Each generation makes the landscape its own. We are all of us simply temporary managers of the places we inherit or buy – It’s all ephemeral.
For years now, farmers have been having a hard time. Victims of supermarket price wars and government legislation they’ve been forced to adapt and diversify in the way that few other industries have. So vitally important and yet so easily overlooked and taken for granted.
Eric and Amanda Dowson are third generation Ribble Valley dairy farmers who tend a couple of hundred acres a few miles north of Blackburn. I did my apprenticeship there in the late seventies and continued to work there periodically over twenty-five years. At one time their pedigree herd supplied most of east Lancashire with milk and cream, but these days it goes in to making their award winning ice cream. Even the cows love it, and while I don’t really have a sweet tooth and am obviously somewhat biased I feel I can say with some certainty that it’s the finest ice cream you’ll taste.
They have no issue with sharing their land with native wildlife; as Eric says: ‘they also need somewhere to live and the land is as much theirs as it is his.’ They are a truly progressive farming family who I’m happy to write about and endorse.
It could have been so different. In 2001 when Foot and Mouth blighted the northern counties they were in serious danger of losing their herd, and it was only through a monumental effort involving thousands of gallons of disinfectant and the strictest of procedures for those entering and leaving the farm, that kept the disease away
With the herd still intact they began to diversify. We planted up a six-acre field with maize: Eric drew a witch on a draughtboard to scale. We then marked out a grid in the field and when the corn was at waist height, with Eric holding the map and directing, I cut a giant maze in the shape of a witch. in the shadow of Pendle Hill. From its humble beginnings it’s now expanded into Scare Kingdom and attracts thousands of visitors a year. They also began to make their own ice cream and opened a café and animal park. The ice cream business continues to grow. They make a ton and a half a week and there’s always a surplus that most manufactures would reprocess, but they see it as a waste product and give it back to the cows instead. They love it and have come to regard it as a midweek treat.
The idea of cows eating ice cream was too good an opportunity to miss, so I took along a camera and filmed the spectacle.
To find out what’s going on at Dowson’s farm go to: www.mrsdowsons.co.uk
Amanda’s recipe for: a simple dish of mushroom soup with a hunk of warm
bread and butter.
So here goes:
1pt chicken stock
1pt fresh full fat milk
2oz plain flour
salt and lashings of cracked black pepper
8oz button mushrooms( even if they are going a little black don’t worry)
It’s so easy even you Mark can’t go wrong with this !)
Place stock, milk,butter and flour in a saucepan, heat stirring continuously until the mixture thickens and boils. Season, add parsley and mushrooms cover and simmer gently for ten minutes.
Remove from heat add cream and parsley serve warm with warm bread and lashing of butter.
For pudding make: Black Magic
1/4pt fresh single cream
4oz plain flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
5oz granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3oz demerara sugar
12fl oz boiling water
Pre heat oven 180deg C, gas 4 350 deg F
Butter a 1.3Ltr (21/4pt) baking dish or soufflé dish
Sieve flour with baking powder and 2 level tablespoons of cocoa into a bowl
Stir in the sugar vanilla essence and cream then beat until smooth
Spread the mixture into the buttered dish
Mix the demerara sugar with the remaining cocoa powder and sprinkle it over the creamed mixture
Pour the boiling water all over the pudding then bake for about 50 minutes until risen and the sponge mixture ( which will have come to the top) feels firm to the touch
Turn out if you get chance or just spoon out but remember to serve with Mrs Dowson’s Ice cream
Next week: Statistically Speaking