Spring is a special time in the orchards, and you prey for long sunny days and blue sky. What you don’t want is heavy rain and strong winds, exactly what we suffered today. Our recently built wooden garden Gate has been blown off it’s hinges, so lord know what apple blossom will be left, if any. Luckily, it’s still relatively early for blossom on cider apple trees (only the ever so keen Katy Apple trees may of had their young but strong branches whipped by the winds) so fingers crossed for a rise in the temperatures and a reappearance of Somerset blue skies.Below is another extract from ‘Then and Now’
Even after all these years Martin Thatcher is still
bowled over by the sight of an orchard decked in apple
blossom, and he’s not alone. To many people, the
coming of spring in cider country is one of Britain’s
wonders – nature and humankind working together
to create a marvel. Few sights compare to the beauty
and magic of trees suddenly covered in white or pink
flowers, yet it is not only a visual experience. A walk
in an orchard at blossomtime is as much about the
scent of the flowers and the drone of bees, the feeling
of warm sun or a cool breeze – and a sense of magic.
To the cidermaker, though, blossom is much more
than just a thing of beauty. For the trees to produce
apples the flowers need to be pollenated, and the
blossom doesn’t last for long. If you’re unlucky, in fact,
it can disappear overnight.
Nothing makes a cidermaker quite as nervous
as the prospect of a late frost, which can devastate
a whole orchard in one night, and in times past
fruit growers came up with some ingenious ways of
keeping temperatures above freezing at this crucial
time of year, such as burning oil in ‘smudge pots’ to
warm the air and keep it mobile. On one 19th century
Gloucestershire fruit farm the foremen slept beside
alarms connected to thermometers, which would
sound when the temperature became dangerously low.
But they were probably growing fruit varieties
that were not native to the area. The beauty of the
Somerset cider varieties is that they have evolved over
the years in the same climate, so that most blossom
after the worst danger of frost is over. Thus although
Somerset Redstreak is classed as an early bittersweet,
it flowers in mid-season, that is in the middle of May,
after all but the most freakish frosts. However, that old
renegade Tremlett’s Bitter indulges in rather riskier
behaviour, often flowering in late April when freezing
conditions are still a distinct possibility. It is still
essential, as it always was, to pick the right site for a
Posted in Then and Now
Tagged apple blossom, apple Harvesting, Apple Juice, Apple Juice making, apple pressing, autumn, Cider, Cider Apple, cider making, cycling, Katy apples, Katy Cider., Neil Phillips Photography, Neil Phillips Weddings, Thatchers Cider, Thatchers Gold
I’ve been wandering around Thatchers Orchards for over 15 years now – and, over that time, I have built up a large library of images, documenting the working life of a cider farm through the different seasons.
While much of my work at Thatchers has been commissioned photography, for general marketing and PR uses, at particular times of year – when the light has been good, the blossom extra white and apples extra shiny and red – I would pick up my camera and travel down to Sandford or Criston, at the break of dawn or during a snowstorm, to film and photograph this glorious landscape.
I would do this for pleasure, and perhaps to fulfil that itching need all photographers feel when the light is either good or dramatic: that I should be out there taking pictures.
Of course it got to the point where I wondered how many of the photographs I took would ever see the light of day. So I was delighted when Martin Thatcher asked me to search through my archive of images, to illustrate a book the Thatchers wanted to produce – ‘Thatchers Then and Now’, the story of a cider making family.
So over the past year, I’ve been working with Bristol Books producing a book on the family history of Thatchers Cider. It’s been a fascinating process working with writer James Russell, matching the correct images with words and making sure the book has a natural flow, a contemporary look and an enduring feel.
What I have decided to do on this blog is to publish some of the photographs from the book, with extracts from the text, to put the images in their correct context.
I hope you enjoy my posts during the next few months – and, if you like the images and stories behind them, you never know, you might even want to buy the book…
I took a break from filming the harvesting at Thatchers cider last week to take some pics. The apples were Tremlett’s I think, waiting to be scooped up to looking ripe ‘n’ rosy in the autumn Light.
A poem for apple day from Somerset poet james Crowden
The orchard first snugly
Round our shoulders –
Like an old overcoat.
Hard pressed, the stream of juice
Runs madly from the cheese –
Autumn out of control
Invisibly we merge
With the barrels –
Are sucked into their darkness
Their roundness catapults us
Beyond the common place –
A world apart.
All at once we are enveloped
By the brooding silence –
Ten thousand gallons.
I spent a couple of days last week filming in one of the Katy Orchards for Thatchers cider, and although other cider apples are late this year due to the cold and wet summer the Katy’s were plump, ripe and ready for picking !!
Picking with katy…
It’s lovely to be in the Orchards again on a late summers day, lots more apple picking to follow.