Cider Cycling in Herefordshire
Herefordshire is Cider Country. The best way to explore this cider producing area is on a cycling holiday; lots of old orchards, mistletoe in the trees, picturesque villages, great cycling on quiet country lanes. See how the cider process works and try some cider at Dunkerton’s Cider Farm, in Pembridge. May is the time to see the blossom, summer to enjoy the cider and autumn to see it all made.
Cider in Herefordshire - Over half all the cider produced in the UK is produced in Herefordshire - the biggest brewers being Bulmers and Weston's. With lots of other specialist craft producers. There are over 9.500 acres of cider Orchards in Herefordshire.
Cider bible – The earliest written mention of Cider can be found in Hereford Cathedral’s famous Chained library. The Wycliffe “Cider” Bible, written in the early 15th Century, gets its name because when translating the passage “For he (John the Baptist) shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink…”, the word “cider” (spelt sidir) is used instead of strong drink.
Wassail It is customary on the eve of Twelfth Night to wassail the orchards to ensure next year’s crop. Fires are usually lit: one in the middle of a circle of twelve small ones. Usually organised by Leominster Morris
Long life – In 1667 the vicar of Dilwyn reported that his parishioners, who lived to ages ranging from 90 to 114, had drunk nothing but cider.
Cider mills - great millstones & presses can be seen in many of the villages, leftovers from when all the farms used to brew their own.
Cider Baptism - During the 14th century young children were baptised in cider - it was cleaner than water.
Cider War - in 1763, a cider & perry tax was introduced to raise money for the Seven Years War - prompting riots and much cider brewing went underground.
Cider wages - traditional in Herefordshire to pay part of a farm labourer’s wage in cider – they liked it so well that on many farms the arrangement carried on when the practice was made illegal in 1887.
Cider apple varieties - at one point over 400 varieties of apple were grown in the county. Thomas Andrew Knight an early pioneer of plant propagation, published a definitive work called the Herefordshire Pomona in 1811 listing and illustrating all known varieties including with many unusual or local names like Foxwhelp & Slack-ma-Girdle, Netherton Late Blower and Downton Pippin. So make a visit to cider makers like Dunkerton's, who specialise in growing these old varieties and have a small exhibition and tasting area.
Cider wildlife - in 2007, traditional orchards were designated a priority habitat under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The habitat has declined rapidly since the 1950s, with more than 90 per cent of our traditional orchards in England lost in 60 years. Orchards are important habitats for nature and species such as mistletoe, mistletoe moth, the mistle thrush, bullfinch and corky fruited water dropwort in the grassland
Cider and the National Trust - a keen supporter of traditional orchards, has orchards with rare apples in Croft Castle and Berrington Hall and recently was given the internationally renowned Tidnor Orchard in Herefordshire - which has 300 different varieties of cider apple. The National Trust will propagate trees from this orchard to use in all its orchards. And of course Trust tearooms stock locally produced cider.