Eat Local South West
No wonder so many of us head to the South West for our camping holidays. Warm weather, miles of coastline, pretty villages and plenty of rolling hills make this a playground for lovers of the outdoor life. The bucolic farmlands and quaint fishing villages may delight the tourists, but they also represent the lifeblood of this region – food. Farmers, fishermen, artisan cheese producers and traditional cider-makers are an important part of the South-West's rural identity.
Seafood is at its best here – you are never far from a coastline. There are plenty of devoted chefs in rustic beachside shacks to quirky cafes willing and able to turn it into a fantastic meal for you. From cider to cheese, pasties to pies, if fresh and fabulous food is your thing, head to the South-West.
Ali Ray's Eat local loves:
Cheese – Dorset blue vinney, proper Cheddar made in Cheddar caves, Cornish yarg. Meat – Bush Farm bison steaks, Church Farm lamb chops. Treats – Roskilly's Cornish clotted cream ice cream, lunch in Axbridge's River Cottage canteen. Places – Wells and Totnes markets.
The South Hams area around Dartmouth Club Site is an embarrassment of gourmet riches – rolling hills of fresh produce, plentiful just-caught seafood all served up in cosmopolitan eateries around Dartmouth. Sharpham Vineyard Cafe is my must-visit.
Hidden in a deep valley, the rustic outdoor dining area has exclusive vine-framed views of the River Dart. The setting is divine, the kitchen is a chic static caravan and the food is fantastic. Kingsbridge crab, local charcuterie or a board of local smoke fish are served with wine and cheese made on-site. It’s laid-back, stylish and unforgettable. The staff even bring around blankets if the breeze gets up. Booking is recommended.
A favourite pub of mine in the area is The Crabshell
in Kingsbridge. Its laid back atmosphere is helped all the more by its position on the estuary. The outdoor tables on the quay catch the sun all day, while you can try your hand at catching crabs (buckets and crab lines provided at the bar). The menu is suitably crustacean-themed, and the crab bisque is fantastic.
For a real treat, on both the food and fun front is The Picnic Boat in Dartmouth. Book it for a sunrise cruise along the River Dart with freshly-baked croissants, homemade jams and bread and bucks fizz, you could try the West Country Picnic with local hams and homemade pies or the Seafood Heaven Cruise, a fantasy feast of locally-caught lobster and crab.
On our trip, we stopped off for a spot of crab lining on the pontoons by the village of Dittisham before a delicious cruise back to Dartmouth. It may not be cheap but it’s well worth every penny for a memorable holiday experience.
Well worth the 20-minute drive north from our Bude Club Site, the Rectory Tea Rooms is set in the tiny rural parish of Morwenstow, over-looking the rugged coastline of north Cornwall. Snug on the inside, picturesque on the outside, this 13th century cottage is rammed to the rafters with vintage china and the heavy oak beams have been salvaged from this shipwreck coast.
Home-made lunches – soups, pies and fish dishes are made with local produce, many from the Rectory’s Organic farm. You can walk off the chocolate cake excesses on the coastal path.
I’m always on the look-out for a great beach-side diner. Food and beach life are two of my greatest passions. Life’s a Beach on Summer Leaze Beach in Bude is the perfect spot to watch the surfers or dog walkers while having a great meal.
Local fish plays a star role on the menu, and the atmosphere is laid back and friendly. What’s not to love?
The Jurassic Coastline lies just minutes from our glorious Club Site. After a day on the beach why not come back to the site and sizzle up a fresh fish supper bought from The Old Watch House wet fish shop at Lyme Regis?
It looks on to the town’s famous Cobb harbour and stocks the daily catch from local boats. There’s bass, mackerel and hand-dived scallops – the cooking advice is free and inspiring. Better still, catch it yourself.
Just 20 yards from the fish shop, you can hop on to a mackerel fishing trip. Get your rod, great views of the coastline and your supper – all for about £20.
The Hive Cafe, set on the beach in Burton Bradstock, has cult status among locals and is a regular haunt of mine when on the south coast. Whether you come for a hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows to warm up after your blowy winter walk or for a fabulous fish lunch you’ll not be disappointed.
Big on supporting local producers, The Hive is rustic in appearance but top notch when it comes to what's on your plate. They don’t take bookings, so be prepared to queue on busy summer days.
Just a short drive from Charmouth Club Site is the fabulous Millers Farm Shop in Kilmington. This is a proper family-run farm shop with a busy and lively atmosphere. No bland shopping experiences here.
