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"Doesn't matter who you are or where you come from," says Graham, roasting a handful of chestnuts on the crackling fire. "People will always talk to you in here." Glenda nods her approval. "No subjects are barred in this room," she says, looking around at her customers with a tenderness that belies someone whose job it is to get them royally drunk. "We know everything in here - where the skeletons are hidden, where the babies are conceived."

For all the reverence and ritual that surrounds the making of cider, it is this, the final stage in the apple's journey from the orchard to the glass, that is the reason why Roger Wilkins and Julian Temperley have dedicated their lives to what is, in effect, squeezing fruit juice. The next day, it is clear that cider's value to Somerset is appreciated far beyond the pubs and pressing plants. Barrington Court, a grand National Trust property, is hosting its Apple Day celebration. A crowd of Somersetians has descended upon the sprawling, orchard-laden grounds, joining in with the apple pressing, picking up the windfall, paying tribute to the humble fruit that defines their homeland. In the central building, there's a display of the varieties grown here; the names sound more like dashing World War II pilots than fruit - Broxwood Foxwhelp, Ribston Pippin, Harry Masters, Tom Putt.

It may not quite be the Battle of Britain, but in a strange way the resurgence of cider, and Somerset, owes a similar weight of gratitude to the persistence of these wholesome balls of juicy goodness - forever the heroes of the West Country.

Getting there
Trains to Yeovil Junction run direct from London Waterloo, Exeter and Salisbury (from £14.10 return).

Getting around
Buses do not cover the whole of Somerset. Hire a car from Vincents Daily Rental in Yeovil (from £29 a day).

 

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The article ‘England's West Country: Still the apple of our eye’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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