I have quite a connection with West Sussex, not just the Runcton farm shop: my parents and Grandparents used to take me to Bognor Regis for holidays when I was young. When I was a bit older, my mum bought a caravan in Pagham and we used to go there on holiday and for weekend breaks. She was even brave enough to let my friends and me go there for a post GCSEs holiday when we were 15/16 years old, and we spent the week trying to find the local supermarkets which would sell us cider, which we’d drink while singing along to movie soundtracks played on our tape decks (Dirty Dancing, anyone?). What a rebellious bunch we were …
Finally, I went to university in Chichester, although lived in Bognor because it was cheaper and more student-friendly. That’s where I met Andrew and after graduating we continued to live and work in the area for another two years.
One thing we never did though was eat locally. I mean, we ate at the local Pizza Hut (the venue for our celebratory anniversary meals when we were poor students); at the local Weatherspoons when the parents visited and would fork out for the ‘two meals for a fiver’ deal; at the local Morrissons where we’d buy the cheap beef at the height of the BSE scare; and at the local Burger King where we’d eat Whoppers together before saying goodbye and driving home to London or Wales.
We never, ever ate local produce. In fact, I only remember eating locally produced food on two occasions, neither of which were during my student years.
Firstly, whenever we holidayed at mum’s caravan, my Grandad would insist on buying a whole crab from Selsey, a quick car journey down the coast. He would then lay newspaper on the dining table in the caravan and proceed to crack open the crab, feast on the meat, and suck the juice out of the claws (I can still hear the noise he made, and picture him at the table doing it). My brother and I were, of course, disgusted, and vowed never to eat crab.
Secondly, my mum would stop off at the local farm shop in Runcton to buy us one of their delicious coffee and walnut cakes. This became a huge treat for us: we both shared a love for coffee and walnut cake, this one was piled generously with buttercream, with a moist, buttery sponge, and because it was expensive we savoured every slice.
Since we’ve grown up and grown our wallets, we’ve made an effort to eat locally each time we’ve been down to Sussex (my Grandad would be pleased to know that I now love crab, although I prefer the ready-dressed variety), and as always I am so impressed by the variety of local produce which is available from the area.
As mum still has a caravan in Pagham (although this year she upgraded to a newer model and the old one was retired with a bit of a fanfare!), we have plenty of opportunities to visit West Sussex, and last week we spent a few days there with Ioan.
My favourite place to visit is still the local farm shop in Runcton, and it’s quite a business nowadays. I just love wandering along the aisles, finding little treasures to sample. Sadly the coffee and walnut cake doesn’t live up to mine and mum’s memories, but there are plenty of goodies to make up for the cake.
Firstly, being on a farm, the fruit and veg options are spectacular. You can pick your own produce if you want to (we never do, although I hope to when Ioan is older as I used to love picking strawberries when I was a little girl, and I’d love for Ioan to understand the connection between things growing, and what we eat), or see what’s fresh in the shop.
This visit, the last of the strawberries were still available, plus runner beans and greengages (Andrew’s favourite). I picked up a beautiful purple cauliflower to make Ioan’s favourite cauliflower cheese:
Local dressed crab and salad, plus a tub of locally produced honeycomb ice cream.
Before we drove back to London, we made another trip to Runcton to pick up some goodies for home. I took the time to take some photos of the shop, to share with you the wonderful produce on sale.
As well as a meat counter full of beautiful cuts of meat and a delicatessen, there is also an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Ioan had great fun pointing out to me what all of the vegetables were, although he was a bit confused about the yellow tomatoes!
I love that you can also buy frozen fruit and vegetables from these large containers where you can simply scoop out what you need into your own Tupperware dishes, reducing the amount of single use plastic you have to use.
You can also scoop fishcakes, breaded fish, chicken nuggets, croissants and pain au chocolat etc – it’s such a great way to buy only what you need, according to your storage needs.
You can also buy local cheese, cream, milk and ice cream, as well as more deli meats, and they have a range of Cook frozen meals if you want to buy a high quality ready meal.
I nearly lost Andrew in the drinks section, where he bought a ton of local beers and ciders. You can also buy sparkling English wine, and local fruit juices.
In the bakery section there is plenty to choose from, including the coffee and walnut cake (my heart breaks a little bit every time I see this version which just doesn’t live up to my memories!).
If I lived in West Sussex I would certainly shop at Runcton Farm shop, although I’d probably need my London salary to be able to do so regularly – apart from the seasonal fruit and vegetables everything in the store is quite expensive. However, you do get what you pay for: high quality, fresh, responsibly farmed and sourced small batch produce. It’s a far cry from Tesco.
I bought some Runcton specials (chicken breast stuffed with sausage meat and Paxo, wrapped in bacon, and served that with local runner beans and jacket potatoes. A memory from Runcton!