking has begun…

I spent much of last week filming and photographing the start of apple harvest at Thatchers Cider. Traditionally the picking starts with the Katy apple in an orchard just behind Thatchers Farm HQ in Sandford. I love the start of this harvest as it’s usually the first time that I’ve stepped into an Orchard for a couple of months, and the site of these Rosie red apples, ( highly polished by the apple fairies during the night, honest ! ) plus the pungent smells, and not to mention the sweet taste  ( I don’t eat too many – Mr Thatcher 🙂 ) means it’s my favourite place to wander during the warm early September days.

Katy Apple Harvest has Started atThatchers Cider, Sandford, Sept 10 2015,  Copyright, Neil Phillips Photoand Film 07885 214291 neilphillipsphotography.co.uk

Katy Apple Harvest has Started atThatchers Cider, Sandford, Sept 10 2015,
Copyright, Neil Phillips Photoand Film 07885 214291
neilphillipsphotography.co.uk

The Orchards are looking ready for Harvesting

The Orchards are ready for Harvesting….

Ripe for Picking

Ripe for Picking