camping

Shaken & stirred at Rock The Farm.

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When you think of cocktail events, a potato farm in Herefordshire is probably not the first place that springs to mind.

However, Chase Distillery is not your usual farm. Begun by William Chase - the man behind Tyrrell's crisps - the distillery had it's first harvest of potato vodka in 2008 and hasn't looked back since, to the point that it even has its own festival on site called Rock The Farm.

Featuring specialist talks, live acts, glamping, a touch of yoga and most importantly 'The Chase Cup' - a global cocktail competition featuring young competitors from Australia to Spain to Chicago competing in front of a live audience and judges. Like X Factor with gin.

My role on the day (to paraphrase Spinal Tap) was to document the sights, sounds and smells of Rock The Farm from every drop of vodka going into the splendid cocktails to the last bangers emanating from the DJ's late in the night.

Of course, the main event was the Chase Cup itself, and after a whittling down from 13 contestants, an exciting 'mystery box' round (think Ready Steady Cook with booze) fought between the 3 semi-finalists, the eventual winner was found: George Cook from Heston Blumenthal's 'Dinner by Heston' in Melbourne.

The 13 Chase Cup contestants.

The 13 Chase Cup contestants.

Awards given, it was time for the evening entertainment and acts onstage ran the eclectic gamut from singer-songwriter Nathan Ball, through the horn-tastic Bring your Own Brass moving through to wall to wall Ibiza bangers (and themed dancers) of Superfoxx plus the inflatable banana grooves of Son of Kong.

Superfoxx.

Superfoxx.

Tuesday morning and an early visit back to site to capture the hangovers (it was a drinks industry festival hence 'a bit messy') and the on-site yoga session, which considering everything was pretty well attended.

And that was that, and an interesting lesson learnt - cocktails, banging tunes and festival vibes aren't just for your metropolitan types - all can be had on farms in Herefordshire if you look hard enough.

Anyway, here’s some more pics of the day bunched into delicate shot sized chunks. Cheers!

Setting up and Workshops.

The Chase Cup.

Music and more.

The morning after.



Tech Corner:

The full kit pretty much - from the Zeiss Batis 25mm for the wide shots, to the Sony Zeiss 55mm for the Chase Cup close-ups to the Batis 85mm for pretty much everything else.

French Fried.

Ok, we know it's hot. Like real hot.

And when we've had scorching weather in the UK around the early 30's for weeks, it made complete sense for us to hit the road, jump on a ferry and head to an even hotter bit of Europe. Mad dogs etc.

Our destination this time was the lazy river running through the Loire Valley in the central section of France (down from Paris, across to the left a bit ok?)

With a 10-year-old in tow, a week's worth of vineyard visitations was sadly out of the question, so instead we did what lots of other Brits do - the 'Europcamp thing' - which to the uninitiated is rocking up to a mobile home affair (or for the brave, a tent) on a site with pool, bar, pizza etc. Our home for the week was Camping Château des Marais just outside Chambord. 

It's an 8+ hour drive - 2 to Dover from Maidenhead, then another 6 odd from Calais but you can shave a couple of hours off if you want to do toll roads and not be cheap arse like us. 
 

Blois.

Riverside at Blois.

After that mammoth journey, the first day was a potter around one of the local towns - Blois. 

Funnily enough, for a town of its type in the Loire, Blois has a Chateau and a Cathedral (sarcasm), plus some lovely streets ripe for photography leading down to the river. Lovely place and we liked it so much, we visited twice!


Château de Chambord.

Day Two. With driving legs sufficiently recovered, we jumped back in the car for the short hop to our rather magnificent local French Renaissance big house - Château de Chambord.

Brimming with a history tied up with Sun King (who didn't stay there much... rich people eh?), it's a pretty magnificent building and beautifully kept up. One of the crowning glories is the stairwells, which depending on who you believe - and it's a bit vague - were designed or inspired by Leonardo da Vinci who lived in the region until his death.

Basically, it's an amazing place and a must see if you're in the vicinity.

 


Orléans and Vendôme.

Slowing down a tad, the next couple of days were spent popping to two more local towns (well, I say local - both around an hour each way from our base... France is big). The first was Orléans - yes, the Joan of Arc one - which again has a pretty awe-inspiring Cathedral and more excitingly, a branch of C&A just across from a lovely square with children playing in fountains.

Second on the list was the sadly mostly shut town of Vendôme. Well, i say mostly shut: we went on a Sunday which we forgot means everything really is shut as unlike the UK, the French actually do have some sort of day of rest. Still, another lovely town with great views from the castle.

 


Clos Lucé.

There's a lot of Leo in the Loire, and by that, I don't mean DiCaprio. As previously mentioned, Da Vinci entered French service in 1516, and was given use a rather nice manor house called Clos Lucé where he spent three years until he died. The house is now a reworked museum with not only recreated rooms, but actual working models of his inventions.

I felt the gardens, rather than the house was the main draw - not only are they wonderfully kept but they're peppered with inventions for kids (and adults) to play on, and lovely little touches like steam popping out of the little river flowing along the grounds. 

So, château visited, wine drunk, towns walked around, bike rides had and, for one of us, a lot of time spent in the pool, we snaked our way back via Rouen to the coast. We could have easily had another week in the Loire region as there's loads to see and the campsite style is great as a base - especially when it's as hot as it currently is. 

Perhaps next year we'll head a bit further south and try out a similar gig in the south of France. Global warming allowing.

Phew.


Tech Corner:
The whole gang of Zeiss and Sony lenses from 25mm, through 35/55 to the 85mm got a runout but I really enjoyed playing with the Voigtlander 40mm f/1.2 this time out too. I'll do a full review using all sorts of shots from that soon once i've got some semblance of mastery of it.