‘AndYou need a hat more than good cheese and a glass of cider?” I’m at Batch Farm in the Somerset village of East Pennard, and cheesemaker Malcolm Dyer is setting up his stall as usual. The farm is one of the highlights of the Somerset Food Trail, which is a 10-day celebration of the county’s small-scale food producers, lasting until July 24. The aim of the trail is to highlight the region’s bounty, allowing visitors to explore the farms, meet growers, picnic on community farms and “food forests”. “Offers the chance to sip cider and generally watch, graze, and shop to your stomach’s content while watching a local band.
Somerset is a surprisingly extensive county, so the trail’s organizers have helped divide it into 11 regions. To get a taste of the terrain firsthand, I decide to focus on the patch I know best – Bruton, Castle Cary and Wincanton – but try it new on one of Bruton Bike Hire’s guided electric bicycle safaris. To search thoroughly. Ten of these trips will be running on two different routes over the course of the program, and I’m testing the North Loop.
I meet my guide Robin Balm on Broughton High Street. This small town has made its way into heavyweight food circles in recent years with the opening of At the Chapel, Roth Bar & Grill, Mat’s Kitchen, and Osip. Moving them, however, is a thriving farm-to-table scene and—once Balme has set me up with a bike, helmet, and hi-vis vest—it aims to delve into it, fork first.
Pedaling north out of town, we begin with a climb – first up Coombe Hill, then up the tunnel-like Samplek Hill. As we visit, we’re struck by the clumps of wild garlic of late, the flowers warmed by sunlight. We stop at the top, at Crow’s Hill. Not to catch our breath; We’re on a Bosch-engined Cub electric bike and, as we navigated the steep hike, Balme cleverly suggested I want to hit the turbo (I did). It’s more that the view is great for zipping past: it climbs over Hedgerow and Dimple Fields at Batcombe Vale.
From here we cycle again to Westcombe, at one point squeezing between a bright red van and a cottage laden with roses, I wonder if we stumbled across the Postman Pat TV set. But while Somerset sometimes outweighs the other in its pastoral beauty, its food producers, as in many agricultural communities, are facing very real challenges involving climate, biodiversity loss, supply chains and cost of living. Huh. Against this background, events such as the Somerset Food Trail are not only a delicious way to spend the weekend, but also an important means of connecting consumers with local producers and producers.
One of the latter is Tom Calver of Westcombe Dairy. As he shows me around the dairy’s high-tech cheese cellar, he tells me he’s looking at biodiversity as a whole, ranging between the soil microbiome all the way up the food chain to the people eating his cheese. Relationships are being formed.
Westcomb is best known for its traditional farmhouse cheddar, although it produces eight types of cheese, and also spreads charcuterie and has a hand at Landrace Bakery in nearby Bath, the next phase of which will be a flour mill. installation is included. Farm. The Wild Bear Company and Brickell’s Ice Cream are also located in the dairy’s outbuildings, with plenty of room for experimentation and collaboration; For example, Brickell makes a Strasciatella flavor using Westcomb’s ricotta. “We’ve also started experimenting with agro-forestry,” says Calver. “Switching from an intensive farming system to paddock farming meant we needed to create shade for the cows, so we planted fruit trees and shrubs, selecting berries in the hope that Rob’s at Brickell would use them in his ice cream. can do.”
Filled with the joys of regenerative farming—and Tom’s addictively choppy cheddar bites—we cycled through, freeing pristine orchards and enjoying the smell of sun-baked grass. Dipping in Chocolate Box East Penard, we roll into batch form.
Owner Jean Turner’s mother started making cheese here in 1963, and Turner is still turning 27 kilos of cheese herself at age 69. Walking through the cheese cave, surrounded by rows of mould-marbled, cloth-bound cheddar, I find a distinct earthy sound of ripe cheese, and a sense of the care that goes into the process. After the tour, Malcolm Dyer handed me a stash of 16-month-old traditional ripe cheddar, rich and nutty. I nod my head in admiration, and Turner approves (it’s her favorite).
In a past life, Balme worked as an electrical engineer in Glastonbury, and we gossip about the festival as we walk down the old Roman Fosse Way to Wraxall Vineyard, established in 1974. The owners, Lexa Hunt and David Bailey (not that), bought it 18 months ago, transforming it from a sleepy English vineyard into something that wouldn’t look out of place in Napa. Beyond the vines themselves (which the couple are overhauling with the help of expert vineyardists), plans include cellar door sales, workshops, tours, parties and vineyard stays. The centerpiece is a striking glass-walled event space with an extraordinary view over a vine-covered hill that looks like the Somerset levels but is, in fact, Dorset’s misty northern reaches.
“The Archaeologist at Newta” [a nearby garden and hotel that’s opening a reconstructed Roman villa this summer] is an expert on English vineyards planted by the Romans and believes it was on them,” says Hunt. It’s not hard to accept a Bacchanian vision of 2,000 years ago as we are of a trio of wines. Tastes like – a bright white, a raspberry-nosed Pinot Noir rosé and a fruity Bacchus.
On bike tours, hungry cyclists will stop here for a wine tasting and Somerset lunch – a feast including sausage rolls, charcuterie, salads from Pincants’ Deli in Castle Cary, and White Lake goat’s cheese. Today, however, we’re peddling for a glass of Harry’s Corker Cider at the nearby Alhampton Inn and what Balme calls its “emergency plow”—a feast of Westcomb Cheddar, homemade bread and pickles that’s been served by Batch Farms. Malcolm Dyer certainly would be. approve of.
From here to Bruton is a gentle 20-minute cycle and the end of my magical buffet ride. Or, approx. The next day I myself return to meet some more producers. In Galhampton I meet grower Tia Cusden at Wild Gardens, an organic organic market garden where trail visitors can picnic around a clean patchwork of leafy greens and edible flowers by the pond and nose. Then there’s the Somerset Spirits Company outside Castle Cary, where entrepreneur Anthony Gaster’s milk vodka, milk gin and “whey” is made using waste whey from Wyke Farms and sold as quickly as possible (he’s currently on a working) cheese-cave-aged version of whey).
My last stop is at the Chapel Cross Tea Room in South Cadbury. Run by Rose Adams, it includes a pocket-sized arts venue, a circus-style outdoor cafe, and a small herd of Golden Guernsey goats. Last winter, Adams built his one-woman dairy from scratch at Horsebox Milking Parlor, milking goats just once a day, so the babies could stay with their mothers. The resulting two cheeses (one nutty semi-hard and one gorgeously gooey soft) are delicious. Another foodie Somerset success story.
Walks by the Somerset Food Trail 15 to 24 July, Guided E-Bike Food Trail Safari costs £100pp, all Half day from £30 inclusive, or e-bike rental only, Operators in other areas of Somerset are also running bike tours along the trail.