A Celebration of Apple Harvest at Middle Farm

A Celebration of Apple Harvest at Middle Farm

The Cider Barn at Middle Farm is a cider-lover’s dream with established favourites and regular new introductions.

Director of Middle Farm, Rod Marsh, says, “Autumn brings the apple harvest when we celebrate our national fruit in all its manifestations!”

“We’re proud to offer an ever-evolving range of ciders and perries in our Cider Barn. New this month five ciders from Wilding Cider, lovingly crafted by Sam and Beccy Leach on their 4.5-acre smallholding in Somerset, and the latest releases from Albert Johnson of Ross on Wye Cider and Perry’s including his collaboration with the Queer Brewing Project – Dancing Required”

The Celts are thought to have brought cider making to these islands. Some 5,000 years later, half of all the apples grown in the U.K. are used to make cider for the largest cider market in the world. The varieties of apples used, natural or cultured yeasts and an individual makers’ process all create a distinctly unique and characterful finish, as do the whisky, oak and port barrels sometimes used for maturation.

Middle Farm sells straight from the cask, affording visitors the unique opportunity to taste and compare before they buy.

As the nights draw in and the temperatures drop, the change of season is welcomed with steaming hot mulled cider, a perennial favourite, to enjoy whilst you shop, or to take home in a container.

Apples from local orchards are hand-pressed for fresh juice daily and, by appointment, customers can bring their own fruit to have it pressed every day of the week. There are also between forty and fifty bottled varietal apple juices made by local growers– a flavour for every palate.

Apple-based drinks aren’t the only thing on offer. “Every year we celebrate the unparalleled diversity of our national fruit with as big an array of freshly-picked apple and pear varieties as we can fit in our farm shop. From now until after Christmas there will be upwards of twenty varieties to delight our customers, some from our own farmhouse orchard, but all from within a thirty-mile radius, sourced from low-input, often organic, sustainable orchards.”

About Middle Farm:    https://middlefarm.com/

Nestling at the foot of Firle Beacon on the South Downs in Sussex, Middle Farm is a 625 acre working family farm.  Six generations of farming have given us a unique insight into British food production. The highest standards of animal welfare and environmental care show in our farm produce. We demand those same high standards from everyone whose produce we stock.



Award-winning cider maker, Sandford Orchards, is proud to announce that it is working with scientists from Bristol University to identify and preserve ancient apple varieties in their beautiful historic orchards in mid Devon. This ground breaking research aims to fingerprint thousands of cider apple trees in order to locate and propagate unique and threatened varieties.

Barny Butterfield, Chief Cidermaker at Sandford Orchards comments: “Apples are at the heart of everything that we do. Our cider mill is the oldest working mill in the UK and some of our orchards are centuries old. We take our stewardship of these precious natural wonders very seriously and we jumped at the opportunity to unlock some of the secrets of these orchards that have long been forgotten. By mapping our apple trees we will be able to preserve them for future generations, ensure diversity in our stock and secure many more centuries of cider enjoyment.”

Keith Edwards, Professor of Crop Genetics at Bristol University, is leading the new research which aims to identify and map the nation’s traditional cider apple varieties. By punching a small hole in leaves from individual trees, his team is able to collect samples for DNA testing, while geographically tagging the particular tree using the What3Words geo-positioning system.

The team has spent the summer taking DNA samples from hundreds of Sandford Orchards’ apple trees and has been surprised by the varieties being grown in these older orchards in the Crediton area, which has long been famed for its cider.

Professor Edwards explains: “We thought that, being well-established orchards, we might only find a few different cider apple varieties in each, but that has not been the case. We have fingerprinted around 400 samples and I believe there will be a great many different varieties, many of them unique.”

Barny is awaiting the results of the research with bated breath. He says: “By using genetic-fingerprinting techniques we are able to wind back the clock. We can map a particular variety and see where it crops up in places like Devon and Somerset. That allows us to start building the picture so that hopefully we can reclaim some old varieties which make great cider. You only need one apple tree to propagate a whole new orchard so once we have identified key varieties that we would like to increase our stock of we can start planning for the future.”

He continues: “Using the new techniques we will find apples that could be important in changing the type of ciders we make. Each apple variety will behave in a certain way according to the local conditions and, by having a much better knowledge of the rich diversity of trees in our orchards, we might find wonderful cider apples which are ready to take on the challenge of a changing environment.”

As well as the environmental benefits of preserving a diverse range of apple trees for the future, Barny is also thrilled at the prospect of a renaissance of delicious single batch ciders. He explains: “So it might be that we find a tree that is the only one of its kind in the whole country. Or perhaps there’s just one in my orchard but a few elsewhere. The great thing is, because we are mapping the trees, I am going to be able to collect enough fruit from those trees to make a small amount of single-apple cider.”

