I was possibly a little bit too excited by my trip to River Cottage HQ, but I probably wasn't the only one. When I received the invite earlier in the year I knew I'd be going, and I just needed to work out the small matter of logistics. I'm in London, River Cottage HQ is in Devon, that's do-able in a day, right?
Well it turned out it was. A very long day, but do-able. I timed my arrival pretty well arriving just before the parking spaces started to run out and went to wait for my tractor ride down to the farm. I hadn't appreciated beforehand that River Cottage HQ was in a valley, but soon did as our tractor made the slow and steep (and bumpy) descent.
At the bottom the first stop was the barn and a welcome drink, and a chance to take a look round. I snuck out for a look around while the light was, well not as dark as it could be at this time of year. And because I really couldn't wait any longer.
I quickly realised I knew very little about what goes on a River Cottage HQ, I mean I knew the bits from the telly-box, and the garden but there's a whole lot more to it than that.
I also learnt that Hugh and his team have a pretty space, practice what they preach - and when I say preach, I mean in a non-preachy way, and that they can grow weirder shaped squash and gourds than me. But as you know I'm up for a challenge so maybe next year I'll try and top them in the knobbliest squash league of growing, who knows.
Yes that's the knobbliest squash I was referring to. And look, sweet peas. It was a week into November and there were still sweet peas growing happily. That's what having a farm in a Devon valley does for you.
And having a barn to dry flowers in makes for the prettiest of decorations.
Over in the farmhouse, which sssshh! don't tell anyone, isn't actually called River Cottage, but Park Farm, there was a lovely homely feel. There were more flowers drying, this time on the windowsill, lots of kitchen paraphernalia which while artfully placed looked like it would actually be used, a lovely warming fire and a rather charming picture of a cockerel.
Plus The Kitchen. The fireplace is huge, and so is the table. But actually the room didn't feel as big as I imagined it would. Although I imagine with a film crew in, it feels even smaller.
No sign of Hugh though, which for his sake was probably a good thing.
For me the kitchen was the iconic room and so grinning like a goon I stood behind the table and posed for pictures Hugh-style, but without the carcass of meat that no doubt Hugh would have in his picture. From the table there was a view out to the garden - more from there another day - and the rain. But to be honest, the rain wasn't going to stop me enjoying myself today.
It was great to get to have a look around the farmhouse, it's a working farm not a tourist attraction and as such you need to book to be welcome. The food we ate back in the barn - that's most likely another post in itself - was delicious, and as I was there with a lot of food bloggers I had lots of reminders to take pictures before digging into my plate.
And yes London to Devon and back to London is just about do-able in a day. It's a long day, but worth it. The weather on the drive home was awful and not even the unfolding American election results on the radio could hold my attention, but to be honest they were competing with mastering a new sport of aqua-planing on the motorway, just as well I had it mostly to myself.
And if like me you don't manage the four hour drive without a break, then on the way back there's quite a nice well used, but dark layby near Farnham which served me well for a 20 minute nana-nap before I set off on the final leg of my trek home, arriving back just before 3.30am. A long day but one I wouldn't have missed, thanks to River Cottage HQ, Foodies100 and HIBS100 for inviting me.
* This is a collaborative post, but all views and opinions are my own