Berrys Farm Shop and Café, near Leyburn, gives Chris Lloyd plenty of blue sky thinking

WITH the sun as high in the blue sky as it gets in autumn, we took a drive into the dales in search of a Sunday lunch and a walk on what might have been the last good day of the year.

Berrys is a farm shop in Swinithwaite, in Wensleydale, to the west of Leyburn, approached along the A684. Once we’d avoided the police van in a lay-by at West Witton, hoping to catch speeding motorbikers, we drank in the view. For all it is an A-road, it is a lane of beauty, lined with stone walls and flanked with trees that meet in the middle. The nearby fields are dotted with old barns and through the greens and golds of the turning leaves, you get tantalising glimpse of the far side of the dale.

Turning into the farm, we were greeted by an extravagant rooster, Charlie, who was sunning himself on the driveway. We parked beneath a little wood where a pair of Kune Kune pigs grunted contentedly as the warm rays filtered through the twigs. The café is a light, airy, eco-friendly building which has been fitted inside an ancient farm courtyard. Felted, fluffy white clouds hung from the ceiling above the tables, many of which were reserved. There were tables and chairs outside, and one wrapped-up couple managed to find enough heat in the October sunshine to complete their meal al fresco.

Sunday offerings include a wide range of sandwiches, plus some specials: cream of cauliflower and blue cheese soup (£4.75); Cheddar cheese and mixed pepper tart (£6.50); smoked salmon and cream cheese salad with new potatoes (£8.50). Grandma, who has an aversion to anything cheese-related, immediately pointed out that there was nothing special for her, so she opted for a small roast pork.

Petra chose a roast nut cutlet, while I went for the full beef Sunday dinner. The sun slipped a little lower, so we dropped the blinds to keep it out of our eyes and watched as the bevy of young, black-clad staff dealt admirably with a full tray spillage.

My beef – all meat is local – was very good quality: not stringy, not fatty, not chewy. It was thinly-sliced and easily cut, although both it and the plate could have done to be a few degrees warmer. The pork was equally good. The meals came with a good Yorkshire and some very good roast potatoes, and there were plenty of simple, unadorned vegetables which were not over-cooked: cauliflower, carrot, green beans and cabbage.

My full dinner cost £10.95, which is quite expensive for a farm shop roast, but grandma and young Theo’s small plates cost £6.50, which is very cheap. The only difference between the two plates was a few extra potatoes and a couple of slices more meat.

Petra’s nut cutlet (£9.95) was judged a tasty success for its variety of vegetables and nuts served with apple sauce plus Yorkshire and roasties. She felt it could have done with an onion gravy, so I offered her a pour of the boat of extra gravy I had acquired. Seeing the beef off-cuts floating in it, she declined. I enjoy my roast dinner swimming in gravy, and this was excellent gravy – the sort of gravy that deserved to be drunk on its own. I never understand why, at the end of my meal, I am not allowed to do so in public.

Desserts (all £4.95) at Berrys were well worth scraping up. Theo long-spooned a red berry trifle with great glee, and I enthused over my sticky toffee pudding. It was a very generous portion, and the sponge was magnificent. Some restaurants are filling up their sticky toffee puddings with heavy fruit, but I prefer an honest sponge, light and tasty like this one, accompanied by a good scoop of vanilla ice cream and a great sticky sauce. I scraped up every drop.

Petra was overwhelmed by the enormity of her cheesecake. It was a rich slice topped with a large ladle of sharp strawberries in a coulis – the two worked well together, but after a nut cutlet it was too much. Grandma, ever conservative, pronounced all desserts too big, and sensibly had a flapjack (£1.95) which was stuffed with interesting bits of fruit.

Our bill for four was £64.90, which represents good value for money.

Even better value for money was the free walk afterwards, through the farm’s meadows, scattering pheasants as we went. It is half-a-mile through the fields, which were sculpted by the last Ice Age into curious rounded mounds, down to Redmire Force on the Ure.

Penn Hill, the Wensleydale skyscraper, was behind us and the 14th Century Bolton Castle was on the other side in front of us, basking in the sun – it has seen enough Octobers to know that when you do get a fabulously blue sky day, you have to make the most of it with a good meal and a great walk.

Berrys Farm Shop and Café, Swinithwaite, Leyburn DL8 4UH


Tel: 01969-663377

Open all year round, 10am to 4pm

Food quality: 3/5

Service: 4/5

Ambience: 3/5

Value for money: 3/5