In spite of the tinsel and holly wreaths going up in parts of Croydon in mid-August, here at Inside Croydon Towers, being arch-traditionalists, we tend not to even start to think about festive season preparations until Bonfire Night and Remembrance Sunday have been and gone.
And one of the first things we will be doing this year is trundling along to Shabden Park Farm at Chipstead to place our orders for turkey, or goose, or whatever…
Our regular reader, who duly followed Walker Dunelm’s guided tour of the Chipstead Valley earlier this year (click here for all of our walking expert’s rambles) will already be familiar with Shabden Park Farm, having strolled around it in the summer, and seen the free-range geese, turkeys, pigs, lamb and cattle grazing the chalk downlands.
A week does not go past when some celebrity television chef – from Delia to Gordon effing Ramsey – is not imploring everyone to take greater care over the sourcing of their food. Going direct to source is key to that, and unless or until you manage to get access to an allotment for your own veg and maybe a few chickens, driving a couple of miles outside Croydon to one of the several local farms that have their own shops is the answer.
Shabden Park Farm is not alone: there is another, recommended, farm shop just off the Woodmansterne Lane, near Oaks Park (another stepping out point for one of our walks), just south of Purley, where we have bought outstanding, locally sourced produce.
At Shabden Park, we have bought some excellent beef and lamb, and outstanding pork sausages (though we’d suggest you give the lamb and mint sausages a miss), so we aim to go there to talk turkey very soon.
They are hosting a farmers’ market on Saturday November 26 (they hold a producer-only farmers’ market there every fourth Saturday throughout the year).
The concern, entirely justified in this day and age, is that farmers’ markets and shops tend to be pricier than Tesco or Sainsbury’s. Which is true. You get what you pay for, and we have found that for a tenner’s worth of joint and veg, we comfortably feed a family of four an outstanding Sunday lunch, and even have some meat left over for the following day.
When we asked the chatty and helpful butcher in the shop about his prices, he explained, “Sure, we’re not as cheap as what you might buy in Tesco. But we are not as expensive as, say, what you might pay at Waitrose.
“What we try to do here with joints of meat is offer what the customer wants, provide advice and supply some of the cheaper cuts which the big supermarkets often do not offer, and we tend to allow for slightly bigger cuts, too.”
Shabden Park is an “assured farm”. They say, “We only sell our own meat and we sell it through our on-farm Back to Nature Farm Shop to our local area, ensuring that our produce travels as few ‘food miles’ as possible, so you can be sure of where your food comes from and how it has been produced.
“The name ‘Back to Nature’ comes from the efforts we have made to return our surrounding countryside to downland pasture, from intensive arable, and from our farming ethos, which is that the environment around us not only benefits from the way we farm, but thrives on it. “
The farm shop’s recommendation is for customers to order their Christmas free-range bird or joint before the end of November to avoid disappointment. Rib of beef, topside, lamb, and other joints are also available, and they sell stuffing, chipolatas. sauces, chutneys and locally handmade Christmas pudding. They also offer some ultra-fresh local veg, too.
For more details on Shabden Park Farm, phone 01737 552744, email email@example.com, or visit their website, www.shabdenparkfarm.co.uk. The shop is open 9.30am-4pm (6pm on Thu, Fri and Sat), but is closed every Monday. And when you’re there, make sure you take the opportunity to stroll down the lane and follow the walk way marks.