Saturday, 30 December 2017

PORLOCK WASSAIL - Saturday 6th January 2018

 Saturday 6th January 2018 

Starting at 5.45pm - at Dovery Manor Museum

 Kicking off the night will be a performance of the Mummers Play upstairs in the 'solar' at the museum.

 The Wassail ceremonies will the be carried out at the following  venues

Dovery Manor Museum Garden
Sparkhayes Farm Orchard
Visitor Centre Orchard Garden
Porlock Vale Community Orchard

and then.... more song and fun at a local pub!

Please wear stout footwear, bring a torch or lantern, saucepan lids wooden spoons, whistles, clackers or anything to make a really loud noise!

This is a FREE EVENT for all ages.

(Please be aware that there may be loud reports from shotguns as part of the Wassail Ceremonies in the Orchards - a bit like fireworks)

Porlock Apple Press Group are pleased to have donated traditionally crafted Scrumpy Cider, from juice produced by our old press, for the Mulled Cider cups offered on the night at Dovery Manor Museum and Porlock Visitor Centre

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Our most attended event yet!

The blustery and showery weather on 21st October didn't dampen the fun-filled atmosphere at The Porlock Apple Press & Rural Crafts Festival. This annual event is now being described as one of the foremost 'apple' events in the south-west with its ancient 'Somerset Pattern' oak press at centre stage, pressing apples donated from orchards all within a mile or so of the village.

This year saw well over 1000 visitors attend to enjoy the look back to the way things were done in yesteryear. Wonderfully, no whizzy modern, electrically powered gizmos were in sight. Instead young and old saw skilled craftspersons demonstrating old crafts. Amongst the attractions were Amanda Rayner from Lynton weaving baskets and other items being from withies, Master Thatcher Kieth Payne made rooftop features for thatched buildings - and mesmerised the junior visitors in particular, with his corn-dolly workshop. Wool spinning and weaving, demonstrated by ladies dressed in character, drew much attention. A collection of working vintage stationary engines, and farming implements represented the period of change when the mechanisation of agriculture started the rapid decline in the need for a large labour force in order to get jobs done on the land. A live bird of prey was a hit too. Bill, the owner - showed his captive born and raised Goshawk - allowing an incredible close-up view of one of our rarer resident birds of prey.

The old apple press demonstrated its purpose by squeezing several hundred gallons of juice from apples pulped in a 100 year old 'scratting' mill, powered by a 1936 Lister stationary engine. Prior to the mechanisation of agriculture, farmers needed to attract the labour it needed, especially at busy periods in the farming calender, and cider was used as a form of payment. Historical records suggest sometimes as much as two gallons a day! The farmer that made the best cider, and lots of it, generally got the labour needed - but how the work got done, goodness knows!
In addition to the historical attractions, home made 'appley' fare was showcased. Masses of home made apple cakes, apple based soups, jams, chutneys, confectionery - and lashings of home made apple sauce to pour over Toni Thornton's hog roast. They must have been a real hit with the visitors as there were none left by 3.30pm! We would like to thank Paul Barr (Piggy in The Middle restaurant), and Anne & Steve Burgess (Whortleberry Tearoom), for donating 1st and 2nd prizes to the raffle.    

While all this was going on, the apple juice and cider making 
process was described, and the audience had great fun enthusiastically (and loudly!), joining in with the chorus of the daft cider song, 'Dead Dog Scrumpy!' and its star 'Bendigo' the dog. Martyn and Lorraine Babb provided some additional improvised entertainment by wonderfully playing their instruments to the beat some of the old engines on display too.

Local historian, Derek Purvis, of Porlock Apple Press Group, is the reason the press is here at Porlock. Local farm presses were disposed of many years ago, so this one from elsewhere in Somerset was saved from a similar fate, brought to Porlock and renovated back to working condition. It is now housed in its own oak shelter in the visitor centre orchard garden (the old village school). Porlock Apple Press Group are a group of enthusiasts whose aim is to preserve the cider making history of the community in and around the Vale of Porlock, and the associated aspects of rural life when cider making was an important part of the economy, and community life. More information about the group, and next years event, can be found on their website

Thursday, 19 October 2017

FESTIVAL UPDATE for Saturday 21st October

We're going to have a bit of a windier festival compared to the last couple of years, but as we are located in the sheltered Porlock Visitor Centre Orchard Garden, we won't be too affected.

There might be a shower or two in the area during the day, but we've erected 3 big marquees, event shelters, and gazebos to keep them at bay... if they do actually come our way!

