SOMERSET is a county well known for producing top quality cider and with that comes a long history of traditional practices of cider making.

In February 1971 however, the County Gazette reported a hypothetical story of what apple production would look like in the future.

With the story was an artist impression of what a cider farm will look like in the year 2000.

We think they got it fairly accurate in all honesty, what do you think?

Somerset County Gazette: NOW: Stewley OrchardNOW: Stewley Orchard

The story explains that if an average apple tree is analysed and divided into its component parts of rootstock, variety, trunk, branches and leaves it is perfectly clear that it is not a very efficient producer of fruit in relation to the amount of space it takes up.

But it tastes so good in cider form.

Historically there was the standard tree, planted at a density of about 40 trees to the acre.

Then came the half-standard and in 1971 at the time of writing this story, there were systems like the Dutch spindlebush which would plant anything from 600 to 1200 trees to the acre.

The goal of cider making in 1971 was to move towards higher densities, smaller trees and earlier cropping, thus making greatest use of the environmental assets of land, site, shelter, water and sunlight.

This story was written by Rex Neame, who at the time was the general manager of the orcharding division of one of the world's largest cider makers.

Somerset County Gazette: Thatchers Orchard Harvest
 2nd Otc 2019

At the time he wanted to plant an experimental apple orchard with around 48,000 trees planted to the acre and it was him who thought by the year 2000 all farms would look like this.

Whilst the artist impression does look somewhat close to what our cider farms look like now, the numbers don't quite add up.

The average trees planted per acre nowadays is 150-180 and on some higher density orchards there are 400-500 trees per acre.