Skip to content
November 22, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Children’s Art Competition opens

Apley Estate - Hamiltons:

We’ve just hung the first entries in the Creamery Café this evening. Keep sending them in next week (deadline Fri 28 Nov 5.30pm) & we’ll hang them as they arrive. We have space for 60 entries. Once we’re over 60, we’ll have to select the best.

Originally posted on Lady Harriet Hamilton:

2014-11-06, Francis's feet, Christmas art competitionToday, we’re launching a Christmas children’s art competition with the theme ‘Apley, Christmas & Food’. The artwork will be displayed throughout December in our own Creamery Café. Children entering the competition can focus on any combination of the themes or all three together.

Art is a great activity for children of all ages on wintry evenings & Christmas is a theme they all enjoy. I’m sure it’ll make a nice change for the staff & customers in the Creamery Café too, who’ve been looking at 3 archive exhibitions since February 2014.

We’re always keen to help children understand where their food comes from, helping families eat healthy food from local producers. Apley is a very diverse site, now much more than a Farm Shop, so it’ll be interesting to see each child’s interpretation of what Apley means to them – whether it’s the Farm Shop’s food, Pigg’s Playbarn, Scotty’s Animal…

View original 206 more words

November 22, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Walled Garden greenhouses

2014-09-27, Neil Harrison AWG photos (35) Francis running 2014-10-28, AWG greenhouse renovation (1) 2014-10-28, AWG greenhouse renovation (2) 2014-10-28, AWG greenhouse renovation (3)It’s been a busy Saturday – Venetia & I rode 3 ponies to a local arena this morning;  whizzed off for a Duck n Dive swimming lesson; back for a quick lunch; met up with Phil Allen, Head Gardener of Apley Walled Garden; delivered thank you presents to the men who painted the white Christmas tree decorations for me 2 weeks ago; popped into my favourite local shop TFM; removed the Third Apley Archive Exhibition in the Creamery Café & replaced it with entries to the Apley Children’s Christmas Art Competition (deadline Fri 28 Nov, so bring yours in asap !) & photos* formerly hung in the Apley Holiday Cottages; & collected our elder daughters from the train station, home for a show jumping competition tomorrow. *The photos have been taken round the Estate by our tractor driver Ian Edwards & Estate Office staff member Dennis Price.

I’ve been slow to share these pictures of the greenhouses (taken by Neil Harrison) looking wonderful again, after 60 yrs out of use. Phil sent them to me 21 Oct & I can hardly believe it’s already 22 Nov ! The greenhouses of course will hugely & importantly extend our growing season. Today we discussed the greenhouses; the budget; how much produce has been sold through the shop, the café, restaurants & other clients; 2015′s tours & gardening training courses; help during harvest time; the pesky pheasants who’ve pecked at his Greens & red cabbages through the protective nets.

I adore this photo of Francis (4) running in the gardens with his broken arm (thankfully he never fell over!) taken by Neil Harrison, the ex army photographer who’s been photographing Apley through the seasons since May.

November 22, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Santa’s Grotto at Apley Farm Shop

2014-11-08, Neil Harrison's Christmas Lights & Launch photos (62) compressedTo get you in the Christmas mood, click here catch a glimpse of AgWa Media’s film made during our Christmas Lights & Launch evening on Saturday 8 November.

Starting on the day of our Apley Christmas Food Fair, the  (Sun 30 Nov), Santa’s Grotto is open on the following dates & times. Prices are per child:

Sunday 30 November    1pm – 3.30pm   £5.45

Saturday 6 December    1pm – 5pm         £6.45

Sunday 7 December       1pm – 3.30pm   £6.45

Saturday 13 December  1pm – 5pm         £6.45

Sunday 14 December     1pm – 3.30pm   £6.452014-11-08, Neil Harrison's Christmas Lights & Launch photos (92), compressed

Friday 19 December        1pm – 5pm         £7.45

Saturday 20 December  1pm – 5pm         £7.45

Sunday 21 December     1pm – 3.30pm   £7.45

Monday 22 December   1pm – 5pm         £7.45

Tuesday 23 December   1pm – 5pm         £7.45

November 20, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Farm Shops unite – BBC Radio Shropshire’s discussion today