Much of the stock of seasonal veg is grown on the farm and the meat is sourced from local farmers. There is even a mobile fish van run by The Old Watch House in the car park. The perfect one-stop Eat Local shopping experience.
Reconnect with your inner-child as you peer through the glass at the multi-coloured, fairytale flavours in the Rowdey Cow Ice Cream Parlour. If you are lucky enough to be staying on our Devizes Club Site in Wiltshire you are just a five-minute drive from Lower Farm in the village of Rowde.
It has a farm cafe serving simple, unpretentious, reasonably-priced, homemade meals. Meat is from local farms, burgers are made in the farm kitchens. The ice cream comes in 16 different flavours, made with the freshest milk from their cows.
Eat yours outside in the garden while watching the animals – or your own monkeys in the play area.
C’mon. If you are staying in Cheddar at our Club Site then cheese has to be top of your list when it comes to seeking out regional specialities.
Once you can get past the crowds and coach loads visiting the spectacular Cheddar Caves, and the biggest gorge in Britain, you’ll discover the food and drink producers in the area are as worthy of your interest.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company has revived a tradition of cheese-making that has existed around here since 1170. Visitors can watch the cheesemakers ‘Cheddaring’ by hand, a technique established here many years ago and that has now been reproduced all around the world.
This is the real deal though. The cheese is stored below ground in Cheddar caves, with the right environment to allow it to mature into an award-winning product.
Be careful not to trip over the free-ranging ducks and chickens when you are walking into Nyland Hill Farm Shop. This is how farm shops should be.
A cosy shop invitingly full of fresh produce and fabulous beef from the farm but also cakes, pickles, cheese, jams and bread all made by the farmer Nick Hill’s friends and neighbours. And while you shop, you can see and hear the busy farm life going on all around you, as well as listen in on some local gossip.
After shopping you can take time to enjoy one of their ice creams, while sitting out on the patio watching the alpacas.
Devon’s Taw Valley is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great food, with even greater credentials. The rolling hills and lush valleys around our highly-rated Umberleigh Club Site are host to a justifiably proud bunch of food producers. Many of the growers, farmers, retailers and chefs around here are dedicated to providing food that supports its own community as well as protecting its environment. Also, you’ll find that our site managers Trish and Richard are full of information and top tips on where you can buy local food.
Orchard Farm shop in Barnstaple stocks local meats, dairy and home-grown vegetables and fruit, as well as some organic ranges. Open six days a week, there is also a Jungleland play area to keep the children entertained. You can find the farm shop opposite a large supermarket – I know which one I’d choose.
There is also a historic pannier market in Barnstaple that's open six days a week. Stallholders change throughout the week and include some local food producers.
Good local food pubs are in ample supply here too. Walkable from the site is Weirmarsh Farm Restaurant where the mantra is local, seasonal and fresh. Local seabass and venison features on the menu as well Devonshire beef. It’s only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday evenings, so make sure you book.
The Bell Inn at Chittlehampton also comes recommended by the locals as a dog and child friendly pub. It serves daily homemade specials such as steak and kidney pie made with local ingredients. It’s a great spot to enjoy the views across the Devonshire countryside or just watch the alpacas in the field next door. Finally, if you fancy a more international feel to your food (yet still made with local ingredients) try French’s Bistro in Chulmleigh. The vegetables, herbs and salads are grown by the owners and their friends, the fish is sourced from Devon’s Brixham fish market and milk and butter is sourced direct from the diary in Exbourne just a few miles away. Let’s face it – at Umberleigh you are spoilt for choice.
Salisbury has long had a strong artistic community. A great place to see some amazing contemporary work and enjoy local food is Fisherton Mill. Located in the middle of town, it’s just a five minute stroll from the cathedral on Fisherton Street. It’s tucked away, through an archway, so look out for the orange flags that will point you in the right direction as you come along Fisherton Street.
Fisherton Mill is a Victorian Mill that now houses a café, gallery and studio space. The gallery has a constantly changing collection of work from leading artists, sculptors and furniture-makers from across the UK. After such visual delights head into the café for more sensory splendours with delicious cream teas with homemade scones and local damson jam.
Spread over two floors with a sunny courtyard, the café is a big open space with a real buzz. They do a fine breakfast, with delights such as toasted brioche with house blackberry jam, sandwiches, salads, soups, frittatas and smoked mackerel pate. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. The children’s menu includes marmite on toast, simple sandwiches and fresh pasta. 108 Fisherton St, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP2 7QY.
