27DartsCider181018Matt Austin (1)

Sandford Orchards takes its stewardship of cider trees ‘very seriously’, says chief cidermaker Barny Butterfield

Sandford Orchards has teamed up with scientists from the University of Bristol to identify and preserve ancient apple varieties in its orchards in Devon and beyond.

The Devon-based cidermaker said the “ground-breaking” research would help to locate unique and threatened cider apple trees. These trees could then be propagated to increase their numbers for “many more centuries of cider enjoyment”, it added.

Thousands of trees would be “fingerprinted” across Sandford’s orchards, ensuring “diversity and climate-resilience” for the future, according to the brand.

It came after Sandford Orchards tendered for and won a competitive bid to receive a grant from Defra to expand upon an initial small trial.

Further work would now be undertaken with researchers at Bristol University, including a project at RHS Garden Rosemoor in north Devon, Sandford Orchards said.

“Our cider mill is the oldest working mill in the UK and some of our orchards are centuries old,” said Sandford Orchards chief cidermaker Barny Butterfield. “We take our stewardship of these precious natural wonders very seriously and we are thrilled to be unlocking some of the secrets of these and other orchards that have long been forgotten.

“You only need one apple tree to propagate a whole new orchard, so once we have identified key varieties that should be increased, we can start planning for the future. The outcome can only be positive for the environment and for cider lovers.”