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Swanning about

Swanning about

 

If you happen to be at Goring Lock around 5pm on Thursday 19 July, you’ll be greeted with a unique and quintessentially English sight – the Royal Swan Uppers at work.

Swan upping dates back centuries to a time when swans were eaten at banquets and featss. It was a way of ensuring that there were plenty of cygnets on the river to continue breeding then taking the remainder away to fatten up for eating. But controlling the swan population in this way was very labour intensive and with the increasing availability of domestic poultry in the 19th century, swans became far less desirable on the dining table.

Today, swan upping plays in important role in the conservation of mute swans. During the third week of July each year, a team of swan uppers travels from Sunbury to Abingdon in six traditional rowing skiffs. The skiffs are decorated with the flags and pennants of not just the Crown but also the Vintners and the Dyers – the three bodies which collectively own the swans on the River Thames.

The swan uppers travel along the river and when they spot a colony of swans, they call out, ‘All-up!’. The boats then surround the swans and their cygnets and carefully lift the birds out of the water. They are then taken onshore for examining and marking.

The cygnets are weighed and measured, and checked for injuries. Most injuries can be dealt with in situ but some swans may require treatment at a rescue centre. Injuries are often caused by discarded fishing tackle as well as by attacks by predators, dogs and, sadly, humans. All the data is recorded by the Queen’s Swan Warden.

Cygnet numbers recorded in 2017 were significantly higher than the previous two years with 132 new cygnets recorded on the River Thames despite an outbreak of Avian Flu at the start of the year

Last year saw a significant improvement in cygnet numbers compared to the last two years, with a total of 132 new cygnets on the River Thames. This uplift was welcomed after an outbreak of Avian Influenza at the start of the year.

‘Throughout the year we have been delighted that members of the public have kept a watchful eye on so many of the nesting swans,’ David Barber, the Queen’s Swan Marker (pictured above), explains, ‘It is encouraging to see how important the welfare of swans and their young cygnets are to so many people.’

There was a massive decline in the swan population in the latter half of the 20th century. But when lead fishing weights were banned in the late 1980s, swan numbers started to increase steadily. There are, however, far fewer breeding pairs today than in the post-war years.

Swans today face many challenges. Injuries and vandalism aside, there is a lack of aquatic vegetation, and the increase in concrete embankments and moored boats make it difficult for swans to access grass riverbanks for feeding.

As well as monitoring the swan population, the Swan Uppers invite schools along to see them at work and to educate children in the importance of river ecology and the conservation of these unique and beautiful creatures.

The Royal Swan Uppers are scheduled to arrive at Goring Lock at 5pm on Thursday 19 July. They set off that morning from Sonning before stopping in Caversham and Mapledurham. After Goring, they will travel on to Moulsford with an expected arrival time of 6pm

Introducing… Phillippa

Introducing… Phillippa

One of the many things that makes Pierreponts special is our fantastic team and every month we’ll be featuring one of them so that you can get to know them a bit better. This month it’s the turn of waitress Phillippa.

Where do you live and who do you live with?

I live in Sonning Common with my husband Simon, our three children, Olivia, Max and Henry, and our Border Terrier Mo.

How long have you worked at Pierreponts?

It’s nearly three years – time flies when you are having fun.

What’s the best thing about working at Pierreponts?

The team – we work hard but also have a lot of fun.

And the worst?

The staff toilet when it’s -4 degrees!

What’s your favourite thing to eat and drink at Pierreponts?

Either a bacon sandwich or marmite on Birch Cottage toast with a large one-shot black Americano.

What’s your favourite cafe or restaurant (apart from Pierreponts, of course!)?

It has to be The Greyhound in Peppard as it is always so special. I love Spoon in Henley too but I really want to go to the Elan Cafe in London – it looks gorgeous.

How do you relax after a hard day at work?

I don’t have much time to relax after work as its straight into school pick up for me. With three children at three different schools, I don’t really relax until about 8pm then I sit down when Eastenders comes on.

Which celebrity would you invite to your birthday party?

Definitely Victoria Beckham. I would love to pick her brains on fashion and make up, and I believe she loves a good glass of wine.

Who is the last person you’d invite?

That would be Bono. I just really can’t bear him.

If you could have any TV box set, what would it be?

The Crown. I absolutely love it – the outfits, the story, the glamour and the acting. It’s amazing to watch.

