A taste of things to come at Dartington Barn

Plump spears of asparagus popping up are a sure (and welcome) sign of spring for us at Dartington Barn. We’ve got a little longer to wait for this year’s crop, but we’ve been doing a little gardening in preparation – hopefully securing us a bountiful harvest in spring!

So, what’s growing at the Barn? This week we focus on our asparagus beds…


So far we’ve had a really mild winter and we only just recently cut back the brown asparagus fern and tidied up the patch. We have also been down at Monkey Bay collecting Bull Kelp seaweed from the beach. We picked up about 20 kilograms and have put it directly onto the asparagus bed, doing our best to make sure each crown has some kelp over the top of it. Asparagus, being a plant that originated from areas with a high salt level, loves seaweed – apparently it’s especially the iodine content it’s keen on. Whatever the reason, the end result speaks for itself, and tasty asparagus abounds.

The asparagus beds at Dartington Barn

The asparagus beds at Dartington Barn (Winter 2014) – with bull kelp seaweed newly added

Next step will be to cover the kelp with compost and eagerly await mid-September for new season spears. Then, of course, it will be ‘Bon Appétit’!


Braden Takes A Shot At Archery

Proving it is a truly accessible sport for all ages and abilities, Braden Mason has recently taken up archery here at Dartington Barn. Braden Mason is a (nearly) 16 year old young man who is confined to a wheelchair.

Braden takes aim in his archery lessons at Dartington Barn

Braden takes aim in his archery lessons at Dartington Barn

Braden made media headlines recently when his ‘Drift Dream’ came true: “Eight years ago doctors gave him three months to live, but this week Braden Mason was continuing to defy the odds by learning to drive a drift car.” (You can read more about Braden’s drift dream in the Marlborough Express article here: www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/news/8853003/Rare-cancer-can-t-keep-Braden-out-of-drivers-seat )

And just as his cancer didn’t stop him giving drift driving a go, nor did it stop him turning his hand to archery. Despite Braden’s inoperable condition affecting his brain and spine to the point where he is no longer able to walk, he proved an able archer. Hamish said “Braden shoots really well and his enjoyment is a pleasure to see”.

Braden’s mother Heather says “Hamish is an awesome teacher and Braden is really enjoying it. It’s great exercise for him as well.”

Braden’s archery exploits also featured in the Marlborough Express yesterday www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/news/10290377/Cancer-sufferer-loves-challenge Braden explains “I’ve always wanted to try [archery] ever since I watched Robin Hood…It’s harder than it looks, but I really enjoy it.”

Good luck Braden – we’re sure you’ll hit whatever target you aim for next!

Hamish & Braden (1)

What’s growing at the Barn this week?

This time it’s our chickens!

Yes, at Dartington Barn we love to grow as much as possible to ‘bring to the table’, and also to use in our Gourmet Masterclasses. So, we keep a flock* of chickens here at the Barn – usually Shaver Browns for their wonderful egg-laying prowess. There’s nothing quite like an aioli or pavlova made with free-range, organic eggs from your own backyard.

Dartington Barn Chickens

Our most recent ‘girls’ were born back in autumn and came to us as chicks, quickly settling in well. Right from the start one showed a bucket-load of attitude and liked to peck my gumboots! We only had to place them on their perches for the first night and then they were very independent. We started off feeding them chicken mash and gradually increased the amount of kibbled wheat in the mix.

Nowadays we’re feeding the chooks a mix of about 9:1 of kibbled (cracked) wheat and “Peck ‘n’ Lay”, but so far we’re getting bit of pecking, but no laying. All they are producing right now is a choir of clucking! Having said that, the level of the grit in the run has started to go down, so we are expecting our first eggs any day now.

Although we’re fond of our hens, we never name them – keeping them at one remove, so they’re not viewed as ‘pets’.

We’ve found a couple on the outside of the wire recently so they’ve clearly discovered what their wings are for. We don’t clip their wings as we feel they’ll have more chance of escape from a hawk or other predator if they are fully winged. They also know how good they have it, so we’ve never had any go for a “Great Escape” in the past.

