As most of you are already aware, we here at Chilbolton Stores love a local food hero. We already stock many of your favourites from the farmers markets, meaning you can access local produce easily between market days: Greenfields pork and sausages, Lyburn cheese, River Test Smokery smoked fish, Taste cakes and marmalade and Lower Woodgate Farm eggs and meringues to mention just a few.
Now we would like to introduce you to Parsonage Farm beef and lamb!
Like us, Sarah and John are passionate about bringing you fantastic, quality products at a great price and a convenient venue. One customer recently remarked “it really is the same price as the supermarket, or less, and not their finest range either, the standard stuff”. So basically you are getting top of the range product for bottom of the range prices. How do we do this you say?
Well, we buy direct from the farm, they butcher their own products and deliver, so there are no middle men or distribution costs to pay. Add this to the fact that you only have to travel to the village shop to get it!
Quality, local, free-range produce, that is good value and convenient… where? Chilbolton Stores is where!
Whilst tramping round the common this evening with Blue, as the rain was thrashing down, the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes” came to mind. I turned up the collar on my re-waterpoofed jacket and Blue fluffed up his coat, trotting off ahead across the purleygig bridge, with his tail wafting, happily sniffing to see who’d been around.
There’s definitely been an autumnal feel to Chilbolton over the last week, with the leaves turning and the first frost. Unlike recent years, I don’t feel that we have been cheated out of summer, in fact today, I think, is the first really wet day we’ve had since July. I know I got very wet watching the dressage at the Olympics, where the forecast for light showers, was accurate…if you were in Dehli!! But since then its been pretty good, not too hot, not too cold, a traditional British summer.
Today though I could feel that winter wasn’t too far away and with the smell of wood smoke in my nostrils I stood and looked across the common. A scene I’ve seen every day, in all weather, for almost 6 years. Timeless, yet ever changing. The Egrets standing hunched at the river edge, some Gulls squabbling over some tit bit or fish and the cows standing eye-ing Blue and I suspiciously, with water gently dripping from their ears. They’re looking pretty good this year, with so much good grass to eat – I can see some lovely prime rib roasts and steaks to come…
It doesn’t matter what the weather is, as long as you’ve got the right clothes, its always good to be out. In fact on days like today, when no-one else is around, there’s nothing better than stomping round the common in my boots, a waterproof jacket with my hat pulled down low. Then when you get home and Jo says, I thought I’d make fish pie, a good bit of warming comfort food; it just doesn’t get any better.
Roll on winter, with your hard frosts, early morning mist, crunchy leaves and snow. I’ll counter that with warm jackets, gloves, scarves, log fires, hot chocolate and steaming plates of warming comfort food. I’m ready for you.
Sunday night normally sees Jo and I relaxing in front of the TV after our afternoon off, but last Sunday was slightly different… Tree Running at Night!
TreeRunners is the newest venture to arrive in Chilbolton and Wherwell and for those of you who have been to a Go Ape site and enjoyed leaping from tree to tree using a variety of wires, ropes and logs, you’ll know what a great day out this is.
TreeRunners have upped the excitement level and Ben, who was the inspiration behind TreeRunners should have known better when he asked Jo if she knew anyone who would volunteer to attempt the course at night!
Its very dark when you’re half way up a tree at night with TreeRunners
Well of course that was it and Sunday night saw Jo, David join fellow volunteers, or should that read nutters, at the White Lion. Kimberley, who many will know from the Priory where she is more used to riding than swinging through the trees, was a little surprised to find out that her quiet Sunday drink with friends was becoming a little more active… but she grabbed her trainers and off we went (she may forgive Emma given time and space 😉 ).
By now its dark and I’m talking seriously dark, so whilst Emma told us about the witches and various other forest dwellers, we arrived in the middle of Harewood Forest.
Trooping out of our cars we were all extremely confident or was it simply nervous bravado, Andy and Ben quickly set us up with harnesses and head torches. A quick instruction on the practice course, where Kimberley demonstrated her instructors methods. Left, no left hand, no that’s your right hand, the other left….! We were already to climb up onto the Green Course.
Fantastic, amazing, scream if you want to go faster cool – TreeRunning is awesome. Relatively simple hirewires (yes I said simple), turned into wobbling logs, a climbing wall (!!!!) and then the rope swing. Fun in the day, but an inspired leap into the unknown in the dark, before weaving in an out of hoops. You don’t realise how high you are, until you get to the next platform. Then you see a pin pick of light below and Ben yells ‘Wave to the camera…’.
Following Jo, as she climbs out into the darkeness, we end up at the Zip Line. All I can say is WOW(very loudly) as I streaked through the blackness. Then the landing area rapidly looms into the small pool of light from my head torch and you’ve arrived! The final landing stage is a leap of faith, as you clip onto the descender and jump into the dark…Some of us landing more gracefully than others, Ed ;-).
As we all gathered back at the lodge and enjoyed our well needed glass of wine, we were like a bunch of kids at a birthday party, chattering away about how cool it was and what a fantastic experience we just had and when could we go back. All oblivious to the fact that its almost midnight.
Last November was the 5 year anniversary of David and I walking through the doors of Chilbolton Stores as the new owners. Enthusiastic and maybe just a little naive, at 33 I don’t think I was what most people expected of a shopkeeper but as I said at the time… I may not have retail experience but I am really good at shopping!
In hindsight the first couple of years were fairly straight forward, although it didn’t seem like it at the time. We had to cope with road closures, broken fridges, replacement tills, making our home watertight (a new thatch doesn’t come cheap) but the economy was buoyant and people were keen to support us. Introducing new ranges was relatively easy and caught on quickly.
