Cidery owners proceed with caution as they plan long-awaited summer of fun in new taproom

Cidery owners proceed with caution as they plan long-awaited summer of fun in new taproom

The owners of an award-winning cidery have pledged to limit visitor numbers to their new taproom despite finally being permitted to launch tasting tours and events there.

Planned festivals, workshops and tasting tours were abruptly cancelled on the eve of the taproom’s grand unveiling at Napton Cidery in March last year, when the first Covid lockdown was imposed.

But Jolyon and Charlotte Olivier, who lost more than £100,000 in revenue due to the pandemic, went on to launch a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this year to help mount a post-pandemic recovery of their business.

Napton Cidery, Taproom, Tasting Tours
Jolyon, Charlotte and Matilda Olivier with the Taproom Special cider and Smudge the dog.

Despite an end to the Covid restrictions, the taproom, which finally opened its doors last month, is capping the numbers for the long-awaited return of The Ploughman’s & Cider Tasting Tours by up to a third.

As well as releasing a limited-edition Taproom Special cider to mark the occasion, there’s a summer of celebration in the planning at the Cidery with the launch of a new series of live events including comedy, music and cocktail nights.

Although masks won’t be mandatory, sanitiser use will be encouraged and doors and windows left open for air circulation.

Charlotte said: “We’ve been waiting a long time for this and it feels quite emotional seeing people finally coming through our doors. We were gutted that we didn’t get a chance to open the tap room last March but have spent lockdown getting it ready for our customers, plus we’re so excited to be planning events again. I think we’ll all appreciate them more than ever.”

She added: “But while we welcome so-called ‘Freedom Day’ for businesses, we are also sensitive to some of our customers’ concerns. We’re mindful of the rising numbers of cases and how people are at different stages of the journey as they tackle the lasting effects of this pandemic.

“We want our visitors to feel safe in the knowledge that we very much have their interests at heart while still ensuring it doesn’t impact on their experience with us.”

Both tasting tours are led by Charlotte who gives visitors a unique insight into the cider making process and the story behind Napton’s award-winning recipes.

The business started life as a hobby nine years ago when the couple were first introduced to the taste of craft cider on a family holiday to Cornwall. Returning home to with an apple tree, they soon started experimenting in their back garden.

Today, the team harvests, presses, bottles and distributes more than 90,000 litres of craft cider a year, using 17 types of apples from six orchards across the Herefordshire region.

Central to Napton’s growing popularity among customers is its strong sustainability ethos, from harvesting through to packaging. All of its apples come from traditional unsprayed orchards, organic and biodiverse growers, so no unnatural chemicals are introduced into the ecosystem. The cider is also naturally fermented using only wild yeasts and packaged in recyclable materials and all ingredients sourced as locally as possible.

The shop also sells perry, juices, spirits and vinegars as well as a new products the team have been working on this year – including Apple Cider Brandy, canned ciders and branded collectors’ glasses. There’s also the opportunity to sample them all.

The Cidery is open Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 12-5pm.

Visit Napton Cidery at: https://www.naptoncidery.co.uk/

Learn more about the Ploughman and Cider Tasting Tours at: https://www.naptoncidery.co.uk/visit-us

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Self-catering business maintaining safety measures as part of cautious approach to ‘Freedom Day’

Self-catering business maintaining safety measures as part of cautious approach to ‘Freedom Day’

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Freedom Day, Jo Carroll

THE owners of a boutique glamping retreat in Warwickshire have vowed to maintain their enhanced Covid restrictions despite the end of legislation from today (Monday).

The decision will come as reassurance to guests against a backdrop of rising infection rates across the country as the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out.

Due to the enhanced cleaning regime, the business will maintain its later check-in times and there are no plans yet to reintroduce the fabric furnishings, books, games and toys which were removed under the previous restrictions. Welcome baskets in all the lodges will continue to include only single-packaged items and staff will wear full PPE. There are also sanitiser stations throughout the site.

While Jo Carroll, co-owner of Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe, has welcomed the easing of restrictions, she fears it may not mean an end to the business challenges ahead.

“While the pandemic is by no means over, we are pleased to see a change to some of the rules we have been working to over the last few months. But we go forwards from Monday very much with cautious optimism. The current extremely high infection rates are worrying and will no doubt lead to another wave of cancellations and dent consumer confidence,” she said.

“Our housekeeping costs have doubled, as we maintain cleaning standards dictated to us by Visit England, but we have decided to retain the same rigorous regime for many more months to come. It is essential that our guests feel our accommodation is clean, safe and secure in the current climate.”

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Freedom Day, Jo Carroll, Will's Treehouse
Will’s Treehouse

Winchcombe has been closed for eight of the last 16 months, costing Jo and partner Steve Taylor, tens of thousands of pounds in lost business.

The couple received emergency support from the Government’s Hospitality Grant Scheme – which covered all their basic utility bills – plus free business rates, but fell into the 10% of workers who didn’t qualify for any personal financial help.

The family-run retreat finally reopened to guests in April following a sustained six-month period of closure, but bookings which continued to contravene the Covid-19 regulations along the Government’s roadmap, resulted in more refunds.

Jo said: “For the last few months, we have only been permitted to have six people from six different households or two households in a holiday lodge at any one time. This has caused a logistical nightmare for some of the large group reservations, and we’ve cancelled many bookings as a result – refunding thousands of pounds to customers in order to ensure that we didn’t break the rules.

“We’ve also jumped through hoops to ensure that we have track and trace information for every single guest aged over the age of 16, which has taken hours and hours of admin time.”

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Freedom Day, Jo Carroll

And, for the mum of two, both the business and personal sacrifices have, at times been a difficult pill to swallow.

She said: “It was extremely frustrating to see that 66,000 people were allowed to gather at Wembley to watch the Euro 2020 final when we weren’t allowed to have seven people staying together in a holiday lodge in a remote rural location.

“We were not even allowed to attend our children’s sports days this year due to Covid, however thousands of people descend on Wimbledon for the tennis. There does seem to be some definite disparity in the rules.”

The couple, who established their glamping business just over two years ago on the foundations of their former privately-run nursery, currently have five lodges and a tree house for guests on their farm, including the recently opened Jess’ Tree Bach.

Visit Winchcombe Farm Holidays at: http://winchcombefarm.co.uk/

More about Winchcombe Farm

This unique collection of luxurious holiday homes has been beautifully designed and equipped to offer the very height of luxury – from steaming hot tubs and hammocks to outdoor pizza ovens and geodesic domes for a spot of stargazing.

The family-run, independent holiday retreat is hidden away on a private country estate in the glorious Warwickshire countryside on the north east tip of the Cotswolds in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Surrounded by a working farm, Winchcombe Farm lies beneath the famous battlefield landmark of Edgehill and makes the perfect base for exploring Stratford-upon-Avon and some of the picturesque Cotswold villages nearby.