Five miles outside of Salisbury in the village of Pitton is The Silver Plough, a traditional English pub. This 18th century farmhouse complete with skittle alley is a fine-looking building and offers good food in a classic pub atmosphere. It’s warm and friendly (there are dog biscuits on the bar in the snug) and it has a traditional interior with lots of memorabilia – old carved benches, oak settles, rustic pine tables, and black beams hung with copper kettles, toby jugs, glass rolling pins and hop festoons.
There are tables outside at the front and a beer garden. When I visited it was filled with walkers and families. Pitton is on the famous Clarendon Way, a 24 mile yomp joining the two Wessex cities of Winchester and Salisbury. Even if you’re not on for a big hike, there are some great walks around the village. A leisurely stroll will be rewarded with fantastic views across the open Wiltshire countryside back to Salisbury and a view of the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral spire, Britain’s tallest, which looks even more impressive from this distance.
On The Silver Plough’s traditional home-cooked menu there’s much fresh fish, meat and local produce. All the favourites are here: real ale battered fish and chips, homemade burger, ham hock, leek and cider pie, sandwiches and snacks and a great selection of homemade desserts including lemon tart, ginger and lime cheesecake and chocolate brownie. There’s a children’s menu with a lovely homemade beef casserole and well kept real ales (not on the children’s menu!).
Market days in Salisbury are colourful, noisy, busy and full of character. The Charter Market takes place every Tuesday and Saturday (8am-4pm) in the ancient Market Place in the heart of the city. With up to 100 stalls this is one of the biggest open-air markets in the south of England and one of the best. Mind you, you would expect them to be good as there’s been a market here since 1227.
Wonderful sights and smells greet you with the aroma from freshly-ground coffee, fresh bread, hot doughnuts, hog roast and fresh cut flowers. Within the middle of the market there are 12 farmers’ market stalls, easily recognised by their yellow and green awnings selling goods such as smoked trout and other fish, fresh bread, eggs, meats, sausages, bacon, cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, and locally produced wines. It’s a feast for the senses. Around the top of the market you will find lots of cafés with plenty of outside tables and chairs, to sit with a coffee and take in the experience.
And finally... strawberries. There are delicious strawberries, raspberries, and gooseberries aplenty at Bake Fruit Farm, a ‘pick your own’ farm five miles south of Salisbury in Coombe Bissett. This friendly, family-run farm has been here for more than 30 years and welcomes back customers time and time again. There’s a great selection of fruit that is ripe for the picking during the summer months of June and July. They also have an excellent selection of homemade jams and jellies, as well as cream teas, which makes a lovely and enjoyable end to a great family outing. Open daily from 9am-7pm in June and July. Our Salisbury Club Site makes an ideal base to enjoy all these places.
Stuart Lowen is a family-run butchers and farm shop that has been selling the best of Exmoor’s produce for more than 13 years. It is very easy to find as it's just down the road from our Club Site on the Hawksworth Road opposite that huge high street supermarket that begins with a T. I’ve only mentioned it so that you can’t get lost, as the farm shop is directly opposite and you’d be missing the chance to sample a real taste of the West Country if you didn’t go in. All the meat comes from local farms and the lamb is from their own farm. The Farm Shop sells a great range of local fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee, cheese preserves and other local produce. 4b Hawksworth Road, Minehead, TA24 5BZ.
North Exmoor is teeming with beautiful English villages and tea rooms and I have slurped and sampled my way round many to bring you my best recommendations. It’s not been easy. First up I’m going to mention the Apple Tree Tea Rooms in Minehead itself. There’s much debate down here concerning Minehead versus Dunster and how Minehead doesn’t quite have the charm of the other villages but the Apple Tree Tea Rooms certainly does. Taken over in March 2013 by Mark, Michael and Naomi this place has charm by the bucket-load. The term ‘hidden gem’ is apt here, as this lovely haven is tucked away on the Avenue, just off the Esplanade, but it’s big enough to have the only teagarden in Minehead. They make the most of their lovely outside space with tables in the courtyard at the front and in the garden to the rear. Inside, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming with comfy seats, brightly coloured walls adorned with art work, prints and poems. There’s lovely vintage china and great music playing. It’s welcoming and very child friendly. And it does a fabulous cream tea, lots of delicious homemade cakes including coffee and walnut and chocolate. The homemade soup, quiches, sandwiches filled with local ham and good old beans on toast for the kids were all delightful. 29 The Avenue, Minehead, TA24 5AY, 01643 706090
Yet more tea and cakes in Kitnors Tea Room and Garden in Bossington. This is what you think of when you think of a quintessentially English tea room - a pale peach coloured cottage with thatched roof, higgledy piggeldy chimneys, and a magical cottage garden filled with honeysuckle and climbing roses. Inside a traditional dresser filled with old china is weighed down with homemade cakes. Angie and Cameron use their own home-grown produce whenever they can. Wonderful cream teas, home-made cakes, ciabatta, ploughmans, sandwiches, home-made soups and daily specials, large pots of tea and homemade fudge can all be enjoyed along with the most breathtaking views. It’s an enchanted garden and the perfect stopping off point on the South West Coast Path if you’re going from Minehead to Porlock Weir. Kitnors, Bossington, Exmoor National Park, Somerset, TA24 8HQ.
