CIDER is synonymous with Herefordshire – from the giants of Bulmers to the smaller enterprises that all play a vital part in the continuation of the county's heritage.

However, methods have changed over the years and many firms have now moved away from the more traditional process of apple crushing and cider making.

That is, except, for in one corner of the Golden Valley where the county’s only working horse-drawn cider mill is housed. And the invitation has now gone out to those who would like to become involved.

Fair Oak Cider has been made in the seventeenth-century mill and press recently restored by farm owners, Hilary and Matthew Engel, in Bacton, for the last three years.

Pye, a Gypsy cob stallion, travels with his owners from Llanigon to work the mill and cider apples gathered from redundant orchards around the Golden Valley are washed, crushed, pressed and stored to ferment slowly over several months while the cider develops.

Mrs Engel said: “Our chief cider-maker has set up a quality assured process for the whole enterprise, taking care of the licensing and other regulatory aspects involved in the production of cider, as well as the actual making. He plans to step back now from the physical work, but will continue to advise and oversee; and so we are hoping to find a replacement.

“Ideally we’d like to put together a cooperative – a team of helpers who can contribute their skills in all of the processes involved – pruning, harvesting, milling, pressing, blending, racking, bottling, labelling, promoting and selling – and share in the benefits.

“I think it's a very happy experience. It's a community effort and there's a lot of fellowship involved in getting together to produce something like this. There's also the satisfaction of learning a new skill and learning how things used to be done.

“It's also a chance to learn about the history of the area and there will certainly be cider for everyone involved.”

Fair Oak cider is already available in a number of shops and pubs and at local shows but the business, which calls itself a 'cottage industry' at the moment, hopes to do much more to establish its reputation.

For more information contact Alan McCardle, 01981 510 510 or Hilary Engel 01981 241 210.