• Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

North East Connected

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Fair Game for Northumberland Business Up For Top Rural Award

A one-time vegetarian turned wild game enthusiast whose homemade field to fork fare has been tickling the taste buds of foodies across the North East, is celebrating reaching the finals of this year’s ‘Rural Oscars.’

Hadrian’s Game Larder run by Silver Sheldon, has been shortlisted in the UK-wide Game Champion category at the prestigious Countryside Alliance Awards.

And Silver, who was a vegetarian before working on a game farm, is hoping to bring the coveted national accolade back to the North East for the second year in a row.

She will find out on June 19 at a glittering champions’ reception at the House of Lords in Westminster, if the business she founded six years ago in Northumberland, has done enough to convince the judging panel of its worth.

But if Hadrian’s Game Larder wins, it will be following in the footsteps of Blagdon Farm Shop, which was in 2018 named the inaugural winner of the Game Champion Award.

Silver, who lives in the Tyne Valley, is understandably ecstatic that Hadrian’s Game Larder is in the running for the Countryside Alliance award – the rural enterprise’s second high profile industry nomination in a matter of months.

She says: “I’m incredibly excited that we’ve been shortlisted. Last autumn the business narrowly missed out on being an Eat Game Awards’ winner, so to have a second chance in less than a year to bring another significant honour back to the North East, is amazing.

“It’s even more pleasing as Blagdon Farm Shop, which we supply with game products, was the first ever winner of this particular award last year. It would be fantastic to think it could come to the region twice in a row.

“Being in the final is a feather in the cap not just for me and my business, but the whole of the North East game industry. It reinforces just how strong our offering is, and shows that the passion, conscientiousness, success and innovation of those working within the game sector, has not gone unnoticed.”

Silver was a vegetarian between the ages of 11 and 17. But after taking a job at a game farm in her native Dorset, realised there are two sides to every story and that she could morally justify eating wild meat.

She went on to study game and wildlife management before joining two separate red and black grouse conservancy projects and eventually moving to Northumberland.

Silver set-up Hadrian’s Game Larder when she started baking her own game pies because “I couldn’t find one that I could put my own pennies to. There wasn’t a game pie out there that fitted my criteria; traditional hot water crust pastry, deep filled, and solid enough to cut through with a sharp knife.”

One of only a handful of women working in the game industry nationally, she not only rears her own pheasants, partridges and ducks, but runs a processing facility in Ponteland, Northumberland, does outside catering, and has a bakery where she and her team produce a range of sought after pies, pates, terrines, Scotch eggs, sausages and burgers selling under the Hadrian’s Game Larder banner.

The business, which employs three part-time staff, supplies farm shops, restaurants and sells direct to the public at farmers’ markets, agricultural shows and other food events.

Silver is also a roving ambassador for Taste of Game, which promotes local and natural produce.

The Game Champion Award was launched last year to pay tribute to those businesses that make a special effort to not only promote and market the product but to educate the public about it.

The Countryside Alliance Awards Director, Sarah Lee, describes Hadrian’s Game Larder as “an exceptional business which showcases wild game from Northumberland through their delicious products at farmers’ markets and food fairs across the North East.

“Silver Sheldon is a true champion of game, and her exacting standards means her field to fork ethos only uses the highest quality game and local produce, meaning her business grows year on year.”

The award will be judged by the Countryside Alliance’s chief executive, Tim Bonner, food critic and author William Sitwell, the Daily Telegraph’s associate editor, Philip Johnston, and the Secretary of State for Defra, the Rt. Hon Michael Gove.

Hadrian’s Game Larder is up against Suffolk-based artisan venison and game pie maker, Truly Traceable, and Kent butcher and meat producer, Stour Valley Game.

The Countryside Alliance Awards celebrate rural produce, skills, enterprise, and heritage, and are now in their 14th year. They have become the definitive rural business award to win.

By JHall