Camping in the Forest Sites
Campers at Hollands Wood are a mere two miles from a little haven of decadence. Rosie Lea’s Tea House and Bakery is a gorgeous ‘vintage’ tea room that will be sure to end up as one of your holiday recommendations. Cakes and pattiserie treats are baked on-site and all made with New Forest ingredients such as local eggs, flour, meats, cheese and jam that are all made within the forest boundaries. The portions are incredibly generous, the staff super charming and the food exceptionally good. From early breakfasts, light lunches of sandwiches, soups and paninis, traditional afternoon teas to wonderful take-away hampers of cakes, bakes and finger sandwiches – all are very reasonably priced. Even those who have to watch what they eat are catered for here with Rosie’s ‘Free From’ range of cakes and treats that come in low fat, low sugar, gluten free and dairy free. 76 Brookley Road, Brockenhurst, SO42 7RA.
If you are looking for something a little stronger than tea, then Setley Ridge Vineyard and Farm Shop is for you. In this family-run business, Paul and his wife Hayley grow the grapes in the vineyard and produce the wines, while his sister Jane and her business partner Andrew run the shop. The vineyard and winery produce five wines, all made and bottled on site. Head to the attractive oak-framed shop for tastings – you can call ahead to arrange tours around the vineyard and winery too.
The shop stocks other locally-made ciders, ales, apple juices and even New Forest Spring Water. So you won’t be short on choice if you are looking for a tipple. The farm shop also sells a range of New Forest Marque produce. The blue Marque logo indicates that a product has been grown, reared, made or produced within the boundaries of the New Forest National Park and helps shoppers to buy and Eat Local. Setley Ridge Vineyard, Lymington Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire SO42 7UF.
How far would you travel to buy a sausage with true credentials and pedigree? If you can stretch to five miles from Hollands Wood, then head in the direction of the pretty village of Sway, where Sway Butchers is run by David West, the sixth generation family butcher. The West family has been making sausages for more than 150 years to a guarded family recipe blending spices with top quality meat “and no nasties!” For the last 35 years, they have run The New Forest Sausage Company alongside the butchers shop, and employ eight sausage-makers producing more than 1,000lbs of sausages a week. No camper's barbecue in the New Forest should be seen without one. Sway Butchers, Station Road, SO41 6AA.
Certificated Sites (CS) with food
Cheristow Lavender is in a truly beautiful spot on a lavender farm, just a stones-throw from the glorious north Devon coast. The shop on the site supplies meat, sausages, burgers and bacon produced by the owner’s brother-in-law. Or, if you don’t want to cook yourself, then there is even a tearoom on-site serving fabulous homemade fare from soups to pies, sandwiches and plenty of cakes.
Crabbs Bluntshay Farm is a great place to come for an authentic rural Dorset experience. Here you can buy homemade chutneys, honey and cider from the farmhouse door. Everything is produced from the surrounding orchards, garden and hives set around west Dorset. You will literally taste the landscape with this produce.
For the rest of your supplies, there are two farm shops nearby – Washingpool Farm, Dottery Road, Bridport and Felicity’s Farm Shop, Morcombelake, near Bridport.
As part of Sharon and Gary Robinson's commitment to their Green Tourism award, they make a real effort to point their campers in the direction of the great local produce available around their CS at Acacia Farm. As they point out it is possible to be self-sufficient here without a car. Within walking distance is a farm-shop and delicatessen selling local meats, cream and cheeses. The next door neighbour sells vegetables on a stall outside her house, while the post office sells local bread, pies and cakes that can all be washed down with a glass of scrumpy cider bought from the local cider farm.
You'll find Ten Acres Vineyard tucked away between Dartmoor and Exmoor. Site owners Toby and Esther McKinnel learned how to grow vines from their expert neighbours and now boast some fine wine, which they sell in the campsite shop along with award-winning wines from other local producers. You can also stock up on homemade apple juice and chutneys and eggs from their free-range hens.