You would do anything to avoid…

Eating fish. I hate bones.

What do you drive and what do you listen to in the car?

I drive a Land Rover Discovery and listen to Radio 2 when I can. At other times I am forced by my children to listen to Capital. They know I don’t like heavy thumping music so they enjoy it more when it comes on.

What are your nicknames and why?

I’m not sure I have any nicknames but there are probably a few I don’t know about!

Which one website do you always check?

I always check Facebook, Instagram and the Daily Mail showbiz page. I love to know what the celebs are up to.

What’s your signature dish if cooking?

I’ve been told I cook a very mean chilli.

Which sports teams do you follow?

Rotherfield United Football Club because my son plays for them.

What are you currently reading?

Fern Britton’s new book – it’s light and fluffy and not too taxing. I really couldn’t live without my Kindle.  It was my best present ever!

What’s your most annoying habit?

I just asked my husband and he said immediately, ‘Being on your phone’. I didn’t know that! My children would say constantly tidying up and really bad singing. In my head I’m an opera singer!

What hobbies do you have?

I love to read and play Scrabble (on my phone!).

What’s your claim to fame?

Being at a showbiz party and spending an hour talking to an older lady who was telling me wonderful stories about her grandson. He was Leonardo DiCaprio but I was too drunk to remember what she said!

An interesting fact about yourself:

I used to work for a very famous national newspaper and have lots of stories to tell…

Tell us about your most embarassing situation:

Ask my teenage daughter as everything I do seems to be embarrassing to her. Actually probably when I fell flat on my bum pulling out the canopy at work in front of a packed cafe. It wasn’t my finest moment!

 

Pierreponts at Home

Pierreponts at Home

As we hope you’re learning from reading our blog, Pierreponts is so much more than just a café. If you love our food and style of cooking, then you might like to know about about Pierreponts at Home. We describe it as stress-free entertaining, from our kitchen to yours. And that’s exactly what it is.

Party time

Whether it’s an intimate dinner party or a large event, we are able to provide delicious food so that you can concentrate on enjoying your guests’ company and not stressing in the kitchen.

Over the years we’ve provided food for a wide range of events, from corporate canapé receptions to sports day picnics. We’ve catered for christenings and funerals, as well as events including Henley Regatta.  Our largest booking to date is for a wedding this summer for 200 guests.

Time for dinner

If it’s hot food that you’d like, then we offer a selection of mains including lamb tagine, fish pie and aubergine parmigana. All are served with seasonal vegetables or salad. We can also provide starters, including potted crab and soup with homemade bread. And if you’ve room for dessert after all that, we have a range of sweet tarts such as rich chocolate, glazed lemon and almond with seasonal fruit.

We provide a lot of food for dinner parties – perfect for when you want to entertain but don’t have the time or the inclination to spend hours in the kitchen. Some of our customers ask for the food to be put on their own dishes so that they can pass it off as their own! Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with us.

Salad selection
Eating al fresco

Being so close to the river, we are often asked to provide picnics during the summer months. Popular choices are our savoury tarts with a selection of tasty salads, followed by one of our famous cakes – and we have a dozen flavours from which to choose.

If you’re already thinking ahead to your school sports day, then we’d be happy to help provide a delicious picnic for you. We also give a 10% donation to your school association as a thank you for choosing us.

Afternoon tea

Our afternoon tea parties are very popular particularly for weddings and birthdays. We provide freshly-made sandwiches, homemade scones and our delicious cakes. We can also put you in touch with local companies who hire out vintage china if that’s the look you’re going for.

Delivery and other services

Like the café, our style is very casual and informal, so we don’t provide staff. Instead, we will deliver the food and set it up to your requirements. If you have ordered hot food, it will be delivered chilled and we provide clear instructions for how to reheat it. Delivery is free within a five-mile radius. Beyond that we are happy to deliver to any address in the area for a charge.

If you require additional crockery or cutlery then let us know and we can arrange hire at an additional cost. We can also provide special occasion cakes to give your event the wow factor.

For a large event, do get in touch sooner rather than later but for smaller gatherings of up to 20 people, we can normally provide food with just 48 hours’ notice.

The Pierreponts at Home menu can be found here. This is just a starting point though listing some of our most popular choices. So do get in touch with your ideas as we’re very happy to provide dishes that suit you and help you create the perfect party.

