It is with sorrow that we have to announce the death, on Friday, 5th January, of John Tedstone, orchardist, cider and perry enthusiast, horticulturalist and great friend of Dunkertons Cider. John supplied Dunkertons with a greater number of different varieties of cider apples and perry pears than any other of Dunkertons’ growers.
John’s brother, Ed, remembers that as children, if his brother couldn’t be found, then he knew that he would be somewhere in the orchards planting, pruning, grafting or walking and studying the trees and fruit, looking for the idiosyncrasies of the different varieties. This was a fascination and pursuit that continued throughout his life. He was forever searching out varieties of apples and pears that he believed worthy of propagation in his orchards. His orchards are testament of his quest to have the most comprehensive selection of varieties possible. He did this, not for any recognition this might bring him but for his own sense of achievement and horticultural curiosity.
Before Ivor and Susie started making cider John Tedstone was selling his apples to the major cider maker in Hereford. In 1981 he heard that a new, small-scale cider maker had started production in Pembridge, a company that was interested in the varieties, flavours and history of the cider apples they pressed. This struck a chord with John because for him it wasn’t merely the weight of the apples that he could supply it was all about the quality and character of the fruit he supplied.
I remember from my earliest days working at Dunkertons that come pressing time there were farmers who I could tell had a real interest in the produce they were bringing to Dunkertons to be pressed, foremost amongst these was John Tedstone. He had an endless fascination with all things to do with orchards and their crops. When delivering his own fruit he would always have a look around the boxes of apples in the yard from other growers to look at the quality of the fruit delivered and to see if there was a variety he had not seen before and that might be suitable for his own orchard.
I would visit his farm several times throughout the year but especially blossom time and harvest time. More often than not my wife, Kay, would come with me because John was not only an authority on the cultivation of orchard fruit, he also had an interest in all matters horticultural – fruit, vegetables, flowers, anything that grew he wanted to know how to grow it better. He was a regular competitor at his village show in a wide range of classes from winemaking and largest marrow to compost making.
He will be much missed by Dunkertons for his enthusiasm, humour, knowledge and advice: it was John Tedstone that taught then cider maker Darren Gregory the skills of pruning and grafting which helped shape the future of Dunkertons orchards. When Dunkertons planted their perry orchard of rare varieties he couldn’t wait to see fruit from varieties he didn’t have. Would the trees grow vigorously and crop well and, more importantly, would the pears make good perry?
He will be much missed by me for all of the above and also for the friendship I had with him. He had an enthusiasm and knowledge of Herefordshire and the countryside that I respected and admired. Over the thirty odd years that I knew him I like to think he became a good friend. I will miss the visits to his farm (I would always mentally set aside an hour or so to spend chatting with him but it always was more like three or four hours!) and the long informative and entertaining phone calls I had with him. He really was one of a kind. An irreplaceable Herefordshire farmer who, over the years, through his conversations, taught many people much about the workings of orchards and the landscape they are in. His influence will live on in many ways.
Robert West 8th January 2017