2014-09-18, Apley Farm Shop front entrance 2014-10-12, Aerial photo of Apley Farm Shop from zip wire crane2014-09-27, Apley Taste Off, Neil Harrison photos (62)I was just up a ladder this morning showing the painter what needed painting, when I received a call from the Jim Hawkins show on BBC Radio Shropshire. They asked if I’d do a live interview in 8 minutes’ time, speaking about Farm Shops’ responses to the supermarkets Christmas advertising campaigns. Whenever possible, I prefer Gavin to do these interviews as he comes across much better than I do, but he was typically out of reception, so I had no choice !

Many people don’t like the sound of their own voice & I’m no exception. But in case you’re interested in the debate, begun a week ago by a press release issued by FARMA (National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association) written by Tom Hunt of the Ludlow Food Centre & Jeremy Jagger of Battlefiel1403 Farm Shop, then listen again by clicking here (it begins at 43mins, 27secs & will stay on the BBC website until 20 Dec).  Jim sparked off a great debate - lots of tweeting ensued !

Below is the full press release giving more detail:

“Farm shops in the Midlands have joined together to highlight the value of handmade, artisan food and strike back against supermarket domination. Farm shop group FARMA (National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association) have hundreds of members throughout the UK and their members in the Midlands are some of the best known farm shops in the country. FARMA members in the Midlands are launching a campaign to encourage local people to shop for local produce.

In recent television advertising supermarkets have looked to emulate farm shops and farmers’ markets. The Lidl advertising campaign epitomises this by staging their whole advertisement at a fake farmers’ market, revealing that the produce on their stalls is all from Lidl by handing the customer their produce in a Lidl bag. This has created outrage amongst small producers who believe this type of advertising is undermining the authenticity of their produce and of real farmers’ markets. The aim of Lidl’s campaign is to impersonate the environment and feeling that shoppers get when they visit independently run shops or markets. However, independent businesses are able to back this up when customers actually visit their shop because they are largely family run and individual. Farm shops have traded on being the local, friendly face of food retail for years. Many have grown in to significant competition to nearby supermarkets who have been forced to imitate and copy their ideas to compete. Sally Jackson, Chair of FARMA comments,

‘Farm shop owners are getting used to the supermarkets hitching a ride on the ‘real farm’ ethos yet no amount of slick advertising can replace the experience of buying real food at a real farm shop. Home raised, home grown, homemade and a love of all local foods are the characteristics of a great farm shop. Combine freshness and taste with few food miles and with so much more money going back into the local community – why wouldn’t you support your local farm shop?’

The ‘community pound’ has been campaigned in many rural areas with some towns such as Totness in Devon actually creating their own currency. In the Midlands there is no move toward such drastic action but farmers and farm shops are trying to appeal to local people’s sense of pride in their region when choosing where to shop. They argue there is no need to buy meat that is reared elsewhere, that there is plenty of seasonal produce grown in the local fields. With Christmas creeping ever nearer farm shops are hoping shoppers will spend their money wisely and enjoy the experience of food shopping rather than leaving it to a last minute dash around a supermarket.

Farm shops within the Midlands group all have their own ways of making food shopping a more interesting an enjoyable experience. Voted Britain’s Best Farm Shop 2013, Ludlow Food Centre has 8 glass fronted production kitchens so customers can see their food being made. Apley Farm Shop near Telford has a children’s play barn and Denstone Hall near Alton Towers has a large cafe/restaurant. Near Wolverhampton, Essington Fruit Farm provide all year round ‘pick your own’ produce. Even the smaller farm shops have added attractions to help them stand out including The Stables, close to Redditch, which has recently created a farm park with animals for children to feed and pet. Rather than using tricks and fooling people these food retailers are showing the real side of food production and farming. Their transparency is something the multiples are unable to copy which is made all the more obvious by advertising campaigns like that of Lidl’s. Jeremy Jagger is leader of the Midlands group and owner of Battlefield 1403 near Shrewsbury, he says,

‘I believe that we are blessed with a particularly strong concentration of exceptional award winning establishments in the Midlands that we can be very proud of. Farm shops are very competitive with supermarkets in terms of price and shouldn’t be considered as high end or exclusive in this way. We all offer quality local and homemade produce. Our staff are passionate about this region’s food and they all provide outstanding service which we hope gives every customer a pleasurable shopping and dining experience.’

