Wellington may have missed out – for a second time – on a portion of the £1.5m “Portas Pilot” cash aimed at rejuvenating town centres around the country but, despite the disappointment, traders in the town and in its close vicinity are doing a great deal to promote fine local food.
Food grown or produced and sold locally takes advantage of nearby agricultural land, keeps down the cost of delivery, reduces its ‘carbon footprint’ and provides jobs for the local workforce. Less intensive farming and production methods are kinder to the land and enhance the quality of the product. And, of course, perishables – fruit, vegetables and dairy produce – are fresh, having travelled few ‘food miles’.
At the very centre of the town The Cheese and Wine Shop in South Street prides itself on championing local produce. Its Stawley Goats’ Cheese is made at Hill Farm, a 20 acre smallholding, once part of Cothay Manor. It is made by Caroline and Will Atkinson who have been producing cheese from their herd of 100 goats since 2009. Family-run Runnington Fruit Farm, just beyond Tonedale, supplies the shop’s strawberries and raspberries and its free-range eggs come from Higher Buckland Farm, 1000 feet above sea level on the Blackdown Hills, where the hens enjoy space and unlimited fresh air.
The shop also stocks award-winning beers made at Quantock Brewery on the Chelston Business Park. The brewery has been making real ales since 2007 and uses locally sourced raw materials wherever possible. Its beers do not contain chemicals or sugar (both used in commercial breweries to reduce costs) to enhance both ‘flavour and character’. You’ll also find Bollhayes bottle-fermented Total Eclipse cider on the shelves. Bollhayes Park at Clayhidon produces just a couple of thousand bottles each year, all from its own orchards. The Cheese and Wine Shop also bakes its own bread.
Somerset’s fame as the home of fine ciders comes from, amongst others further afield, those made by Sheppy’s at Three Bridges Farm along the Wellington Road. Three generations of the same family have farmed the 370 acres since 1917 and all that experience goes into its extensive range of bottled and draught ciders and apple juices which come from its own orchards. The farm shop also sells Longhorn beef from its own herd.
The Rumwell Farm Shop a little further along the Wellington Road stocks an impressive range of preserves, marmalades, jams and chutneys, those in its green labelled ‘Rumwell Kitchen’ range produced on site. Its butchery sells beef from the farm’s own herd and free-range, slow-reared pork from Orchard Farm, Hillcommon. Apple juice comes from the orchards behind the shop and its main crop potatoes are grown at the farm.
Opened only recently but already hugely popular, Ready Bready Dough in Lancer Court sells bread and buns baked daily on the premises by artisan breadmaker Stefan Warwick. His loaves and baps do not need ‘use by’ or ‘sell by’ dates as they are all baked fresh each day.
Butcher Tim Potter displays a commitment to local suppliers on a shop frontage that reads ‘Locally reared meat direct from local farms’. At Tim Potter, Son and Daughter in the High Street you’ll find Wessex pork from Tremlett Farm, Greenham. Pigs bred and reared there graze on paddocks with wallows and shelter all year round. Beef comes from Leigh Farm, Langford Budville, free-range chicken from Dibbles Poultry and free-range eggs from Colin Howe at Greenham.
From the evidence of this brief look around the town it is clear that Wellington can already claim to be a ‘food quarter’ in itself. A revamped Cornhill would undoubtedly add to its charm but food shoppers are already well-provided for by local shops that work with local suppliers to deliver good fresh produce – all within five miles.