Miller’s Farm Shop is our true local – just a hop, skip and a jump through the back lanes & a scary crossing of the A35 and you will find yourself, as the web site proudly proclaims, somewhere ‘absolutely splendid’. We love farm shops that are seriously food focused (e.g., Washingpool) and Miller’s is mos def in that category. It has a tiny amount of kitsch (we actually found some super Land Rover cards there) but that, thankfully, is kept to a bare minimum so that the food component shines.
As it is our local, we have been to Miller’s numerous times and everything (veggies, deli products, meats, cheeses, etc) always looks top notch and the service is excellent too – we’ve never been there when someone has not offered us assistance or insightful advice as we wandered the aisles. It is really nice in this day & age of overbearing, impersonal Big Box Superstores that you get to experience a family run business started in 1985 by Malcom Miller & is today absolutely chocka with his kids.
When you first walk in you are in the full on veggie section which has all the usual suspects but also a few nice twists. Need some seriously hot chillies? The Habaneros are here. Recipe calls for a bit of fresh lemongrass? Miller’s has got it. And we also like the fresh looking (vs. tired Tesco’s), well priced, rightly-sized herb offerings.
And if you are tired of Tesco’s Finest or your local CostCutter plonk, well Miller’s has a decent selection of good quaffers at a fair price. And if beer or ale or cider is more your thing, you’ll be alright at Miller’s as they carry a good selection of local beverages.
We are huge fans of ethically raised meats and it pleases us to no end that Miller’s has a very good offering. We have used the Otter Valley Poultry free-range chicken on several occasions with superb results. And it is wonderful to see the Wyld Meadow Farm meats on offer as we first encountered them at the Bridport Farmers Market and were suitably impressed with an amazing Sunday roast of rolled lamb shoulder.
And the deli & larder side of things is not at all forgotten at Miller’s Farm Shop. If you are short of spices or need the odd condiment or your olive oil is low or you are craving some great pasta tonight – it is here at Miller’s. It is really nice to see quite a few items that you will not or ever see in Tesco’s, which appears to be mostly fixated on making you buy Tesco home brands. It has been one of our small surprises since moving back to the UK that our specialty food goods choices seem to have been far more extensive, half way across the world in Australia, than here.
Keep up the great work Malcom & Crew – we’ll see you soon.
We have been making an effort to visit as many of our local farmers markets as we possibly can and with some good results but it will be the summer season that brings them forefront & centre. A very good adjunct to the farmers markets are the numerous farm shops dotted about the counties. They seem to offer a consolidated (good range of local products from many producers in one spot) and consistent delivery method (most open 7 days a week versus farmers markets once a month) for many of the great, small producers.
We had read a Guardian article where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage fame was asked to name his favourite local farm shops and at the top of his list was the Washingpool Farm Shop in Bridport, Dorset. With a break in the winter gloom we set off in the Land Rover for a bit of a squizzy.
Farm shops, just like people, though genetically the same in their general makeup, offer up a wide variety within the farm shop genre. Some seem to add a bit more bric a brac or gift items to the mix whilst others stick with a strong food centred focus. But so far in our farm shop tiki tour, Washingpool is clearly one of the food centric shops which pleases us immensely.
Washingpool is an 80 acre farm that grows the farm shop veggies (in season) and raises pedigree Red Ruby beef cattle and free range pigs as well as offering numerous Dorset and Southwest regionally sourced products.
And there is lots to do at Washingpool besides shop – there’s the Farmer’s Kitchen cafe for morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea, accommodation options, fishing and a series of regular seasonal events (see above).
We were seriously impressed with the local meat selection with not just the Warmingpool lamb for sale but other locally farmed meats such as the beef from Higher Silkhay farm (pic below) and the oh so tempting stuffed pork belly roast (we bought & ate it – praise the lard) from Devon-based Wallace’s Hill Farm (they also raise Bison, Red Deer and Wild Boar). Wallace’s have a farm shop of their own which just may have to be put on the to do list.
And we were oh so happy to see a decent display of local charcuterie which included our mates from Capreolus Fine Foods (we blogged about them in our Bridport Farmers Market piece) who make & offer a superb selection of smoked & preserved meats. And a new kind on the block for us, the Dorset Farms folks whose award winning ham & bacons are most definitely going to be tried.
It was a mildly dreary day so what better thing to do than head out for a Sunday arvo pub lunch. We really like the picturesque village of Branscombe and have popped into the wonderful Masons Arms on several occasions – once just prior to Christmas when there were twice as many dogs as folks…our kind of pub. So on this Sunday, we made the decision to visit Branscombe’s other pub, the Fountain Head.
A word of caution – if you visit the pub’s web site, do not let the photos put you off a visit as they did us (versus making our regular stop at the Masons Arms) because they do not do justice to the pub’s character nor the excellent quality of the food & drink. We can empathise with just how hard it can be to decently capture the interior of such a graciously, old pub. The Fountain Head dates from the 14th century so you know we be talk’n old and it has not got a jukebox, nor a gaming machine and is wonderfully devoid of the big flat screen TV. It does have open log fires, dog-friendly slate floors with well polished patina and a mos def cosy vibe.
The pub’s web site advertises “home cooked food at prices that won’t break the bank” and that is pretty much spot on. Hounds #2 & #3 were not famished so we didn’t go for the enticing main specials. Instead Hound #3 decided on the cauliflower cheese entree. For £6.50 this was a seriously sized starter and delicious with the subtle touch of mustard seeds in the cheese sauce.
Hound #2 went for the home cooked honey roast ham & mustard on granary bread for a very reasonable £4.50 and it was all washed down with very local Branscombe Vale Brewery ales.
Speaking of ales, the Fountain Head hosts a beer festival each year and this year’s takes place from Friday June 21st to Sunday June 23rd so put those dates in your calendar for what we are sure will be a grand time. And once (or if) the Summer actually arrives, you might want to give the Fountain Head’s Hog Roasts & Music night a whirl. Maybe we will see you there….
Hound #1 was most welcome in the Fountain Head pub but fancied doing his well practised ‘indognito’ act which, as this picture will give evidence, he’s an ace at.
And if you do decide to pay a visit to the Fountain Head or Masons Arms pubs, don’t miss the opportunity to have a wee stroll about the village and check out the stunning local church.