Stop press: Orford General Store Awards

Firstly congratulations to all those at the Orford General Store for winning the Countryside Alliance UK and Ireland Village Shop and Post Office Champion 2012. We missed visiting when I wrote the piece below and have since caught up with this wonderful village shop, Post Office, cafe, butcher and delicatessen. It is a great example of how to compete with the big supermarkets and keep a village hub going. The Eadt Suffolk Magazine has featured Orford recently see link here

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Giant Puffballs in July

A feast under the hedge

I have been surprise to find that the puffballs, normally only available in September are already out and doing really well in July. The combination of warm damp ( well wet) weather has done its stuff and the fungi are popping up all over.

It is best to harvest after a dryish spell as they do absorb a lot of water. Also, do  take care that dogs on walkies have not had access to them, I am sure they will not add anything to the flavour.

Once collected cut up with a bread knife into slices and fry in butter with salt, pepper and sliced garlic. If you want a bit of spice add some chilli pepper ( dried or fresh). Cook until the puffball is lighly browned. If the fungi has a lot of water in it you can slice it up and put it in a low oven ( around 40 C) for a few hours to dry out. Once cooked the puffball can be frozen and will keep well.

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In praise of allotments- ruralism in action

My allotment

SEPTEMBER is a great time to have an allotment — you have an abundance of produce, the freezer is full of vegetables to use over the winter, and the garage has bags of onions and potatoes. Best of all, the rampant weeds have slowed, and you have a little time to think about what to plan for the late winter and early spring: garlic bulbs, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages are better planted as seedlings. Renting an allotment is becoming popular again. From a low in the late 1960s, when the UK had about 50,000 plots, the latest figures are about 350,000. (This is still a long way from the peak of 1.4 million in the mid-1940s.) People want to know about the food that they eat. If you plant it yourself, then you know that no chemical pesticides or herbicides were used. The cost of renting varies from less than £10 per year for half a plot to more than £100 in a few areas of London, but many people pay less. It takes time to look after it, but much depends on what you want to grow, and how well organised you are. With good planning, it is claimed that just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, is all it takes. This seems op­timistic: I take about five to six hours per week working on the allotment — but think about it a lot more. If you are considering an allot­ment, you will need to put your name on the list with your local authority, parish council, or land-share scheme. Some areas have long waiting lists, but others are creating new plots, and you may not have to wait at all. The National Trust and landshare. net are also creating areas for allotment use. Other useful websites include;;; and Usually, there is little choice, but, if you do have a choice, go and see the plots, ask the allotment neighbours what they think, and try to avoid a plot with problems such as over­hang­ing trees or brambles, bind­weed, or Horsetail. Choose the plot with the best light, as most veget­ables do not like shade. Winter is a good time to plan for the coming year. Order the seed catalogues, and get advice from the many books or magazines that are available. There are websites and blogs for sharing the ups and downs of allotment life. You will never be short of advice on how to make the best of your allotment. All of it will be helpful, but some of it will certainly be con­flicting: dig or don’t dig; organic or chemical; exotic vegetables or onions, potatoes and beans. Everyone will have their thoughts; so in the end you just do what you think best, and as time goes by you realise that most things work well. The magazines Kitchen Garden and Grow Your Own are helpful; as are The Sunday Telegraph, the Satur­day Guardian, and The Observer. The age range on my allotment is very wide, from mid-20s to over 80, and the split between men and women is about 50-50. Having an allotment is a great way of meeting a wide range of people, and finding out about the community in which you live. I learned more about my local area over one season on the allotment than I did in 14 years.

This article, written by me,  was first published in the Church Times issue 7748 16 September 2011 and is available to subscribers


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Ruralism in the US Midwest

I have been introduced to a great blog that is bringing to our screens the amazing personal history of the rural midwest. There was even a publication called Missouri Ruralist which is featured. Do look at Prairie Yesteryear.

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Orford, Suffolk- developing enterprise in the rural idyll?

Orford is a small village nestled on flatlands in the armpit of Orford Ness, a spit of land build up by the deposits of the eroding Norfolk and North Suffolk coast. Orford Ness is now a National Trust managed nature reserve famous for its bird life and infamous for the wartime role as an MOD testing site.  Daniel Defoe, in his Tour Through the Eastern Counties of 1724 describe the place as “Orford was once a good town, but is decayed, and as it stands more on the land side of the river, the sea daily throws up more land to it and falls of itself from it, as if resolved to disown the place and that it should be a sea port no longer.”

I am please to report that in  2011 Orford is actually a hive of local enterprise, there are a growing number of new or re-animated  local businesses and of course, the more established businesses are mostly still in the village and appear to be thriving.

The village is only a few streets with the more modern building on the road in from  Woodbridge and Snape and the older properties around the market square and along the roads to the harbour.  The community is a mixture of locals (many generations ); retirees, more recent residents and . What is remarkable about the village is the level of local enterprise. The local estate agent is a good example, run from the antique shop by the locals themselves see  for more info. The Orford area has a history of escapees from city life who set up local businesses.In the 1940’s  Richard Pinney moved from London to a cottage in nearly Butley and developed local oyster beds, a smokery and in the 1960’s the Butley Oysterage  Restaurant .

