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September 11, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Ivor Richards receives his Long Service award at Burwarton Show

2014-08-07, Ivor Richards at Burwarton (3) 2014-08-07, Ivor Richards at Burwarton (5)

There are few people nowadays who work for 1 employer for more than 2 years, so the 36 years Ivor has worked for Apley is really worthy of recognition & huge thanks. He began farming on the Apley Estate in 1978, which I detailed in another blog on 17 Feb 2014. We’ll miss his cheerful waves from his tractor or combine !

He is photographed here with Lord Hamilton (Gavin) & Adrian Joynt (Apley Farm Manager) receiving his Long Service Award at Burwarton Show on 7 August this year. He’s also photographed there with The Dowager Viscountess Boyne & Henry Yates, who’s been chairman of Burwarton Show & on the committee for 40 years & is now a Vice President.

We’re very grateful that Ivor will continue working for us until Christmas, after which a new member of staff will join the farming team. We wish him very best wishes for his retirement.


2014-08-07, Ivor Richards at Burwarton (7)

September 9, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Cheshire cheese revived

2014-09-09, Apley Cheshire cheeseHere is some truly fantastic Apley news – the Apley cheese is back !

Gwendoline Todd, Ann Pigg (of the family who gave their name to our playbarn) & Rosemary Keen were the last people to make Apley Cheese in the building which is now The Creamery at Apley Farm Shop. Last year, my husband (Lord Gavin Hamilton) took Rosemary to meet Martin Moyden (maker of Mr Moyden’s cheeses) near Shrewsbury, where they discussed making the Apley Cheese again. Gavin recounted to me later that Rosemary clearly hasn’t forgotten any of her expertise since it was last produced in 1962 – now 52 years ago.

Martin’s Apley cheese has been maturing for 3-4 months now & was tasted last week. Martin said it was fabulous, so I’m looking forward to a taster myself ! First of course, we must ask Rosemary’s opinion, how it compares to the cheeses she made. For a kitchen lunch or cold canapé before supper, it will be a wonderful complement to out home reared & smoked pheasant & partridge. It’s funny to think that the Walled Gardens were just about still in production when this cheese was being produced.

September 8, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Funghi walk with Bob Thomas

Boletus cep imageBullace imageBob Thomas regularly gives guided walks in Shropshire, sharing his wealth of experience on country & nature issues, He has twice before led walks at Apley Farm Shop & emailed me saying it’s recently saying it’s a good time of year for another funghi walk.

Already there are wild horse mushrooms in the meadows and I have seen the first of the boletus  cep (pictured here).  Also lots of wild damson/bullace are now fruiting.  The Apley Estate has some very old hedgerow.

Wikipedia gave me some help here to describe the difference (there’s not much) between bullace, damsons & sloes: The bullace is a variety of plum like a damson, but round not oval like plums. “They can be either “white” (i.e. yellow or green) or “black” (i.e. blue or purple) in colour, and ripen up to six weeks later in the year. Though smaller than most damsons, bullaces are much larger than the closely related sloe”.

Nature’s harvest will be over quickly, so call him on 07899 65 83 83 or email him on if you’d like to join one of his walks.

I have to share with you my 2 favourite jokes – they’re the only ones I can usually remember when asked for a good joke ! Why did the mushroom get invited to the party – because he was such a fun-gi. Why could the fungus not go to the party – because there wasn’t mush-room. I remember crying with laughter the first time I heard them 20 yrs ago !

September 6, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Last of the Apley Estate 2014 harvest

2014-09-06, H on Scout, Apley harvest 19h262014-09-03, Apley harvesting 20h19 croppedEvery year, I mean to make a photographic record of the fields changing, but I’ve got enough shots to make it complete enough.

As soon as I got back on Friday, I exercised 1 of our children’s ponies & captured on film one of the last fields to be harvested on the Apley Estate. Click here to see the combine working late, making the most of the required warm & dry weather conditions.

I did the same 24 hrs later, to find they’d already baled the same field. Click here to see the change.

These are somehow magic evenings for me: I adore the sunshine & heat, especially warm evenings, when it stays above 15 deg beyond midnight. The harvest is a culmination & celebration in the farming year.  And of course galloping round stubble fields is just huge fun.

These films & photos can now represent the beginning of the farming year which I’ll endeavour (with more intent !) to record on camera.

September 4, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Cookery Club this Saturday – game recipes

Pheasant recipe image Venison stew imageNot only is Jason Pritchard coming to give a talk on deer management to the Apley Cookery Club this Saturday, 6 Sept, 10-11.30am in the Conference Room, Dr Vicky Rance is preparing a venison recipe & Rae Parnham is bringing a favourite pheasant dish too.

It’s totally free & all are welcome – no booking required. Bring a typed or hand written recipe to copy & share with other members. Even better, bring it cooked to taste & share ! Or just coming empty handed is fine too of course.

October’s (4 Oct) theme is homemade alcohol, November’s (1 Nov) is Christmas table decorations & December’s (6 Dec) is the Christmas party.

