A little autumnal tour…. 27/10/2021

It feels like we have been away for ages this time round as we have seen so many people and found so many beautiful places to explore a little further but it is only two and a half weeks and just coming to an end. This little adventure was based around the re-scheduled ‘Concorde’ meet, originally planned for last November, venue checked in May and finally visited in October!

We set off on Saturday 11th October to our little CL (Orchard Farm) just outside Lutterworth to see the donkeys…. sorry, I meant Gail and the kids… the donkeys were an added bonus – and so very lovely with it!!

Following Lutterworth we wiggled our way across to Melton Mowbray where we were meeting 24 other Concordes of all different shapes and sizes, from just under 6m long to over 11.5m….I think we also managed to have almost every breed of dog amongst the group as well – quite a turnout! It was lovely to see both new and known faces and the weather was kind to us, despite it being a little autumnal and the nights closing in early.

The Eye Kettleby Lakes campsite is lovely and open with the Southern site having especially beautiful views out over the rolling hills. It has a fantastic set up offering a wonderful clubhouse which we took over half of on all three nights, fishing lakes, lodges (which we didn’t think we would need but one of our group ended up staying in!) and apparently great showers and toilets. We had a great few days catching up with everyone and I am sure we will be back at some point…. especially for the fish and chips on the Wednesday night as they were excellent… just a word of warning start queuing early for your ticket!

Leaving Melton Mowbray, we headed just a few miles West to get to the John Thompson Brewery and Inn in a tiny hamlet called Ingleton, Derbyshire which is a pub stop, allowing motorhomers to stay overnight if they eat or drink in the pub. It was an absolutely stunning location and we had chosen it as we were meeting up with Kevin and Petra who were ‘houseboat-bound’ following an operation. We were planning to do a food platter at theirs and wanted to buy some locally brewed take-outs – unfortunately however, since COVID19 hit they no longer brew their own beer so instead we popped in for a drink before we headed out for the night. The pub was not only set in a stunning location but also beautiful inside with lots of open fires and a lovely looking menu so we will be back to try it out properly in the future. The platter – which was a combined effort between narrow boat and motorhome was pretty good too…. focaccia, falafels, lentil sausage rolls, hummus, home made chutneys, pork pie, locally smoked mackerel and local cheese to name just a few delights…. definately to be repeated!

It was however just a one night stop as we originally planned to meet Kevin and Petra at our next location – White Lodge CL and Campsite, Great Haywood, Staffordshire – £20 per night inc.

The campsite is located just 500m from two different branches of canal as well as the river Trent, not to mention the Shugborough Estate which is a National Trust property – so plenty of beautiful walking… we simply couldn’t do it justice in the two nights we had there.

Also 500m down the road from the campsite was a wonderful farm shop and cafe and the village has a couple of nice looking pubs too… definately lots to explore here and we are keen to come back to spend a bit more time in the area.

Unfortunately however, we had already booked our next spot so moved on to Shrewsbury where we squeezed our way into Coton Hill Farm CS – £5 per person, per night without electricity. When I say squeezed…. the entrance was interesting to say the least… a very beautiful old farm house which obviously used to have an incredible kitchen garden… although that Chimney looks ominous! We did however decide to stick to the hard standing area rather than go into the orchard – although beautiful it was a little soggy and on a slope.

The CS was just 1 mile from the center of Shrewsbury, which is both a beautiful and interesting town with incredible architecture and hundreds of independent, interesting boutiques and coffee shops. As the center of the town is built on a hill in the middle of a bend in the river Severn everything is a little higgledy piggledy, with lots of lovely garden areas dotted in between tudor buildings and the water. A really lovely place for a couple of days away, especially at this time of year when all the trees are turning and despite the gloomy weather they shine through, providing beautiful colour.

Another short drive – this time starting to head South – and we arrived in Hereford, parking up at the Rowing Club (£7.50 pppn) on the River Wye…. literally. Thankfully it had been dry over the last few weeks and had only started raining in the proceeding couple of days as I think we would possibly otherwise have been looking for an alternative.

It rained a fair bit more over the first 24 hours but the river stayed below the banks and we had opted to park on the area close to the track so didn’t have any issues. When the sun came out though, it came in force and enabled us to catch up with the washing and take in some of the surrounding countryside as well as the beautiful cathedral.

We also managed to catch up with Clive and Sue who were with us last week in Melton Mowbray and live fairly closely…. any excuse for coffee and cake! Hereford is a nice, working town with a mix of all the necessary shops – probably supporting quite a large area as they appeared to have more than their fair share of supermarkets – as well as a few really interesting, quirky areas with nice deli’s and coffee shops. We hadn’t realised it until we arrived but it is also home to Trekitt which is our weakness in outdoor clothing – I am not sure how but although there was a good amount of trying on clothes, no money actually parted….yet!

Leaving the rising river Wye behind us, we set off from Hereford on Friday and headed into the Cotswolds, an area that we haven’t previously explored in the motorhome. The campsite we had planned to visit was full – and that was when we tried to book a couple of months ago – so we searched out another little CL and fell upon Greystone Farm (£14 inc elec) which is just outside Blockley.

It’s a working dairy farm set in a beautiful location between a couple of small villages, each with its own pub! The farm itself has roughly 250 cattle along with a few very small calves and they also have a ‘honesty’ farm hut where you can stock up on milk, ice cream, meat and preserves.

We set off into Chipping Campden to explore on our first afternoon – trying to avoid the weekend tourists, then over the next few days had several lovely walks taking in Blockley, Draycott, Paxford and the Batsford Arboretum – absolutely beautiful.

Although not specifically planned, we were only about 12 miles from where Pete and Liz have moved to and they very kindly came and picked us up, gave us a little tour of their new neighbourhood and fed us on the Saturday night… I think we will be back again!

