Hidden Gems: Restaurant owner shares pride for growing business at ‘wonderful’ Northamptonshire location

“I’d describe it as an oasis of peace, quiet, and friendliness”

When it comes to culture and tourism, Northamptonshire has a lot to offer. From its rich history to its vibrant culture, the county is home to innovative and successful businesses, historic sites, landmarks, and proud heritage waiting to be explored.

From estates to manor gardens, Northamptonshire offers breathtaking private gardens, large and small. But beyond well-known attractions, there are also hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These lesser-known scenic spots are making a big impact in their respective industries and deserve recognition.

Today (April 18), this newspaper launches a campaign to raise awareness and show you some of the lesser-known family-friendly weekend destinations in Northamptonshire. Hidden Gems offers a platform to people across the county, from a variety of sectors, who want to share what they have to offer and encourage visitors to support the community.

One such hidden gem is the Old Dairy Farm Craft Centre in Upper Stowe. The centre is housed in a complex of stone-built farm buildings and is situated around two main courtyards.

The buildings have been sympathetically restored and improved to help preserve the atmosphere and history of the original farm. Many of the buildings date back to the 16th century and still have some of their original features.

Emma Trim, 50, who owns Magnolia Barn, a business located at the centre, shared her views on the venue. She said: “I fell in love with the place. It does feel like a real family of crafters and makers. Everybody gets along really well. Helen's just lovely.”

Helen Brodie and her late husband Dennis opened the centre on July 1, 1986. The farm changed from dairy farming to sheep farming in the late 1960s. This change made most of the buildings redundant except for storage, and some of them deteriorated due to lack of use.

Helen said: “Farmers had to think of something else. I liked baking cakes at the time, and I collected antiques, so I set up with three little tables, one cake, half a dozen scones, and my antiques.

“The buildings were in bad condition. I had no training at all. I stuck a board on the A5 that read ‘antiques open’. That's how we started. And then people started wanting more than just a piece of cake.”

The centre gradually extended as more of the buildings were restored. The centre's charm and character have been enhanced by preserving as many of its original characteristics as possible.

Today, the centre is home to a variety of small independent businesses, artists, and craftspeople, and they are all proud to carry on Helen's legacy and original vision.

From interior design to fashion, art, and model railway supplies, the centre offers visitors a unique selection of shops selling a wide variety of products.

“I’d describe it as an oasis of peace, quiet, and friendliness. It's very genuine. When my husband died, the centre and my family kept me going.

“They're all very supportive. It is a working farm. My sons do the farm now,” said Helen.

The Barn Cafe is the main attraction of the centre. Rachael and Daniel Sutch have been in charge of the restaurant since May 2019.

Rachel said: “It's cosy. It's rural and rustic. It's just very relaxed. People enjoy a nice little country drive here. We're still developing it.”

Located in a stone barn in the main courtyard, right at the heart of the Old Dairy Farm Centre, The Barn has built a good reputation for afternoon tea over the last five years.

“It's a proper little family-run place. We’re a very arty family. My sister does the crafts, my brother works on the website, my dad is a painter and does graphic design, and my sister-in-law is in public relations,” said Rachel.

Rachael and Daniel, a chef and a waitress, met 20 years ago. They were previously in charge of The Dining Room in Northampton for a decade-and-a-half until November 2023.

“It was just me and my husband. That was our first restaurant. We probably stayed there a little bit too long. We sort of outgrew it. We're both very driven,” said Rachel.

The Barn comfortably seats 80 people. The team hosts several special events all year long. The venue is available for private hiring.

People can choose from a menu of freshly cooked meals and snacks and afternoon teas, cakes, and scones. There's even a small pet menu offered at this location.

The pet-friendly restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday, between 10am and 4pm.

Rachel said: “We've probably tripled what we make since we started here. We have a lot of regulars now.

“My two girls are so softly spoken. They're just like little gems. Nick's been here the longest. She's in the kitchen with Dan. They're all really good. We're all like a little family here.”

The venue is in the company of a variety of craft shops and well-established businesses.

Emma shared her views on The Barn. She said: “The restaurant is lovely. It's just wonderful. We love them, and they're really friendly and helpful. And the food is just great. We get tempted quite a lot.”

Though this campaign will not primarily focus on hospitality venues, this newspaper will raise the profile of some of the venues across Northamptonshire over the coming weeks and months.

If any businesses or venues would like to get involved with this campaign, email [email protected].