If you’d like more details or have a chat about how we can help then please call Steph or Linda on 01494 874464 or email steph@pierrepontsgoring.co.uk

Saturday Stalwarts

Saturday Stalwarts

If you’ve been to Pierreponts on a Saturday morning, chances are you’ll have spotted a stack of bikes outside and inside two tables full of chattering people with rosy cheeks – one lot top to toe in lycra, the other in muddy walking boots. They are the weekend walkers and cyclists, and they are just as much a part of Pierreponts as the cakes.

The cyclists

Goring residents Paul and Mark have been Pierreponts customers since the cafe opened back in 2008. Every Saturday morning, they meet their fellow cyclists in the Catherine Wheel car park at 8am then set off on a two-and-a-half-hour bike ride which always ends for them at Pierreponts.

‘It’s our spiritual home,’ Paul explains. The two men have cycled together for around 20 years, first on mountain bikes but now on road bikes. They enthuse about how wonderful the area is for cycling – quiet country lanes, some challenging hills and glorious views aplenty.

Over two decades, they have seen a huge increase in the number of cyclists on the roads in Oxfordshire. ‘We used to ride to Henley and not see another rider,’ Paul recalls. ‘Now we’ll see around a hundred or so.’

They describe their Saturday morning jaunt as a social ride, and it certainly is with around half a dozen of them usually ending up in Pierreponts for breakfast. And what’s their post-ride breakfast of choice? ‘Bacon sandwich,’ Paul responds in a heartbeat. ‘And coffee.’ For Mark it’s a bacon sandwich too. ‘And sometimes a doughnut,’ he smiles.

The walkers

As the cyclists are unclipping their pedals and taking off their helmets, another merry band is arriving to refuel – the walkers. I squeeze onto a table with Joëlle, John, Judy, Bernard, Ernst, Liz and Jo, who are all keen ramblers as well as friends for longer than any of them dares to remember.

The seven friends met through a shared love of exploring the countryside on foot. They get together every Saturday morning at 9am for a circular walk around Goring, starting and finishing at the Rectory Garden. Whatever the weather, they complete four-or-five-mile route (‘which always includes a hill,’ Joëlle adds) before descending on Pierreponts 90 minutes later for breakfast and a lot of chatter. This lot like to walk but they really like to talk!

Their enthusiasm for Pierreponts is huge, and they are all regulars – not just on Saturday mornings but throughout the week too. They particularly like coming for an early supper on a Friday evening before heading out to one of the Goring Jazz events.

The Saturday-morning walk is just one of nine which take place each week under the banner of Goring Gap Health Walks. There are walks to suit everyone, with different levels of difficulty and distance. The weekend walks tend to attract around 20 walkers but during the week there can be as many as 40.

The benefits of walking in a group are huge – it’s sociable, great for your physical and mental health, and it’s free too. Each walk is led by a trained leader so you can rest assured that you’re in safe hands.

Back at Pierreponts it’s time for breakfast, and the walkers feast on kippers, porridge, granola and French toast. ‘I was ill recently,’ Jo tells me, ‘and I had to miss the walks. But I really missed the breakfasts!’

For more information about the walking group, visit www.goringgapwalks.co.uk

 

Meet the supplier: Vicars Game

Meet the supplier: Vicars Game

In our first ‘Meet the supplier’ focus we’re talking with Vicars Game who supply all our meat. We love working with them because they are able to supply a broad range of wonderful fresh local meat produce, and our customers often comment on the quality.

The word Vicars is synonymous with good quality meat in Berkshire and the surrounding area. William Vicars and Son was established in Reading in 1886, and the butchers shop stayed in the family for three generations. It was bought by Alan Hayward, a pork butcher and pie maker by trade who trained at Griffins in Newbury, in 1973. Hayward has owned the business since then – Vicars Game, as it is now known.

A growing business

Over the past 45 years, Hayward has expanded the business from a single shop to a huge enterprise which has more than 50 employees and operates 24 hours a day, six and a half days a week. ‘We decided to go into catering,’ he explains, ‘and it grew, and grew, and grew.’

Today, Vicars supplies meat and game to butchers, catering companies, wholesalers and retailers, as well as around 150 pubs, hotels and restaurants, including Pierreponts. From Monday to Saturday, seven vans are sent out twice a day delivering produce in a 60-mile radius of Vicars’ base in Ashampstead, near Newbury.

