Orchards have their own special place in rural life, society and in our imaginations. Few things are more evocative of the historic English countryside than our ancient orchards. Many Derbyshire orchards have been lost over the years and now, slowly, people are realising just what has been lost and they are re-emerging once more. We have our own Derbyshire heritage varieties of apple trees too, which tells us that apples and undoubtedly cider were once a part of rural life locally.
Our orchard in June 2016 beginning to show maturity.
Derbyshire may not be as famous as Herefordshire, Somerset or Suffolk for its ciders but you can be sure local ciders were produced, reaching their zenith in the 19th Century. This long forgotten flavour of Derbyshire, made from a blend of local apples would surely have been unique to the area. In a few years we hope to replicate that flavour of Derbyshire ciders, produced from our own local apples. Anywhere apple trees were grown, no matter what their purpose be they dessert or cooking apples, a local cider was made to quench the thirsts of the humble agricultural workers toiling in the fields. And our great Derbyshire country houses would have had their own orchards showing that the humble apple tree was important to all levels of society, such as those that can be seen at Hardwick Hall (see photo above). Even Chatsworths’ kitchen gardens retain a few apple trees.
The demise of England's orchards is a relatively recent phenomena, firstly as fresh, clean widely available drinking water replaced ciders and ales in the 19th century and the cider making industry favoured mass produced watered down cider over fresh, pure apple ciders in recent decades. Even in the parts of the country where apple trees are still grown for making ciders the traditional orchards of large old gnarled trees are much rarer than they once were.
In Derbyshire our local apple trees were the Beeley Pippin, Belledge Pippin, Newton Wonder, Lambs Seedling and New Bess Pool. These are a mix of dessert and cooking apples, many have long been on the verge of extinction. You can find out more about Derbyshire apple tree varieties in our orchard here.
We have researched and tracked down all these important local apple trees and will attempt to ensure that they have a permanent home in our orchard in Wessington. We planted the last of these old varieties, Lambs Seedling, in winter 2013/14. These were grafted for us by the National Collection at Brogdale, Kent. We now have a complete collection of Derbyshire apple trees. Remarkably, perhaps the only complete collection in the county and the only place in the UK outside of the National Collection where you will find them all together (we'd love to be proved wrong!).
These are the ideal apple trees to grow locally as they reflect the character and climate of Derbyshire and we hope will make ciders that taste like those made in a long gone age - a true taste of lost Derbyshire.
Copyright Wessington Cider 2016