Stories with cider

Cider season is upon us and I don’t think there’s anywhere that celebrates this under-rated drink more than the three counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

These great areas were once upon a time filled with apple orchards, their vibrant blossoms lighting up the landscapes in spring and their voluptuous fruits hanging heavy come autumn. They were havens of inspiration for wildlife, for walkers, for writers.

Forever made memorable in Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie’, cider has become synonymous with Gloucestershire’s bucolic charm and local way of life. Sadly, those orchards that once provided us with so much have been decimated by 75% in the last 50 years, due to pressure from agriculture, housing, and supermarkets.

But I’m happy to say that all is not lost. There’s a renewed interest in preserving our ancient apple orchards as the penny begins to drop on just how vital these habitats are. It’s heartening that we have so many excellent local cider producers in the Cotswolds and the immediate area – but there are two local producers, in particular, who are putting cider and the traditional ways of making cider, back on the map, albeit it in two very different ways.


David Kaspar and Helen Brent from Day’s Cottage are keeping the tradition of cider and perry-making alive at their family farm in Brookthorpe. Using only old, unsprayed fruit varieties such as Morgan Sweet and Foxwhelp apples and Brown Bess and Blakeney Red pear, they are tirelessly putting the spotlight back on the importance of traditional orchards. They propagate old and unusual varieties of apple and pear trees, specialising in local Gloucestershire varieties and have brought many back from the brink of extinction – there are over 200 different varieties of apples in their orchards, up to 60 of them being cider apples. They offer fruit tree pruning and propagation courses at their Orchards Skills Centre and most importantly they are creating amazing produce from their work – award-winning apple juice, cider and perry, as well as a unique range of heritage and Gloucestershire apples, pears and plums, all of which you can find every week at Stroud Farmers’ Market.

At the other end of the cider scale, we have the impressive Dunkerton’s empire firmly putting cider back on the map in a very different way. The apples for their award-winning organic ciders are still traditionally grown, pressed and fermented but the whole operation is much more 2023 than Laurie Lee.  And there’s nothing wrong with that. I love what Julian Dunkerton has created at his venue in Dowdeswell Park near Cheltenham. It’s a celebration of organic cider – Black Fox has cult status in our household (I’ve even got the t-shirt!) – but it’s also a total celebration of local produce and suppliers as well. In the farm shop you’ll find Warner’s favourites such as Waghorne’s Artisan Butchers, while in the Tap Room, you can enjoy global food from local eateries such as The Bombay Street Food, run in collaboration with Charlton King’s-based Koloshi restaurant and the Sourdough Pizza Co in collab with Bell Mia Pizza in Gloucester. And, the Dunkerton’s Cider events are legendary – as we go to press, I’m still holding out for tickets to Idris Elba’s gig at the end of August.

Cider with Idris – now there’s a story waiting to be told!