The solidarity, and clarity of message, that is being demonstrated by farm shops in the Midlands region has galvanised them. By comparison, the ruthless competition and price wars the supermarkets have entered in to leaves little to be desired. Farm shops are clearly conveying the message that local is best and are asking communities to support their farmers and growers by choosing to buy their food at their local farm shop.

Details of the farm shops in the Midlands region can be found at



November 19, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley model farm – 100 years ahead of its time in 1875

2014-11-19, Matthew Knight's photos - 3 Apley shire horses ploughing 2014-11-19, Matthew Knight's photos - WO FosterI was recently unable to attend a talk by Matthew Knight on Apley Home Farm. He spoke about the background to the building and described their architecture and use, but also explained how, what looks be a rather ordinary looking large Victorian farm building from the outside, captures the essence of ideas surrounding farming practises formed during the previous 100 years. The ideas encapsulated in its architecture formed a key part of the development of the ideas of Architectural Modernism which would come to the forefront in the 100 years after it was built [in 1875]. He came across Apley Home Farm by accident and whilst it was known to academics interested in farm buildings & many other local people, exploring the building was a revelation to him.

Matthew’s talk included these photos I’d never seen before – the one of WO Foster being especially interesting – his larger than life portrait & that of his wife hang on our staircase at home, so he’s a familiar face:

James Foster’s portrait now hangs in Apley Farm Shop. He started the Stourbridge ironworks, one of the largest in the UK at the time and the source of several firsts, including the first steam locomotive in the USA. WO Foster (whose larger than life portrait hangs on our stairs) took over his father’s business and it was he who bought Apley in 1875, for a record sum and with cash, extremely unusual at the time. He was MP for South Staffordshire & married Isabella Grazebrook of Liverpool.

Shire horses were still in use in the early 20th century. Norman Sharpe, the Gamekeeper for Apley Park c1950 writes in his memoires (published by his son Ted Sharpe) about the workers at Home Farm taking enormous pride in their shire horses, going to visit them after work and treating them almost like pets.

This is just Matthew’s hobby – he’s an architect with, mainly working on Churches and Cathedrals but also unusually shipping container conversions & work for the National Trust.

November 15, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Remembrance Day, 1914-2014

2014-11-11, Neil Harrison's Tower of London poppy art installation photo2014-11-12, Tower of London poppy art installation2014-11-11, Neil Harrison's Tower of London poppy art installation photo 2Last Sunday (Remembrance Sunday) in Stockton Church*, Graham Jones, author of The Apley Legion, gave a very moving address (which he’s kindly allowed me to copy here below) about the Nevett brothers who lived at Cotsbrook Hall on the edge of the Apley Estate. I couldn’t help wonder if their mother ever really recovered. Venetia had an especially fab history teacher at school last year who captured the girls’ interest by recounting his-tories. In the same way, Graham captured the interest of all our children on Sunday, adding extra meaning to this year’s Armistice Day.

Every Wednesday, I take Venetia & Francis on an outing & this week it had to be the poppy art installation by artist Paul Cummins at the Tower of London. The 888,246 poppies were so moving. The futility of the 1WW became so obvious. Having recorded some 1WW stories of local Norton & Apley residents, I instantly found myself wondering who those men would have become, where they would have worked, who they would have married, to whom they would have been a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a friend, a neighbour. It’s hardly surprising some of those who returned never talked about it. Our return on the River Bus lifted our spirits, admiring the Thames lit up at night. Such fun.

