The Village of Cheltenham and the Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

Not far from there are the Cheltenham Brickworks, a cluster of buildings forming a brick factory that was built in the early part of the last century. The factory has long since closed, but its buildings, although closed off by a fence, are still a mysterious reminder of Ontario’s industrial heritage. Nowadays they are protected from demolition and their unusual photogenic appearance attracts many photographers.

The Cheltenham Brickworks are a popular destination for photographers

As we talked about all the interesting sights in the area, Shelly gave me some expert input on what else to see in her village. She recommended that I visit the Cheltenham Country Store, one of the most important properties in town that is located right on the scenic Credit River. So indeed, after a brief stroll through the attractive garden of the Top of the Hill Bed and Breakfast I headed off, as Shelly suggested, into the heart of Cheltenham and made a stop at the general store.

The Cheltenham Country Store, built in 1887

This historic stone structure was built in 1887 after a fire that had destroyed many of the stores in the village. Today it is home to a deli bar, a post office, a gift shop and a popular spot for some scooped ice cream. Nicest of all, its garden fronts right onto the shores of the Credit River, and there is a big inviting wooden deck that guests can use to sit down on, enjoy their snacks and take in the serene riverfront view.

The Cheltenham Country Store has a gorgeous backyard

The second suggestion that Shelly had given me was an almost brand-new place at the north end of Cheltenham: the Spirit Tree Estate Cidery is an award-winning business that opened in the fall of 2009 and has quickly become one of the must-see destinations in the Hills of Headwaters region. I met Thomas Wilson and his wife, Nicole Judge, who created this inspiring business, and Thomas took me on a tour of the cidery.

The award-wnning Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

Both Thomas and Nicole have a strong connection to agriculture: Thomas was raised on a beef farm in Caledon and spent a lot of time working at his grandfather’s orchard. Nicole’s Irish and British background almost predestines here with a love of cider. Given her love for animals, Nicole became a veterinarian and today she is the Chief Operating Officer of a group of 7 veterinary hospitals in Toronto, Kitchener and Ottawa, and also dedicates herself to her family business.

Nicole Judge and Thomas Wilson, owners of the Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

The first point that Thomas explained to me was the background behind the name of their business: the name “Spirit Tree Estate Cidery” took a long time to emerge. It refers to the ancient British tradition of “wassailing”, singing to cider-producing apple trees to ensure a good harvest for the coming year. The reference to this ritual from long ago alludes to the long history of cider.

Apples are celebrated in every shape and form at the Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

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