Kicking off 2022 in style…. 24/1/2022

2021 ended in with lots of good food – as it should – and it is fair to say that 2022 has started in an equally good way!!

The Christmas festivities started with a trip out to ‘The Kitchen’ at Reading College for a Christmas lunch by their catering college students…. and to be fair to them, they did a pretty good job…. we will go back and try the restaurant again, although how they managed to make the Almond tart so flavourless – I have no idea!

We followed this by a couple of family gatherings and Christmas day in the motorhome…. Keith even managed to cook fruit cake in the Remoska on Christmas day just to get a bit of the Christmas spice going before we popped the ‘Christmas’ pie – containing everything from brussel sprouts to chestnuts – in the Remoska…. delicious!!

New Year was equally homely for us – just how we like it – and we celebrated in our traditional manner… good food, good wine, port and sloe gin and a few games of Settlers of Catan – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!! This year we opted for three completely new dishes that we hadn’t tried before – Red Onion Tarte Tatin, Cheesey Chou buns and Cheesey, Nutty Brussels… all of which tasted lovely, although the brussels sprouts didn’t quite come out as planned as the crust didn’t stick to the brussel sprout….. which kind of defeated the object. The first two are definite repeaters, the last will need some improvement if it is going to get back on the menu!! It was however a lovely way to bring the New Year in….

So here we are… 2022 – despite everyone complaining about not having done anything during Covid19 – it is incredible how quickly the time has gone and yet another year has passed us by. My mother would say that is what getting older does to you, blink and it is gone… thankfully we have enjoyed every moment and intend to do the same for the coming years as well!

Apart from Christmas festivities, meeting up with friends and family and cooking at home we did have a quick trip down to Bath to do a 5 day Bread making course @ Richard Bertinet’s cookery school…. such an amazing experience, although it is fair to say that we did eat our weight in bread type produce over the period of 10 days… breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between!

It took us just over a week to get through the rest of the bread that we brough home from the course – although we do still have a loaf of sourdough in Keith’s mum’s freezer – but we have started to bake again….. a la Richard Bertinet style.
Now, for someone who had been baking bread by hand for 8+ years in the motorhome – although I knew I had lots to learn and went into the course completely open minded – I hadn’t quite appreciated the difference in technique that could be applied to gain different results. It is fair to say that I have gone back to basics and thrown my ‘old style kneading’ out the window and welcomed in the ‘slapping’ and ‘folding’ approach, which introduces more air into the dough with what appears to be great results… even in the motorhome. We were initially apprehensive about how we would recreate the technique in the small space but we are now half way through our second attempt at rolls using the new technique accompanied with only ferment instead of yeast, and we have made two batches of indian yoghurt wholemeal flatbreads as well as lots of ferment crackers…. all of which have been delicious but still need a little bit of tweeking to improve….. look at the crumb on the rolls below!!

Just in case you want to see what he looks like….’Fergie’ the Ferment – which is what we are now using instead of Yeast – is the honeycombed beauty in the top left picture above.
As always we have been enjoying cooking both for ourselves and others… experimenting with recipes and what we can/can’t do in the motorhome!! New recipes over the last month or so include the following :-
Baked Potatoes in the Remoska – yes, its daft but we hadn’t ever done them before and …. they are great!!
Chicago Pizza Pie – Mark 2 – the process was the same as the cauliflower cheese pizza pie, although this time we made the nice thick spicy tomato sauce – which we use in our enchilladas – and used the vegan parmesan cheese recipe that I put in the moussaka – tasted great and didn’t feel quite as stodgy!
Onion Tarte Tatin – it was really simple and tasty and I reckon adding a bit of goats cheese or feta would work really well too.
Cheesey Chou Buns – very simple and tasty as a starter or nibbles to go with drinks
Pumpkin Rice – quick and easy Jamie Oliver recipe which worked really well
Indian Yoghurt Flatbreads – Richard Bertinet’s recipe from his Crumb book…. nice and tangy if using the ferment
Rum Soaked Prunes – a little treat that Richard Bertinet introduced to us whilst on his course…. put some prunes in a container, cover with rum and leave for at least 3 days…. delicious in an expresso coffee, as part of affogato dessert, or as we tried out on Bruce and Sarah – on top of my chocolate mouse cake…. what a lovely kick!!

