The Derbyshire Oatcake seems to be a rather well kept secret of the culinary world! Whilst most people have heard of the Bakewell Pudding (definitely not tart, unless you are Mr Kipling!) the humble oatcake is less well known.
Derbyshire oatcakes have been around since the 17th Century. As their name suggests they are made from oats which grew well in the harsh Pennine landscape and were a cheap source of food for working people. They are best described as a cross between a crumpet and a pancake – round, soft, and thicker than their more famous Staffordshire counterparts.
One of the most popular ways to eat them is to have them fried – we like to fry them in the bacon fat when cooking a farmer’s breakfast. They also make a really tasty lunch, topped with grated cheese, grilled and then rolled. You could even say they were the original wrap!
Still made locally to a traditional recipe they are available in most butchers, bakers, and village shops throughout the Peak District. So, when you are cooking your full English breakfast whilst staying in Littonfields Barn, don’t forget to include some Derbyshire Oatcake!
We have been having our very own Winterwatch this week at Littonfields Barn. On the daily walk through the fields we have been on the lookout for one of our favourite animals – the wonderful Derbyshire Brown Hare.
They have a very distinctive appearance with their lean athletic physique, tall black tipped ears and narrow solemn face. Their long powerful back legs give them a fantastic turn of speed, reputedly up to 45 mph. They need all these attributes along with their acute senses to evade predators and survive their harsh life in the Derbyshire Peak District.
Brown hares live a very exposed existence, as unlike rabbits, they don’t have the luxury accommodation of a safe cosy burrow, but instead make their home out in the elements in a small depression in the ground amongst the grass – which is known as a form. They spend most of the day on the form “hunkered down” very close to the ground with their ears flat along their backs. I have often walked right past one without seeing it camouflaged in the grass, until at the very last minute when they break cover and take flight across the field, usually with Barney the terrier in hot pursuit.
If you take a walk through Cressbook Dale during the breeding season, you may well see the hares behaving ‘Mad as a March Hare’ with males fighting over the female, and ‘boxing hares’ as the females trying to keep the over-amorous males in check!
At this time of year when there is frost or even snow on the ground, I often think of the hares, with little shelter from the elements, much of their food covered by snow and hungry foxes on the prowl. I am sure the hares, like us, are looking forward to the warmer weather when spring breaks through and summer is just around the corner.
Silent Witness from Helen Clark Artist – helenclarkart.com – a lovely collaboration between a photographer and an artist who share the same passion for wildlife, animals and the natural world. They’ve combined their talents, ‘Muddy Wellies and the Artist’ to create affordable artworks and gifts with a Derbyshire, and further afield, feel.
Come and enjoy the delights of a wander in Cressbrook Dale and the Derbyshire Brown hare with a stay in the holiday barn, view our Availability.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a prolific list maker – a holiday cottage will do that to you! I love making lists, shopping lists, to do lists, you name it I will make a list. But one of my very favourite lists is the one I have just written and its ‘The Lambing List’.
The Lambing List is a list of all the due dates of our expectant ewes, detailing their name – yes they do all have names and they all do look different to the trained eye of the farmer, which date they are due to lamb, and probably most important of all how many lambs they are expecting.
Each year in December the sheep scanner visits to scan each of the sheep, to see how many lambs she is carrying. It’s very similar to the scan which a human would have in pregnancy, but instead of the excited father present, there is an excited farmer instead!
Sheep will usually have anything from one to three lambs, with the occasional set of quads. The ideal number is two, as the sheep only has two teats so if there are three, then one lamb always gets pushed out, and it usually the smallest one. As one old farmer once explained it “the table is only set for two!”
When a sheep gives birth to triplets, we try to foster one of the lambs onto another ewe who only has one lamb, as she will usually have spare milk and it gives the lamb a much better chance of thriving. Not all sheep are happy about this arrangement but we can usually win them around in the end!
So, getting back to my list, this is laminated or should I say lambinated (sorry) and hung in the lambing shed ready for the action to begin. The information is also important when caring for the sheep prior to lambing as the ones expecting triplets will next extra feed and TLC, whilst the ones carrying just a single need to be give less food. This it to prevent the single lamb growing too large, which can lead to difficulties when giving birth and in extreme cases we require the vet to perform a caesarean.
So with just a few more weeks to wait for lambing to begin, the shed is cleared out, the pens are washed, the Lambing List is ready to go – I can’t wait!
We have a weekend or two of Availability in the holiday barn if you’d like to come and meet the lambs and young animals, and explore springtime Derbyshire.
No visit to the Peak District would be complete without a trip to Bakewell to enjoy the delights of this beautiful, old market town – and of course sample the famous Bakewell Pudding at its birthplace!
Set in the very heart of the Peak District and right by the river Wye, Bakewell is known far and wide for it’s weekly Monday markets of both foodstuffs and livestock – perfect for the thriving community of farmers like us! Despite being a town of vast historical value, Bakewell has something to suit people from every walk of life, with its selection of shopping arcades, restaurants and coffee shops; along with the recently revamped town centre.