We are now back at the farm, having stopped last night just outside Lambourn in West Berkshire so we could have a new water pump fitted on the motorhome, the gas serviced and the habitation check. Although we had been to the workshop before we hadn’t had a chance to do any walking in the area but despite the greyness and drizzle, we managed to do a lovely walk this morning taking in the rolling hills and racehorses before settling down in a cafe until the works on the motorhome were finished….another habitation check passed without problems.

Food as always takes a high priority in our world and have been experimenting some more…

Keith is on a quest to make Vegan Yorkshire puddings in the Remoska… to date we have tried 3 times, twice we have ended up with a slightly uncooked but very flavoursom flying saucer and one slightly overcooked, flaovourless flying saucer……needless the quest continues!

As we are entering the slightly ‘fresher’ period of the year we are slowing down the salads and increasing the soups for lunch and bringing out the pies and curries with avengeance!

New recipes (apart from the Yorkshire Pud as I won’t pass it on until we get it right) as follows:-

Epic Baked Beans
Blackbean, Quinoa and Squash Hot Pot
Tadka Dahl

We also did a few experiments with fresh coconut as we had some in our oddbox… we cooked them in the oven to loosen the hairy shell which cracked off then…
– We pierced the eyes and took the coconut water out
– Cooked the whole coconut at roughly 180 degrees in the oven and the hairy husk came off easily
– Peeled the coconut flesh to remove the brown skin
– Grated the flesh to create the ‘shredded coconut meat’

We then added 400ml of water to 200g of shredded coconut meat and passed it through muslin to give us
– dessicated coconut
– coconut milk

We used the coconut water in porridge along with roughly 4 tbsp of the non-dry desiccated coconut (i.e. the left overcoconut meat that we extracted the milk from)
And used one part of the coconut milk in a Curry, the other in a Biryiani… not quite as creamy as the 100% coconut cream we normally use but that is probably due to the mix to water- probably should have been 200ml to 200g of coconut… but a good experiment!

Dorset and beyond…. 11/10/2021

A bit late on publishing…. but better late than never!

Following a short stop back at the farm, having squeezed in our impromptu trip to Germany, we had booked to gate crash Keith’s sister and husbands’ holiday in Dorset for a few nights so hit the road again on Sunday 12th September with a journey down to Crossways Clubsite just outside of Dorchester.

Although we don’t normally stay on larger campsites – simply because we prefer quieter locations with less people – this one was one of the nicest we have been too as it is very secluded within the woods, with roughly 8 caravans or motorhomes in each grassed, tranquil, enclave. There was a lot of space and despite it being close to a trainline and a fairly busy road we had several visitors over the course of the 3 days… of the four legged variety!

Sharon and Steve were staying the week and ventured off in the car to explore further afield during the day, whilst we were happy exploring a bit of the local countryside by foot… very tranquil and beautiful…. although I am not sure we will be eating any of the shrooms.

We did hunt out the local brewery ‘Dorset Brewing Company’ – who, it turns out, make rather good beer and then all met up in the evening to eat, venturing out to The Frampton Arms, the local pub for a lovely meal on our last night … delicious spicy cauliflower soup, scallops, moules and fish and chips.

We moved on from Crossways on the Wednesday, leaving Sharon and Steve to enjoy the rest of their holiday in peace, travelling all of 20 miles further along the coast to Manor Farm CS in Burton Bradstock (£18 per night inc. elec.)

Burton Bradstock is a small village with two pubs, a post office with a small farm shop inside it, a cafe and a fuel station with a convenience store – not a huge amount but one of the pubs is supposed to be the best in Dorset… something we hadn’t appreciated until we arrived and tried to book a table on a Friday night…. oh well, next time!

The area is beautiful with lots of walking inland through the rolling hills and of course the south west coastal path which is pretty stunning too as the Jurassic coast is famous for its beautiful red rock and layers.

On the first afternoon we headed inland over the hills – finding a nice farm shop and cider farm hidden away – and then back along the coast but it was a bit too misty for photos unfortunately. It cleared up though by the morning and we again headed inland, this time to Bridport, stopping for lunch in the community apple orchard, before exploring the pretty little town and trying out one of the many coffee shops. After lunch and coffee – and finding Palmers Brewery which we will need to come back to visit – we headed back to the motorhome along the coastal path.

The next day, with the sun shining yet again we walked along the coast, following the rolling cliff edges into Seatown where we stopped on the beach for a peaceful spot of lunch.

The return walk gave us beautiful light to capture West Bay at its best…. who’d have thought it was September in the UK!

The days passed quickly and it was soon time to move on again. We travelled all of 5 miles up the road to stop at Felicities Farm shop where we re-stocked on fruit, veg, more beer and local cheese as well as obviously supporting the local baker by enjoying a coffee in the garden with a generous slice of carrot and walnut cake – one of the best farm shops that we have been too, not to mention the rather beautiful views. We then continued on another short drive to arrive at our next destination of Green Lane Farm, Rousdon on the edge of a working dairy farm costing a huge £6.50 a night!

Although a very tranquil location and with lots of walking, it was very difficult to get to the coastal path from here without walking along the main road which wouldn’t have been fun… so we took alternative routes to explore the area.

We had planned to walk into Lyme Regis the first afternoon but after a bit of main road, got diverted through the rather interesting Rousdon Estate and ended up looping round and going into the rather beautiful Seaton…. slightly longer than planned but all the same, lovely – especially the views up the estuary.

Planning it slightly better on day two, we headed up and over the rolling hills to get into Lyme Regis, arriving just in time to have lunch sitting looking out to sea – very beautiful. Day 3 gave us even more beautiful rolling hills as we set off on an inland loop after we caught up on the washing…. certainly been getting the steps and hills in on this trip!

It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful our countryside is – every time we turn a corner and go somewhere new there is more stunning scenary, even as it got greyer and the light changed it was equally beautiful, just different.

