• Sunday, 26 May 2024:
    Maintenance work party at Sawmill Orchard

    Many hands made light work of weeding and general clearing at the Sawmill Orchard prior to the AGM on 26th May.

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    A dozen or so members gathered at the Sawmill Orchard in Hutton in the Forest on Sunday 26th May prior to the AGM at Hutton tearoom. The weeds had grown spectacularly and the group worked diligently to clear the growth around the trees. The weed mats along the cordons have done a good job restricting the weed growth but a lot of hand weeding was done between the trees, while the strimmers tackled the wider spaces. There is a lot of comfrey growing on the site which will provide good mulch later in the year.

  • Tuesday, 16 January 2024:
    Christmas dinner and cider competition

    For the second year, we held our Christmas dinner and cider competion at the Barista in Wigton.

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    Each year, the North Cumbria Orchard Group hold a Christmas Dinner to mark the end and of the apple year. This year’s event was held at the Barista restaurant in Wigton on Thus 14th Dec with 25 members attending. The event was very successful – possibly indicated by the number of bottles and glasses on the table!

    Those attending the dinner were entered into a free draw for 10 Litres of the Cider Group’s 2023 vintage. This was won by Alexander who seemed very pleased with his prize!

    A cider competition is normally held at the end of the dinner to gauge the quality of the cider produced in the region – with a few commercial brands thrown in to provide a comparison. There was a great addition to the competition this year with the introduction of a prize for the winner of an inscribed tankard donated by Eileen Rees in memory of Ronald Graham (last year's winner). The results are shown in the attached document.

    The competition was technically won by an oak-aged commercial craft cider, but was closely followed among the members' entries by Mark Evens's limited edition keeved Dabinett, which therefore won the Ronald Graham cup.

    So what do the results tell us? Any lessons to be learnt?

    1. Mark entered two identical ciders – but prepared in two different ways. The best of the two, and the overall winner among the members' entries, was prepared by keeving. The definition of keeving according cider.org.uk is :-

    “'Keeving' is a way of making the ultimate style of naturally sweet sparkling cider. This is traditional both in Western England and the northwest of France, but whereas it has virtually died out as a commercial proposition in the UK, it is still very much alive for the production of ‘cidre bouché’ in France. The underlying principle is to remove nutrients from the juice by complexation with pectin at an early stage, to ensure a long slow fermentation which finishes and can be bottled while still sweet and without any fear of excessive re-fermentation later.”

    So perhaps NCOG members should consider this method for next year. If so, look up 'keeving kit' on the internet

    1. Cider doesn’t seem to age well. It’s not like wine where it matures over the time. So the Vintage Annie Elizabeth which won last year and the Covid Cider (2022) both dropped down in the scoring. (Mark disagrees - it is largely a matter of taste - last year's winner was not fully fermented and therefore slightly sweet - see the point below)
    2. There seems to be a definite preference towards sweetness. The Keeved, Pear Cider, & Holly Cottage apple juice (alcohol-free cider!) all scored in the upper half of the table.
    3. The Asda offering still held up in the scoring – with some giving it high scores. Perhaps the artificial sweeteners used attracts some people (see point 3 above) although others described it as chemical and nasty.
    4. Would it be worth trying try to get hold of an oak barrel to mature some of our cider? Is this really what Sheppy do?

  • Sunday, 26 November 2023:
    Cider Making 2023/24

    Successful NCOG Cider Pressing for 2023

    Further information

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    We had our annual Cider Club pressing on Sunday 26th Nov.

    It took place at a new site. Mike Taylor’s place near Wigton and we were made very welcome by Mike and his family.

    Eighteen people booked over the whole day – but there were also visitors and friends of NCOG who showed up to support the event. The weather was very kind the whole day. No rain and not too cold. A typical Cumbrian Autumn day.

    A steady stream of people bringing apples for the community cider resulted in 180 litres of cider which will mature over the year for packaging next fall. This was well down on the 360 litres produced last year. This reflected most people’s experience of the apple growing year which, with some exceptions, was very poor due to early frosts and a very wet summer.

    Technical Detail

    We had some technical questions on the use of Campden tablets at the start of the brewing process which Mark was able to clarify when he turned up.

    Campden tablets are used to kill off any strains of nasties in the juice which could get a jump on the yeast and interfere with the fermentation process.