One of the ways Neil Harrison has dealt with his PTSD is by taking up a very creative new career – photography. We’ve been very lucky he’s been recently photographing life on the Apley Estate, particularly at our key Apley Farm Shop events. Here are his infinitely superior photos of the poppy installation.

THE NEVETT BOYS by Graham Jones

I would not be telling this story if Chris Lewis [Norton resident, Shropshire] had not said:

“What do you know about Gaba Tepe?” She had seen it on the grave of Tom Nevett just inside the gate of the churchyard.

Gaba Tepe is a headland on the Turkish coast of Gallipoli. Inland is the Helles Memorial with the names of twenty-thousand men who died nearby, Percy Nevett was one of them.

Percy and Tom were the sons of William and Emily Nevett. They lived at Cotsbrook Hall. Farming the land around Higford must have been profitable at the time because Percy the eldest boy was sent to the Grammar School in Bridgnorth and young Tom Nevett was a boarder at the famous public school at Shrewsbury. Percy went on to study engineering at Birmingham University and worked in the Black Country before he decide to try somewhere sunnier, the outback of Australia.

To the rest of the world all Australians were ‘Diggers’, miners, fortune hunters in the gold fields. This was where Percy Nevett worked as an engineer at Day Dawn in Western Australia. When war was declared the ‘diggers’ downed tools and went off to Black Boy Hill outside Perth to join the Australian Infantry. Percy Nevett packed away his books and instruments and went with them. On the day he enlisted he was promoted to sergeant, he was better qualified than most of the officers.

Back in England Tom Nevett had not started on a career, he was only eighteen, straight out of school at the outbreak of war. Volunteers were called for. Tom travelled to Shrewsbury, he met up with thirty of his old pals and they joined the 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. They trained hard throughout the winter months, by the spring of 1915 they were ready for the battlefield.

Percy was also ready for battle. He had sailed from Perth to Cairo and was camped near the Pyramids. Men of the Australian Imperial Force together with New Zealanders, and British and French troops were preparing to attack the Turks at Gallipoli. The Royal Navy ferried the invaders from Alexandria to the Greek Island of Limnos. On the evening of 24th April 1915 battleships, minesweepers, troop transports and lighters sailed out of the harbour and made for the coast of Turkey.

In the poor light of the early dawn there was confusion. Believing they were too close to the promontory of Gaba Tepe one of the naval officers decided to steer north crossing the path of other units. Battalions were mixed and the chain of command was broken. Sergeant Nevett led his company ashore. The troops had expected to land on a gently shelving shore with cultivated land and orchards ahead of them. The planners had not done their homework. Laden with all their equipment they struggled through the waves. When they did manage to scramble ashore they found themselves on a narrow beach with near vertical cliffs above them. The Turks were in a commanding position. Machine gunners and snipers cut down the invaders before they could find cover.

Percy Nevett was hit above the knee in both legs. Private Mechie gathered him up and carried him away, out to the line of fire. Sergeant Nevett was listed as ‘missing’.

At home at Cotsbrook Hall the Nevetts were desperate for news. Tom was home on leave. By now he knew the ways of the army, instead of going through the official channels he made contact directly with the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Percy’s battalion.

The RSM wrote back:-

 ‘He was on the left flank on the Sunday we effected a landing here, and at this point the fighting was particularly heavy. Your brother was hit and carried to a place of more safety by Private Michie, another of our good men since killed. The wound was so serious that before the stretcher-bearers could get him to the beach, he died. He was one of our most popular NCOs, and my best friend’.

When Tom Nevett’s leave was over he sailed for France, the 5th Battalion KSLI landed at Boulogne on the 20th of May and within a fortnight they came under fire and not just from shells and bullets. They were among the first troops to be attacked with flamethrowers by the Germans.

The Generals made plans for the battle of Loos in which The Shropshire’s would play a part but not Corporal Tom Nevett. He had been promoted and placed in the machine gun section of the battalion. These new weapons could cause havoc and were targeted by the Germans even when there was a lull in the fighting. On the 9th of August a shell hit the gun emplacement and Tom was wounded. He was being carried away to the dressing station when another shell burst nearby and Tom was wounded a second time. This was more serious, shrapnel had ripped into his spine and he was paralysed.