Next stop was Oakdown Campsite, £23 per night inc. elec. which is situated between Beer and Sidmouth. A lovely site, although next time we will ask for a pitch slightly further away from the main road as after the last week and a half of pure tranquility, it felt noisy!

We took a leisurely walk to Branscombe taking in a few streams…. literally, before circling back on the opposite side of the valley… you can see the trend here – lots of hills, before popping into the campsite shop to check out their supply of local ciders and beer!

The following day we walked down to the coastal path and into Sidmouth to once again benefit from a lovely lunch looking along the jurassic coast. Once the appetite was satisfied we climbed back up away from the coast again and inland, passing through the Donkey Sanctuary on the way back.

I love a donkey and obviously to support all the work that they are doing here we felt the need to stop and have a cream tea whilst taking in the views as all profits go straight back into the sanctuary…. supporting good causes and all that… someone has to do the difficult jobs!!

And for our last day in Dorset, waking to a slightly greyer day we set off in the opposite direction towards Beer and as the day progressed the sun came out to support us – another stunning section of the coastal path with some goolish mushrooms to support!!

With the sunshine thinking about taking a break we realised that it was possibly time to head away from the coast and towards home, next stop being a Camping and Caravan clubsite in Devizes – once again, not somewhere we would normally stay but it has had so many good reviews and is right next to the canal so we thought we would try it out for three nights.

The campsite was lovely and peaceful despite being pretty much full. We walked up into the local village of Seend where we found the village shop which combined a post office, convenience store and farm shop…. loads of lovely locally grown vegetables still encased in lots of mud – just to provide the authenticity – but exactly what was required to re-stock the cupboards for a few extra days!

We had a lovely couple of days walking along the canal, the first day was just an out and back, taking in a few locks and the tranquil countryside stopping short of Trowbridge. Day two was focussed around Sunday lunch which was booked at the George and Dragon in Rowde – but which gave us a good route to take in the full set of 29 Caen Hill Locks which was absolutely stunning. The George and Dragon incidently, was amazingly good! It is listed in the Michelin recommended restaurants and pubs and did not fail to deliver from beginning through to end – if we are in the area, we will be back!

We had a lovely couple of weeks away, did loads of walking and were so lucky with the weather as it was particularly good. After a lovely few days at the Devizes campsite we headed back to the farm where the last two weeks have just disappeared.

We managed to squeeze in our annual Macmillan coffee morning at my mums, raising over £400 which was very impressive considering we still had to restrict the number of people who came! A lovely day and lots of fantastic cake…an excellent family effort!!

And just to help you out on your geography…. a map of the last trip.

A mini tour of Sussex and an Impromptu trip…. 9/9/2021

A busy few weeks … where did the summer go?
We bit the bullet and decided to do a small trip to East Sussex during the summer holidays but soon realised that finding campsites was going to be more complicated than expected so we cut it short and were only away for a week.

We set off down to Rye on Friday 6th August and it is fair to say that travelling on the M25 on a Friday during summer holidays is not a good idea… now we have done it twice, we won’t be repeating it, even though it was the morning!

We had decided to go down to Sussex to do the 1066 walk – 30+ miles of beautiful trail that runs from Rye through to Pevensey Bay… however we couldn’t find anywhere to stay near Pevensey Bay so only managed to cover some of the route, which to be fair was pretty beautiful.

After travelling through North, Central and South America with my parents in a motorhome in the 1980’s we came back and settled in St Leonards on Sea, Sussex – so I know the area pretty well…. although it has been 30 years since I left! Keith however, hadn’t been to Battle or Rye…. or if he had it was playing hockey and he didn’t remember any of it!

Rye was therefore our first stop and the CL – The Old Dairy, Playden, Rye (£20 p/n inc. elect) was situated a couple of miles outside Rye itself and had stunning views out over the rolling hills.

We set off to explore Rye itself on Friday afternoon as I know it used to get really busy with tourists over the weekend and to be fair it seemed pretty quiet – not like a remembered it from 30 + years ago. It is still a really pretty town but mostly taken over by holiday lets and holiday type shops rather than the boutiques and artisanial type places I remembered which is a shame – although still well kept.

It wasn’t all about the town though… more about the walking for us and despite the very temperamental weather we managed to get some good walking in over the next couple of days.

We decided to do two different long circular walks – the first out towards Battle, dropping down to Winchelsea and then back along the coast which was brought back lots of childhood memories of the Flamingo’s that settled in the area at certain times of the year…

and the second along the river with long grass in torrential rain and strong winds…. not particularly photogenic, very, very wet but still quite nice at the end!! We even managed to find a sheltered stile to sit on for lunch in a wooded area, protecting us from the worst of the elements… and thankfully it had started to dry out after lunch so we avoided the soggy aftermath in the motorhome!

We left Rye on the Monday and did a short wiggle, cross country to arrive at Battle…. another CL out the back of a garden centre (£16 per night inc. elec.)
I used to catch the bus out to Battle to go to secondary school so once settled in, we set off for a little walk to see what had changed in the 30 years since I left! The answer being not much apart from the fact that they are knocking down the school to build a new one!

We had a lovely few days despite everything being quite soggy under foot when we arrived, it soon dried out. We managed to catch up with our washing and do several really lovely walks – through the forest, then down the 1066 Bexhil branch, then out on the main 1066 Rye branch and then finally to a place called ‘Brown Bread Street’ on the 1066 towards Pevensey Bay.

All in all a lovely relaxing few days away and definately worth more of a visit as i’d like to get back to St Leonards and Hastings as well – if nothing else to revisit the fishing port where I remember buying dover sole direct from the boats in my childhood.

