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Rural news from across Sussex - January 2014

PUBLISHED: 15:05 27 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:05 27 January 2014

Winner - Britain's best loaf

Winner - Britain's best loaf

Archant

All the January news from across the Sussex rural comminity this month

There’s lots to bleat about at Sussex Lamb

Family-run farmers, lamb retailers and event caterers, Sussex Lamb now have transportable premises for their exciting new gastro-roaming venture, The Shepherd’s Hut Catering Company.

Tailor-made by hut specialist Blackdown Shepherd Huts, the kitchen-catering hut was the obvious moveable choice for Sussex Lamb, who produce lamb takeaway treats at a variety of events such as weddings, country fairs and UK festivals.

Blackdown co-founder, George Bannister said, “When the inquiry came through from Sussex Lamb for a towable shepherd hut to use as a catering unit, we jumped at the chance – we love a challenge! Innovation and quality are integral Blackdown principles and we wanted to make the concept a reality.”

George continues, “Thanks to our shepherd hut expertise, we have brought to market a full choice of road-towable Blackdown Shepherd Huts. As The Shepherd’s Hut Catering Company has found, they’re ideal for major events like weddings and festivals.”

Based in Horsham, The Shepherd’s Hut Catering Company is the brainchild of co-owner, Julia Feakes.

Next year, Julia has her eyes set on taking the catering hut to even more national events. In 2013, she went to Glyndebourne’s Food Festival, The West Dean Chilli Festival, Red Fest Festival and The Weald and Downland Museum Food event. Closer to home, Julia cooked up a storm at Sussex’s own local Findon Sheep Fair, The West Grinstead Ploughing Match, The Pulborough Village Fair and Steyning Village Fair.

Julia says of the hut: “I haven’t named her, but she is a she, and I absolutely love her, talk to her and enjoy every minute working in her. And if the smiles on customers’ faces are anything to go by, it’s clear that they do as well!”

For more information about Blackdown Shepherd Huts please visit: blackdownshepherdhuts.co.uk. Or to find out more about The Shepherds Hut Catering Company, visit theshepherdshutcateringcompany.co.uk

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Farm shop of the month

The Harmer family has farmed at Offham for 240 years, and is now in its fifth generation at one location. They farm pedigree livestock and arable crops to a very high standard, and protect the environment under their care in line with the Higher Level Stewardship scheme.

Offham Farm shop is predominately a butcher’s shop, selling additive-free beef, lamb and pork all reared on the farm. They also have a deli counter (above) selling pies and flans made from their meat, homemade cakes, eggs from their happy hens, honey from their own bees, as well as jams and marmalades.

Beef comes from the farm’s Sussex cattle, known for their marbled meat and outstanding flavour. All the beef is hung for three to four weeks to tenderise it and mature the flavour.

The lamb comes from their Southdown sheep, renowned for its fine grain and delicious flavour. The pork comes from their own ‘blue’ pigs, and they have a full range of joints, chops and homemade sausages.

The only meat in the shop that is not reared on the farm is the chicken. This is sourced locally in East Sussex. The birds are reared naturally in daylight with an additive-free diet to produce a top quality table bird.

01273 478265; www.offhamfarmshop.co.uk

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Bexhill Farm Kitchen uses its loaf

Bexhill Farm Kitchen has been awarded Britain’s Best Loaf at the Bakers’ and Butchers’ Autumn Fair, held at the Yorkshire Event Centre, Harrogate recently. Lee Smith, owner of Bexhill Farm Kitchen, won the title with his cumin and chickpea sourdough, originally produced for a Persian restaurant.

Lee said: “It feels fantastic to win. It’s surprising but I’m really, really pleased. Obviously, you enter it wanting to win, but I love just looking at other types of bread and getting ideas.” He went on to encourage others to follow in his floury footsteps: “I would definitely recommend other bakers to enter the competition, even if it’s just to look at other people’s loaves.”

Lee also won the Innovation category with his sourdough, as well as the White Loaf category for his seeded bloomer. Having started his career as a baker and pastry chef in 1984 with an apprenticeship at Saffron Patisserie in Eastbourne, Lee also studied at Brighton Catering College.

Established over 60 years ago, Bexhill Farm Kitchen was bought by Lee and his wife Kirsty in 2003.

Commenting on the fair, Martyn Leek, judge and editor of British Baker, said: “We were blown away by the quality of loaves that were entered into the search for Britain’s Best Loaf. The standard was amazing and the judges had a hard time in deciding the overall winner. But in the end the winning loaf just had that extra-special something that took it ahead of the rest.”

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Game for anything - life on a busy Sussex estate

Words by Robert Windle, resident agent at Cowdray Park

As we move into a new year, despite managing to take a late cut in mid-November, we are short of silage for the dairy cows, and we are therefore hoping for an early spring this year. And while we’re on the subject of New Year’s hopes and resolutions, we’d also like to lose far fewer large trees in the park to the wind than we did last year.

In brighter news, we’re looking forward to the conversion of some former service flats at Cowdray House into upmarket residential apartments. There are also some great events coming up at Cowdray Hall, and of course the farm shop will be open seven days a week, as usual.

With the welcome growth of a market for sustainable timber and wood energy, we’re also planning toinvest in some new forest extractionroads, which we hope will help us togain easier access to our chestnut coppice woodlands, which have been left under-utilised for the last 50 years or so. Hopefully this will really help the flora and fauna of that area to flourish.

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