By train and boat and ambulance he was brought home to England.

The Military Hospital at Edmonton in North London was receiving casualties daily. As ambulances arrived and passed through the gates local children would wave and cheer the wounded soldiers. One noted that sometimes an ambulance would be driven with extra care to avoid ruts in the road that would jar those most seriously wounded.

For a month nurses and surgeons did all they could for Tom Nevett. He died on the 10th September 1915, and was brought home and buried here at Stockton.

In due course a white marble surround was placed around his grave


His brother’s name is also inscribed.


The day he died has gone down in history. The 25th of April is Anzac Day, when Australians and New Zealanders remember their lost sons.

On that day Sergeant Percy Nevett and his companions watched the sun rise above the headland the Turks called Gaba Tepe. As they approached the beaches, long, dark shadows were cast from the cliffs out across the sea. They sailed on through the waves. The outline of the coast became clearer as the sun rose higher. Percy Nevett and many of those who stood beside him would never see another sunrise.

*opposite Apley Farm Shop, Norton, Shropshire


November 14, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Park gas works

2014-11-11, Apley Park, Gas works, Electric houseStephen Dewhirst from Broseley Local History Society had a rare guided visit of part of Apley Park on Sunday and was surprised to see that the ‘Retort house’ for the gas works was still in tact.  This was later used to house the generating plant for the electricity supply to Apley Park (now the house is usually called Apley Hall).

Steven’s friend Ian West has been studying Country House Technology for some years and found that ”a 1905 brochure produced by the leading installers of country house electricity plant, Drake and Gorham, shows that they supplied a steam-powered electricity generator capable of running 450 lights (which made it relatively large) to W H Foster of Apley Park”.  The Gas works “was built by (or at least the equipment for it was supplied by) George Bower of St Neots some time between 1868 and 1874.”

You can get some idea of how the Gas works looked by clicking here. It has some information on George Bower.

You can see also see a paper written jointly by Ian West by clicking here.

Apley Estate is strictly private at all times.

November 13, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Christmas orders open at Apley Farm Shop

2014-11-05, Christmas generic leaflet front - final

2014-11-05, Christmas generic leaflet back - final

November 12, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

BBC Children in Need – this Friday – fundraising at Apley Farm Shop

Children in Need logo

This Friday, we’re fundraising at Apley Farm Shop for BBC Children in Need. Some staff will be partly in fancy dress & we’ll have some collection buckets in each department.

Here’s the official press release about this year’s Bake Off fundraising:

BBC Children in Need is back, and asking Britain to get baking

BBC Children in Need is back, and is asking Britain to get baking one of the Nation’s favourite cakes to help make a difference to young lives right here in the UK.

Stars from across British television and radio including Sir Terry Wogan, Fearne Cotton, Nick Grimshaw, Tess Daly, Matt Baker and Alex Jones have joined forces to galvanise the nation to become baking heroes for BBC Children in Need by baking one of the nation’s favourite cakes.

BBC Children in Need’s six celebrity friends are each championing one of the nation’s favourite cakes, and are asking the public to be a baking hero by getting behind their team and holding a bake sale with their chosen cake to support the 2014 Appeal.

Backing #TeamLemonDrizzle is BBC Children in Need’s Lifetime President, Sir Terry Wogan, who said of his team: “My own wife’s lemon drizzle cake is a thing of beauty, so, I am asking you, the Great British public, to get behind me and bake, bake, bake, to make a lemon drizzle to remember, for BBC Children in Need this year! Think of all the money we can raise together for disadvantaged children and young people all across the UK.”

A Baker by name, Matt Baker is fronting #TeamFruitCake, he is calling on his baking friends to join his team and bake a delicious fruit cake: “Come on Britain, I want you to join Team Fruit cake! What could be easier to raise lots of money for BBC Children in Need?

