Cider apple growers across the West Country are being encouraged to enter their orchards for the Silver Medal awarded by the Royal Bath and West Show for the best cider orchard.
The area of cider orchards in England has been increasing, with the latest survey, in 2012, showing an increase of 8% to 7178 hectares, with growth being concentrated on modern bush orchards, for the commercial cider market. But at the same time, many older, standard cider orchards are being brought back into production, many of them by specialist contractors, in response to an encouraging upsurge in interest in making and drinking more traditional, artisan types of cider.
“Wherever you look in the West Country at present, you can see new orchards being planted or old orchards being given a new lease of life”, says Bob Chaplin, Chief Steward of the Royal Bath and West’s Orchards and Cider section, which organises the Best Orchard competition. “Standards of orcharding are probably higher now than they have been for many years, and we have hundreds of outstanding examples of that across the length and breadth of the West Country. Whether you are a commercial cider grower with a modern orchard supplying one of the big cider makers, or a farmhouse cider-maker with traditional varieties, or one of the growing band of small-scale orchard owners with a passion for cider and cider apples, then we want you to enter our competition.
“Even if you are not lucky enough to be one of the winners, you are certain to learn a lot from our vastly experienced judges and the feed-back they will provide. The more entries we get, the more the competition can achieve in celebrating the cider orchards we’ve got, and raising standards even higher for the future.”
The Royal Bath and West Orchards and Cider Best Cider Orchard class is open to cider orchards of any size throughout the country. The judges will take into account tree health, apple crops and grazing (where appropriate), tidiness, standard of pruning and environment.
The competition will be judged during May.
Entries can be made online at www.bathandwest.com or contact the showground on 01749 822200