OUR Trader of the week this week is Gregg's Pit Cider and Perry.

What is your name? James Marsden & Helen Woodman

What is the name and address of your business? Gregg’s Pit Cider & Perry

How long have you been running Gregg’s Pit [Cider & Perry]? I (James) bought the property in 1992 when it was derelict and condemned ‘unfit’ to live in! I restored the orchard and cottage in 1992/93 and moved to live here in 1993. I harvested and pressed my first 220 litre barrel of perry from the orchard in 1994. Helen joined me in 1998.

The attached article I wrote for an online book published in 2020 https://www.ruraljersey.co.uk/whats-for-dinner/ which sets out more of the history of Gregg’s Pit, our philosophy and ‘manifesto’ for craft cider and perry making; and help and support given to another writer (Rachel Hendry) for Pellicle Magazine in March 2021 - see attached answers to her questions

How did you get into cider and perry making? See ‘What’s for dinner’ article above. After graduating from Newcastle University, I spent 9 months in 1981/82 working on a Kent fruit farm where I learned to prune orchard fruit trees. When I bought Gregg’s Pit in 1992 and moved to live there in 1993 I had the skills to restore the orchard but no idea about how to make cider and perry. I took the perry pears from my first full harvest in 1994 to the late Jean Nowell of Lyne Down Cider & Perry, and she taught me the basics of artisan cider and perry making. We set up our own press, process area, fermentation and stillage building at Gregg’s Pit in 2000, when Jean ‘retired’ at Lyne Down. Jean remained our ‘friend, guru and mentor’ until her death in 2017.

What is the biggest challenge you have face[d] over the years at Gregg’s Pit? A 23% increase in the cost of 75cl green sparkling bottles in 2022 (compared with 2021), due to a combination of rising energy costs (glass making uses a lot of gas!) and post-Brexit logistics (our bottles are imported from France). We have to consider how much of this cost increase we can “absorb” and how much if any we can pass on to our wholesale and retail customers.

Why is your cider and perry different to others on the market? Attention to detail, focus on quality over quantity, knowledge of fruit varieties and their vintage characteristics etc… see the 10 'points of difference’ which summarise our cider and perry making philosophy in my ‘What’s for dinner’ article above.

How many varieties of apple [and pear] are there at Gregg’s Pit? We have around 15-20 varieties of apple (>10 cider apple varieties) and 15 varieties of pear (of which 12 are perry pears).

What size is the orchard/s? Our ‘home orchard’ is 2 acres and the adjacent Gregg’s Pit orchard is 4 acres. We also harvest particular varieties of fruit from several neighbours’ orchards in Much Marcle, and an orchard at Pontshill near Ross-on-Wye.

How important is cider and perry to the people of Herefordshire? It’s been a vital part of Herefordshire peoples’ livelihoods, culture and natural history for many centuries, and has evolved with the times. The resurgence in craft/artisan cider and perry making in the C21, and the growth in the number of small-scale producers, have brought new life, purpose and hope for the future to the county’s traditional standard orchards, new skills and innovation in production techniques, making high quality and exciting new products - all of which has been uplifting and inspirational. We are a community in ‘co-opetitition’ [to borrow a phrase Jackie Denman of www.bigapple.org.uk ].

What is your favourite variety of apple [and pear]? My favourite cider apple is Dabinett and my favourite perry pear is our own eponymous/indigenous Gregg’s Pit perry pear - the >300 year old wilding ‘mother’ tree of the Gregg’s Pit variety is still extant here. We have grafted 12 new young trees from the ‘mother’ tree and planted them into gaps in the orchards at various stages since 1998.