We settled back into Holyport and catching up with friends for the rest of August and even ventured to the Fi-Fest on Bank Holiday weekend which was conveniently being held on the farm… just a few fields over!! The first festival in a long time but it was pretty good – very safe and a good choice of bands… just a shame that the Lightening Seeds didn’t quite come up to scratch as the closing act…. everyone else was excellent!

A bit of a last minute decision…. and it really was last minute – we decided to book a Eurotunnel ticket and go to Dusseldorf to visit the motorhome exhibition. Despite not planning to go to Europe at all this year, we figured that if we wanted to have a look at what options were available over the next couple of years, the only way to do it was to head to Dusseldorf as no-one has any stock and won’t have for the forseeable future.

Covid Tests in hand, a clear out of all fruit and veg, wine and sprits (dont worry we didn’t waste anything) – the meat part wasn’t too difficult – we drove down to Folkestone on Tuesday and were parked up romantically nestled in between two other beautiful Concordes on the bank of the Rhine by Wednesday night… I am sure the camera plays tricks on the eye as we aren’t that small !!

It was an eventful few days and we still didn’t get to see the full exhibition … but it is fair to say that we are happy and have come away a little lighter on the wallet… so watch this space – although it’ll be a long time coming!

We didn’t get to explore the area much but we did find a beautiful pumpkin farm just round the corner from the campsite we were staying at … can’t get better than these

Getting to know our northern garden county… 5th August 2021

As we have decided to stay in the UK this year, we have decided to plan a few trips to explore a bit more of our beautiful country and this month, against most recommendations it was the turn of Lincolnshire – the UK’s second largest county and provider of the majority of the UK’s grain and potatoes….and a fair amount of vegetables too!

Neither of us had ever been before but looking at the tourist board website the food lured us in, as did the beautiful pictures that we found of the Wolds and the coastline….secretly I had also always wanted to go to Scunthorpe ever since I worked on email security content management …. something only those who ever worked with me will understand and I am not going to explain it here – alas, we drove round it… so perhaps another time…. or perhaps not!!

Despite planning the trip as we weren’t sure how much availability there would be with everyone wanting to get away in the UK and take advantage of our beautiful countryside, it is fair to say I got a bit over excited and before I realised it, I had booked 17 days away without actually including Lincoln itself which was way up on my list…. so we will be back to eat more vegetables, investigate the Lincolnshire vineyards, meet more cows and explore a little further…. at the end of the day now that Keith’s brother, Paul has a little Post Office/News Agents just outside Beverley we have an excuse for a detour en route.

But back to this trip… we set off to the Lincolnshire Wolds and our first stop was a little CS in a hamlet called Spilsby (Furze Hill House Farm £15 p/n). The Lincolnshire Wolds are an area of natural beauty and it is fair to say that there was lots of nature on our doorstep – this part had rolling hills and although we had only booked the campsite for 3 nights we managed to get three really nice, long walks in – exploring the Snipe Dales on the first day …. falling upon a Vineyard which surprised me…. thought it’d be too cold and wet up here, how wrong can one be? Then two beautiful circular walks on the second and third day (24km and 20km) …. it was wet underfoot and thankfully not too cold.

Although we put the area through its paces in the short time we had, we will definately be back to explore some more as it was so beautiful and although there was just one pub and no shops within walking distance…. it’s well worth a visit for walking/cycling and tranquility.

After Spilsby we set off on a short drive to the coast, stopping briefly at a local farm shop to stock up on all things grown locally… potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, beetroot, onions – spending a total of about £3.53….. craziness really but it does make you realise how little some fruit and vegetables cost when they come directly from the producers and have no distance to travel.

As always, I wanted to get in my seaside visit and there is a coastal walk that goes from Skegness to Maplethorpe that sounded interesting so, after trying a few campsites that were full we managed to book Eastfield Lodge CS £17 p/n inc. electricity which is just outside Sutton on Sea. The small campsite was beautifully kept and the owners really friendly … but I need to do more research on the area in the future as it is fair to say that although the beaches are never ending sand – it is very flat…. not a lump or a bump in site. We did get some good walking in though to explore the area; Sutton on Sea is a nice little town but Maplethorpe isn’t really our kind of place… just a little too many sticks of rock and arcades. We did however find Farmer Browns Ice Cream parlour and farm shop on a rather long walk on Sunday….. well worth it for the ice cream and also the amazing strawberries and gooseberries we bought to take home!

After a disappointing football final, we set off back into the Lincolnshire Wolds to find some vegetation and hills – next stop being Beechcroft CL, near Market Rasen £6 p/n. Our home for the next three nights was to be a lovely big field on the edge of the forest… perfect! We thought we would do a little walk round the block on Monday afternoon as it had been raining and with all the fields being overgrown, we decided to stick to some of the smaller, quieter roads and explore….. 18km later and it is fair to say that it is a beautiful area, lots of lovely little hamlets and the roads are so quiet – very pleasant to walk on.

Over the next couple of days we popped into Market Rasen, which lacks the market now unfortunately – probably killed off by the enormous Tesco on the edge of town. We also did another couple of beautiful long walks – one along the Viking Trail and another circular walk which happened to take us past a lovely farm shop and cafe with a rather incredible Ferrero Rocher cake…. all in all a lovely few days and another lovely area with lots of beautiful walking.

Moving on from Market Rasen we did a short skip and a jump to our next stop – Carr Farm CL (£13 p/n), just outside Gainsborough. The campsite itself was beautiful and although the area was flat and Gainsborough itself was nothing to write home about there were lots of waterways running in all directions, and lovely forestry….. to be fair it was too hot to venture too far without any tree cover!

Leaving Gainsborough behind us we headed north and for the first time, crossed the Humber bridge to get to what was originally our final destination to catch up with Keith’s Brother and wife, Paul and Carly in Beverley. We had stayed at the Willow Lane CS (£15 p/n inc. elec.) last October after our tour of Yorkshire and as it is so close to town, yet in the tranquility of the countryside we headed back for 3 nights to do lots of eating, drinking and walking…. no change there then – just this time the eating was with company!

