Six tonnes of apples harvested in time for Killerton’s Apple Festival

Over 700 people have helped continue the tradition of hand-picking apples from the orchard at the National Trust’s Killerton estate, in time to be pressed at Killerton’s Apple Festival on 13 and 14 October. Thanks to hundreds of helping hands they were able to pick approximately 6 tonnes of apples, ready for the start of the cider and apple making season.

The apples are harvested then pressed on a 200-year-old cider press during the event to make the estate’s award winning cider and apple juice, which people can see being made at the apple festival this weekend. Killerton is home to 50 acres of traditional orchards and 100 apple varieties, some with quirky names like ‘Hangy Down,’ ‘Slack-ma-girdle’ and ‘Veitch's Wonder.’

Nature is queen when it comes to apples and every year the crop varies, dependant on the weather. This year, as so many volunteers and staff were able to help with the picking, over 6 tonnes were collected.  Chantelle Barry, Senior Visitor Experience Officer for the Trust explains, 'This year the trees have had it tough but there still seems to be plenty of apples around, which is great because the funds raised from the cider go straight back in to caring for the orchards at Killerton.’

She continued, ‘The rangers were thrilled to have so many people from the community and local schools come along and take part in our ‘Big Pick Up’ last weekend, which has helped us collect our apple crop for the festival on 13 & 14 October.’

Gathering the harvest is an important job on the working estate. Every year the apples are hand-picked to create artisan award-winning cider and apple juice. Chantelle said, ‘This is a fantastic time of year when the whole community pulls together and work is centred around the orchards, making sure the apples are collected to create the apple juice and cider from the Killerton estate. It creates a feeling of tradition and team spirit, helping to bring this time of year alive’.

Fi Hailstone, Nature Officer for the Trust, helps volunteers make the cider every October, she said, ‘It’s amazing that so many people are involved in getting the apples from seed to cider, all in the name of nature conservation. Through sales of cider and juice we have restored ten orchards across the estate in the last 20 years. Traditional orchards are such magical places to spend time in and they are great havens for wildlife. The unique flavour of Killerton cider comes from the blend of all the different, local apple varieties. The fact it has become an artisan product, winning multiple awards is a great achievement and thanks to all the people who help to muck-in.’

As the last apples are collected, the National Trust invites visitors to attend the Killerton Apple festival, this year taking place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October, amongst the apple trees. It’s a chance to celebrate the harvest, enjoy the cider and apple juice, and raise awareness of the conservation value of traditional orchards.

A wonderful family favourite, this year the festival will feature children’s activities, magic and juggling, willow weaving, family trails and live music.

Visitors can bring their own apples to press into juice, witness the 200 year old cider press in action, try archery, browse the stalls in the orchard and taste great food from the Killerton estate. 

The festival takes place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October, opening at 10am and running until 5pm. Adult entry costs £8, and children £4. National Trust members and under 5’s are free. For more information visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/Killerton