How Shropshire's Christmas-makers celebrate

PUBLISHED: 10:13 12 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:09 20 February 2013

David Cartwright at work

David Cartwright at work

Sarah Hart meets the people who make the festive season delicious and finds out how <br/><br/>what will be on their own tables this year

Christmas is served

Sarah Hart meets the people who make the festive season delicious and finds out how what will be on their own tables this year

Crackling log fires, mulled wine, fruity mince pies, pine-scented Christmas trees, twinkling fairy lights and rousing Christmas carols.

Now is the time when we look forward to that cheering festive spirit that wells up as we count the days until Christmas.

For countless shopkeepers and food producers who help make Christmas for the rest of us, the magic of Christmas Eve cant come soon enough. Its their chance to wind down after their busiest time of the year. Shropshire Life takes a glimpse at how some of them spend their traditional family Christmas.

The turkey farmer

David Cartwright has been rearing award-winning KellyBronze turkeys on his family farm at Condover, near Shrewsbury, for 15 years.

Theyre the Rolls-Royce of turkeys slow-growing, traditionally hung, fast cooking and delicious beloved of celebrity chefs and royalty.

For six months of the year the birds scamper around his fields 1,300 little balls of black feathers with pink faces and blinking jet eyes.

Theyre just a day old when they arrive on Home Farm in June, and five to six months old six weeks older than the average Christmas turkey when theyre humanely slaughtered on the farm by David during the first week of December.

This is the most intense week on the 850-acre mixed farm. A team of 20 people assembles to hand pluck the turkeys at a rate of two turkeys per person per hour. The birds are then hung for 14 days inside two giant walk-in refrigerators to develop a fuller flavour.

Come December 23 and 24 a farmyard building becomes a festively decorated shop, and to the strains of a brass band belting out Christmas carols, customers descend to collect their coveted turkeys and other Christmas provisions such as Home Farm potatoes, local sprouts, Shropshire beef and award-winning Christmas puddings.

By 4pm the doors close and things also begin to wind down next-door, in the old milking barns that have been smartly converted into the childrens day nursery, Farm Friends, by Davids wife Lucy. As dusk falls the last of the excited youngsters is taken home by their mum or dad.

We tend to flop on Christmas Eve, says Lucy.

Although we try to make the crib service at Condover Church. Well come home and enjoy a tipple of the damson gin that I made in August.
Theres always last minute wrapping of presents and packing of stockings for our children Sam (7), Harry, (5), and Olivia, (4).

Theyre usually up at five or six Christmas morning delving into their stockings. And David still has to go out at seven to feed the sheep and cattle.

Mid morning, my mum and dad visit. Mum always brings a smoked salmon and we open a bottle of champagne.
Its David who cooks the turkey while Lucy takes care of the vegetables for lunch.

We have our own potatoes and sausages from Buttercross Farm, Market Drayton, that we also sell them to customers, says David.

I promote KellyBronze turkeys at the Ludlow Food Festival and the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC, so I always get the chance to sample lots of lovely food.

We sell puddings made by Burtree House Farm, Northumbria, and well finish our Christmas dinner with their wonderful deluxe Christmas pudding.

One of the big attractions of a KellyBronze turkey apart from its tastiness is its speed of cooking.

We recommend 12 minutes per pound, instead of 20, says David.
But it can baffle some customers who are used to turkeys taking half a day to roast.

We do get the odd phone call Christmas day from worried customers, but its all part of the job, she says.

And Ive been known to run out with a pack of giblets on Christmas morning when one customer didnt get one with their turkey!

The KellyBronze turkey was introduced to the UK in the early 1980s by Essex farmer Derek Kelly who bred it from an American wild strain.
To order a turkey or other produce from Home Farm visit www.homefarmproduce.com. To commemorate the 15th year of rearing turkeys Home Farm is giving away a free cooking demonstration DVD with every bird.


The hamper company

With hampers becoming more popular as Christmas presents Ceri Littler expects to get through a lot of popcorn between now and December 25. She uses popcorn as eco-friendly padding to pack the delicious Shropshire food that goes into her eye-catching wicker hampers.

People can feed the popcorn to the birds afterwards, she points out.
Ceri took over The Ludlow Hamper Company from Beth Heath, a director of the Ludlow Food Festival, three months ago. For Ceri it was a dream come true: I grew up on a farm and my husband, Jim, is in the catering industry so weve always been around food and loved food, she says. In Shropshire were literally spoilt for choice. There are so many lovely things we can put in our hampers.

All products are sourced within Shropshire and The Marches region, from small producers using the finest ingredients. Theres Shropshire cheeses, handmade cakes from Ludlow, Market Drayton gingerbread, spices from the Shropshire Spice Company, wine from Wroxeter: We dont want to include something that sits at the back of the cupboard and never gets used, says Ceri.

