Friends… Romans… Country Bumpkins, lend me your beers (and more importantly, ciders!), jump off your haystacks and come with us on a little tour of the finest drink known to man in these ‘ere parts. Lovely, home-grown Scrumpy Cider.
Nearly half the apples grown in the UK are now used to make cider. Thousands of orchards have been planted to keep up with the demand. And this is the time of year farmers the land over will be harvesting their apples to make your favourite Amber Nectar.
Imagine the scene, it’s a lovely sunny day, you’re reclining on a deckchair in the garden and sipping on your next pint of cider, total bliss. But what you might not realise is that there’s a just a little bit of history and folklore that went into that gulp.
The old Somerset custom called Wassailing talks of cider being poured over tree roots to bless the trees and produce a bumper crop for the forthcoming season. Then, (this is my favourite bit) there’s the ‘Apple Tree Man’, the spirit of the oldest tree in the whole orchard. There’s an old West Country tale where a man leaves his last mug of mulled cider to the trees, and the spirit of the Apple Tree Man takes him straight to the buried treasure. I mean, come on, what more incentive do you need to believe in the power of the Scrumpy?
Even better news is that the best time to believe in that power is now. Why now you may ask? Well, this year’s cider harvest is upon us and the freshest apples are there, begging to be picked and made into cider. In fact, it’s very easy to make it yourself and there are lots of great recipes out there. What’s more rewarding and cheaper than pressing your own cider?
I’ve bought a cider making kit this year and have the feverish determination of a rampant Wassailer. I’ve carefully picked the best apples from our garden and will be looking forward to the bit where I get to throw them into a big bucket and punish them with a pole. After the therapeutic fun bits comes the waiting, the long wait. But there is good news, if you let the cider ferment now it should allow for the best taste in time for Christmas. And let’s be honest, what better present to receive than seeing Auntie Pat writhing on the living room floor after three pints of homemade cider and a friendly game of twenty questions?
On the other hand, if you, like most sane people, just love drinking homegrown cider then there are lots of cider tours around. Here at West Country Games, we offer a traditional tour with the best in homegrown cider without having to make any effort at all. We’ll transport you to two countryside pubs, a cider farm (where you taste a further four ciders with a fine selection of cheese), and then get driven back to your humble abode. Life doesn’t get much sweeter than this, even the ‘Apple Tree Man’ leading you to buried treasure sounds a bit rubbish in comparison.
If, for some strange reason I haven’t managed to sway your opinion on the humble West County cider then I feel there’s no hope left for you. And as for you James Lavis, you’re dismissed. Mainly because I am tired, and incredibly pissed.
For almost 8 years I’ve called Bristol home and 5 of those have been spent out in the West Country Games field with a scoreboard and camera and groups of fun, feisty and often very hungover stags and hens. West Country Games sums up one of the things I love most about Bristol, there’s always something different and often slightly crazy going on.
Anyway, must go, I can hear the last track of ‘The Best of the Wurzels’ playing.
Katie has worked as an Activity Instructor, Site Manager and Event Assistant over the 5 years she’s been working at West Country Games.