The Long Ashton Legacy

Somerset has a rich and diverse history of cider making. For exactly one hundred years (1903 - 2003) the Fruit and Cider Institute at Long Ashton Research Station was responsible for both breeding famous varieties (e.g., 'Ashton Bitter') and for introducing new varieties (e.g., 'Katy') to UK cider makers. Although the institute closed in 2003, many of these varieties are still in use today and many more probably remain in local orchards known only to local small-scale cider makers.

Here at Bristol University, a small band of researchers, many of whom were ex-Long Ashton employees, are becoming increasingly concerned that while many of the Institute varieties had been physically described (for instance by Liz Copas; the last Long Ashton Pomologist), their genetic legacy might soon be lost forever.

Collecting apple samples

To stop the South West losing this heritage, the Bristol University Group have used the very latest technologies to genetically fingerprint as many Long Ashton Varieties as they could locate (c. 400). In doing this, we hope that we have provided future workers with a method for the identification of derived from this collection. This work has now been published and can be viewed here.

In addition, and in recognition that Somerset cider makers generate what is probably the best cider in the world, we would like all of the local cider makers to tell us about their favourite trees. So, if you have a favourite tree that you believe generates the best Somerset cider, we would like to hear from you and, who knows, we might include your tree in our project.