Trader Profile-Marshwood Vale Cider
What’s a summer in the West Country without a drop of local cider?! We caught up with cider-maker Tim Beer of Marshwood Vale Cider this month, who told us all about his passion for proper cider, his love of his home county of Somerset and the joys of market trading!
Read on to be taken on an idyllic journey through summer orchards and country lanes….
Hi Tim! Tell us a bit about you and your business.
I’m Somerset born and bred! I’ll be 60 soon and have lived most of that time within 5 miles of the cottage where I live. It’s where my ancestors were born and raised going back centuries, so to me, it’s where I belong. I love that connection, it’s a beautiful part of the world to be in. I know these lanes and fields like the back of my hand and I like that no-one can ever take that away from me.
I started Marshwood Vale Cider eight years ago after a long bout of illness left me thinking it was time to do something I really wanted to do, something I’d enjoy. I’d always made a drop of cider and friends often told me I should make it to sell, so that’s how it all began. It’s a lot of hard graft but it’s grown well and I now produce mead and gin as well as cider. One of the best things about it is going out to the orchard next to my home and seeing what’s going on – the blossom in the spring, the bees feeding, birds pecking at the lichen on the branches, and in late summer, the fruit ripening. You can’t beat it; the simple things in life are definitely the best.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Tradition and country ways really matter to me; I don’t want to see it all disappear into the mists of time. Cider is a traditional country drink and it should be made to traditional methods; it’s an art really and I want to preserve it. There’s a few of us who keep it going and as long as I can help to do that I’m happy. I love what I do and the life I live, it’s a simple way of life but I’ve no plans to be the richest corpse in the churchyard. The stuff that’s knocked out batch after batch in factories, forget it. That’s not cider, it’s full of additives and artificial flavours. I’m a campaigner for keeping it real!
Why did you choose to come and trade at the Frome Independent?
Partly because I love the atmosphere and it’s good to see everyone out with smiles on their faces buying proper job food and drink. For me it’s a monthly reminder of the good old days when I spent months at a time away at festivals in the 70’s, happy days.
What do you like about market trading – why not just sell online or through retail outlets?
I love doing the markets! I love getting out and about and meeting the people who buy Marshwood Vale Cider; sometimes I get chatting to them and I hear some interesting stories, and I’ve got to know some of my regular customers quite well. That’s mostly what it’s all about but I also like the banter that goes on when everyone is setting up in the morning, it’s a good, happy atmosphere. Wholesale is not for me, I can’t bear being at the beck and call of someone else, I like to do things my way, at my own pace; it’s so much more relaxed and friendly that way and that’s what people notice when they visit my stall.
Tell us about your own favourite or best selling product. How much work goes into creating it and why do you think this is your strongest product?
Well, there’s a difficult question! My favourite has to be plain and simple dry cider, drunk slowly, every drop enjoyed. The best seller is probably Vikings Blood Mead, which is good because it shows it’s worth the effort that goes into making it – it’s a long time from orchard to bottle for that one, but it’s a beauty of a drink – just look at that colour! One of my regular customers told me that the best thing about the long dark winter months is sitting by the fire in his favourite chair sipping Vikings Blood Mead!
What is your favourite Frome Shop, or stall to visit at the Frome Independent?
Crumbs, there are so many good ones, but if I twiddle my beard and have a quick think I’d say Wiltshire Chillis, Dark Matters, Westcombe Cheese and Moonraker Preserves, though not in any particular order – they’re all brilliant.
Quick fire questions:
Oh, Lord of the Rings is my all time favourite. I first read it when I was in my teens and have read it several times since. It’s fantastic, really fires the imagination, what am amazing mind Tolkien had. Also high on the list is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson; completely different but I like it because it’s interesting and it really makes me laugh.
Describe your dream day off.
What are you listening to right now?
The birds singing outside. I’m sat at my kitchen table, the back door is open and I can hear nothing but birdsong. It’s beautiful. I don’t feel the need for music so much these days, I love the sounds of nature – the fox barking in the field beyond the house, owls calling at night, the cry of a buzzard. There’s no substitute for it and it makes me appreciate how lucky I am to live where I do.
What are you cooking/eating/drinking at the moment?
I’m drinking Marshwood Vale Cider of course! On the table beside me is a plate with the crumbs of a nice big hunk of sourdough bread that I’ve just eaten with a chunk of Westcombe cheese, and yep, I enjoyed it very much, thanks!
And thank you Tim! You’ll find this cider making marvel trading with Somerset Farmers Markets next to Boyles Cross on market days. Be sure to go and pay him a visit.