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This champ found herself in a jam but still did a plum job
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WHEN pensioner Sarah Doidge realised the council had cut back trees where she harvested plums for jam, it was enough to make her blood boil.
But she switched to different recipes and went on to win her latest crop of industry awards.
For the sixth year running Mrs Doidge, from Abingdon, has won praise in the Guild of Fine Food Great Taste Awards.
The grandmother who collects fruit and makes jams, marmalades and chutney at her home in Welford Gardens, won a three-star award for her Wild Mirabelle Plum Conserve in 2010, which saw her invited to top London food store Fortnum & Mason, in Piccadilly, to display her wares.
Last year the store placed an order for a batch of her Wild Cherry Plum Conserve after it won two gold stars.
But in the autumn of last year council workers in Abingdon cut back the plum trees near Abingdon’s ring road, forcing Mrs Doidge to focus on different fruits.
As a result, in the recently announced Great Taste Awards, Mrs Doidge picked up one gold star each for her kumquat and cointreau marmalade, greengage conserve, and lime curd.
Mrs Doidge said: “I don’t blame the council for cutting back the trees. They have a job to do.
“But they were so harsh that there were hardly any wild cherry plums or wild mirabelle left, so I had to concentrate on different recipes.
“Luckily I still had a batch of wild cherry plums left over from the previous year, so I was just about able to fulfil the order from Fortnum & Mason but I’m not supplying any more for them at the moment.
“I don’t want to say exactly where the trees are because I will end up with competition but they are not too far from McDonald’s.
“I would urge the council not to cut back the plum trees too harshly because I can’t reach the fruit at the top.
“But I still managed to win three gold stars this year, which is quite an achievement.”
Mrs Doidge produces about 100 jars a month for her cottage industry Brynmoor Conserves and sells the preserves at local food and farmers’ markets, including Wolvercote Farmers Market, with 250-gramme jars of jam selling for an average price of £2.80, although the Kumquat and Cointreau will cost £3.50.
She moved to Abingdon in 1970 following the death of her husband Flt Lt Tony Doidge in a flying accident.
Mrs Doidge’s daughters Sophie and Julia are in their 40s and Mrs Doidge has two grandchildren.
Before launching Brynmoor Conserves, Mrs Doidge ran a ballet school and trained with the Royal Ballet School in the late 1950s.
She still keeps an eye on the progress of former pupils, including James French, from Didcot, who is now training full-time with the Royal Ballet School in London.
Vale council leader Matthew Barber said: “It probably was us doing the work, although it could have been the county council who sometimes use our contractors.
“I admire and encourage industry in the Vale and we would not intentionally have cut off Mrs Doidge’s supply.
“There are areas we leave wild so people can pick fruit but if trees are on the road we need to keep them neat and tidy because there could be visibility issues for drivers.”
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