Category Archives: Food & Drink

North Devon produce is a sell-out success in London

NDEstand at RFFNorth Devon producers are celebrating a sell-out success after showcasing local food and drink to over 120,000 consumers over the early May bank holiday weekend.

As part of the Delicious North Devon project, North Devon+ took five local producers to the Real Food Festival on London’s Southbank which ran from the 3 to  6 May. With a prime riverside position, the Delicious North Devon stand experienced an unrelenting stream of hungry consumers over four days, eager to sample and purchase North Devon produce.

North Devon producers were represented by Higher Hacknell Organic Farm selling their organic meats, Barton Farm Dairy with their exciting range of organic cheeses, Wessex Pantry with their tempting selection of pies made using local ingredients, The Wonky Kitchen and their traditional Devon cream Fudge and Cranfield Foods with their handmade chutneys and award-winning marmalades.

Mervyn Watling of Wessex Pantry said: “I had an absolutely fantastic four days in London. It was a perfect opportunity and I made lots of new contacts. For me, it was a brand-new show; no one had seen my product before unlike my following in the South West, so I was very pleased to have traded beyond expectation.

From a North Devon Producer’s point of view, trading mostly in a very rural environment, doing such an established festival in the capital with incredibly high footfall, was a real eye-opener! I feel that the grouping of North Devon producers definitely gave us a sense of provenance and customers definitely picked up on that – they were interested to hear about life in North Devon.  All in all, it was incredible PR for North Devon, both as a holiday destination and as a hub for artisanal food producers.  We’ve unquestionably put our region on the map!”

Delicious North Devon is the second phase of the North Devon+ Food and Drink project. The project aims to help micro producers to ‘up their game’ by increasing their knowledge, skills and capacity to meet the needs of modern markets.

Over a 2½ year period, North Devon+ has assisted 123 businesses and 160 individuals, and delivered the North Devon FoodFest, which in 2012 attracted 13,900 visitors. Through commercial sponsorship and support, FoodFest is now a financially sustainable annual event. Delicious North Devon moves the focus from meeting market needs to encouraging and supporting active growth.

Food and drink micro-businesses with potential growth across the supply chain (from producers to processors, caterers and retail outlets) have access to bespoke support, mentoring and learning opportunities to overcome key barriers to growth and event participation to develop supply chain.

For more information go to www.northdevon.com/delicious

Real Ale Guide to the West Somerset Railway Route

The West Somerset Railway has combined with friends in the Somerset Branch of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) to produce a guide to real ale pubs along the 20 miles of its route. It is “purposely a cheap and cheerful 14 page production because with virtually all the pubs listed being free houses change is almost constant and a glossy production would be out of date as soon as it arrived from the printers”. So what they have done retails at £2.50 inc p&p and copies can be obtained by sending cheques payable to West Somerset Railway plc to West Somerset Railway, The Railway Station, Minehead, TA24 5BG.

The information in the Guide includes information about the real ale pubs, plus walking directions to them from WSR stations, opening hours, traditional beers and ciders sold, food availability and some comments about the architecture and other features. There is also a list of Somerset’s independent breweries and the cider makers.

The Anchor Inn in Exebridge is reopened following a major refurbishment

Just before Christmas the Anchor Inn at Exebridge (a Greene King pub) suffered flooding, with up to 6 feet of water surrounding the building and creeping in through the windows overnight. Thankfully the water receded within 24 hours. However, it left substantial damage to the bottom of the pub.

Licensee Ann Bland said: “When we flooded we were so touched by the help and support we had from our customers and the local community. As we saw the flood waters approach, our customers helped us move furniture and prepare. A wonderful group of people came and helped us clean-up the day after the flooding and someone even turned up on Christmas Day with a sack full of dry logs for our fire. Everyone came together to support us and we were very appreciative of their kindness.”

Since December, planned renovations have been taking place, coinciding with repairs to the flood-damage, and the pub is now preparing to fully re-open with a brand new look.

Ann continues: “The pub has been modernised, while remaining sympathetic to the character of the building. The interior feels much more comfortable and we’ve even introduced a wood-burning stove in the bar area. It looks absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait to show it off.”

