Stories

Walkers Shortbread | A Visit

A few weeks back, I flew to Aberdeen at the invitation of Walkers Shortbread.

I knew a factory tour was a big part of our visit as well as a visit to the town of Aberlour and aside from knowing (and consuming) many a tartan box full of shortbread, I really didn’t know much else. I came away pretty much a Walkers Devotee, no other Shortbread will make it into our pantry and I can talk endlessly about the company like I’ve worked there for many a year, not just spent 48 hours in Walkers company.

I’ll try my best to explain, initially I jumped at the chance at going because I love the behind the scenes, I love knowing how things are made and I love getting to see what others generally don’t. I also love a biscuit. But this was much more than that, what I got to see was the process and the behind the scenes but also the story of Walkers.

We met Jim Walker, 3rd generation Walker, who had just 16 employees when he took over and grew that to 1600. The company is still entirely family owned 121 years later and sells into over 100 countries. His son Alastair who like Jim, were the most generous hosts and so gracious with their time and knowledge, flies around the world (amongst other things) ensuring Walkers is stocked in the most exciting of places from Australia to Mauritius.

There is a real sense of community, family and friendship between those who work for Walkers, I also saw deep loyalty to the company. We met employees who have worked for Walkers for 10, 20, even 30 years, not only did they work there but their nieces, nephews, parents, children and spouses were all working or had worked for Walkers. The factory, we visited Shortbread 2, could be far more automated, but Walkers have made the decision to keep things hands on, employing people rather than robots. The shortbread and the chocolate rounds we saw were being boxed by hand (sealed by machines) which also means any ‘rejects’ can be manually removed. I thought this was so commendable, isn’t it better to buy from a brand that consciously chooses to support it’s local community rather than chase profit?

After our tour, we headed back to HQ for a tasting session! Jim lead us through the various different shortbread, the shapes plus those with additions, like the Salted Caramel, Ginger, Chocolate or Vanilla! My favourites, just in case you were wondering, were the Highlanders (a round shortbread with sugar crust a little rough and ready in texture but perfection in taste), the Vanilla which was so buttery and light with just the right amount of vanilla and of course Salted Caramel as I would eat anything that is Salted Caramel.

Now those ‘rejects’… in Aberlour, the original bakery still exists, they no longer bake bread but they do sell bags and bags of the rejected or broken biscuits. Same buttery shortbread just a little misshappen for just a £1 or two. If I had a spare suitcase I would have filled it up!

Another incredible fact about Walkers is their shortbread recipe, it’s the same one from 121 years ago and consists of just 4 ingredients; incredible butter, flour, sugar and salt. No preservatives, no margarine or lard or E- numbers. In fact when we visited an article was released that putting a stick of shortbread in your childs lunch box was a far healthier option compared to a chocolate bar or the Penguin I used to have. I know what I’ll be putting in my children’s box when they eventually switch to packed lunches.

On our second day in Aberlour, after our visit to the original shop and a drive up and down the high st, we searched for Highland Cows and spotted one from a little distance away, I really wanted to get up close but it wasn’t meant to be. We stopped for a Walkers pitstop, Alastair had filled the boot with a selection of Walkers products from traditional shortbread, to dark chocolate and ginger and had somehow memorised our drinks order (I was particularly impressed as I’m so awkward, decaf coffee with oat milk!)

We had a little photoshoot and even made a nonsense stop motion of the highland cow shaped shortbread (posted at the end of this!) it was raining and I didn’t have a tripod so forgive me!

Unfortunately it was then time to head back South but what a great adventure and so honoured to have had a glimpse inside such a long standing brand! Thanks Walkers for having me.

Walkers Shortbread Scotland
Walkers Shortbread
Jim Walker

Jim Walker

The original Walkers Bakery

The original Walkers Bakery

Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Walkers HQ

Walkers HQ

The Queens View

The Queens View

Dinner at Craigellachie Hotel where we stayed

Dinner at Craigellachie Hotel where we stayed

Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Vali who lives on the Walkers grounds

Vali who lives on the Walkers grounds

I was invited as a guest of Walkers, I really enjoyed the experience and learning about the company and I’m really happy to share this with you but as always I am not paid to say this, all views are my own.

Yvonne Coomber | An Artists Stay in Devon

A few weeks back a group of utterly charming and talented women gathered together at artists Yvonne Coomber’s invitation. A very generous ‘artist in residence’ stay, we gathered at Pip Farm in Totnes, Devon. The farm had been filled with Yvonne’s work, each wall adorned with her joyful, happy paintings. Each window sill, ledge, infact most flat surfaces where filled with vases of flowers. You couldn’t walk into a more happier space.

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Yvonne’s trademark paint splattered boots.

Yvonne Coomber Artist in Devon Retreat

Bex from @botanical_tales  led a miniature dried flower wreath making workshop. Which was so fun and bonding and thankfully Bex fixed mine as my wreath making skills are pretty shocking!

We had a wander through Totnes and visited Yvonne’s shop!

Yvonne Coomber Artist in Devon Retreat
Yvonne Coomber Artist in Devon Retreat

Then incredibly, Yvonne, generously invited us (all!) into her home for afternoon tea, with free reign to explore and photograph her house and garden. I absolutely loved this part of our experience, Yvonne’s home is like her paintings, eclectic and full of joy! And so much cake and how much tea cosy envy do you have? (I’ve already asked where the tea cosy was from and it’s a one off wedding gift made by a friend. I’m a bit gutted too.)