We haven’t let them out across the ‘Chook Bridge’ yet and we’ll wait until they have got into a rhythm of getting up, having a feed, laying an egg in the morning and just, well, hanging out with their buddies. Once they know where to lay their eggs we’ll let them out across the bridge into the vineyard where they will enjoy lots of good greens and foraging fun.

So that’s what’s growing at the Barn next week. Hopefully we’ll be able to report on the delicacies we make with their eggs, in the very near future!


* Fun fact – You’re a bit spoiled for choice in collective nouns for a group of chickens. The possibilities apparently include: a brood; a clutch; a hatching; a nest; a parcel; a battery; a flock; and a peep.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Archery – Aiming For A Healthier You

If archery is not the first sport you think of taking up when you are turning over a healthy leaf, think again. You may be pleasantly surprised by its many health benefits.

Here at Dartington Barn our guests get to enjoy the tranquil and elegant surroundings while they partake in the medieval sport of archery, with surprising health benefits.



Build muscle tone

Archery develops most of the muscle groups in your upper body. Drawing a bow uses the strength of both arms as well as exercising the shoulders and back. The repetition of the sport and the fact the bow pull is maintained for several seconds, give similar exercise benefits as weight lifting.

There is also a surprising amount of walking done by archers, which leads to better muscle tone and leg strength, as well as improved cardiovascular health.

Strengthen your core

Holding your body still while aiming and making a shot helps you gain control over your balance, which in turn strengthens your core. This leads to all sorts of benefits, including improving your posture and straightening your back.

Develop mental focus

Along with physical strength, archery is also excellent for mental development, through building focus and attention skills. Learning to focus attention solely on the target allows your mind to clear, providing valuable stress release. This practice may also help you overcome procrastination and distraction.

Hand-eye coordination is also greatly improved through archery, leading to better dexterity in your hands and improving your central nervous system.


And best of all… it’s fantastically good fun!


To find out more about the fun leisure activities in the beautiful grounds of Dartington Barn, head on over to our Archery and  Archery Plus pages. 


Hoppy Days At The Barn

Some of our readers were intrigued to discover (in the recent Wild Tomato article about Dartington Barn) that we grow hops for a local brewery – so we thought we’d post a little more information about that, for those who are interested…

So, what’s growing at the Barn? This week we’re looking at hops:

Hops are the female flowers (or ‘seed cones’) of the hop plant.  Their main use is as a flavouring and stabiliser in beer – where they add a signature bitterness or tang. (Though hops are also used for various other purposes – in beverages, like herbal teas, and in herbal medicine to treat anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia).

The hop plants are called ‘bines’ and in the Northern Hemisphere they do best grown clockwise around a support. Despite rumours to the contrary (that Southern Hemisphere hops do better grown anticlockwise) our hops here in Marlborough are actually quite content growing every which way.

We’re told (by people with more expertise than us in this matter!) that our Marlborough hops give a grassy, resinous, woody aroma – sometimes with a blackcurrant note.

Our most recent harvest here was in early March (autumn) – about the same time as all the grapes around Marlborough are harvested.

Here you can see a few photos of the hops at Dartington Barn, just before harvest:



Wild about Dartington Barn

We were delighted to be visited by Sophie Preece and Rob Duff recently for their feature article about Dartington Barn in this month’s “Wild Tomato” magazine.

Sophie writes: “The striking black macrocarpa walls and red roof of Dartington Barn catch the eye of many travellers on SH1 through Grovetown. Less obvious are the sharp objects being flung across its lawns. In a gentle courtyard, hemmed in with hornbeam hedging, corporate teams throw glistening axes, cutting chunks from a tortured target board. Then they’ll fling metal throwing stars and sharpened knives, load an arrow, draw a bow and take a shot, all in the name of team building.”

If you’d like some more ‘behind the scenes’ insights, and to see Rob’s beautiful photos of iconic Dartington Barn, the full article can be found here: Wild Tomato article on Dartington Barn (June 2014)

Dartington Barn (wagon & vines)

Chefs cook up a new mix at Dartington Barn

We’re happy to have had the Marlborough Express out to visit recently to see the range of leisure activities on offer here at Dartington Barn, so it was lovely to see the article about us in a recent edition.

