Normandy Common Lane, Normandy, Guildford, GU3 2AP
The upside: Hand reared free-range meat on a Surrey Farm
The downside: Larger joints of meat must be ordered in advance
The flipside: You can buy direct from the farm shop if you miss a market
There is nothing quite as British or evocative as the aroma of freshly roasted pork or grilled sausages on the street. I moved to Guildford in 2005 after living abroad for ten years and had little time to do any research over getting my kids into school. One Tuesday shortly after arriving I was walking to the high street past the George Abbot Memorial and little by little the aroma of roasted pork and a BBQ intensified, this was my introduction to Guildford’s monthly Farmers Market. On arrival it was apparent that Hunts Hill Farm were responsible for the wonderful aroma.
In addition to selling rolls with freshly roasted pork and their award winning sausages they also sell prepared cuts of their home reared meat. I have been buying their poultry, goat, lamb, veal and sausages at markets they sell at ever since (full list on their website) The bulk of their business is at these markets and they are regulars at eight, BBQ’s however are only at some of these.
We are blessed in Surrey to have a few really good local meat producers with smallholdings who sell directly to the public via small shops or farmers markets and this is one. Based in Normandy, Hunts Hill Farm is owned by Georgina and John Emerson. Not as you would think from a family of farmers but an ex Interior Designer and Garage owner. Theirs is a story which could have been modeled on the seventies TV series the ‘Good Life’ and I imagine from meeting them with as much fun and comedy on the way.
Having decided to make a huge lifestyle change and a move to the country they bought a farm that had run into trouble and needed an injection of energy to get it back on its feet. First off John did an agricultural course at Merrist Wood to get himself on the right track. Georgina made their temporary mobile home comfortable while they planned their new farmhouse on the site. The small farm shop was built on site and this also houses the butchery and sausage production unit. Slowly they built up their livestock. In addition to saddleback pigs, goats and Aberdeen Angus and poultry they also have laying hens, geese and ducks. All free range and with lots of space, this is the home of happy animals.
Like many smallholders the best way to make a living is by selling via popular farmers markets. Georgina and John love meeting their customers and have built up a strong following. They take their meat to market, ready cut and vacuum packed with a good shelf life. Sadly the meat doesn’t look so great packed this way but its quality in eating that’s the real moniker here. I have never had a duff joint or sausage from Hunts Hill in fact the leg of goat I had from them was a dinner party centerpiece. It was only recently that I realized that Hunts Hill also had a small farm shop and bed and breakfast on site too.
I made a much overdue visit to the farm in late April. On a private road it’s signposted from the junction but caution here as the shop is only open from Wednesday – Saturday. At the end of the road you arrive at the farm and its arrival reminded me of the description in the ‘Darling Buds of May’. Rustic and ramshackle, but in a friendly welcoming way and like all the places I visit with its own distinct personality. The farm shop is small but with enough ingredients for shoppers to put a meal together. The butcher’s display is the main attraction here of course and meat is sold fresh and frozen. Choose from small joints ready to go or order larger joints in advance to avoid disappointment. The meat is all reared on the farm (apart from the rose veal which comes from a farm in Horsell Common) and the animals travel a short distance to an abattoir in Farnborough before returning to the farm where butcher Peter expertly prepares the meat for sale.
To compliment the meat, a small range of vegetables, sauces, chutney’s and of course freshly laid geese, duck and hens eggs are on offer here too. The ducks eggs looked so inviting, large, white and so freshly laid I bought half a dozen (see recipe). They came with a large white feather too! Strawberries in the shop were from Tuesley farm who grow berries on their 459 acre site in Godalming. They are famed for their fruit and Georgina ripped open a pack of strawberries to sample. New season they smell and taste sensational and its good to note that they also stock Meadow Cottage Farm raw untreated cream (an absolute delight) and ice cream too. Perfect with strawberries.
Their free-range pork is also the star of their award winning sausages. They currently have over thirty recipes in their repertoire, which they make on a rolling basis. Expect at least eight of these on offer at any one time. Mary (pictured above) in in charge of sausage production and has been working with the Emerson’s for seventeen years. She told me that some of their prize winners include pork, apple and maple syrup, apple and black pudding, beef and guiness and beef chilli and chocolate. I decided on a pack of hot Spanish with smoked paprika. I enjoyed these with my family that evening. They were succulent, spicy and soft textured, perfect.
Georgina kindly took me into their farmhouse, which is also home to the two rooms they let out for their bed and breakfast business. Here is a glimmer into the previous world of interior design that the lady of the house inhabited. Rich colours, large comfortable sofas it’s a really fabulous space. The bedrooms for guests are off the main reception area and have their own private bathroom. Comfortable and well furnished they also look over the back garden with rolling hills in the backdrop.
As I was leaving we went to see the pigs who were in a field next to the house. There were two pregnant sows and a very satisfied looking boar. Taking my leave a farm helper handed Georgina a goose egg that had just been laid. I got a chance to hold this warm perfectly formed giant egg, it was a touching moment for a city girl like me.
This is a classic example of a small producer bringing high quality produce to the market and selling directly to the public. If you like me are interested in the provenance of the food you eat it doesn’t get much better than this.
I bought half a dozen ducks eggs on my visit. Find out what I did with them here.