The Anchor offers B&B accommodation and serves fresh home-made pub food, with fish and local game specialities. The pub also serves fine real cask ales including Old Speckled Hen and Exmoor Ale. Recently the pub hosted the Exmoor Fringe Trial, which saw the arrival of hundreds of classic and vintage cars to the area.

For more information on the pub visit www.theanchorinnexebridge.co.uk  or find them on Facebook.

Spears Cross- Travellers’ Choice

Spears Cross, the award-winning boutique Bed & Breakfast in Dunster, has just landed a further accolade. It has been chosen as a Winner in the ‘Bargain Hotel’ category by Trip Advisor in its 2013 Traveller’s Choice awards.

Now in its eleventh year, the annual Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice awards honour the UK and indeed the world’s best accommodation providers. Uniquely, the Traveller’s Choice Winners are based on millions of valuable guest reviews and opinions from travellers around the World.

Spears Cross owners Cliff and Tricia Nicholson commented “We are really thrilled about this. When you consider the sheer number of accommodation businesses in the UK, for us to become a Winner within Trip Advisor is quite an achievement. Whilst we are too small to be officially classified as a hotel, we offer the same amenities and level of luxury as a good quality Country House hotel, hence us being placed in the ‘Bargain Hotel’ category.”

Spears Cross has in the past won the ‘Best Bed & Breakfast in the South West’ award from South West Tourism the ‘Best Bed & Breakfast on Exmoor’ award from Visit Exmoor as well as being a ‘Gold’ award winner from Taste of the West. Its current award from Visit England is a ‘Breakfast’ award.

The Trip Advisor awards are based upon more than 75 million reviews and opinions from guests around the globe. This makes it the World’s largest and most respected travel site with over 60 million visitors to the website each month.

The Culbone wins new Taste of the West Award

The Culbone  – Exmoor’s highest restaurant with rooms – is celebrating its second award this autumn; the team are thrilled to have won the Taste of the West’s ‘Best Christmas Menu’ this week, after winning a Silver Taste of the West Flavour Award in September.

The judges said “We were really impressed with The Culbone’s entry. The staff truly embrace the produce available to them and they work with an impressive number of incredible local producers.”

The award-winning menu includes whole roasted local partridge, rump of Exmoor horn lamb, roasted Somerset turkey and pan-roasted sea trout as well as starters including Brixham smoked salmon and crisp fried Somerset brie. The menu is available from now until 24 December and the restaurant is open 1200 – 2300 (2230 on Sundays). Two courses cost £24.95 and 3 courses £29.95.All the usual Culbone classics such as local fish of the day and Devon Red Steaks from Big Red Cow down the road are also available.

GM Mark Sanders is delighted. “We have had an excellent year and have really concentrated on building our links with local producers. Head Chef Jack Scarterfield has worked incredibly hard to open our new cookery school and to plan a whole range of excellent workshops focussing on local produce. Winning ‘Best Christmas Menu’ is a great finish to 2012.”

To Book a Christmas or New Year meal at The Culbone call 01643 862259 or visit www.TheCulbone.com ; there is still good availability leading up to Christmas. The Culbone is almost full for its de-luxe Christmas Day meal but has a few tables left for New Years Eve where the six course menu celebrates all that is the very best on Exmoor (£70 per person).

New Artisan Food Workshops on Exmoor: learn to make cheese, terrines & pates at The Culbone

As part of their ongoing commitment to the local community and their avid interest in promoting local food, The team at The Culbone (01643 862259) have organised two Artisan Food workshops this November.

On 10 November the Culbone Cookery School will play host to the ‘Queen of Terrine’ Suzanne Doughty from Exmoor Cottage Kitchen who will demonstrate how to make her award-winning terrines and pates. Using ingredients from local farmers, small producers and independent retailers, Suzanne will impart the secrets behind her perfect pates and tasty terrines so that attendees can recreate them at the School and later at home. Perfect for impressing those hard to please guests over the festive season, the workshop runs from 10am – 4pm on Saturday 10 November and costs £85 per person including a light lunch.

