A Fruitful Business
It’s quite a leap from data network engineer for a multinational company to hands-on local cidermaker, but one that John Lewington is very happy with.
Nearly two years ago John took over the Tiddly Pomme business near Faversham, where he makes cider from apples grown only yards away in the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale.
Following redundancy from GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals, he was looking for a completely new challenge when he stumbled across Tiddly Pomme for sale. As he wanted to be creative, and was already enthusiastic about local produce, it caught his interest. “It was an opportunity to think about what’s important to me,” he says.
In an outbuilding at Brogdale, he presses apples of around 30 varieties, nurtures the juice carefully during fermentation then bottles it. It travels just another few yards to his Tiddly Pomme shop in Brogdale Marketplace. Can’t get fewer ‘food miles’ than that…
As well as his own cider (including the wonderfully-named Woolly Pig), John sells Kentish beers, ciders, wines and spirits plus fruit and vegetables grown on the Brogdale Farm. There are also gifts, cards and books for sale which make a Christmas visit a particular must.
Woolly Pig, by the way, was named after the unusually hairy Mangalitsa pet pigs which used to belong to another trader at Brogdale and gobbled up the residue from apple pressing!
Since taking over the business John, with occasional help from his wife and daughter plus part-time shop staff, has expanded the range of retail goods particularly with local food connections. He is getting excellent feedback as he strives to attract local customers as well as the tourists who arrive to visit the UK’s biggest fruit collection. There are guided walking tours of Brogdale orchards seven days a week from April – October (The Market Place is open year-round).
“There is fantastic work going on here to keep this heritage site alive and accessible,” says John. “There really is nothing else like it in the world.”