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April 17, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Walled Garden news

2015.02.04, Glasshouse repairs

Glasshouse repairs

2015.01.04, Rocket


2015.01.04, Mizuna


2015.01.04, Indian Mustard

Indian Mustard

2015.02.04, Glasshouse repairs (2)

Glasshouse repairs

One of Apley Walled Garden’s original greenhouses began to be renovated last week, so I was very excited to go & see it this week.

The roof bars & old guttering have been removed, the old timber treated & the guttering repainted ready to be replaced.

Whilst there, Phil Allen, Head Gardener, updated me: Pak Choi & broad beans are in the Polytunnel. Three types of beetroot are in bed 16: Chioggia, Albino & Pablo (baby deep purple). Three types of lettuces are in another polytunnel – Lolla Rossa, Red Deer’s Tongue & Bull’s Blood. Three types of pumpkins have been planted in the melon pit: Thai, Bonbon & Turk’s Turban. Cucumelons (cross between cucumbers & melons). Flowers being grown are carnations, Sweet William. Holly Hocks, Amaranthus, Dahlias & Zinnerias, Alyssum & Malvia. Also Stocks, Passiflora & Ammobium (which looks like a dried flower). Banana shallots & Red Baron shallots have been sown (they’re only available from seed).  The tomatoes (which are nearly all heritage varieties) & cucumbers are nearly ready to be planted on from the melon pit (wonderfully hot) into the greenhouses.

Phil admitted the rabbits are currently posing a bit of a problem, burrowing under the walls like Peter Rabbit !

Course news is that the first day of the Three Season Gardening course just took place on Wed 15 April & the first Beginners’ Marketing Course stars Wed 25 April.

We produce weekly crop reports for those we supply, principally Apley Farm Shop & Creamery Cafe of course, but also the University of Wolverhampton & local restaurants. From now on, using photos of crops such as these here (currently grown in our polytunnels), those crop reports will be illustrated, which will no doubt help chefs when ordering.

April 16, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Wild garlic time is here again !

2015-04-16, H on Harry, Wild garlic glade dingle

Wild garlic glade dingle

Wild garlic leaf & flower

Wild garlic leaf & flower

Recently I rode a new route on 1 of our ponies & was astounded by the metres & metres of wild garlic carpet around me. It was an ancient dingle in a deep gorge which obviously used to have a much bigger river in it. It was an amazing sight – not captured well here on camera as the pony wouldn’t stand still for long enough ! We also have heaps on the Apley Estate of course too, which our Head Gardener Phil is picking for our Head Chef Martin.

On Apley Farm Shop’s Delicatessen counter this week, we’ll have wild garlic & asparagus recipes, which will of course also be served in the Creamery Café. I adore Wild Garlic soup which is fine as long as it isn’t too concentrated. Wild garlic & potato soup for example is very good.

For me it’s the height of foraging – like blackberries – free & totally delicious. It’s great for soup, pesto, garlic butter/ bread, or just included in salads. Use the pretty white garlic flowers as a table decoration – then truly nothing’s wasted !

April 15, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley farming news – crop trials

Apley farming - crop trials

Apley farming – crop trials

Riding is a great way to really get to know your local countryside. I know I’m very lucky that that for me means the Apley Estate. I really get to see close up what’s going on in each field & watch how it grows every month. Last weekend, when I rode one of our daughters’ ponies, I cantered past Mike who was spraying the wheat with a herbicide & fungicide mix. I was going too fast to take a photo, but a little further on, I stopped in front of these sticks (quite hard to see I know – it was getting late) which are marking out some trial plots.

Apley hosts them for a research company that does the efficacy & safety data work for chemical companies which is required to get a registration for a new pesticide product. Sometimes the products are based on new chemistry, but usually they are based on existing chemistry that is being formulated in a different way. Each new product has to go through a very rigorous testing regime before it can get approval for use. It costs approx £8 -10 million to develop & register a completely new product. At least we get a small fee for hosting the trials !

