Fresh farm produce came at a premium when we lived in London. I loved an amble at trendy Borough Market, but it was a treat my bank balance could sustain only once in a blue moon. In The Chilterns, however, it’s much easier to make it a way of life. Affordable, hearty, wholesome fare is readily available, fresh from the fields that surround us.
When I saw P E Mead & Sons Farm Shop pop up on Countryfile a couple of weeks ago, it went straight to the top of the Chiltern Girl hitlist. It’s a short drive from where we live, just outside the village of Wilstone. At the first opportunity, I hopped in my little Chiltern Wagon (a Peugeot 207, which Dave would tell you I drive like the Batmobile) and off I went in search of fodder.
The Farm Shop, is in a black barn-style building on the site of Wilstone Great Farm, just outside Tring. There’s ample parking and some outdoor seating to enjoy local dairy ice-cream on a warm Summer’s day. The indoor Tea Rooms were a tad more inviting on this particular January chiller (it was minus 4). I was saving that for last though. Time first, to grocery shop.
The open hall is filled to the beams with a mouth-watering selection of produce. Meats, dairy, eggs, cereals, breads, biscuits, cakes, bottled juices, confectionary, gluten free goodies… the list goes on. Everything is farm sourced or artisan produced, mostly local and of the very highest quality and variety.
Fresh fruit, veg and herbs are stocked abundantly in a big room beyond the open hall, along with some deli delights. It all looked so good, so fresh, so colourful and perfectly delicious. A veritable farm-foodie haven. And a wonderful insight into the abundance of local production that’s taking place on our doorstep.
I filled my basket. Chicken breasts from nearby Potash Poultry Farm. Cider and Hazlenut Salami from Chiltern Charcuterie. Earth-covered spuds. Rosy little cherry tomatoes. Asparagus stems of weapon proportions. And a bag of Chiltern Natural Foods Maple Pecan Crunch – just in case the notion of cooking had passed by the time I got home. Including the little Alex Clark gift cards I’d picked up (in a moment of weakness), my entire basket came to well under £20. I blinked hard, but contained the internal whooping.
Onwards to the Tea Rooms. Grocery shopping is thirsty work and a glowing wood burner and some decorative pottery beckoned. I ordered a tea and a Ploughman’s and sat down in the small area that was bustling with fellow shoppers. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who’d seen the Countryfile feature either, as the couple at the table next to mine bickered over rapeseed oil varieties: “No, this is the one they showed on TV”. Not that I was eavesdropping.
My Ploughman’s arrived. Too late, I realised it probably was, quite literally, intended to feed a man (or three) before they headed off on a day’s physical toil. It was epic. I blushed at my own naïvety then set about making a few self-conscious nibbles round the edges. It was beyond me to make much of an impact, but I can thoroughly recommend it for anyone whose calorie intake per meal requires more than a spin class’s worth of burning off.
When I returned home, I gushed about my spoils to a mildly interested Chiltern Boy. He was fully engaged by the time I’d magically transformed my farm-fresh goodies into a sizzling roast chicken breast, asparagus and cherry tomato concoction.
And don’t worry, we firmly believe in the equal division of labour in our house. So I sat back whilst he did the pots and pans.
I’m hugely keen to shop local and avoid strip-light supermarkets whenever possible. So please, share your recommendations on the best local shops in the comments below…