Woodlands Organic Farm

We went on a farm walk at Woodlands Organic Farm the other day. I’ve mentioned them a couple of times before – the people we were getting a veg box from before we had our own food from the garden (Vegetable Stories and On my bike).

Woodlands is in the fens near Boston, a mixed farm growing vegetables and raising livestock. We saw cattle, chickens, pigs and turkeys – all good fun. Partner’s big interest is vegetables and luckily we were allowed to wander off to the market garden and admire the serried ranks of lettuces and polytunnels full of peppers and tomatoes.

I love cattle. My childhood bedroom faced onto a field of cows, so close that on summer nights I fell asleep to the rhythmic sound of them munching grass, comforting as waves breaking on a shore.

I like these young Lincoln Red cattle, so glossy, energetic and curious as they are; I wish they didn’t exist only so we could eat them. I probably should be vegetarian – but I’m not.

I find much to bemoan in how our food is produced, in the challenges faced by farmers and especially by those who want to farm organically, sustainably, humanely. So a day like this one, seeing an organic farm in the flesh, as it were, was cheering and inspiring.

And our lunchtime soup was nice too.

Scenes from a country churchyard

Behind Walcot church

Just another couple of pictures of a church and churchyard, this time from the small village of Walcot, taken last Friday when I took a scenic route home from my pottery class (see A lumpy thing but mine own about the pottery, or Landmarks in a flat country for a previous mention of Walcot).

I don’t know how to express why these scenes make my heart sing. They are ordinarily, quietly rural, but there is something wonderful to me in the way that you can just drive, or indeed walk or cycle, through village after village like this, with a church, a farm or two and a few other houses. They seem to me like a picture of an England that perhaps many of us, in most of the country, don’t believe exists any more. It is not an idyll of untouched natural beauty, but a working landscape, with people labouring hard behind the apparent peacefulness. And probably here, as elsewhere in the country, fewer and fewer people find it viable to make a living from the land.

So perhaps it can’t last, but I hope it can.

Friday was a great day all round because I had my first go on the potters wheel, something I haven’t tried for decades. I made four thick little pots and had a brilliant time – could have sat there at the wheel for hours.

Walcot church

A lumpy thing, but mine own

First bowl

This is here for no good reason other than to show you my first finished pot from my pottery class at The End Room, in the pretty village of Newton. It weighs a ton, as beginners’ pots tend to do; and it is rather lumpy. However, it is the first pot I have made since I left Brixton, twenty three years ago, and I am therefore ridiculously pleased to have done it and brought it home.

It is a coil pot – I never got very confident with coils in my earlier attempts at learning to make pottery – so decided I should try and get over my negative feelings about them. There is another one in the making – maybe a little less lumpy this time, but still pretty hefty.

I’m really enjoying playing with clay again – the feel of it is wonderful.

And I love the drive over to the pottery. Last week, before the class, I went to collect a piece of beef, to make Spiced Salt Beef, from a farm (Bassingthorpe Beef) over in the same direction, near Grantham. I had a wonderful adventure of a drive, through back roads and tiny villages, through a quietly beautiful landscape, so empty of people but full of human cultivation. It reminds me of drives in France on family holidays, when partner and I would sneak off to visit small wine producers, finding ourselves on rough tracks that seemed barely fit for cars, winding round mountains, finding amazing views, wild boar piglets and friendly winemakers. No wine or mountains here, no tourists, less money than in the south of France; but the same quietness, open fields, tiny settlements and people living on the land, getting on with the business of growing and making.

And though no wine, I feel drunk with the subtle beauties of this landscape.

Childhood landscape

I’ve written early on in this blog about how the Lincolnshire countryside, though unknown to me before I moved, seemed completely and instantly familiar.

Here are pictures I took yesterday, on a walk from Barton to Grantchester, a few miles to the south of Cambridge. I’m visiting my mum, who still lives in the village where I grew up – and I have walked this way often over the years since childhood. You can see from these why arriving in a flat, agricultural landscape would seem like coming home to me!

As with other galleries, tap/click on a picture to see them in bigger versions.

A walk on Star Fen

If you walk about a mile out of the village from our house, you find yourself on ‘the fen road’, Littleworth Drove and off this is Star Fen Road. It leads you past farmhouses and smallholdings, most with chickens roaming around, some with pigs, sheep, horses, llamas (yes!). It is very quiet here. When you turn onto footpaths you are on your own, surrounded by ploughed fields as far as the eye can see, interrupted only by drains and hedgerows, and the odd scarecrow.

These are pictures from my walk round Star Fen on Monday (without dogs this time – see Spot the Dog). I hope they give you a tiny idea of the qualities of light and colour you find here, that give me such a buzz. As with previous galleries, click or tap on a picture to see bigger versions that you can scroll through.

Car Dyke, in the bottom left photo, was made by the Romans; that gives me a buzz too.

Vegetable stories

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A vegetable box arrived bright and early this morning from Woodlands Organic Farm at Kirton, in the fens near Boston. When still back in Manchester, I asked famous Unicorn Grocery about their Lincolnshire suppliers (of whom there are quite a few, this being the vegetable basket of England). They put me on to friendly Pam, from Strawberry Fields farm and she told me about Woodlands.

I’ve never done the veg box thing because in the years that box schemes have really taken off, we (or rather partner) have been growing our own. The vegetables look very nice (especially the fine cauliflower), but I’ve been eating off an allotment, very seasonally and very locally, for so long that I am disconcerted by red pepper and courgettes in January.

I have a strange urge to hide them; so into a soup they go. Also in the pot are onions, a red chilli and squash, all grown on our old plot at Southern Allotments. The squash (pictured above) is a beautiful Crown Prince, grown from seeds given us by a kind friend who also has an allotment.

Crown Prince, with its lovely grey-green, ridged skin, reminds me of a pale green teapot I bought many years ago – contemporary English pottery but with a celadon glaze and very Chinese look about it. I wonder if it is only coincidence that the squash looks like my teapot, or if perhaps some long-ago Chinese potter was inspired by a squash.

Also into the soup I put a couple of bay leaves from a tree which came with me from my Brixton garden nearly 23 years ago. So absurdly pleasing that it has flourished in its pot through all the Manchester years and is here with me in this new place: my continuity girl.

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