I’d like to say it was balanced but I think that when we fell on the 42nd East Bakehouse in Beverley on our first afternoon and found some kind of cookie dough cup cake monster… it was fair to say that the next few days were going to be full of flavour …

We cooked Monkfish on the BBQ on Monday night which was lovely, then headed out for cocktails and a Brazilian meat feast on Tuesday before a visit to Paul’s Post Office and a tour of Hull and surrounding areas on Wednesday to see how much it had changed since I worked up there – all finished off by good old Papa’s fish and chips in their garden …. properly spoilt… just glad we managed to get out and do some walking as well to enjoy the beautiful colours of the Yorkshire harvest.

Not having done enough driving or exploring we decided to take a bit of a detour on our way home – it was planned, just a little bit last minute – to go and meet some of the Gastrovanners for a bit of a ‘cook up’ round the fire pit!

Gastrovanner is a facebook group for likeminded people who share a passion for cooking, eating and travelling in a motorhome or caravan…. obviously none of that applies to us but we gatecrashed anyway!!

As we were nervous about school holiday traffic heading down to Cornwall on the first Friday of summer holidays we did the majority of the journey but stopped at The Beeches CL (£17inc) in Cam, Gloucestershire on Thursday night before finishing the journey to Wellington on Friday morning. Although only a quick overnight stop, we had wanted to visit the area for a while and it gave us an idea of what was there to come back in the future – a lovely little campsite and we will be back… just not in the height of the heat as it is on a little island and the surrounding water was a bit stagnant and smelly!

After a bit of a chug down the M5 and a slightly more scenic route than planned -we really should have looked at the directions provided before we actually turned off the motorway – we finally got to Lynda’s family farm just outside Wellington – proper tranquility.

The weekend was planned quite obviously around food and drink and although it was a little wet and grey, we managed to eat, drink and enjoy ourselves to the full… making new friends along the way!

Annie and Chris came to eat with us on Friday night and then Saturday was focussed on the firepit…. pizza’s in abundance for lunch – with Damien leading a dough workshop……

Followed by an evening tasting menu…. each person providing a ‘small’ plate. The menu was as follows:-
Morrocan Harira Soup
Scallops wrapped in ham, sitting on a black pudding crumble, bruschetta and lettuce leaf
Smoked Trout with rocket and a horseradish sauce
Stuffed Aubergines Dahl
Chimichurri beef, caramalised onions and pomegranate salad
Fermented banana and walnut
…….absolutely delicious….

An amazing couple of days to finish of our little trip with a gastronomic cherry!

We headed back to the farm on the Sunday and have spent the last couple of weeks catching up with ourselves and of course the family whilst enjoying a little more normality…. and finally getting the windscreen replaced which was a bit of an achievement!!

Not many new recipes this last few weeks but it is definately worth sharing the following one…
Mango Sorbet

Getting back to normality… 3/7/2021

I am not quite sure where the last couple of months have gone but after a bit of a quite period, keeping our heads down and getting some work done we have been back out and about doing a little bit of travelling….

There has been alot of work to do on property which has kept us busy…. it is strange though how you decide to completely renovate something and then think – why didn’t we do this when we were living here?? … admittedly, it was eight years ago…. but wow, that new kitchen looks amazing!!

Anyway, enough of boring day to day life and onto the enjoyment of food, drink and travelling… our three main passions!

Whilst at the farm and since things have started to open up again they have started a local farmers market in Holyport on Saturday mornings… very dangerous! To be fair, there are about 3 stalls that sell brownies, sourdough and other artesanial baked goods – all of which we can also do at home so we tend to avoid… but there are also stalls selling local beer, cider, gin, apple cider vinegar, organic refill bits including tea and nuts etc… and a very varied cheese stall… and on a whim we decided to buy some Vegan cheese. If you thought artisanial cheese was expensive, well think again…. vegan cheese is gold dust! To be fair, the one we bought was delicious. It was pretty much pure cashew nut with some spices thrown in but still, for roughly £50 a kilo its not something you’d buy very often and although good, I don’t think worth the money when there are so many other alternatives that we make. I do think I could make it myself though, I just need to dedicate a little time to it!

We have had a couple of trips away in the last couple of months, firstly an 8 day tour taking in Lutterworth, Stenson and Melton Mowbray back in May, where it rained so much for the first 4 days the campsite at Stenson actually had to cancel bookings and we had to park up on the road. It did clear up though and the last 4 days in Melton Mowbray were a lot dryer… albeit that the walking was still very soggy under foot.

We had stopped in Lutterworth to catch up with Gail and the kids, Stenson to see Kevin and Petra on their lovely narrow boat and then finally Melton Mowbray was a reckie with Pete and Liz as we had booked the Eye Kettleby Lakes Campsite for the Concorde Meet last November which was cancelled due to Covid…. all in all quite a full on week for us bearing in mind we hadn’t really seen anyone for months!! It was lovely to see everyone though and lots of lovely food was eaten and good wine drank…. so we shouldn’t really complain. It also enabled us to get into the habit and start doing our COVID rapid tests to ensure that we weren’t passing anything on.

Following on from a few weeks back at the farm, we then set off down to Bath for ten nights – once again a tale of two halves, the first half of the week was absolutely glorious weather and the second a little wet and grey. Nothing stopped us though and we still managed to catch up with everyone we had planned to see – just a couple of evenings that needed to be catered for inside rather than out… but it all worked.

