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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 !

November 10, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Historic Apley cheese news

2014-11-10, Thomas Hoe Stevenson Aged Red LeicesterRecently, Gavin (husband) was in the Farm Shop when a customer (Matt Hiles) introduced himself as being the grandson of Mr [Allan] Cope. He was the man who taught Rosemary Keen (nee White) how to make Apley Cheese ! He had seen our article in the Shropshire Star and was fascinated to read the story about the recipe and the fact that cheese was still alive. He’s tasted the cheese, now made by Martin Moyden & said it tasted great, so it’s marvellous to have his seal of approval. He thought the texture was spot on and the taste was how he remembered.

A reunion at the Farm Shop with Gavin (Lord Hamilton) & Rosemary Keen (nee White) would have been wonderful, but sadly, currently Mr Cope is not well enough to attend. Perhaps in the Spring.

Cheese of the Week at Apley Farm Shop is Aged Leicestershire Red. “Made using a traditional recipe, Aged Leicestershire Red is buttered, cloth-bound and matured for six months to produce a flaky, open texture cheese with a slightly sweet, caramelised flavour and rich golden orange colour. It is the only pasteurised Red Leicester produced in the county of Leicestershire and is a firm favourite at Long Clawson Dairy, a traditional British cheese producer. Thomas Hoe Stevenson cheese is the premium brand made by the Long Clawson Dairy. The name is taken from our founding father who began making cheese in the Vale of Belvoir in the 1800s. Following the techniques & traditional methods used by Thomas Hoe Stevenson over a century ago we continue to make top quality speciality cheese at our award winning dairy.”

November 9, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley’s Christmas lights, launch & decorations


2013-11-08, Christmas decorations London W8Apley’s Christmas launch began this evening with The Hope House Hospice children switching on our Christmas lights. Abraham Darby Academy’s Saxophone Band again came to play to visitors whilst they enjoyed mulled wine & hot turkey rolls with cranberry.

As I began chatting with visitors, out of the blue (or actually the Christmassy lit Courtyard) a childhood friend who I haven’t seen for about 30 yrs came & re-introduced herself, which was fabulous as you can imagine !

My day was totally taken up finishing off the beautiful Christmas tree decorations which Jason had been working on during the week. On Thursday night, he & Bert worked 9pm to 1am spraying layers of white paint on them so they would have enough time to dry (November isn’t of course the best month for drying !). That’s incredibly generous & committed – I’m soooo grateful. ! Phil (Garden) & Alan (Woods) had supplied the hazel, so they’ve very much been a team creation.

2014-11-05, Christmas flower stands by Jason (3)The result was fabulous. As I unloaded the last 3 trees from our horsebox (best thing to transport them in as they’re very tall), the band were just beginning to play. Immediately they were admired by a passing shopper who examined the first ones closely.2014-11-04, Christmas flower stands by Jason 1, cropped

During the year, I take photos of inspirational designs, from which I select the best few in October, to convert into my own designs for Apley’s Christmas theme. So, one of these photos was taken as I cycled past a hotel opposite the front of Kensington Palace (photo here). Sticks painted white looked easy enough (!) & I knew we had endless supplies of sticks. The stands reminded me of 11 flowers stands left behind by a former tenant & the balls of twisted willow surely wouldn’t take long. That wasn’t the case at all – it’s very hard to twist hazel & willow round into a ball without getting whipped across the face with a loose end. The electric paint sprayers kept clogging up & used huge amounts of paint (they ran out at midnight & went off to get more). Here are some stage by stage photos of how they were created. I love the fact that once again, nearly all our decorations are made using whatever we had to hand & recycling materials. For example, at the last minute, I had to disguise the sand bags – what a great use of an inside-out game feed bag – Katy over-kindly said they even looked like piles of snow at the foot of each tree !

2014-11-06, Christmas flower stands by Jason 6I whizzed by TFM (my favourite local shop) to collect 22 sandbags (no need for a gym !) to weigh the stands / trees down once installed. A production line was created with Katy (housekeeper), our au pair & Venetia (9) to reinforcing the red & gold baubles & hanging them, to add colour. I looked like Bear Grylls for a half an hour as I clambered in the undergrowth collecting ivy, which we then wrapped around each one to add green. Finally, each ‘tree’ needs about 15m of lights – for 11 trees, that’s 165m ! I’m getting the sorted tomorrow. They looked so pretty as the evening got darker (lovely full moon too). Phew !

Christmas tree of baublesMeantime, Katy had finished the second laundry airer, hanging with decorations in the Farm Shop. The cone Christmas tree was inspired by this Parisian shop window (more than 2 yrs ago) & Kerplunk !

November 7, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Children’s Art Competition opens

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 Park, Alley Katz toy shop, The Creamery Café, the Skylark Nature Trail or our events.

