Farmers Arms at Wellington Heath

If you haven’t heard already The Farmers Arms pub at Wellington Heath has re-opened its doors. With a fresh and enthusiastic approach the new landlords are determined to make this local pub popular again.


The new owner is a builder. He has updated the premises making it light, warm and welcoming. Lawrence and Carolyn Joplin are the excited incumbents. Recently managing The Bell at Yarpole, Carolyn tells me they have been in the locale for many years and are delighted to have the opportunity to run this pub as a freehouse, with all the opportunities such a project brings with it.

Lawrence is the chef. He has knowledge and experience of producing a good, varied menu from quality produce and ingredients. He was a late starter in the cookery profession and his interest led him to working free and gratis in a Michelin star kitchen to start him on his chosen career. He went on to study catering at Hereford College as a mature student. Then on to working in high end kitchens with the likes of Claude Bosi in Ludlow and finally with Darren Field at Englands Gate at Bodenham. He was now equipped to face the gastronomic world head on, starting his own kitchen at the above mentioned – The Bell at Yarpole. In fact, their passion for good food extends to dining at good eateries, even when they get time off…!

Lawrence is very keen to source as many of his supplies as possible locally. This can expand as their tenure lengthens. Already using some butchers in Ledbury, The Food Group has contributed a list of many local suppliers of all kinds of produce, which the couple can avail themselves of. The menu also features a variety of fish dishes – the New Wave company from Gloucester is happy to replenish stocks daily – a new one on me. And, just in case you thought all this was sounding more restauranty and less pubby, there is a barter board for us mortals who ‘home grow.’ Included on the Sunday Roast menu, if your family all enjoy chicken, you can order a whole one with all the trimmings to carve at your table. Now there’s a good idea.


On the social side we have sparked some ideas for inclusion in Ledbury’s Big Breakfast and Poetry Festival events. In August, plans to have a Sausage Festival at the pub are already on the table. Excuse the pun… Musical, Quiz and Themed events are all a possibility for the future – creating a social hub being the intention.

Lawrence and Carolyn, with their family, Joe and Hannah, really want to make this pub a success. It will require a lot of hard work and dedication and I hope that with local support the possibilities for The Farmers’ Arms are endless. Cheers!

Hurrah For The Big Breakfast!

We’ve all been talking about it and it would appear that both from the customers’ point of view as well as the participating cafes and retailers The Big Breakfast was a great success. Many have reported that they could see it being a regular event, or will definitely be putting some of their breakfast ‘specialities’ on their menus in future.

Muse Cafe Muesli, Compote and Yoghurt
Muse Cafe Muesli, Compote and Yoghurt

The general consensus is that it was a good promotional profile for the town in every way, not only showcasing the area’s strengths in locally sourced and/or produced quality food but also marketing the town’s convivial atmosphere. Friday’s and Saturdays in Ledbury have always had that lovely ‘bustle’ a market town can provide. Residents and visitors alike love its ‘timeless quality’, individuality and inclusivity. Events like The Big Breakfast press home the message………..

I managed to sample the Continental Breakfast at the Muse Café and was recommended the homemade fruit compote by a customer – delicious with muesli and yoghurt! The table was burgeoning with homemade scones, jams, breads etc plus local ham and Hereford Hop cheese – I could have eaten the lot it was so tempting. Saturday we had Eggy Bread and bacon…and one full English bap (black pudding). The waistband was showing signs of tightening so I had to stop there… Members of the Ledbury Food Group have all reported their visits to various venues over the few days, so I suspect they have had a similar experience which speaks volumes for the fare on offer!! Of course we will have to do it again…. if only for us to get round to the ones we missed!!

Now I have to give credit to Griff and the food group members who did such sterling work drumming up support from retailers between Christmas and the event. The delivery of the National Farmhouse Breakfast week posters to venues, followed by the daily dispersal of advertising leaflets, (listing the participants and their locally sourced and produced ‘specialities’) to people in the street was crucial. I’m quite sure that without that input which encouraged Ledbury vendors to partake and subsequently help raise the awareness of the public, The Big Breakfast may well have been The Small Breakfast. And for many visitors to Ledbury, if they hadn’t been aware before of those destinations itemized and what they ‘do’ in our town – they are now……..which was the object of the exercise!

PS Thank you Fran for the handling of the publicity in the local press. It’s been good to see Ledbury and the Ledbury Food Group in the the papers for the best of all possible reasons…………….

Christmas is coming ‘someone’s’ geese are getting fat…..

Before the popularity of the turkey goose was the Christmas celebration bird of choice. Easy to rear for anyone who had a piece of land or easily purchased from the many butchers that abounded on our high streets. That’s before freezers made their appearance – both commercial and domestic! Now it’s out on our butchers’ shelves again, albeit sparsely. More of a ‘niche’ buy. Probably because people are wary of cooking it and for a one off piece of meat it doesn’t have the versatility of the turkey when it comes to post Christmas dining……

So this is the brief tale of a local farming family who have a history of rearing – alongside the main farming activities – and supplying our local butchers with the Christmas goose – and what that entails….. It all starts around the end of May. At one time the eggs were hatched on the farm but now it is more practical to buy the goslings at around four days old from a supplier. They purchase around one hundred in number. To begin with they are kept under lamps and artificial light and fed on poultry crumb for four weeks. During this time there is a natural wastage of around 10% – survival of the fittest! Once ‘in feather’ they can be released on to the fields and for seven months they are free to roam. Protection is all important. Predators abound. A watchful eye is kept and the birds come in every night…. At the beginning of December the birds are brought into the sheds, corn fed, and on the 20th they are ready for dispatching. Until recently that was a hands on affair but to make life easier a professional gang is now hired to perform the task as well as the plucking.

An interesting note was that now ‘wet’ plucking makes feather removal ‘cleaner’ but when ‘hand done’ the down from the goose could be retrieved and sold for eiderdowns and pillows. A lucrative by product. My friend made me laugh when she said she was educated on those proceeds! Now her ‘by product’ is goose fat. The fat inside the bird once removed, she renders down and ‘jars’. A local friend makes the labels… Our local butchers market it and we get the benefit of making great roast potatoes…!

So the 20th has arrived and this labour intensive season is coming to an end for another year. The geese are individually dressed and made table ready. Giblets included – so important for that meaty gravy…! All that is left to do is the delivery of the birds to butchers – around Ledbury and Bromyard. I say ‘all’ ‘cos it’s an early morning call for the driver…..

So that’s it folks. My first blog ever and, hopefully, if you enjoyed it, not my last. So go on. Order that goose from Wallers or Gurneys – I’ve ordered mine! A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to one and all.

PS As a footnote from my source – always remember to slice the cooked goose thinly. And another great tip – the unused and usually discarded ‘feathered wing’ from the bird is great for sweeping down the back of the aga or getting in those cobwebby corners!…..she’ll have some to spare…. !