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…
On 6th Oct we held the 2nd annual Wrington apple day on the village green outside the pub.
Myself and a bunch of friends from the village helped to organize this ramshackle day, which we do for the love of orchards, the making of fine pure juice and of course the drinking of cider. Everybody mucks in, the sun always shines and we go home tired but very happy.
Wrington photographer Bob Bowen kindly took a selection of images which are on the slideshow below. Enjoy
Posted in Oct 2013
Tagged Apple, apple day, Apple Juice, apple pressing, Apple trees, Cider, cider making, Forgotten Fruit, Neil Phillips Photography, North Somerset, Scrumping, Thatchers Cider, The Plough, The Scrumping Project, Wrington, Wrington Apple Day
I’ve just managed to obtain a copy of the double page spread that the Bristol Evening Post (as it was called then !) ran on our apple pressing day, help back in October 2011. Photographer Jon Kent came out to photograph us and captured all the colour of a beautiful autumn day, with the apple presses at full steam.
With this years apple blossom slowly revealing itself through the April showers, It really puts me mood for lots more apple juice and cider making this year.
2011 Apple Pressing Day
A big thanks to jon for sending this through,
Happy scrumping !!
Willsbridge Mill, new home for the Scrumping Project
I’m really happy to announce that the Scrumping Project has a new permanent home at the historic Willsbridge Mill on the edge of Bristol. It’s great news which means the project has firm foundations on which to build on and also means that my garage can return to normal (much to June’s relief !)
We had a great afternoon pressing apples for cider and apple juice at the Avon Wildlife trust’s annual Autumn fair last sunday and meet lots of great people. What I’ve discovered at these events is that I get very little time on the press as visitors/families and friends always jump at the chance to work the press.
The Scrumping project press proves popular againat the Autumn Fair.
I also did my first pressing at the mill on friday afternoon after spending the morning scrumping at various orchards around Oldbury and Rockhampton. This was made really tricky by the mist that hung over the landscape. I get lost driving around those lanes at the best of times and I completely failed to locate a couple of my best orchards. I’ll hopefully find them next autumn !
Pics from the picking and pressing days to follow soon.
Tagged apple days, apple pressing, Apples, Autumn fairs, Avon Wildlife Trust, Cider, Forgotten Fruit, Grimsbury Farm, Love Apples, Oldbury Naite, Orchard, scrumpers, Scrumping, scrumpy, The Scrumping Project, Willsbridge Mill
The Scrumping Projects 2011 video is finally published.
Take a look and tell me what you think.
Click on the play button but because of restrictions you may be directed to You Tube. If so just click on the link
Tagged Apple Juice, Apple Orchards, apple press, apple pressing, autumn, Basket Press, Cider, community groups, craft cider, fermentation buckets, grape juice, grapes, Grimsbury Farm, Kingswood, Neil Phillips Photography, Oldbury on Severn, Oldbury Power Station, Orchard, Orchards, Scrumping, scrumpy, The Scrumping Project, trees, Warmley, water press