Cavan Mahony, author of Clara and The Magic Circles children’s book, collaborates with photographer and LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler to bring to life the picturesque Temperley family cider farm in bucolic Somerset, set on ancient grounds
“Legend has it that King Arthur is buried right here!” I turn around to see an enchanting Rapunzel-like lady pointing out Burrow Hill to two children. The children gasp with delight, “King Arthur?! There must be TREASURE buried there, and swords with rubies and golden shields!!“
Burrow Hill, located on the Pass Vale Farm of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company, stands out in a mythical way, with one proud, lone sycamore tree just at the top. Adding to the local legend of the location of King Arthur’s tomb, the nearest town has the telling name of Kingsbury Episcopi.
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The children run on ahead crossing the street into the official entrance of the cider farm. The sun catches the little girl’s hair as it bounces about her shoulders. Wearing a tulle ballet skirt and pink t-shirt covered in sparkles, she looks ready for a starring role. The boy, who I imagine is her brother, is running along-side her laughing. His hair is long and floppy and he is already half covered in mud from some previous adventure that morning.
Upon entering the cider farm, I am awestruck by the rows and rows of apple trees in bloom stretching across 180 acres of the apple orchard. I continue to walk through this cathedral of white blossoms until I reach the meadow where the Temperley’s, owners of the cider farm, have set up picnic blankets and cushions. There are other families sprinkled about under the apple trees, children running along-side wandering ducks and chickens. A horse or two flick their tails contentedly chewing on grass.
Cider has been made on the land of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company for over 300 years and for the last 55 years under the ownership of Julian and Diana Temperley. Julian was the first to commercialise cider brandy in the UK, reviving an ancient craft that had disappeared hundreds of years ago. Julian and Diana raised four children on the farm, with their daughter Matilda, now head of operations as Managing Director of Burrow Hill and Somerset Cider Brandy Company.
Children are excitedly shouting to each other, “The cider bus is serving tacos today!” Fox and Phoenix Temperley, sons of Mary and Alice, are already sprinting through the orchard, up the hill to reach the cider bus. Parked in the central courtyard of the farm is the eggshell blue Temperley cider bus.
Every year the family piles into the bus to set up camp at Glastonbury. For the rest of the time, Matilda organises fabulous weekend events at the farm inviting musicians and performers to entertain guests while serving cider and different foods by local providers.
I lay out a picnic blanket and a basket full of local treats. Next to me, Mary Temperley, mother of four children and founder of skin care and home décor brand, Love from make, is in serious discussion with her sister Alice, mother of Fox and founder of iconic fashion label, Temperley. I can feel the ancient history of this extraordinary place and the magic of deep family ties mixed in with individual creative expression.
Off to the left of our picnic area is an old wooden gate. Swing open the gate and walk along well-worn mud tracks grooved from trucks and farm vehicles and you will happen upon Diana’s log cabin. The log cabin is situated on a lake with a massive weeping willow tree, built by Diana to serve as an artist studio and another option for the family to congregate with friends and to enjoy the farm.
The Temperleys plant new hedges and orchards every year, keeping copses for wildlife and planting wildflowers and lavender for bees and butterflies as part of an impressive sustainability program. Apples, pears, quince, cherry and various plums are all grown on the farm for the production of cider and their range of spirits.
Half of the cider is distilled in their copper stills named, Josephine, Fifi and Isabelle. The distilled clear spirit, or “water of life”, is placed in oak casks to mature into apple cider brandy over 3 to 20 years. With extraordinary long-term vision, the Temperleys are now also growing their own oak trees so they may be used for barrels in 130 years time.
On this day under the apple blossoms and on many happy subsequent visits, there is a sensation of having stepped into the pages of a fairytale, where time stops and anything is possible. I half expect to catch a glimpse of Tinker Bell and see The Lost Boys running out into the orchard brandishing swords
Having entered this other-worldly place surrounding Burrow Hill, I lie back on our picnic blanket staring up at clouds of apple blossom and think: What if…, what if, some day, I could write a children’s book…
May the creative inspiration that the Somerset Cider Brandy farm and the Temperley family have given me, inspire all those who visit this magical place and may they wonder as I did, if the final resting place of King Arthur lies beneath the lonely Sycamore Tree on Burrow HIll.
By Cavan Mahony, Author of Clara and the Magic Circles. Out now.
Photographer, Maryam Eisler, captures the magic of the Temperley farm and the family in a series of photos taken one fine Spring day.