To make excellent craft cider it is important to start with excellent apples – the right varieties, in the right state of ripeness and in good condition.
Our Vale Cider orchards are on our farm in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan between the villages of Bonvilston and Welsh St Donats, near the lovely historical town of Cowbridge. We are adjacent to Hensol Forest.
The orchard year starts in the winter. This is when we do winter pruning and plant any new bare root trees. Cider apple trees take several years before they crop and during that time they need protecting from rabbits (by guards) and wind (by staking and wind breaks) and formative winter pruning.
Spring is a beautiful time in the Vale Cider orchards when the blossom comes out and pollinating insects are busy doing their crucial work.
In summer there is plenty of work keeping the grass cut around the trees. The apples are developing on the trees.
Autumn is harvest time. The earliest varieties – such as Discovery apples – ripen in late August and the latest varieties – such as Kingston Black – ripen in November. The busiest months for picking are September and October. We pick our apples by hand (as many hands as possible) and collect them in 25kg apple boxes which we then empty into 300kg apple bins. When we have several bins full we are ready for a day of pressing in our cider mill.