How it Started

2011

Following his return from his travels to countries where traditional still cider didn't exist, Bill established Cranborne Chase cider to produce the drink he'd missed so much. Being a part-time fabricator helped Bill massively and he put together a hydraulic cider press that could be powered by the farm tractor.

In the autumn Bill & his family harvested fruit by hand from an unused orchard on local Rushmore Estate. The fruit turned out to be Browns Apple, a sharp cider apple which makes a lovely crisp dry & fruity cider.  

After seeing an advert in the local paper Bill & his dad Simon set off to Somerset to purchase a trailer load of ex Whiskey & Rum barrels. Experimenting with ageing the cider in oak and different additions of sugar.

Barrels of cider Apple orchard, Minchington, Dorset, UK Making a cider press
Barrels of cider The cider shack The cider shack

2012

The summer of 2020 saw Bill sell his  first few drops of cider at on farm event, 'Open Farm Sunday'. This first batch gained a bit of a reputation due to its high strength and drinkability. One pint had you feeling flushed & rosy nosed!

That Autumn, the local Browns orchard produced less fruit & so some bittersweet cider fruit was sourced from Sherborne. The introduction of these apples rounded and balanced out the acidity from our own apples.

ill then began to think about how to market his cider direct to the public at local shows and events. To enable this to happen, construction of Cranborne Chase Cider's mobile bar 'The Cider Shack' began - based on the style of a traditional shepherd's hut.

2013

In the winter of 2012/13 an experimental orchard was planted at Myncen Farm to see what cider apple varieties fared well with the farm's soil and climate.

September saw the farm host its first cider and music festival, 'Last of the Summer Cider', which was a great success.

In the autumn, we set about producing 4 different types of still cider; Dry, Medium, Sweet & Vintage which were then marketed at local music festivals.

Throughout this period, Bill continued to work as a fabricator alongside  working as a part-time brewer at the local Sixpenny Brewery.

Experiments with apple trees Last of the Summer Cider Festival Poster for Last of the Summer Cider
Cider apple harvest Apple harvester for cider apples Empty barn, making space for apples Apple harvest

2014

In the Summer of 2014 due to the cider's increasing popularity, we came very close to running out of stock. This made us question how long we  could continue only producing 7000L a year & a decision was made that we would expand production the following summer.

To help out with harvest in our orchard we purchased a self-propelled apple harvester which sped up the process & saved much back ache!

2015

With expansion on the cards, we set about purchasing a new cider press to help us press the extra volume of apples. A secondhand belt press, capable of pressing 1,500 kilos of fruit an hour, came on the market from Devon company, Luscombe Drinks.  

After having had a break in 2014 we held 'Last of the Summer Cider' again in 2015 reaching new customers and continuing to promote local music.

Following the purchase of the press, we increased our production levels in the autumn from 7000L to 20,000L, that's a lot more juice to store and cider to shift!

A lot of apples A lot if cider A cider press in Dorset
Selling cider from The Cider Shack Bottled cider Winning awards for Cranborne Chase Cider

2016

With significantly more cider to play with, 2016 brought new opportunities. 

The first bottled range was launched. These bottled products have a longer shelf life than the traditional still cider & the addition of carbonation opened up new markets.

With the extra cider we decided that selling from the farm gate would be a good idea, so opened the 'Original Cider Shack' our shepherd's hut shop.  

By late summer, with the approach of the autumn pressing season, Bill was struggling to manage his two jobs & running Cranborne Chase Cider at the same. Bill made the decision to focus full time on his cider business & dropped his roles as Brewer and Fabricator.

The summer season & autumn saw Bill gain recognition for his effort over the previous five years winning; Gold and Farmhouse Cider Champion at the British Cider Championships (Bath & West Show), three Gold awards and Reserve Champion at the Mid-Somerset Show alongside awards at the Taste of Dorset & Blackmore Vale Business Growth Awards.

Having decided to go full time with the cider business, Bill decided to try his hand at the ancient art of keeving with plans to make a naturally sweet sparkling cider for his wedding in summer 2017.

Efforts paid off with gold award and farmhouse cider champion for sweet cider & bath and west show. Mid somerset show, reserve champion, 3 gold awards and one silver. Taste of Dorset winner and Business growth Awards.

2017

In 2017 we added some variable capacity stainless steel tanks to our shed to help keep the cider at its best & aid packaging the extra volume.  

As space became increasingly sparse we made plans for an extension to the cider shed with the possibility of some new equipment.

Throughout 2017, Bill continued to play with his apple blends & experiment with keeving & ageing cider in oak.

 2017 was a busy year for events on the farm. In April we held the first 'Cuckoo Calling', a one-day cider festival. In June, we hosted another Open Farm Sunday giving tours of our cider shed. To round things off,

September brought around the third Last of the Summer Cider and its growing popularity got us thinking about holding it every year!
 

 

Tanks full of cider Bottles of cider Keeving cider
Planting a new orchard Cuckoo Calling Cider Festival Poster for Cuckoo Calling Cider Festival Dorsecco sparkling cider

2018

After speaking with Rushmore Estate plans were made to plant a new standard orchard opposite the existing one in Minchington. Apple varieties were carefully chosen to give a multipurpose orchard meaning that the fruit could always be used for apple juice as well as cider. Planting of the new orchard started in December 2018. 

Having produced a keeved cider he was proud of Bill began marketing this as 'Dorsecco' and it was soon to be found on the shelves of local shops.

During 2018, we expanded the presence of Cranborne Chase Cider at local shows and events around the county. In April we hosted Cuckoo Calling for the second time & plans also went ahead for the 4th Last of the Summer Cider, with the addition of a Friday night to extend the weekend celebrations.

Bill was delighted to be asked to judge at the Bath & West Show, tasked with selecting the best farmhouse sweet cider from a large number of entries – certainly an enjoyable challenge!

2019

The construction of the new cider building was finished in May 2019 (part-funded by LEADER Grant) which created space for some shiny new equipment to help with packaging. Improvements were also made to the apple wash down system to help with the increased volume of fruit.

Our bottled range was extended, with the addition of 'the Shepherdess', a  weaker 4.5% Medium Sweet cider named alongside our ever-popular 6.8% Vintage cider which we named 'the Hurdlemaker'.

We also experimented with bottle conditioning a small amount of Perry which went well and created a dry & sharp farmhouse Perry.

Summer brought Open Farm Sunday with a circular farm walk, local produce, farm machines and fun for all the family. It also saw Bill pick up a Gold Award and Reserve Farmhouse Champion for his Dry cider at the British Cider Championships (Bath & West Show).

The 5th Last of the Summer Cider took place in September 2019, with steam-powered pressing demonstrations and extra rural crafts displayed. 

New shed for Cranborne Chase Cider Cranborne Chase Cider, our new range of ciders New shed for Cranborne Chase Cider
A range of apple juice Lock down door-to-door delivery service Cranborne Chase Cider, Pet Nat

2020

Our plans for 2020 were, like those of many others, hindered by COVID19. The cancellation and postponement of so many events gave us more time to think about the direction of Cranborne Chase Cider.

This resulted in the launch of our web-shop & we also provided a lock-down delivery service.

Our speciality cider range was expanded with the launch of 'Pet Nat'.

Excavations started for office/tour room opposite cider shed, landscaping was also carried out in the apple holding area to aid drainage in a wet year.

A bumper apple crop from our own orchard, as well as the additional fruit sourced from another local orchard in the Donheads, meant less fruit had to be bought in.

The additional apples, together with the extra time allowed by the continuing COVID19 pandemic gave us the opportunity to begin producing our own apple juice on the farm.