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Goosnargh keeps its secrets

11:10 17 January 2010

St Mary the Virgin Church

St Mary the Virgin Church

Victoria Jones visits the lovelyLancashire village of Goosnargh and tries to reveal some of its secrets

Is there some sort of village scandal that's being kept under wraps?

That's difficult to believe in such a quiet and friendly place. The village and civil parish just a few miles north of Preston has such a homely, quaint and traditional feel, with its three pubs, active village hall and large village green. Surely nothing bad has happened here?


On talking to the residents, it becomes obvious that it's not anything bad at all; in fact it's something very good: secret recipes.

It all begins with a biscuit, or to be more precise; a cake. The Goosnargh cake recipe has been flying around Goosnargh for decades now. A shortcake style biscuit with caraway seeds, it may sound like a basic recipe, but in reality, the original recipe is nowhere to be seen and local resident Alma Breeze may be the only hope.

Alma explains that the original Goosnargh cake started out at Goosnargh's Bushells pub. The recipe got passed down to Alma's mum, via an old aunt. Her mum, Alice Kerfoot, made Kerfoot's Genuine Goosnargh Cake, as it was then called, and supplied it to Booths with help from Alma. But the recipe has never been written down: 'It's a secret and I don't know who still knows it apart from me. Some locals do make Goosnargh cake, but not to the original recipe,' Alma explains.

She's not the only person keeping secrets around here though. Since the Goosnargh cake, there have been several other recipes kept under lock and key, including that of Tony Jones' fish batter. 'It's always busy because people enjoy good fish and chips,' says the owner of Tony's Traditional Fish and Chip Shop. But he's less forthcoming when it comes to revealing the recipe for his fish batter. 'I got it from a person who was in the industry for quite a few years and I haven't passed it on to anyone - that was part of the deal.'

Just round the corner from Tony, is Caroline's Kitchen and Tea Room in which there hides yet more special recipes. It is filled to the brim with delicious looking homemade cakes, pies and tarts as well as local cheeses, free-range eggs and cream.

She gets in early every day to ensure she has time to make all of her products from scratch. But it's not only the time she puts in; it's the ingredients, too. 'I wanted everything to be homemade because I believe in proper food. Children think that cakes come from packets. But I learnt everything from my Grandma so these are all traditional recipes.'

This community certainly knows a thing or two about good food and making the most of local produce. The director, chef and licensee of The Bushells Arms, Brad says: 'We use all local produce within a ten or 15 mile radius and everything is homemade. It is really important and completely influences the menu.'

And one of Brad's favourite suppliers is Reg Johnson, of Johnson and Swarbrick, who provide the famous chicken. As Brad says: 'Goosnargh is only famous for its food, and Reg is the grandfather of Goosnargh; he's really put it on the map.'

But Johnson and Swarbrick's Goosnargh duckling and cornfed chicken is not just known in Lancashire which Reg describes as 'a hot bed for local food and produce,' but people from all over the country enjoy the distinctive taste. Even Gordon Ramsay is a fan, taking 100 duck breasts a week for his London restaurants. But what gives the meat such a special taste? You guessed it - a secret recipe.

The poultry at the farm is fed with a special corn recipe which Johnson and Swarbrick designed with the help of a nutritionist. They won't reveal the exact content of the secret recipe, but Reg says it's free from additives, antibiotics and medication. This coupled with the climate the birds are kept in, creates poultry of the highest standard.

Despite first impressions though, Goosnargh is not all about food. It's a very traditional place where gentlemen still enjoy darts and dominoes in the local pubs, and as local resident Jeff Cookson explains: 'It's the epitome of an English village.'

And at the heart of any traditional village is a school. And that's no more true than with Goosnargh's Oliverson's Church of England Primary. As Rachel Richardson from the local shop and Post Office says: 'It's a fantastic school. The kids run around freely and there's no iron gates holding them in.'

Headteacher Jo Longworth is proud of the fact that it is one of the top 100 schools in the country. 'It's the friendliest school. There's a lovely atmosphere and it's not overly formal. We're one big happy family,' she says.

And that goes for the village itself too. It is impossible to ignore the family feeling here and many feel the same as Vivienne Dewhurst, of Dewhurst's Gifts and Celebrations Balloons, when she says: 'I couldn't imagine being in a different area.'

Well at least there's one thing for sure; if you ever have a secret, it will certainly be safe in Goosnargh.

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