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Conservation and culinary contrivers

By swapping fine dining for farm dining, two prominent chefs from the Big Smoke and the Big Apple, have breathed new life into a slice of Cornish countryside.

Words by Rebecca Hawkey

Set amongst 66 acres of verdant meadowland, woodland and oak-lined streams, Coombeshead Farm is a guesthouse and a working farm, offering serene isolation, along with traditional farmhouse comforts, in the heart of Cornwall’s rural countryside. You could not get more idyllic if you tried.

Coombeshead is the brainchild of renowned London and New York chefs Tom Adams and April Bloomfield. Tom was the founder and chef at former Soho go-to Pitt Cue, where he focused on the simplicities of barbecue, bourbon and beer. This protein-heavy, flavoursome, no-fuss dining spot that didn’t scrimp on portion sizes blew upmarket fine dining out of the water. He brings this love of hearty farmyard food to the tables at Coombeshead, alongside business partner, April Bloomfield. April herself is the founder of several successful restaurants across the pond, having moved to America when she was 30. Together, after a chance meeting at Pitt Cue in 2012, they have created what we now know as Coombeshead Farm.

The story goes that Tom called April with the proposition of a farm for sale in the middle of the Cornish countryside, miles from anywhere and severely lacking in phone signal. “Do you want in?” he asked with a grin. April agreed and embraced farm life with vigour; now she visits for several months at a time to see how the farm is ticking along. Tom, having grown up in a family of farmers, took to this like a duck to water. For him it was second nature, and his gut feeling about Coombeshead pulled him away from the burnout that London was teasing him with, back into the greenery his bloodline was so used to.

As with any old farmhouse in the wilds of Cornwall, she needed a little TLC, so the team got to work. The rundown dairy farm was converted into a restaurant and guesthouse, providing a space where visitors could dine, degust and discourse next to the log fire. This seems very in keeping with the rustic, flame-cooked meats that Tom and April make a point of showcasing. They serve between the hours of 5:30pm and 8pm in the evening a set three-course menu for £45 with specials that change daily, such as their very own charcuterie and pickles if diners wish to extend their meal.

Coombeshead is a working farm, and it’s this exact atmosphere that visitors come to experience, to be surrounded by cattle, sheep, chickens, you name it. They have even installed a beehive in the gardens, allowing them to harvest the honey, and use the wax to make candles to sit in the guest rooms. They also have a market garden for visitors to explore, and a poly tunnel, which was converted from the old milking shed. They really have made the most of the land in order to create sustenance farming at its finest.

Of the 66 acres that Coombeshead adorns, these lands are a mixture of perennial pastures, meadow and woodland, suiting the diverse range of species that thrive here. To effectively tend to the land and its occupiers big and small, the team decided to operate a farmshare, a cooperative model that brings like-minded farmers together to share inputs and outputs, knowledge and experience, and the workload. As Coombeshead is home to pigs, cows and sheep, they need all hands-on deck to maintain production, and the farmshare enables this, allowing Tom and April the space to breathe, to listen to the land and to focus on the journey their produce takes from field to fork. This is of paramount importance – that and leaving the land in the best possible condition for the generations that will follow.

With this in mind, in 2018 all of the trees in the valley were inspected, dated and recorded for the history books by The Woodland Trust and The Ancient Tree Forum of Cornwall. They discovered that four trees in the valley were recorded as ancient, including two oaks, a holly and a beech. This means that they are among the oldest of their species, finding them in the third, or ‘ancient’, stage of their lives, with high levels of biodiversity and habitat value. The oldest is a pollard oak, which grows in the picturesque valley alongside the stream that runs here. It is 6.69 metres in girth measured between the burrs, and estimated to be between 520 and 590 years old. This remarkable oak would have been alive at the time of the Cornish rebellion in 1497.

To continue their dedication to the lands they now call home, they entered a Countryside Stewardship scheme in 2020, and have since partnered with Forests for Cornwall to begin the long process of replanting and restoring the old valley and surrounding meadows. What was once a lush, dense boskage of ancient trees and shrubland, now seems bare thanks to fewer and fewer trees surviving the winter storms. Tom and April are committed to making changes to ensure that this does not get worse. They are passionate about not stripping the land of all it’s worth, but to rather live alongside it, and help it blossom once more. True sustenance living like our ancestors did so successfully for millennia.

Tom and April are not farmers first, they are chefs, but they know the importance of respecting the land they feed from. Their menu reflects this, as it is built around the animals and vegetables that are available, that are reared, grown, farmed and harvested mere minutes from the kitchen. Often cooked over a wood fire, with platefuls of fresh vegetables, meats and freshly made breads, shared with good wine and good company. Here at Coombeshead, the term agritourism comes to mind. A term used to describe honest, warm, and welcoming places where a passion for good produce resonates. The old ways are respected and the sense of place is clear. Tom and April have made it abundantly clear, through their actions, that this is their goal. The finest Cornish agritourism that these lands have to offer.

To experience this first hand, why not pack a bag and wind your way down the country lanes, to find yourself settled in one of their nine homely bed and breakfast rooms that are available. Set across the refurbished 18th century farmhouse and converted grain store barns, all with well-appointed en-suites, you can step outside, inhale a breath of fresh air, and explore the Inny Valley that is at your disposal. However, if you prefer to have a little peace and quiet to fully immerse yourself into what your own farmhouse life would look like, why not opt for one of their private self-catered cottages, where you and the family (dogs included), can roam to your heart’s content. You can even source your week’s supply of food from the Honesty Farm Shop.

Coombeshead Farm, under the tender touch of Tom and April, has risen from near ruin into a breathtaking slice of Cornish countryside perfection. This is evident from the moment you step foot on the farm. Pigs grunting happily with their snouts in the mud, cows munching grass in the sunshine, bees doing what they do best and saving our ecosystem flower by flower. Fruits, vegetables and vines bursting with colour and vibrancy across the gardens, tugging a smile from passers-by as they let go of life’s stressors and relax into the raw, wild and ever evolving nature that surrounds them. I for one am very much looking forward to exploring this homestead once more, when the sun is shining and the birds are waking me from a deep slumber that only farm life can provide.

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