PUBLISHED: 15:00 06 October 2015 | UPDATED: 15:00 06 October 2015
The summer rain adds some sparkle to Killerton cider
August was a rainy month for tourists and locals. There was one upside to the downpours however; the wet weather has made for a bumper crop of apples in the National Trust orchards at Killerton and the trees are heavy with fruit ready to be made into cider. 2014 was a memorable summer, but an apple crop to forget, producing only 3,000 litres of cider. But this year the trees are so full that the National Trust hopes to double its production. To help harvest all the apples five local schools are lending a hand, with 199 pupils enjoying a trip to the orchards to learn about traditional cider making.
On Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 October the orchard at Killerton will be decorated with bunting, echo to the sounds of laughter and be buzzing with festival spirit to celebrate National Apple Weekend.
The National Trust will create a magical atmosphere. The soulful Alex Roberts, lively locals Spin 2, and the country sounds of Jenna Witts will have you dancing around the apple trees with great live music. There will be activities for youngsters in the Wild Zone, including camp fire cooking, apple foraging, a bumblebee parade and juggler. Try your hand at archery with the Exeter Company of Archers, and don’t miss the magic show.
Killerton’s traditional apple-press will be in action. It has been pressing apples for over 200 years and is a working piece of history not to be missed. You can bring your own apples to press at the pressing tent in the orchard, and find out more about growing your own apples with orchard and cider experts.
If all that activity makes you hungry then visit the food hall, serving the finest food and award-winning produce from Killerton estate. Enjoy a hog roast, barbecue, pasties, soups and stews and treat yourself to a cake. Explore the many stalls with a Killerton cider in hand, or find a hay bale and relax under the apple trees. There will be local crafts and produce, wood carving, orchard inspired pottery and even apple fudge.
Over 50 types of apple are grown in the orchards at Killerton. The apples aren’t just for people, but for wildlife too: the National Trust leaves 50% of the apples on the trees or on the ground for wildlife, taking the other half for cider production. Killerton cider is a useful by-product of managing this habitat, which can support over 1,800 species, and income from cider making is spent on managing the orchards and preserving old apple varieties.
Every autumn the apples are collected by hand, and squeezed by the 200 year-old cider press, which you can see in the Forestry Yard. The juice collected is then bottled to create Killerton’s award-winning cider, which takes it’s unique flavour from apple varieties such as Killerton Sweet, Killerton Sharp, Star of Devon and even Slack Ma’ Girdle. The National Trust produces still and sparkling cider, both of which will be on sale at the festival. If cider isn’t your thing then try the apple-based ale or a local beer from the Occasional Brewing Company, or an apple juice cocktail from the cider bar.
The National Trust believes that events like the cider and apple festival will raise awareness of orchard conservation and traditional cider making, encouraging more people to support their efforts, or better yet plant some fruit trees and start their own. Every pint of cider you drink will directly support orchard conservation at Killerton.
Gates open at 10am and close at 5pm. Entry to the festival includes entry to the house and garden.
Admission: Family £10, Adult £4, Child £2. National Trust members and U5’s free entry.
Call 01392 881345 for more information, or go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/killertonapples to find our more.