Footloose Food Walks - combining the Cheshire countryside and local produce

PUBLISHED: 10:08 06 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:28 20 February 2013

Footloose Food Walks - combining the Cheshire countryside and local produce

Footloose Food Walks - combining the Cheshire countryside and local produce

Two women are combining the best of both worlds - a walk in the Cheshire countryside with visits to local food producers. WORDS BY RAY KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Cheshire Life

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Napoleon Bonaparte or was it Frederick the Great? observed that an army marches on its stomach.

Well, dont we all? And that, in a nutshell, is the simple idea behind a new venture recently launched in Cheshire which combines walking through some of the countrys most scenic countryside with appreciation of the finest local food and drink producers.

Footloose Food Walks is the brainchild of former countryside ranger Yvonne Hosker and artist and outdoor instructor Heidi Schaefer whose programme of day trips, weekends and short breaks link our local food heroes cheese makers, micro breweries, farms, orchards and bakeries with walks taken at a gentle pace along trails, towpaths and quiet country lanes.

The pair have 20 years of experience conceiving, planning and arranging fascinating experiences for a range of people from guided walks for adults and children, yoga and wine tasting holidays in France to training courses for businesses. For the past decade they have both worked for a walking holiday company leading walks in the UK and abroad. Now they have turned their attention to closer horizons.

Heidi is an artist and has worked in the outdoors as an instructor, having many years experience in education and facilitation. She loves to cook and preserve the produce from her own vegetable garden and she also dabbles in cheese making.

Yvonne, who worked as a countryside ranger in the Medlock Valley between Manchester and Ashton-under-Lyne, has spent the last 20 years as an environmental consultant and is known for her expertise in making the countryside more accessible to everyone. An active walker and cyclist she comes from a farming family and thinks that our local cheeses are among the finest in the world.

She said: One of the things weve learned over the years is that clients will pay to have the hassle taken out of the discovery of the best walks, route finding and the arrangement of visits to artisan producers along the way, many of whom might not be open to the public in the normal course of events. We do all that, setting up the tastings, lead the walks, arrange transport and accommodation where necessary so its all-inclusive. All our customers have to do is turn up at the meeting point and we look after everything else.

Yvonne and Heidi also learned during their time on organised walks in France, wine country in particular, that producers who are passionate about what they do are keen to share their knowledge and individual stories with visitors. It invariably makes for a fascinating experience,

said Yvonne. Unlike France, however, where small artisan producers have been championed and cherished for centuries, the UKs retrospective foodie journey into its epicurean heritage has been a relatively recent phenomenon and individual producers are scattered far and wide.

That means we had to do a lot of research not only to find our local food heroes, but much more tricky, to identify clusters of producers within easy walking distance of each other to lend variety and interest to our planned routes, explained Yvonne.

Footlooses inaugural Cheshire walk is devoted to Discovering Dunham Massey. We discovered an amazing group of enthusiastic people producing cheese, apple juice, ice-cream, honey, beer, farm-reared meat and even herbs for Asian cuisine all within a mile or so of the village, said Yvonne.

The walk about five miles in all - takes in three producers linked by easy paths and quiet lanes. Its close to Manchester but feels a million miles away, said Yvonne. Starting from Dunham village the leisurely stroll follows the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal and the old Cheshire Lines railway route for part of the way.

Before setting out, Yvonne said: John Costello, the head brewer at Dunham brewery will give us a taste of traditional English beer during a short tour and at Ash Farm, Diane Pennington will tell us about her ice-cream making and let us taste a range of her 12 flavours.

Claire Burt makes her award-winning blue cheese a couple of miles away in Altrincham and well be able to taste it over lunch at Red House Farm where head chef Lewis Clare will serve a platter of local meats and cheeses.

Alan Hewitt has just started making Dunham Massey apple juice from Bothy Orchard hell tell us about it, let us taste and show us the old cordon trees.

Their first walk - in Lancashire - is centred on the Ribble Valley Village of Goosnargh and includes visits to Reg Johnson and Bud Swarbricks celebrated poultry farm and Beesley Farm where Mrs Kirkhams acclaimed traditional Lancashire cheese is made. The planned lunch stop at Ye Horns Inn includes tastings of locally brewed Pendle Witch beer with a platter of Mrs Kirkhams and Johnson & Swarbricks best.

Said Yvonne: We are investigating a possible three-day route along Cheshires famous Sandstone Trail starting at Frodsham and visiting an apple orchard, brewery and jam maker, staying in cosy pubs along the way and finishing in Whitchurch at an award-winning Cheshire cheese maker.

Were also working towards developing a short break taking in Lancaster and South Cumbria with highlights including potted shrimps, a brewer, coffee roaster, salt marsh lamb farm and smokehouse. People have been delightful and very enthusiastic about what were doing.

Were confident our walks can work up healthy appetites for some excellent local food, said Yvonne.

Their website is now live.

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