A wonderful fish restaurant and shop in market hill . The shop has now relocated to the harbour but a rival smokery,  Richardson’s Smoke House is located right behind the restaurant building and sells fish, meat and cheese all smoked in a couple of outbuildings next to the shop.

Twenty years ago Steve Richardson reopened his grandfathers smoke house and has expanded slowly over the years. He has recently be joined by his son.  I can recommend the smoked Stilton and Cheddar as well as the eels.  Just down the road towards the Castle )

there is Ruth Watson’s some what intimidating Crown and Castle Hotel .

The notices are somewhat off putting but the food is great.

More enterprise is to be seen on the other side of the Market Hill where there is a new bakery. Pump Street Bakery has recently opened. This is a proper bakery with delicious hand-made bread and pastries  and worth a visit on its own. The bakery has a small cafe and serves excellent coffee to go with the wonderful products. The shop is a little bit hidden in this pink building.

Further up Pump Street is  a great village shop Orford Supply Stores which next to and runs a newly refurbished cafe and restaurant. At the rear of the restaurant is the Orford Butchers Shop- what could be an easier way to get local meat? Opposite the butchers is Orford Crafts – a place I have to drag my wife past as she loves the baskets they sell.  The Kings Head is next door to the craft shop, is had been redone recently and had an art exhibition when we were there before Easter 2011. I have not eaten there for some years and did not have time on this visit.

We stayed at the other pub in the village The Jolly Sailor . This used to be very unfriendly but is now under new management and is a delight. The rooms are very clean and the one we were in was large enough to put a single z-bed in for our son. The layout worked well even though it took a bit of getting used to the workings of the heating and plumbing.  I would recommend the evening meals and breakfast was menu free- you just choose ‘Full English or Local Kippers’ or could have cereal, toast, coffee etc. Everyone was very helpful and friendly, they welcome dogs and children and you can camp in the orchard.

The harbour is very busy with small craft from the local sailing club to some more examples of local enterprise. On dry land there is Pinneys shop  selling smoked fish and shellfish from their Butley smoke house.  Brinkley’s Shed  is right on the beach where the local sailing club keep their boats and is a good place to buy freshly caught fish.  Nearly next door is Riverside Tearoom where a good lunch and some great cakes can be eaten while watching the boats.

The Riverside Tearoom is linked to one of the two boats running trips on the river, the Regardless, a 25ft wooden clinker open launch boat of the traditional local style ( in the middle of the picture below). As we were visiting slightly out of season we had the boat to ourselves and they arrange a special trip for us which was really great and a highpoint for my 10 year old son.  The other somewhat bigger boat is the Lady Florence on which you can have a tour and lunch. Something we will do on another visit.

This village is well worth a visit and from an outsiders point of view is a great example of ruralism in action.

Well known faces who live in the village (at weekends and holidays) include Nick Robinson (BBC Political Editor) who has been interviewed about his love for Orford see the EADT .

I was invited to look at the spectacular allotments that are being lovingly tended in Orford, the biggest site is at the foot of the Castle. I will write about these on my blog

For a summary of some of the businesses mentioned

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Log burning in Herefordshire

We brought some more logs in to feed our log-burner this afternoon. What with stories of oil being stolen from peoples’ outside stores due to rocketing prices we have to be grateful for the one saving grace of wood: it is both heavy and bulky to shift. Our house also lies at the end of a long-ish drive and is fairly discrete.
In a sense, though, what a selfish comment this is: Why should we be so chuffed that we have got enough land for a continual wood supply whilst others are vulnerable to what used to be known, back in the 1980s as ‘fuel poverty’? Both current and past governments have cemented many people to a gas supply which comes largely from Russia, and from a regime which they might say they had some disagreements with, ideologically. Yet there they are, these politically opposed (as it were) people, made vulnerable by successive UK governments, to any cut in supply from Russia. No-one who regards themselves as an independent political thinker can fuel themselves from Russia: they should all be using wood-burning stoves. But this is a difficult philosophy: I head tell of one person last year who spent £1000 simply on buying wood for his stove.
But this gas-dependency comes at a time when Britain should have been pushing ahead with rigorous standards of housing insulation, meaning that people wouldn’t necessarily have to commit large amounts of what used to be spending money simply to energy supply. We could look to Germany and the ‘Passivhaus’ standard they are implementing … But then, amidst morbid thoughts of social unrest I am suddenly interrupted by the marvellous sight of a bullfinch, bright blowsy pink, just outside the window, sitting atop a hawthorn sprouting from a hedge. “Victory”, I inwardly think: the land on which our house sits is a great combination of relatively neglected scrub and common, and there is the bullfinch, sitting there, symbolically, and in a way, rather like the songthrush which appears from time to time, the shouting statement of a rich natural environment. Well, what I mean to say is simply this: ‘a place wealthy in nature’. And we have continued the neglect wonderfully, powerfully, and with quite deliberate intent.

Copyright Gerald Dawe 2011:

Young wood

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