The Bakewell Bridge is another iconic sight for everyone to enjoy – originally built in the 1300s, surviving the medieval character of Bakewell up until the 19th century – and since widened to make a simply stunning historical landmark above the river, home to an abundance of nature – including ducks and geese.
A huge part of any village life is tradition – and it’s no different in the village of Litton! Every year, on the third week of June, there is an event known as the blessing of the well – at which locals and anyone wanting a day out, gather to sing hymns and view the beautifully crafted well dressings displayed outside the village church and primary school, accompanied by the local brass band.
Well dressings, simply put, are huge boards of clay that have natural resources such as petals and herbs pressed onto them, creating a beautiful picture, often with local or traditional meaning. The origins of these wells is something largely unknown, but historians believe they were originally used by Christians as a way of thanking God for the gift of fresh water; and for sparing them from the plague, which famously devastated the nearby village of Eyam in the 17th century – a great, historical place to visit!
One of the two dressings created in Litton is annually put together by the children at the local primary school, and at the blessing of the well ceremony, another part of the celebrations is the children of the school performing maypole dancing in traditional Victorian caps and aprons – very in fitting with the historical value of the wells! The afternoon is wrapped up with the opening of a café in the primary school, providing freshly baked cakes and scones along with teas and coffees. What better way to spend a summer’s afternoon in the Peak District?
Eroica Britannia, 3 day summertime, style and cycling festival returns to Bakewell later this month for it’s second year. Known as “The Most Handsome Festival in the World” and celebrating the very best of Great British, you really don’t have to be a cycling enthusiast to enjoy it.
There will be 3 days of family fun in Bakewell with live music, entertainment, vintage sales, street food trucks, spectacular drinking experiences and even a vintage style family Sports Day.
The highlight of the weekend is the spectacular Eroica Britannia’s famous pre-1987 bike ride on Sunday 21st June – ridden by 3000 adventurers in glorious vintage fashions. The riders will be taking part on pre-1987 bikes as they travel through the glorious landscapes and villages of The Peak District.
Tickets are £10 for a 3 day weekend pass. Advance purchase only. Kids under 12 go free.
For More details please check out the website: http://eroicabritannia.co.uk/
After quite a few sleepless nights and some tense moments, most of our sheep have now given birth to their lambs, and we are catching up on our sleep.
Many of our lambs are born as singles, or twins, however we do get a few sets of triplets, which isn’t ideal. Sheep only have two teats, so when there are three lambs one always gets pushed out and it’s usually the smallest one. We like to foster such lambs onto a sheep that has either lost her lambs or has just had one and so has milk to spare. Our sheep are great mothers but are rather particular and will usually only let their own lambs suckle which can make fostering difficult. We have to have a few tricks up our sleeves to convince the sheep to take on the new lamb!
A sunny afternoon is the ideal chance to let them all out into the field for some fresh grass and chance for the lambs to run around as only lambs can. They form little gangs to have races up and down the field, much to the consternation of their mothers who are very protective and like to keep them close by.
Watching the lambs racing about in the sunshine makes you feel that spring may just be around the corner, or at least we hope so!
As we start the new year and the days are just beginning to lengthen, thoughts on the farm turn to new beginnings and in our case lambing time. The pregnant ewes are starting to look heavy with lambs although they are quite happy out in the fields all winter. In fact they don’t like being inside if they can help it and their amazing thick fleeces keep them nice and warm.
We do have to keep an eye on the weather though, because if it snows they can get buried in deeps drifts when they lie in the shelter of the field walls. If the forecast is bad we bring them close to home and give them extra hay to eat whilst the grass is covered over. There was a beautiful red sky this morning, which our shepherd wasn’t very happy about, but hopefully it’s just going to be wet and windy this time.
Lambing is due to start on Valentine’s day. It really isn’t my idea of a romantic night out: soft lighting in the lambing shed, helping to lamb a sheep, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
The Tour de France may have come and gone, but we are delighted to say that cycling is here to stay in the Peak District!
The Peak District already has fantastic cycling routes on miles of traffic free trails and quiet country lanes. There really is no better way to take in the wonderful views, pretty villages, local history and great wildlife on offer.
There is an excellent choice of cycle hire at locations throughout the Peak District, including the Upper Derwent Valley, and the Monsal, High Peak and Tissington Trails. All abilities and ages are catered for, with electric bikes, wheelchair cycles and buggies, so no one gets left behind!
Just this week, Derbyshire County Council have announced that planning applications have been submitted to extend the Monsal Trail from Bakewell through to Matlock. This is part of “Pedal Peak ll” an exciting £7.5m project to create four new routes for cyclists and walkers through the Peak District National Park.
We can’t wait to get on our bikes!!