Lush green pastures, fat black-faced lambs and impossibly-tall hedgerows set the scene for a decadent food trail through the counties Cornwall and Devon during England’s glorious spring.
While Cornwall and Devon are rightly known for their beautiful countryside and spectacular coastlines, they are also a dominant source for the UK’s local food production. England’s south-west is populated with farms and small businesses opening their doors to food and wine devotees.
Being centrally located in the small hamlet of Minions gave us the ideal base to explore the landscapes, history, food and wine of both counties. The cool, crisp days were ideally for exploring from coast to coast and the cold nights were perfect for snuggling up in front of the open fire with the day’s purchases.
There was no set plan, except to find as much good food and wine as we could. Our first destination was the beautiful fishing village of Looe, where we warmed our hands with a mug of hot tea and filled up on the first of many Cornish cream teas with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam on a very generous fresh scone.
Being River Cottage fans, my husband and I couldn’t take a trip to the UK without visiting the River Cottage Local Produce Store at Axminster. Bewildered by the wide array of choices in the store, we decided to make any decisions with a full stomach and visited the River Cottage Canteen at the back of the store. Sitting at a rustic solid wood table we sampled a local cheese platter and hearty beef and beer stew. We also picked up some organic supplies for that traditional English dinner – sausages and mash.
Rick Stein’s seafood empire at Padstow is another of the region’s drawcards. After queuing for an hour outside the fish and chip restaurant to be told they were closing lunch orders when we were at the head of the queue we trudged next door to Rick Stein’s take-away or an even better experience. Lightly battered lemon sole with crispy chips sitting on the break wall tasted better than any fish and chips I’d ever eaten. After a stroll through Padstow we soon realised why Rick Stein is so revered here – he put his name to the two premises I already mentioned along with a seafood restaurant, a smaller restaurant, cooking school, bakery, café and deli.
Feeling like we needed to balance the food with something, we had to the drink the West Country is famous for – cider. With so many ciders producers to choose from it was hard to pick, but the fruit ciders, including pear and apple, were refreshing and my pick. Being more adventurous when it came to cider, my husband also enjoyed Stinger, the nettle beer produced by River Cottage. Award-winning Camel Valley Winery was almost hidden without a good map, but worth the muddy drive. Rows of vines basked in the sun as the land sloped down towards the Camel River and the cold climate wines were a pleasant surprise for our Hunter Valley tastes.
The region is also well known for showing off its fine produce at festivals, farmer’s markets and farm gates so the end of our week concentrated on finding smaller producers on the land. A serendipitous find was Orccombe Farm
The produce featured includes fruit cider, wine, Cornish pasties, free range pork sausages, cheese, cream teas and clotted cream fudge and icecream.
- Accommodation at Hurlers Halt Cottage http://www.hurlers-halt.co.uk/cottage.html
- River Cottage Local Produce Store http://www.rivercottage.net/Page~40/LocalProduceStore.aspx
- Camel Valley Vineyard www.camelvalley.com
Publication: Holidays for Couples