The competition is open to children aged 3-18 & is free to enter. Entrants are invited to deliver their A3 artwork in any medium before 5.30pm on Friday 28 November to Pigg’s Playbarn. Prize winners will be announced & prizes awarded for each age category in the Courtyard at 2pm on Sunday 30 November, during the Apley Christmas Food Fair. The best 60 entries will be framed & hung in the Creamery Café from Sunday 30 November until Sunday 4 January.

Just complete the form below (print it off at home) & get designing !


Title of artwork________________________________





How you heard about this competition_________________

□ Tick here if you do NOT wish to receive the Apley enewsletters

For full details & Terms & Conditions, see or call 01952 730 345.

Prize winners unable to be present on 30 November will be contacted by email & invited to collect their prizes from Pigg’s Playbarn before 24 December.

Artwork can be collected from Pigg’s Playbarn 4-31 January, after which it will be recycled.

PS These are Francis’s (5) big Hamilton feet making this hilarious Christmas card image.


November 6, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Gardening tips for November, by Apley’s Head Gardener

8 Aug 2013, AWG progress 35, celeriac Celeriac image 2014-09-19, Neil Harrison AWG photos (50) blue flower 1 2014-09-19, Neil Harrison AWG photos (44) Phil checking cabbagesApley Walled Garden’s Head Gardener Phil Allen writes a monthly column for the Shropshire Review giving his seasonal gardening tips:

“This month brings a fantastic display of red & golden hues to trees & bushes, but also a real change in temperature & the shortening of days. It’s also a time of raking up fallen leaves compost them or pile them up to make leaf mould. If you have not started clearing up, it’s time you did. Burn or bin any perennial weeds or debris that show signs of fungal infection, dig over empty beds & finish planting evergreen shrubs.

This is the best time of the year to take hardwood cuttings & collect any berries from trees & shrubs for seed sowing. Keep collecting ripe seeds, dry them out & place in a brown paper envelope in an air tight container in a cool place.

It’s also time to protect alpines from winter wet. Lift & store dahlias, gladioli & summer flowering bulbs. Make new lawns from turf. Cut down the dying tops of perennial vegetables & lift & divide rhubarb. Finish planting Autumn onion sets & sow broad beans but cover them with cloches in colder parts of the country.  Plant garlic before the weather gets too cold. You should also lift & store potatoes & carrots in a dry & dark cool place. Secure any climbers or any other plants that are vulnerable to the winds of Autumn.


This is the time to pick the last of your apples & pears before they get damaged, & if you have any fruit trees fix grease bands to their trunks to catch pests as they crawl up. You ought to start to prepare the ground for planting bare rooted stock which is the cheapest way to buy a whole range of fruit trees, shrubs & hedge plants. Remember only store fruit that is not damaged or diseased.

Vegetable of the month – Celeriac

Celeriac is a descendant of the coastal wild celery plant & was once used as a herb like parsley & its seeds as celery salt. It first appeared in seed catalogues in the early 18th century. The edible part of the plant is not the root itself but the swollen lower stems. It isn’t the most attractive of plants & looks more like a turnip, where it gets its name turnip-rooted celery. However celeriac has a much sweeter & nuttier flavour than celery & has more versatility when used in cooking. At this time of year the depth of flavour given by the celeriac is a must for winter salads (grated), roasted, mashed & used in soups & stews. The advantage of this vegetable is that it contains very little starch & has a shelf life of up to 8 months, but given its culinary uses my supply has usually run out after 3 ! “

PS. I’m very grateful to Neil Harrison 07854 131 141 for the non celeriac photos

November 5, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Huge Christmas tree & Apley chestnuts

2014-10-27, Chestnuts 2014-11-05, Christmas tree in Apley Courtyard 2photoWhen miss a few days on my blog, you can tell things are going a bit crazy ! Today, our huge Apley Estate Christmas tree has been installed & Apley chestnuts are in the Shop ready to be roasted & enjoyed with mulled wine & Julie’s Apley minced pies.

Jason has kindly been doing the fiddly bits with twisted willow & hazel, creating decorations for the Courtyard, which I’m sure will be glittering by Saturday night. This year they’re almost 100% recycled & natural - we’re using existing flower stands, pine cones, ivy, boxes from the Shop wrapped beautifully by Katy, hanging from the ceiling over the delicatessen counter. In the meantime, Katy’s Aga baking some oranges for me, which may add a Christmassy fragrance, along with the cinnamon sticks.

Children from Hope House Children’s Hospices will be coming at 5.30pm to switch on the lights as we launch our Christmas season. Then Lottie’s charity fashion show runs 6.30-7.30pm (tickets £4.95 from her website or shops). Santa’s grotto will be open from Advent Sunday, when we will hold our Christmas Food Fair, 10-4pm.