Whilst making the most of our time in Bath we took a quick trip over to Bristol to sample a little bistro that we had seen on ‘Remarkable Places to Eat’ called ‘Little French’. It was our first trip on public transport for nearly two years – having been abroad over the winter 2019/20 and not arriving back in the UK until the end of May 2020 during lockdown… very odd but it was a little too far to walk…. even for us! The food was exceptional – as was the wine – and we were really lucky to have been able to get a table, definately one to visit again in the winter so we can go full out for the Cote du boeuf and Angolot (French cheesy mashed potato that you cut with scissors…. its amazing… or at least it was when we had it in Central Massif in France!!)

It was lovely to have ten days to catch up with everyone as it definately felt more relaxed than the four nights we normally plan in Bath… although it just meant that we saw more people and a few people twice – just not enough time in the day!

As part of our weird and wonderful way of living and love of food we have been talking about how we could cook if we went gas free in the motorhome. We had come accross the Remoska Tria which is a large casserole dish that you can use on a hob (both induction or gas), as a soft pressure cooker, or by plugging into the electricity – as an oven. It didn’t take much convincing, we popped into Lakeland whilst in Bath and came home with a rather large box …..

and haven’t stopped using it since – it’s very versitile and although we won’t be able to use it off grid all year round, it is fairly low energy therefore during the summer months – even on grey days – we should be able to use it the majority of the time.

So far, we have baked bread and rolls, baked sweet potatoes, cooked up black beans, butter beans and chickpeas from dry, made a biryiani, baked jamaican patties, a pie, vegan chilli, buffalo cauliflower wings and falafels…. all with great success.

Apart from just using the Remoska Tria to make some of our ‘known’ recipes we have tried out a few new dishes…. although to be fair not quite so many as normal

Tahini, Date and Oat Cookies – really tasty little bites full of natural sweetness and energy
Fennel and Bean Casserole – hearty and full of flavour but really quick and easy
Buffalo Cauliflower Wings – quick and easy tasty one pot dish

It’s been a busy few weeks of entertaining and it has been great to catch up with so many people and naturally share some lovely food…. we even managed to get back to Sindhu this week with some close friends and enjoy a seven course taster and pairing menu – a true treat, still can’t recommend it highly enough. This was the first time that we had opted for the wine pairing at Sindhu and were introduced to two different varieties of Indian wine – both light and fresh and very impressive, I do think – and hope – that we will be seeing more indian wine on the market going forwards.

Celebrating Spring – 24/4/2021

Not only is the sun making quite an impressive appearance, the birds are making the most of the light mornings to wake us up and the flowers have been incredibly beautiful … I don’t think I ever appreciated how many different varieties of daffodil – or at least what I, the complete novice and most definately not a botanist would call a daffodil – there are.

As most would expect we have been continuing our ‘normal’ life of exercise in the morning, getting out and walking as much as possible and experimenting a bit whilst cooking up what we think are pretty tasty plant based food (mostly tasty at least!!). Recently we have even managed to abandon the wellies – I’d like to say long may it last, although fear that the farm really needs some rain to get some crop grown this year.

We had been doing a little bit of a research project which was taking up a fair bit of our time as implied in my last blog. We were seriously contemplating the move across to a narrow boat from the motorhome but for those who were aware, I can confirm that we have now parked the idea – never say never as we both love the idea but we just aren’t ready for the change yet as we love our life and freedom to travel in the motorhome too much to give it up yet.

….. so maybe I will now get back to doing a little bit more sketching – it is coming along, I just haven’t done very much recently as there has been quite a lot going on. I have decided that to incentivise myself I should say my gin & tonic time is my sketch time… i.e. I can’t have a gin & tonic unless I sketch – alas I have a lovely gin & tonic in front of me that is almost finished and I am still on the computer!!. I have one to share though…. my last sketch of the boxing hares isn’t too bad, if I don’t say so myself… still lots too learn about shading though!

Until this week, there had been little movement for us apart from a quick trip out for a bit of refueling with LPG as we figured that the days are longer and there is so much sunshine we should be making the most of the electricity we are producing instead of sucking it off of the grid!!

We have expanded our social interaction slightly further than the two mums and have had two garden catch ups…. we were slightly luckier with the weather with my brother and family as the sun was shining but unfortunately visiting Keiths’ sister was definately a slightly breezier experience…albeit great to see everyone… and it was dry!!

And last Monday we headed down to the New Forest for three nights in search of wild animals and lovely walking – of which we found both!

We found a lovely, basic CL which is just towards the bottom of the M27 called Amberwood (£10 per night no electric) just inside the New Forest cattle grids. It was home from home as it was just a simple field with calves in the adjacent field… although these calves had very sharp horns – thankfully we didn’t need to go into the field to empty the waste!!

It was a lovely little site with its own small fishing lake and very friendly owners. We had two really good days walking … although had to do a little bit of errr… trespassing due to Pepper Pig – there was a footpath on the map… honest! Thankfully all uneventful but it would have been another 4 or 5 miles if we had had to backtrack by that point…

A lovely short break but amazing to see the different muscles that ached after walking and running with slightly more undulating hills… just highlights how flat the area is where we are in Berkshire that we have got used to over the last year!

Back to the food – as always appears to be the way in our lives – we have tried a few new additions to our box of tricks as follows:-

Falafels – I have been on a quest to find the best baked falafel and I think I have finally found two recipes that I really like…. and may actually combine going forwards. The Indian spiced falafels have an amazing flavour but the Baked Falafel appear to cook really well… something to do with not cooking the chickpeas first!
Aubergine dahl with flatbreads – the most amazingly comforting curry that I could eat every night!
Banana Crepes – A great pancake receipe not using any egg to bind
Indian Savoury Oats – Although it may seem odd for breakfast – amazingly full of flavour and very tasty
Shakshuka – great change for breakfast or lunch at the weekend
Moussaka – A great vegan version. I had been a little unsure but it is really hearty and full of flavour

One Year on… 13/03/2021

Who’d have thought that we were one year on from ‘That‘ weekend…the one when we had flown back to the UK to celebrate Keiths’ 50th birthday with family whilst all was looking pretty peachy before take off – well, it is all relative, we thought we would have a couple of weeks before lockdown took hold – yet by the time we arrived in the UK, Spain announced that it was shutting its borders…. where has the time gone?

