18 November 2010
The process of traditional cider making was filmed for BBC 2's 'Edwardian Farm' series at the National Trust's Estate at Cotehele. Chris Groves, Orchard Officer at Cotehele, features in episode two and provides a behind the scenes view of his Edwardian experience.
"It was not long after our apple harvest and apple weekend that I was contacted by researchers from the Edwardian Farm who were looking for a location to shoot cider making. Having recently restored the press at Cotehele we were all too happy to provide the location. The film crew provided the apples and I contacted Vanessa Bee, the horse trainer who we'd been working with, about arranging the ponies to operate the apple mill.
I had seen a couple of episodes of the Victorian Farm so I had a vague idea of what might be in store: including the period costume. On day one of the filming, the modern, almost industrial looking building in which the press is situated, had to be dressed to disguise the galvanised steel frame with many meters of hessian cloth. I then met Peter, Alex and Ruth and the behind the scenes crew, a genuinely hard working bunch, with a good sense of humour and very knowledgeable.
I was given the choice of two costumes to wear, both of velvet and both about three sizes too big, but nothing a bit of old rope couldn't keep up to save my dignity! The first part of the filming was of the ponies operating the apple mill. It is always unpredictable working with animals and Fudge, the Exmoor pony, was a little camera shy about performing, despite his previous TV work. But with a bit of bribery in the shape of a few apples we were able to persuade him to mill enough apples for the sequence. By means of a back up there was an electric apple pulper in the neighbouring barn to mill the remainder of the apples.
The next part of the shoot was building the 'cheese' under the press. The crew made it very easy to film and just wanted me to explain to Alex and Peter what to do and for them to give me a hand. Many of the tools I was using were far from authentic, especially the metal cement float! I had been meaning to make a wooden equivalent, as would have been used, but due to the last minute nature of the filming, time did not allow.
Once a single layer has been built it's a very repetitive process, so the filming finished for the day and the crew left after a single layer and I milled the remaining apples and built up the other five or so layers of the cheese for the following day. After the crew had left there were a couple of occasions where I did forget that I had a period costume on and proceeded to walk around the estate and talk to colleagues as if it was quite normal to dress this way.
The second day of the shoot and we were ready to press the cheese, by far the most enjoyable part of the process and where the extra muscle comes in handy. Since being restored the press had only been put through its paces on a couple of occasions so I did have my fingers crossed that everything would run smoothly, which thankfully it did. The press has enormous presence and to hear it groan and creek as you apply the pressure is quite exciting, something I think Alex and Peter also quite enjoyed.
The juice produced was decanted into a barrel which I fermented for the team on site. Unfortunately, due to the last minute nature of the filming I did not have a decent oak barrel, so the juice was poured into a softwood barrel that hadn't been used for a number of years. Following fermentation the cider was not really up to the usual standard (The barrel tainting the cider with a slight musty aftertaste...mmm!), but the boys seemed quite pleased with it, probably because of its strength!"
The cider press building is open to visitors all year round, for more information on visiting Cotehele visit:
There are no more cider pressing’s for 2010, but for more information on pressing demonstrations contact Chris at: