On Tuesday this week, Pigg’s playbarn was closed for deep cleaning whilst shop staff changed the arrangement of Apley Farm Shop.
I’m sure Lora will have it looking lovely again in no time at all.
Last weekend, I picked up some delicious new savoury biscuits by Grate Britain (great for snacks) & nut loaf by Artisan Grains.
Lora told me 1-7 May is National Hedgehog Awareness week!, so she’ll have available in the shop the popular 9 pint party kegs (£19.99), Old Prickly bottled beers by Hobsons & Old Prickly Gift Packs (two beers & a glass). We will also give out 24 free Hedgehog pint glasses to give away when anyone buys a party keg!
Also new on Deli counter, finally Eden Ivory cheese has arrived, for sale at £2.79 per 100g. Click HERE to read more about it.
For St George’s Day this Saturday, John & Craig have made their delicious Beef Wellington – £3.95 for individual ones & £30 for a family size one (approx. 1.2kg, to feed 4-5 people). Plus in the Creamery Cafe this weekend (23-24 April), there will be roast rib of beef from Apley Estate British White cattle.
In honour of the Queen’s 90th magnificent birthday today, Lisa made these fabulous cakes – as well as these for St George too.
Click HERE to watch our 1 min film showing you one way to cook scorzonera. The film is by Steph Watts of A Decent Exposure photography & everyone who’s seen it so far has said how useful it is, so we’ll be making more, starting with the most unusual fruit & veg produced by Phil Allen in Apley Walled Garden.
Here are some other methods of cooking scorzonera (& salsify which can be cooked in the same way).
- Boiled or steamed 10-20 mins, then sautéed in garlic butter with parsley
- Roast for 30 mins in oil & thyme
- Salads – boil 10-20 mins until tender then mixed into any salad with vinaigrette
- Boil then mash. Add butter. Mix with mashed potato or other veg.
- Boil then puree for soups
You can hear Phil’s top gardening tips on BBC Radio Shropshire this Sunday when he’s a member of the panel on Gardeners’ Question Time with Paul Shuttleworth, 12-1pm.
Phil’s just updated me on his progress this week in Apley Walled Garden. April is such an encouraging time of year when everything springs back into life:
- Potted up 450 tomatoes – work continues on this (for the Tomato Festival)
- Planted out broad beans – Robin Hood & karmyzan varieties
- Beetroot, coriander, carrots, spring onions, spinach, kohl rabi, root parsley, rocket & fennel all sown.
- Peas (carouby de maussane & sugar Ann) planted out.
- Two people booked a training day with Phil last September & completed it today.
- Brian (who worked for the Apley Estate for years) has started repairing the wall – long overdue task which will help keep out the rabbits & pheasants.
- The area turned over to lawn for summer evening events has started to germinate & grow.
- Runner beans, lab lab beans & yard long beans have all been sown in the melon house.
- More lettuce planted out into tunnel.
- Japanese burdock planted out before the tap root starts to develop. The root grows to around 3ft
The first asparagus has arrived at Apley Farm Shop this week – just enjoyed our first supper – it’s one of my favourite foods. Phil in Apley Walled Garden just sent me this photo of his rhubarb & braised red spinach served with pan fried salmon in the Creamery Cafe for £9.95 – sounds a delicious combination.
Cake of the Week is one of our Head Baker’s favourites – chocolate & beetroot is £2.50 per slice in the Creamery Cafe. Cheese of the is mouthwatering Rosary goat’s cheese – £2.49 per 100g in the farm shop.
We’ve been finalising prizes for the baking competition & masterclasses in our Apley Bake Off next Monday, 2 May. Many have very generously donated wonderful prizes – meals for two, vouchers, cookbooks & cookware. Amongst the prizes is the recipe book ‘Cook Thai’ by Suree Coates who has just won Shropshire restaurant of the year. Click HERE to see read more. Netherton Foundry have very kindly donated baking tins used by Nigella Lawson & one of their special frying pans.
Just by entering the baking competition before the day, you have a chance of winning a copy of the Signature Chefs cookery book – even before you’ve put our cake on display ! Click HERE to take a peek. This has been kindly donated by Leisure Marketing.
To get one of the precious ten places (they’re like Willy Wonka tickets), just enter your name on the day as soon as you arrive. Names will be drawn (at the entrance to the masterclass marquee) 15 mins before each masterclass begins. Then just do you very best to win one of the great prizes lined up for each masterclass!
There are also fabulous prizes for the 3 categories of the baking competition – cakes, sweet tarts & savoury tarts. Click HERE for all entry details. It’s open to everyone & fine to just turn up on the day with whatever you’ve made (as long as you arrive by 12.30pm!).
We’ll be shopping next week in Apley Farm Shop & Apley Walled Garden for the ingredients needed by each chef, sourcing as locally as possible. Phil has been growing special Thai & Japanese crops for in the garden which will hopefully be ready in time – rather sunshine dependent!
A specialist outdoor learning organisation has linked up with a local farm shop to provide children with fun outdoor experiences this summer.
Educating Kids Outdoors (EKO) offers fun, outdoor learning experiences for children at their schools or in woodland areas around Shropshire & Staffordshire, including Apley Farm Shop.
Natasha Branston, Founder of Educating Kids Outdoors tells us “It’s an inspiring and beautiful venue for children’s outdoor activities with the field space, the woodland areas, the Skylark Nature Trail & Pigg’s Playbarn. No doubt, parents will also appreciate the easy access & parking, the Creamery Café & the farm shop itself.”
Lady Hamilton, Marketing Manager of Apley Farm Shop added “We have a lot of customers with young children, looking for fun things to do in the school holidays & EKO really fills that need.”
Both of the two EKO sessions are perfect for families to enjoy together, whilst the annual EKO 24hr sleepover is designed for children aged between 6-12 years.
Our three fortnightly Friday sessions are being run on:
Friday 5th August 10.00am-12.00am – ‘Extraordinary Elder’
At this session we will be looking at the uses of different wood and what we can make with them; this includes small things to take home, big dens to shelter in and campfires to toast marshmallows over.
Friday 19th/Saturday 20th August 10:30am-10:30am – ‘24hrs EKO Sleepover @ Pigg’s Playbarn’
This 24hr experience is aimed at children aged between 6-12 years and involves spending the whole day outside learning bushcraft skills, building dens, lighting campfires, cooking your own meal over the embers and having time and space to imagine, explore and wonder at our natural world. Night time is spent amongst the slides and climbing frames of Pigg’s Playbarn with a delicious, freshly cooked breakfast in the Creamery Cafe the following morning.
Friday 2nd September 10.00am-12.00am – ‘Forest School Art’
At this session we will be foraging for, and experimenting with, different leaves, berries and plants to create natural paint, clay and resources for some wonderful imaginative artwork, all whilst toasting marshmallows around the campfire.
The children have the chance to play in Pigg’s Playbarn at the beginning & end of each session and there will be further art & craft activities each day in the Pigg’s Playbarn party rooms.
10am-12pm Sessions cost £6 per child (1 free adult place with each child)
‘EKO Sleepover @ Piggs Playbarn’ is £35 per child (no parents sorry!)
Apley Farm Shop is on the A442 between Telford & Bridgnorth, near the Hundred House in Norton.
Hop & Stagger beers brewed on the Apley Estate (just across the fields from Apley Farm Shop) include this range of four, especially brewed for us.
Bob Hayes just updated me: “We are currently re designing our web site which should be live by the end of the month. We spent the day at Parliament on 23 March as part of A Taste of Shropshire day. The day was a huge success with many members of Parliament complimenting us on the taste & quality of the beers. We are now hopeful of seeing one of our beers on the bar in Parliament in the coming months. We are also now exploring the potential for exporting our bottled beer range but it’s early days.”
To read a 2015 article about them in the Shropshire Star – just click HERE.
Click HERE to see their Facebook post about their Houses of Parliament visit.
Hop & Stagger beers are handmade by a small family team of Sam & Bob Hayes & Bob’s brother. A local person will join the team next week, to help out. They began brewing in 2012 initially just to meet the demand in their own pub, The White Lion, in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. The demand grew, so they needed to take on the converted barn at Astol Farm, just across the fields from Apley Farm Shop. Beer making has been Bob’s lifelong passion, so it was bound to happen one day ! Their beers are made from just 4 ingredients – yeast, grain (barley, wheat), hops & water – which are all sourced from as locally as possible. The variety of grains & the variety of hops (as in wine making) changes the style of beer which is produced. They’ve been in the CAMRA good beer guide for the last 7 years.
Apley Bake Off on Monday 2 May includes 3 chances to go on a guided tour of Apley Walled Garden. Just find our Head Gardener Phil Allen in the courtyard on the day, sign up to the 11am, 1pm or 3pm tour, complete a very brief form your contact details, pay £6pp (special price for the occasion & minimum of 5 people) & hop into our mini bus to be shuttled to & fro our magical & historic 18th walled kitchen garden, transformed remarkably rapidly by Phil & his volunteers into a thriving horticultural business.
Full details are on this leaflet here. Places are on a strictly first come, first served basis.
One of the chefs demonstrating at the Bake Off is Suree Coates of the King & Thai who has just won Shropshire’s best restaurant award. Awesome !
Mike’s Homemade are offering Apley Farm Shop’s customers free tasters this Saturday (16 April), 10-2pm.
There’s an offer, 2 for £5, on the products they’re offering as tasters which will include damson jam, orange & whisky marmalade, apricot & ginger (I will love that one) and blueberry & apple.
Here’s a bit about who they are: “Mike’s Homemade are a small family business passionate about all things pickled and preserved. All their products are set traditionally the natural way, simply using sugar & vinegars, so no artificial ingredients, just top quality produce, sourced locally whenever possible. Their whole range is created & made by Chef Mike Dentith, from their home kitchen in Woodseaves, which sits on the Shropshire/Staffordshire Border.”
The Apley Plant Centre just emailed me details of their pretty bulbs I spotted last weekend: “The last few remaining bulbs are now available at Apley Plant Centre. Tulips, anemones, muscari, narcissus, scillia & more. Spring bulbs provide much needed early colour within the garden. Plant in groups to give impact & seasonal colour.”
Stokes sauces are coming to Apley Farm Shop NEXT Saturday (23 April) 10-2pm to give our customers free tasters, including a delicious new fig sauce which is great with cheese (as you can imagine !).
Here’s a bit about them: The story of Stokes Sauces began with a food business start-up born from the belief that food should be honest, clean & taste delicious. Founded in 2004 by Rick Sheepshanks, today Stokes Sauces employs over 40 people producing over 75 different lines, all hand produced to carefully created & closely guarded recipes in their Suffolk “Saucery”. Based at Rendlesham Hall, near Woodbridge in Suffolk they only use the best ingredients & they reduce, simmer, cook & make slowly in traditional ways. Stokes Sauces think their small team produces the finest sauces & preserves you can buy in a jar.
As well as the new fig sauce, taste free samples from their range currently stocked by us:
- Real Tomato Ketchup
- Real Brown Sauce
- Creamed Horseradish Sauce
- Red Onion Marmalade
- Original BBQ Sauce
- Sweet & Sticky BBQ Sauce
- Bloody Mary Ketchup
- Sticky Pickle
- Mustard & Dill Sauce
PS. Very sadly Gilly has had to cancel the Apley Cookery Club this Saturday (16 April), but hopes to be back for Sat 7 May.
Apley’s Cake of the Week, Cheese of the Week & Dish of the Week are right here – better late than never ! All very good value & made onsite with fresh, local, seasonal & known ingredients.
We’ve got a good series of free tasters on Saturdays lined up. Hobsons came on Sat 9 April, Mike’s Homemade are coming Sat 16 April & Stoke’s Sauces are coming on St George’s Day 23 April. Lora has arranged for fish & chips to go with the Stoke’s Tomato Ketchup – that’s really the tail wagging the dog !
Every year around 31 March, I write an anniversary press release looking back at how far we’ve come since opening on that date in 2011 & looking forward at future plans. It gets longer every year, inevitably (sorry – there’s just so much to say & share!):
Having opened in the coldest winter in decades, when temperatures dropped to -19°C, Apley Farm Shop in Shropshire considers how it’s developed in its first five years.
Lady Hamilton, Marketing Manager, explained “It’s 5 years since we opened Apley Farm Shop on March 31st, 2011. Being open 7 days a week means it’s non-stop hard work, but we’re delighted with the progress & the way it’s developed”.
Apley Estate owner Lord Hamilton began “We’ve stuck to our principles of supplying local food from local producers to local people. Most customers come from a radius of about 30 miles & most of our food comes from Shropshire & the surrounding counties.”
Head Gardener Phil Allen explained “The development of Apley Walled Garden into a small horticultural business in 2013 wasn’t part of the original farm shop business plan, but it’s happened & I’m happy to say is a huge success, supplying our farm shop & Creamery café as well as local restaurants & Telford university campus. The farm shop sells veg boxes & bookings for our private, guided tours increase every year.”