This week on the Apley Home Farms, Adrian Joynt, Apley Farm Manager, said he & his team are cleaning out sheds so that the muck can be spread on the ground which will be planted with Fodder Beet. They’re also fertilising cereals & spraying them with a fungicide to protect the yield building leaves from disease. Plus doing some fencing repairs – which is always an ongoing task.

April 14, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Asparagus & smoked salmon – in-season recipe

Asparagus wrapped in salmon

Asparagus wrapped in salmon

Whilst it lasts (with me around, not for long !), asparagus is on special offer in Apley Farm Shop – 2 bunches for £6 or 1 for £3.50. Hollandaise sauce is also on sale. Gavin loves it, but I prefer balsamic dressing with mine.

The Asparagus & smoked salmon dish has already proved very popular in Apley Farm Shop’s Creamery Café this week as the asparagus season kicks off. As Head Chef Martin explains, it doesn’t really require a recipe as it’s just “letting the ingredients work together”. But for those of you who want to try it at home, he’s outlined here below how to prepare the dish, with which ingredients & quantities. On Saturday, we went to a great dinner party with friends who’d made fresh asparagus spears wrapped in filo pastry as a canapé.

1 bunch of fresh green asparagus

6 slices of good quality oak smoked salmon

12 baby new potatoes

50g fresh mint leaf

50g fresh snipped chives

50g fresh Basil leaf

50g fresh curly or flat leaf parsley

350ml good quality olive oil

350ml mayonnaise

Your choice of fresh garden salad leaf

Salt & pepper

Lemon to garnish

Poached asparagus spears

Chop about 2“off the bottom of your asparagus (this part is woody & to be discarded) then starting from 2” up from the bottom peel the asparagus to the base.

Bring a pot of light vegetable stock to the boil then turn the heat down to minimum.

Carefully place your asparagus spears onto the stock & leave for 8 minutes (longer if you don’t want any bite to them).

Once the asparagus is cooked carefully transfer to a bucket of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Then strain & chill.

Cut your smoked salmon slices into strips 4“ long, 1.5” wide & wrap round your asparagus.

Potato salad

Bring salted water to the boil & add your baby new potatoes.

Simmer until they slide off a knife when pierced.

Strain into a colander & leave to cool.

Once cool enough to work with, slice each potatoes into 4 sections & place in a bowl.

Season well with rock salt & a pinch of white pepper.

Add in your 50g roughly chopped mint & bind together with mayonnaise then chill.

Herb oil

In a food processor add your chives, basil & parsley & blend until mushy. Slowly drizzle in your olive oil & add salt & pepper to taste.

Finishing & presenting the dish

Place a good serving of your potato salad on your plate (you can use a salad ring to give shape and height).

Arrange your wrapped asparagus spears around your potato salad & dress your salad leaf in herb oil.

Garnish with lemon

April 13, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley Farm Shop – marketing assistant vacancy

An opportunity has arisen today for a new marketing assistant at Apley Farm Shop. It’s a challenging role, so if you or someone you know is up to it, get in touch ! I was going to write about the Apley Walled Garden 3-seasons gardening course which starts on Wednesday, but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Here’s the Marketing Assistant job specification below.

Marketing is generating an interest to make a physical difference, so that’s the aim of the role !

Working on a broad remit, tasks include in-shop & event promotions, on-site signage, website updates, social media, e-mail marketing, design & production of printed publications, data entry, collating & monitoring feedback, copywriting (press releases & articles), handling our advertisements, event management, liaison with media & the press, research & general marketing administrative tasks.

The Marketing Assistant will also be involved in the ongoing development of our loyalty card scheme & the opportunity to help to shape marketing campaigns.

