Archive | October, 2013

South Chailey and Townings Farm Shop

26 Oct

The run

That coffee idea from last week? Definitely a good idea – coming back to the car after a wild and windy run and knowing that was waiting for me – motivation, people, motivation. The peanut butter sandwich helped too.

Okay, the intention today was to do a pretty circular route I found on Travel Log Lewes Walks, but as usual, as I set off and couldn’t work out which way ‘South’ was, and as there were two bus stops (one on either side if the road) the instruction about starting at the bus stop didn’t help either. So, after a false start and running up and down the road a few times, I saw a sign for a bridleway at the brick works (quite impressed they have a brickworks factory – hey at least this country is still making something eh?).

South Chailey brickworks

South Chailey brickworks

Started off as a very pretty run, seems like horsey country – lots of big fields with jumps in, large ranchy houses. Quickly led in to more wooded country, very muddy after last night’s storm, but clearly well-used by horses (if you know what I mean). It wound on. This is when I started getting proper psyched. Thinking about The Killing and Rachel Nickell, the woman who was stabbed on Wimbledom Common – go away scary thoughts! I picked up the pace haring through those woods (though you couldn’t tell from my average pace, lol).

Chailey-loop

Chailey-loop

Scaring myself silly

Scaring myself silly

Would it be better to meet someone, or not meet someone? Kept thinking about turning back, but a green field to my right and not wanting to admit defeat spurred me on. Much to my relief I finally came out onto a road, which I was going to complete my route on (thank god for GPS or I would have been completely lost by now) but…after only a few hundred yards I was tempted back onto a footpath by a sign. Lots of stiles to climb and more wondering if I was going the right way until I joined Markstakes Lane which did complete my route back past the brickworks. Plenty of countryside bounty on the route today: apples, blackberries, crab apples, hips and haws (not sure what you do with those?) a giant mushroom (but I don’t know my mushrooms so have no idea if it was edible – am certainly not up for experimenting with that!)

The farm shop

The good folks at Middleton Common Farm Shop suggested I come here, last week, so off I went. Up a single track road in the car (these give me the fear – imagine meeting something coming the other way!) to a fairly underwhelming exterior – I had been led to believe that this would be a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of a hallowe’en extravaganza. There were a few pumpkins outside which made a welcoming display.

pumpkins

On entering the shop (the only customer) I was met by a very friendly lady who obviously owned the farm with her family. She explained to me all about the meat on sale – their speciality – which was rare breed and sustainable. They also had locally sourced produce (jams, chutney, cheese) and some items that would make good Christmas presents (chocolates, knitted items and a book, I know someone would like). I spotted Auntie Val’s Date and Banana chutney which I was very tempted to buy in honour of my Auntie Val, but resisted as I have other priorities this week (and not much money, besides I have a cupboard full of homemade chutney, see Streat and Middle Farm). Eventually, I chose cheese, a gift for my son’s girlfriend – Brownie-making kit, and a Hebridean leg of lamb (which can be mistaken for beef apparently – I look forward to tasting its earthy flavours) along with some redcurrant gravy (as the husband and I are just rubbish at making gravy). Hopefully we can share this with our guests this week. After making my purchases I chatted to the lady a bit more about possible lunch stops (she is considering opening a cafe but hasn’t got that far yet), and the tearoom at Chailey Cross was recommended. Before I left I went to see the pumpkin barn, had a quick look at the ‘special care’ sheep in the field outside and tried to snap the handsome roosters who were strolling around the farmyard.

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The lunch

Lunch turned into a bit of a wild goose chase: the tearoom at Chailey I couldn’t find, I found the church and the cross, but didn’t see a tearoom but couldn’t be sure I had followed directions correctly, so turned around and headed back to the Five Bells Pub I had seen on the road. Very disappointed to find the kitchen was being renovated and there would be no food today. Decided to head back to my ‘fallback’ which was the Half Moon Pub at Plumpton, which I had heard lots of good things about from my friend Mustak, so parked up and headed inside. A popular place; quite a few clientele, though it was barely 12. Felt a little snooty on entering, all choral music and waitresses dressed far better than I was (not difficult if you enter in muddy running gear – quickly sorted that one, by heading for the toilets and having a quick change). Decided to choose from the lunchtime specials menu (2 courses for £11), as the main courses were £10 upwards (even a sandwich was £8 – you can tell it is end of the month eh?). I chose the chilli and pea risotto with leaves, (is there a pea thing going on? It was pea soup last week, see Ditchling Common Country Park and Middleton Common Farm Shop) which was lovely and delicate, not too spicy and perfectly moist – not too big a portion either, as risotto can be hard work after a while. For dessert I had vanilla and grappa pana cotta with a white peach coulis (get me!), it was delicious and beautifully presented – I would have like to take a photograph but felt a little self-conscious.