Only the best

Daily deliveries ensure that the meats you are served at Pierreponts are super fresh. ‘It’s important that we talk to them about what’s on the menu and why so we can, for example, ensure the bacon is of the right thickness,’ says Hayward. ‘Our relationship is really important and we talk to them regularly.’

But however much the business may have expanded, quality is absolutely key, as Hayward explains. ‘We buy the best quality meats we can from three local suppliers – nothing second rate – so it just sells itself.’ For example, they only use female pigs as they are bigger than male and produce better bacon. All their beef is under 24 months old, and the vast majority of game they sell, including pheasant, partridge, rabbit and deer, come from the countryside surrounding Ashampstead.

The big three

Vicars’ three biggest products are venison, bacon and, the biggest of them all, sausages. Each day, around two tonnes of sausages in a range of 50 flavours are made on the premises. The company also makes black and white pudding to their own recipe. In fact sausages have been key to the Vicars’ most recent innovation – Casey Fields Farm Shop.

Shop talk

‘I never intended opening a shop but there was a demand for sausages,’ Hayward explains, ‘so I put in a counter in our office at Ashampstead. That got busy so I put in two counters. Then I converted one of the offices and put a shed out the front for veg.’ And so it continued, with the shop expanding more offices were built to create extra space and most recently a café has been added.

‘We want people to be able to get everything they need,’ he adds. And indeed you can – cheese, cooked meats, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables are all for sale, as well as bakery products. Hayward now has plans to expand the café and put in a play area for children. ‘I’m going to get some meerkats too – I love them!’

Meat today

With a career spanning decades, Hayward has seen big changes in how people buy meat. ‘The main difference is people only buy portions now, not the big piece of beef that they roast on a Sunday, which lasts for three more days. And there’s very little demand for offal any more,’ he bemoans, but tastes are changing. ‘With all the cookery programmes on TV, cooking has become entertainment and people are becoming more adventurous. People are eating more venison, guinea fowl and corn-fed chickens than ever.’

www.vicarsgame.co.uk

Casey Fields Farm Shop is off Dog Lane in Ashampstead, RG8 8SJ

Introducing… Steph

Introducing… Steph

One of the many things that makes Pierreponts special is our fantastic team and every month we’ll be featuring one of them so that you can get to know them a bit better. We’re starting with owner Stephanie Kingsland.

Where you live and who do you live with?

I live in Upper Basildon with my husband Phil; our three daughters, Imogen, Hattie and Clara; plus Biscuit the cat, Boo the dog, and Penny and Geoff, our two pigs

How long have you worked at Pierreponts?

It will be three years in April.

What’s the best thing about working at Pierreponts?

The great team and fantastic customers.

And what’s the worst?

Bringing the outdoor furniture in at night.

What’s your favourite thing to eat at Pierreponts?

A sausage sandwich.

And what would you have to drink with it?

An avocado smoothie.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened at work?

I’m not sure I should repeat it!

What’s your favourite café/restaurant (apart from Pierreponts, of course!)?

I love the Daylesford cafes. I don’t really have a favourite restaurant but love eating out anywhere relaxed and not too stuffy with great food.

How do you relax after a hard day at work?

There’s not much time for relaxing but when I do I just love to spend time with my kids. If it’s near the sea then that’s great.

You would do anything to avoid…

Bringing in the outside furniture at night.

What do you listen to in the car?

I listen to whatever my kids put on – the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman is the current favourite. If I’m on my own I’m very grown up and listen to Radio 4.

What are your nicknames and why?

I don’t have any that I know of!

Which one website do you always check?

Facebook and Instagram – doesn’t everyone?!

What’s your signature dish if cooking?

I make a mean Lasagne

What sports teams do you follow?

I don’t really but I’ll always support England/GB teams. I loved the Winter Olympics

What are you currently reading?

I don’t have time to read as I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. I have a huge pile of books waiting for our next holiday though.

What hobbies do you have?

I love baking

What’s your claim to fame?

I have been interviewed by Debbie McGee and Mike Read for Radio Berkshire

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself

Not very interesting, but I used to be a nurse – I loved it!

 

Sustainability – it’s at the heart of everything we do

Sustainability – it’s at the heart of everything we do

At Pierreponts we feel very passionately about the environment and we are constantly working to make the café as sustainable as we possibly can. We strongly believe it’s our responsibility to protect the environment, both locally and on a global scale.

