Caring for traditional orchards

Ranger dog toby collecting apples in the orchard at killerton

Killerton boasts 50 acres of traditionally managed orchard with over 100 varieties of apple tree. Sparrow Park orchard, near the visitor car park, is an ideal place for relaxing.

The apples aren’t just for people, but for wildlife too

Since the 1950s around 90% of traditional orchards in Devon have been lost. Cheaper imported fruit reduced demand for home-grown apples, while changes to more intensive farming methods meant traditional orchards were neglected or removed in favour of other crops.

At Killerton the National Trust manages orchards the old fashioned way. Over 98 types of apple tree are grown, which are bigger and taller than those found in commercial orchards. These trees are the cornerstone of orchard habitats that can support over 1,800 species.

Volunteers cutting hay using scythes in the orchard.
Volunteers scything grass in the traditional orchard at Killerton
Volunteers cutting hay using scythes in the orchard.

Killerton cider is a useful by-product of managing this habitat and income from cider making is spent on managing the orchards and preserving old apple varieties.  The National Trust aims to leave 50% of the apples on the trees or on the ground for wildlife, taking only 50% for cider production.

Killerton's slighlty sparkling cider

Killerton's cider wins Overall Drinks Winner at Fine Food Awards 

For the second year running, in 2018 the Killerton Estate won the Overall Drinks Award for its Medium Sparkling Cider at the national Fine Food Awards. There are over 50 acres of orchards on the estate which are home to over 100 traditional apple varieties including the oddly named ‘Slack-ma-girdle’ and ‘Hangy Down’ varieties.

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Killerton's cider

Since the early 1990s Killerton’s sparkling cider has been made using apples from five estate orchards managed directly by National Trust Rangers and volunteers. The apple varieties used are of West Country origin, including local apples such as Star of Devon, Hangy Down, the Killerton Sweet and Killerton Sharp making it a very unique cider. All the apples are collected by hand and then crushed on site using a 200 year old traditional farm press. The local flavour, heritage, tradition and community involvement make Killerton cider a product worthy of national recognition and one which fully celebrates traditional farming methods.

Apple recipes