Killerton Estate in Devon walked away with the top Overall Drinks Award at the National Trust’s annual Fine Farm Produce Awards, presented at BBC Countryfile Live in the grounds of Blenheim Palace.

The estate was presented with the prestigious award for its medium sparkling cider. Completely hand-picked, this medium cider scored most highly for its full-flavoured, complex character with notes of toffee apple and subtle smokiness.

Killerton’s 50 acres of orchards are home to over 100 traditional apple varieties including the oddly named Slack-ma-girdle and Hangy Down varieties, with some trees over a century old. Managed naturally, these diverse orchards are a real haven for wildlife and the estate team are passionate about maintaining the trees for their botanical and historic interest, as well as for their harvest.

“Harvesting the apples is a real community effort, with local people, Trust staff and volunteers all getting involved,” said Fi Hailstone, Killerton produce ranger. “The apples are collected by hand and then crushed on site using a 200-year-old traditional cider press.

“Killerton cider is created through a passion to manage the countryside in a sustainable way. Traditional orchards are important for biodiversity and are more generally a really beautiful place to spend time. Any profits from sales go straight back into the conservation work at Killerton, helping us to plant lost orchards and to look after the current ones, for everyone to enjoy.”

Rob Macklin, the National Trust’s head of food and farming, added: “The twelfth year of these awards has once again excelled. The standard of products remains incredibly high.

“Over the years, it has been a pleasure for the judges to see how producers associated with National Trust land (and coast) have improved and maintained their attention to standards of production, packaging, presentation and of course taste. Successfully adding value to food and drink is not easy – these awards signal some of the very best.

“Among the winners in food and drink categories, we have also made a special award to the farmers making greatest achievements with regard to farming with nature as judged by our food and farming team.”

Conygree Farm, part of the Sherborne Park Estate in Gloucestershire, won the top Farming with Nature award, among a total of 12 awards taken away by south west places and products. Trust food and farming advisors across the country felt that Conygree Farm’s Mel and Jonty Brunyee have shown the greatest commitment to managing and restoring habitats, demonstrating best practice with soil and water and promoting farming and nature conservation. Alongside producing traditional Hereford cattle and rare breed Cotswold sheep, they have reverted 100 acres of former arable land to herb-rich grassland and created field margins with a wide variety of nectar-rich plants to attract pollinators and support farmland wildlife including birds such as corn buntings, lapwings and skylarks.

Mel and Jonty said: “The way we farm, with nature at the heart of all we do, can be hard but also very rewarding. We’re creating a range of diverse wildlife habitats that are full of colour and life, rebuilding soil and producing a very tasty rare breed pasture-fed meat.

“Farming with nature has to be in your heart but it’s always tempting to push the farm harder, tidy up fallow areas and scrubby corners, and swap native flowers for more productive grasses.”

In total 21 producers were recognised for 33 fantastic food, drink and countryside products, ranging from spring lamb and organic flour to dressed crab and sparkling cider.