The story so far.....share your thoughts and photos about food and drink along The Ridgeway to help us create a community Top 50!

From ice cream to sausages to gin, farmers and other producers are making food and drink along the Trail by growing arable crops in fields, grazing animals in pastures, growing grapes in vineyards and sourcing water from the chalk aquifer. Some farms and other producers such as Wessex Mills and Savages are rich in heritage due to a long history, but there are many new businesses too and many leading the way in sustainable production. Read on below to find out more…..

The variety of food and drink produced along The Ridgeway is a reflection of the diversity of the countryside to be seen along the way. Local farmshops and farmer’s markets offer a range of local products, but some local products can also be found in supermarkets. Acclaimed pubs along the Trail also source their ingredients from local suppliers, with The Royal Oak at Bishopstone being an exemplar since the owners of the pub and organic farm in the village are one and the same – Helen Browning’s Organic.

Perhaps one of the most prestigious farmshops along The Ridgeway is Buckmoorend Farmshop near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire which can count several Prime Ministers as customers! Cattle, sheep and pigs are reared non-intensively on the farm surrounding the Prime Minister’s country house and made into beef, lamb and pork products including sausages, beefburgers and chops. On this estate, sheep grazing the wildflower-rich grasslands along The Ridgeway are maintaining a long history of sheep farming on the chalk hills, as well as encouraging native plants and insects.

As part of sustainable farming, the benefits of ‘eating local’ can be applied to livestock and not just people. At the Chequers estate, the Hares family grows barley as feed for its livestock. Their farm is one of the few ‘mixed farms’ still operating and so they can ‘rotate’ fields from one use to another. Elsewhere along the Trail, winter food for livestock can also come in the form of hay and silage, cut from grass fields, as well as maize and lucerne or alfalfa. Straw, and not just grain, can be a useful arable product since it makes useful bedding for livestock. Animal manure can be used to put nutrients into the soils.

Other farmshops along the Trail include the Three Trees Farmshop near Swindon, Savages in Blewbury, Oxfordshire and P.E. Meads and Sons near Tring in Hertfordshire. The Three Trees Farmshop sells award-winning Railway Sausages made from pigs reared on the nearby farm. The sausages were inspired by the old railway line which passes by the farmshop and is now a cycle route linking Swindon, Marlborough and The Ridgeway. Steam locomotive drivers had a tradition of cooking sausages on the shovel in the train engine and so the ‘ingredients reflect a typical breakfast cooked in the smoke, including bacon, black pudding, tomatoes with a smoked pork base.’

Nettlebed Creamery in Oxfordshire can also boast awards, with two of its artisan cheeses ‘Witheridge’ and ‘Bix’ attracting World Cheese awards in 2022/23! The creamery uses milk from the local organic farm’s herds. Another Chilterns dairy – Laceys Farm – supplies award-winning milk to the Chilterns Ice Cream Company which lies just off The Ridgeway near Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire.

A good cheese is often best accompanied with a wine and vineyards are becoming more common on the chalk hills of England, including The Ridgeway area. A new vineyard was planted in 2022 near Bury Down in Berkshire, but longer established vineyards include those at Britwell Salome in Oxfordshire which were planted in the 1980s.

Other alcohols are produced along The Ridgeway at Tring Brewery in Hertfordshire, Chiltern Brewery near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire and Ramsbury Brewery near Marlborough in Wiltshire. Tring Brewery boasts that its water is sourced from the chalk aquifer and sells a popular beer named The Ridgeway! Local landscape features are also inspiration for the Puddingstone Distillery which produces gin near Tring in Hertfordshire.

Chalk stream heritage is linked to mills as well as distilleries and the Wessex Mill in Wantage was one of the oldest mills continuing to produce flour – a mill had existed on the site for more than 900 years! The business was sold to the award-winning Doves Farm in 2022 which is based at a farm and mill near Hungerford in Berkshire, south of The Ridgeway. Grain is sourced from nearby farms, as well as their own farm where they grow a range of heritage crops including Emmer Wheat. Emmer was the crop believed to have been grown by prehistoric people, in the early stages of the development of farming.

To encourage the public to support local farmers, producers, farmshops, pubs and more, details are provided on this website’s interactive map of The Ridgeway. There are also a number of food markets or farmers’ markets in towns along the Trail, including the weekly markets at Wendover in Buckinghamshire and Wantage in Oxfordshire.

Notes: More information about sheep farming is available under other Top 50 entries.

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