As Jim is a hotel manager the Littlers dont see a lot of each other over Christmas. Jim tries to come home as early as he can on Christmas Eve and we spend Christmas day together, says Ceri.

The couple live on a smallholding, near Ellesmere. We spend Christmas Day with either my parents or Jims parents. We try and go to Midnight Mass. This year we hope to take the children. Ben is nearly five and Harry is three so I think theyre old enough now.

I like to keep the tradition of opening presents as I did when I was a child up at the crack of dawn, kids pile into our bed, and we open our stockings together, says Jim.

We then go downstairs. The adults have a cup of tea or coffee while watching the kids open Santa's presents, camera in hand!
Then everyone pitches in to feed the animals, adds Ceri.

Jims parents, Tom and Annie, also live on the 36-and-a-half acre smallholding which they used to run as a dairy farm. Last year they gave the boys a Herefordshire calf each as a Christmas present.

We normally have a late lunch with two meats a duck, turkey or goose and beef as well. Jim is an absolutely fabulous cook, adds Ceri.

My mother-in-law makes a Christmas cake and my father-in-law is the biggest mince pie fiend. I try to make as many as I can and make them with something different to give them a kick. Last year I used cream cheese and my father-in-law loved them.

On Boxing Day we go with the parents we didnt spend Christmas day with to Jims hotel for dinner. This year it will be to the Lion and Pheasant Hotel in Shrewsbury. Hell be working, but well get to see him and he has Boxing night off.

Christmas hampers can be delivered to anywhere in the UK at www.theshropshirehamper.co.uk or by calling 01691 624353.


The Farm Shop

Battlefield 1403 Farm Shop, on the northern outskirts of Shrewsbury, is one of the newest, biggest and finest farm shops in Shropshire. Here customers can fill their shopping baskets with some of the best seasonal produce in Shropshire, including cuts of the farms own beef and lamb.

Its a popular destination to stock up on Christmas goodies from KellyBronze turkeys, Goodmans award-winning geese, and local game to cakes, puddings and crumble-topped mince pies rustled up by the Battlefield kitchen. The butchery turns out all the traditional trimmings, like pigs in blankets, chipolatas and sausage meats.

The shop opened in April 2008, the culmination of six years hard battle by one woman to secure the long-term future of the farm that has been in her family for six generations.

After foot and mouth ravaged the farming industry in 2001 Joyce Jagger realised that if the Albrighton Estate was to survive, big changes were needed. With the site of the 1403 Battle of Shrewsbury lying across the estate fields, she decided it was time it had its own heritage centre incorporated with the shop and a caf.

Our ethos was that the food sold should be local, traceable and tasty. We now sell 1500 lines in the shop and 95 per cent of them are local.
While Joyces husband David, is an equine vet, sons Jeremy and Robert are very much involved in the running of the shop and the 1800-acre estate. The farm also employs a farm manager and four labourers, while the shop and caf employ 30 people.

Christmas is a working Christmas for the Jagger family, as it is for many farming families. After the livestock have been tended to and the Christmas service at Albrighton Church joined in, lunch tends to be rather late in the day seldom before 3.30 and will be at one of the family farms on the estate, says Joyce.

Its very traditional with roast turkey and all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding these days made in the Battlefield 1403 kitchen.
After lunch we open presents. Its become all the more exciting now
that the eighth generation is five years old.

Join the Jagger family for some pre-Christmas carol singing, mulled wine and mince pies at Battlefield 1403 on Thursday December 9 when the farm shop will be open until 7pm.


Christmas Fairs and Markets


Friday December 3 to Sunday December 5
Frost Fair, 10am-4pm.
Attingham Park, Atcham, Shrewsbury

Saturday December 4
Much Wenlock Christmas Fayre, 10am-5pm. Victorian-themed fair

St Nicholas Christmas Fair, 10am-4pm. St Julians Centre, High Street, Shrewsbury. The Ludlow Hamper Company is sponsoring raffle prizes in aid of charity
Shifnal Christmas Craft Fair, Shifnal Village Hall

Sunday December 5
Bridgnorth Victorian Craft Fayre. More than 40 stalls, live music at St Leonards Church


Harper Adams University College Christmas Farmers Market,
10am-4pm, Edgmond, Newport. Indoor and outdoor stalls selling festive food, drinks and crafts. School choirs, Father Christmas and tractor trailer rides raising money for the charity Farms for City Children

Saturday December 11
Shrewsbury Made in Shropshire Fair in the Square
Weston Park Christmas Fayre, Weston-under-Lizard, near Shifnal.

