Trust local - National Trust Hampshire
PUBLISHED: 00:16 17 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:53 20 February 2013
Big names often mean big business, but for the country's largest landowner a passion for local food is the driving force behind its role at the heart of our rural communities.
In Hampshire, the Trust is involved in every aspect of the food chain, its farmland, mills, kitchen gardens and orchards producing an abundance of seasonal produce that is enjoyed by the many visitors who tuck into delicious home-cooked meals in its restaurants. Its campaign to support local producers, together with county food group Hampshire Fare, means that every meal enjoyed is also helping the village baker, butcher and brewer. Head gardener at the trust's Hinton Ampner reminds us that, "Local food sourcing will help to ensure the survival of our regions' food heritage and will retain those county characteristics that make Hampshire so special" and with the local produce available to buy in the trust shops, there really is no excuse to leave without sampling what the county's producers have to offer.
On The Vyne's estate at Sherborne St John, tenant farmer Ben Kolosowski's traditional sheep breeds are not only excellent conservation grazers but also a rich source of organic lamb for The Vyne's many weddings: "It's an invaluable part of my business and a very healthy relationship, because the Trust is as passionate about conservation and sustainable food as I am," says Ben. The dairy herd that graze on nearby Manydown Estate are also helping to keep food miles to a minimum with the milk being used by Loosehanger Farmhouse Cheeses, whose deep flavoured Hampshire Rose cheese features regularly on The Vyne's menu.
The renewed interest in local food has also seen a rise in demand for another Hampshire commodity - beer. Traditionally, big country estates like The Vyne brewed their own beers, and although its original brew house still survives in the form of a bustling restaurant, The Vyne now stocks a supply of beers produced by Hampshire's Ringwood Brewery.
The Vyne's organic fruit orchard is one of many that have been saved by the National Trust and it now contains over 60 different apple varieties as well plums and pears, which are all transformed into a delicious assortment of fruit crumbles and cakes. Thanks to the installation of soft fruit cages, this year should also see currants, strawberries and raspberries on the menu: "The use of seasonal produce gives us the flexibility to keep our menus really fresh, and we're looking forward to using our first ever strawberries in traditional Victoria sponge cakes and cream teas this summer," says Assistant Catering Manager, Jayne Stanley. The Vyne's 18th-century kitchen garden is also indispensable to the restaurant. Run jointly with local charity Thrive, it produces almost 30 varieties of succulent veg, the choicest of which are delivered daily to the kitchen by wooden trug.
Mottisfont near Romsey may not have its own kitchen garden, but this hasn't stopped it winning awards for its wide use of local produce. "We have traditional dishes such as liver and bacon using pork from Owls Barn Farm, whose free-range pigs reside in the New Forest," says Acting Catering Manager, Sue Wall. "But you'll also find food that forms an historic part of the landscape in this part of Hampshire, such as smoked trout from the River Test Smokery. It's perfect with creamy scrambled eggs and warm toast."
Mottisfont certainly hits the mark when it comes to tea-time treats too. Last summer saw the launch of the Mottisfont High Tea - pretty tiered cake stands of delicate sandwiches, cakes and scones featuring preserves-maker Angie Trickett's strawberry and raspberry jams. Angie, who owns 'Praesevare', sources much of her soft fruits from the New Forest and several of her jams and chutneys carry the New Forest Marque seal of approval. 2010 also saw the introduction of Mottisfont's ice cream parlour, serving delicious concoctions such as Vanilla pod and Honeycomb Swirl made by the family-run business 'New Forest Ice Cream'. Visitors also indulged in Meadow Cottage Farm's fragrant Rose Petal ice cream, created exclusively for Mottisfont with help from its herd of Weydown Jersey cows: "We've won quite a few awards in recent years, but one of the real bonuses for me is knowing that thousands of visitors to Mottisfont's gardens now have the chance to sample a unique local product, which they won't find anywhere else," says Celia Haynes of Meadow Cottage.
It should matter to all of us where our food comes from and how our crops are grown, - Hinton Ampner's Head Gardener John Wood
Fans of 'The Good Life' should seek out the walled kitchen garden at Hinton Ampner near Bramdean. As quickly as Head Gardener John Wood picks the organic produce, Catering Manager Karl Prentice turns it into tarts, soups and cakes. Pears and gooseberries, leaks and onions all make their way into the kitchen as well as edible flowers nasturtiums and marigolds for additional taste and colour. The kitchen garden is not only productive but also pretty; in spring, brightly coloured blooms jostle for space with the fruit and vegetables, and visitors are treated to a fragrant floral display from heavily scented narcissi, cream and red tulips, and sweet-smelling tree blossom.
Much of Karl's menu changes on a monthly basis to keep ingredients super-fresh. His popular 'soup and cake of the month' recipes always contain something from the garden and early spring choices include Spiced Parsnip, Leak & Potato Soup, and the exotic-sounding Chocolate & Beetroot Cake. "I've been greatly inspired by the idea of foraging, so this spring I'm also hoping to try my hand at a nettle soup and nettle tart using leaves from the estate," says Karl. "It's very nutritious apparently!"
Although much of Hinton's food comes from its own garden, the tea room relies heavily on local suppliers such as Highland Crown butchers, whose pork Karl infuses with Mr Whitehead's Selborne cider and Hinton's own apples, to provide a hearty casserole. One product guaranteed to get an enthusiastic response is Lyburn Farmhouse's Garlic & Nettle cheese, often found in the ploughman's lunches, and delicious when washed down with an Itchen Valley Brewery beer, which Karl also uses in his Ale Tea Bread.
Winchester City Mill is one of the jewels in the National Trust's Hampshire crown when it comes to sustainable food. Set in the centre of the city, it is a rare example of a medieval water-powered corn mill that resumed flour production following an ambitious restoration project several years ago. It straddles the River Itchen, and people can experience the river at its most powerful, as it roars through the building.
Regular milling demonstrations mean that visitors can purchase bags of freshly ground flour, used by many local restaurants and bakers. Its regular 'Bake and Taste' days are equally popular, with demonstrations of traditional and regional baking, from Welsh cakes and scones, to gingerbread men for children. A new chiller cabinet in the mill's shop, provided by The Southern Co-operative, means easy access to an array of fresh and chilled goods from Hampshire Fare producers. Cresson Creative's Watercress mousse and watercress sausages nestle side by side with River Test Smokery trout and pate. Lyburn Cheeses are also available, together with Pratts rapeseed, Somborne Valley Wine and Hill Farm apple juice.
Find out more at
The Vyne - 01256 883858
Mottisfont - 01794 340757
Winchester City Mill - 01962 870057
Hinton Ampner - 01962 771305