Its early evening, early autumn 2012, and I'm visiting Cornwall for some public speaking about cider at the Eden Project Harvest Food Festival. I was born in Cornwall so spent alot of my early years here and we have a long pleasant relationship. It has an rough charm about it, much like Brittany. When you mix in some folklore, local stories and cider, the mystique builds and the places becomes a bit fairytale too: smugglers coves, speculator coastline, ancient Celts, tin mines, its Kernowek language. It becomes wilder and more magnetic.
Andrew Ormerod, one of my hosts and the reason I was asked to speak, has invited me out to visit a cider farm the evening I arrive before my talk. Doctor Ormerod works in Economic Botany Research and Development for the Eden Project so knows his apples from his pears. He could be described as an archetypal English professor: a well educated gentleman working at the forefront of science as well as the kind of bloke who, after a visit to his favourite cider farm, you can have a couple of pints of local farmhouse with at the Ship Inn, and enjoy a plate of fresh Mackerel.
We headed out to a local peninsula, stopping briefly to look at an old press he knew about in a shack overlooking the estuary before heading over the water and down the other side of it to our destination. Haye Farm is a small cider farm situated at what feels like the end of the earth. Here in Westcountry, places like this are affectionately described as 'proper job'. This place feels real, and earthy and they make some amazing cider.
The maritime climate carries alot of moisture in air, its heavy and damp at this time of day and everything is wet. The grass in the orchard is unusually long; its over my knees and I'm aware that its the first time I've been this deep in grass in any orchard, ever. Its sodden with water that has collected from the cooling air and the bottom half of my legs are soaked, but its worth it. Such places are a gem to find and really are the heart and soul of cidermaking here in the UK. They're scattered amongst the countryside, nestled beneath hills, at the end of deeply hedged lanes in places you'd ordinarily feel lost. A visit is like making a pilgrimage, a return to the source of ciders magic. A traditional cider farm is a quiet, place and when shrouded in evening mist, Cornwall itself becomes a mysterious place where ancient wizards can perform their magic in peace. The kind of place you remember visiting as a child that forms a memory so intense, it remains with you because when you saw it something stirred in your soul and intrigued you enough to stimulate your memory. Its feel a bit different; other-worldly, authentic, wise; the kind of place that gives cider its personality, and me living.
Other than soaking feet and a great opportunity for some photos, the next reward is waiting patiently in a simple glass for me. Its sharp, tangy cider with a pleasant barnyard mustiness to it, big and juicy - its really fresh and satisfying.