A chance encounter with a French couple in Italy last year, combined with a special offer from Brittany Ferries lead us to a recent holiday in La Brenne, in France. Known as ‘the land of a thousand lakes’ it is a regional natural park with hundreds of mostly man-made lakes, originally dug by monks for fish production in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Some of the lakes are still used commercially for fish-farming; others have been developed for leisure use; others are left for wildlife. Continue reading “A Land of Fish and Honey”
June is the quintessentially English month of early summer, and all that that conjures up : blowsy roses heady with scent, clear blue skies dotted with fluffy white clouds, lazy days filled with sunshine and the delicious anticipation of biting into the first sun-ripened English strawberries. Maybe the weather hasn’t been quite living up to expectations this year, but you can still enjoy all the flavours of early summertime with a Strawberry Tea at The Shop at Bromsberrow next Saturday, June 20th at 3.30pm.
In conjunction with Ledbury Food Group, The Shop, which has a large café area, is providing a tea consisting of freshly made scones, freshly whipped cream, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries with Fair Trade tea, herb tea or coffee. Other than the tea and coffee, everything is sourced within twenty miles of The Shop. In addition there will be a display by Ledbury Food Group, a strawberry display, the jam maker will be on hand to talk about her products and there will be a Strawberry Quiz.
The light-hearted quiz will be on all things strawberry-related (even sports questions!) with a prize (a punnet of strawberries!) for the winning team.
Tickets costing £5.00 per head (£3.00 for children) are available by phoning The Shop at Bromsberrow on 01531 650744 or e-mailing email@example.com
The Shop at Bromsberrow, HR8 1PG is situated five miles outside Ledbury – take the A417 towards Gloucester, turn right into Bromsberrow Heath and follow the signs for The Shop.
On the morning of Saturday 20th June 10am – 12 noon there will be a car boot sale at The Shop. Why not make a day of it by coming to the car boot, eating lunch in the café, doing a self-guided walk before enjoying the Strawberry Tea.
My partner and I are both in that post Christmas state of needing to shed some pounds so meals have been simpler and plainer recently than they otherwise might be. One evening I cooked a meal of baked white fish with leek and potato mash and sprouts.
“This is very tasty” he said “but it looks very bland – all white and pale green.”
(He likes to live dangerously).
I took his comment as a challenge and the following Saturday evening I served up a rainbow.
We started with a salad of red tomatoes and red peppers with a pomegranate dressing.
The main course was a spicy curry with cubes of orange-fleshed squash and yellow sweetcorn kernels. This was served with rice and steamed dark green curly kale. The vegetables all came from Handley Organics or from Abby’s stall just outside except for the sweetcorn which came from a tin!
For dessert I bought some blueberries. Grown in Chile, they were not exactly locally sourced, but they were organic. I kept back a few and lightly cooked the rest then stirred them into some gelatine dissolved in hot water along with some blackcurrant jam (which was the nearest to indigo that I could find) bought at The Shop at Bromsberrow. When the jelly had almost set I whisked it up into a mousse, poured it into some fancy glasses and topped it with low fat crème fraiche. Decorated with the remaining blueberries and served with a sponge finger it made a lovely, light dessert.
And the final colour of the rainbow? That was provided by a violet crème chocolate topped with a crystallized violet from The Velvet Bean.
A meal that was delicious, not fattening, in the majority locally sourced, and definitely not bland in colour!
In May this year I sold ‘Just Rachel’ the ice cream and dessert business that I started 27 years ago. In July I started work as part-time manager of the community shop at Bromsberrow Heath. I hadn’t been intending to find a job so soon – I had meant to take some time for me – but The Shop was looking for a manager and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
There has been a shop at Bromsberrow Heath since the middle of the nineteenth century. The most recent owners of the village shop, who ran the post office from the same premises, wanted to retire so put the business on the market in 2008. After five years they had failed to find a buyer so decided that they had no option but to shut the shop down. Faced with losing their local shop, a group of villagers got together to establish a community shop which opened for business last November. Over the past ten months a team of volunteers has achieved a tremendous amount, starting up and running a shop that is open seven days a week, which offers daily papers, freshly baked bread, a range of grocery staples, fresh fruit and vegetables and a coffee shop.
The community shop is a large premises – a fact that is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It is wonderful having so much space because we have room for a large café area at the back of the shop and will shortly be doing sandwiches and baguettes in addition to the tea, coffee and cake that we offer at the moment. It is a curse because in the winter it will be difficult, and expensive, to heat.
At the moment we offer some local food such as cider made on the Bromsberrow Estate, free-range eggs from Dymock, French bread baked by Fabrice in the unit next door, milk from Bartonsham Dairies in Hereford and, oh yes, ice cream from Just Rachel at Eggs Tump! Our most locally sourced produce is some of the fruit and vegetables that we sell – grown by villagers and donated to the shop.
However it can be argued that everything we sell is local food, because it is local to the customers who buy it. A local shop means that villagers do not have to travel the six miles into Ledbury to do their shopping, saving them money and time, and the shop is vital to those who are unable to get into Ledbury. Rather than the customers going to the products, the products are brought to the customers, into the centre of their community. And The Shop at Bromsberrow is very much a community hub – the volunteers know the customers and greet them by name; news (or should that be gossip!) is exchanged; the elderly and less able are looked out for – this is all part of the service that the shop offers.
And my role in all this? I’ve been brought in to get the shop running more efficiently and profitably. The Shop is staffed by a team of volunteers, so any messages have to be communicated to a good number of people, rather than just to one or two staff members, so part of my job is to ensure everyone knows what to do and how to do it. Local produce is one area in which small shops have the edge over the supermarkets so I will be increasing the range of locally produced items that we are selling. A computer club, giving lessons in computer use, is starting in October and I have plans for other groups, such as a young mum’s coffee morning, to bring more people into The Shop.
The team who runs The Shop is full of enthusiasm and ideas – over the next couple of months we have a Macmillan Coffee Morning (4th October), a celebration of Chocolate Week (18th Oct), a Christmas Table-Top Sale (6th December) and a Christmas Choir evening (late December) planned.
Why not pay us a visit, see what we have to offer and pause a while in the coffee shop? We always need more volunteers, so if your visit inspires you to join our team, we will welcome you with open arms. But even if you don’t join us, we will be delighted to see you.
Webmaster’s note: The Bromsberrow Community Shop is well signed and very accessible: turn left off the A417 when travelling north towards Ledbury, just past the M50 junction.