Tag Archives: Neil Phillips Photography

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

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Then and Now, Spring….

Spring Blossom, katy WaySpring 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’

SPRING

Spring at thatchers Cider
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
new orchard.

Frank Naish 5/2/1924 29/11/13

Frank Naish (Oldest Cider Maker) have passed peacefully away in his sleep aged 89 5/2/1924 29/11/13

A poem for a man whom I had the pleasure to meet and photograph on a number of occasions. commiserations to all his family and friends

Frank Naish at home

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still.
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off.
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the water-trough,
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and reappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
And I keep hearing from the cellar-bin
That rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking; I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall,
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised, or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Robert Frost
in the cider room

Naish Cider

Naish Cider

Michelin, medium bitter sweet with soft tannin

Michelin, medium bitter sweet with soft tannin

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Happy Apple Day… !

Happy Apple Day... !

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.

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A poem for apple day from Somerset poet james Crowden

Cider Haiku

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.

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Wrington Apple Day

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

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International Brewing Award for Thatchers Cider

International Brewing Award for Thatchers Cider

Congratulations to Thatchers Cider for winning the 2013 brewing award for their 2011 ‘Vintage’ cider. Martin Thatcher was photographed in the historic oak vat room.

Thatchers Cider Wassail 2013

Thatchers Cider Wassail turned out to me a memorial night partly due the heavy snow full on the morning of the event and freezing temperatures. It’s always a challenge to film the event, always taking place in the dark with little lighting but the D800 performed excellently. Always a fun evening mainly due to the delicious and very welcome warm cider that was being served inside the marquee, including one speciality cider cider flavored with rum and another flavored with orange juice. A fantastic evening as usual ! Click on link below to view the film

https://vimeo.com/58286929The green man who blesses the trees with fresh cider