<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Philippa James visits Roaming Roosters in Higham

PUBLISHED: 23:04 15 June 2014

Philippa James and Simon Mellin with George Cropper

Philippa James and Simon Mellin with George Cropper


Two brothers with big ideas have created a thriving and unique countryside food business. Philippa James paid them a visit

As I walked into The Olde Spot Bistro, named after one of the rare breeds at Roaming Roosters, photographer Kirsty Thompson waved her arm around and uttered: ‘Isn’t this all amazing?’

The last time we visited Higham, wedged between Pendle Hill and Burnley, was just under two years ago. Then, the operations manager, Simon Mellin, and his brother and head butcher, Nick ‘The Knife’, had a huge building filled with little more than worries about the future.

The financial and emotional commitment was considerable. They were embarking on their dream project during a time of general financial gloom and their father, Geoff, had helped to raise funds by selling the butchery business that had been in the family since 1904.

They needn’t have worried. We arrived at 11.30am and The Bistro was almost full with lunchtime diners and the Hay Loft was awash with coffee drinkers. Meanwhile, the deli was brisk with shoppers armed with full baskets and the car park was packed.

Simon, asked about the early months and the biggest problems, rolled his eyes and grinned. ‘The growth was so rapid,’ he said. ‘There were so many aspects - the farm shop, the bistro, coffee room, education centre, all rolled into one, taking on so many staff, all at once…suddenly, I found my days were much less hands on.

‘We were over-awed by it all to start with, I have to admit. We both said “what will we do if it doesn’t work?” We suddenly realised that it wasn’t just about raw meat, anymore, it was all or nothing!”

The transition from a butcher’s shop with a small online ordering service to something completely different presented big challenges. However, the support from local people and belief from farmers, who’d had to increase their stock holding to allow for the projected meat sales, was absolutely phenomenal. People placed a lot of trust in the brothers’ skills to make it work.

Neighbouring farmer, Martin Lee, used to supply around 20% of their beef and lamb, now his entire herd is dedicated to the Mellins, and the number of his Aberdeen Angus cross cows is still increasing. There are five more local farmers now supplying Roaming Roosters with top quality meats. I noticed on the farm shop blackboard that the week’s lamb was being supplied by G. Coates, from Barrowford, real traceability, and a symbiotic working relationship.

The first Christmas was a nightmare - not only did the brothers work for three days, straight through, but they weren’t sure they’d have enough meat, such was the demand. They have recently started to supply meat to The Seafood Pub Company, another local success story.

Simon admitted that the education centre had been ‘a bit of a flop’ initially. ‘We’d placed too much focus on education, rather than the fun element, and we weren’t holding the children’s attention,’ he said. They’ve made it more child-friendly in an attempt to raise understanding of farms and farming.

Nick, who also presents master class butchery evenings, buys the animals ‘on the hoof.’ He knows the right time to slaughter an animal, and if the beef can’t be hung, it doesn’t cross the threshold.

Walking into the barn, dad Geoff is with the free range hens which gave the business its name.

‘From one-day-old, we nurture our chicks in our new super sustainable under-floor heated brooding room, which is powered by a biomass boiler that is carbon neutral.’

I asked Simon what Geoff does. ‘Not a reet lot, he kind of just hangs about!’ he joked. He said they have a digester tank that deals with the effluent, the car parks are grassed, for natural drainage, and they’ve planted around a thousand trees. Their aim is to operate in a sustainable manner to off-set their carbon foot-print.

I also met chef, Karl Reader, who told me that his wife, Marie, makes all the puddings, and, even in the summer months, the most popular is her rib-sticking Jam Roly Poly. I was treated to a delicious lunch, of this month’s recipe which was kindly supplied by farm shop manager, George Cropper, and prepared by Karl.

As I bade my farewells, we stopped by an impressive, solid and much-used butchers’ bench. ‘My granddad made this,’ Simon proudly announced. ‘I didn’t want the place to be twee.’

Rest assured, nothing about Roaming Roosters is twee. The whole venture is, like the bench, making a strong, rock-solid statement that they mean business in an impressive way.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Lancashire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Lancashire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Lancashire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Mon, 00:00

There is no challenge too small for cake maker Molly Robbins, writes Mairead Mahon

Read more
Sunday, November 12, 2017

It’s the home of the UK’s longest running vegetable box scheme and is showing no signs of slowing down. Mairead Mahon reports

Read more
Lancashire Food
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Beat the Autumn chills with Soup and a Sandwich for just £7 all throughout November.

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

Throughout November The Top Lock will be serving up some delicious Vegan dishes for you to try!

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

Curry Club at The Top Lock - All throughout November!

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

Burger Week at The Butlers Arms - 13th to 19th of November 2017.

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

Cheese & Wine Offer at The Butlers Arms, Pleasington - November 2017.

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

After the success of our Curry Week in October we were asked to bring it back...

Read more
Friday, November 3, 2017

The beautiful woodland John Collinson’s hens explore on Longridge Fell is what makes Bowland Forest Eggs taste so good. Emma Mayoh reports

Read more
Lancashire Food Bowland
Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The inaugural Taste Lancashire conference united the county’s food industry

Read more
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Saddleworth actor is relishing a new career as a restaurateur, as Emma Mayoh discovered

Read more
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tom Parker and the team at The White Swan are taking flight, as Emma Mayoh discovered

Read more
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

You don’t have to go to Michelin starred venues for a fine dining experience. Foxholes Restaurant at Runshaw College is coming up rosettes, as Mairead Mahon discovered

Read more
Lancashire Restaurants
Thursday, October 26, 2017

Harvey Nichols doesn’t just do fashion darling, it does fab food too, as Janet Reeder discovers

Read more
Manchester Restaurants
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Lancashire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search