Ramsbottom - a real northern foodie destination
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 August 2014 | UPDATED: 21:26 04 February 2016
Ramsbottom is making quite a name for itself as a foodie destination, we find out why
Local lass Sara D’Arcy knows what she’s talking about when she says something is brewing in Ramsbottom.
She’s not just talking about the growing reputation the town has as place loved by foodies. Or the fact it is becoming an attractive place to live – the BBC took potential staff switching from London to Salford on a guided of the town to prove it’s not grim up north.
No, Sara’s opinion is based on top quality Lancashire beer. She is proprietor of the Irwell Works Brewery, taking over the site in 2010 after 20 years as a long-distance lorry driver. She decided on a complete change of career after taking a degree at Lancaster University.
‘After being made redundant from driving a few times, I thought what else can I do? After working part-time in a pub throughout university and writing my dissertation on the decline of the British public house, I spotted a real opportunity. There is a strong market for real ale in this community.’
The building, originally the Irwell Steam, Tin, Copper and Iron Works foundry, built in 1888, was derelict for three years before Sara and her partner Keith bought it and renovated the buildings.
They work together with head brewer Peter Booth, who Sara calls a ‘real-life rocket man’ as he also works for the Ministry of Defence as a radar and rocket expert. ‘We pulled the place to pieces,’ said Sara. ‘In July 2010 we got the keys and started to construct the brewery on the ground level. By November we had produced our first beer, Copper Plate, and three weeks later it won an award at the Bury Beer Festival. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength.’
In August 2011, Sara opened the upstairs as a brewery tap. ‘It is Rammy’s best kept secret,’ said Sara. ‘People have just discovered us. It’s a friendly place with great atmosphere. The community really enjoy spending evenings here.’
The brewery has proved so popular that Sara is currently in the middle of building an extension with a balcony forming an outdoor drinking area. ‘We also hope to grow our own hops and herbs, and to build a pizza oven. I am also thinking of serving Lancashire-style tapas, with plates such as hot pot, black pudding and tripe.’
Sara believes passionately about all the retailers in Ramsbottom working together for the common good. They have already brewed a beer especially for the town’s popular Chocolate Café. The chocolate porter with wild berries is the ideal accompaniment to a delicious homemade chocolate crafted by Paul Morris and his team.
Paul, who moved here with his wife Emma from France, said: ‘It made sense to work with Sara. Initially, we were selling a chocolate beer from London, but we went to Irwell as we wanted to create a special, local beer. That is the unique thing about Rammy, we all work together.’ Their partnership is a match made in chocolate heaven.
He added: ‘When living in France, you would notice that one town was well known for wine, the other fine dining, and the next for champagne,’ said Paul, who is originally from Bolton. ‘We wanted to create something similar back in the UK, and we thought why not celebrate chocolate?’ After viewing over 200 properties, they kept returning to Ramsbottom as their perfect place. ‘It was an instant success. Ramsbottom has really embraced the business - our annual chocolate festival is still very popular.’
The team manufacture chocolate on site six days a week, and at Christmas they go into 24-hour production to match demand. Paul and Emma are hoping to open a chocolate factory and visitor centre in Ramsbottom next year.
Another business that is keen to source their ingredients fresh from Ramsbottom is the Eagle and Child. This is no ordinary pub, as here the staff strive to serve delicious Lancashire produce while simultaneously operating as a social enterprise scheme. EAT Pennines is designed to help under 25s who have been in long term unemployment.
Glen Duckett, who opened the pub back in 2011, is now adding another unique element. With close to an acre of unused garden space toward the rear of the pub, Glen had a vision to complete the regeneration of the Eagle and Child by adding the Incredible Edible Garden.
A new style of beer garden, the proprietor wanted to transform the space into one that integrates ample dining with fun, productive kitchen gardens.
Glen got in touch with Incredible Edible Ramsbottom to help him create the garden, and he now has a beautiful space behind the pub complete with different planters and 21 hens. ‘It has paid off. You can taste the difference in from the garden produce. The fresh eggs are amazing, the yolks are so vibrant. We include them in our quiche and egg mayo.’
With over 40 varieties of fruit, vegetables and botanicals, the Incredible Edible Garden is the perfect place to have a pint in the sunshine, but is also great as an education space.
‘The Incredible Artist Joy Ladds has crafted some amazing pieces of art for the garden – including a giant dragonfly from willow, all of which has been sustainably harvested from Ramsbottom,’ he said.
The Eagle and Child’s garden is just one of the many projects that Incredible Edible Ramsbottom look after. There are a number of edible gardens and floral spaces dotted around the town, transforming derelict orchards and creating community spaces. Chairwoman Lynn Leyland-Mather brought the group to life in 2010.
She said: ‘The Eagle and Child site has been like a centre for the group. It has given us so much kudos since being here, as people can see what we are doing.’
This year, the group have entered into the prestigious RHS’s Britain in Bloom competition in the hope of winning as the first food growing-led entry.
If it doesn’t move and it’s in Ramsbottom, the chances are you can eat it.