Killerton’s produce wins national awards at Countryfile Live

Mary Youlden
Authored by Mary Youlden
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 10:22am

Killerton estate apple juice fought off stiff competition to take home Overall Drinks Winner at the National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Awards and Killerton won four more awards for its sparkling cider, charcoal, honey, and its Clyston Mill stoneground flour.

The Fine Farm Produce Awards recognise the best food and drink being produced by National Trust farms and estates. Now in their 11th year, the awards acknowledge the contribution to nature conservation and quality food and drink by the farmers and producers who occupy the 500,000 acres of farmland in the care of the National Trust.

The award ceremony took place at Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace on Friday 5 August. Fiona Hailstone, Produce Ranger at Killerton, accepted the award from Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison as Killerton’s produce received national recognition.

Killerton apple juice has a moreish, sweet-sharp taste and is pressed using traditional West Country dessert apples grown in the Acland family’s orchards at Killerton. No chemicals are used and the orchards are a real haven for wildlife. Straight after harvesting, the juice is locally made for sale on the estate. Nothing is added, nothing taken away.

'Harvesting the apples by hand is a real team effort,' said Fiona. 'Everyone – from volunteers and staff to locals and visitors – get involved; so this award is something everyone can be proud of.’

And it’s not just the apple juice that benefits from Killerton’s sustainable orchard management. 'All the products we make, including our cider, honey and charcoal, are born from a passion to manage the countryside in a sustainable way,' explains Fiona. 'Around half the apples are left in the orchards as a valuable source of food for wildlife, while any profits from sales go straight back into orchard conservation work.'

Across the 50 acres of traditional orchards, hedges are being restored and so far three ‘lost’ orchards have been reclaimed. There are 18 bee hives in the orchards tended by George Tonkin, one of the country’s only full-time beekeepers. At 78 years old his passion for traditional produce shines through, and his award-winning honey is a sell-out in Killerton’s shop.

The award-winning produce story doesn’t stop in the orchards. Clyston Mill is a rare working water mill at the heart of Broadclyst and is an integral part of the history of the Killerton estate; it has been making stone-ground flour since Victorian times. This tradition is continued today by custodians Brian and Ursula Kirby who worked to reopen it as a visitor attraction and working mill in 2005. They volunteer their time to mill all the award-winning flour, which is sold locally and used by the restaurant and café at Killerton.

You can get involved in Killerton’s autumn apple harvest at several events this October. On the first two Saturdays and Sundays in October (1 and 2 as well as 8 and 9) you can join in the Big Pick Up weekends. Head down to Sparrow Park orchard, grab a bag or a mini-wheelbarrow and help harvest the apples and try the apple juice. It’s a great family event that starts at 11am and finishes at 4pm.

If tasting cider is more your thing then don’t forget the Killerton Cider and Apple Festival on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 October. The two day festival takes place in the orchard, giving it a unique atmosphere, and showcases the best in local food from the estate, family activities, magic shows and great live music.

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