Perry’s Cider Farm – a child-friendly café with orchard garden and cider-making museum nr Ilminster
I’ve been looking forward to sharing this one as Perry’s Cider Farm is one of my favourite places to visit all year round. But particularly on warm, dry days where I can let the girls play in the orchard garden while I scoff a bacon sandwich and relax (in between games of ‘chuck the apple in the bucket' and hide & seek etc with the kids.)
It feels like a pretty special place to be, tucked away in the Somerset countryside in the small village of Dowlish Wake, not far from Chard, Ilminster and Crewkerne, where it’s been home to cider production for nearly 100 years.
Perry’s cider farm is a working cider/apple juice factory (I use the term factory loosely as the modern machinery is well hidden within the original barn buildings of this old farm), with a tearoom café that spills out into a peaceful garden with seating under the apple trees.
Today we had bacon sandwiches off the brunch menu (and a cream tea!), but there’s also a daily lunch specials board, standard lunch menu (baguettes and ploughman’s type of thing), a great range of cakes and a kids’ menu on offer.
On arrival the café staff are always really welcoming and make sure families with young children are offered high chairs and colouring sheets to help you settle in – there’s a basket indoors with crayons, colouring pads and kids’ books which is always a blessing when eating out with young ones in tow.
If the weather isn’t good enough to sit outside, the tearoom itself is snug but we have wedged car seats and buggies alongside our tables in the past (though it’s a good idea to book and mention any requirements in advance). And while we’re on the subject of practicalities for families with babies, there is a handy baby-changing unit in the ladies loo around the back of the café.
The garden isn’t fully contained and occasionally you’ll get the odd forklift ferrying crates of cider across the forecourt on one edge, and the small car park fronts on to another edge, so you just have to keep an eye on intrepid toddlers if they’re on the move.
Back to today – the girls amused themselves for quite a while in the garden by collecting windfall apples in the buckets I happened to have wedged in my car boot. Stuffed full of bacon and scones, we then had a good nosey around the barns looking at the range of cider-making memorabilia (old ploughs, carts, bikes and cider presses) on display, giving us a glimpse of how cider production has changed over the years.
We also whipped around the small (free) museum, where there’s some interesting displays on the history of the village and farming, with a range of old tools, bikes, presses and farm equipment to check out.
If you visit at the end of September when the apples are being harvested, you’ll see the trailers unloading huge mountains of apples from Perry’s own orchards into the apple pit, ready to be processed by the modern press, which my two find fascinating to watch; and you can peek into the high-tech cider-bottling barn any time of the year.
Finally, you can wander around the farm shop next to the café - there’s a range of giftware, produce and confectionery, but the real highlight (for the grownups..) is obviously the cider! If you’re a fan you can taste your way around 7 different Perry’s cider varieties from the barrel and the bag (seriously, what is not to love about this place, café/garden/museum AND free cider tasting?!) and once you’ve found a favourite there are flagons and bottles available to buy. You can even take your own container and they’ll fill it up for you (good for bbqs/parties/pressies for the cider-partial.)
Dowlish Wake itself is a small, pretty village and it does have a little playground on the playing fields a five-ish minute walk from the cider farm if you wanted to extend your visit.
Otherwise, you can have a little wander up the road (turn left if you’re exiting the cider farm) and find the little ‘trolls bridge’ next to the river, where we’ve done a spot of pond dipping before; and if you’ve brought the wellies we sometimes let the girls have a paddle in the ford right next to the little car park at the cider farm itself, because for some reason the little urchins don’t seem to mind getting covered in river slime and pond weed.