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Top of the tree - Darley Abbey Cider Company

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 October 2017

Donating apples

Donating apples

as supplied

Now to be found on the shelves of discerning stockists are the results of another local success story – Darley Abbey Cider. Dawn-Elizabeth Rudd meets artisan producer and founder of the company Simon Worsey

Simon with the local pigs benefiting from the apple pulp Simon with the local pigs benefiting from the apple pulp

Gardens and the fascinating stories behind them have always intrigued me. They are places to enjoy with family and friends with manicured lawns, vibrant flowers and prolific vegetable patches. One does not necessarily think of apple trees and pigs, and particularly not on the outskirts of Derby. So a recent opportunity to look behind the scenes at the Darley Abbey Cider Company was not one to be missed.

When Simon Worsey set up the company in March 2016 in his back garden on the banks of the River Derwent, I am sure that neither his family nor the local residents realised what lay ahead. The first stage was the arrival of IBC tanks, used for storing apple juice during the fermentation process. These were shortly followed by a hydro-press, which travelled from Slovenia by road, rail and sea, and over 30m of food-grade hose, necessary to pump the cider from the cider house at the back of the garden to the front for transport to the bottling plant. These signs of the new venture were greeted by the local community with great excitement.

I arrive to find Simon, his charming and enthusiastic wife Pippa and two daughters Neve, 14, and Ava, 11, dressed in somewhat interesting attire and ready for action. Simon, resplendent in overalls and goggles, has been hard at work since 5am. His enthusiasm is infectious and you can clearly see why this family is held in great affection in this quiet corner of our vibrant county.

Simon had a dream of producing great-tasting artisan cider using locally grown apples. This wasn’t just about making great local cider but about creating a recognisable brand with a strong community ethos. All their cider is made with donated apples and they give a proportion back to their contributors in return – encouraging anyone who wants to help with the pressing to get involved.

Ready for action Ready for action

They hand-picked 30,000 apples from over 100 gardens, allotments and small orchards across Derbyshire during the course of September and October 2016. With the help of numerous volunteers they completed three two-day outdoor pressings producing a combined total of 3,000 litres of apple juice. They also generated 500kg of fresh apple pulp for local pigs.

Within five months their 3,000 litres of apple juice had been turned into 8,500 bottles of cider. Each 330ml bottle was a single blend of over 30 different varieties of apples, refreshingly medium-dry in flavour, lightly carbonated and with an ABV of 5.6 per cent.

Darley Abbey Cider, now in its second year of operation, can be found adorning the shelves in over 30 stores, pubs, farm shops, bars, cafés, restaurants and sports clubs in and around Derby. It is also recently being stocked by Chatsworth Farm Shop.

Simon and team will start collecting and pressing the 2017 cider this autumn, returning to many of the same contributors who supplied apples last year. However, this year they aim to produce 5,000 litres of apple juice, with more than one variety of cider on offer, both in bottles and on draft. Like wine, the flavour of the 2016 cider reflected last year’s weather and growing conditions as well as the combination of apple varieties used and the same will be true of the 2017 cider. But while the taste may change year-on-year, the approach and ethos remains the same.

Frank Corton pulping apples Frank Corton pulping apples

One local contributor had donated seven crates of apples, generating 14 bottles of cider, from the well-established orchard at his much-loved family home. He told me that he considered it part of the legacy left by his late mother who had an extraordinary ability to revive and nurture the most derelict plants and shrubs. Finding it difficult at the age of 90 to harvest her vintage apple trees, she had been excited by the idea of the Darley Abbey Cider Company and keen to donate her apples. Sadly she had not lived to see the cider produced but on the day of her funeral, her family stood beneath her beloved apple trees to salute her with a glass of the newly pressed cider and pay homage to a fine lady.

Perhaps in this case that well-known term ‘terroir’ involves more than soil, weather and variety of fruit and is an indication that we have much to be proud of in our county, such as fellowship and a strong community ethos which are alive and well.

To find out more, and take part in the 2017 harvest, see www.darleyabbeycider.co.uk or contact Simon Worsey, 2 Folly Rd, Derby, Derby DE22 1ED, tel: 07514599293, email: info@darleyabbeycider.co.uk

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