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Weston’s and Morgan

I was thinking back on my excursion around the Weston’s Cider Mill, and comparing it to my visit to the Morgan car factory. Both are local, family owned companies, and have been going for over a hundred years. In that time, they’ve both had to balance staying true to their roots with expanding and competing in the global market place. Morgan is now big in China, whilst Weston’s most recent export market is Australia.

They both have had to overcome significant issues in their expansion – at Morgan, the cars are famously hand-built, which limits their throughput. At Weston’s, they are determined that all the apples they use should come from the Three Counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. But you can’t just source local apples overnight to fuel expansion. About 45% of their apples come from their own orchards, but they also have worked with lots of local farmers to encourage them to plant more apple trees to secure future supply. I found it interesting that the newer orchards are planted with apple trees grown more as a bush so that the harvest can largely be mechanised – effectively a machine grabs the trunk of the tree and shakes it to make the apples fall off, then “hoovers them up” like a roadsweeper. The older orchards with “proper” old-style trees are less suited to mechanisation and spraying so, cannily, Weston’s have converted them to organic status to be turned into organic cider.

Surprisingly, despite the completely different nature of the two businesses, the atmosphere of the factory tours was quite similar. The guides were both full of pride in their company and its history, and the sites themselves comprised multiple different sheds each specialising in a different stage of the production process that had quite clearly evolved organically over the past one hundred years. There was even a similarity in the way that both companies made use of the local topology – Morgan use gravity to roll their cars down the slope from one shed to the next, and Weston’s make use of a slope to wash apples downhill into the first stage of the pressing process.

One other thing in common is that both tours ended in the obligatory gift shop – but there the similarities ended. I was definitely in the market for stocking up my car boot with a case of cider; I definitely was not in the market for a sports car! Weston’s is more family-friendly too – there was an outdoor play area, and they seemed quite happy to include children on the factory tours (but not in the tasting session afterwards!)

In both cases however I came away kicking myself that it had taken me so long to get around to visiting the factories. They were both very interesting indeed.