Barny continues: “ We are keenly awaiting the results of this research but whatever Professor Edwards and his team uncover the outcome can only be positive for the environment and for cider-lovers.”

For further information on Sandford Orchards please visit www.sandfordorchards.co.uk



Sandford Orchards, producer of authentic cider created by combining tradition and innovation, is thrilled to have scooped two awards at the World Cider Awards for their ‘cider done right’. The General scooped a gold and Sandford Reserve received a silver. Both ciders are from Sandford Orchards vintage collection, which was launched earlier this year.

The World Cider Awards are the global awards selecting the very best in all the internationally recognised styles. They aim to award and promote the world’s best ciders to consumers and trade across the globe.

Barny Butterfield, Chief Cidermaker at Sandford Orchards comments: “We are absolutely delighted to receive a gold and silver from the World Cider Awards. We are proud to make cider properly taking a fresh, natural, low impact approach and using the best apples in the world. A huge amount of effort went into creating our new vintage ciders. We were thrilled with the results and it is really rewarding to know that the award judges think our cider is pretty special too.”

The General – Mighty Vat-Aged Cider (ABV 8.4%)

The General is the Imperial Stout of the vintage range. This super rich cider is bold and satisfying with the flavours of Seville orange, plum and baked apple. It is a superb complement to gamey meats or a fully-laden Sunday roast.

Sandford Reserve – Finest Cask-Aged Cider (ABV 7.4%)

Sandford Reserve is the ‘exhibition’ cider of the vintage range. Using the pick of the 2019 crop and  matured in larger wine casks, Sandford Reserve drinks like a smooth, oaky, chardonnay with flavours of honey, Madeira and dried fruits. It’s the perfect partner for curry or spicy Asian food.

Founded in 2002, independent, family-owned Sandford Orchards is based in Crediton, Mid Devon in the oldest working cider mill in the UK. The area has long been known as one of the most fertile parishes in all of Britain, both for its grasslands and its orchards. Crediton’s ‘Redlands’ boast a unique microclimate, sheltered between Devon’s huge moors, long hours of warm sunshine and mineral rich soils produce the most flavoursome apples for cider imaginable.

Combining tradition and innovation, Sandford Orchards produces an award-winning range of core session ciders including Devon Red, Devon Dry and Devon Mist and fruit ciders; blackberry flavoured Fanny’s Bramble, Berry Lane using perfectly ripe raspberries, Old Blossom made from delicate Elderflower and an invigorating and zingy Cider Ginger.

For further information on Sandford Orchards please visit www.sandfordorchards.co.uk

The Big Apple 2021 is on!

The Big Apple 2021 is on!

The apples are ripening on the trees, the presses are standing by, and the time is fast approaching when the Big Apple has welcomed visitors to the Herefordshire parishes of the Marcle Ridge for thirty years.  Having cancelled last year’s event, the community organisation behind the Big Apple has come up with a plan that will see all the usual venues in and around Much Marcle involved over the weekend of 9/10th October.  “Within 24 hours of asking them, all nine venues had expressed their enthusiasm to go ahead”, said spokesman Jackie Denman.  “When we cancelled last year, we had lots of messages of support telling us that we had made the right decision, but also telling us that we would be much missed.  So now we’re busy behind the scenes working on our programme, which will go online on www.bigapple.org.uk on Monday 13th September.  We can’t wait to get back!”

This annual opportunity to enjoy the orchards, to see, hear and smell cider being made and to taste many different varieties of apples, local ciders, perries and apple juices has become an established part of the calendar for many people.  Familiar Big Apple venues will include Gregg’s Pit, Awnells Farm, Woodredding, Lyne Down, Pope’s Perry and Hellens, alongside regular attractions at Westons Cider.


Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials 2021 – the champions!

Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials 2021 – the champions!

The Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials have taken place in early May each year since 1992 – until last year!  Determined not to miss another event, the Committee decided there must be a way to make them happen.  In a normal year, Putley Parish Hall would be full of cidermakers jostling with each other to judge their anonymous entries but in 2021 this wasn’t going to be possible.  So the Trials were delayed to July and volunteers recruited to run them under ‘hospitality’ rules, outside and with a reduced number of entries.  The event took place on Saturday 17th July in bright sunshine in the lovely surroundings of Dragon Orchard, Putley, by kind invitation of Norman and Annie Stanier.

