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Green Light in the City

We Join Blue Barrel Cider for a Day of Scrumping In St Ann’s and a Chat About the Importance of Keeping Things Green

20 November 21 words: Adam Pickering
photos: Kathryn Edwards

Made with fruit from mostly forgotten orchards, Blue Barrel Cider might be one of the most eco-friendly drinks on the market. Our Adam Pickering joins Leo Jordan, one of the creators of the beverage, for a day of scrumping out in St Ann’s and a chat about the importance of keeping things green…

Leo Jordan, one half of the couple behind Nottingham’s Blue Barrel Cider, arrives outside the Fox & Grapes pub in Sneinton to pick me up. I’m volunteering to do a spot of scrumping today, and expecting something of a jaunt. About three minutes later we come to a halt, just up the road in St Ann’s (Sneinton Market’s distinctive roofs still just in view). “First stop is checking on these pear trees which go into our Colwick Perry,” Leo divulges. 

The four mature trees sit unfussily on a stretch of council land, adjacent to a few 1950s-ish council houses. “Nobody owns it,” Leo says, “but I’ve gotten to know the old girl who lives here, I always leave her a bottle of the perry when I come by. She actually loves that we’re cleaning up her garden and street.” Before I know it, Leo is up at the top of a tree, bouncing Tigger-like as pears - small ones, mercifully - rain down on my head. 

I’ve been a fan of their Clifton Beauty and Sherwood Blend apple ciders for a while, discovered via the Lenton NeighbourFood market. What intrigued me about Blue Barrel Cider, a project born of Clifton’s Summerwood Community Garden - which Leo and wife Emma established - is that all the apples and pears that go into their beverages are picked from (mostly) forgotten orchards dotted all around the city. And locals are always welcome to get involved in the annual scrump. 

Today, in under two hours, two of us managed to pick 300 kilos of pears (thirteen sacks), which Leo says will make about 200L of perry. With a 330ml bottle retailing at £2.50, this is quite a yield, especially when the majority of this fruit would otherwise end up rotting on pavements. Leo expects each tree to give about 200L worth of pears over the season, and this is just one of several orchards in surrounding streets. 

I’ve always wanted to contribute something good to the world every day and make a differenc

We get onto sustainability, and here’s where Blue Barrel really impresses. Their super low-input methods are satisfyingly simple. Only a little water is used to wash the apples and pears (at about a 1:1 ratio to the amount of cider or perry produced), and the power needed for their shredder and hydraulic ram press comes directly from a wind turbine on the chicken farm they’re based at. 

Leo thinks my estimation that this could be Nottingham’s most sustainable beverage is probably a fair one overall; it’s a “win, win, win, win” as he puts it. He’s unprecious about their novel approach too, hoping that people will begin to make more of a resource quite literally on their doorsteps: “If every area of Nottingham had a community garden pick it up, you could practically have as many small scale cideries as you can imagine.” 

Now Leo and Emma have moved on from running Summerwood Community Garden and are leaving it in safe hands, a legacy Leo is proud of, and they’re investing their spare time and profits into planting more urban fruit trees through their new CIC, Trees Are Good. “I’ve always just wanted to contribute something good to the world every day, make a difference, and fruit trees give so much - to nature, to the community,” he says. “There’s nothing more rewarding than planting trees, really.” 

How do you like them apples?

Follow Blue Barrel Cider on social media @BlueBarrelCider to get involved with the next scrump, or treat yourself to a few bottles by ordering directly at magpiebrewery.com/shop

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