    Basically, you have a choice. If you add Campden tablets to the max recommended dosage then you need to wait 24 hours before adding yeast to allow it to take effect. However, if you decide to go for a wild fermentation use half the dosage (and obviously, no yeast is required).

    Our two vats of cider (100L & 80L) had a ph readings of 3.10 & 3.07 which were judged to be so acidic that no nasties would prevail therefore no Campden tablets were used. We did add cultured yeast (Lalvin 71b) to the 80L vat and we’re going with natural wild yeast for the 100L. Now it’s just a question of waiting.

  • Saturday, 12 August 2023:
    Summer pruning and scything

    The weather gods were not too unkind and the attendance was good at our annual summer pruning and scything fest.

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    Despite the damp weather we had pretty much full attendance for those booked on the morning summer pruning and orchard tour - about 25 members in total. Cumbrian orchardists are not put off by a bit of patchy drizzle!

    Lunch was a sociable affair greatly enhanced by the contributions of cake etc. and Alison's fine bread and soup. Our supplications to the relevant authorities resulted in a dry afternoon for scything, which about half a dozen members got into with some gusto and in many cases surprised themselves with how easy it was and how well they did.

    If anyone present took any pictures of the event, please email me and I will add them.

  • Saturday, 12 August 2023:
    Committee meeting 12/8/23

    The first committee meeting after the AGM was held on Aug 12th 2023. There was a very full agenda - this and other papers can be read by NCOG members by signing into 'My NCOG'.

    Further information

    The full details can only be viewed by signed-in members.

    Members: to view the details, first go to "My NCOG" to get an access link.

  • Sunday, 16 July 2023:
    Weeding wonders

    Many hands make short work of weeding...

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    On July 16th, a lively band of members, well-armed with weeding tools tackled the weeds that had grown up between the newly-planted trees at the NCOG orchard at Hutton. The weeds had grown vigorously (the souil is obviously very fertile) but were soon removed and replaced by pieces of cardboard to limit re-growth. Also, the trees were inspected and re-tied where necessary. One tree (out of 74) had died and a small number were looking weak -probably as a result of the hot dry weather in June.

    Despite a forecast which warned of heavy showers and even possible thunderstorms, we had a fine sunny afternoon as the pictures show.

  • Sunday, 16 July 2023:
    AGM 16th July 2023

    We held our 12th Annual General Meeting at Hutton-in-the-Forest on 16th July 2023. Members can sign in to see the full report and papers.

    Further information

    The full details can only be viewed by signed-in members.

    Members: to view the details, first go to "My NCOG" to get an access link.

  • Saturday, 18 March 2023:
    New orchard in a day....

    .. well, almost. A group of about 12 volunteers managed to dig, rig and plant over 50 cordon apples on a fine afternoon.

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    Today, the first working party gathered to establish the new 'NCOG orchard' at the 'Sawmills' site on the Hutton-in-the-Forest Estate. The purpose of the orchard is principally to:

    • provide a site for workshops in orchard management, particularly summer pruning of trained forms;
    • be a source of reference apples for identification and display purposes, in particular at the Hutton-in-the-Forest Apple Days; and
    • be a source of scion wood for grafting.

    The group achieved far more than we thought we could. All the ground was dug, all the canes for three rows of cordons were tied in and 53 trees planted. We were helped by the ground being better than it initially looked and by a fine spell of early spring weather (not to mention some slices of cake :-) ).

    Hopefully the pictures say more than words can.

    A further working party is planned for 25th March, which should easily finish the job (weather permitting).

  • Saturday, 28 January 2023:
    Winter pruning event at Firbank Westlinton

    Good event nice sunshine

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    Just over 20 people turned up for an excellent day's pruning at Firbank. Our host, Sarah Carr-Baugh laid on drinks, cake and soup which was all much appreciated.

  • Wednesday, 5 January 2022:
    Winter pruning

    Hi all,I volunteer at the Cumbria Wildlife Trust site, Gosling S...

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    Hi all,

    I volunteer at the Cumbria Wildlife Trust site, Gosling Sike, where there is a small orchard. I have taken the volunteer lead for managing the orchard and am hoping to arrange a pruning session with a few more volunteers towards the end of this month, none of us are orchard experts. Is there anyone in this group who would like to join in the session and/or advise us while we do it? You can contact me on lyndao@btinternet.com

    Thanks, Lynda