SLACK HOUSE FARM bunkhouse in Northumberland overlooks Birdoswald Roman Fort on Hadrians Wall, so its not surprising their home made organic cheese is called Birdoswald and Birdoswald Blue. Dianne and Eric have dedicated there lives to producing “real” food, they are passionate about local produce, served with the minimum of processing. So if you want to experience the taste of Hadirans Wall country as well as see it, Slack House Farm is the place to stay.
The farm has organic status and when you arrive at the bunkhouse there will be a jug of fresh raw milk waiting for you in the fridge. I don’t think I had drunk unprocessed milk before. I started with a drop in my coffee which transformed my instant cup to the most gorgeous latte I had tasted. Quickly I moved on a slurp of the milk itself and instantly was taken back to my childhood. We didn’t have raw milk when I was young but all our milk arrived in bottles with cream on the top, pasteurised but not homogenised. Over the years, and without noticing, my family and the rest of the country have moved onto homogenized milk and, with the smashing up of the fat molecules, we left all the taste behind.
Slack House Farm is less then half a kilometer from Hadrians Wall and is an ideal stop over for those wishing to leave the wall at the Roman Fort of Birdoswald. On the day we arrived there were a couple of teenage lads staying at the bunkhouse. They were walking Hadrian Wall as part of their year out.
We walked some sections of the to wall eastwards from Birdoswald. Despite the fact it was August the sky was boiling with storm clouds and long before we were done it was hailing ! What must the poor Roman Solders have thought, coming from the Mediterranean and sent to build this wall through the depths of seven Northumberland winters. Roman solders and their decendents manned the walls for the next 700 years. During our walk we visited the Roman forts at Birdoswald and at Housesteads on Hadrians Wall. It was great to find out about the history of the wall and it forts. Birdoswald Fort is the only one to have been constantly occupied for the 1800 years since it was constructed. Remains can been see at Birdoswald of the original Roman fort, dark age buildings, a medieval tower house, a 16th-century bastle house and the Victorian gothic style Birdoswald farmhouse.
Returning to SLACK HOUSE FARM, soaked through, we were glad of the drying room and hot showers. The water and the underfloor heating for the bunkhouse is powered by a wood burner in the hostel. Everywhere was toasty warm and there was a delightful glowing stove in the lounge area with board games and books to borrow.
We had ordered dinner that night from Dianne. Shepard’s pie made with organic beef from the farms herd. It was serve with cabbage cooked to a roman recipe found at Vindolanda Fort on the Wall. Dianne makes some great meals for guests at the bunkhouse, farmhouse breakfasts, packed lunches and evening meals. Home cooked meals are ideal for walkers of Hadrians Wall, tired and not wanting to carry food for self catering. It also explains why there is no cooker in the bunkhouse kitchen, just a microwave and kettle. The pie was cooked in the cafe Aga and strangely there is a viewing window from the bunkhouse to the cafe kitchen so we watched it being prepared.
The Sycpen Cafe and Shop is another result of Dianne and Eric’s passion for introducing the forgotten taste of real food to everyone they meet. The cafe and shop serves locals and visitors alike. The converted barn has a peaceful atmosphere with the kitchen at one end and a mezzanine floor above the dairy at the other. There is a viewing window so you can watch the cheese being made and the upper floor has comfy chairs and tables where you can settle down with a good book or meet and chat with neighbours. A wide range of organic and local produce are available in the shop including bottles of locally brewed beer and of course Birdoswald and Birdoswald Blue cheese. The cafe was closed while we were visiting and Dianne and Eric were looking for new managers. A great project for an individual, couple or a family looking for a change of lifestyle and with a passion for real food. The passion is the most important part, and a little knowledge about modern marketing perhaps, Dianne and Eric know all the rest and are ready to pass on a lifetime of knowledge to the right person. If this idea has you fired up you can contact Diane and Eric via their contact details Here.
On our second night we shared the bunkhouse with a German couple who were walking the wall and had left it at Birdoswald fort for a night at the bunkhouse. It was great to hear their tales and astounding to hear of the distances they were walking with heavy packs. Sometimes using the hostels along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland for overnight stays. They left at 7am the next morning after a farmhouse breakfast and we were leaving that day to, I took plenty of Birdoswald cheese with me, what better memento of our stay.