On the many train journeys I take up to London from Sussex I’ve snatched glimpses through the trees of the lavender fields. They are so pretty, fields of purple, and I was determined to visit. Having tracked the train route into London I found that we were passing fields that are grown by Castle Farm, the largest lavender farm in the UK. They have been growing lavender since 1998.
I managed to book a tour on the day of harvest, so lucky! As we drove down to the farm in the Darent Valley the adjacent field was being harvested and the fragrance of lavender in the air was wonderful.
The tour lasted approximately an hour and a half and our guide was very informative, showing us the difference between the lavendin and lavender plants – lavendin (strong and fragrant with a high camphor content and ideal for use in soaps, candles, room sprays and is a good moth deterrent. It is stimulating and energising unlike lavender which is relaxing, ) and lavender (used in skincare, perfumes and aromatherapy products ).
We were able to see the harvesters at work (the tractor harvesters are are set up using satellite navigation), follow the trailer to the distillation barn, watch as one was filled with steam to extract the oil. The oil was then tapped off, cleaned, put into drums and is ready for use in six months. It was interesting to smell the different fragrances during the whole process, from the sweet floral smell at harvest to a more savoury smell during distillation. The condensed water which still smells of lavender is used for products such as linen water for ironing.
The lavender farm produces many products, from cut bunches of lavender to toiletries, teas, oils, biscuits, fudge and jams and chutneys. I picked up (amongst many other delights) some culinary oil. There are two varieties, one for cooking with heat and the other for cold culinary uses, icecreams etc. I am going to make some icecream.
It’s a shame that it is the end of the season but I am so pleased that we managed to visit at such a fragrant time. Next year I am going to book in for a relaxing massage in the lavender fields in one of the pop up tents. I understand they are very popular so had better get on and book.
So, for a lovely cup of peppermint and lavender tea while I try the farm’s recipe for lavender ice cream.