Like a lot of folk, my first encounter with the Burrow Hill people was via the world-famous Cider Bus which forms a central part of the food and drink landscape at both the Glastonbury and End of the Road Festivals. Bright blue, standing two decks high and with bar staff who seem to stay cheerful no matter what the weather brings, the bus is clearly the place to be for anyone with a love of fermented apples!
Inevitably, as day turns to night and the temperature starts to drop, sales of the Hot Spiced Cider pick up and with a shot of Somerset Cider Brandy thrown in for good measure, anyone with cause for complaint deserves to be extradited to the land of Kopparberg with no right of appeal.
So yes, I’m a fan. In fact, I spend most of the year wondering why the Cider Bus can’t take to the road like a big, blue, alcoholic ice-cream fan, blasting out its festival playlist to let punters know it’s coming and then pulling over to dispense steaming pints of the Hot and Spicy stuff. Sadly, the chances of this happening are pretty slim so, to keep me going through the long and lonely, festival-free winter months, the only thing to do was to pay them a visit.
Burrow Hill is certainly hidden away but by following a short detour from the A303 towards Martock, Passvale Farm, home of the Burrow Hill orchards soon appears. Refreshingly, it’s NOT been gentrified, made over, tarted up or branded to within an inch of its life- it’s clearly a working farm complete with mud, dust, peeling paint and rusting farm vehicles. Anything else would’ve been a disappointment!
The “farm shop” doesn’t disappoint either; if you’re looking for the full-blown deli experience, look elsewhere. This is a barn. A dusty, dark barn with eight huge oak barrels loaded with draught cider ready for drinking and a couple of tables displaying the goods. Perfect as far as I’m concerned and evidence that the focus at Burrow Hill is on the product, rather than creating a tourist attraction. For those unsure about what to take away, samples of just about everything are available (and encouraged!) so the wise sampler will stagger back to the car having already arranged for his/her other half to drive the homeward leg of the journey.
The trip can’t be completed without a walk through some of the 150 acres of cider orchards where sheep graze amongst the trees and, if you’re lucky, you might encounter one of the friendliest yet ugliest pigs in Somerset before loading up with supplies and heading home loaded down with what’s got to be some of the best cider out there.
Whether your preference is for “real” farmhouse cider, straight from the cask, bone dry and fizz-free or something bottled, ready to chill and tasting a little more commercial but still amongst the best of its type, Burrow Hill is clearly the place to go to stock up the shelves until the Cider Bus is back on the road for the festival season.