Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine
Pig photo copyright: James Middleton

Rose Cottage Smallholding - From city number crunching to mucking out in Ash

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Shirlee Posner meets a tech savvy business consultant, James Middleton, who has embraced a life of wellington boots, rare breed animal husbandry and beekeeping in rural Surrey at Rose Cottage Smallholding.

Driving to Rose Cottage Smallholding in Ash Vale was well worth the journey. This is one of those heartwarming tales of a new start-up producing food sustainably with provenance. Rose Cottage’s website states clearly that it’s a confusing arrival and we thought we had taken a wrong turning when we arrived at a commercial estate. We eventually realised that visitors do actually drive through the industrial estate to the entrance of Rose Cottage. With just a pocket of land, there is enough space on the smallholding to farm on a small scale. Our host James Middleton met us and he told his story.

The house and land had been in the family for five generations and Jo and James wanted to make sure farming continued on the family land. So the idea for her and James to move from Crystal Palace to the smallholding in Ash Vale materialised.

James, it turns out, has been able to take on roofing, fence building, land clearing and, with a course under his belt from Merrist Wood in Small Farming, now rears animals too. His growing skill set and abundance of energy is a huge asset. Overgrown with brambles and stinging nettles James and Jo and a few of their friends worked on it during evenings and weekends to clear the land. Also during evenings, James attended a course to learn the basics of running a smallholding.
Rose Cottage Smallholding Photo copyright: James Middleton
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Photo copyright: Jo Scott
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James and Jo started their smallholding with a clear mission to work with primitive rare breed animals that grow slowly in a free-range environment producing delicious meat. Their pigs, goats and sheep are allowed free access to woodland, which is stocked with meadow flowers for summer grazing and other suitable natural food sources. The first pork was ready six months after the couple started the project.

Butchered by a local firm and vacuum packed, it’s available to order from the Rose Cottage Smallholding website or for collection when the very small farm shop is open at weekends. James and Jo currently have a range of joints, sausages, chops, belly joints and bacon on offer from their freezer. Their bacon is a traditional cut (middle bacon) that isn’t seen very often being the back and streaky bacon together in one large slice. Not separated as is the norm, this green bacon is delicious, full of flavour and texture: forget those rubbery, water leaking supermarket specimens, this is bacon worth getting up for!

Starting with large black pigs, James and Jo have also farmed Ginger Tamworths, Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, they say, are a delight to work with.

In addition to buying joints from the farm shop, join James and Jo’s pig share scheme. Pay £100 deposit, choose a breed, visit, keep an eye on its progress and after six months pay the balance and take home around 35 kilos of pork joints. Choose the joints and sizes and select the flavour of the sausages. This is a bespoke service that offers customers a unique experience and involvement throughout the meat rearing process. The meat arrives packed and ready to eat or freeze for later and is perfect for anyone who loves good quality food and wishes to know exactly what sort of life an animal has had too.
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Photo copyright: Jo Scott
New to the mix in a couple of months will be the first stock of rare breed goats’ meat. Prized worldwide for its unique flavour, goat is not so common here, but growing in interest in culinary circles. James has selected Boer goats: the herd arrived in late summer and after the billy goat did his job, the kids were born on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These goats are delightful and very chatty but, more importantly, living a happy life. Bred for their full flavoured, low cholesterol and lean meat, this is an exciting time for this new venture.

James and Jo also have rescue chickens for their eggs and a soon-to-arrive colony of bees. Their rare breed lamb is not currently for sale to the public, but that may change. It was hard not to admire this venture for starting off with a hard-core local food ethos and finding a way to make it a reality.

James explained, “We’ve chosen to keep rare breed stock as they’re slower growing and produce tastier meat. We’re also excited by the heritage of traditional breeds and their place in smallholding history; we’re keen to do our bit to help keep these fantastic breeds going. Farming in this slow and natural way is ethical and responsible and ensures the animals have an enjoyable and stimulating life.”

