Sharon Chilcott talks to apple grower Nigel Rolinson about life in the Herefordshire village of Putley.
Are you Putley born and bred?
Yes! My father was from Dudley, but came to the village as a boy of sixteen in 1947, when his college arranged a work experience at Lower Court Farm. He loved it so much that he went back home to pack some clothes, returned to the farm and never left Putley again. He and my mother married in 1959 – her family had lived in the area all their lives.
What makes Putley special?
It’s home! It is too easy to take my surroundings for granted but, asking me this question makes me stop to appreciate this rural area of Herefordshire and especially the picturesque location of Lower Court Farm. It’s right next to Putley’s parish church, which is set next to a pretty duck pond and has to be one of the loveliest churches in the county. It dates back to Norman times and was rather splendidly restored in Victorian times by the Riley family who lived at Putley Court.
For you, personally, what’s the best thing about living in Putley?
Working on the farm and producing cider apples from our orchards. We are excited to be supplying apples to a growing number of independent cider makers across the country from Devon to Scotland.
Where do you go for a spot of “culture”?
It’s easy to get to the theatre in Malvern or to the cinema in Hereford. We often join friends for trips to live music events in Worcester, Cheltenham and Bishops Cleeve and the annual Sunshine Music Festival in Upton-upon-Severn has become a regular fixture.
Where would you book up for a celebratory meal?
For a rural setting, I like the Inn at Welland. For a town-based restaurant, it would be Ponte Vecchio in Hereford or The Daffodil in Cheltenham.
And where would you shop for clothes for a special outing?
Renaissance Menswear in Ledbury – every time!
Describe the vibe in your favourite local pub…
The Crown at Woolhope is just over the hill. It’s warm and inviting and where locals go to just have a drink or to eat as well. It has a great range of beers and ciders
Is there anywhere else you would go for a casual evening out?
Yes, The Wellington at Colwall. Or, for a great burger, we’d head to one of the Rule of Tum burger shops, either in Hereford or Worcester.
Where do you go locally to “blow the cobwebs away”?
There’s nothing like a good walk around my orchards with my two cocker spaniels.
What’s the social life like in Putley?
We have a great pop-up pub in the parish hall, called The Prancing Pony. It’s held on the last Friday of each month and is always well attended and a good opportunity to meet up with friends and neighbours. The Prancing Pony sometimes hosts live music and I especially enjoy our local band, Three Bone Joint. My wife, Elena, belongs to a Putley Writers’ Group called Chasing Our Tales – it is in its infancy and new members are welcome!
There is a full diary of events in and around Putley throughout the year. Every May Bank Holiday, Blossom Time in Putley celebrates the local orchards and if the timing is right, they’ll be pretty in pink. This year it’s on Sunday May 5 and Monday May 6 and it includes an opportunity to taste entries in the annual Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials, an important competition for the region’s craft cider and perry producers. The following Saturday (May 11) there’s the annual Putley Open Gardens, often another chance to see the orchards in bloom whilst walking the parish footpaths from one beautiful garden to the next. Later in the year another great local event is the Big Apple at Harvest Time. Locals also look forward to the annual cricket tournament and New Year’s Day tug of war with neighbouring Aylton and another favourite tradition in the area is the annual Wassail in January.
What’s the best time of year in Putley?
Spring, for the blossom and the wild flowers.
How would you advise someone new into the area to get to know the locals?
Go to the Prancing Pony, join the thriving WI and attend our active parish church.
In what ways are you involved in your local community?
I am a member of the Parish Council – there has been a Rolinson on the council for around 40 years and I have been a member since the early 1990s. During severe weather, I am also on hand with my tractors and farm machinery to help clear roads and move cars.
What are the most important initiatives to have happened in Putley in the past few months?
Putley recently embarked on a large piece of work to establish a Neighbourhood Development Plan, which a majority of parishioners have just voted in favour of.
The parish hall is in dire need of a new roof so it was marvellous when the hard work of the parish hall committee paid off and they managed to obtain a grant towards the work from the Garfield Weston Foundation.
I’m also really pleased about the recent renovations to the war memorial and the Medieval cross in the church grounds.
If friends were staying with you, where would you take them to visit?
A tour of the cider mill at Westons at Much Marcle would be an obvious choice for me! I’d also take them to Hellens Manor which is also in Much Marcle.
If friends with children were staying with you for a week, where would you take them?
Newbridge Farm Park in nearby Aylton.
Tell me one fascinating fact about Putley…
Putley was once described as an immoral parish where there was no crime the locals would not stoop to! After the highly regarded local squire John Riley sold Putley Court and its estate, the new landowner was not so well-liked.
It seems he offended the parishioners by restricting their access to footpaths and other parts of the estate they had become accustomed to using. So they retaliated by breaking locks and taking gates off their hinges and things ended up at Ledbury Revision Court, where, as reported by a newspaper in the late 1920s, the squire described our idyllic little village as “the most immoral parish he had ever been in although he had been all over the world.”
I have to stress that I don’t recognise this description, even if some of us do like to down a few beers at The Prancing Pony!
Facts and Figures
Putley is a small, rural parish comprising about 100 dwellings scattered among woodland, orchards, pasture and arable land or grouped around the parish hall at Putley Green or on Putley Common. Located about seven miles from the market town of Ledbury, it has a rich history and a strong heritage of cider and perry production, heavily influenced by the pioneering fruit farmer John Riley, who lived at Putley Court from 1872 until around 1922.
More about Putley: www.putley.org.uk
For more information about Lower Court Farm: www.lowercourtfarm.co.uk
More about Putley Open Gardens: www.putleygardens.org.uk. Like Putley Open Gardens on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putleyopengardens Follow on Twitter @PutleyGardens
More about Blossomtime in Putley: www.bigapple.org.uk
Photos: Sharon Chilcott; John Teale; Putley Parish Council