History's Food and Drink

A look into the Henry Ford’s European Conservation Awards, which pays tribute to the history of ordinary life.

The mention of 'heritage awards' can often conjure up visions of renewing some Tudor thatch, recreating a Georgian landscape or, more politically correct, spick and spanning Victorian labourers' cottages to a more pristine state than the historical reality. But what about the history of ordinary life that is not bricks and mortar and often falls through the gaps?

This spring the UK finals of the Henry Ford European Conservation Awards have delivered a useful corrective by singling out two projects as winners in their Heritage section that are doing something to preserve and revive that 'other sort' of history.

The first prize went to a project from Twyford to recreate traditional cider- making in Berkshire. Acutely conscious that, for many, these days 'Home Counties' has become synonymous with 'homogenised', the New Road Cyderists set out to see if it was possible for a complete group of novices to make traditional cider without the use of modern brewing techniques.

In the best traditions of English improvisation, they scrumped apples from suburban gardens where , windfalls would otherwise rot on the ground, and produced a 'cyder nouveau' that scooped prizes in its wake. Their £5,000 prize money, coming from the , Conservation Foundation awards, sponsored Europewide by the Ford Motor Company, will be used to invest in traditional cider-making equipment and to buy land for orchards in which once again the Cox's Orange Pippin – which originated in Berkshire – can be grown, and where the traditional 'wassailing' of trees with cider around Christmas and Twelfth Night – to ensure a good harvest for the New Year – can again take place.

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