In addition to his farming skills, James is tech savvy with active social media platforms making it easier for this tucked-out-of-the-way business to engage with potential customers. Recognising that the smallholding does not have passing trade, Rose Cottage has signed up to become a supplier at the Guildford and Woking Food Assemblies.

James is also a very keen cook – he has taken on the whole River Cottage vibe. Why not try the recipe James and Jo shared for Vietnamese pork? It’s on my to make list for the weekend.
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We at the 1853 shop are excited about the year ahead and we are just putting together a full calendar of complimentary tastings at our shop in Weybridge to focus on the key wineries that our company owns.
Our main forthcoming events are as follows:

Early March – early spring wines, aromatic white wines
Mid March - Houghton, Western Australia. Jack Mann birthday celebration End of March - Easter chocolate and wine
End April – St George’s Day – port and fortified wines

The 1853 Wine Shop
The Coach House, 2 Heath Road, Weybridge KT13 8TB
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Photo copyright: Dan Edwards
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Vietnamese pork belly
ames shared one of his favourite recipes for this delicious Asian-inspired pork belly dish. Remove the rind before cooking to allow the marinade to season the pork more intensely. The dish is served with rice cooked in half water, half coconut milk, but feel free to serve with plain boiled rice. Don’t skimp on the fresh herbs and lime juice, they are essential to the dish adding freshness and acidity.

Serves two for a filling, fragrant dinner

500g Rose Cottage pork belly, rind removed
Six tablespoons Hoisin sauce
45ml/three tablespoons clear honey
45ml/three tablespoons rice vinegar
45ml/three tablespoons soy sauce
Three centimetre piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

For the salad
Half a cucumber, cut into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
A handful of radishes, washed and thinly sliced
Three spring onions, finely sliced
Fresh mint and coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Two tablespoons roasted salted peanuts, lightly smashed in a pestle and mortar

For the salad dressing
One small red chilli, finely chopped
One garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
Juice of one lime
One and a half teaspoons coconut or light brown sugar
One tablespoon rice vinegar

Coconut rice
Fragrant Thai rice cooked in half water and half coconut milk using the absorption method


• Put the meat in a large casserole dish. Mix the Hoisin sauce, honey, vinegar, soy and ginger, then pour over the pork and massage well. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least four hours.
• Heat oven to 160˚C/140˚C fan/gas 3. Place the pork and its marinade in a snug roasting tin, lined with foil. Pour over 50ml water, cover with foil and roast for two hours, or until tender, basting halfway through. Take the pork out and increase oven temperature to 200˚C/180˚C fan/gas 6. Remove the foil and pour the sauce into a small pan. Bring the sauce to the boil and let it bubble until thick and syrupy. Brush some of the sauce all over the pork and pop back in the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes until sticky and caramelised in places. Transfer to a chopping board, cover lightly with foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Prepare the rice.
• To prepare the salad, toss all the ingredients (except nuts) together in a bowl. To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients. Reheat the remaining sauce from the pork, adding a splash of water if it has become too thick. Toss the dressing through the salad and divide between two plates, then top with the smashed peanuts. Cut the pork into thick slices and arrange alongside the salad and rice. Drizzle over the remaining sauce and serve.

Shirlee Posner,
essence info
Rose Cottage Smallholding
Rose Cottage, Hollybush Lane, Ash Vale, Aldershot GU11 2PX
Telephone: 07966 000390
Instagram: @rose.cottage.smallholding

Shirlee Posner is a food writer and blogger at and provides social media management, web copywriting and food photography.

We’ve chosen to keep rare breed stock as they’re slower growing and produce tastier meat. We’re also excited by the heritage of traditional breeds and their place in smallholding history; we’re keen to do our bit to help keep these fantastic breeds going. Farming in this slow and natural way is ethical and responsible and ensures the animals have an enjoyable and stimulating life