Whatever the weather, we have a whole range of attractions to make it a great day out... with something for all. Apart from the main reason, the apple press producing lots of lovely juice, we have many displays of old country crafts being kept alive by skilled crafts persons. A look back to yesteryear!

There will be a prize draw too, with some lovely prizes for the lucky winners. Tickets available on the day only, with the draw around 3.30pm.

Appley cakes, jams, chutneys,soups... and the incredibly popular Hog Roast - with lashings of home-made apple sauce, will all be available. That means no need to worry about a packed lunch! Tea and coffee available too.

New for this year will be an artisan fudge producer - with a fantastic Somerset Cider Apple Fudge, and an equally delicious Toffee Apple Fudge.

Car parking is a two minute walk away from the event site, and we have on-site loos too.

We are looking forward to putting on a great show for you and your family - see you on Saturday 21st October 10.00m to 4.30pm - at the Visitor Centre Garden - TA24 8QD 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Porlock Apple Press & Rural Crafts Festival - Sat 21st October 2017

The posters are up, and all the arrangements are being finalised, with lots of activity behind the scenes to bring you another great showcase of how things were done in years gone by.

We're busy collecting the apple harvest too. It seems like a really good year for the fruit - nice and juicy. The warm spring was great for the blossom pollination, and while we humans might have been disappointed with the moist July and early August, the apples have really benefited.

Looking forward to seeing you all on the 21st - at the start of the  school half-term holiday. Rain or shine, there will be a great atmosphere and lots of goodies to see... hear... smell... taste... touch..... and lastly....... to enjoy!!

The best bit is that it's free! 

A download of the advertising poster is available on our website at...    just click on the links on the home page or events pages.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

New Apple Mill!

To go with our lovely old press, we've just acquired a vintage Apple Mill, which after some restoration will be in action for Porlock Apple Press and Rural Crafts Festival on Saturday 21st October 2017.

We started out with a hand powered mill/pulper, and then we adapted a vintage 'beet chopper' to prepare the apples for pressing. Neither were ideal, but did what we wanted to do in order to demonstrate the process to obtain apple juice, which would have in turn been fermented to cider.

The hand powered machine was OK for small quantities, but in order to make two cheeses worth of pulp, it took around an hour and a half to chop - and a relay of weary arms!

The old farm 'beet chopper', belt driven by a vintage stationary engine, enabled us to speed up the process dramatically, but the pulp was not sufficiently small to maximise the juice yeild.

Now with our newly acquired vintage apple mill (around 100 years old), we have a machine which was purpose designed for the job. Again, coupled with a vintage stationary engine it will make the pulping process extremely efficient.

It is thanks to your donations that we have been able to save this piece of farming history, and to restore it for future generations to see the old way of doing things - thank you! 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Maintenance update!

We've been busy! 

The press is very old, so we wish to make sure it is looked after, especially as we believe she is the only one of her type still in use. Built in 1862 she is still in great condition, but there is the inevitability that wear and tear will take it's toll eventually.

We want the press to remain as original as possible, so to help us a local small company offerered to make replacement metalwork parts which had reached the end of their working life. We are most grateful to West Country Blacksmiths, based at Allerford Forge, just down the road, for their generous help.

In order to ensure that the press is ready for this years apple harvest, and the Porlock Apple Press & Rural Crafts Festival on Saturday 21st October, we've been busy to make sure that all work is done in time. This week we will be fitting the newly made parts - all made in a traditional way - hopefully ensuring many more years service.

Looking forward to seeing you on Sat 21st October for for the best apple festival in the south west of England - Porlock Apple Press & Rural Crafts Festival 2017

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Porlock Wassail 2017 - as seen on Sky News!

Despite pretty awful January weather the Porlock Wassail Ceremonies took place on the evening of 6th. Even Sky TV were there to capture the event!

Martyn Babb lead the celebrations with the traditional Wassail song, and Tamra Bruce - Wassail Queen - carried out her duties with the noisy encouragement of the gathered crowds.

Wassail Queen - Tamra Bruce   (Credit - Sky News)
Starting at the Visitor Centre orchard garden, the first of the ceremonies were carried out in front of the decorated 'Old Village Press', then up to the Porlock Vale Community Orchard and then back through the village to the Dovery Manor Museum, medieval orchard garden.

To complete the evenings festivities, Martyn Babb performed the 'Mummers Play' - fantastically playing each part himself - at The Royal Oak public house.

 Next year the weather will be kinder... hopefully. Thanks to all who made the event happen!