Twenty tastes of Britain
Laverstoke Park Farm has 1,500 water buffalo; Sillfield Farm makes delicious meat pies; inspecting whelks in Whitstable Harbour. (Matt Murano)
Set out on a grand food and drink tour around Britain, stopping at local producers that are open to visitors.
Laverstoke Park Farm, Hampshire
Traditionally, mozzarella, that bouncy, grassy-fresh ball of a cheese, is made with the milk of the water buffalo in the Campania region of Southern Italy. But there’s no need to go that far – instead, try the 2,500 acres of biodynamic farmland at Laverstoke Park Farm in deepest Hampshire, where you will find the biggest herd of water buffalo in the UK. The buffalo seem very much at home in the lush green meadows of southern England and produce plenty of milk for Laverstoke’s acclaimed mozzarella, which is made with the advice and guidance of specialists from Italy. And any buffalo milk that doesn’t go into cheesemaking goes into Laverstoke’s brilliant ice creams. There’s rather more to Laverstoke Farm than that, such as rare pigs and rarer cattle, chicken and beer, but the water buffalo and their mozzarella are good places to start when visiting.
Tregothnan Estate, Cornwall
It may seem odd for a country that drinks so much of the stuff, but there’s actually only one tea estate in Britain. It’s in the warm, wet county of Cornwall, where the climate is not that dissimilar from the classic tea-growing areas of Sri Lanka and India. Since 2000, tea has been grown in the Tregothnan Estate near Truro, which has belonged to the Boscawen family since 1335. There are over 30 Assam and Chinese varieties (as well as a wide range of herbal teas), and tea production follows the time-honoured system of hand plucking the bushes. Then the leaves are rolled to bruise them, chopped, oxidised and slow-dried before being blended into Classic Tea, Afternoon Tea, Earl Grey and Green Tea. You can visit the tea gardens or sign up for one of the twice-yearly Tea Tasting Masterclasses.
Camel Valley, Cornwall
There was a time when British wine was scoffed at. No longer. British wine, and in particular British sparkling wine, regularly picks up awards in international competitions. And no British sparkling wine sparkles more than that of the Camel Valley vineyard, first planted by Bob Lindo and his wife Annie in 1989. Now their son Sam has taken over, and has carried on the award winning tradition of his parents, including the Trophy and a Gold Medal in the International Wine Challenge for Camel Valley Bacchus in 2009. If you want to explore the technical side of Camel Valley wine making, there are tours of the vineyards and winery, but some might just prefer to sip a glass of the superlative, world-beating English sparkling wine as they look out over the delightful Camel Valley.
Wotton Farm Shop, Gloucestershire
The sun’s on your back. You’re slightly bent over, using one hand to part the leaves of the raspberry cane. You spot another perfect fruit, shaped like a thimble made of tiny, deep red balloons. Gently you pull it from its stalk and drop it into the basket at your feet, and then move on to the next set of canes. There’s nothing quite like picking your own fruit on a warm summer’s day and there’s plenty to pick at the Wotton Farm Shop on the edge of the Severn escarpment in south Gloucestershire. They grow raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, gooseberries, blueberries and tayberries, as well as broad beans. It’s run by the Grimes family, and is a member of the Big G group of Gloucestershire Farm Shops, a collective of growers and artisan producers. The shop also has a deli and butchery.