Apple day in Somerset: 5 fantastic events to enjoy

Crates filled with apples from the orchard at Barrington Court, Somerset.

Crates filled with apples from the orchard at Barrington Court, Somerset. - Credit: ©National Trust Images/William S

In this season of ‘mellow fruitfulness’ Simone Stanbrook-Byrne turns her attention to apples and events that celebrate their bounty

Grant Dennis, one of the organisers of the Porlock Apple Press event, narrates the process of apple

Grant Dennis, one of the organisers of the Porlock Apple Press event, narrates the process of apple pressing – and sings a cider song! The press resides in its own little ‘house’ to protect it from the weather. Photo: Maureen Harvey - Credit: Archant

There’s something quintessentially ‘Somerset’ about apple orchards. Strolling through their dappled light in late summer, trees dripping with birdsong and ripening fruit, there is a sense of wholesomeness, of good things to come.

English apples in autumn capture the essence of summer: a distillation of sunshine and warmth; of gentle rain and blue skies. Store them over the winter, and to bite into one is to taste the sweet and hazy days that produced it.

Crab apples are probably our original native apple while the sweeter domestic apple originated in the area where Kazakhstan borders China. They then spread through the Middle East and Europe; their introduction to us being something else for which we have to thank the Romans.

Apples are to be relished, whether for the fruit, the juice or the cider. They give us so much. The annual Apple Day traditionally falls in October and around the county events are planned to celebrate the richness of their season. Here are a few to choose from. (Before setting off check venues to confirm timings).

North Perrott Fruit Farms Apple Weekend

The first orchards here were planted by the present owner’s grandfather in 1929 – the farm has been in the same family since 1740. Their Apple Weekend was established 47 years ago, a forerunner to the many events that have evolved in recent years. The whole weekend celebrates Somerset apples at the height of the season, with a chance to taste and discuss over 40 varieties of apples and pears. The farm produces over 30 variations of apple juice from fruit grown on the farm and these are available to taste and purchase. Also enjoy an art exhibition from talented local artists and a vintage tractor rally with trailer rides around the farm – activities to appeal to all ages. Weather permitting, the vintage tractors may give a ploughing demonstration. All the money raised from refreshments helps upkeep of the village hall. There is also a farm shop, coffee shop and plant centre.

Saturday October 14 & Sunday October 15, 11.00am - 4.30pm

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Free admission, charity donations invited

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Porlock Apple Press and Rural Crafts Festival

A very traditional community day with an ‘appley’ theme running throughout this Exmoor village – many local shops and businesses join in with the celebration. Last year over 700 people attended. It upholds and maintains the historic art of apple pressing, harking back to a time when rural labourers received cider as part of their wages. The event features a restored and working ‘Somerset Pattern’ apple press, dating from 1862. Many activities are available, including woodland crafts, corn dollies, spinning and weaving and displays of vintage machinery. You can even bring your own apples for pressing, either as a donation to contribute to charitable causes, or to take home with you – in which case you will need containers (full details on website plus calendar for the whole week.).

Saturday October 21, 10am - 4.30pm (further events throughout the following week).

Free admission

Barrington Court Apple Days

A big event in Barrington Court’s annual calendar celebrating all things to do with apples. Over 70 evocatively-named apple varieties, a mixture of cider and eating apples, are grown in the orchards that surround the gardens and mini wheelbarrows are available in which children can collect windfall apples. There will be a vintage apple press operating so that visitors can see the processing of the harvest. Musicians, and possibly Morris Dancers, are likely to be performing and there will be crafts for children to try such as making an apple pig or willow weaving. The weekend also includes apple-themed games, quizzes, walks through the orchards and the opportunity to bring along apples from your own garden for the National Trust gardeners to help identify.

Saturday October 21 and Sunday October 22, 10.30am – 4pm

Normal National Trust admission charges

Charlton Orchards Apple Day

Founded in 1947, family-run Charlton Orchards certainly know their apples, growing more than 35 varieties. They also grow a range of traditional varieties of other fruits including plums, damsons, pears, pumpkins and squash, as well as ‘kitchen garden’ plants for you to grow your own. Their delicious natural apple juice is coarse-filtered to retain that just-picked flavour. Charlton Orchards Apple Day is a celebration of harvest on a working fruit farm, with apple displays and identification, tractor and trailer rides, apple-themed games and competitions and refreshments. This year is even more of a celebration of these orchards as it’s their 70th birthday year. The event will also be a fundraiser for Macmillan Nurses.

Saturday October 21, 10am - 5pm.

Free admission

Brendon Orchards Cooperative, The Greenhouse, Wiveliscombe

Something rather different, this cooperative, which currently has over 200 members, was established in 2007 to help people deal with their abundant apple crops and also to educate and advise. The cooperative offers training in the techniques of juicing and the skills required for orchard management. The Thursday juicing sessions take place at their indoor facility and are an opportunity to learn about apple varieties and to make delicious juice blends alongside fellow juicers. Gather your apples, join up and book in to visit Apple HQ at The Greenhouse. Their website gives guidelines on bringing in your own apples. You can also hire mobile equipment to do your own juicing at your venue, or to organise a community juicing event. The cooperative organises community picks where you can have a fun morning in a beautiful orchard, making juice for the co-op to sell — and for your own payment.

Juicing Sessions take place on Thursday evenings from September 14, throughout October and continue until the end of November. Booking necessary