Sunday, 27 July 2008

Rockingham Forest Perry?

Rumours have reached us of a serious shortage of perry pears in the Three Counties. Mike Johnson of Broome Farm Cider in Herefordshire is currently 'scouring the shire' for available perry pears following the failure of his trees to set much fruit this year, and others in Herefordshire are reporting a similar tale.

We've recently been granted the use of fruit from a very old Worcestershire cider orchard, which also contains several ancient perry pear trees. Needless to say we were greatly looking forward to making our first ever batch of perry from this fruit, particularly as the varieties, Moorcroft and Blakeney Red, are such excellent quality pears capable of making very decent single variety perrys. News of shortages in Herefordshire spurred us to go take a look at this years crop in Worcestershire.

The orchard is set in a beautiful part of the Cotswolds, and though very old, and containing some dead and decaying trees, it's still productive and certainly a wonderful place to spend a hot Sunday afternoon. We examined the cider apple trees which were laden with ripening fruitletts. The cider varieties are also top quality, and include Dabinett's and Kingston Black's, both renowned for making excellent quality ciders. The ground here is not the most giving, and many of the trees are smaller than their age suggests. Orchard owner John suggests that this contributes to the quality of the fruit from his orchard, and having tried his cider in the days when he still made a drop, I can well believe this.

So plenty of cider fruit, but what of the perry pears. Armed with a small set of binoculars, we examined the tall perry pear trees carefully. Small clusters of the small pears could be seen on most of the trees, though hardly a bumper crop on any. It will be touch and go whether we can harvest enough pears to make even one batch of perry this year, though we didn't tour the whole orchard which extends through three separate fields, so there may be more than we think.

A lovely day out in an old orchard rich in wildlife. We spotted Buzzards and Woodpeckers on our stroll through the trees. Common enough birds for sure, but seen in an increasingly rare environment these days. Perhaps the highlight of the day for me was the generous thumbs-up we got from John for a bottle of our own cider. John knows a thing or two about cidermaking so this was high praise indeed for our own humble efforts.

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