November 4, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley farming news

2014-11-06, Wheat field at Home Farm 2014-11-06, Hedge cutting 2014-11-06, Loader putting corn into creep feeders 2014-11-06, Loader putting straw for the cows and calves to eat 2014-11-06, Oil seed rape field at Home Farm 2014-11-06, Ploughing to prepare the seed beds before drilling oatsWe’re trying to tell the farming story in pictures throughout the year, which is quite hard as there is so much going on & everything is constantly changing of course. Here are the latest from 1 of our farm workers, Ian Edwards (the one who takes the fab photos !) with explanations , which explain Apley’s farming news:

  • The green loader is putting corn into ‘creep feeders’ to allow the calves to eat the corn so that they can get used to it before weaning and also because we need them to ‘grow on’ now.
  • The green loader is putting straw for the cows and calves to eat because the grass is not growing or such good quality this time of year.
  • Hedge cutting can only be done when birds are not nesting. It is always done at this time of year, after harvest, along with fencing & other maintenance jobs.
  • Ploughing to bury unwanted roots, stems & weeds and to prepare seed bed before drilling oats.
  • The wheat field at Home Farm ‘greened up’ with the recent warm weather.
  • Oil seed rape field at Home Farm, with a bare patch in the foreground due to slug and pheasant damage.
November 3, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Pigg’s Playbarn Christmas Craft Club

20 Nov 2011, Paris, BHV Xmas decorations 1Pigg’s Playbarn Christmas Craft Club begins next week. Running every Thursday from 13 November to 18 December, craft time is 4-5pm then children have a free playtime 5pm-5:30pm. It’s in one of the Pigg’s Playbarn party rooms, so places are limited, given on a first come, first served basis. Booking is advisable but not obligatory – just call 01952 730 345 or email Annabel on  It costs £3.50 per session & is suitable for children aged 4-10. A parent or guardian must accompany the child at all times. The programme is as follows:

Week 1 – 13th November – Art competition, A3, any media, Theme: Christmas, Apley & Food

Week 2 – 20th November – Paper chains (for the Farm Shop & Playbarn)

Week 3 – 27th November – Make your own Christmas card (Christmas tree card)

Week 4 – 4th December – Christmas Decorations

Week 5 – 11th December – Write and decorate your letter to Santa

Week 6 – 18th December – Snowflakes

Come & join in the fun !

PS I spotted this rustic bauble in the heart of Paris in BHV (Bazaar Hotel de Ville) a couple of years ago. It looks quite simple, but is more difficult to copy than one might first think !

November 2, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Craft Fair this Sunday 2 November

2014-11-02, Marzipan Stollen 2014-11-02, Sur Middleton's Christmas flower arrangement 2014-11-02, Christmas seche linge 2We have so many crafters coming this Sunday, 2 November, 10-4pm, to the monthly Apley craft fair that there’s a huge white marquee style tent in the courtyard ready for them. No doubt they’ll have lots of unique present & stocking fillers. Crafter of the month is Amanda Jayne Parks will be demonstrating her jewellery making skills.

Last night, we hung the first Christmas decorations. I’m away until Friday night, then Saturday 8 November is the Apley Christmas Lights & Launch, 5.30-7.30pm, so the critical bits had to be in place by last night. Hope House Hospice children will switch on the lights at 5.30pm & Lottie’s fashion show will be in the Creamery 6.30-7.30pm.

The shop is already full of delicious Christmas treats, tempting us last night as we installed the special Apley style Christmas tree. You’ll see, it’s rather unique. Chef Matt Jones came through the shop a few times as we pieced it all together & I told him its story. Two years ago, I saw a [non Christmas] tree in a shop window, covered in bright baubles. I translated the idea into Apley English & came up with the pine cone covered pyramid. It had to display food & baubles we’re selling in the shop, so whilst the children were playing KerPlunk, I had the idea of the dowelling. For the third year in a row, we have some exquisite glass baubles & decorations from The Original Winter’s Tale, based in Ditton Priors. The silver alphabet letters were especially popular. I want the shop to touch all 5 senses of our customers, so added lots of mulled wine spice bags & cinnamon sticks to add those lovely festive fragrances.

Sue Middleton of Norton 07896 52 52 41 made this beautiful flower arrangement.


November 1, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Farm Shop loyalty key ring card

1 Oct 2013, Loyalty card imageShort but amusing tale: A member of the public dropped a set of keys they had found in Bridgnorth into Apley Estate Office because there was an Apley Farm Shop loyalty tab on the key ring. They checked the person’s name against our loyalty card database, called the lady concerned & a very relieved lady popped in to collect her keys !

You know the moral of the story don’t you … !




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