It is fair to say that we still have alot to learn but that we are going to enjoy practising!! We just need to go back to basics and focus on one thing at a time as it is so easy to get distracted by the excitement of trying out something new…. ciabatta here we come !!

Where did 2021 go? – 23/12/21

I can only apologise as time appears to have run away with me and we appear to have almost arrived at Christmas without us realising…. which means this is going to be a long blog as we have been all over the place since my last update!!

We can’t complain as we had a fantastic autumn, a relatively dry summer … and it has actually been reasonably warm apart for a little blip in November – and yesterday whilst I was finishing this blog – I can’t believe that it is the week before Christmas and it is looking like it is going to stay relatively mild for the foreseeble future….

Since my last blog we had to cancel part of a trip away at the beginning of November as we had a little issue with our engine battery ….. we tried to get Hattie started and she wasn’t having any of it – dead as a dodo – oddly, just as the temperatures dropped below zero. Like chips, (not the vegetable) motorhome parts and many other items – apparently truck batteries are also in short supply – so it took us a week to get the battery replaced, by which time we had also had our cider tasting lunch and weekend in Timsbury cancelled due to COVID19… so it was all fate – just one of those trips that wasn’t meant to happen for one reason or another. We did however manage to do the last part of the planned trip and made it to Bath for a week which was good as it meant we caught up with a few friends, actually ending up being a far more relaxed stay than it normally is as we always end up flitting all over the place to see people, so a bonus all round.

Whilst being back in Holyport we had more time to walk locally and one of our favourite walks is over to Bray Lake and along the Thames. The photo below was from an afternoon walk just as the mist was starting towards the end of the day… not quite as spectacular as the view we were given last year – but I am still hopeful, just highlights what an amazingly beautiful thing nature is…

We also took advantage of our base to venture up to London a couple of times which has been a bit or a rarity since Covid19 hit 20 months ago. There is some good that has come out of Covid as now, venturing into London tends not to be property related but instead focussed around food…. but what else would you expect!!

I can’t remember the last time that we were in London at this time of year when the days are crisp and dusk is early – just so beautiful with the lights in the city of london – especially over the river Thames, again a rarity that we go out and then are on the Southbank at this time of night – so lucky to have such a beautiful city on our doorstep and on our last trip up we even got to see the Christmas lights which were pretty…. although the Christmas windows were a bit disappointing – nothing like they used to be when I was younger!!

One of the trips was to take advantage of an incredible offer to eat at Richard Corrigans ‘Bentleys Oyster Bar and Grill’ – a wonderful experience for a special occassion. This is now our second visit to one of Richard Corrigans restaurant’s and both times we have had our eyes opened to Oysters – …. and I can confirm that we are definately converts – but probably will be very picky about where we eat them as this could become a bit of an expensive ‘taste’! It is fair to say that everything from the shared seafood platter through to the dessert via the fish and chips and fish stew were delicious.

With London behind us and Hattie back up and running we planned another little trip away and set off down for our last little trip of the year on the 2nd December … starting off in Minehead at the Motorhome and Caravan Club site (£18.84 per night inc). I had been a little dubious about going to Minehead as although we started the South West Coastal Path there in 2005, we didn’t actually stay there or walk into the town center and all I could think of was that it was renound for its Butlins site… so assumed the worst – such a snob that I am, sorry.
I was however proved wrong, very wrong – yes, the Butlins site is huge and at the end of the promenade – but, the town itself is actually not too bad.

We had chosen to go South/West rather than towards Yorkshire for this trip because of the weather but what appeared to have been pretty good on the long range forecast changed fairly quickly to be very windy and wet…. thankfully most of the ‘wet’ ended up being overnight.

We spent one day walking into town and along the seafront which was showing the signs of a very blustery couple of weeks with a lot of sand built up on the promenade… it certainly helped blow the cobwebs away and I think probably made Keith’s morning run on the Saturday at least 50% harder!!

In addition to the town itself we also managed to walk out to Dunster and look at the castle, take in a little Christmas market and enjoy some lovely local mulled cider and brownies – a proper Christmassy treat.

