Salt Pig company buys Langton Matravers adventure farm

One of Purbeck’s best loved family attractions is under new ownership – with exciting new plans for the future.

James and Becky Warren, who run the local chain of The Salt Pig shops and cafes, have just bought Putlake Adventure Farm in Langton Matravers and see it as the perfect way to promote their passion for locally produced food with flavour.

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Spot the peacock – Putlake’s pets now have freedom to roam!

Peacocks now roaming free

While the established attraction of a huge indoor soft play area for children won’t be changing, James and Becky want to make Putlake more affordable and accessible for visitors.

A collection of budgies and cockatiels has found a new home as Putlake starts to become more of a working farm, although its donkeys have been allowed to stay and peacocks – previously in an aviary – are now roaming free.

The 35 acre farm will still retain its camping facilities and James and Becky will bring in a few of their animals, introduce chickens to the farm and start a market garden so that visitors can see food being grown.

A larger cafe and farm shop with Salt Pig produce and standards is planned, more outdoor picnic tables will be installed and James hopes that he can help make visitors more aware of the link between animals on the farm and dinner on the plate.

Increasing the animal experience and food education at the same time

Connection between animal and food

James Warren said:

“This is a tricky one, as our business is to retail meat from around Purbeck, but I do feel that there needs to be a connection between the animal live and the animal on your plate, even though that’s not something that sits well with the English.

“All the places in the world that I associate with fantastic food have a much stronger connection between the animal and the end product, and are all much more comfortable with the whole thing.

“Dare I say, I’m trying to get people a little more comfortable with seeing a lamb and having a lamb burger?

“We are hoping to get some free range meat chickens, which is something that you just can’t get in Purbeck, so we are looking at an incubator where kids can see eggs hatching, and watch chicks – you can see the whole process in a fairly short space of time.

“And then you will be able to go to the farm shop and pick up a great free range tasty chicken as opposed to the supermarket stuff which is bland and non-descript.”

The Putlake cafe will be expanded and offer the Salt Pig experience of local, quality farm food

Local farming, quality, taste and value

James continued:

“The best fish you’ll ever eat is the one you catch yourself when you go mackerelling on holiday, it’s the whole experience around the day that makes the fish taste amazing.

“You can build that feeling into food if you grow your own carrots, or tomatoes on your windowsill, those things are always special when you eat them.

“If you can invest a bit of time and thought into your food you just enjoy it more. There’s a whole area of pleasure that we are missing out on when you are just rushing through the day.

“We have always tried to achieve the concepts of local farming, quality, taste and value through our shops and cafes, but here we have a real ability to do the visuals of seeing the animal as well. It’s really exciting.”

Donkeys were allowed to stay on the working farm, by popular demand

Putlake’s alpaca herd is a favourite with visitors to the Langton Matravers attraction

Beef for sale from the next field

James has dismissed whispers that Putlake Farm was about to become home to his drove of 400 pigs – in truth only a handful will be arriving so that visitors will be able to see piglets in the barns.

Chickens bred for meat will be introduced as well as laying chickens, some goats will be brought in for meat production and some sheep will also find their way to Putlake, but the farm is not large enough to keep cattle along with everything else.

However, James and Becky have a good network for conservation grazed beef from around Purbeck, especially Hereford cattle from fields at Durlston and Spyways – so beef will literally arrive in Putlake’s cafe and farm shop from the next field.

The acquisition of Putlake Farm comes after a recent busy period of expansion for The Salt Pig, which now has outlets at Middle Beach, Studland, Carey’s Secret Garden, Tyneham, Holme for Gardens near Wareham and Chesil as well as shops and restaurants at Swanage and Wareham.

More picnic tables will be added to encourage families to visit, even if only for a coffee and a wander round

There will still be room for play at the farm, although more focus will be shifted to casual education

“I’ve always wanted a farm of my own”

James Warren said:

“When opportunities have come up, you know if you don’t take them they might not come round again.

“I’m not getting any younger, I know what I want to achieve and yes, I could do it at a slower pace and not have to work 80 or 90 hours a week, but would I get there within my working life?

“I’ve always wanted a farm of my own, but it hasn’t really fitted in before. Then this came up and in a lot of ways it’s perfect for what I want to achieve.

“Putlake is very much a petting and an adventure farm, but what I want to achieve is to add casual education around it, as much for adults as for the kids.”

More animals will be introduced that have a place on a small working farm

Ponies are also popular in the farm’s petting barns

Connecting with a real farm

James added:

“Even though we live really rurally in Purbeck, unless you are involved directly in farming you have little understanding of what is going on and may still get cross when you are stuck behind a tractor.

“But when you realise that the tractor is being driven by John who is off to feed the cows at the place where you bought some beef which you really enjoyed for Sunday lunch, then it has suddenly gone from an awful experience to ‘Hey, John!’

“That is the kind of thing I would like to achieve, and I know it’s not very easy or automatic, but any point of contact with farming is a start and any information that you can get across is useful.

“Although much will remain the same here, there will be a slight change of focus. I want locals to come here even if it’s just to have a coffee, because they are still connecting with a real farm, and that’s really important.”

James and Becky say that the soft play area, one of the largest in Dorset, will definitely be staying

The farm’s mechanical digger is much loved by young would-be builders and the odd cockerel

“Yes, the soft play is staying!”

Becky Warren paid tribute to the previous owner, Karen Cobb, who has stayed on at the farm to help during the changeover period.

Becky Warren said:

“We are very excited about taking over Putlake. We are local and we used to bring our children here – Evie, who is now 12 and Quinn, who is eight, and they are all thrilled to be here and share the adventure with us.

“We have fond memories of when we used to come when they were tiny and we want to be able to share those experiences around and keep Putlake as a lovely space for the locals.

“We have plenty of long term plans for up here at the Salt Pig farm, but all centre around increasing the animal experience and education of food for children – and yes, the soft play is staying, James is enjoying the slide far too much!”

The outdoor play area finds itself in high demand during good weather

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