Kathie Auton enjoys a trip to the newly-opened Vale House Kitchen country skills and cookery school in Timsbury…
If you think you can handle a bit of house-envy, you should seriously consider booking yourself onto a course at the newly opened Vale House Kitchen. But don’t be mistaken into thinking that this is just another cookery school. Vale House Kitchen is a cookery and country skills school. You can choose from an array of courses, including jam and preserve making and seasonal cookery, both of which you might expect to find offered at a cookery school. But as well as this, you can try your hand at pig butchery, shooting, fly fishing, foraging. Here’s a place where you can get fully hands-on with your food, learn all the steps from catching to filleting to cooking a fish. You can head out into the beautiful surrounding countryside, harvest the wild goodies growing all around, then come back and cook them to perfection in the school kitchen.
Vale House Kitchen’s lovely owners – Bod and Annie Griffiths – are passionate about what they’re doing here, they share a real belief in the importance of these country skills and that knowing about where your food comes from can be empowering and inspiring. As Bod says, “After years of dreaming, working and fine-tuning it is amazing to see our vision come to life. Sustainability and preservation of traditional rural skills are at the heart of our ethos. And we are very excited to have the support of such skilled tutors at Vale House Kitchen.”
And the tutors are an impressive bunch. What with Vivian Lloyd running the preserving course, Martin Hunt of Joe’s Bakery fame teaching bread making, not to mention former River Cottage guru Tim Maddams imparting his copious skill and knowledge, you really do know you’re going to get some quality tuition.
The whole place feels gorgeously rural, a true escape from the city. You have the option to meet Bod at the nearby Carpenter’s Arms Pub before being driven to the house, and it’s quite an exciting way to start your day – the feeling you’re being whisked off an adventure well away from your usual life.
Once you’re there, and you’ve got over how beautiful the house and garden are, surmounted your lust for the swimming pool and drooled over the beautiful school kitchen, you’ll become immersed in your course. So, yes, this is escapism, but you’ll have plenty to bring back with you when you return to your normal kitchen and your probable lack of swimming pool. Even well-seasoned cooks will come home brimming with ideas and confidence. And on some courses it won’t just be a metaphorical bounty you leave with, I came home from my foraging course with Sloe Gin and Hawthorn Brandy steeping away in beautiful glass bottles.
If you do fancy treating yourself or a lucky someone else, courses starts at around £120 and go up to £400 for the two-day shooting courses and, at the risk of mentioning Christmas, gift vouchers are available…not that I’m hinting or anything.
Vale House, Loves Hill, Timsbury, Somerset BA2 0EU