A winning year for The Houghton Project
In the idyllic rural setting of the Herefordshire countryside nestles a picture perfect farm, with stunning views of the surrounding area of outstanding beauty. But this is no ordinary farm, on closer inspection numerous groups of people lovingly tend to a wide variety of animals and nurture the land. This is home to The Houghton Project: a not-for-profit organisation providing opportunities for people with learning difficulties, mental health issues and those facing life challenges.
The Houghton Project was established in 2002 to teach rural skills and also facilitate new friendships, build confidence and improve mental and physical wellbeing. Tim James-Moore who set up this inspired community education project explains: “Society places expectations on people based on narrow perceptions of their disabilities and abilities. We want to highlight that with the right kind of support there is so much more that can be achieved. Our main aim is to provide meaningful activity and encourage engagement.”
Tim James-Moore talks about what this means for the project and why cider and perry making lends itself to a community initiative like this: “The wonderful thing about cider and perry production is that it allows everyone to be involved and have a role. With tasks ranging from picking and mashing the fruit, through to making and bottling the cider and perry, it’s very inclusive. Many of the people we work with have been marginalised and running projects like the cider and perry production gives a tangible objective with a beginning, middle and an end. Everyone should have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and strengths and then to see where those opportunities might take them.”
James Hewitt, who has been attending the Houghton Project for 3 years, was the lead on the cider and perry production with encouragement and guidance from support worker Taylor. James has cerebral palsy and has had a pacemaker fitted. He describes how before he started coming to The Houghton Project he lacked direction and felt he was being led astray. James explains: “The project and winning the prizes has played a massive part in overcoming the difficulties I faced and has given me the self confidence to help others.”
Tim James-Moore talks about what these accolades mean: “Winning awards like this gives community projects and the people we are supporting a real sense of achievement and credibility. We all thought our cider and perry was really good, and now this proves it. I am immensely proud of all the work that has gone into producing the drinks, from growing the fruit, to using traditional methods of the farm to make it; everyone has worked really hard.”
Up until 2003 Houghton Court was run as a working farm by Tom James-Moore. It was when Tim James-Moore joined (having gained invaluable experience working in Bristol City Farms for 14 years) that The Houghton Project was born. One of Tim’s first initiatives was to buy a minibus, realising it would be impossible for most of the people he wanted to reach to attend Houghton otherwise. The project still provides transportation from nearby Hereford and Leominster to and from the farm.
Apple juice, cider and perry making has been a traditional occupation in Herefordshire for centuries. The Houghton Project is now firmly part of this tradition. The fruit is all picked by hand and the drinks made in small batches, using only natural yeast present on the fruit. Cider and perry making is a skilled craft and so agreed to help, as did Susanna Forbes (co-founder of the award winning Little Pomona Orchard & Cidery). Gabe Cook – an independent global cider making expert and the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust – also generously agreed to support The Houghton Project.
stated: “Little Pomona was delighted to welcome some of the team from The Houghton Project to our cidery during harvest last year. They were all so interested, a testament to the strong bonds and sense of pride fostered at the Project. To witness their success at the 2022 International Cider & Perry Competition at the Museum of Cider, Hereford, was truly heart-warming. It was a tough competition with a very strong panel of judges, where their ciders and perries were pitted against some of the best producers in the land. The joy this brought to their representatives illustrates brilliantly the value and quality of the training given and skills imparted to these remarkable individuals by the project.”
with 15 years of experience) commented: "The Houghton Project embodies the best of social care: the provision of a safe, empowering space for people who need a little extra help which can produce quality, tangible skills and products. I've known the Houghton Project for over 10 years now, and it has been a joy to see the apple trees go into the ground, for the first cider to be made and, now, for the creation of award-winning cider. I wish my cider tasted as good!"
Julia Morton, Engagement Manager at the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, explains: “We have had a relationship with the Houghton Project for 10 years, planting and helping to maintain their orchard, and making our own apple juice on the farm. It’s a very special place and I love the warm welcome we get when we turn up. I’ve sampled the cider and perry over the years too and have seen how much work they put in to making it so tasty.”
And The Houghton Project received even more prestigious accolades in June 2022. The Project won The Farm Conservation & Diversification category at the Hereford Times Food and Farming Awards and the Outstanding Contribution to Food & Farming went to Thomas James-Moore. Thomas said: “I am speechless. Absolutely incredible, I am very flattered. My son Timothy James-Moore was instrumental in setting the project up.”
If you’d like to get in touch or find our more visit www.houghtonproject.co.uk
Notes to Editors
About The Houghton Project
Based on a farm between Hereford and Leominster The Houghton Project provides an array of opportunities for anyone who wants to learn a variety of rural skills, but who may like some guidance and support to get fully involved.
For more information visit: www.houghtonproject.co.uk
About Oliver’s Cider & Perry
Oliver’s has collaborated with cider makers around the world. Tom makes his ciders and perries on his family's farm in the village of Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire, England.
About Little Pomona Orchard & Cidery
Working with its home orchard and some of the most talented orchardists in its environs, Little Pomona crafts ciders and perries and other fermented beverages that speak of the land, that taste of the harvest, that illustrate the wonderful cidermaking heritage the region is built on, and that look to the future.
About Gabe Cook – The Ciderologist
Over 10 years of working in the cider industry, from traditional farms to the world’s largest producers, Gabe Cook works across a wide range of roles encompassing cider making, new product development, customer liaison, media relations, public affairs and community engagement.
About Herefordshire Wildlife Trust
The vision of the Trust is for a Herefordshire richer and more diverse in wildlife, bringing its people closer to nature. With the support of 5,800 members and over 300 volunteers, the Trust cares for 55 Nature Reserves, works with partners to create Living Landscapes and inspires people of all ages to discover and care for Herefordshire's wildlife.