Lucie Mayerova of Naked OrchardsThe results of the original peer-judge competition were announced the following morning, to a gathering of entrants, volunteers and the Big Apple Committee and live-streamed online to those unable to be there.  Chairman Steve Swaithes thanked David Hewitt – the man behind the camera – for all his work in devising the online system to manage entries and scores.  Ragged Stone Cider was crowned Champion Cidermaker, while Dave and Fiona Matthews of Bartestree Cider Company were presented with the trophy for Champion Perrymaker.  Lucie Mayerova of Naked Orchards won Best Product in Show for her Draught Sweet Perry – it is just three years since Lucie first entered as a novice perrymaker!

Full results are available at:


The Big Apple is now looking forward to October, when it is hoped to run Harvestime events in and around Much Marcle over the weekend of 9th and 10th October.



Pictured at Darts Farm (left to right):  Mark Hopper, Simon Jupp MP, Michael Dart and Barny Butterfield

East Devon MP Simon Jupp met with Sandford Orchards owner Barny Butterfield, Michael Dart from Darts Farm and Mark Hopper from the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) at a public event held by Darts Farm on Friday 21st May 2021.

After being given a tour of Darts Farm’s new restaurant and cidery, The Farm Table, and learning more about the cider industry, Simon listened to concerns about cider makers’ tanks remaining largely blocked with the 2019 and 2020 harvests, which may need to be destroyed to make way for this year’s apple harvest. Worse still, was the fear that without support, decades old cider apple orchards may vanish from the countryside. The impacts of the numerous COVID lockdowns, pubs, bars shut and cancelled festivals over the last 12 months, has left some apple growers and cider makers in a perilous position.

“Cider makers are asking for much needed support to allow them to recover from the impact of COVID and for the government to keep their pledge to reduce red tape for business,” said Mark Hopper NACM. “The Treasury review into how cider and other alcoholic beverages are taxed is an opportunity to provide much needed support for our industry, but cider makers are concerned about more complexity and added cost.”

Barny Butterfield said: “This year has tested so many businesses like ours, our loss has also been felt across the industry, with apple growers and pubs feeling the hurt even more keenly than ourselves. We are grateful to have survived the year, the next few years as the industry rebuilds will be critical and we need sympathetic support from our government to survive in the long term.”

“This part of Devon has an unrivalled history in cider making and folklore,” said Michael Dart, Director of Darts Farm. “We’re proud to support independent producers and during the pandemic we launched ‘Save our Cidermakers’, which helped to engage the public with the challenges faced by these producers. But there is so much more that is needed. Recently, we hosted our Franklin’s night feast where we enjoyed an evening celebrating cider’s rich history in our county, as well as the importance of cider to our identity and our future. We call on our government to protect this unique Devonshire industry for all of us.”

Barny Butterfield said: “Cider making depends on locally grown apples, but these orchards take the best part of a decade to reach full crop and can’t just be turned on and off to suit demand. After a very difficult year, we urgently need support to ensure that capacity is opened up and cider apple growers are able to sell their 2021 crop this autumn.

”Speaking after the visit, Simon Jupp said: “It’s great to see a prominent Devon business continue to be optimistic after such a challenging year. Cider duty was once again frozen in this year’s Budget to help support the hospitality sector and the wider supply chain. I will continue to support cider makers in East Devon and NACM to help champion and promote a level playing field for the industry.”

Sandford Orchards 
Founded in 2002 to top-up a farm labourer’s wage, Sandford Orchards now occupies the oldest working cider mill in the UK and has been responsible for a revival in traditional and modern orchards employing 30. It is a vocal supporter of the wider cider industry. www.sandfordorchards.co.uk

Darts Farm 
Over the past 25 years Darts Farm has been continually evolving to become one of the most exciting shopping experiences in the South West. Darts Farm remains a family business run by the Dart brothers; the retail looked after by Michael and James and the farm headed up by Paul. The business is, at its core, still a working farm, and sells all of its home-grown produce directly through the farm shop.  www.dartsfarm.co.uk

  • Darts Farm was named ‘Best South West Farm Shop’ in the Taste of the West Awards 2018 and was crowned the Winner of the ‘Best Farm Shop’ at the Food Reader Awards in 2020.
  • With over 17,000 visitors a week, Darts Farm prides itself on its exceptional customer experience and the warm, friendly atmosphere around the store, enhanced by the Dart brothers’ hands on management, family involvement and their passionate members of staff.
  • With Ruby Red Devon cattle grazing in the fields, Paul Dart and his team harvest a wonderful selection of fresh fruit and vegetables daily, which are sold in the food hall and used by the restaurant in their delicious seasonal dishes.
  • Darts Farm can be found overlooking the beautiful Clyst Valley in the picturesque town of Topsham, near Clyst St George, on the outskirts of Exeter in Devon (EX3 0QH)