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... and so to cider!

I spent a wonderful day at West Milton on Sunday 5 November last year when the village community picked and pressed apples for cider. The West Milton Cider Club has been going for twenty five years next year.

"My father was a farmer locally, he didn't make cider but he always bought some in for the workers at harvest time. Our Cider Club started by chance. In 2000 we rented a few acres and one field called 'Maiden Crate', had thirteen very old cider apple trees. I'd never made cider, but I asked around and about twenty of us got together. We didn't even have a proper mill at first, we just used hammers to mash the apples and got drench in juice. We press the apples from Maiden Crate and Margaret's orchard, a good mix of bittersweets, some sharps, and a few desserts and cookers to help balance the acidity. The Cider Club's a community thing, everyone joins in. We come together for lunch every month, it's a focal point of the village, a place to meet up. We make about a hogshead of cider every year, sometimes, more, just for ourselves - and we give it to village events". Nick Poole, West Milton, Dorset

I made drawings and took photographs during the course of the day when everyone was incredibly busy, doing all the different jobs, swapping about and keeping the processes going. There was the carrying of apples, tipping them in the mill for crushing, building the 'cheese', screwing down the press, carting off the pomace to feed the endless production line where the assembled crowd each took their turn.

Wondeful team effort in the verandah of the shed where the Club meets monthly to sup the cider they make. Keeping alive the old tradition of cidermaking by the community, for the community - although not, of course, as it once was, a form of payment for farmworkers.

I went back home with all my visual material from the day and composed a drawing incorporating the different jobs, moving people around, rubbing them out, re-drawing them, trying someone else.... it was a chance thing who ended up being included because all the jobs were shared. Sadly Margaret Morgan-Grenville didn't end up being one of those featured. The hut was built by Margaret in her orchard when the Club lost a previous barn they were using. I will have to make another drawing featuring Margaret, whose contribution to the Club's wellbeing is pivotal.

There is now a framed print of the drawing in the hut and greetings cards. The cards are available from me and will be for sale in the Cider Tent at the Royal Bath and West Show this coming spring.



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