Baking enthusiast Fearne Cotton is calling on the Nation to join #TeamCarrotCake, Fearne said of her team: “Come on everyone, I want you to join me in baking a delicious carrot cake for BBC Children in Need this year! It’ll be fun to throw on an apron and get a bit messy whilst becoming a baking hero for Pudsey, every penny your carrot cake raises goes straight to projects supporting children and young people right here in the UK.”

Swapping her Strictly ball gown for an apron, Tess Daly is captaining #TeamVictoriaSponge, Tess called on bakers across the UK saying: “As a nation we all love a slice of Victoria Sponge Cake, so I am asking you to join Team Victoria Sponge and become a baking hero whilst raising money for BBC Children in Need. Victoria Sponge has it all – it’s light, it’s jammy and it’s perfect with a cup of tea. So come on everyone, be a hero and bake for BBC Children in Need this year!”

Typically calling on the public whilst they are enjoying their breakfast, Nick Grimshaw is asking the public to pop down their cereal and join his team, #TeamChocolateCake: “Come on Britain; I want you to join me in baking a delicious Chocolate cake for BBC Children in Need this year! We all know Chocolate cake is better than Sir Terry’s favourite, Lemon Drizzle, so join me and together we can help make a difference.

Baking hero Alex Jones is taking the helm of #TeamBattenberg and is asking for people up and down the UK to bake a classic Battenberg, for BBC Children in Need this year, she said of her team: “Baking for BBC Children in Need could not be simpler, pick one of the nation’s favourite cakes and put on a bake sale! I want you all to join Team Battenberg, but whatever team you decide to join will go on to help make a difference, so thank you.”

David Ramsden, Chief Executive of BBC Children in Need says: “There are thousands of children and young people right here in the UK who urgently need our help and we can only be there for them thanks to the incredible generosity, imagination and commitment of our supporters. This year we hope that everyone will have fun and raise money that really will change the lives of disadvantaged children and young people by baking or doing lots of other amazing things!”

To date the Great British public has raised over £740 million for children and young people across the UK and the Charity is calling on people to once again pull out the stops and start baking to help raise money to change young lives!

November 11, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Christmas Lights & Launch – photos

2014-11-08, Neil Harrison's Christmas Lights & Launch photos (62)Neil Harrison once again took some wonderful photos for us on Saturday night when about 100 people came to the Apley Farm Shop Christmas Lights & Launch. Visitors enjoyed turkey rolls & cranberry sauce, mulled wine & live music from the Abraham Darby Academy saxophone quintet.

Our thanks to the saxophonists: Mrs Elizabeth Blakeman, Cameron Watson (16) Katie Goring (14) Naomi Gledhill (14)Charlotte Blakeman (16) Harriett Blakeman (19).

Photographed are the Hope House Children’s Hospices children & their carers who came to switch on the lights; the decorations created by Katy, hanging from huge laundry airers in the Shop; Rebecca (Marketing Assistant) serving mulled wine; the pine cone Christmas tree with James Foster’s portrait in the 2014-11-08, Neil Harrison's Christmas Lights & Launch photos (92)background; the Apl2014-11-08, Neil Harrison's Christmas Lights & Launch photos (24)ey seal – Taste, Discover, Enjoy.2014-11-08, Neil Harrison's Christmas Lights & Launch photos (42)

We’re now gearing up for our Christmas Food Fair on Advent Sunday, 30 November, 10-4pm in the Courtyard.

Breakfast with Santa is very nearly completely booked, but Santa’s Grotto with a live donkey will be running from 1pm – 5pm on the following dates:

  • Sunday 30th November (Christmas Food Fair) – £5.452014-11-08, Neil Harrison's Christmas Lights & Launch photos (64)
  • Saturday 6th, Sunday 7th, Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th December – £6.45
  • Friday 19th, Saturday 20th, Sunday 21st, Monday 22nd, and Tuesday 23rd December – £7.45

Booking is not required but arriving early is recommended to avoid disappointment.

The prices listed are per child & includes a visit to Santa’s Grotto and a present from Santa Claus himself to take home !


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,745 other followers