JULIE Hasell has given up Cider with Rosie and gone onto more pressing things.

She left the chalk face of teaching English after 13 years at Bishop Fox’s School in Taunton, to produce award winning high quality handmade traditional farmhouse draft cider.

Along with her husband, Steve, they make what is for many a ‘little bit of Somerset sunshine in a bottle’.

There are set procedures to making Ridgeway Cider and this starts in October when the apples are washed, milled and pressed.

All the apples used to make Ridgeway Cider are grown on the farm in orchards which have been there in some case for at least 90 years.

In the past, the farm used to sell apples to all the well-known cider producers in Somerset such as Taunton Cider (The Taunton Cider Company )or Sheppy’s.

Now they use all of them to make their own cider. It all begins with the fermentation process.

A second fermentation process starts in late Spring when the weather warms up. And the cider should be ready in late April/early May.

Ridgeway Cider produces 6,000 litres every year and it makes three types:

n Hooty Owl which is bottled and is six per cent

n Farmhouse draught bag in box available in dry and medium which is seven per cent

n Vintage dry which is bottled and matured for two years

n Cider vinegar

All the cider made by Ridgeway Cider are filtered and not cloudy.

Julie does hope she can add to this range and is looking at producing a cider brandy.

So why the change from teaching to cider maker?

She said: “I was ready to have a new challenge and wanted to have a change from teaching.

“Doing this (cider making) was a calling and I wanted to find my own niche which I could move forward after leaving school.

“With the cider business I had a vision of what I could do and enjoyed the organisation of setting it all up.

“We take pride in what we do which is making a traditional handcrafted quality product.

“We have always made cider here on the farm and there is a tradition of cider making in the family. So for us there is nothing strange about continuing this tradition.

“What I have and I am enjoying about the business is pulling everything together to establish the cider and looking at where to market it, how to do it and the challenge of working it all out.

“I enjoy engaging with people, talking about the product.

“They enjoy telling me about their memories of cider as for many it is part of their life and heritage.

“I like talking to people and lots of different overseas visitors from Japan, Sweden, America and China are all interested in the cider which is amazing.”

Julie explained everything in this business venture which began in 2014, had been a learning experience but it is one which is giving her a large level of personal satisfaction.

One of the biggest ‘pats on the back’ came when they won a gold award at The Royal Bath and West Cider Championships in 2015 for their Farmhouse Draught and a Taste of the West silver award in 2016 but Gold in 2017

Speaking about winning these awards, Julie said: “We weren’t sure we were good enough to enter the cider.

“But we did and it was so exciting to be recognised when we won.

“What winning the Gold Award did was give us a lot of confidence. We believed what we were doing was right and with the range of cider we are producing and want to, we can nudge our way into the market.”

And slowly but steadily Ridgeway Cider is getting its name out in the wide world.

It can be bought at the farm in Holcombe Rogus, in local shops and pubs, at food fares in the county like Milverton, Wellington, Wiveliscombe, Cullompton, and can even be bought in London.

One of the personal highlights for Julie has been the independence the business has given her but also the fact she can ‘do it’.

Many people make a leap into a new venture and fail as they do not have the skills, make bad decisions or grow too fast and too quickly.

What has been good for Julie is the growth of Ridgeway Cider has been organic and natural and gives her the chance to balance work and family life to suite her way of life.

As she said about cider: “It is a drink for any time and any mood.” Maybe it will a new slogan in the future for Ridgeway Cider.”

Further details about Ridgeway Cider online at ridgewaycider.co.uk