Green Living At Rushfields
by Ruth Lawrence
With the change in season upon us, Rushfields Plant Centre is turning its attention to the colder weather, the upcoming festive season and going green with their new biomass heater.
Although it was a baking hot morning when I talked to Adrian Hillman, one of the four directors of Rushfields Plant Centre, we were soon discussing upcoming plans for the Christmas display, which promises to be bigger and bolder than ever.
A marquee will house a glittering array of artificial trees and Christmas lights while real trees will be delivered during the last week of November. As artificial trees become increasingly lifelike their appeal grows and they are certainly easier to put up and pack away once the season finishes; some even come with integrated lights in the branches for the ultimate hassle free display.
Many people still prefer a traditional tree and find the ritual of decorating it and piling up the presents beneath is the ultimate symbol of Christmas. With the arrival of the Nordman Fir, shedding needles are a thing of the past; customers tend to buy these trees when they want to put them up early and they are proving increasingly popular. At 10-12 years old, they are slower growing than the Norway Spruce, which sheds its needles but costs less for a tree of similar height.
Crackers, decorations and cards will be on sale from the end of September, while the main display will coincide with half term on the 25th October. It may seem early, but as a small independent shop, Rushfields has to mirror the Christmas schedules of the larger retailers, who seem to be pulling the season forward each year. Winter clothing is also a key part of the new season; the competitively priced Regatta brand is waterproof, stylish and popular and includes footwear, fleeces, jackets and trousers.
One of the best-loved parts of Rushfields is the buzzing, welcoming café. With the colder weather comes a seasonal menu that will include delicious homemade soups guaranteed to fortify and nourish the most jaded shopper. Tempting homemade cakes are available with a gluten free option which extends to the hearty breakfasts; many customers pop in for lunch and the café has proved exceptionally popular with friends who enjoy chatting over the cream teas or coffee and cake during the day. As the café is licensed, visitors can enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their lunch or savour a cup of tea or coffee from a vast selection of flavours.
The farm shop is another Rushfields success story. Their legendary award winning homemade pies are produced from locally sourced meat – beef and lamb come from Grange Farm in Poynings while freerange pork hails from Cootham and succulent chicken comes from nearby Hurstpierpoint. Sausages are made on the premises and artisan breads are baked and delivered daily from a local bakery while the best Sussex cheeses are available along with bottled beers and award winning local wines from Bolney and Plumpton.
Christmas orders will be taken from November and Rushfields’ own butcher ensures that customers will always leave with the cut they request. Local vegetables complement the meat; Rushfields’ ethos is to lessen food miles wherever possible and regular Saturday morning shoppers confirm the growing public demand for food that hasn’t travelled halfway round the world to reach their plate.
In keeping with this green movement, Adrian talked in depth about how Rushfields has recently decreased its carbon footprint by investing in a biomass heater, fuelled by harvested wood waste from the timber industry. A greener option than the oil heating previously used to heat the nursery and part of the retail sales area, the long-term intent is to heat the entire retail area and café with biomass heating.
Taking advantage of a government grant, the new heater is proving 30% cheaper than oil and it’s quieter too. Adrian puts a great deal of thought into sustainability; any retailer has vast amounts of packaging and plastic waste to dispose of and Rushfields is no exception. Cardboard and pallet wrapping is recycled and waste has been reduced from a skip load every week to one every couple of months, which makes the business in Adrian’s words “as green as we can be”. He finds it frustrating that no-one can recycle plant boxes and trays and the cost of sterilising plastic plant pots outweighs the price of new ones – clearly there is a need for alternatives but manufacturers are slow to catch up with demand.
Before I left Rushfields, I had a peak at the cookware and gift section; there’s a stunning range of quality vintage style, traditional containers, glass Kilner jars and the ever popular Mason Cash mixing bowls, perfect in any country kitchen. Irish linen tea towels, oven gloves and aprons make great presents for cooks and brightly hued, hygienic silicone tools bring a dash of colour to the kitchen. The gift section includes a well stocked bookstore and the latest trend – colouring books for adults which have proved a surprise hit with apparently therapeutic qualities gained from the relaxed concentration required to complete them.
Rushfields has been in business for over thirty years, expanding with firm commitment to local producers. Now with Christmas on the horizon, they are dedicated to making the festive season as enjoyable, green and local as possible.
Rushfields Plant Centre
Opening times: 9.00am-5.30pm
Open: 7 days a week
Address: Henfield Road, Poynings, West Sussex BN45 7AY
Telephone: 01273 857445