We particularly love the explanation that a “visit to Grovetown for some group entertainment has the potential to arm one with the skills to correctly use a knife in the kitchen, or to just throw one at a wall”!

You can see the full article online here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/business/9827538/Chefs-cook-up-new-mix

Hamish Beard at Dartington Barn (Photo Credit Derek Flynn)Photo credit: Derek Flynn


A Little of What You Fancy

Did you spot Dartington Barn’s Florentines in the latest issue of Cuisine magazine?

“The superlative florentines produced by Blenheim’s Dartington Barn – studded with zingy ginger, mixed peel, glace cherries and sultanas, they surely almost count towards our five-a-day”.

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves – thanks Cuisine!

If your mouth’s watering and you’re ready to try them for yourself, head on over to our online store.

Hooked on Marlborough

On Marlborough’s back doorstep lies the picturesque Wairau River. This magnificent Marlborough river is a braided river with 140 kilometres of excellent fishing waters, with high fish numbers, and about 65 kilometres of readily fishable waters.

The river flows through a range of native bush, farmland and vineyards – offering some of the region’s best scenery. What could be a bigger catch than that you ask? Great fishing!

The Wairau River is home to mainly brown trout (with the occasional large silvery, sea-run brown trout), good numbers of sizable salmon, and a small population of rainbow trout. Salmon season is basically from late January to April. The lower region of the Wairau River (about 50 kilometres) is open year-round for trout – while the upper region is open between October and April. The Wairau River caters to all types of angling methods and preferences – both fly fishing and spinning – dependent on the section of the river being fished. The daily limit is generally two trout, but it’s always best practice to check regulations specific to the area you are going to fish.

Apparently the ‘average’ brown trout weighs in at around 3 – 4lbs here. However it’s not uncommon to bring home an 8lb trout from the Wairau River and to see plenty of trophy-sized fish – especially in the upper region. Fish stocks are good with, for example, 530 trout being counted in one drift dive over 1 mile of the river near Renwick. In terms of salmon – well a trophy-sized salmon (22lb) was reportedly landed in early 2012 – need we say more?!

Fishing here is suitable for novices through to experienced anglers. It’s also conducive for bringing along a spectator, so if your travelling partner is less keen on fishing, you can easily find them a peaceful, serene spot on the river bank. There are plentiful swimming spots, grassy banks, and plenty of direct access to the water. That means you will have lots more room to lay the picnic blanket, as well as having a cast. You can be fishing within minutes in the stretches closer to town, or you can go tramping to access the more remote sites.

What else do you need to know? All freshwater sport fishing in New Zealand requires a licence. These can be purchased from your local hunting or fishing store, or online – and you can buy one valid for either a 24-hour period, or an entire season. Also advisable are polarised sunglasses, which will not only protect your eyes from that bright sun, but also assist with spotting fish.

Braided rivers can pose certain unique challenges, so you have to know where the fish are, how to fish to them, and which flies or lures do well in this specific location. For instance there are locations where the fish are not always readily visible, so you may wish to fish the riffle sections thoroughly, blind nymphing your way up the river. This is where having local insight really helps. Dartington Barn comes with its own built-in assistance in the form of Hamish. Hamish is a keen trout angler, and knows the Wairau River well. If you’re staying with us, Hamish may even be persuaded to share with you the location of some of his favourite spots!

So come and see what our stunning region has to offer in terms of crystal clear waters, with some of the best trout fishing opportunities in the world. You never know. You might just be hooked…


Inside Cuisine at Dartington Barn

We were delighted to host Rebecca Varidel, renowned food blogger and editor, on her recent trip to Marlborough.

For this visit we showcased Marlborough saffron-infused salmon, finished off with pavlova with a Pinot Noir and berry sauce. It was a real honour to have her seal of approval on our new cooking classes.

You can read Rebecca’s article about her visit to Dartington Barn on the Inside Cuisine blog, here: http://insidecuisine.com/2013/06/17/darlington-barn-cooking-classes-Marlborough/