One of the many advantages of not being on the road any more is that Ros and I get the pleasure of spending weekends at home, just pottering around. And, having finished the weekend's household chores, we took the opportunity to attend our local Open Farm Sunday event in neighbouring Creeting St Mary.
Whitegate Farm is conveniently located just off the A140 and is a 109-acre holding, owned and managed by Jason and Katherine Salisbury. However, it is becoming increasing well-known by connoisseurs of fine dairy products as the home of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, and in opening their farm up to the public, it presented an opportunity not to be missed.
We arrived in light rain to discover that we were far from the only people to decide that a farm visit was the perfect way to spend part of a Sunday, and there were plenty of families out, looking at the very young calves, including one just a day old, the fine milking herd (guernseys, for those of you who know about this stuff), and the piglets. There were trailer rides around the farm, cheese to taste, hot pork and sausage rolls to eat and even some retail opportunities.
But for me, the best part of the visit was the opportunity to buy some cheese. Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses produce two main varieties - the Suffolk Blue (pictured here), a creamy lightly blue-veined cheese, and the Suffolk Gold, a creamy semi-hard farmhouse cheese. As someone who takes his cheese very seriously, it would have been a terrible pity not to have bought some, and so I have a decently sized piece sitting in the refrigerator, awaiting my attention at some point in the next few days.
I frankly confess that, until recently, the chances of me visiting a farm in this country would have been remote, but living in the country, surrounded by fields, farming takes on a rather greater sense of relevance. As a parish councillor, issues around speeding tractors, access to footpaths and planning consultations mean that farming is never entirely off of my agenda, especially with three working farms in the parish. I can even talk about sugar beet, oil-seed rape and wheat with the sense that I might not be talking utter rubbish.
So, all in all, a good day out, made almost perfect by the heavy rain that started falling late in the afternoon. With droughts now declared in most of East Anglia, but not yet in Suffolk, and the crops beginning to become dangerously parched, some prolonged rain will have raised the spirits of local farmers. As long as it rains at night, that'll be just fine...