Yvonne Coomber Artist in Devon Retreat
Yvonne Coomber Artist in Devon Retreat
Yvonne Coomber Artist in Devon Retreat
Yvonne Coomber Artist in Devon Retreat

Yvonne’s studio, the last stop of our day in around Totnes was to see where Yvonne worked. Her studio is in a valley surrounded by fields and nature, exactly what you see in her paintings. She paints outside in the elements and the day’s weather affects the painting, wind, heat or even quiet stillness. It was very special to be invited into someone’s work space, see their tools, their half finished work and hear their story. Yvonne’s journey to becoming an artist wasn’t a straightforward path but it was inspiring and humbling to hear it in her own words.

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Yvonne Coomber Artist in Devon Retreat

Below is a list of everyone involved in the retreat, Yvonne as well as all the guests and those who looked after us. Do have a look through you’ll find some beautiful people and accounts to follow.

Yvonne @yvonnecoomber

Julia @humphreyandgrace 

Janne @jannelford 

Bex @botanical_tales 

Miranda @mirandasnotebook

Lulu @acupfullofdreams 

Tamsyn @tamsynmorgans 

DÖrte @lewesmap

Elizabeth  @blowyinthewind 

Catherine  @catherine_frawley 

Katie @ceramicmagpie 

Georgie  @georgiestclair 

Kyla @kylamagrathinteriors   

Jeannett  @pippiandmeceramics 

Georgie @acitygirlatheart

Djamila @djamilasfreshfeasts

Marta  @marta.matson

I can’t thank Yvonne enough for having me, I’m stunned I got to experience these few days. I left feeling inspired, hopeful and so lucky having been part of such a beautiful group of people. Thank you!

DISCLAIMER: I was very kindly invited to this event, but under no obligation to share. However as a photographer the whole experience was a visual treat and I can’t help but share the images. I hope you like them! All thoughts and images my own.

Nomadic | A Woodland Dining Experience

On Saturday I was hired to photograph an outdoor event in Buckinghamshire, a private wood is host to Nomadic’s unique dining experience. Guests experience an immersive foraged feast surrounded by nature with dinner cooked by a talented chef. Each event differs, depending on the time of year, the chef and the weather. The chef creating Saturday’s feast was Chris Hruskova, a Danish michelin starred chef who now runs a bakery in London. It was a joy to photograph, something I just love shooting observationally, capturing events as they happen and this event gave me so much to capture. Thanks for having me Noah!

Disclosure, I was hired to photograph the event, I was not asked or paid to blog about the event. All thoughts my own I just wanted to share something I enjoyed here.

Daylesford Farm | A Foraging Day

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This post was originally featured on 91 Magazine, posting it here with some more imagery from the day

Daylesford farm began its organic journey 35 years ago. Now, one of the most sustainable organic farms in the UK, its 2350 acres in the Cotswolds is also home to a beautiful farm shop, restaurant, café, a spa, cottages and a cookery school.

There’s a huge amount of social interest at the moment in slow living and home cooking with edible flowers (according to my online world), which seemingly has never been more popular. Elderflower season is starting and Instagram and Pinterest are full of images of foraged finds being turned into cordial, cakes and more. So it was hugely inspiring to spend the day at Daylesford on the Wild Food & Foraging Course to find out more about the plants and flowers that we pass by everyday that can be added to make simple meals more interesting and visually more stunning.

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Tim (pictured above) is Daylesford’s resident forager and we were lucky enough on this day to have Garry Eveleigh AKA The Wild Cook join us adding his expertise in what can be eaten in the woodlands of the Daylesford estate.

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We spent a good two hours walking through the woods, fields and by the lake, stopping along the way to collect or avoid certain plants, taste what was being picked. This included wood sorrel, ground ivy, yellow celandine and pretty purple honesty flowers. At the time I visited, wild garlic was in abundance and we all collected huge bunches of it, some to be used when we returned to the school but plenty to take home with us too.

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Back at the school we snacked on Anzac biscuits from the farm shop and drank Bloody Marys with wild Horseradish that the chef had prepared before making our own Foragers Butter. (find the recipe at the end of this post)

With our baskets of plants and flowers we made our own salads; creating salad dressings and choosing from an array of vinegars, mustards and oils from the larder to suit our own palettes. Added to our salads, chef served venison carpaccio and raw asparagus in a simple dressing.

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Nettles were used to make a nettle ice cream, which was served with forced rhubarb. There was a huge amount of knowledge being shared and lots of tasting and simple recipes being whipped up, like homemade mayonnaise, to show us how quick and easy it is and also how much better it tastes than shop bought.

The whole day was a wonderful experience, a great introduction into foraging and simple ways you can implement it into a busy life. When lunch was over we all had a browse in the farm shop, I bought the cider vinegar and those Anzac biscuits and there may have been a few other things that made it into my basket too!

Three interesting things I discovered:

1. Washing stinging nettles will take out the sting

2. Buttercups are poisonous(!)

3. Raw asparagus in a simple dressing are delicious.

Making your own butter

- 900ml of cream will make around 400g of butter

  • Beat the cream with an electric whisk until it peaks and starts to clump and then white liquid starts to appear. The cream has now separated into curds of butter and buttermilk. It takes about 10 minutes. Strain the curds out of the buttermilk

  • In a bowl of very cold water drop in the curds to draw out any further milk. Squeeze the butter together to form a ball and then add your foraged flowers and a little salt (if you want a salted butter). Work the butter so your added ingredients are evenly distributed. Roll the butter into a sausage shape and wrap tightly in cling film.

The butter will keep for a week in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.

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