The Culbone love the produce from the Shebbear Cheese Company (www.shebbearcheese.co.uk) as all their cheeses are hand-made to traditional recipes using pasteurised milk from a local Devon farm. On 17 November owner Sarah Styles-Power will show Cookery School students how to make wonderful local cheeses at home, using great regional ingredients, and the participants will make their own cheeses to take home. Ideal for beginners and lovers of artisan skills, this one day course runs from 10am – 4 pm and costs £85 per person including a light lunch.

The Culbone are also running a series of classes for apprehensive Christmas chefs to create the ‘Perfect, Stress-Free, Christmas Day Lunch’. Executive Chef Jack Scarterfield will share his tips and recipes to ensure that you enjoy preparing the seasonal feast as much as your guests enjoy eating it! Courses run on 16, 23, 30 November 1130am -3:30pm (including a light lunch) and cost £55 per person.

The Culbone recently won a Silver Award at the 2012 South West Flavour Awards, a huge achievement for the restaurant which has been operating for just over a year. Judges from the awards were looking for commitment to local and regional sourcing, providing fresh, traceable products and excellence in customer service. The Culbone has built up a loyal customer base by offering all of these qualities in a stylish and welcoming restaurant in the fabulous surroundings of Exmoor National Park.

For more details and to book call The Culbone on 01643 862259 or visit www.TheCulbone.com

Silver for Culbone

Winning a Silver Award at the 2012 South West Flavour Awards this month is a huge achievement for Exmoor’s highest restaurant The Culbone, which has been operating for just over a year. Judges from the awards were looking for commitment to local and regional sourcing, providing fresh, traceable products and excellence in customer service. The Culbone has built up a loyal customer base by offering all of these qualities in a stylish and welcoming restaurant in the fabulous surroundings of Exmoor National Park.

Formerly part of the Taste of the West Awards, the increasing popularity of the hospitality and retail award categories over recent years led to the decision to launch a dedicated South West Flavour Awards programme to celebrate quality and provenance within these particular industries.

General Manager Mark Sanders is delighted with the award. “This is great recognition for all the hard work that the team have put in and we are really proud that our local staff are developing their careers here. We have excellent support from Exmoor producers and we source the best produce from local & regional suppliers. We start work on our community garden and allotment soon.”

Perched high up on the moors between Lynmouth and Porlock in West Somerset, The Culbone’s enviable location is a great backdrop for the restaurant’s high quality meals. Executive Chef Jack Scarterfield is passionate about local food. A Somerset boy, he has lived and worked in the UK and Thailand before coming home. “The countryside inspires me. The quality of the produce is really amazing here and I believe the cattle are amongst the best in the country. I am very proud to have won this award.”

Steaks are a particular highlight at The Culbone. The beef comes from Big Red Cow, a Ruby Red Devon herd, bursting with flavour and farmed nearby at the National Trust Holnicote Estate. A tour of the farm and a master class on how to prepare and cook beef is included in The Culbone’s Exmoor Food Safaris starting this autumn and based in their new Cookery School. A great line-up of courses is on offer in the Cookery School, as well as the very popular Chef’s Table; a private dining experience for 8 where guests can watch and learn as Jack prepares a delicious twist on the dinner party theme.

The Culbone also has five relaxing and comfortable rooms for overnight guests who want to linger over the food and explore the Exmoor area.

Mark Sanders comments “This award will help to convey our quality and values to our customers: we are totally committed to serving the very best regional produce and being a vibrant part of the local community.”

New cookery course inspires Devonians to create gourmet experiences at home.

As the trend for grow your own, eating locally sourced produce and home cooking continues two of the best-known brands in Devon food have combined to inspire more confidence in the county’s kitchens.  Exeter’s luxury kitchen specialist Bradbury’s has developed an exclusive new cookery course using the latest Miele appliances at Woolsgrove Cookery School.