We have swapped walking round the motorhome in the Aire in Spain for walking round our field in Holyport….and life is good! We have our health, we are happy and we are surrounded by the natural beauty of the British counrtyside … which is second to none. It is so refreshing to wake up each morning and hear the birds sing and no matter whether the sun is shining or the snow is falling – you can’t deny that we are lucky to live in such a beautiful country… can you tell that we don’t miss Spain!

Where has that year gone though… every time I think about what we are doing or what we have done it is time for a gin and tonic and its the weekend again…. ok, to be fair, I do have a couple of gin tonics during the week too so I possibly shouldn’t base timescales on my alcohol consumption!

The days are getting longer, the weather is definately brightening up and the flowers are certainly starting to spread out in the fields and gardens…. although I am a bit disappointed as we don’t appear to have any wild garlic growing near us!

We haven’t been anywhere though, just lots of walking (well…. once a day) in the beautiful Berkshire countryside, generally along the river during the week when there are less people and then across the fields and polo countryside over the weekend.. but both routes are equally beautiful and tranquil really, we are very lucky.

After the snow in my last blog I can’t say that the weather has warmed up hugely but it appears to go in cycles…. a couple of weeks of very cold, dry weather, then a week of wetter, warmer weather…. not sure which is better but we have learnt that we need to dry the door seal on the colder drier nights after waking to it being frozen shut one night, taking a little while for us to ease it open again!! One of the issues when you only have one door in and out!!

Although it isn’t much of an update, I thought it was about time I did a blog to let you know that we are still here…in our little field and give you a few new photos and recipes……

We have still enjoy our Oddbox, although fear that we are coming to the end of ‘Sprout’ season!! In the last 6 weeks we have celebrated my mums birthday…. mexican style as well as tried out a handful of new recipes as follows:-

And although I haven’t been doing a huge amount of sketching at the moment – there is a lot of research going on (more on that next time) – I am getting more confident with the flowers… just don’t ask about the attempt at the hare!!

Happy New Year….. snow and all – 24/01/2021

This morning brought us our first day of proper snow of 2021… so I thought I would have a little walk round our field and share some photos with you. Anyone would have thought I had taken them in black and white, but no – these are filter free and un-adjusted… just beautiful with the contrast and light.

We have been lucky so far this winter as althought it has been cold, we have only had a handful of days when it has been really wet which has made us change plans or restricted our outdoor morning exercise routine…. this morning though was a rest day…. although the next few mornings are going to be interesting!

Not much has changed since my last blog as we have been in national lockdown – not a huge change to our plans apart from not being able to see as much of the family and friends as we had hoped. Christmas was celebrated with a walk in the morning with Keith’s mum, Liz and Molly the golden doodle, then we headed over to my mums, Andy, to do another dog walk with Dudley and cook the turkey for dinner. The weather was cold but crisp and dry – exactly what you want to blow the cobwebs away and work up an appetitie before a good meal …. and that it was – Turkey with all the trimmings and a home made Christmas pud – courtesy of Keiths sister, Shaz – with custard for dessert… perfect! Even a bit of turkey for left over sandwiches and a pie!

Although we aren’t going anywhere at the moment my passport was due to expire in June 2021 which meant with the new rules, come January 1st – we couldn’t travel, even if we wanted to do. I had been putting the renewal off simply because they said they were inundated with requests and that unless it was urgent, you shouldn’t apply. However, when I finally submitted it mid-December, I received my lovely new blue passport back within 7 days… at least I can travel abroad now when we are ready to do so!…. just before anyone says it – yes, I like the blue but I would still prefer to be in Europe…

I have taken up a new hobby – something I have been thinking of doing for a while but never really got round to it with the ‘busy’ lives that we have! So now in addition to food and wine experimentation and appreciation, outdoorsy stuff and photography…. I sketch! Not very well at the moment but I am trying to teach myself.

Apparently you should start with circles, then move onto simple shapes – so that is roughly where I am, although I have jumped a few stages and moved on to sunflowers and tulips… I think I have a long way to go but I hadn’t ever intended to draw ‘real things’ as they can be recognised…. I was going to be a little more abstract!! Watch this space and I’ll share how I get on.

And finally, as always we have been experimenting with more cooking…. and have even cracked the BBQ out to do some sourdough pizzas – who said you need to be in the sunshine to enjoy outdoor cooking?

  • Turkey and squash pie with sprouts – no recipe …. just chucked in all the leftovers with a lovely bechamel sauce and it was a delicious way to enjoy the turkey for a bit longer
  • Parsnip and porcini pie – with a lovely sweet potato topping – really tasty and flavoursom
  • Moroccan stew – nice and quick and full of flavour
  • Vegan Vindaloo / Madras – proper hot…. Keith even got hiccups and we cut the curry powder in the original recipe by half …. hence the downgrade to madras but it isn’t for the faint hearted!!
  • Vegan Brussel Sprout and Ricotta Ravioli – really easy but does take time to make the pasta from scratch. Well worthwhile though – so tasty.

Keep smiling and enjoying the outdoor space as and when you can!

Living with lockdown and making the most of it….. 20/12/2020

No idea where the last month has gone as one thing is for sure, apart from going out to fill up with LPG Hattie hasn’t moved much. I have tried to land her in a slightly different spot each time I have got her back into the field … so far successfully roughly a foot further over, trying to swing her backside out a bit more to get an extra few minutes out of those solar panels on these short, sun deficient days.

