Woodthorpe Hall near Holmesfield is the residence of Dick Shepley and his family, who own much of the surrounding land and have a pub named after them (the Shepley Spitfire down the lane in Totley). Their garden is hired out some days over summer for wedding receptions but on two weekends in October it is given over to cider making.
Woodthorpe Hall has a range of three artisan ciders – Owd Barker, Ruby Suzie and Spinning Jenny with the latter being a more sensible ABV than the others – the others once the natural fermentation is coming to an end sees the addition of champagne yeast to the fermentation tank, accellerating the process again resulting in a very strong, lightly sparkling cider with a slightly smoother flavour than just apples. Ruby Suzie is the sweetened version.
Each year to celebrate CAMRA’s October Real Cider Month a handful of Sheffield, Dronfield and Chesterfield CAMRA members join the Shepley family, their friends and other volunteers to help with the pressing on the Saturday of the second weekend.
It is proper work with heavy lifting, carrying, shoveling, operating machinery and more but also a fun social occasion with volunteers well looked after. There is an afternoon tea break with a table groaning under the weight of a massive array of home made cakes and pots of freshly brewed tea & coffee; cider is available to drink on a self serve basis throughout the afternoon and once work is finished for the day everyone has a drink and chat around the ‘garden heater’ – a shopping trolley containing a bonfire – before being invited into the house for a delicious home cooked supper.
We all once again enjoyed our day helping out at Woodthorpe Hall on the 8th October and would like to thank the Shepleys for their hospitality, if you missed out trying the cider that resulted from last years pressing at our Steel City Beer & Cider Festival then you can buy it in bottles from a select number of outlets, one of which is the Beer Stop in Dronfield.
THE APPLE PRESSING DAY PROCESS IN PICTURES