The freebie

Blackberries from the hedgerows! They got a little squished from being in my running jacket pocket (which is now a lovely shade of purple) but we made a fine apple and blackberry crumble in the evening which my guests very much enjoyed (it was secret crumble night, as the husband deplores cooked fruit we can only eat it once he goes out).

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Ditchling Common Country Park and Middleton Common Farm Shop

16 Oct

The Run

Five times round the common. Last week, our hitchhiker, Simon suggested I try Ditchling Common, so, on looking it up on the web, I found there was a shortish circular nature trail you could follow. Being of only about a mile’s duration, I realised I would have to do it several times to get in the run I needed to do. Had a little trouble finding the common, it being further down Spatham Lane than I had anticipated, and was just about to give up when I came across it. Quite a few cars in the car park and several notices about car theft, and one about a stolen dog. High crime area?

Ditchling common country Park

Ditchling CommonStarted my first loop: the warm up loop, easy to follow signs and lots to see so I made several stops for photographs. Definitely an autumnal nip in the air and as the run went on the rain started to fall. This run reminded me of my husband and my’s first triumph – the Hindleap Warren run that we won as a team – wooded terrain, little muddy paths, bridges over streams, a lake, and the common: covered in bracken at this time of year, but, according to the information board, carpeted with bluebells in the summer.

Team winners Hindleap Warren

Team winners Hindleap Warren

This would be a really nice place to take kids: the loop is a manageable walking distance, lots to see – especially the coppiced tunnel and outdoor classroom, plus some picnic tables near the car park. Also very popular with dog walkers, I met quite a few on the way round – some I lapped a couple of times! There’s something quite satisfying about repeating the same thing over and over, you begin to recognise landmarks, or favour certain parts of the route – this is that great winding bit past the picnic tables, this is my sprint uphill etc. On the fourth loop I took a detour round the lake, which is popular with anglers (though I didn’t see any today), and the fifth and final loop I decided to do in reverse – everything looks different in reverse – which was mentally more challenging than I thought, as I have said before, I have no sense of direction, and I had to retrace my steps a few times in order not to get lost! Sitting here, back at the car afterwards, I think I need to add something to my kit list: a flask of coffee.

The farm shop

The farm shop I chose was Middleton Farm Shop which I had researched and found on the web, being the nearest one to Ditchling Common. It was a drive up a private lane to a very neat vegetable garden, the farm shop was very small,  and I was greeted by three characters with great enthusiasm on arrival – I don’t think they get much trade on a Wednesday! The oldest character (an octogenarian with a stick) gave me a full tour of the tiny shop, telling me what was best. When I said I was looking for ‘something interesting for tea’ I was pointed in the direction of the pies, they weren’t made on the premises but I decided to try one anyway. They had quite a large area set aside for cakes, but not much stock ‘as it was a Wednesday’ much more comes in from Thursdays onwards apparently, including fresh bread. The baskets of vegetables were enticing and I bought two huge sweet potatoes, which I plan on baking for tea tonight. They also had jam, fruit juice, cheese and this wonderful pineapple upside down cake which I couldn’t resist – made by the same lady that makes the chutneys I was informed. After they had extracted from me exactly what I was doing in the area , and recommended another farm shop (why?) plus told me where to park in Ditchling, I was allowed to leave. Not a place with a cafe or a place to idle much time except in conversation, and so I returned to Ditchling, in the now pouring rain, in search of a tearoom.

Middleton Common Farm Shop

Today’s haul

The lunch

Which is how I found myself running from the free parking outside the village hall, and straight off the roundabout into Mister Magnolias, Ditchling – the first tearoom I clapped eyes on. Again, light on customers, I was met with a very warm welcome and an Americano was rustled up while I made use of the facilities. I was a bit surprised by the interior, expecting an olde worlde tearoom , it was a bit more Pedlars, with Formica tables, school chairs and canteen style lighting. Very spacious with a drawing table for children and a courtyard garden, the glimpse of which, looked nice. A sleeping baby lay in a pram near the door. A few gift items were on sale like cushions, farm sets and painted china. A retro feel affected the whole ambience. For lunch I ordered the pea and mint soup which came with two small seeded rolls. Lovely thick soup with a fresh minty taste. Afterwards I ordered a slice of coffee and walnut cake (very moist and delicious) and a pot of Red Ginseng, mandarin and lime tea. (Beautiful pink colour, fresh and slightly sweet). Fantastic friendly tearoom – would highly recommend.

