Pomona Award

Named after the Roman goddess of apples, CAMRA’s Pomona Award honours those who have made an outstanding achievement, commitment or contribution to the promotion of real cider or perry. The award is no longer given annually but is awarded as and when there is a suitable candidate.

Two awards were made this year and some might be surprised to learn that one was to a London based operation. The recipient was Elizabeth Pegler, who set up the Orchard Project, based in Mare Street, Hackney, and which produces Local Fox Cider. The project is a social enterprise, combining cider production with food waste reduction to benefit the local community.

Elizabeth and Colette with the award

Local Fox cider is largely made by volunteers who are able to participate in and learn the full production process. It is made entirely from apples grown in community orchards and gardens across London. The apples, which include some rare breeds like Arthur Turner and Idared, are either harvested by volunteers or donated by the garden owners. The volunteers then press the apples (last time some nine tonnes (9,000 kilos) of them) using the traditional cloth-and-rack method. The cider is then fermented using the wild fermentation technique and bottled without being filtered. It is normally available at a number of pubs and shops across London, with the profits going back into community projects. It is estimated that, since 2019, the project has saved around twelve tonnes of fruit from going to waste.

The award was presented on a damp October day at a gathering in the orchard in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park in Kennington, including CAMRA’s Chris Rouse from East Anglia, Greater London Cider Co-ordinator Ian White and Regional Director Geoff Strawbridge. Elizabeth was there to receive the award, along with colleague Colette Goulding.
Elizabeth said, “We are so incredibly grateful to have won the Pomona Award, not only because it makes me feel like a goddess of orchards but to see all our wonderful work recognised. Here at the Orchard Project it’s our mission to bring orchards to the heart of cities. Our cider and juice enterprise is very much part of that, with funds raised from the sales of our drinks returned to the orchards in the shape of tools, skills training and of course cider.”

The socially distanced presentation party
(L-R) Chris Rouse, Geoff Strawbridge and Ian White

Andrea Briers, who organises the award for CAMRA, added, “The Pomona Award is truly made for people like Elizabeth who show what a hugely positive impact cider production can have on a local community. When many people think of cider their mind will jump to rural areas of the West Country, but initiatives like Local Fox demonstrate that cider has a home even in our city centres. Huge congratulations to Elizabeth for her outstanding work on this truly unique and innovative project.”
From a CAMRA press release, with additional information from Ian White and thanks to Chris Rouse for the photographs

Editor’s note: I think that it is worth mentioning more about Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park. It is a 15 acre public park in Kennington (SE1), managed by the London Borough of Southwark. It was originally the site of the Bethlem Royal Hospital. When the hospital relocated to Bromley in 1926, the land was acquired by Harold Harmsworth, the first Viscount Rothermere, who, in 1934, donated it to ‘the ‘splendid struggling mothers of Southwark’ in memory of his own mother. During World War II the park was used as allotment plots as part of the Dig for Victory campaign, during which the park’s lido was filled in. The site was then used for the orchard, which was planted in 2003 by local schoolchildren with trees native to their home countries. There are 31 trees, including apple, pear, plum, quince, loquat, olive, cherry, persimmon and mulberry. The orchard is open for visits. Most of the old hospital building was demolished, except for the central portion which is now the Imperial War Museum.