Wednesday, 29 February 2012

All Play, No Work

Now isn't that a thing of woody beauty. Actually it's a bit tatty around the edges, as befits a thing with a good bit of age and some robust competitive usage. There are one or three suspicious looking holes in the timber too, and the end piece could do with a bit of glue... but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as polished bits of wood go, this one's a real looker.

It's not, as you'd perhaps be mistaken for thinking, a Shove Ha'penny board. No, this is a much rarer plank, and the result of a thoroughly local bit of carpentry too. This is a Push Penny board, a game played almost exclusively up the road in Stamford, and something I'd hoped I might find on my travels, without any great expectation it must be said.

The game itself is very similar to Shove Ha'penny, and similarly rooted deeply in pub culture. The main difference in play is that instead of the usual five Half Pennys shoved up the board, three old Pennys are used, which being that much larger mean the beds on the board are a fair bit wider too. Traditionally, the three coins are smoothed on one side, and each coin will have a slightly different thickness, adding an extra element of skill to play.

I'm really looking forward to a game, though there could be a short delay before the first Shove-Off. Not only am I embarrassingly short of old Pennys, but the lengthy process of smoothing and polishing the coins ready for play is not a job I'm particularly looking forward to!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Leicester CAMRA Beer Festival - Cider & Perry List

Yes, finally released from the bondage of embargo, it's another Rockingham Forest Cider Blog Exclusive.


The cider and perry list for the Leicester CAMRA Beer Festival is a secret we just can't keep to ourselves. So here it is, in its entirety, though as ever liable to change between now and opening day, but probably not by much:

East Midlands

There will be barrels just like these,
though with different stuff inside them.
Bottle Kicking Cider Co. Hallaton, Leicestershire - Dry & Med/Dry Scrambler Cider
Charnwood Cider, Leicestershire - Cider
Farmer Fear, Leicestershire - Cider
Rockingham Forest, Middleton, Northamptonshire - Kingston Black/Sweet Alford Cider & Perry
Scropton, Derbyshire - Cider
Torkard, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire - Cider & Perry

Three Counties and Wales

Brook Farm, Herefordshire - Cider & Perry
Gwatkin, Herefordshire - Perry
Gwynt Y Ddraig, Glamorgan - Two Trees Perry & Black Dragon Cider
Olivers, Herefordshire - Cider & Perry

Bridge Farm - Cider & Perry
Burrow Hill - Cider
Chant - Cider & Perry
Ermie & Gertie - Cider
Hecks - Port Wine of Glastonbury Cider & Perry
Naish - Cider
Parsons Choice - Cider
Perrys - Cider
Richs - Legbender Cider
Sheppys - Cider
Tricky - Cider
Westcroft - Janet's Jungle Juice Cider

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Village Orchard Project - Update

Work has moved up a gear in the village orchard now that the weather has turned clement.

With the brambles now all cleared from the perimeters, perhaps the most striking difference is that it looks so much bigger. So much so that the remaining trees look quite sparse against the expanse of orchard floor. Now this is important because one of the ongoing plans for the orchard is to plant a few extra fruit trees, and I'd been wondering whether there was really room for them. I can see now that a few well positioned saplings will eventually help give the space a more traditional orchard feel than it perhaps has at the moment.

Another major alteration has been the removal of the apple tree which fell during high winds a few years ago. Despite the fact that this tree has still cropped regularly since it was blown over, it was hard to see how a felled tree like this could remain as part of a more accessible orchard.

Footings are now in place, and the bricks from the demolished walls have been cleaned up ready to rebuild the walls along two sides of the orchards boundary. Presumably there are not enough usable reclaimed bricks to reinstate the rear wall, and this has now been replaced with a new timber fence.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Ciderhouse News - February Pt.2

  • Written confirmation of our Silver award in the East Midlands Cider Competition arrived by hand from competition organiser Dee Wright this weekend. There's an image of the certificate over there on the right, go on, have a look. Gold award winners Ray & Gail Blockley of Torkard Cider were also on hand to take receipt of their certificate, and since the presentation took place at the Canalhouse in Nottingham during a SIBA beer festival, it was a good excuse for a few halves and a natter. I wore a new woolly jumper for the occasion, and tried not to squeeze Dee's hand too hard.

