Have a local Christmas
by Jayne Howarth
Jayne Howarth goes in search of the ingredients to make the perfect, locally-sourced Christmas
You can’t help but notice that food aficionados have been talking about buying and using locally-sourced produce for some time now.
Try as we might to do that all year round, it can be difficult – especially when you shop regularly at a supermarket and are faced with vegetables from Peru and meat that has travelled half way round the world.
But why not set yourself a challenge to see if you can source your ingredients for the most anticipated meal of the year locally?
It’s not as difficult as it sounds.
From the wreath on our front doors to the mince pies for Santa – and, of course, the main event itself – the West Midlands, Warwickshire and the Cotswolds are simply awash with artisan producers, market gardeners and farmers who can provide us with everything we need.
And in these financially stretching times, it’s also good to help local businesses who are doing their best to use sustainable methods to grow quality food and to produce quality goods.
Before we even begin to write a shopping list, however, we need a tree – and there are plenty of options available to ensure that your real Norwegian Spruce hasn’t been transported hundreds of miles.
In Southam, Crocker’s Christmas Trees has hundreds of trees from three feet to ten feet high for sale at Holt Farm. The traditional Norway Spruce and the popular Nordman Fir, which better retains its needles, is grown at the eight acre site and customers are invited to wander around and choose the one that is ideal for their home.
On its busiest weekend – about mid December – Liz Crocker creates a real Christmas atmosphere by offering visitors mulled wine and mince pies, and drafts in some donkeys from a neighbouring farm.
There aren’t many of us who enjoy trawling around the supermarkets at this time of year – and nothing evokes the Christmas spirit less than witnessing unseemly scenes over the last wizened parsnips or carrots in the box on Christmas Eve.
The smart choice is the local option.
Hillers in Alcester has all you need to create a local Christmas lunch. Many of the fruit and vegetables are grown by neighbouring farmers, some of whom are exclusive suppliers. You can also expect the freshest produce, with much of it being picked and sold on the same day.
Also at Hillers is the renowned Ragley Estate Meats, which specialises in game. The traditional butcher supplies organic chicken and produces a range of fabulous sausages that promises to make the best stuffing – or the perfect pigs in blankets.
This is the one-stop shop where you can also stock up on local cheeses, honeyed ham, beef and pork and locally-made breads at its deli.
If you are closer to Wythall, then Beckett’s Farm is the place to head if you want to buy your Christmas lunch under one roof.
The Beckett family has been farming at the 950-acre farm for 74 years and now heads a successful enterprise, which includes a farm shop and restaurant.
For the festive season, you can get meat, including beef, pork and game from Shire Meats and turkey from Hollywood-based Caldecotts; seasonal vegetables from local growers and a range of award-winning cheese from Fowlers of Earlswood.
If you have room for dessert, you can’t go wrong with a homemade Christmas pudding from Beckett’s bakery. And if you leave a little room for later, a slice of delicious homemade Christmas cake or a meltingly delicious mince pie will be just what the doctor ordered – especially with a spoonful of Henley’s ice cream.
For a top of the range Bronze turkey or Cotswold White cockerels – which yield excellent breast meat - Tollgate Farm in Leamington Spa.
Annie’s Market Garden in Bidford-on-Avon launched in June this year and has already bagged a trio of prizes at the Evesham Pie and Ale festival this year, including Champion Pie maker.
But it’s not just pies that Annie excels at. She breeds Highland cattle, native, rare-breed pigs and sheep at her farm, which is delightfully name Clink Cottage, and this year for the first time, has turkeys for sale, too.
If you want a one-stop-shop Christmas hamper, then there are three sizes to choose from, all of which contain a variety of homemade goodies and meats.
How about a Christmas gift that keeps on growing?
Earlswood Plant Centre has a range of gorgeous gifts that make the ideal present for the person who has enough socks, toiletries and DVDs.
From traditional cyclamens to Japanese bonsai, Alan Standring has a wide variety of plants for garden lovers.
He also has a range of potted and cut Christmas trees that are grown in nearby Nuneaton, as well as mistletoe and holly direct from the Herefordshire markets. For a bespoke touch, Alan can also dress wreaths to your colour specification.
The Stalls Lifestyle showroom in the beautiful Alscot Country Estate, near Preston on Stour, has just about everything you need to get your home shipshape for Christmas.
From fresh cut Nordman Christmas trees and decorations of every hue, to Christmas tree stands, crackers, crockery, lights and globes, Stalls Lifestyle, located just off the A3400 about one mile from Preston, is a one-stop-shop for the festive season.
Described by owner Kathryn Hargrave as an “Aladdin’s Cave that is crammed full of everything”, Stalls Lifestyle is a 300 square metre converted barn that is a retail heaven for anyone who loves to source unusual items.
The eclectic and contemporary shop has been open for just over three years and has already built up a reputation among aficionados for its range of fabulous locally-made jewellery and furniture, such as high quality Windsor chairs or rocking chairs made to order from the timber sold at the Alscot Timber and Woodworking Ltd by an artisan.
It may be a little off the beaten track, but it is well worth discovering.
If you are looking for some unusual Christmas gifts for friends or loved ones, look no further. For Stalls Lifestyle has a range of great presents, including handbags, jewellery, scarves and gloves that you won’t find on the high street. You will also find a huge variety of cushions, kitchenware, ornaments, soaps, candles and much more
From a £5 pair of stylish earrings to bespoke furniture or landscaping products for your garden, the shop will not disappoint.
And after you have finished browsing, you can always enjoy a drink and a cake in the small café that overlooks the picturesque deer park.
If you can’t find it in the magical Nutcracker Christmas Shop in Stratford-upon-Avon, it’s not worth having for the festive season!
Owned by Robert Newman and his family, this shop situated in a Tudor building in Henley Street celebrates the wonder of Christmas all year round.
In this gorgeous little shop you’ll find a range of fabulous Christmas gift ideas, from German wooden nutcrackers from Steinbach and Ulbricht, and traditional carved smoking men to stunning wooden nativity figures.
Whether you love the Dickensian style Christmas ornaments or more modern decorations for your home, Robert will guarantee there will be the perfect bauble or table decoration to suit your style.
A truly global store, Robert has specially-commissioned pieces that you won’t find anywhere else on the high street and has sourced unusual Christmas items, including stockings, table decorations and hanging decorations from as far afield as Poland, Russia and Sweden.
There is nothing quite like it on the high street. In one shop you will find exceptional pieces from Dutch glassmakers Kaemingk, stunning ranges from world-class Big Decs Ltd, as well as baubles from Ornex – the world’s largest manufacturer of glass baubles – and seasonal decorations from Belgian giant Goodwill.
Closer to home, Heart of the Country Ltd supplies a range of Christmas-themed room fragrances. You’ll also find a plethora of lights, crackers and other essential goodies.
Who needs the supermarkets and online shops this Christmas? Let’s support our local producers and farmers, as well as our local artisans and stores – and help the environment, too.