John & May Mcgrouther

The Orchards – Stembridge

The Orchards, Stembridge :Tithe Map of 1841
Plot numbers 734 , 735 , 736 and 737 are shown as being in the ownership of Robert Sansom Rood Pittard and being occupied by – himself.
Plot 734 – A Nursery Plot 735 – A Garden
Plot 736 – House, Offices & Yard
Plot 737 – Battshay Orchard
Plot 738 is owned by Thomas Porter
as a House and Garden.

The 1841 Tithe Map indicates that orchards have been on this site for some time. Being a 16th/17th century house, you’d like to think the apple-growing stretches back even further on the plot. In 1842 the nearest neighbour was Thomas Porter whose family is later to develop and establish further the work of cider apple-tree development in East Lambrook.

We inherited over 300 cider apple trees when we moved in, in 1997.
Our orchard is very traditional, planted with standards so that it can be used for grazing. There were 17 different varieties of cider apple, those I can remember are: Browns Apple, Bulmers Norman, Chisel Jersey, Coat Jersey, Court Royal, Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey, Lambrook Pippin, Michelin, Mid-Lambrook, Red Worthy, Radstock (or Black Dabinett), Stembridge Cluster, Sweet Alford, Tremlet’s Bitter, Vilberie, Yarlington Mill.
There was also a Duke of Devon, Tom Putt, Newton’s Wonder and three Bramley’s Seedling.

One thing led to another and we started cider-making along traditional lines – building on the legacy with an old college friend – Bruce. Pressing through organic straw and using a traditional press, we became Black Mac Cider. Our two sons worked on the project and we sold at farmers’ markets.

Our approach is a gentle, all-embracing environmental one – with sheep beneath the trees and a wide variety of flora and fauna being attracted in to the orchard.

Most tree-planting is random with a mix of early, mid and late season apples, which is good for pollination and extending the harvest season. We have a mix of sweet, bitter, bittersweet and sharps: acid for flavour, sugar for alcohol and tannins to develop.

The ‘joy’ of cider orchards and cider-making is to pass this ‘joy’ on working with others. Tim & Calum have used the site to develop their Parrett Cider Company over the past few years. This is really heartening to witness them helping to carry this aspect of the Parish’s heritage & culture.
John Mcgrouther – from one of two panels entitled
‘John at the Cider Press’ by Bruce Bond.

John & May McGrouther