The driver didn't actually refuse to take his bus up the lane but made it pretty clear he wasn't going any further. Than. Here.
So get out and walk. The first 50m weren't too bad - a bit of an adventure. We jostled and giggled along, our way lit by the coach's headlights. Turning a corner though had us in darkness; pot holes and pitfalls avoidable when lit, suddenly became invisible man traps. And, oh! was that a drop of rain? Oh yes, another downpour.
The Cider Farm, allegedly only 100m away, was nowhere to be seen - not even a welcoming light flickered in the distance. Ever resourceful Young Farmers switched on their mobile phones and used the eerie glow of their tiny screens as torches. It was only when I got home that I remembered the torch that is kept in the deepest, darkest recess of my bag for just such emergencies - but I, like the rest, fumbled along by phone-light. How romantic that sounds. Not.
Eventually the farm came into view and avoiding more puddles, an old mattress (?) and a couple of discarded sheep troughs we arrived at the foot of a mountain of apples.
'We' are Chirbury and Marton Young Farmers and the 'Advisory' on a visit to Berriew Cider Farm. (When I find out what exactly 'Advisory' is I'll let you know - but I think it means we 'help' the YFs.) Always nice to be invited along and as I've said before I'll hop aboard anybody's bus-trip - who knows what wonders might be discovered along the way?
A shame about the pitch black lane, the evil weather and well, the overall level of light. Under a dim fluorescent tube our cider maker - a farmer who had diversified - donned rubber apron and sinister black rubber gloves and began to demonstrate his dark art. Take one wheelbarrow of apples from the aforesaid apple mountain and using what appears to be a red plastic coal shovel teem them into an elevator/chopper-upper thingey (cost £6k) which spits out a mush into another wheel barrow. He shovels this chopped mush into layers of 'cakes' on a press (cost £10k), flicks a switch and slowly, slowly as the weight of the machine bears downward, the juice comes running. It is pumped next door into a large tank in a room also used to process apple juice. I missed the next bit of the process as the heavens opened and I ran for cover, but I gather it is then put in wooden spirit casks which retain a vestige of brandy, whisky or rum which gives his cider a unique flavour. Bottling is the final stage.We tasted too - apple juice, bright and sharp in taste and made from a medley of local apples. The cider was still and dry and probably an acquired taste. I can't say it was universally popular amongst 'The Advisory'....the more fastidious had noted the cider maker's mention that it wasn't necessary to get all the dirt off the fruit - and if they were too clean then one could throw in a shovelful of orchard soil to get the natural yeasts into the mix. Or it might have been me recounting the tale (which was confirmed later in the pub) that in the old days a rat or a piece of beef would be added to get the fermentation working.....Perhaps this was indeed a process better seen in the half-light.
We moved on - stumbling back down the lane again and onto the bus. Then to the warmth and welcome of The Lion at Berriew; a proper pub and very drinkable glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Cheers.