September 3, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Lockley ewes’ milk cheese made in Shropshire by Mr Moyden

I recently caught up with some Shropshire friends who have been working on the development of a new ewes milk cheese. They sent me these wonderful photos, which really help explain what they’re doing, how & where.

Their inspiration came from tasting Berkswell sheep cheese from Warwickshire & holidays in Spain eating manchego & other wonderful sheep cheeses. Having done some work experience at Berkswell & Paxton & Whitfield making & selling cheese, they started speaking to Martin Moyden (Shropshire cheesemaker) about 4 years ago. Without his encouragement, they say they could have never have gone ahead & made the investment in the Pitchford Estate sheep dairy.

WP_20140531_037 WP_20140531_031 WP_20140505_005 WP_20140414_027 WP_20140702_005 WP_20140702_001Very in keeping with Apley’s local ethos is that the whole supply chain from farm field to cheese board is within a radius of about 30 miles thanks to Mr Moyden & Apley Farm Shop. James Nason explained “The exciting development of high quality farm shops in Shropshire such as Apley has also created a truly local market for Martin’s cheeses. Shropshire is very fortunate to be blessed with some of the best farm shops & local food heroes in the UK. ” He told me that the sheep don’t as such have names but some characters have developed with the flock & have been named by the milking team. So they now have a Shirley & a Badger! The sheep are Friesland & Zwartbles, so are black & white to match Pitchford Hall & the style of the Elizabethan houses of Shrewsbury. They were therefore delighted when Martin told us that he was calling his blue ewe cheese – Shrewsbury Blue. James concluded “We can now boast an amazing cheese board all made in Shropshire, having some of the best sheep, goat & cow cheeses of any county in England”.

Drop in to Apley’s delicatessen counter & try some – it’s delicious to have at home or to take as a present from Shropshire when away visiting family & friends. I love it with Peter’s yard crackers & Pimhill oatcakes – which are now essentials in our kitchen !

2014-08-01, Lockley cheese by Mr Moyden 1 (1)You may have already read about it in The Shropshire Star or on, but also The Farmer magazine covered it on page 1, 14 & 15  which you  can read by clicking here.

September 2, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Walled Garden lilies !

IMG_20140903_115834I must admit I didn’t notice these when I was last in the gardens just before the end of the summer holidays, but these are the first to be grown there for at least 60 years ! They can be sold in the Farm Shop, but more importantly attract bees & other insects to the gardens, which obviously helps pollination & Apley honey production !

Look at these red berries – it’s late Summer, early Autumn – a time of year I love. I always loved going back to school, especially the crisp mornings & warm sunny days of early September.

At home, the children are starting school again this week & at the Farm Shop, we’re busy gearing up for the Apley Taste Off on Saturday 27 Sept. We thou2014-09-03, AWG berries, late Summerght of calling it the Apley Harvest Food Festival or Apley Big Feast, but have settled for the Apley Taste Off, as there will be lots of local producers coming to offer free samples & tasters of their delicious food & drinks. Yum !

August 31, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Gardening tips for September, by Apley’s Head Gardener

2014-08-08, Veg boxEvery month, Phil Allen, Head Gardener at Apley Walled Garden, sends me his gardening tips. This is also published in the Shropshire Review & County Woman. This photo of is one of the delicious weekly veg boxes we’ve enjoyed at home from the Walled Garden (our consumption soars with all the children home for the holidays !). Fill your own in Apley Farm Shop or call Phil on 07746 01 30 50 or the Shop on 01952 730 345 to pre-order. Enjoy his September tips here:

“September is the relief of the children going back to school & the abundance of harvest; so make sure you harvest your entire crop as your garden will be producing prolifically & the abundance should be magnificent. Dig up root crops (apart from parsnips which taste better after a frost) & potatoes before slugs wreak their havoc & dry thoroughly before storing in boxes or paper sacks. Remember to evict any diseased or rotten tubers, so they can’t spoil the rest of your crop.

Fast maturing vegetables such as beans, courgettes, peppers, cucumbers & tomatoes must be picked regularly or they lose their youthful freshness & become stringy, tough & bitter. Any outdoor tomatoes should be picked by the end of the month & ripened inside. Keep them on their trusses for the ‘on the vine’ look & make chutney out of any that refuse to ripen. Marrows, pumpkins & squashes should be left in the sun for a few days to harden the skin. Then dry them off before storing in a cool, dark place.

If you love your herbs, now is the time to cut & freeze herbs in ice cube trays. Pot up chives & mint for the winter, so you can still enjoy them as you cook through the winter months. Lift a clump of growing herbs, divide & pot up using multi-purpose compost. Cut back old foliage, water well & wait for your winter crop to appear.


Protect your fruit – birds & wasps love fruit as much as you do, so think about investing in a fruit cage for next year if your crop is disappearing in front of your eyes.

Prune – cut out fruited canes of Summer raspberries & tie in any new canes for next year. Make sure you only keep the healthy canes & cut out weaker stems, especially rogues that appear in pathways.

