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.

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.

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.

Award-winning cider and apple juice

Every autumn the apples are collected by hand, and squeezed by a 200 year-old press. The apple juice collected is then bottled to create Killerton’s cider,  which takes its unique flavour from apple varieties such as Killerton Sweet, Killerton Sharp, Star of Devon and even Slack Ma’ Girdle.

The sparkling cider won the 2018 National Trust Fine Farm Produce Award for best overall drink for the second year, with Killerton apple juice and medium dry cider also winning awards.

The working holiday team always seem to have fun. Must be all the cider!
cider making killerton devon volunteers
The working holiday team always seem to have fun. Must be all the cider!

Want to learn how to make traditional cider?

Join us for a working holiday every October to help us make cider the traditional way. Search for Killerton in the Working Holidays page of the website.

cider apple festival killerton devon display

Autumn is apple season at Killerton

As autumn falls, the orchards burst into life. Apple season is here and there is lots to do, taste and drink.