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PUBLISHED: 14:44 11 July 2015

Gusbourne winery in Ashford

Gusbourne winery in Ashford

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From world-clsss wines to why Kent's Farmers'Markets are important social hubs, especially in rural areas

World-class wines

Six of Gusbourne’s wines have been awarded either Gold or Silver medals in the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC), a record for the Ashford-based company.

Current release Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs (2010) and Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs Late Disgorged (2007) were both awarded ‘Gold Outstanding’ medals, making Gusbourne the only English wine producer to hold two Gold Outstanding medals from the IWSC, and both in the same year.

Ewan Lacey, general manager of the IWSC, commented: “Our judges have been really impressed by the consistent high standard of wines produced by winemaker Charlie Holland and the Gusbourne team in Kent. The results speak for themselves, Gusbourne are producing world-class wines as judged by our international panel.”

Royal Wells reopens

The Royal Wells Hotel in Tunbridge Wells has reopened following a £2.4m transformation by Shepherd Neame.

It’s the single largest refurbishment project to date for Britain’s oldest brewer, which took over the hotel in September 2012.

The extensive programme of work included replacing the restaurant with The Brasserie (pictured), a spacious orangery that can accommodate up to 70 diners. Guests can also enjoy al fresco dining in the new courtyard garden, which offers seating for up to 52 people.

The hotel’s reception area has been refurbished and the layout changed so guests can move freely into the main bar, which also has a fresh new look, with character features added including a cosy new Library area.

Visitors can choose from a selection of snacks and traditional pub meals in the bar, or enjoy à la carte dining in The Brasserie, where local seasonal produce is the star, including seafood from Griggs of Hythe and meat from J C Rook and Sons, both Kent family firms.

Levy at Leeds

Levy Restaurants UK has launched the Maze Café at Leeds Castle, as part of the renewed partnership between the sports, leisure and hospitality sector of Compass Group UK & Ireland and one of the most-visited historic buildings in Britain.

The new-look Maze Café focuses on home-made, fast fresh food in a family friendly environment.

As well as The Maze Café, Leeds Castle offers The Fairfax Restaurant, along with a number of food and drink kiosks located throughout the grounds.

Social hubs

Farmers’ Markets are not just about delicious food and drink. Markets act as social hubs, especially in rural communities, and they often raise both the profile and funding of local organisations.

Offham Market, near West Malling, is organised by Spadework, a charity which provides work-based training and support for adults with learning and other disabilities.

Typically, the market offers 30 stalls, so shoppers are able to buy all the ingredients they need to create healthy meals, as well as some luxuries like chocolate and cakes, solely from local products. All pitch fees go directly to the charity.

“But it’s not just about the funding,” says Richard Perton, who oversees Spadework’s farm shop and café, as well as the monthly Market. “The Markets help to attract visitors to Spadework to see what we do, so we gain valuable support and publicity.”

Spadework’s aim is to support the trainees using their services, as they develop their independence and personal abilities through social interaction with the community, ultimately helping them to gain the skills they need to reach their full potential.

“While here, the trainees will grow the plants that are sold in the garden centre, the fruit and vegetables served in the café and sold in the farm shop; they help to make cakes, jams and chutneys, and serve customers”, continues Richard. “The interaction with our customers not only enables them to hone their social skills but also helps them to build their self-esteem and confidence because they learn that the top quality goods and services they provide, are really valued and appreciated by our customers.”

Peter Begley, who has been involved in Kent Farmers’ Markets for more than 10 years, believes this community-focus is another distinguishing feature of Farmers’ Markets. “Many have charity refreshment stalls, or put their pitch fees towards maintaining the village hall. So by shopping at Markets, people are not only supporting local businesses, but directly contributing to good causes in their area.”

● Offham Farmers’ Market is from 10am-1pm on the second Saturday of every month.

For details of all Kent Farmers’ Markets, visit: www.kfma.org.uk and follow @KentFarmers {Twitter symbol pls}

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