Fabulous farm shopping
Farm shops became the new black a few years ago. Now, they are a destination pastime.
Instead of schlepping off for some retail therapy in the mall, people can satisfy several needs in a local farm shop - shopping, local and seasonal produce, cutting down on waste and plastic, vegan ideas a-plenty, and a day-out experience.
Farm shops tick all of today's boxes. So when Cobbs Farm Shop in Englefield had a revamp H&D visited on the opening Saturday - and had we instead gone to London's Westfield I doubt we'd have been among more hordes.
And rightly so - Cobbs is a lovely example of a country farm shop. Rustic shelves groan with interesting fruit and veg you can pop in a brown paper bag, a cool counter with local, regional and international cheeses, made-in-house terrines and sausage rolls, a bakery and shelves rammed with pickles, condiments and booze.
Firstly we were heartened to see a gritty boxful of baby Jerusalem artichokes, a great variety of local potatoes and a superb line-up of local and Isle of Wight tomatoes. There was even a crate of turmeric root.
The bakery had a range of loaves and rolls as well as croissants, And there were old-fashioned sugar-coated doughnuts in many flavours.
No farm shop can do well without offering tastings - and so good was the smoked salmon and lemon roulade and pistachio and sun dried tomato-studded ham hock terrine samples we immediately ordered slabs of each from the deli counter.
Wines and beers ram the shelves near the door - we tasted a Berry Bros claret which was rich and delicious - and there's a florist for flowers and table arrangements.
Lamb crowns, fat duck breasts and squidgy sausages of all varieties graced the butchery counter and each proudly displays its heritage.
We didn't eat at the cafe as it was busy though the serving team were doing a good job sitting everyone with the minimum of wait.
As we waited to pay for our goodies, we spotted a box of confectionery that took us right back to childhood... Skippers liquorice pipes. And you wouldn't find those in Tesco. Which is why farm shops, and Cobbs, deserve their new-found status.