Here are some of the ways in which we’re working towards being the most sustainable business we can:

1. Keeping it local

We are very proud to work with a huge number of local food suppliers. Not only does this reduce the food miles it means we’re supporting local, independent businesses. And who wouldn’t want to do that? Our meat, bread, eggs, vegetables, dairy and wine come from local producers, and all our cakes are made in our own kitchen. Plus we grow our own herbs – now we’re talking food metres, not miles!

2. Reusable cups rule

If you bring a reusable cup for your takeaway tea or coffee, we’ll give you a 20p discount on every drink. We also sell a range of cups in the most beautiful colours.

Reusable cups

There is much talk of cafes using recyclable or compostable take away cups. The truth is , however, that unless you live in one of two specific areas in the country your cup cannot be recycled. Compostable cups do not compost in landfill – the conditions aren’t right for it – so we believe the best answer currently is to stop using disposable cups as much as possible. Please don’t ask us for a take away cup for your coffee if you are staying in the café.

3. No more plastic straws

Plastic straws are only ever used once yet they take centuries to decompose. So back in November we replaced plastic straws with biodegradable paper straws.

4. Recycling is king

All our waste is sorted and we recycle as much of it as we possibly can. Anything that can’t be recycled is incinerated and the energy produced feeds into the national grid.

5. Stick with the seasons

We try as much as we can to use seasonal produce in our dishes. The fewer miles your food has travelled, the better it is for the environment. Plus it will have retained more nutrients in the short time between being harvested and served on your plate.

6. Cutlery counts

We don’t provide plastic cutlery with our takeaway food. Instead we provide rather lovely biodegradable knives, forks and spoons. And of course in the café we only use metal cutlery.

7. Vegetarian options

We are consciously increasing the number of vegetarian and vegan dishes on our menu, and offer a range of non-dairy milks for hot drinks. Many people are now including less meat and dairy in their diets. and so we are happy to help. We are careful to ensure that the meat and dairy which we use comes from farms using responsible and sustainable farming methods.

8. Bag-free tea

We are proud of our huge range of teas, from English breakfast to Lapsang Souchong and everything in between. All of our blends are loose leaf as we believe they taste superior to teabags. Plus you might not have realised that many teabags contain plastic – polypropylene, to be precise – which is used to heat seal them during manufacture to make sure they don’t open in the box or your cup. All our tea is supplied by the Wallingford Tea Company – another great local small business

9. Plastic is not fantastic

We don’t supply any drinks in plastic bottles, only glass. Nor do we use plastic carrier bags.

10. This is just the start

We’re proud of the changes we’re making but we’re very aware that there’s still more we can do to reduce our impact on the environment. One of our current challenges is finding boxes for our takeaway salads which don’t contain plastic but which don’t leak. Although compostable boxes are available, these only break down if they are put on an actual compost heap.

We would love to hear any ideas you have which could help us further.

And if anyone has a use for used coffee grounds please do let us know and we will collect them for you –they are great on compost heaps, deter ants, slugs and snails, and make a great fertiliser.

A Pinch of Pierreponts

A Pinch of Pierreponts

Welcome to ‘A Pinch of Pierreponts’, our brand new blog with the latest news and updates from us. We hope it’s going to be a great way to keep in touch with you and let you know all about what’s happening in and around Pierreponts.

This is a place where you’ll be able to get to know more about what we love: great seasonal food from local suppliers; our friendly staff; and some of your fellow customers too.

We also want to tell you about some of what we believe in, including our responsibility to the environment we live in and our links to the local community.

When you’ve been in, you may have seen some of the books and crafts from local artists – we’ll be sharing more of their stories.

There’ll be updates on the latest happenings in and around Goring and Streatley, and we’ll be telling you about special events and evenings we’ll be hosting too.

We think Pierreponts is a special place, whether you come here for breakfast, brunch, lunch afternoon tea or supper on a Friday night and we hope you do too. That’s why we love it when you share the news about what a great time you’ve had. From coffee with a friend to do the day someone proposed in the café – it all happens here!

We’re really looking forward to sharing the occasional favourite recipe with you so that you can recreate the Pierreponts experience at home.

If you want to stay in touch then do subscribe to our news feed, which you can do by simply filling in your details in the box below. And please let us know about anything you’d like us to cover in future posts.

Happy reading!

Steph, Phil & the team

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