Gretchen Oldland, talented local chef and owner of Woolsgrove, will welcome up to 12 guests into her beautiful farmhouse kitchen at Woolsgrove Farm, Crediton.   Over the course of a morning, guests will learn how to cook delicious dishes from scratch using locally sourced ingredients and the latest Miele technology, before enjoying a glass of wine as they tuck into the morning’s creations over lunch.

The course is perfect for anyone who loves great food and is prepared to experiment.  Andy Bradbury, owner of Bradbury’s, said, “We’re thrilled to team up with Gretchen; her cookery school prides itself on using delicious local ingredients wherever possible, which matches our desire to champion products and services on our doorstep.  Our guests will see a feast created in front of their eyes, and the best part is they get to enjoy the creations afterwards!”

And Bradbury’s is giving all participants a five-year extended warranty on Miele appliances when they purchase five or more within 6 months in store .  A Miele home advisor will also be on hand to answer any questions about the appliances and demonstrate state of the art features that make perfect taste an easy task.

The next two courses are being held on Tuesday 18 September and Wednesday 7 November 2012 and cost just £25 per person, inclusive of all cookery tuition, lunch and drinks.

For further details, visit www.bradburysltd.co.uk/letsdolunch or call Bradbury’s on 01392 825940 to book your tickets.

Walk-Tarr Steps & Withpool

A Circular Walk with Sue Viccars

Tarr Steps

For our first route of the new year I’m suggesting a really good leg-stretching walk.  This popular 9-mile route fits the bill: a long riverside tramp (scrambly in places) upstream along the lovely River Barle, followed by a good stride up Withypool Hill (once you’re nicely warmed up) and an easy return through fields to Tarr Steps, one of Exmoor’s most popular attractions and Britain’s largest clapper bridge.  No one can agree a precise date for the construction of this 160ft-plus stone bridge, but many believe it dates from medieval times.  Legend has it that it was built by the Devil who likes to prevent people from crossing while he sunbathes!

The walk leads to the pretty village of Withypool, in medieval times a place of some significance, being a centre for the Royal Forest of Exmoor.  At one time the twice-yearly Forest Court (Swainmote) was held a mile or so upstream at Landacre Bridge.  The return route runs over Withypool Hill, home to Exmoor ponies and to a Bronze Age stone circle on its southern slopes.

Walk 04The walk can be shortened slightly by crossing the stepping stones across the Barle just south of Withypool and so missing out the village, but this should only be attempted with care and at times of low water.  Other crossing points across the river, which might have been used to produce a shorter alternative (and which may look possible on the OS map), consist of fords and are only usable by those on horseback.

Note that this stretch of the River Barle is privately owned, and access to the water is only permitted at the various fords along its length.

Walk 03

 

 

 

 

1  Make your way past the toilets towards the car park exit, to find a signed path to Tarr Steps via a kissing gate.  Keep downhill eventually to join the lane via another gate.  Continue downhill past Tarr Farm Inn to reach Tarr Steps.

2  Turn right before crossing the bridge, signed public bridleway to Withypool.  The path initially follows the riverbank, soon crossing an area of rocky slabs, slippery at times.  If the slabs are underwater here, take the woodland path running above right: the two routes soon join up.

Soon cross a wooden footbridge over a stream, and pass through a five-bar gate; Watery Lane, which runs up to Knaplock (from where a bridleway continues up to Winsford Hill) joins from the right at this point.  Continue through an open area past a complicated path junction. The path clings to the river again through Lea Wood – it’s narrow, rocky, up and down, muddy after wet weather and requires care – before crossing a rooty and wet section to reach a stile at the end of the wood.

3  An open section is followed by more woodland and another stream crossing (on a dilapidated footbridge, hopefully repaired by the time this article is published!)  Pass through a gate and continue to pass a ford across the river.  Pass a private track right, cross a small footbridge, and keep going.  The next gate leads to a lovely avenue of beech trees on the right; the river is calm and broad, and the path no longer muddy!  Continue along the riverside edge of a large field, following the Barle as it makes a broad loop, soon passing another ford (I’ve never managed to locate the stepping stones marked on the map at this point).