The role requires someone who is speedy, efficient, flexible & fun, with a good telephone manner. Applicants also need to be quick to adapt, personable & demonstrate a positive & willing attitude. We’re seeking a positive team player with the ability to work on their own initiative, creative & innovative, proactive & dynamic. They must be able to work under pressure, working to deadlines in a fast-paced environment & be comfortable interacting with customers face to face.

Excellent IT skills must include specific experience of working with Photo Shop, Publisher, MS Word, Excel, Outlook, Access & other databases, updating websites in Wix & Word Press, enewsletters, Facebook & Twitter, e-mail marketing methods, Google Analytics as well as other related software. Fast touch typing is essential.

Other skills required include a high level of accuracy, attention to detail & excellent proof reading skills. Highly organised, excellent time management, strong project management skills, the ability to work on several projects at once & prioritise tasks. A clean driving licence & & access to a car. Excellent communication skills are required, including written English.

The candidate should ideally possess a degree in Marketing or an IT-related subject. They must have relevant experience, ideally from a visitor attraction or retail business. It’s a full time, long term position for someone who wishes to grow with us. For a full job description, please email or call 01952 730 345 (6 for the office).  Start date – anytime from 1 May.

April 12, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Recycling Club coming to Pigg’s Playbarn

Rain water gauge from recycled plastic bottle

Rain water gauge from recycled plastic bottle

As a passionate recycler, I’m delighted the Pigg’s Playbarn staff are running a Recycling Club for the next 6 weeks. Here’s their schedule which starts in only 4 days on 16 April. I’m looking forward to seeing the results !:

Thursday 16th April – Lid stamping patterns

Thursday 23rd April –

Thursday 30th April – Glow stick bottle animals

Thursday 7th May – Dream catchers

Thursday 14th May – Bird feeders made of recycled bottles

Thursday 21st May – Sock puppets

4-5.30pm. £3.50 includes 30 mins free play in the playbarn, suitable for 4-10 yr olds, booking is not essential but places are limited. or 01952 730 345 for more details.

I’m sure I’ve said before how each bit of customer feedback is like a nugget of gold, espcially to me in marketing. At the end of March, Pigg’s Playbarn staff were delighted to get a couple of 5 star ratings on Facebook. Almost at the same time, a man booked his child’s birthday ONE YEAR AHEAD as he was so delighted with the experience he’d had this year. The Easter Egg decorating was soooo popular – Pigg’s Playbarn quickly reached its full capacity.

In cas you haven’t got hold of a paper copy for yourself, click HERE (or onlthe link below) to read the latest online edition of Raring 2 Go, a great little magazine in which we sometimes advertise.

April 11, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Foodie news snippets from Apley Farm Shop

2015-04-08, Chocolate orange cheesecake (9) 2015-04-08, Chocolate orange cheesecakeThere are lots of foodie news snippets from Apley Farm Shop I simply must share asap !:  

It’s definitely worth a special trip for our new Chocolate orange cheesecake. It was on our Easter Sunday Lunch menu, made by our sous-chef Matthew & was so popular we decided to offer it in the Shop too this week. It’s just like Terry’s chocolate orange ! Head to our Delicatessen counter where you’ll find it for £1.95 a slice.

On the Creamery Cafe menu this week is local venison bubble & squeak with sautéed cabbage from Apley Walled Garden. Stemmed leaves also from Apley Walled Garden include pak choi, mizuna, coriander & rocket will be used with various dishes.

2015-04-05, Thank you for dinnerOn the food subject, my latest favourite food from Apley Farm Shop are the Oak Apple Catering cheese sables. We recently had a humdinger of a dinner party in London where we offered our friends nearly exclusively Apley foods, including smoked Apley pheasant, Apley Walled Garden vegetables & those awesome cheese sables.

Also, look out for Mr Filbert’s seeds – great for tummy rumbling moments around 11am !

Don’t miss the next Gilly Clayton Cookery Club at Apley will be Saturday 2 May, to coincide with our May Food Fair in the Farm Shop. 

