JACKIE Denman, the founder and driving force behind the Herefordshire Big Apple festivals has been awarded a gold medal for a lifetime contribution to the cider industry by the Royal Bath and West Show.

Mrs Denman, who started the Big Apple in Putley, near Ledbury, in 1989, received her award from Bath and West chief executive, Rupert Cox, in the orchards and cider pavilion on the first day of the show.

“I am not sure whether I am more pleased or more surprised," she said. “But I like to think that this is recognition not just of my efforts over the years, but of the whole team of people, including the apple growers and cider-makers of our corner of Herefordshire, who have made the Big Apple what it is.”

Orchards and cider chief steward, Bob Chaplin, paid tribute to Jackie’s efforts, which he said had been “very influential in stimulating and encouraging new young producers to set up and engage with their peers and the public”.

The Big Apple has also played a fundamental role in getting the wider local community behind their fruit-based heritage.

“In all of this, Jackie was not only the originator – she has been the catalyst and driving force. It has been a collective effort in the best traditions of local community endeavour. But she has been the champion,” he said.