  • The trip also gave us the opportunity to deliver a barrel of early season Medium/Sweet Blakeney Red Perry (4.9%) for the forthcoming Hucknall Beer Festival. This will be the first festival of 2012 where cider or perry from all three of the East Midlands regional winners will be available, which includes the Bronze winner, Scropton Cider of Derbyshire.

  • Another opportunity to try ciders and/or perries from the top three will be at the rapidly approaching Leicester CAMRA Beer Festival. We'll be sending the very last barrels of our 2010 vintage, including the Kingston Black/Sweet Alford blend which won Silver. There's a strong rumour that our friends from Torkard Cider will be sending their first ever perry, expect this rarity to sell out very fast. In other recently leaked news, rare and otherwise excellent ciders have been ordered from Ermie & Gerties, Tricky, and Bridge Farm. We still hope to break the full cider and perry list exclusively on here, because some traditions are far too important to let go.... aren't they Susan!

  • Work has stalled briefly on the Middleton Village Orchard Project. With temperatures down to -12C this weekend, the frozen ground has proven more than a match for the hardy workforce, even with the help of a digger. The dilapidated walls are all down, we're now waiting for them all to go back up again.

  • ...and finally, here's a nice pic from this morning, featuring the old Bramley in our own garden orchard covered in Hoar Frost. A proper cold snap like this can only be a good thing for our trees, hopefully forcing a good period of dormancy, and maybe killing a few pests along the way too.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Cider Workshop Photographic Challenge

The grandly titled 2012 Cider Workshop Photographic Challenge is now officially open for business. The theme of this years competition is 'Pressing 2011', which I'll be taking as meaning all aspects of the pressing cycle, not just the squeeze itself. Even so, this years theme could present a slight problem for some people.

We wrapped up our cider pressing way back in November, and not a day too soon as far as I'm concerned, as the chill of Winter finally settled in the valley. I've heard of other hardy folk pressing on into December, and even well into the new year. That'll be 'Pressing 2012' if I'm not mistaken! Let's hope any late pressers snapped off a few award winning shots earlier on in the season.

For full details of the competition, which is an amateur and fun affair, follow this link to the Cider Workshop Photographic Challenge Rules. The Flickr photo group where you can view the entries as they trickle in can be found here. Do enter a photo of your own or other peoples pressing adventures, the more the merrier.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Surplus Books For Sale

You know how it is. Rooting around on the dusty shelves of a second hand bookshop, looking for nothing in particular, but with half an eye on your chosen specialist subject. In this case, the old apples'n'pears geezer. The search, often as not, proves fruitless. But every now and then, you spot something interesting. Something interesting and ideally not too expensive, maybe even a bargain. Another hour of your life pencilled down in the Ledger of Life as 'Not Entirely Wasted'. Result!

So you get your new-old book home, and after a cursory flick through the pages, admiring the pretty colour plates, marvelling at the wide range of toxic chemicals available to orchardists of old, you nestle it comfortably onto the bookshelf next to that other copy of the same book you bought a few years ago... damn!

Now this wouldn't be an issue if I was a serious collector of books. Perhaps this newly bought copy is in better condition. Maybe it sports a dog-eared dust jacket I hadn't previously owned. Like as not, it's an entirely different edition, a rare 1946 copy, made from poor quality War Standard paper rather than the common as muck Velum pre-war editions. The content will of course be entirely the same...

I'm not a serious collector, so every now and then I like to clear out any unnecessary duplications for nothing more than the price I payed plus a little postage and packing. Top quality cider or perry works too in this regard.

The Fruit Garden Displayed (RHS, 1974 edition) - These are common, I've already got a slightly later edition, and a tatty harback (possible) 1st edition from 1951. Still very usueful, and worth having if only for the fascinating adverts at the back. Cost me £1.50.

CAMRA Good Cider Guide - David Kitton (Alma Books, 1987) - Useful in its day, but more of a historical reference book now. Very little editorial, but one of the better gazeteers of producers at the back. Cost me £0.99.

Modern Fruit Growing - W.P Seabrook (Ernest Benn Ltd, 8th Edition 1947) - A lovely little book covering all aspects of commercial fruit growing (though mostly apples), and featuring some nice b/w photos, and a great selection of vintage advertising at the back. I've already got a slightly earlier dust-jacketed edition. Cost £3.00

Good homes please, no dealers, and if you've already got a good copy, please leave this one for someone who hasn't. Leave a comment, or contact through the website if you're interested.