At a recent wine tasting evening hosted by Oxford Chelt Wine School, we met Dordie, the owner of Middletown Farm in Newent. She extended us an invitation to come and visit the farm and shop, with a promise that we’d cuddle a sheep and get bitten on the bottom by a goose (well… we had consumed a lot of fizz by this point). How could we refuse?
Dordie and her husband Graham rear geese and sheep on the farm and grow organic apples (some rare varieties) and other fruits and veg in their allotment. They have been opening their on-site farm shop on the last weekend of the month since July.
As we arrived, Pomme their handsome Sheepdog gave us a friendly welcome, and proceeded to proudly show us some of his toys while we walked over to the shop.
Within the shop, Dordie and Graham showed us their own produce. The star of the shop is their incredible lamb, but there’s so much more to browse through. The selection of other items produced by local suppliers included preserves from Innocent Pilgrim, handmade cards from Flaxen Hare, jewellery, mugs for dog lovers, knitted hats and lots more quirky items including bamboo toilet roll (more eco-friendly than regular) which we were rather intriged to try.
You’ll find it in the chiller cabinet in many forms (burgers, legs, steaks and even chops without the bone). Even in the packs you can feel how tender the meat is and you need to see for yourself the deep red colour! Another customer in the shop at the time commented that Waitrose-own finest lamb has nothing on Middletown’s cuts.
Here lies an interesting twist… it’s not technically ‘lamb’. Dordie and Graham believe in organic and ethical farming, which you’ll see is threaded throughout this blog; and they want their sheep to have more of a life before they end up on the table. They don’t send their sheep to the abattoir until around 18 months, which means each lamb gets to have at least a year and a half with plenty of food and land to roam… and having met them all, we knew they couldn’t be happier!
We arrived just in time to see the geese released into the field, having been kept safely away from foxes overnight. They hustle out of the barn with much fanfare and start pecking at the windfall apples and splashing around in their paddling pools. Dordie knows the geese so well she talked us through all the characters among the flock and accurately predicted their every move.
On the farm they have three sizeable fields for the sheep with trees for shelter and plentiful thick green grass. The first field is home to local celebrity ‘Drago’ whose elegant glare and imposing horns are the subject of a special painting within the shop. Every single sheep bleated with glee as Dordie came over with breakfast for them.
The pen nearest the house is especially for Benji, Belle and Adam – the farm’s personal pets, and the tamest of the herd as Dordie reared and bottle-fed them from a very young age. Once their morning meal was consumed, they bounded over for fuss and cuddles.
From the shop we bought a leg, two burgers and some steaks which we’re storing in the freezer for a special occasion, but we’re dying to try them! When we do decide to cook the lamb we’ll serve it with our bottle of Middletown Farm’s vintage apple juice that’s already four years old. We’ve been reliably informed it’ll last another four and still taste wonderful!
You can read about mutton (sometimes called hoggett) in this piece by Neil Rankin from Temper, London: https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/foodanddrink/5-reasons-why-we-should-all-be-eating-more-mutton-a3384996.html