PS. I love this message left on one of our Creamery Cafe menu boards this week.  It’s always a real boost for our very hard-working & committed staff when they see five star ratings on Trip Advisor such as these ones in February – “Magnificent lunchtime meals” & “The very delightful Apley Farm Shop.”

April 10, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Easter at Apley Farm Shop

Although we were away, I heard that Easter at Apley Farm Shop was a wonderful weekend & Rebecca (our Marketing Assistant) has just sent me these photos – I love the Easter bonnets. Francis came 2nd in his school bonnet competition, all because he had genuinely 2015-04-08,-Easter-bonnet-winners-(4) 2015-04-08,-PPB-Easter-egg-decorating-(2) 2015-04-08, Craft Fair - Quilling demonstrationmade his bonnet himself. Even though it was a very simple designed, I felt very proud of him !

Apley was a busy place over the Easter weekend. We had great weather, allowing visitors to enjoy the traditional activities & events including an Easter Treasure Hunt, egg decorating & an Easter bonnet parade. Of the 8 bonnet participants, the winners were Xiaohan Wei, Erin Morgan-Brown & Yumen Wei. I think it’ll be the beginning of a great Easter Apley tradition.

In the Farm Shop, customers found delicious handmade Simnel cakes & Easter cupcakes & in The Creamery Cafe, delicious joints of roast local venison, spring lamb (which was a sell out) & turkey. For Easter Sunday lunch, the big hit was sous-chef Matthew’s chocolate orange cheesecake.

We felt it really showed that Apley is a top family destination all year round. We’re now busy organising our next event on 2-3-4 May. Saturday will be a Food Fayre, Sunday our monthly craft fair & for the bank holiday Monday, there will be May pole dancing, a circus school, a dance demonstration & fun activities & games for all the family.

April 9, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley farming news – the Field to Fork process

Apley 2015 calves

Apley 2015 calves

Our Farm manager Adrian Joynt has just updated me with what’s happening on the Apley Home Farm this week. “Drilling the last field of spring wheat now that the ground has dried up. Spraying the corn with herbicide to kill weeds & some fields with a fungicide to protect the crop against fungal disease as the mild wet winter has led to a build of disease on the older leaves which we do not want transferring to the new leaves. 12 cows left to calve.”

Last week, on 31 March, he said they were selling fodder beet & fertilising crops. They had 29 cows left to calve then & they were vaccinating new cattle for leptospirosis & BVD. A few weeks before that, 30 calves had been born & that he was planning fertiliser programmes for this year’s crops & repairing fences. His men then began fertilising crops with potash & nitrogen, whilst our potato contractor had begun spreading manure on his rented fields.

I hope these short weekly updates will help non-farming people to understand & appreciate the immense amount of work which goes into producing food. I’ll add photos whenever I can to illustrate the length of time it all takes. Remember when you’re next eating Weetabix or a slice of bread the year it takes to produce a cereal crop ! Apley Farm Shop is all about local food & the Field to Fork process. Adrian’s updates will also help when I give a talk in November on Food Production. I will actually focus more on the Walled Garden & Farm Shop, but will of course include the Apley Home Farm.

Adrian’s daughter Rebecca took this photo of the calves in Apley Park (which is strictly private) with their mothers. At the same time, she spotted a buzzard & owl (I thought they were nocturnal !?) but said she was to slow to photograph them (as I surely would be too !)

April 8, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Creamery Cafe at Apley Farm Shop – this week’s Specials menu


British Pie Week - beef & Apley ale pie

Beef & Apley ale pie

2015-04-07, Creamery Cafe Daily SpecialsEvery week, I want to share an example of our Daily Specials menus. This one from today includes our own beef & Apley ale pie.

Martin & his team in The Creamery produce some fabulous, healthy meals everyday, at great prices, which I feel we’re keeping too quiet ! So I’ll be including here as many dishes over the next few weeks as possible, to show what’s on offer – it changes of course according to what’s in season & what’s available from Apley Walled Garden.


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