There’s lots to do in Dunham Massey this autumn – and much of it is a family affair.
On Sawpit Street, Chris Hewitt and father Alan have opened The Apple Barn, a new retail outlet for their award-winning cider and apple juice, including Dunham Dabbler.
The new opening extends a long Hewitt family tradition of working the land at Boundary Farm for nearly 100 years.
Alan was born on the farm and together with Chris and younger brother Jonny (pictured above) have enjoyed stewardship of the land there ever since.
Originally Alan was a producer of salads and winter vegetables, supplying supermarkets and wholesale markets nationwide, but nowadays he can be found beekeeping, bottling apple juice and tending the pumpkins on his old grey ‘Fergie’ tractor.
Chris has worked with his dad since leaving school on and around the farm and in his landscaping business, while Jonny ventured further afield to pursue his business and international marketing studies before returning home to Dunham town.
Between the three of them they have a formidable set of skills and talents which they bring to fruition – literally – at The Apple Barn.
The new farm shop and cider tap has been created from an old 18th century barn, and was the original building used for pressing apples from the orchards.
A much bigger production facility has meant that this space was able to be sensitively converted in keeping with the National Trust style of properties in Dunham Massey, and is now a quirky space to enjoy some quality produce.
The shop offers an interesting range of ciders, perries and juice made at Boundary Farm, together with Nana Carolyn’s homemade jams, depending on what is in season. They also carry a selection of local and fine produce including West Country ciders, kombucha, beers and ales.
Chris and wife Alison are keen to show cider in its true form, possibly best described as apple wine, for it is much more akin to wine than beer in its production process and range of styles.
They offer only full juice ciders and perries and are planning to hold tasting and food matching events on Friday and Saturday evenings to showcase the full versatility of cider. These events will be ticketed and advertised soon on their web, Instagram and Facebook sites.
The apple pressing season is nearly upon us and for the next few months both Chris and his dad will be found in the orchards, hand-picking the varieties once they are ready for harvest and then pressing within 24 hours into either bottled juice or into the fermentation tanks for a minimum of 12 months for a variety of ciders.
They’ll also press and produce juice and ciders for those with their own apples – give them a call for more details – or you can just visit to see the process from start to finish.
Following Party in the Orchards, where Chris recently joined forces with other local food and drink producers in their third annual small festival to celebrate the apple harvest, they are now looking forward to pumpkin season.
Truly a family affair, pumpkin production starts in early March with Alan sowing seeds and cultivating the seedlings ready for planting in the field during spring.
Well drained fields are vital both for the pumpkins and car parking at the event. Chris has been busy replacing drains to ensure the fields are in tip top condition and putting in a new pedestrian bridge over the drainage ditches, while Jonny and Alan have now planted and been regularly cultivating and weeding in the patch to give the pumpkins the best possible care as they grow on the bushes and vines.
A third generation of pumpkin planters and pickers are learning their trade by watching their dads – and Erin and Isabelle are taking their pumpkin duties seriously.
The large white ghost pumpkins are Isabelle’s favourite and last year Erin picked a pumpkin weighing in at a whopping 46lbs (21kgs).
But there will be all shapes and sizes available this year with over a dozen different varieties being grown, ranging from small ornamental squashes suitable for window displays, to edible squashes for pies and soups and special varieties grown for their remarkable ugliness and ‘carvability’. With over 20,000 pumpkins in the patch, they have you covered this Halloween.
With almost 20 years in the business, Jonny has taken charge of the pumpkin picking season. Onsite, there will be refreshments and fresh wood-fired pizzas from Little Red Pizza Company, as well as toilet facilities at the Apple Bar and ample car parking.
And while some younger visitors will be hoping for mud again this year and the chance to be pulled through the field by a tractor, Jonny is expecting the recent field works to ensure a much drier experience all around.
Once pumpkin season is done, the orchards are pruned in winter and the family comes together again to celebrate the annual orchard Wassail. But more of that later…
For more about The Apple Barn, follow @dunhamapplebarn on Instagram or find Dunham Apple Barn on Facebook. To order cider and apple juice online, visit dunhamcider.co.uk.
To buy tickets to Pumpkin Picking at Dunham, visit dunhampumpkin.mhtickets.com. There’ll also be regular updates on Instagram and Facebook at @DunhamPumpkinPatch.
Photography: Claire Harrison