HEREFORDSHIRE craft cider producer Once Upon A Tree has launched a new, entirely natural, wild yeast fermented sparkling cider called Wild Flight.

The business, which was set up nine years ago using fruit from Dragon Orchard, near Ledbury, and the skills of cider-maker and vintner Simon Day.

The latest addition to its range of ciders and perrys aims to support the work of the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) at Newent, Gloucestershire. A donation of 25p per bottle sold will go towards the centre’s work in little owl conservation.

Cider maker Simon Day said: “Having attended a fascinating talk about the plight of these owls by Helen McSweeny-Atkins, of the International Centre for Birds of Prey, and hearing they particularly favour orchard habitats, I was delighted to be able to offer a little owl nest box site in our orchards, which we hope will be occupied very soon.”

Little owls numbers have dropped by 60 per cent in Britain over the past decade and the ICBP is working hard to understand why, but also aiming to encourage breeding to boost numbers locally.

The centre now has 50 boxes installed this year in celebration of its 50th anniversary and is still looking for more farmers, schools or local community groups to come forward to host and help monitor nest boxes.

Simon added: “This rather special cider needed a name and a label, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to tie in with the ICBP to help raise awareness and funds to further support their fantastic conservation work.”

The new cider is made from single variety Dabinett apples grown adjacent to the orchard nest box site. It has been named Wild Flight and the label features a little owl lino-cut print by local artist Hannah Day.

Jemima Parry-Jones, director of ICBP, said: “We are delighted that Once Upon A Tree is able to support our project to encourage little owl numbers locally. This type of collaboration is great for local business and great for wildlife.”

• Once Upon A Tree was founded in May 2008 by food and drink enthusiasts Ann and Norman Stanier, who run Dragon Orchard, and Hannah and Simon Day. Their aim was to create the best quality apple juice and cider from the highest quality fruit, while preserving the heritage and tradition of cider-making in the Ledbury area.

• The apples come from Dragon Orchard, which lies in the heart of the traditional apple growing area of Putley near the Marcle Ridge in Herefordshire. With a combination of good orchard management, fantastic soils and perfect mesoclimate, the fruit produced is some of the best available anywhere in the UK, with the apples attaining full ripeness yet retaining character and flavour.

• Juice and cider-maker Simon Day is an experienced professional winemaker who decided to turn his hand to cider-making after walking through the local orchards and seeing the potential to use winemaking skills to capture the true characters of the apples in the juice and ciders.