You can see the sign “Beef & Lamb” tucked away along the North Orbital road between St Albans and Park St and you have to be quick to turn in. Once you find the lane for Hedges Farm, you head for the sheds and an unmarked white door leads to a very well-stocked butcher’s shop. When we first moved to St Albans, Hedges was only open a few mornings a week but it is now so popular it is open Tues-Sat (8-5), with over 200 customers making the journey every Saturday to stock up. Top tip: it is very busy on a Saturday morning so go in the afternoon.
The Woollatt family have had Hedges Farm for over 80 years and I spoke to the newest farmer Fiona Woollatt. Only 20, Fiona has a fantastic knowledge of the animals on the farm and I was introduced to many by name. Fiona is particularly interested in the Hereford cows and shows them at County Shows. I met Blakesley 1 Funfair who is the East of England Breed Champion, along with her first calf Gizmo. They were both beautiful, curly-haired creatures and Fiona’s pride was evident. Blakesley 1 Funfair also won last year’s Austin/Manning trophy as she achieved the most points across 15 counties: she is a true celebrity.
Hedges is also known for its lamb. There are 500 breeding ewes at Hedges, and there were lots of new lambs around in the shelters getting ready to head out to the 500 acres around the farm. Every animal on the farm is free-range of course, and they are fed by silage and barley grown on the farm, so they have a very healthy natural diet that the family controls closely. The animals are not fed with growth promoters. When you buy from Hedges you can feel confident that you are buying very high quality, well-cared-for meat.
All the beef is hung for two weeks for flavour and you could see it in the deep red colour in the butcher’s shop. Inspired by two hikers we met who had walked to Hedges to buy steak, I bought two huge Sirloin steaks, and they were the best we have ever had. I also tried a range of the sausages which are made on the premises by Josef Meyer, including Pork & Guinness, made specially for St Patrick’s Day. They were huge and meaty and one alone was enough for me (with mash of course). Josef has been making sausages for 59 years, and he celebrates his 75th birthday this week. We are very lucky to have Josef making sausages locally: he has made sausages for Harrods, Fortnum & Masons and P&O. Hedges sell a huge quantity of sausages, made on the premises using fresh ingredients such as chopped apple and red onion but the pork actually comes from other local farms as they don’t have the capacity to raise pigs too.
Do pick up eggs when you are there: Six free-range eggs from Cloverleaf Farm in Royston are only £1.40 which is a very fair price. They also sell chicken, but again do not keep them at Hedges. You can also pick up excellent bacon, but the main reason to go is the beef and lamb, with a good selection of cuts including roasting joints, cutlets, steaks and mince. Hedges also sell hundreds of turkeys at Christmas to all their local customers but they already get up at four in the morning on Christmas Eve to get them all ready, so the butchers asked me not to mention that…
Hedges Herefords Farm
North Orbital Road
Closed Sunday and Monday