A small group of Radstock Co-operative shareholders were treated to an exclusive members’ only event at the Orchard Pig cider and juice making farm in Bradley, Nr Glastonbury last week. A group of 20 set off by coach from the Radstock Superstore at 10:30 a.m. arriving shortly after 11 a.m. where they were met by founder member of Orchard Pig, Neil McDonald and his colleague Graeme Baldwin and greeted with a glass of hot mulled cider. Well, that got everyone off to a great start and with the weather being unseasonably warm and sunny, a tour of the various orchards was definitely on the agenda. The group was encouraged to try their luck at ‘scrumping’ tasting the fruits of their labour as they gathered samples from the wide varieties of apples and pears grown within the different orchards. As the group went about foraging, Neil explained about the many different methods of planting in order to yield the best crops. The cane and wire method is now widely used to restrict the height of the trees making for maximum daylight exposure and ease of cropping. During the tour of the orchards, the group learned about the impact of the soil and weather on the fruit and that certain varieties are grown specifically for cider production whereas others are used only for the juice. Some unwelcomed visitors accompanying the group were those irritating wasps which according to Graeme were a lot quieter and less in abundance than in the past few weeks. The group continued on to the tranquility of the ancient orchards, where although the trees still bear some fruit, many had suffered badly since being overcome by mistletoe, a parasitic plant that takes over the tree. During the walk around, Neil explained that the orchards are surrounded by hedgerows that encourage wildlife and insects which are extremely important in the pollination process. The orchards also have several bee hives which again helps to pollinate the fruit trees as well as producing good quality honey.
Soon it was back to the barn to sample some of those Orchard Pig varieties of cider (with fruit juice for those not wishing to partake in a tipple or two). Neil then collected the apples that had been ‘scrumped’ by the group and was quickly able to convert it to a delicious concentrated fruit juice to be enjoyed by the group aptly named Radco Juice.
There was an opportunity to pick your own fruit before setting down to a traditional ploughman’s lunch accompanied by, of course, a sip or two from the range of Orchard Pig ciders including ‘The Truffler’, ‘The Charmer’ and ‘The Reveller’.
The participants were having such a good time that they managed to persuade the coach driver to delay the departure time by 45 minutes. Then it was back on the coach for the return trip to Radstock. Vicki Przytocki, Head of HR & Communications for the Radstock Co-operative who accompanied the party said, ‘We had fantastic feedback from the group. Neil and Graeme were great hosts and were extremely knowledgeable about not just cider and juice making, but also about environmental factors and the impact of wildlife on the sustainability of the Orchards. It’s great to be able to offer our members a trip to one of our local suppliers to experience cider making from plantation to bottling. I went along as it was our first visit to this venue and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We will definitely hold another one next year. This is just one of the benefits that members can enjoy when they join the Society. To become a member you need to be over 18, deposit a minimum of £2 into a share account and complete an application form. The Society is owned and run by its members who benefit from the services the Society provides. We hope to be able to offer more exclusive members’ events of this nature in the near future.’