Producing the Goods

Gregg’s Pit Cider & Perry

Herefordshire is traditional orchard country, and was once described as a forest of fruit trees. Many farms still have traditional apple and perry pear orchards, the main concentrations are in the area around Much Marcle, between Tenbury Wells and Bromyard, in the valleys of the Severn and Avon and the Malvern Hills.

In restoring his orchard and continuing the craft of cider and perry making, James Marsden is conserving the local landscape, wild life and the culture associated with the place.

Gregg’s Pit cider and perry is made using traditional techniques from 100% juice of the fruit from James Marsden’s and his neighbours orchards in Much Marcle, Herefordshire. James manages his orchards "for the benefit of local wildlife, landscape and cultural tradition as well as to provide vintage fruit". He markets his products as ‘Herefordshire Cider’ and ‘Herefordshire Perry’. In 2003 they were awarded Protected Geographical Indications (European status) meaning they originate from Herefordshire and "have the quality and characteristics attributable to the county."

James bought Gregg’s Pit Orchard (0.5ha with 100 trees) in 1992 and spent much time restoring it, identifying the trees, replanting gaps, pruning and re-introducing grazing cattle/sheep from May until the end of July.

In 1994 he set up a micro-business which is now an award-winning, small-scale producer of craft cider and perry. The business produces a range of artisanal single variety and named varietal blended ciders and perrys for niche markets. About 800 gallons are produced each year, of which 70% is sold as draught products and 30% is sold in 75cl bottles across the Marches area. 40% of turnover comes from direct sales at farmers markets, local food and drink festivals and open days. (Additional income is obtained from grazing rental, sales of apples to juicers and sale of mistletoe at Christmas).

This work takes James about 30 days a year, but it is not a drudge, this is his passion. He and his fellow 24 small-scale producers in the Three Counties keep the remaining traditional orchards thriving and contribute about £1.5m to the local /regional economy. In addition, they provide local restaurants, shops and pubs with distinctive, high quality local produce.

But that is by no means all. What he has achieved is a demonstration of the maintenance of rich habitats for all kinds of creatures and plants as well as producing fine products. He recalls one day in September 1999 seeing seven butterfly species enjoying his plums: comma, large white, painted lady, red admiral, small copper, small tortoiseshell and speckled wood; at other times meadow brown, gatekeeper, purple hairstreak, brimstone, holly blue, orange tip, peacock and ringlet have been recorded. Long lists of birds, bees, bats and beetles beyond counting as well as butterflies are welcomed into the traditional orchard together with fungi, wild flowers and browsing creatures.

Orchards and Wild Life – papers from Common Ground / English Nature Conference 1999 available from Common Ground £5 plus p&p. See our Publications pages for more detail

Products:

Perrys include:
Thorn; Moorcroft; Gregg’s Pit Aylton Red & Blakeney; Brandy; Butt & Huffcap.
Ciders:
Brown’s Apple & Kingston Black; Dabinett, Hangdown & Sweet Coppin; Brown’s Apple & Dabinett,; Brown Snout & White Close Pippin.

Contact: James Marsden,
Gregg’s Pit Cider & Perry, Much Marcle, Herefordshire HR8 2NL
+44 (0)1531 660687
<www.greggs-pit.co.uk>