Did You Know?
What better way to explore the Herefordshire countryside than by bike. See, hear and smell the countryside, stop on a whim and visit some of the county’s finest Cider producers.
The 20 Mile Ledbury Cycle Route and the basic 19 Mile Pembridge Cycle Route guide you along quiet lanes in one of England’s finest cider-growing areas. Let the exercise enhance your enjoyment of tasting the ciders on your tour and if you stop for a pub meal, seek out dishes made with local cider.
Route 1: Ledbury – Directions
- You will find an incredible 9,500 acres of Cider Orchards in Herefordshire – growing by more than 600 acres each year.
- Approximately 63 million gallons of cider – well over half the cider produced in the UK – are produced in Herefordshire each year.
- It was traditional in Herefordshire to pay part of a farm labourer’s wage in cider – they liked it so well that on many farms the arrangement carried on when the practice was made illegal in 1887.
- Small cider producers can legally produce up to 1,500 gallons a year without paying excise duty.
- In 1667 the vicar of Dilwyn reported that his parishioners, who lived to ages ranging from 90 to 114, had drunk nothing but cider.
- Even more remarkable, he claimed that a Morris Dance had been performed by ten people whose united ages amounted to more than a thousand years.
- It is customary on the eve of Twelfth Night to wassail the orchards to ensure next year’s crop. Fires are usually lit: one in the middle of a circle of twelve small ones.
The Cider Bible
The earliest written mention of Cider can be found in Hereford Cathedral’s famous Chained library. The Wycliffe “Cider” Bible, written in the early 15th Century, gets its name because when translating the passage “For he (John the Baptist) shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink…”, the word “cider” (spelt sidir) is used instead of strong drink. Find out more about the Chained Library here Hereford Cathedral – The Chained Library
A traditional celebration to the goddess Pomona to encourage good fruit and a bountiful crop.
WASSAIL is from the old Anglo Saxon Was Hal meaning be of good health. In the middle ages, the celebration was transfered from the drinker to the tree. It usually takes place on Old Christmas Eve (January 5th), Twelfth night (January 6th) or Old Twelfth night (January 17th).
The ceremony itself typically consists of the farmer’s family, workers and friends gathering in the orchard in the evening.They are armed with sticks and shotguns and carrying a bowl of cider with pieces of toast in it. The favoured vintage variety, oldest or highest yielding tree is chosen.
Then, everyone, in turn, eats a sop of toast and a piece is placed in a fork of the chosen tree to attract birds like the robin and the cider is then poured over the roots of the tree.
Libation follows from this, when the cider drinker tips his empty glass upside down to let the last few drops fall to earth. You can never spill your cider, you are only ever offering a libation to the goddess Pomona.
The whole company then dances round the tree, beating it at the base to dislodge insects, that the birds, attracted by the sop, then eat.
Then the Wassail songs are spoken or sung. Here is an example from Maisemore, just over the border into Gloucestershire:
Old apple tree we wassail thee,
And hope that thou wilt bear.
For Lord doth know where we shall be,
Till apples come another year.
To bloom well and to bear well,
So merry let us be.
Let every man take off his hat,
And shout out to thee,
Old apple tree we wassail thee,
And hope that thou will bear,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three bushel bag fulls,
And a little heap under the stairs.