Aiming to put its tearoom on the local map, Local Food Britain member Oakwood Farm Lifestyle reveals what goes on beyond the farm gate as an article in the April issue of Sussex lifestyle magazine Etc explains...
Turn the mobile phone off, stop the clock and breathe…you’ve entered the calming oasis that is Oakwood Farm Lifestyle in North Chailey, East Sussex.
Set on 14 acres on the edge of Chailey Common Nature Reserve, this picturesque farm and tearoom is a sanctuary for busy minds, and those in search of real food, homemade with vegetables that are so fresh they are almost still growing.
If you’ve driven past the farm gate, you’ll be aware that there are freshly-laid eggs for sale from their own chickens, Indian Runner ducks and quails, with an honesty box collecting money. But next time, drive in for an experience that is a cross between The Good Life and The Darling Buds of May.
Business partners John Jones and Sue Hill have a philosophy that if they can’t grow it, bake it or produce it, they will source it as locally as possible.
For example, their cooked breakfast – served all day so no timescales – has bacon from pigs reared in the neighbour’s field, the farm’s eggs, home grown tomatoes during the summer months, and bread from the nearest bakery in Newick.
In April, visitors can enjoy asparagus, picked fresh from a huge bed within the vegetable garden, in sandwiches, quiches or soup. Then, as the summer gets going, the vegetable garden is packed with peas, broad beans, carrots, potatoes, leeks, onions, garlic, French beans and courgettes. All of which find their way into sandwiches, salads and main dishes such as lasagne and cottage pies. A large strawberry bed provides the fruit for Sue’s homemade jam to accompany her gravity-defying scones. The pair even grow their own gherkins, pickled by John to a secret recipe which has a slight chilli kick.
Closed during the winter months, the tearoom, located in a 100-year-old stable, has its first open day this Good Friday with an Easter-themed afternoon tea available throughout this special weekend. Then it will open every weekend right round until Christmas.
On warm days, take tea on the lawn and just enjoy the peace. If you’ve managed a walk first across the Chailey Common Nature Reserve, then it’s the perfect pitstop, and dogs on lead are welcome outside.
If you want to take a piece of Oakwood Farm home in the hope that its calming influence will rub off, then take a look at the deli counter located in the tearoom. You will find a range of charcuterie such as pastrami, chorizo and air-dried ham made by Beal’s Farm – based at Oakwood Farm and situated just 20 yards from the tearoom door. And there is a huge choice of local cheeses from the likes of Alsop & Walker based in Mayfield, The Traditional Cheese Dairy in Stonegate, and Plumpton College’s delicious matured cheddar. Oakwood Farm is one of only two stockists in Sussex of this cheese and were allowed to give it their own name of `Clocktower’. Or take home a tub of ice-cream produced by Caroline’s Dairy based in Sidlesham, near Chichester.
If you have admired the planters, trugs, tables and chairs during your visit, then they are for sale too. John is a skilled carpenter, whose workshop is based at the farm – he is currently making the planters for the new Shoreham Harbour storm wall which will be filled with flowers, grown on the farm.
Oakwood Farm has been open to the public for the past five years, but the tearoom has only come into its own within the last two.
“We started out as a farm shop, but it took a few years to decide where we were going with it and realised the tearoom was the key to getting it right,” said Sue.
They have lots of plans for the tearoom, such as themed evenings in the summer with live Spanish guitar, weekday openings, and hammocks in the trees to continue the relaxed outdoor vibe, built by John of course.
“Our best ideas come while enjoying a glass of wine after we have tended to the vegetable garden,” admits John.
But for now, their key aim is to put the tearoom on the local map. To do this, they are planning a classic car show in May, situated in the fields behind the tearoom. Entry is free and includes a live band. Hot food will be available from the tearoom and on the barbecue will be locally-made burgers, served with Oakwood Farm’s very own pickled gherkins. In keeping with their strong sense of community, voluntary donations will raise money for the farm’s next-door neighbour, St Peter & St James Hospice.
Tags: Sussex Cheeses