In the country

sauasageJane Pikett enjoys a day at The Milkhope Centre

I’ve always liked the Milkhope Centre; a lovely country retreat just outside the city, where you can mooch around the farm shop, the cook shop, an art gallery, furniture store and more, and relax in the café, which at this time of year is quite the sun trap with its lovely outdoor terrace.

My purchases here over the years include a painting, several pairs of earrings, a wedding hat, even a hall table. But it’s food and kitchen kit which comes home most often, and Blagdon Farm Shop is a deserved national award winner. It works with farms which are either organic or follow traditional farming methods which are kind to the environment. I love this shop; it’s big, with a proper butchery stocked with the produce of the fields on the estate and nearby farms. There is Northumbrian rare-breed fillet steak, Blagdon Farm free-range chicken and Blagdon ham, wild roe venison from the Blagdon Estate, and a huge range of sausages. The produce of the shop kitchen includes ready meals, quiches, cakes and tray bakes.

You can buy fruit and veg grown on the Blagdon estate, jams and preserves, Craster kippers, Doddington ice cream, and Northumbrian cheeses. Make sure you’ve room in the fridge and freezer at home because you’re going to buy a lot more than you intended when you set out.

My husband, an ill-educated man in the needs of the modern kitchen and dining room, complains that I don’t need any more mixing bowls, milk jugs, or kitchen, carving and cake knives, but obviously, as a reader of appetite, you will be aware that every good cook’s kitchen has room for more of all these things.

At La Cookshop I can indulge my love of Sophie Allport oven gloves and aprons, kitchenware by Le Crueset, Stellar, Bodum, Aga and the like. I love a bit of Royal Worcester (yes, I do need two Evesham gravy boats, thank you), Portmeirion, and Spode Blue, and my Le Creuset kettle will still be whistling long after I’m gone. This is a proper cookshop, home of quality brands which last a lifetime and more, and which reward you time and again for your investment.

All this retail therapy requires some refreshment, and the Blacksmiths Coffee Shop is on hand with scones, quiches, cakes and more, from breakfast through to afternoon tea.
Sister to the Blacksmiths at nearby Belsay, the menu is traditional and the food is very good quality. The café is light and airy and has beautiful bi-fold doors which open to the terrace on sunny days, where there really are few better places to enjoy lunch from the specials board or a leisurely afternoon tea. Well, after all that effort shopping, I’m worth it.


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