Each year, Simon and I celebrate each other’s birthdays in the best way we know how – with food.
For the last few years we’ve taken each other to a special restaurant. It’s always a surprise, and part of the fun is keeping it that way for absolutely as long as possible.
Last December, for Simon’s birthday, I took us to the amazing River Cottage – which is a whole post in itself really. It was such a treat! As the car journey from Oxford got longer, and we began to turn down smaller, windier roads, Simon got more and more intrigued about where we could possibly be going, and I started to fizz with the glee of keeping such a good secret. We arrived at the place we were staying, Trill Farm, which borders River Cottage’s land, and it was only when we walked into our beautiful bedroom, and he spied a River Cottage recipe book on the dresser that he turned to me with wide eyes and a look of pure joy on his face as the penny dropped.
We had a brilliant time at River Cottage, but Trill Farm is also somewhere that sticks in the memory. A rambling, organic farm, tucked away in the Devon countryside, it’s run in a unique fashion. Managed by the Trill Trust, a conglomerate of small businesses operate out of its converted farm buildings, so that as well as the arable and beef farming (both run seperately), there’s a carpentry workshop, soap-making, a herb-growing business, vegetables and The Old Dairy Kitchen – run by Chris Onions, who caters for all Trill’s events, as well as hosting his own lunches, monthly dinner series and a brilliant sounding supper and conversations evening.
If you’re looking for a place to stay near River Cottage, or just because it’s a beautiful area, and a wonderful, peaceful place to spend a weekend (or week!), I’d really recommend Trill Farm. With their B&B, they go for a comfortable eco approach. An ecologically renovated stable block, the guest area is light and quiet, with a large communal lounge and kitchen area, and spacious rooms – with the most comfortable beds. You can feel pretty smug about your choice too – the linen and towels are organic, all the toiletries are handmade onsite, using organic herbs and botanicals, the water is solar heated, there’s ground-source underfloor heating and larch cladding to keep the heat from the cosy logburner in. Our room was airy, with that quiet, comfortably contented feel that old farm buildings often have (is it just me?) , full of calm, natural colours, and quirky bits of furniture.
Suffice to say, we were smitten. And I’ve been perusing the many courses that Trill run – including foraging, natural cooking, carpentry and yoga with the hope of going back at some point at points throughout the year. It’s been a busy one and we haven’t managed yet, but one way you get a bit of Trill Farm delivered to your door is by ordering their wonderful seasonal boxes.
One for each season, their Autumn box caught my eye and I ordered it as a post-honeymoon, cheer-up, oh-god-I-can’t-believe-we-have-to-go-to-work present for ourselves.
Unwrapping each package (nestled among brilliant eco packaging made up of hay stuffed into biodegradable plastic packs) was like Christmas – as we cooed and laid each of our new treasures out on our table.
Tea, preserves, balm, soap, body wash, and most excitingly of all, Daphne Lambert’s beautiful book, Fermenting: Recipes and Preparation, along with a handmade, ceramic fermentation pot, wooden saurkraut pounder and…a weighty Trill farm cabbage! Daphne Lambert runs seasonal nutrition courses at Trill, and I’ve been dying to go on them, so really, this is the next best thing.
The box is a beautiful thing. If you’re longing for a bit of homemade Devonian goodness in your life, get your order in for their Winter one. Unwrapping the packages, each one homemade with care, love and natural ingredients is a lovely experience. And for us, the memory of our lovely stay at a special place only added to the joy.