Lady [Harriet] Hamilton, Marketing Manager added “We under-estimated how much marketing was needed, especially one as diverse as ours. Marketing is now a whole profession in its own right, in a way it never was even only 20-30 years ago. It’s is a science, using technology to full effect. But it’s funny how some of the more traditional methods of marketing are still the most effective for farm shops – word of mouth, leaflets & roadsigns. Facebook is of course hugely important. We’ve recently installed two televisions onsite to show customers all that’s going on.”
General Manager Tina Buckland added “The staff training & development programme is very important these days, so more comprehensive than ever.”
Lord Hamilton praised his team “This kind of business only runs well with a team of committed staff members & loyal local customers. Many of our staff live locally, some on the Estate itself.”
Lady Hamilton continued “Event management takes up more time than originally envisaged, but it seems worthwhile, as each event attracts new visitors, who’ve never discovered us before. They put us on the wider map too & get our name known more widely.”
Every year, the shop celebrates Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, Easter & Christmas, as well as organising events for the May bank holiday, Open Farm Shop, Apley Classic Motor Day, holiday clubs for the children in August, the Harvest Fair, Spookley Pumpkin Festival & Christmas Food Fair. Plus, there’s the monthly Apley Cookery Club, regular Craft Fairs too, food awareness weeks & extra days like Shrove Tuesday & Father’s Day.
Graeme Manton, Apley Estate land agent added “We’re planted 5 trees along the exit drive, one for every year the shop has been open & look forward to planting a whole avenue over time, of course.”
We’ve attracted awards & accolades including the FARMA Rising Star award & being listed in the BBC Good Food Magazine UK’s Top Ten Destination farm shops, offering “great food, great fun, great shopping”. To add to that, in we were named in the top 3 farm shop restaurants in the Sunday Times by restaurant critic AA Gill. This year, we’ve entered the Guild of Fine Foods Great Taste Awards for the first time – the results are due any day!
Lady Hamilton added “The Courtyard Shopping concept has grown with the arrival of Annie’s Reiki Centre, the Apley Plant Centre & Big Little Things [florists & gifts] in 2015. The site now hosts 9 businesses, so it really is now ‘so much more than a Farm Shop’. That’s one of our by-lines & it really rings truer every day.”
The Apley butchers, Craig Whitehouse & Jon Callinswood, added “Having just picked up some awards for our sausages, we’re busier than ever. We’re right next to the Delicatessen, which we supply with our award-winning pork & game pies.“
After three years, we took the butchery counter in-house. We broadened the butcher’s capacity by building a chilled hanging room & increased our handmade food production by adding another kitchen.”
Lora Rogers, Farm Shop Supervisor added “From records, I can see the shop stock levels have gradually increased, but we’re limited for space. Some suppliers have been with us since day one, but at the same time, I really enjoy buying in new products for our customers.”
Lady Hamilton continued “We launched our online shop about when I expected, but not how. We’re one of a group of online DeliShops & that business model works very well for us. It mixes Click & Collect & Home Delivery options, which suits our diverse customer base. It’s made us even busier, but we’ve just stepped up a gear to keep pace!”
On our Delicatessen counter, our Handmade at Apley range increases every year, using very local ingredients. Later this year we’ll be selling one of our Apley products nationwide, spreading the Apley name wider.
Some things haven’t changed enormously – Pigg’s Playbarn remains as popular as ever, enjoying a partnership with two children’s activity providers – Educating Kids Outdoors (EKO) & Activ8 who run activities on the Skylark Nature Trail.
The Creamery Café is busier, but otherwise continues as it always has, offering breakfasts, coffees, teas, cakes & lunches all year round. “We’ve held four Apley Archives exhibitions in the café, but that’s another project in itself “ added Lady Hamilton.
Some things we try are more successful than others. For example, we never got high enough attendance for the daytime courses we ran in the early years, but happily the Conference Room bookings have increased – so we just accept it’s swings & roundabouts. “
Lady Harriet Hamilton concluded “Every year we have a bank of plans, some of which materialise sooner than others. This year I hope to see the publication of The first Apley Cookbook. Fully launching the ‘All in the Bag’ ready-to-cook meal packages, an ‘Apley To Go’ range & more branded products may have to wait for 2017 ! It’s important to consolidate & improve on what we do now, before beginning new projects.”
Lady Hamilton finished by adding “Our key Spring event is the Apley Bake Off on Monday May 2nd (10-4pm). I’ve invited six talented Shropshire chefs to give demonstrations & masterclasses. There’s also baking competition open to everyone & a children’s corner, so I’m sure it’ll be a really fun day.“