The idyllic orchard perfect for an afternoon drinking cider and eating pizza

And what could be better than that?

By Ben Arnold | Last updated 9 May 2024

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That fiery ball in the sky that’s making more regular appearances of late is called ‘the sun’. It feels a lot like its emergence this year is stupidly overdue.

Next time you’re tiring yourself out trying to think of something to do, or somewhere different to go to make the absolute, very most of it, here’s a thought; jump on your bike – or get your boots on – and head all the way along the Bridgewater Canal.

Pass through Stretford, Sale and Altrincham until the towpath turns into a track, the fields start to spread out on either side of you and the heaviness of the city lifts off your shoulders.

You can then pop up onto the windy lanes from one of old canal bridges and in a few more minutes walk you can be at the Dunham Cider Barn. Preferably with a thirst to quench.

Dunham Cider Barn

This working cider farm has been producing apple juice and cider since 2011, after planting their first cider, culinary and dessert variety apples in 2010. Since then, a quarter of an acre of orchard has since turned into 33, and a handful of apple varieties into, currently, 76. 

“It snowballed from there,” Chris says, and the family now makes 26,000 litres of cider and about the same again of apple juice. 

The pandemic forced the family to make a few changes, so they decided to open up their orchards for people to wander around, stay socially distanced and also maybe buy a bit of the cider and apple juice while they were at it.

It’s proved a huge success. One of the barns, converted into a cider press and brew house, has a bar where you can order a pint of cider from apples grown just a few metres away. And for when you get peckish, there’s a wood-fired pizza oven too, fired up by Chris’s brother Jonny who runs the Little Red Pizza Co.

Across the farmyard, one of the other outbuildings is now a cafe, behind where the juice bottling goes on, and where walkers and ramblers can stop by for a brew and a top tier slice of cake.

The Hewitts have been tenants here since the 1930s, originally under the benevolent 10th Earl of Stamford, who, without an heir, left the Dunham estate to the National Trust on his death in 1976. 

The trust has since invested in the farm, helping the cider business with buying up hundreds of new saplings, swelling their orchard to nearing 5000 trees in all.

Dunham Cider Barn

These are the trees you can wander through on a warm day, take up a seat as close to or as far from the bar as you like, bring a book and stay for an afternoon into the evening. Chris recalls one couple who happened on the place by accident last year. They ended up coming three full days in a row.

The cider they make is ‘whole juice’, quite unlike commercial ciders which are made by boiling down tons upon tons of fruit into syrup, and then rehydrating it with other additives.

So when you’re buying a pint or a bottle of Dunham Disco, Dabbler or the recently released Little Red Devil (not to mention one of their award-winning apple juices, like Golden Lady), it’s coming from the farm’s own ‘terroir’, as the French say.

Dunham Cider Barn

“I can say my apples are grown there, pressed over there, fermented there and bottled in there,” he says, pointing to areas of the farm all within hopping distance. “It’s not even travelled a mile.”

Now open for its third summer, they’ll be throwing their annual summer party over Glastonbury weekend, and in January, they celebrate the ‘wassailing’ traditions on Twelfth Night by torchlight, with a few hundred people attending the procession through the village before a party at the orchard into the night.

But for now, the trees are in blossom – a crucial part of the year, which can make or break the harvest, particularly if there’s a late frost. But so far, the spring sun is warming things up nicely.

“I sometimes take my office for granted,” he says, which feels unlikely considering how idyllic it all is. But what the Hewitt family wants to do is share it (they even have an apple variety for each of their seven children).

“Come down, come and sit, have a coffee, have a cider,” he says. “Have a piece of cake. Whatever you want. Bring a book, bring a paper. But just come and sit in the orchard.”

Boundary Farm, Sawpit St, Dunham Massey, Cheshire, WA14 5SJ