Mister Magnolias, Ditchling

Mister Magnolias, Ditchling

The freebie

Acorns! What can you do with acorns? Pigs eat acorns that’s about all I know. On searching the web I found acorns can be used to make flour, ‘coffee’, or can be added to stews in place of beans. The green ones are unripe though, and unsuitable for eating. Not sure I am brave enough to try…?

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Clayton and Offham Farm Shop

11 Oct

The run

This is a run I know well, most notably from participating in the Dewpond 7 (Sunday 22nd July 2012). This was my first race and I set off too hard (the encouragement of the marshall’s ringing in my ears “You’re doing great, first lady through”) only to fade later and be overtaken –  here’s a pic of me toiling through it – a truly horrible experience on a very hot day!

Dewpond 7 July 2012

Anyway, thankfully today’s run was nothing like that – it wasn’t exactly the same route either: the plan was to run from Clayton to Ditchling Beacon and back.

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It starts with a punishing uphill from Clayton Rec – within seconds you are out of breath and fighting to keep going, but once up on the Downs it becomes a pleasant off-road route on well-worn tracks surrounded by beautiful scenery. Saw several walkers and dog walkers: always mindful to greet them with a big cheery ‘hello’ (those serial killers are never far from my mind) so they would remember me.

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Straight up the hill to the Jack and Jill windmills

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Autumn colour in the hedgerows

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Why do bullocks congregate near the gate?

I am 47-years-old. I am scared of cattle. There, I’ve said it. Nervously entered the field with the bullocks and lightly jogged past them so as to not startle them. Always with my eye on an escape route, should I need it: a hedge or fence to dive over – maybe all that training for Warrior Run would pay off after all! On reaching the car park at Ditchling Beacon I looked for the ice cream van (wasn’t there – why would it be?) did a circuit of the car park and headed back to Clayton – bit easier with a nice pelt downhill at the end! Was tempted to do a victory lap of the recreation field as I had at Dewpond 7 but felt slightly self-conscious with the dog walker looking on!

The farm

I had high expectations for Offham Farm Shop as their roadside advertising is very good; along the lines of: “You are passing an excellent farm shop” so it had been on my radar since week 1. Therefore, when I walked in (having allowed plenty of time) I was a little disappointed to see a cold counter, a fridge, and a table of produce – not much here to while away a couple of hours, I thought. I had time to peruse the baked goods on offer and study the menu as no-one seemed in a rush to serve me. A fairly ordinary selection of lunchtime fayre such as soup, sandwiches, pies and sausage rolls. The cakes looked more interesting (don’t they always!): almond slices, homemade cookies, rocky road fridge cake etc. This felt more like a working farm with a small cafe and shop rather than some of the more ‘attraction’ led farms I had been to. The butcher was seen out back chopping up the meat while his wife (she says presumptuously) bustled around the cafe and made the pies and cakes. The speciality here being: good honest, plain food, largely consisting of meat and pastry. For my purchase this week I chose a beef and venison pie which was delicious and chock full of good quality meat. I was tempted by the pork and marmite sausages but they will have to wait for another occasion.

Beef and venison pie, Offham Farm Shop

The lunch

As it was too early for lunch,  I settled on an apricot and almond slice and a mug of coffee before finding a seat in the cafe where a man sat at a table, napping quietly, threatening to slide off his chair. I sat reading the newspaper for an hour enjoying the slow trade of truck-stop clientele and the grandmother with her grandson who chanted incessantly “I want a baby ‘cino with a marshmallow” – “you won’t get that here, son” I thought as she distracted him with a toasted muffin. Time passed and I decided to order the soup and crusty bread from the uninspiring menu. The soup was reasonable but the bread was clearly supermarket wholemeal sliced which was a disappointment, especially as they had some fine-looking crusty bread for sale in their shop. In the yard outside they had a few of their animals on show: pigs and piglets, sheep and chickens as well as three black-and-white sheepdogs who hunkered down and looked as though they would like to round you up as you passed by.

piglets at Offham Farm

Next week’s sausages?