At the end of the field bear right uphill, then left through a bank of gorse and a gate into woodland. Continue high up above the river; drop to pass through a gate back into the open.  Keep following the river (the footbridge marked on the OS map at this point no longer exists).

4  Eventually reach a path junction, with a footpath signed left across stepping stones (onlyExmoor walk passable at low water).  If you want to cut a mile off the route turn left at this point and cross the river; follow the track uphill past South Hill to meet the lane above Newhouse on Withypool Hill, and turn left to rejoin the main route.  Keep ahead up the right bank of the Barle; pass through a gate and cross a stream (boggy).  Cross a boardwalk; the path climbs steeply, then bears left through a hedgebank.  Descend to cross a stream in a small combe; through the trees left the swell of Withypool Hill comes into view.  Cross a stile onto a lane.

5  Turn left downhill to pass through Withypool, which dates back to Domesday, and is named for the reeds (withies) growing along the Barle.  Soon pass The Royal Oak Inn (R. D. Blackmore stayed here in 1866 while writing Lorna Doone) and later St

Andrew’s Church, which dates from Norman times but was heavily restored in the late nineteenth century. It was originally a chapel-of-ease to Hawkridge.  These were provided for those living at some distance from the main parish church, and baptisms, marriages and other services could be performed (but rarely burials); many were abolished at the Chantries Act of 1547.  Pass the post office and general stores, tearooms and toilets.

6  Cross the six-arched Withypool Bridge which is about 100 years old and replaced a medieval packhorse bridge.  Keep ahead on the lane and start the long climb up Withypool Hill, which rises to 1306ft (398m).  A lengthy lane section lies ahead, but if you’re following this route after a spell of wet weather you’ll find it something of a relief to have a stretch on firm tarmac after ploughing along the often muddy riverside path!  It’s also lovely to emerge from the wooded valley into open country, with wide-ranging views to the south over Withypool Hill.  Pass the bridlepath left signed to the ford and stepping stones (the short route) and continue uphill.  After the brow of the hill cross a cattle grid to leave the common and follow the lane downhill, soon passing another bridlepath signed left to a ford over the Barle.  At the bottom pass Westwater Farm (left), then cross the bridge over the West Water.

7  Turn left as signed through a metal gate.  Keep ahead initially along the left edge of the field, soon keeping to the right of an intermittent line of oak and beech trees.  Go through a metal gate at the end of the field to reach a fork; walk straight ahead as signed to Tarr Steps.  The path climbs a little then runs between stands of gorse, later with a wire fence right, to cross a stile/small gate.  Keep along the left edge of the next field; pass through a gate, and continue with the hedgebank right, and lovely views left over the valley of the Barle.  At the end of the field go through a big gate and keep ahead, slightly downhill, with the hedgebank right.  Drop to a junction of paths at the field end (footpath to Parsonage Farm right).

8  Turn left uphill, with a wire fence right.  At the top pass through a big gate and keep ahead along the right edge of the next field.  Pass through the gate at the end of that field, then descend steeply (hedgebank left).  At the end of the field turn sharp right downhill, with a wall left.  The track bears left through a gate, continuing downhill, with woodland right.  Follow the track steeply downhill to meet a rough lane; bear left to find Tarr Steps.  Cross the clapper bridge and retrace your steps uphill to your car.

 

  • Map: OS Explorer OL9 Exmoor
  • Start: Tarr Steps SS 872324
  • Distance:  9 miles (14.5km)
  • Time:   41/2 hours
  • Terrain: Wooded riverside path (often narrow, muddy or uneven), quiet lanes, fields
  • Toilets: Car park (fee) at Tarr Steps and by Withypool Bridge
  • Parking: Tarr Steps (£1.50 for 4 hours, £2.50 all day) or Withypool if you prefer to start the walk there (free parking).
  • Refreshments:  Tarr Farm Inn at Tarr Steps (open daily 11am-11pm), The Royal Oak Inn and Withypool Tearoom at Withypool  (latter open 10.30am-5/6pm daily spring to autumn); picnic area at Withypool Bridge; cream teas at Parsonage Farm (seasonal).

Tarr Steps & Withypool walk Withypool