Sunday December 12

Weston Park Christmas Fayre

Ludlow Christmas Craft and Sunday Market, Castle Square

Tuesday December 14
Dudmaston Hall Christmas Craft Fayre, near Bridgnorth.12am-4pm. Crafts and food from the region

Saturday December 18
Shrewsbury Christmas Market, 10am-7pm. The Square. Shropshire food, Christmas trees, holly wreaths

Wednesday December 22
Shrewsbury Market Hall opens until 8pm. Mulled wine and mince pies for shoppers. The Market Hall will be open for a full days trading on Thursday December 23

Thursday December 23/24
Christmas produce market, Castle Square, Ludlow

Christmas Events

Saturday November 27/Sunday November 28; every weekend until Christmas and Monday December 20 to Thursday December 23
Telford Town Park Winter Wonderland. Christmas themed childrens fairytale attraction

Wednesday December 1
Tree of Memories at Shrewsbury Market Hall. To be launched by panto star. The giant festive tree has become an annual pilgrimage for people leaving messages in memory of loved ones living or lost.
Donations taken in aid of the Help For Heroes

Thursday December 2
Wem Christmas Festival, Wem Town Hall, Church Hall and around the town. Stalls and entertainment

Friday December 3
Oswestry Christmas Live. Around the town centre, 6pm-10pm. Live entertainment, stalls, carols, fairground, late-night shopping

Saturday December 4
Bishops Castle Christmas Lights festival. Full day entertainment, lantern procession and Christmas lights switch-on

Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival. Mistletoe procession, crowning of Mistletoe Queen and Holly Prince, charity mistletoe auction, Druid blessing. Lantern and Santa parade

RAF Cosford Wartime Christmas, Shifnal. Celebrating Christmas 1930s style, stalls, childrens Christmas crafts
Stokesay Castle Festive Family Fun Trail, Craven Arms

December 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, and from December 15 to 23
Hawkstone Park Follies Santa Safaris, Hodnet. Land Rover trail to Santas hidden hillside grotto Saturday December 4 and Sunday December 5 and every weekend until Christmas
Telford Steam Railway Santa Specials, Horsehay, Telford

Saturday December 4 to Friday 24
The Santa Experience, Park Hall Countryside Experience, Park Hall, Oswestry

Christmas at Rays Farm, Billingsley, Bridgnorth

Sunday December 5
RAF Cosford Wartime Christmas
Ludlows First Santa/Snowman Fun Run. Noon. In aid of Hope House. www.hopehouse.org.uk
Oswestry Santa/Snowman Fun Run. In aid of Hope House

Sunday December 5 to Sunday December 19
Blists Hill Victorian Town Victorian Christmas, Madeley, Telford. Learn how the Victorians prepared traditional Christmas fare, plus festive stories and decorations, unusual gifts and carol singers

Tuesday December 7
Carding Mill Valley and the Shropshire Hills Chalet Pavilion late night shopping, Carding Mill Valley, Church Stretton, 5pm-8pm. Seasonal entertainment and festivities in the National Trust Shop and Tea Rooms. Normal admission charges

Thursday December 9
Christmas Holly Garland Workshop, Carding Mill Valley, Church, Stretton, 10am-4pm. Use the materials of the woodlands to make a decoration for the house or as a gift for family and friends. Workshop led by Catherine Murphy. Bring your own baubles, braid and berries, old scissors (or pliers) and secateurs. Normal admission charges, booking essential, 25 per person to attend workshop

Saturday December 11, Sunday December 12 and Saturday December 18 to Thursday December 23
Attingham Park Mansion house Christmas opening, Atcham. Shrewsbury, 11am-4pm. Step back in time and enjoy the festivities of a bygone era. See the house decorated for a Georgian Christmas. Join in the craft and kitchen activities in the basement rooms. And don't forget to bring your wish list for Father Christmas. Normal admission charges apply, 4 per child to visit Father Christmas

Wednesday December 15
Shrewsbury Carols in The Square, 5.30pm-7pm. Eric Smith, of
Radio Shropshire, broadcasts live from 6pm

Thursday December 16 to Saturday December 18
Christmas in Motion 2, Market Drayton. Festive-themed performance at the Festival Drayton Centre

Friday December 17 to Monday December 20
Sunnycroft Edwardian Christmas, Wellington, 12pm-4pm

Saturday December 18
Wem Jubilee Band Christmas Concert, Stanier Hall, High Street, 7pm-10pm

Sunday December 26
Attingham Park Boxing Day walk, 11am-1pm. Burn off your
Christmas excesses with a walk across the Attingham Estate. Tickets for guided walks are limited so please book in advance. Grounds will be open to walkers until dusk.
Adult 6, child 3

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