APPLE growing and cider making is to Herefordshire, what plums and asparagus are to Worcestershire.

For centuries apple orchards and cider making have been a tradition at the heart of rural Herefordshire.

Cider was produced on farms to be drunk by labourers the following year – particularly at busy times of hay making and harvest. Farmers also used to sell cider to local pubs and cider-merchants for re-sale.

By the end of the 19th century when the industrial revolution was influencing production methods in a huge range of businesses, the world’s biggest cider mill was built in Hereford city centre by local vicar’s son Percy Bulmer.

It established Herefordshire as the undisputed capital of cider making in Britain, if not the world. Bulmers (now owned by Heineken) became an international brand and today its products are to be found in most pubs and supermarkets across the UK.

But the tradition of apple growing and home or small volume cider making still thrives in Herefordshire and The Big Apple Association – a community organisation established in 1989 – holds and annual family-type event in early May each year to celebrate the custom.

The homage to cider and perry is held immediately after the group’s annual open Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials, which first started in 1992 and attracts entries from the UK and further afield including the USA and Finland.

The trials are hotly contested as the entries are not assessed by a panel of judges but everyone entering the competition becomes a judge on the day.

The group is based in seven parishes of Herefordshire between Ledbury and Hereford and is holding its Blossomtime weekend over the May Day, or Early May, Bank Holiday weekend on Sunday May 7 and Monday May 7 in the Putley area.

The Big Apple Association is planning two days packed with activities and entertainment for all the family including a grand cider tasting at Putley Village Hall.

The association secretary Jackie Denman said: “Together with its surrounding parishes, Putley is famous for its orchards and the mix of dessert and cider fruit means that there will always be blossom at this time of year.

“Visitors can walk through the orchards, taste the ciders, enjoy a home-made lunch or tea and

discover for themselves why orchards are special places and apples matter to us all.”

She added: “Putley will also be welcoming some special guests. On Sunday morning, Graham Harvey, onetime agricultural story editor to The Archers radio series, and James Crowden, author, poet and cider enthusiast, will share their thoughts on the impact of cider on poetry, The Archers and the world at large. Their talk will take place at Dragon Orchard at 11am.

“Each afternoon, ciderologist Gabe Cook, fresh from his recent tour of cider making areas around the world, will offer pop-up tutored cider tastings at Putley Village Hall.”

On Monday morning, the Skittery family will welcome visitors to see how Jus, their award winning single variety apple juice, is made at Birchall Farm in Aylton.

Apart from trying a few of the local ciders, visitors can try a range of apple juices, take a walk through the orchards around Putley, with or without a guide, walk across the orchards to Aylton and visit the refurbished Manorial Barn and Aylton church.

The grand cider tasting takes place at Putley Village Hall from 2pm until 6pm on Sunday and from 12 noon until 5pm on Monday. There will be well over 100 ciders and perries, which were entered in this year’s annual Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials, for people to try.

This two-day seasonal celebration starts at 9.30am on Sunday with a guided walk through the orchards and fields of Putley and this is followed at 11am with James Crowden and Graham Harvey sharing their thoughts on the impact of cider on rural poetry, The Archers and the world at large.

From 12.30pm there will be a Cheese Ploughman’s lunch in the restored Grade II* cruck barn and from 12.30pm until 2.30pm the church which its special floral decorations will be open for people to visit. Proceeds from that will go to St Michael’s Hospice, near Hereford; Aylton Church and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Fund.

There will be another orchard guided walk at 2.30pm and apple tea will be served by Tarrington Brownies from 2pm. The tutored tastings of single variety ciders for over 18-year-olds with Gabe Cook will take place in the village hall at 3pm.

Leominster Morris will be providing some dance entertainment from 4pm at the hall and more tutored tastings will start at 5pm.

The special events on Monday May 7 start at 9.30am with a natural history of the orchards, involving a guided walk to discover local wildlife with Herefordshire Ornithological Club.

This is followed at 10am by a fitness walk for one hour around Putley, with the reward of apple juice on returning to the village hall.

At 10.30am there will be a guided walk where people will be able to sample Jus’s award-winning single variety apple juices, tasting them right by the trees they came from. Proceeds will go to Little Marcle Church.

Another guided walk through the orchards starts at 1.30pm and apple teas will be available from 2pm. The Folk trio Flddlers Two will perform a wide range of traditional fiddle tunes from around the world including gentle airs, waltzes, rip-roaring foot-stompers, jigs, and reels starting at 2pm.

Monday’s activities will conclude with more tutored tastings from Gabe Cook starting at 3.30pm.

A full programme is available at and more information can be found at Facebook:; Twitter:


Anyone who doesn’t want to get involved with the cider celebrations can simply wander through Marcle Ridge country and enjoy the scenery where the fields, orchards and woodland create a living farming patchwork. The slopes of the Marcle Ridge offer splendid views across the Malvern Hills to the east and Woolhope to the west is in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.