Plant – new fruit trees from mid- September onwards once any really dry weather is over. New trees prefer warmish soil to establish their root systems, especially nectarines & peaches. Other fruit trees can be planted later as they are less sensitive to the cold.

Vegetable of the month – Peas

Today, when we think about peas, they are generally frozen, uniform in size & colour & very bland. This is because they have been bred to be ripened at the same time on low dwarf sized plants, making crop picking by machinery much quicker & easier.

However the humble pea comes in all shapes & sizes & is the oldest vegetable growing in our garden. It was one of the first crops to be cultivated by the ancients simply because they were dried before eating, making them very transportable, highly nutritious & a good bulking food. It wasn’t until the 1300s that we started to eat them fresh from the pod. This idea seems to have stemmed from Italy where the pea was known as piselli novella. But it is the petit pois that we are most familiar with, which may be due to Henry II’s wife  Italian born Catherine de Medici who brought over her favourite foods from France in the 1500s. Sadly many varieties of peas have been lost over time due to commercialism, but if you look you may be able to find some old varieties such as Alderman, Carlin, Champion of England (which I have grown myself), Prince Albert & Tutankhamun. The latter variety is so named because peas were found in a vase from the tomb at the British Museum, who later presented them to a Mr Grimstone. He claimed that one of them germinated after 35 days & had a small crop. This is highly unlikely after 3000 years as even seeds in packets only 2 years old fail to grow ! Perhaps Tutankhamun peas are best left in the tombs anyway !”

August 30, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Harvest Food Festival – Saturday 27 September

2014-09-27, Harvest Food Festival A5 Leaflet

We have lots of producers lined up for Saturday 27 September, to offer you tasters of their locally produced, delicious food & drink. With the Creamery Cafe, Pigg’s Playbarn, Elizabeth Beckett Skincare, Lottie’s [fashion for all the family], Scotty’s Donkeys & Animal Park, the Skylark Nature Trail, we have lots on to, make it a great day out for all the family.

It’s part of the British Food Fortnight which runs from Saturday 20 September to Sunday 5 October.

I love this leaflet design, inspired by Gavin Real, our General Manager, who’s perhaps been reading his daughter some of the Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem.

On Thursday, EKO (Educating Kids Outdoors) held another sleepover in Pigg’s Playbarn. More news & photos on that soon.

Tomorrow, we’re looking forward to an Apley staff rounders game after the shop has closed.

Next week, on Tuesday 2 September, Phil Allen, Head Gardener of Apley Walled Garden, will hold the penultimate last Open Tour (meet at the Farm Shop at 10am). Tuesday 7 October will be the very last Open Tour, after which we’ll only be holding private pre-booked tours.

Next weekend, on Saturday 6 September, The Apley Cookery Club (open to everyone, free, no booking required) Dr Vicky Rance will present game recipes by Dr Vicky Rance & Rae Parnham & hear a presentation by Jason Pritchard on deer management.

That weekend Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 September, drop in at the Apley Farm Shop stand at the Shifnal Flower Festival & on Saturday 6 September, at Beckbury Show.

August 29, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Elizabeth Beckett Skincare – new foot massage therapist & makeup artist

Thai massage imageZoeYou can even get a foot massage or have your make up done when you visit Apley Farm Shop now ! Liz of Elizabeth Beckett Skincare just emailed me with 2 bits of news:

Zoe Clarke began with them this week, specialising in Thai Foot Massage. Zoe will also be helping Elizabeth launch a new makeup range, which will be available in September.

Thai Foot Massage is a relaxing treatment helping to improve circulation, boost the immune system and relieve stress & tension. This process stimulates lymphatic drainage & removes toxins, reducing stiffness and improving flexibility.

Zoe is also a fantastic makeup artist and will be championing the new range, for weddings, proms and any other special occasion.

You can book with Zoe via our website, by email, popping in to see us in the Courtyard at Apley Farm Shop or calling 01952 730 575.

Also, she’s looking for a new beauty therapist responsible for delivering beauty treatments to clients and promoting sales of goods and attracting repeat business.

Duties include:

  • Performing all aspects of beauty treatments including manicures, pedicures, facials and body massage
  • Meeting and greeting clients
  • Performing shop duties – answering phone, booking appointments and promoting skincare & makeup product sales
  • taking payments
  • keeping treatment rooms up to an acceptable standard of cleanliness
  • ensuring the safety and well being of all beauty clients at all times
  • providing a friendly, efficient and courteous service to all clients at all times providing a high standard of customer careNVQ level 3 in Beauty Therapy or equivalent, General Maths Skills, Verbal Communication, Client Relationships, Customer Focus, Basic Safety, Creativity, Attention to Detail, Professionalism, Flexibility

Skills/Qualifications required are:

NVQ level 3 in Beauty Therapy or equivalent, General Maths Skills, Verbal Communication, Client Relationships, Customer Focus, Basic Safety, Creativity, Attention to Detail, Professionalism, Flexibility

Candidates can apply via the website, by email, popping in to the Skincare shop in the Courtyard at Apley Farm Shop or calling 01952 730 575.



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