This blog has been going for about a year now. I started it because last September I had 5 weekends of courses lined up and thought I would share my learning with people. One of those weekends was a conference at Sheepdrove Farm in Lambourn (that post is here!). I had a spectacular day there and it probably kick started my love affair with good quality, local food which has been slowly simmering ever since.
I saw they had some open days planned and took the husband along to show him what all the fuss was about. I was a bit worried that going when there was no seminar on may be a problem (the seminar had been excellent!) or whether my memory was distorted and that he wouldn’t see the attraction as I’d built it up so much. Not to be!
Driving into Sheepdrove Farm through Lambourne is beautiful, rolling fields and countryside and a reminder of life beyond Fit Camp, sweaty gyms and the Olympics. It is a working organic farm and visits are planned, you can’t just appear and hope to be seen! They also operate an eco-friendly and sustainable conference venue for meetings and weddings making it a unique experience.
You are welcomed into the airy foyer with hot drinks and homemade biscuits. These aren’t any old biscuits someone has knocked together, they are made with flour milled each day, from cereal that is grown on the farm in a sustainable and organic way. Today’s delicacies were nutty flapjacks, shortbread, mini rock cakes and some chocolate thingy. I didn’t move on much past the first two 🙂
The tour had us on a tractor trailer sitting on bales of hay (much to the husband’s delight) and we were told about crop rotation, seeded borders for bug control, that borage nectar is the best tasting honey, that turkeys are thick as two short planks and mummy sheep don’t care much for their scared lambs when it’s raining.
We also investigated the working reed bed for water filtration on site and saw pigs living in the wood as ‘land managers’. These were the most healthy looking pigs I’ve ever seen. They were huge for a start (but only 10 months old) not at all sweaty or mucky and their coats shone! They loved ruffling up the earth, eating nettles and being petted — talk about happy! And no, they weren’t going to be culled, they were purely land managers.
We did see some outdoor bred pigs and their piglets who answer to “pig, pig” and came charging out of the woods to see who called them. They were two weeks old. They were happy, but yes were part of the food chain.
Once inside we had a fantastic two course lunch made from freshly harvested ingredients. All produce is handmade or produced on site, including Elderflower cordial, bottled water, vegetables, herbs, eggs. If they don’t produce something (dairy) they source a local supplier with the same high standards that they employ.
- Soda bread with roasted peppers from the Red Fife wheat, grown on site and milled that morning.
- Pork (!) with crackling, roast potatoes, chard, courgettes and beans, carrots and French beans, served with homemade chilli and apple jam. Plus (like we needed more) salad leaves from the garden garnished with flowers. It looked very pretty and one little girls kept going back for more flowers. It’s a good start towards eating more veggies I suppose!
- Pudding was sublime! Pavlova or summer fruit tart or homemade ice-cream. When I say ‘or’…you could read that as ‘and’…
The whole experience was exceptional. If you wanted to take your children to see a working farm where people care about the environment and are doing what’s best for the land and community PLUS a meal! Then you should give it a go. If you don’t have children, don’t worry, it’s not just for them. You can pick the brains of the Farm Manager Dan, who knows each tree, bird, crop, weed and pig. He was fascinating.
Well worth it and a great way to come down after the excitement of the Olympics!