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Stackyard News Dec 05

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Culinary delights served up at Cheshire farmhouse

Gracious living is back in fashion in the tiny village of Kermincham near Holmes Chapel. Farmers' wife Bettie Riddell has created a unique English dining experience where parties can enjoy 'proper food, cooked properly' in the comfort of a private suite of rooms on the family's farm.

Bettie, whose husband Anthony runs the family's dairy farm, is an ex-home economics teacher, with many years' experience catering for large numbers of diners at charity functions.

As milk prices dropped and the farm became less profitable, she decided to use her skills to generate an additional income and applied for a grant from the Rural Development Service to convert an existing building adjacent to the main house into a purpose built dining area, with bed and breakfast accommodation.

Funding from Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme provided 25% towards the cost of converting an old ground floor stable into two elegant oak-beamed dining rooms, 3 ensuite bedrooms and a snooker room, all in a picturesque setting with views of the well-maintained gardens and surrounding countryside.

The dining room officially opened on November 18th with a special charity dinner, which raised over £3000 for Cystic Fibrosis - a cause close to Bettie's heart as her nephew has the disease. Bookings are now being taken for private parties, and the diary is already filling up with appointments.

Catering for parties of up to 24 people, Bettie offers a traditional English menu, using locally sourced fresh ingredients from nearby farms. A large percentage of the food is organic, with the emphasis being on quality produce, cooked to order.

Her passion for local industry also applies to the crockery. Rooms are decorated with Wedgwood Blue Jasper from the nearby potteries and diners are served meals on Royal Staffordshire dinner services, Wedgwood fine bone china and other classical English tableware.

She employs four local farmers' wives to help with busy bookings, and rooms can be hired separately or as a tailor made package, giving parties the freedom to choose whether to simply book a relaxing meal or to stay the night and enjoy a mini break.

Bettie says,

"I have worked all my life around food and cookery so when the new milking parlour was up and running, incorporating facilities for the farmers, I had a couple of spare rooms and decided to convert a section of the house to the English Dining Room. I was delighted when the project was approved for a Rural Enterprise Scheme grant.

"There are very few places where small parties can book private rooms and enjoy the experience of being catered for in an exclusive country house environment and I aim to provide a quality experience where groups can relax, converse and eat a traditional, home cooked meal."

Christmas also promises to be a treat for festive diners, with The English Dining Room opening all throughout the holiday period. During December Bettie will be lighting the log fires, decorating the dining rooms and serving up traditional Christmas dinners with all the trimmings on special Spode Christmas tree china. Delicacies on offer include stuffed dates, mince tart and sticky toffee pudding as well as a special recipe Christmas pudding made in nearby Holmes Chapel.

Ruth Prinold, Team Leader with the Rural Development Service says:

"The English Dining Room caters to a niche market, and is a unique project and an excellent example of a farming family using the Rural Enterprise Scheme to make their business sustainable by adapting to changing markets.

"Bettie is committed to the region, supporting the surrounding community both in terms of providing employment, promoting local pottery and buying the majority of her produce from local farms. We wish her every success in the future."

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