Pets: Scruff, an incredibly small and sociable terrier who loves nothing more than going on walks with the customers at the farm.
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do
I work at Burrow Hill running the cider farm and the Somerset Cider Brandy Company. It’s a wonderful place and also where I was born. I worked on and off throughout my life cider making, distilling and selling the products we make here but I only moved back to Somerset full time in 2014. The farm changes with the seasons so every week varies. We harvest in the autumn and start the cider making process and then in January, February and march we distil cider into spirit. The orchard work and the barreling work fits around this.
How long have you been doing this job?
Growing up on the farm, I have worked here on and off for many years since childhood. The farm has changed immensely during this time.
Tell us a bit more about your product, are there any you’ve developed yourself?
We grow apples, pears, morello cherries and quinces. Burrow Hill Cider is a pure juice cider made from our own apples, we make traditional still cider, method traditional cider, ice cider, perry and vinegar. We also have the UK’s first commercial cider distillery.
We distill cider into eau de vie (a 70% apple spirit) which we then age in small oak barrels for up to 30 years. We are currently the only makers of Somerset Cider Brandy in the UK. This is protected by a PGI in recognition of the traditional methods and quality controls we have in place. We also make a number of apple based liqueurs as well as blackcurrant and Morello cherry liqueurs. All bottles can be traced back to their source orchards on the farm. We are constantly experimenting and have just planted a quince orchard and some elderflower hedges for new products.
What’s the best thing that has ever happened whilst you’ve been working in this industry?
There are always new adventures to be had at work, mostly with the people that come to the farm. in 2021 we hosted a film crew and so you can now see our orchards in the trailer for Marvel’s new Dr Strange movie, we also hosted a hero of ours Joanna Lumley on the farm. In 2021 we also had a highwire performance here. Chris Bullzini walked on a 70 ft high wire to the top of Burrow Hill with no harness in the middle of a stormy day whilst doing headstands and acrobatics. It was one of the most amazing spectacles we will ever see here.
Tell us the worst thing about working in this business
The winters can be brutal in the orchards when it is wet and cold and muddy. But it is only ever fleeting. I avoided it all this year as was heavily pregnant through the harvest.
Did you do a job before this one?
I studied biology and then the control of infectious diseases at The London School of Tropical Medicine and worked there for a few years, followed by a photographic career. Then the magic of Burrow Hill caught up with me again. I came to fill in for two months when we had a staff illness and then I never left again.
What’s the funniest thing which has ever happened to you on a work day?
Lots of ridiculous things happen on the farm. These are often caused by Julian my fathers misdemeanours. He was nicknamed ‘danger boss’ many decades ago because of his ability to get himself in trouble. Each year for a day we host naturists on the farm. 200 nudes in the orchards including some of the team here causes a lot of mirth in the village but we have gotten used to it although it can be quite distracting when you are doing a tour.
Do you have any hobbies?
I am currently doing up a showman’s waggon. I thought it would take 3 months but it’s a year and a half so far.
If you work with other people, what do you do to gel together as a team? OR If you work on your own, what is it that inspires you each day?
We are a team of 12 and everyone does multiple jobs. We work really closely with each other and the variety of work is really important to us. In a week we might be making cider, working in the orchards and at a festival selling it.
Have you got any final words of wisdom to someone thinking of starting up in this industry?
Worry about the fruit and avoid cutting corners. Our planting plan spans 50 years and we only worry about selling things when we have a product we can be really proud of.
Have you got any products on your website you might like to highlight or any offers to entice them your way?
This shows the variety of what we do – Full Range