Snugburys is making lockdown ice-cream dreams come true with 40 flavours by click and collect
PUBLISHED: 15:53 01 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:18 01 June 2020
Snugburys has been making ice-cream on its Cheshire farm for more than 30 years and it’s still managing to reach customers during lockdown
Prettily perched on the A51 at Hurleston, near Nantwich, Snugburys is an ice-cream lover’s paradise. The picture-perfect cobbled courtyard ice-cream shop is famed not only by the locals, but by pudding-loving passers-by and those who deviously detour that way to get their summer fix.
It’s understandable then that the ice cream’s indulgent creaminess gives its 40 flavours a stand-out luxury that 300,000 people flock to taste every year. “Our parents started Snugburys in 1986,” says marketing director Kitty Hill – middle daughter and second generation running the business based at the family home, Park Farm. “They were dairy farmers and had surplus milk they couldn’t sell, so they started making ice cream in very small quantities in their kitchen, testing it out and giving it to friends and family. Everyone loved it and it progressed from the kitchen to one of the farm outbuildings in the courtyard where it is today.”
Milk was replaced with cream as the main ingredient in the early days when the family changed its Friesian herd to Jerseys. Parents Chris and Cheryl Sadler now focus solely on organic arable, with Kitty and her sisters Cleo Sadler, 26, and Hannah Goodwin, 34, taking over at Snugburys four years ago. They source their ingredients from local dairy farmers and say it’s the little things that make a big difference.
“We use all very British dairy ingredients,” Kitty says. “Cream is the perfect main ingredient in ice cream, giving it great texture. Our parents are still on site and are there for a bit of wisdom every now and again; they’re a fountain of knowledge.”
Last February, the sisters opened a second ice-cream parlour and café in Chester – Snugburys on the River – which is proving just as much of a hit. All ingredients, such as brownies, pavlovas, chocolate sauces – plus the cakes served in the Chester shop – are produced in-house by Snugburys’ small (but fantastic) team, with Cleo working as production director using her knowledge and skills as a trained patisserie chef. Kitty says: “If we can’t purchase a really great quality ingredient, we make it in-house. Cleo went to Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, and Le Cordon Bleu in London, and she is amazing at putting together flavours. She does all the development work and heads up the dairy – it’s her speciality.”
The delicious puddings, though, aren’t just chopped up and scattered through the ice cream. Come winter and the puddings are the star of their own show.
There’s the choc-chip cookie sandwich, stuffed with Snugburys and topped with a toasted s’more; the warm waffle topped with your favourite Snug scoop; the chocolate brownie covered in brûléed s’mores topping and the ‘death by chocolate’ hot chocolate, topped with a ring of toasted s’more.
“It’s something we introduced about four years ago,” Kitty says. “We’re a seasonal business, but the fact we make all these delicious pudding elements for our ice cream made us think: ‘Hang on, why can’t our customers buy them with a filling in the shop?’ It really did take off. People wait for them every year now so when we make the announcement, it goes mad and we usually sell out within 24 hours. It’s a serious treat but they are unbelievably delicious.”
It’s not just ice cream that Snugburys is famous for – the farm’s straw sculptures have become a spectacle in the fields just off the A51 over the past 25 years, which for this summer and last is home to a giant bumble bee. This particular build stemmed from Kitty’s passion for the bee, but often it’s a throw-up between the family’s ideas or one from a customer (sometimes they throw in a competition, too). Family friend and engineer Mike Harper designs the metal structure before passing it to Snugburys where it’s stuffed with straw and stands for two years.
“Last year we hand-split all the pieces of wood and used a natural dye to colour it black,” Kitty says. “It’s a labour of love, and we certainly love doing it. We sow wildflowers all the way down too, so it looks spectacular. And to think it all started 25 years ago by simply placing straw bales on top of one another, with arms, eyes, a nose and a mouth; it’s just fantastic. We’re supporting the Bumble Bee Conservation with this structure, with 50p from each sale of homemade white chocolate honeycomb shards donated to the charity. They look amazing in the ice cream.”
Earlier in the year, just before the shop was forced to close due to Covid-19 restrictions, the family decided to put up some encouraging signs along the A51. They read: ‘Storms don’t last forever... we can weather this together.’ The support of their customers is proof of just that.
On May 11th, Snugburys launched its click-and-collect service, enabling customers to buy 750ml take-home tubs of their favourite flavour. The parlour takes orders by email and sends out a date and time for collection from a table outside the shop, with customers hopping out of their car to grab their tubs one at a time.
“The uptake was unbelievable,” Kitty says. “Our supporters are so loyal; it is incredible. We have just got to play by the rules. When we’re able to re-open we’ll be putting in place social distancing measures; we’ll make sure it works and that everyone at the farm – staff included – are in a safe environment. It’s going to be interesting but we’re always up for a challenge, and this is certainly a challenge.”
Snugburys on the River is now open daily 11-5pm.
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