WHEN the sky is electric blue and the trees are turning orange there’s nowhere better to be than somewhere big and empty.

My destination for the morning was Broom House Farm, a few miles from Witton Gilbert, for a spot of brunch.

Durham isn’t exactly a claustrophobic city. I’ve never measured, but I’ll take a punt that you’re never more than half a mile from some livestock wherever you are.

But the drive up to the farm still gave me that whiff of freedom I always get when I’m on my way to the “country”.

Having grown up being routinely woken by the bleating of sheep or being late for assembly because the school run and milk run clashed, an agricultural setting makes me feel right at home.

Broom House itself is at 750m, at the top of the hill on the way up from the village, which gives it great views, as well as a stiff breeze.

Farm shops and cafes are places with a particular wholesome feel about them, which possibly explains their popularity with families.

The farm is organic and has won several awards for its conservation work to restore hay meadows, create wildlife corridors, restore ponds and rebuild stone walls.

It was an absolutely stunning day, crisp and sunshiny, when I visited with a friend and her 11-month-old baby.

The place is popular with parents and small children and it’s not hard to see why. There’s (literally) acres of space to run around, animals to look at, a castle to conquer and baby tractors to play with. For older children, there’s also a forest adventure trail with slides, zip wire and tunnels.

Baby James had a whale of time, helping us work up an appetite as he got acquainted with “Big Dave”, their enormous resident pig (who really lives up to his name), a pen of adorable piglets and a gang of geese.

The farm shop opened in 2004 as a diversification, followed by a forest adventure trail in 2006 and café in 2007.

It was the café I was most interested in, heightened by the smell of bacon which even the sight of a pen full of baby piggies couldn’t put me off.

The café is in a new build wooden hut type building, with big glass doors to give a view out to the patio and fields beyond, and a wood burning stove to make it nice and cosy.

It clearly knows its clientele and has a good number of high chairs and plenty of space to put them.

It was still quite early when we sat down to eat so the lunch menu wasn’t being served, a pity, because there were quite a few delicious sounding dishes.

Instead we both went for full breakfasts (£8) – something that could only be described as a proper fry-up, with a glass of orange juice each (£1.50), latte (£2.50) and hot chocolate (£2.50).

A giant plate of sausage, bacon, black pudding, eggs, toast, tomatoes, mushrooms and beans, it was certainly hearty.

As is only fitting for a farm café with onsite butcher, the star of the show was the thick bacon and juicy sausages. The eggs, with perky orangey yellow yolks, were runny and delicious. The “add-ons” (i.e the vegetables – surely only there to give a semblance of balance?) were also good.

The waitress was also very accommodating of my (slightly weird) horror of beans being on the same plate as other food and put them in a separate dish. No chance of the nightmare scenario of mixing eggs yolk and tomato sauce – perish the thought.

Just in case we hadn’t had our fill of saturated fat, the toast was topped with bacon butter – a genius innovation that I might try out at home.

It may have been breakfast, but by this stage it was getting on for lunch so we decided to have puddings for good measure.

With a tempting display of buns and cakes, it was hard not to. The peanut brownie (£2.50) caught my eye, while Annie went for an Oreo tiffin (£2).

The brownie was suitably gooey and chocolatey, with nice big swirls of peanut butter - a stodgy and sugary delight.

Annie, something of a tiffin connoisseur, gave her dessert the thumbs up and the portion was big enough to take most of it home for later.

At this stage I was so full I was ready to just about to roll back down the hill.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to look around the butchery, which sells the farm’s own reared Aberdeen Angus beef, lamb, mutton and rare breed British Saddleback pork, hams, sausages and bacon. Possibly a reason to go back and try the lunch menu…

The total bill came to £31.


Broom House Farm Coffee Shop and Farm Shop, Witton Gilbert, Burnhope, Durham, DH7 6TR

Contact: 0191 371 18382

Website: broomhousedurham.co.uk

Open: 9am-5pm every day.

Ratings (out of ten): Food 8, Value 8, Service 8, Surroundings 8