Ashridge is a family company based near Totnes, which has been making ciders and soft drinks for 14 years or so. These include kegged, bag-in-box craft and bottled ciders, and a range of organic sparkling soft drinks, with a touch of fizz. We don’t compromise on quality, using only the best ingredients – blending, processing and packing the soft drinks ourselves.
For the ciders, we use all types of apples – including Dabinett, Brown’s Apple, Ellis Bitter, Tremlett’s Bitter and Slack ma Girdle – sourced from local old, traditional orchards, which makes the cider more complex. The apples are washed, pressed, the juice collected in tanks and then the fermentation starts. As the process continues, the juice becomes clear and the different yeasts in the various types of apples start to ferment.
We press our own apple juices too and make several variants by adding elderflower and blackberry. We use dessert apples and have been doing this since we installed our fabulous belt press.
Our team of eight is busy all year round. Keeping the ciders in top condition is a priority, which involves lots of pumping and racking. This, along with the bottling and packaging, is a continual process.
In the autumn, the pressure is on to get all the apples collected, brought in, then washed and pressed. We manage the orchards by pruning and planting all year; the grass is kept under control with the help of some sheep and a mower, so we can pick clean apples. The orchards are a joy in the spring and autumn – the bees buzz in the blossom and flocks of fieldfares try to get to the apples first, before we harvest them.
We produce our soft drinks – mixing, bottling, labelling and packing – throughout the year. In June, we are out in the fields picking elderflowers from organic farms to make our Elderflower Pressé, battling with horseflies, cows and brambles.
Getting the drinks out involves being on the road, carting kegs about, sending off pallets on lorries, stacking cases and boxes into the van. Then there’s all the office business, not to mention the biggest part of it all – selling the stuff!