There’s a lot to raise the spirits of a pie-maker and our pie HQ makes my heart soar. We pie-make on the Bayfield Estate in an area of outstanding natural beauty, a couple of miles from where the famous North Norfolk salt marshes meet the land. HQ sits on a ridge above the Glaven Valley (home to otters and kingfishers) and the sea. It’s one of the much-loved parts of North Norfolk that people not familiar with the area refuse to believe is formed of rolling hills. We’ve gradually created our state-of- the-art bakery in a light and airy high-ceilinged flint and brick barn that used to house the farm’s bull. Not the pigs, which would have been really good.
Bayfield Hall was the home of Sir Alfred Jodrell and, although dating back centuries, the estate has a very Victorian mix of philanthropic landowner rubbing shoulder’s with some of the best natural environment in the country.
The renovation of the barns to make units for rural business have won approval from CPRE for sensitive conversion, in the summer swallows swoop outside and nest in the places provided for them around the barns. Hares and buzzards live in the fields and woods and are a daily sighting. In the winter we’re kept warm by a communal wood burning system, fed from the estate’s trees and all year round barn owls patrol as we head home. On the drive up there’s a grassy bank separating the uphill and downhill traffic that all summer long is a mass of wild flowers and insects.
Our neighbours drop in, take in parcels for us, chat and taste new pie flavours. The super-exotic Berber Interiors (who sell beautiful Morocan fancy wares) let me use their showroom as a location for photoshoots and our excellent landlord has welcomed me (at no notice) to perch in his stately home kitchen for Country Living’s feature on the wedding pie – giving the photgrapher the run of the house to decide on the best location. We were there, at one end of the kitchen with lights, assistants, tripods and pies, for hours as the family and dogs got on with their lives around us. Bayfield Hall is often used for location work, so they were probably a whole lot more used to it than me.
Next door is Yetman’s micro brewery, so some days you get the smells of us baking mingling with the smell of Peter Yetman’s hops.
Sometimes I take visitors for a meeting-walk down the flower-banked lane to Glandford Ford rather than sit and talk formally, ideas flow beautifully in the sunshine. We don’t have a shop there but once in a while friends follow my complicated directions and come for a cup of tea and buy some pies, if we’ve any spare baked, or take away frozen ones to pop in their oven at home.
I like to think that just maybe part of the spirit of our patch of North Norfolk finds its way into the pies.