We have been doing well though, despite using a fair bit of gas for the heating as the temperature has dropped to zero a few nights and has hovered in the low single digits, we have managed to make it off the field when we needed to and have even borrowed a generator from our ‘field-mates’ to try it out a couple of times. The additional solar panel which is portable has been great, although even with it – which gives us 530 watts of solar in total – over the past month we have had a few of days where we have only managed to suck up a total of 60 watts….. with the worst day so far being only 40 watts. They are few and far between but it just shows how difficult it is to stay completely off grid in the UK at this time of year… and we aren’t huge electricity users.

I think we have pretty much adapted our wardrobe now to reflect the British winter…. lots of layers, new hats and gloves – both for exercise as well as during the day when we are out and about. The wellies have been a godsend, as have the exercise matts – just means that we can carry on doing what we want to do, when we want to do it without having to think about it – jumping in big, muddy puddles has become my new sport!

We have been walking mostly locally and I have fallen even more in love with trees and the change at this time of year and have been taking a few more photos as we have been wandering through the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

I also managed to finally visit Clivedon with my mum, somewhere I have wanted to go to for ages but just hadn’t got round to visiting it. Unfortunately it wasn’t a clear day so the photos aren’t as good as I would have hoped, but it was clear to see what a beautiful place it is and I will plan to go back at some point when it is a little more accessible as currently, like most National Trust gardens, they are booked up a fair bit ahead of time as they are restricting numbers.

With huge pressure on the hospitality industry we felt that we needed to get out and try and support our local pubs and restaurants and opted for a sneaky trip back to Sindhu in Marlow as their Christmas menu looked really interesting. It delivered on all levels as always, the dishes were a wonderful combination of flavours, using traditional seasonal products like Venison and Turkey with a Southern Indian twist. The athmosphere was just right and the service – impeccable. We left happily full of deliciousness to waddle along the burst banks of the Thames to help the food go down.

As always we have playing around in the kitchen – but this month we have introduced a new factor… The Oddbox. Well, we aren’t going very far at the moment so we thought we would try and find a farm to get seasonal fruit and vegetables from but then had oddbox recommended to us by my mum. Oddbox is an organisation that tries to reduce waste, either being fruit or veg that are the wrong size or shape, or simply surplus to requirements and the farm has to dispose of them before they even get to the supermarket. Despite the fact that we are only two people, we opted for a large veg box the first week and were so impressed we decided to add the fruit from then on.

We are now just about to get our third box and so far, each week the contents are mostly different. You get to hear what produce you are ‘rescue-ing’ a few days ahead of delivery so can still plan ahead…. a large box is a fair amount of fruit and veg for 2 people but, as you know we do eat our weight in food!

We have also had a bit of a play with pastry…. well, someone challenged me as we eat mostly vegan but our pastry used butter…. so, I have been playing with Trex. It started with one pie with Trex, the next with butter, then for the mincepies too… but as we weren’t sure that we could ensure the controls were consistent between pies, I ended up doing half the pastry with Trex and the other with butter on the same pie…. it made us smile anyway!

The final outcome was that they were pretty much of a muchness. Both were light and flakey and gave a good crust, unfortunately I struggle to get my head round eating Palm oil and we aren’t going to keep both in the fridge as we just don’t have the space – so for now, we are still sticking to butter… but if we were vegan, wouldn’t have an issue with switching as the flavour and flakiness is pretty comparible.

This months new recipes / succesful experiments have been the following:-

As we are now in Tier 4 there isn’t any planned movement for the foreseable future so for now we wish you all a very merry Christmas (and Channukah, although it has now finished) and of course a happy and healthy new year. Lets hope 2021 brings Covid vaccines, good health and happiness.

Autumnal bliss – making the most of lockdown – 18/11/2020

It may be cold …. but you can’t deny that it is beautiful when there are clear blue skies and just a touch of frost on the grass …. makes the squidyness worth it on the other days I guess!

We were lucky enough to do one final trip out at the end of October just before lockdown hit and make the most of a couple of nights at Hurley Campsite again. We had planned to go to the Hand and Flowers with Jo, Mike and Ella but with all the lockdown noise we decided that it was best to postpone although we had already paid for the campsite so thought we shouldn’t waste it!

Our field at the farm was saturated and we had thought that we may need some help getting off as another motorhome was tractored off a couple of days before. Thankfully with a little bit of welly, good traction control and naturally good driving, we escaped without causing too much damage to the field although we were concerned about coming back.

The campsite at Hurley was fairly empty and as we knew that the likliehood would be that the field would be pretty wet when we booked it back in September, we had booked an all singing, all dancing RV pitch… large, easy access and most importantly – hard standing…. just as well considering the torrential rain that fell that afternoon – there is a reason why the site shuts at the end October – it is only a stones throw from the river Thames!

We were fine though and managed to get a couple of lovely walks in, bumping into the television crew for Midsummers Murders who were filming in Hurley Village and taking advantage of a sneaky 7 course tasting menu at Sindhu – Atul Kotchars restaurant at the Compleat Angler in Marlow – delicious!

The meal was excellent and the setting is absolutely stunning looking out over the weir – well in normal times it would be a weir but at the moment it is a slight bump in the river as the levels as so high. The heavens opened whilst we were eating but thankfully it dried off for our walk back to the campsite, enabling the food to go down.

We only planned to stay at Hurley for the couple of nights to meet up with Jo and Mike so on the Thursday we were due to go back to our squidgy field. Uncertain of our ability to get out again we called the farm and offered to go elsewhere for a week as we were due to head off up to Melton Mowbray the following week, however they persuaded us to come back with the promise of a discussion around hard standing!

Then lockdown hit…. Melton Mowbray was cancelled, although we will book ourselves back in again hopefully in the new year as the campsites (and other British businesses) need our support more than ever.

Life isn’t too different for us really apart from not being to meet family and friends but we can still get out and walk, run and enjoy the beautiful autumnal colours and the amazing funghi that are popping up all over the place.