When Tots100 announced they were running a Blog Camp close to home at River Cottage I knew I had to apply to go, but not being a “Foodie” blogger I didn’t think there was much chance of being picked. You can imagine how excited I was when that email to say I was on the list came in and I hurriedly marked it on the calendar to make sure hubby got the day off work.
On the morning of the event I set off on the hour and a half drive through the beautiful Dorset countryside. I don’t think I have ever driven that way so early and the skies were clear meaning the views were quite simply spectacular. I almost stopped to take photos, but River Cottage was waiting for me.
My satnav took me down a quiet country lane and proudly announced “You have arrived at your destination” – it has a tendency to do this and then I have to drive a few hundred yards up the road to actually find it. On this occasion I couldn’t see any sign of River Cottage so I turned round in a farm and headed back the way I came. I started getting worried as I couldn’t find it when I spotted a small sign in the hedgerow. I was here!!
I pulled in and parked my car and headed over to the bloggers who had already arrived and we mingled and chatted before a bright blue tractor appeared to take us down to the farm. It was a rather bumpy 5 minute journey down hill but it broke the ice and there were genuine gasps when we saw our venue for the day.
With fires burning as we arrived we headed into a Yurt for instructions for the day. The bloggers were split into three groups, with three different sessions to attend during the day, but first it was time for breakfast.
The food did not disappoint and we were treated to a mini omelette with fermented salsa and spring onions and mini chocolate croissants washed down with a cup of tea or coffee, whilst we all had time for a catch-up.
I was in the green team and our first session was exploring the River Cottage Farm and Kitchen Garden with Jim Budden, the assistant gardener. What he didn’t know about plants could be written on a pinhead – he was extraordinarily knowledgeable about every aspect of the farm and passionate about the organic produce that they grow. The main kitchen garden is split into four main beds which are rotated every year to balance the soil and reduce the pests – Brassica’s, Legumes, Roots and Onions and Miscellaneous. They also add edible flowers and mulberry not only for a bit of colour, but it stops the pests getting to the vegetables.
The River Cottage Farm is set in 100 acres of rolling Devon countryside and the views are beautiful. They keep livestock in the form of chickens, pigs and cows and after befriending some pigs were we sad to know they were heading off to slaughter that afternoon, but not before Jim gave them their last juicy apple treat.
We also got to explore the poly tunnels which were full of unusual salads, herbs, beans and peppers.
Our tour complete it was then time to head back to the main building and learn to bake Soda Bread and make our own butter. We started by heading back outside to pick some blackberries before Gill Mellar showed us the ropes and set us off on our challenge. I am very grateful to have been sharing a workstation with Jenny from MummyMishaps, Kelly from Domestic Goddesque and Jo from Jo’s Kitchen who put me at ease and helped when I had a question.
Baking complete, it was time for lunch. There was a seating plan to stick to which got us chatting to bloggers we had not met before and I was sat with Lindy from Tots100 and SquidgyBoo and Candace from Usthreebythesea. We then heard from Gelf Alderson, the Head Chef at River Cottage who told us all about our lunch that they had been preparing all morning.
Our lunch consisted of two courses – the first was slices of beef in a ravioli casing, served on a bed of seasonal ratatouille and accompanied by pesto sauce and separately we had some freshly baked bread and some wonderfully seasoned sweetcorn. It was delicious but the best was yet to come for dessert. Fennel meringue with coffee bean and vanilla ice cream, salted caramel and damsons which added a little sharpness to the dish. To wash it all down we had water infused with lemon verbena.
Lunch over, our final session was photography styling with Lucy Heath from Captured by Lucy, who is a photographer I really admire. I have to admit that I am not really a lifestyle or food blogger and photographing food isn’t something I do, but I still picked up some fabulous tips to help improve my photography and have come away keen to improve my pictures and with some fab apps to try.
We were so busy chatting after she had finished her session that I missed the coffee and petit fours that had been served in the main dining hall, but I did arrive after and finished off the day speaking to some of my favourite bloggers including Annie from Mammasaurus, Victoria from Vevious, Erica from 92three30 and Chris from ThinlySpread.