Move forward to 2009 and things were a little different, the credit crunch had started to take hold and even in Chilbolton people were starting to feel the pinch. We had to work just that little bit harder, cutting costs where we could and really trying to differentiate ourselves. Customers would no longer buy things from us just because it was convenient, we had to give them things they couldn’t get elsewhere and then most crucially “tell them about it”.
The website and Facebook page were really born from a need to keep people informed about the refurbishment program at the beginning of 2010. With a grant from Hampshire County Council and SEEDA we were planning the most extensive works to the shop for many decades. There would be disruption and we needed to keep our villagers informed.
At the end of the work, I think everyone agreed it was worth the small amount of pain. The new layout is fresh and bright and makes running the shop much easier and more efficient.
We continued with the social media as it was popular and growing all the time, a competition to photograph your Chilbolton Stores Bag to win a Kindle was a highlight and it is the perfect place to tell people of new products and our regular wine tasting events. The website too has been popular, bringing in orders from further a field and many extra customers for our local free-range turkeys at Christmas… not just from the village but from around Hampshire.
So the last six months have been some of the best, the business is growing and we are ”leaner and fitter” from a period of austerity. I for one look back over the last five years fondly, I have always believed that you get out of something what you put in and that nothing really worth having comes easily. We have had many, many good times and made lifelong friends in Chilbolton and I don’t regret a moment. Here’s to 5 years and counting…
There seems to be glut of plums in Chilbolton this year, so if you’re not sure what to do with them all, try this quick recipe using local Chilbolton Honey.
3 tablespoons of honey
450g (1 lb) Victoria plums
100g (4 oz) plain wholemeal flour
50g (2 oz) margarine or butter
50g (2 oz) light soft brown sugar
50g (2 oz) white granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (around Gas mark 6).
Dissolve the white granulated sugar into boiling water in a saucepan.
Wash the Victoria plums before cutting each plum into half, removing the stone and adding to the sugar liquid in the saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer. Remove from the heat when the plums are softened and start to lose their shape.
Grate the rind from one of the oranges and keep this zest for adding to the recipe later.
Juice two oranges, add this fresh orange juice to the plums and stir.
Peel the third orange, remove pith and divide into segments. Add the segments to the saucepan and stir.
Add the honey, stir well and then pour the saucepan contents into a 1 ½ pint ovenproof pie dish. Four Pyrex or stoneware ramekins could be used for cooking individual fruit crumbles.
In a separate bowl, add the wholemeal flour and the margarine, or butter if preferred for taste.
Rub flour and margarine together.
Add the grated orange rind (the orange zest) and the light soft brown sugar into the bowl. Stir the ingredients together well to complete the crumble mix.
Spoon the crumble mix over the top of the Victoria plums with orange to cover it completely to the sides of the pie dish.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top looks golden and is crispy to touch.
Well its almost December, the lights went up on the shop this week and David went off to collect the Christmas Trees on Friday. This cold weather has certainly made us feel Christmassy and its been great to see so many friends walking around the village over the weekend. There just seems to be a real feel good atmosphere in the village at the moment.
One thing which has been very clear is that our new supplier of Hampshire Free Range Turkeys is a hit with two thirds of our turkey orders so far being for the Hampshire Free Range Bronze Turkey. Jo and I are both really pleased and I’m looking forward to picking them all up on the 23rd December and then racing round Chilbolton, Wherwell and the surrounding villages.
We’re also pleased to say that although our Hampshire Free Range Turkeys, may have all the love and attention you would expect of a farm that does’t intensively rear turkeys, they will not break the bank, as we purchase them direct from Noah’s Ark Farm and not a butcher or intermediary, which not only reduces the cost, but also the food miles, as the Turkeys do not leave the farm until I collect them on Thursday 23rd December.
Compare these prices: Chilbolton Stores £8.75 per Kg
Marks & Spencers £8.99 per Kg (collect only)
Waitrose £9.39 per Kg (collect only)
Copa £11.40 per Kg (ordered on online and delivered based on a 5kg bird)
This reflects our passion for not only making local food taste better, but also, where we can cost less, not just in money, but also on food miles and impact on the environment. All our suppliers are chosen because they share our passion for local food.
If you want to find our more about our Hampshire Free Range Turkeys, just check the information displayed in our window, alternatively visit the Chilbolton Stores website www.chilboltonstores.co.uk
What could be better on a damp November morning than popping in to the Chilbolton Village Shop for a gossip with friends? Well Eileen and Victoria didn’t need to think twice about it and that’s one of the reasons we took over the village shop in Chilbolton. We all love to catch up with friends and the shop is great place to do it, especially when its grey and drizzling outside. A cup of hot freshly made cappuccino, a freshly made doughnut and you can wile away the hours quite happily with friends.
At the end of the day the village shop isn’t just about buying your milk, bread and getting your morning papers, its about meeting friends and finding out what’s been happening in the village or with friends and family. Word has been getting out about our bean to cup coffee machine and the fantastic cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolates and espressos we now serve; the table and chairs make it easy to sit and watch the world come and go, so feel free to do exactly that.
Come down and have a chat, everyone is welcome and no-one’s a stranger, especially if you’ve got some gossip…
After days of rain the skies have cleared and the sun has come out in Chilbolton. Those of our customers who questioned our madness in putting out the charcoal this morning, are now seeing a beautifully sunny weekend ahead. Here’s looking forward to a wonderful weekend