Our annual trip to Scaddows Farm in Derbyshire is truly a crown pleaser. For years and years (I’m talking when Eva was in a carrier whom is now a fully fledged almost 10 year old!) we have frequented this pick your own farm for strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries and blackcurrants. We even picked pumpkins last year, something we will definitely repeat if this weird world we live in in 2020 allows.
A slice of normality
This year it seemed to be one of the only activities we could participate in or felt comfortable (pandemic and all) and thus we visited almost every week throughout the season. Not only do we find it a fully enjoyable experience but the plus points include, delicious affordable fruit, home school educational chats about farming and supporting a local business. You can’t ask for more really can you?
I absolutely love the rustic charm and authenticity of Scaddows. It is a family owned business where the strawberries grow on the ground in fields upon fields, some so close together you have to squeeze through and expect to be covered in their red juices and prickles. With others so far apart you can sit and while away the day looking for the best ones as their sweet aroma washes over you. It feels natural and somewhat
So much has changed over the last few months. Many memories missed, plans halted, traditions lost into the abyss of lockdown, surrendered for the good of the world and coronavirus management. Which of course is necessary and replaced with lots of lovely at home memories, nevertheless for all of us, it was good to have a slice of the usual amoungst it all. The comfortingly familiar.
It was such a lovely day together and as ‘normal’ as life has felt in a long time. We even unexpectedly bumped into friends there which was the height of excitement for everyone! A sign of the times for sure.
The fruits of our labour
As with all things farming, I think the weather may have resulted in our loot being smaller this year. The strawberries were not all abundantly huge despite us being there for first pickings. Yet if you had some patience and time you could see them glistening in the light and dive in for ‘just one more’. An addictive activity for sure as you realise you are not at power to stop the urge to pop down and see if that glimpse hiding under a leaf is the best one yet. An instinctive behaviour I am sure as between me and the children it took 15 minutes to walk back to the pay station because we just can’t leave it alone.
They may have been smaller this year but perfectly formed as the saying goes and absolutely delicious and we did indeed find the odd whopper!
As we left the bustling hive of the strawberry fields and made our way to the lesser favoured gooseberry and blackberry bushes we had our pick of the lot. The gooseberries in particular were amazing and plentiful. I mean as long as you can avoid the prickles whilst hunting for the biggest ones that is. And yes we did have a little competition going on, each one assuringly bigger than the last and fellow pickers smiling at the unreserved shouts of joy in direct opposition to the setting we find ourselves in.
As is the case with children and their curiosity, or rule breaking whatever you like to call it, they wondered what gooseberries tasted like raw. ‘Wondering’ by way of hinting that is. Now none of my gentle parental encouragement (or reminders of the no eating fruit in the field rule) could stop them sneaking the round green fruit into their mouth and whilst the parent in me wanted to stop them…the parent in me also wanted to capture the moment and laugh along at the innocence of it all.
I guess the below photos show the actual moment they learnt that 1 – cooking gooseberries with an obscene amount of sugar and topping them with a delicious mixture of butter, flour and almonds is the only way to consume them and 2 – to trust me*. Gooseberry streusel here we come!
*that particular lesson is still in progress and I suspect is about to get alot worse before it gets better!
For the first time we also picked blackcurrants this year to make chia jam and add into our breakfast slice. The girls loved it and were surprisingly delicate with the tiny easily crushable purple berries, maybe because one pick bore many many fruit and the pot filled in record time. I actually had to tell them we probably had enough now rather than be overrun with jam for the foreseeable!
No sooner had we got into our stride than the clouds decided to bring it all to an end, filling to the point of bursting and we picked as the rain escaped from them in an unexpected and dramatic fashion. We picked, we stood, we let the rain soak us in one of those moments that you just let be and realise are the ones to remember. The ones that make you realise you are alive and all you can do is to embrace the manic laughter. We laughed, we marvelled at the changing sky and we very much looked forward to the hot drink awaiting us at home.
The first time we visited the raspberries weren’t quite ready, well some of them were and we just could not wait so spend a crazy amount of time looking for red ones! But when we returned our patience was certainly rewarded and visiting the same place could feel like a new adventure all over again. Perfection.
Scaddows are open every day 9.30-4.30 throughout the season with website and social media updates on what is ready (be sure to only pick the fruits that are advised, they know their stuff!) with a stocked farm shop, ice cream, their own wine and in normal times a little cafe and toilets too. There is a small gravel car park near the shop and lots of field parking for fruit picking, it can get muddy so be prepared with appropriate footwear!
This year of course they had all the necessary measures in place like contactless payment (usually it’s cash only in the field), one way barriers to the field and reminders of socially distancing as well as not allowing you to bring your own tubs. A shame from a sustainability point of view but keeping safe is still top priority of course.
Now just to find recipes to use the glut of fruit we overzealously picked for the activity rather than the result….if some of it makes it that far anyway with little hands delving into the cardboard baskets both in the back of the car and tentatively and repeatedly from the fridge. Which is not recommended by the way, we all know that strawberries are at their very best served at room temperature! Jams and the freezer are my friends here for sure.
Scaddows, we will see you again next year!
When Eva gets hold of the camera!