When I visit a new place I like to meet the locals, people whose families have lived there for generations, know every field by name, and can tell you the gossip from 1934 as if it was yesterday. If you want to meet some ‘proper’ locals on your visit to Somerset then I’d highly recommend Roger Wilkins Cider Barn at Lands End Farm in Mudgely, just a few miles from Glastonbury across the Somerset Levels.
Roger’s family have been brewing cider for generations, he produces delicious traditional local scrumpy without ‘artisan’ ‘hipster’ pretensions or price-tags. Step into the cool gloom of his cobweb-covered cider barn and you feel like you are entering a world that hasn’t changed in a hundred years – since the days when farm labourers received part of their wages in cider. As he says on his website “If you come ‘ere be careful, mind, as it’s a working farm and we don’t have any of that fancy modern shop layout here, just barrels in my cider barn.”
One gloriously sunny Spring weekend I really fancied a cycle on the Levels, but the Yorkshireman wasn’t displaying much enthusiasm for visiting the nature reserves. However, when I suggested a trip to the cider barn his face lit up in beatific joy and he went off to pump up my bike tyres.
Roger’s Cider Barn at Land’s End Farm is 7 miles from the centre of Glastonbury. That’s by the slightly challenging hilly (blue) route we took which rises to 236 feet, or you can go on the flatter (grey) route which is 9.7 miles and is completely flat until you approach Mudgely when you have to cycle 115 feet uphill. The roads are single track, but vehicles are occasional, so it’s best to pull into one of the many passing places and let them pass safely.
Whatever route you choose you will be immersed in the fascinating and beautiful landscape of the Somerset Levels, with a great view of the ridge of the Mendip Hills. Expect to see great views of Glastonbury Tor, lakes and willows, herons bursting out of the rhynes, deer grazing in the fields, and slightly red faced men giggling into their half pint pots when you get to Roger’s. I’ve written more about the levels in my blog post The Avalon Marshes – Flat and Wet like Proper Scrumpy Cider.
On arrival at the barn, Roger himself offers you tasters to help you chose which cider you’ll be taking home with you. These tasters are of generous proportions, being as they are served in a random collection of old half pint glass tankards. Mine had ‘Skol’ emblazoned on the side, which reminded me of sneaking into the pub when I was 16 for a sophisticated glass of ‘snakebite’.
There’s a great friendly atmosphere and there were plenty of other visitors, so we spent a good while in the yard exchanging jokes. The Yorkshireman couldn’t make his mind up between the Sweet, the Dry or the ‘Half and Half’ so he sampled the ciders quite rigorously, while I was happy with my half a pint of the Sweet, which slipped down like apple juice but left me feeling curiously happy and friendly towards my fellow man.
It’s not just cider on offer at Roger’s either. One of the things I love about Somerset is fresh farm eggs, so much tastier than the supermarket ones. I bought a goose egg – they are rich and huge and lovely and smell like buns when they are cooking. I also spotted some curious looking eggs – larger than hen’s and with brown speckles. Turns out these were turkey eggs, I got 6 for £1.50 and have so far enjoyed 3 of them poached. As Roger informed me, they are indeed stronger in flavour than hen’s but milder than duck’s.
I also bought a gurt big slab of Extra Tasty Cheddar for £4, which is most excellent with oatcakes. Next time I visit I might pick up some Stilton, or some of the large selection of preserves and chutneys from local producer Rose Farm that are on offer and I’ll take my own bread to go with the cheese and picnic on the grass in the Orchard.
On our journey home, taking a slightly different (and wobblier!) route around the labyrinthine drainage channels of the reclaimed marshland, we popped into picturesque Godney, home to numerous artists and the famously quirky Sheppey Inn (click here to see my post about the Sheppey). We were hoping to eat there, but they were fully booked as usual, so I recommend you book in advance if that’s your plan.
Roger Wilkin’s Cider Barn is open from Mondays to Saturdays 10am to 8pm and Sundays 10am to 1pm. He offers guided tours by arrangement, and, if you can’t make it there he’ll send you cider in the post – even to Europe and North America. See his website here for full details.
I didn’t take many photos, I was feeling a bit shy, but you might enjoy this Cider with Roger video by Adam Millbank.
If you’re cycling to Roger’s I recommend you take a map or GPS, some drinking water for the journey, a bike pump, a camera to capture the scenery and a rucksack with room for cider and cheese! We enjoyed our outing so much we will definitely be going back soon, and if there was enough interest, we might be persuaded to lead short cycle tours out to this, and other local attractions, if you’re interested contact me here.
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This post was originally written for Middlewick Holiday Cottages blog, they love Roger’s place too and have fantastic accomodation in the beautiful countryside just on the edge of town. Would you like to commission me to write an article about what you do, for Normal For Glastonbury? You’d be reaching thousands of readers who love the Town. Please click here for more information. All photographs and text copyright Vicki Steward.