The freebie

Our erstwhile hitchhiker, Simon has suggested next week’s run, so that shall be our freebie of the day.

Lewes and Spring Barn Farm

9 Oct

The run

I had some things to do in Lewes this morning so I planned a run nearby, choosing a 10k that someone had posted on Runkeeper. I didn’t know the area or route so there was a fair bit of stopping to check the route on my phone and my screwed up print-out of the map. It began by heading north out of Lewes past South Downs College and going under the A27 to some farmland. It was a still and misty morning and all was going well as I followed a well-worn farm track. I had seen very few people when I came to a farm where a fire was burning outside and there was a rusting caravan In the yard. Not sure of my direction, and to be honest, with every horror and serial killer movie looming in my mind, I got totally creeped out and decided to head back down from whence I’d come! I returned to the point where the road went under the A27 and noticed another fork of the road which I suspected would be where I would have finished the route had I continued the circuit. Rather than head back to run around the town (a cop-out) I decided to explore and see where it took me. In this direction it felt safer and I passed a cyclist and a man pushing a baby in a pram plus a couple of dog walkers. Headed out past Lewes Rugby fields and continued running alongside the road until I came to Spring Barn Farm. Curiosity got the better of me and I thought I’d check it out to see if I should come back later for lunch. Decision made, I turned around and completed my run back to Lewes.

Lewes run

The farm

A very inviting farm shop with friendly attentive staff. A good range of produce from local beers and wines to homemade ready meals and gifts. As I was stuck for ideas for our evening meal I chose the farm’s own frozen vegetarian chilli ready meal. There was plenty for two and enough leftover for lunch, they were quite pricey though so I shan’t be stocking the freezer anytime soon!

The ducks of Spring Barn Farm, nr Lewes

The lunch

After my rushed experience at Middle Farm last week, I allowed plenty of time for lunch – no need to worry though – very quick service and lovely helpful staff. I chose a mushroom burger with hand cut chips (the special) and a pot of Suki tea which sounded so delicious from the menu I couldn’t resist. I don’t normally go for fruit teas but this sounded extra special…it was! The food and tea were exceptional, apart from the decor, which was a little dark and dated, the ambience felt more like a restaurant than a farm tea room.

Suki tea

Couldn’t resist taking some of this home too!

The freebie

This week I gave the freebie – as I was leaving Plumpton College with my daughter, I noticed a student standing at the entrance hitching a ride back to Brighton, so he jumped in and we heard all about the Estate Management course…

Streat and Middle Farm

9 Oct

The run

My friends, who live locally, recommended this route through Streat and past the Half Moon Pub. The run began at the corner of Streat Lane and was mainly on quiet-ish country roads. I passed through the pretty village of Streat before heading off past Plumpton racecourse where I needed to ask a fellow runner – the only one I saw – to check I was going in the right direction. Fairly flat and circular, my only criticism of this route is that it is mainly on roads and when a car does come along you feel the need to dive into the hedge!

Streat circular run

The farm

I headed off to Middle Farm in Firle for lunch and to buy some produce from the farm shop, this is a farm I know pretty well from visits with children and stopovers from the A27. The shop is really excellent and sells a wide range of goods from fresh meat, bread, pies and pasties to jams and chutneys made on the farm. They also do a great line in cider, so I am told. I bought some of their Strawberry and Gooseberry Jam which I enjoyed with my friend Margaret on some homemade scones at the weekend.

Homemade scones with Strawberry and Gooseberry Jam from Middle Farm, Firle

The lunch

I ummed and aawed about whether I had time for lunch in the cafe, it was a nice day so to sit in the car eating a pastie wasn’t really appealing. I decided to order one of the specials: a roast squash quiche with salad. I took a seat outside and amused myself watching the toddlers run around, listening to the Mums discussing their off springs latest feats. 15 minutes passed. 20 minutes passed. I was beginning to get twitchy as I had to collect my daughter from Plumpton College and I was running out of time. I prompted the staff who assured me it wouldn’t be long, however it was rushed when it finally came and spoiled the enjoyment. Didn’t quite understand it because they weren’t particularly busy…perhaps I just have to adjust to a slower pace..

The freebie

My friend, Mustak gave me a big box of cooking apples from his garden, so far we have made crumble, chutney, an apple cake, and there’s even talk of a strudel…

Cooking apples

I have a few takers for this already:

Spiced apple chutney