Feasting, Fife and Falkland – more tales from Tastetastic North

6th September 2012 by

Tastetastic North’s Prince of Porridge, Jonny, takes up the tale…

After a pleasant and picturesque cycle north through Fife from Burntisland, we arrived in the village of Falkland.  With Gavin at the helm, map in hand, there was always a chance that we’d end up taking a less than direct route to Pillars of Hercules, the organic farm that was to be our home for the coming days.  Fortunately Gavin has a knack of taking wrong turns that turn out to be beautiful detours and this wrong turn took us right through the grounds of the Falkland Estate, past the house and stables, past the tipi that still stood in the grounds, a remnant of the Big Tent Festival (Scotland’s biggest and increasingly famous eco-fest), and through a forest to the farm.

We were welcomed at the farm shop, a beautiful wooden construction packed with a plentiful harvest of organic delights, and met Bruce, our host and the founder of the farm who showed us to the field where we’d be camping for the next four nights.  As evening descended over the East Lomond hill (immediately and affectionately named ‘the nipple’ by the team), under whose imposing shadow the farm nestled, the cooking crew rustled up a feast as others gathered wood for a starlit campfire.

‘The nipple’ was our constant companion during our stay in Falkland; Photo from Pillars of Hercules website

The following morning was spent in the normal porridge-eating frenzy, given a civilising addition by the coffee and cake on offer at the café attached to the farm shop.  Some even took the opportunity to shower in the luxurious new timber-framed shower block.  Washed, fed and watered, we spent the rest of the morning doing some workshop preparation before heading out onto the land for an afternoon of physical labour that was our recompense for Bruce hosting us at the farm.  So Bruce set us to work removing tree guards from trees that had been planted, a good decade ago, on a bank that divided his land from the neighbouring farm.  The trees had been planted as a living barrier to prevent “spray drift” from the then non-organic neighbours onto the spray-free fields of Pillars.

Working like a well oiled machine, we fanned out on the bank armed with snippers, knives and our bare hands, removing every kind of tree guard we came across, keeping morale up with songs and the sight of the cooking crew conjuring up another hearty dinner with ingredients sourced from the farm shop.

Is it yoga or volunteer labour? Charli gets stuck in regardless

Tamsin at Pillars: those tree guards didn’t stand a chance

After a well-earned sleep, we awoke to a thick mist around the tents that soon gave way to clear skies, which accompanied our ride into Cupar.  We were there to meet the people from Sustainable Cupar, who also had work for us to do, so half of us stayed in the grounds of Elmwood College to plant and fence off some raspberry plants in the community allotment while the rest went to the Busy Bees Nursery where a gaggle of wee children jostled each other in an equally wee community garden.  After being shown around by the little ones, this group did some weeding and began to assemble a picnic table.

After the morning’s work, we all reconvened at Brian’s for lunch; Brian was an enthusiastic and immensely knowledgeable and experienced member of the local fruit group and something of a hero when it came to back garden smallholding.  On the tour he gave us of his garden, which had grown to include the back halves of his two neighbouring relatives’ gardens, we saw succulent strawberries, clucking hens, greenhouses teeming with tomatoes and figs, laden apple and pear trees, buzzing beehives, plentiful vegetable beds and birdproof cages brimming with soft fruit.  The tour culminated in Brian’s shed, where we were treated to samples of gooseberries, jostaberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, tomatoes and a tantalising sniff of one of the large vats of honey.

Brian expressed his hope that we had learned something from our visit to his garden and we certainly had: we learnt about the alchemy of fruit tree grafting, what a jostaberry tastes like and just how much of your own food you can harvest from a relatively small space.  No wonder Sustainable Cupar hold up Brian’s garden as a prime example of the potential for Scottish gardens to produce a bounty of zero-food-miles grub.

After a scrumptious lunch laid on by our hosts, we set off for the local park, where we set about clearing and mulching the ground for the young fruit trees that the fruit group had planted.

The following day we were met at the farm shop by Rod Crawford from the Centre for Stewardship that is based in the stable building on the Falkland Estate.  En route from the farm shop, Rod gave us a potted history of the estate from its days as a hunting estate for the nobility in the 13th and 14th centuries to it becoming a hub of sustainable thinking and projects.  Under the helm of the current laird, the Falkland estate now plays host to not only the Sustainability Centre but also the Big Tent festival, and now the estate farm has converted to organic cultivation practices – this included an organic cattle operation as well as a field of fruit trees where old Fife heritage varieties were being revived.

The Tastetastic crew tucking in? Not quite. These are the organically-reared cows on the Falkland estate

Rod took us to met with Stewart, who spoke to us about Falkland and the Lomonds Transition Cycling Project to promote cycling in Fife, which was followed up by a talk from Rod about his work with Zero Waste Scotland and the Love Food Hate Waste Campaign.

Our afternoon was spent on workshop prep and a little exploration of the estate, before the heavens unleashed torrential rain and wind just as the cooking team were getting to a crucial moment, so it was all hands to the pump as the field kitchen was hastily relocated from the field, down the lane to the wash house by the farm shop.  The rain continued to lash down but the evening was by no means a washout as we had been invited along to the Stag Inn in Falkland village by the local Transition group, where there was also a lively folk jam with up to 17 musicians in full improv swing, so we chatted and jigged the evening away before heading back to our campsite, borne along by the memory of Big Al’s folk version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’.

Sun accompanied us on the beautiful cycle to Newburgh Primary school the following morning, and Dunbog Primary the day after, where we had a whale of a time running our first workshops with the brilliant kids there. Exploring food sustainability issues with the students, we were able to bring in all the enthusiasm, inspiration and new knowledge we’d gained from the incredible projects who had hosted us – so thanks to them all for enriching the whole experience for us and the children.

The team en route to Newburgh – we just had to stop here for the breathtaking view over the Firth of Tay

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