The county of Rutland in the East Midlands doesn’t get the attention of some of its bigger neighbours. Wedged into the eastern central area of England, bordered by Lincolnshire,
Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, is in fact the smallest county in England.
In ancient times the area now known as Rutland was sparsely populated with oak woodland, but the area saw an important Roman settlement at Great Casterton. What we would recognise as Rutland was settled by the Angles and Saxons in the 5th and 6th centuries, but under the Normans, the north-western part of the county of Rutland was regarded as a part of Nottinghamshire while the south-eastern part was assigned to Northamptonshire.
By 1159, the county had earned recognition in its own right, and later became the site of two of the first and most famous public schools: Oakham and Uppingham, in two of the main towns of the county. Oakham, in fact, is regarded as the county capital.
Rutland is known as a rural upland area. It contains many villages along with the aforementioned historic market towns of Oakham and Uppingham.
Besides its famous school, Oakham is also known for its large 14th-century church and 12th-century castle that is regarded as one of the finest examples of late Norman domestic architecture. The county boasts many other fine old churches and houses, the high quality of which is largely down to the local sandstone beds, which make for excellent building stone.
Agriculture forms the heart of the Rutland economy, but in recent decades there has been an increase in light industrial enterprises, such as electrical products, cement and clothing. The county is also notable for hosting the largest reservoir in the United Kingdom. Rutland Water, which covers more than 3,000 acres was created in the 1970s to serve the growing urban centres of Northamptonshire and Peterborough and has become a tourist attraction in its own right, with thousands of visitors flocking to the area for fishing, birdwatching and boating.
Rutland’s location at the heart of the English rural region means that it has developed a long history of culinary expertise and to this day there are many local producers helping to uphold the reputation of this county.
Blue Aurora Blueberry Wine
Blue Aurora blueberry wine has its origins at Lutton Farm; a family run farm, just outside the picturesque town of Oundle. The farm is owned by the Long family who have developed a thriving soft fruit production, with more than 45 hectares given over to growing blueberries.
The farm produces 500 tonnes of blueberries every year, but as is usually the case with soft fruit, around 15-20% of the crop fails the grading process, so the Long family developed a side-line. By sending their excess blueberries to a local winery, they were able to develop a range of blueberry wines. There are currently three Blue Aurora vintages: Dusk, Midnight and Ice, all of which are made from 100% English blueberries.
Jimmy’s Rutland Smokehouse
The Smokehouse was created at the Kings Arms pub in Wing, when a glut of trout and the question of how to preserve them led to the launching of a new range of smoked produce.
Smoking is one of the most traditional ways of preserving foods and the methods used at the Kings Arms are the original smoking techniques, though the real secret is ensuring that they only start with the very best of local produce.
All of the products are prepared and smoked onsite, using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The range includes an astonishing variety including venison salami, pigeon breasts and goose bacon. There is also salted Rutland Trout, along with smoked hams, bacons and other meats, and this Rutland producer is fast earning a reputation as one of England’s finest smoked goods makers.
Sloeberry Spirits produce high quality bottles of fruity spirits including their flagship product Melton Mowbray Sloe Gin, Whisky and Wild Damson, Vodka and Blackberry and Gin and Raspberry. The Melton Sloe Gin and the Gin and Raspberry have proven to be so successful that they have also won Gold Stars in the UK Great Taste Awards.
Hambleton Bakery earned the accolade of Britain’s Best Bakery in an ITV1 competition that aired in November and December 2012. Its team of local bakers makes traditional, artisan bread and pastries, which are sold in five outlets, including the main base in Exton. Hambleton have expanded to supply wholesalers and other retail outlets throughout England.
Rutland Organics hold a license from the Soil Association to produce organic free range poultry, including turkeys, chickens, cockerels and geese and eggs. They also produce venison and lamb and have recently expanded their operation to include breeding their own rare-breed pigs. All their stock is organic and there is an overriding focus on animal welfare. In addition, all of the feed they use is certified as organic and they supplement the feed with their own organic cereal.
June’s farm is a free range, rare breed, micro farm that specialises in providing high quality meat boxes. They keep their own traditional pig species, which are raised outside so they are able to root, forage and wallow whenever they want. T
The pigs are able to shelter in arks to avoid the worst of the mid- day sun or the winter winds. The sheep they keep are Ryeland sheep, known as one of the oldest English sheep breeds. They were originally kept by the monks of Leominster in Herefordshire 700 years ago who grazed them on the rye pastures, and the result is great tasting meat.
The cattle at June’s farm are Belted Galloways, a breed that can be traced back as far as the 1800’s. They are fed mainly on pure pasture so are slow to grow which means that the final taste of the beef is particularly delicious. In fact, grass fed beef has been shown to produce more Omega 3 and other unsaturated fats and a lower level of saturated fat than grain fed beef. As a micro-producer their meat boxes are only available at certain times of year, when they are in high demand.
This remarkable operation is one of England’s few remaining fully operational nineteenth-century windmills which has towered over the village of Whissendine since it was built in 1809.
The fully restored and working mill produces more flour types than you most people know exist: including plain, strong white, wholemeal and organic stone ground flour, bread and pastry flour, spelt and barley flour, ryemeal and oatmeal flour and a bran mix that can be used as feed for pigs, chickens and horses! Whissendine supplies many local pubs, restaurants and food producers, including the famous Hambleton Bakery, which appears earlier on our list.