It’s milking time on a very special Surrey farm. Emma Pritchard pails out. Plus all the beautiful bounty to be found in Surrey's outdoor spaces and bundles of ideas for making your own personal Christmas wreath
Cindy the cow
With the Surrey Hills as backdrop, the fortunate dairy herd of Pierrepont Farm at Frensham, near Farnham, ranges free in parkland and water meadows rich in flora and wildlife.
No surprise, therefore, that the milk from this 130-strong Jersey herd – each cow with her own name – contains 18% more protein and 20% more calcium than that of your typical black and white Holstein.
But Pierrepont, owned by the Countryside Restoration Trust – the leading UK charity for wildlife-friendly farming – goes further: tenants Michael and Beverley Clear sell this power-packed dairy raw.
“Supermarket milk, which is pasteurised, has fewer vitamins and natural enzymes than raw,” says daughter Zoe, who helps run the farm. “Raw milk is rich in vitamins A, B, C and D, which the body needs to absorb calcium. It’s also naturally sweeter and creamier and only 5% fat.”
The Clears sell direct from the farm, bringing milk to the teacup within 48 hours – supermarket milk can be up to a week old.
It’s been a labour of love for the family, who took on the 200-acre farm in 2006. Home breeding has seen the herd grow from just 50, with raw milk a new venture for 2016.
If you go down to the woods today..
Delve beneath the surface of the countryside this month and you may be surprised by the richness of food ingredients on offer: most obviously mushrooms.
Head to damp, leaf-littered hotspots such as Ranmore Common, above Dorking, and seek out edible varieties like the Shaggy Inkcap and the Cep – the former identifiable by its long cylindrical white cap, the latter possessed of pores – rather than gills – and a bulbous brown stem. Take care when gathering though, as many fungi aren’t edible and some of them are extremely poisonous.
If you’re lucky, you might catch a whiff of the summer truffle, which should still be fruiting. The chalk hills of Surrey were part of a thriving truffle hunting industry from the 18th to early 20th centuries.
Telltale signs for these black, knobbly delicacies include patches void of vegetation – truffles chemically inhibit the growth of neighbouring plants – and disturbed soil, where woodland wildlife may have identified a truffle spot.
Try a guided forage (Nov 19) on Horsell Common, near Woking. Meet at Sands hotel/bar for a talk before heading onto the common for three hours (wildfooduk.com).
WARNING: Some varieties of mushroom which grow wild in the UK are poisonous and can cause illness or even death. We advise that you only consume mushrooms collected by an expert forager.
Like it or not, the Christmas countdown is on. Time for the decorative two-step...
Find unique and memorable gifts at one of the many fairs or independent retailers across Surrey, South-West London and Berkshire. Buy affordable art from award-winning artists at The Windsor Contemporary Art Fair (Nov 12-13, windsorcontemporaryartfair.co.uk);
Find handmade ceramics, textiles, glassware and more at The Christmas Contemporary Craft Fair, RHS Garden Wisley (Nov 23-27, craftinfocus.com);
Finally don’t miss the children’s grotto, handmade tree decorations and vintage home accessories at gift emporium Glorious in Twickenham (glorioustw2.co.uk).
Add a personal touch to your festivities with help from local experts. Florist Kate Avery will be demonstrating how to create a wreath using seasonal foliage, berries and vintage ribbon. That’s in Dunsfold (Dec 10-12, kateaveryflowers.co.uk).
Meanwhile – and for the last time before retiring – Sue Noble and Sara Gyngell of The Surrey Hills Cookery School, Leatherhead, open up their kitchen to make edible gifts and provide inspiration for the festive menu (Nov 23 & 24, surreyhillscookeryschool.co.uk).
Check our our Craft & Country Section for more bracing pieces on Surrey & SW London's great outdoors