Then the following day we headed up into the hills above Minehead between Staunton and Headon Plantations – a beautiful walk along part of the Macmillan way. Although I would say it is a shame that dusk comes so early as it cut some of our walks short, however the light that the shorter winter days gives is quite exceptional showing nature in all its glory.

Having spent four nights in Minehead it was soon time to move all of 18 miles down the road to Exmoor House Clubsite in Dulverton (£24.60 per night inc.) Although the distance was short, the windy, narrow road took us along the side of the river Axe through Exmoor – a beautiful but slow journey.

Once parked up we headed out for a bit of fresh air, hoping to avoid the torrential rain showers that came as quickly as they went… unfortunately we made it all of 10 minutes into the woods and the heavens opened and gave us a good drenching… thankfully we had taken our waterproofs with us. Ten minutes later the rain stopped and the clouds cleared, providing us with a view of the beautiful hills surrounding us…. I’ve definately found my happy place – fast running water, beautiful forest and hills!

Although we were expecting the weather to be bad for pretty much the entire period we were in Dulverton – we were pleasantly surprised and managed to get some nice walks in on all three days – albeit not too long and we couldn’t actually see any further than about 200m on Thursday afternoon when we walked up into the hills… just means we need to come back again to explore further!!

We visited Dulverton 20+ years ago, staying at the Mill House Bed and Breakfast where we had an open fire and breakfast served in our bedroom and despite sending both my brother and his wife and Keiths sister and her husband here, we hadn’t been back since which is a shame. Lucky we don’t need any accomodation as the bed and breakfast is up for sale… although most importantly Woods Restaurant – which we visited all those years ago and was exceptionally good at the time – is still there and, still serving amazingly good local, seasonal produce…. we won’t be leaving it so long this time before we come back…. that Smoked Haddock Chowder was to die for!

We moved on again on Friday morning working our way back to Broadway Club site in the Cotswolds (£23.66 per night inc.) We had been trying to get to Broadway for a few months and either it was full when we wanted to go, or the last time we had to cancel due to our battery dying….this time we made it though and were not disappointed.

I had heard that Broadway was supposed to be ‘the most beautiful’ of the Cotswold towns and it is fair to say that it is. Possibly a combination of the long, wide high street, the architecture (obviously Cotswold Stone), variety of shops, Christmassy feel and the rolling hills surrounding the town… a lovely combination although it is fair to say that living close by could be expensive with the fanastic deli, coffee shops and clothing shops.

We managed to catch up with Pete and Liz on the Friday night as they live reasonably locally and didn’t mind venturing over to join us for a bit of Risotto and Bakewell Tart… they even brought their motorhome with which wasn’t expected – by them or us… sorry Pete – couldn’t resist it!

Then on Saturday we had an impromptu coffee with some other friends who happened to be staying at another campsite close by… who’d have known that Broadway would have proven to be so social for us!!

We did make it out for a lovely walk up to Broadway tower on the Sunday, which although the tower itself is under refurbishment – the views were spectacular… another place to come back to and explore further.

Although we have been enjoying eating out a little more, we are still cooking alot in the motorhome and have been experimenting with a few new delicacies…. if you want to call them that!!
Cheesy Cauliflower Cobbler – Such as simple, flavoursome dish…. and the cobblers could be used on top of most stews, they were so light and airy
Onion Bhaji – Thank you Liz… so simple to make and no deep fat frying required
Cauliflower Dupiaza – Nice, quick alternative curry
Mushroom Risotto – not sure why I hadn’t tried this one before but it is really quick and easy and again full of flavour
Aubergine Sambah – another lightly spiced dhal which you can eat with breads or rice
Rainbow Veggie Fried Rice – a last minute, tasty, quick dish to make that is full of whatever leftover vegetables you have
Corn Chowder – a really simple, thick warming soup
Cauliflower Cheese Chicago Pizza Pie – yep, you wouldn’t believe it but actually…. it was pretty impressive!!

We have finally given up on re-creating the plant based yorkshire pudding in the Remoska in the motorhome. Although we have had varying flavour sucesses, they remain to be flat flying saucers… and you certainly wouldn’t describe them as being ‘light and airy’….. the Remoska just doesn’t get hot enough.

The first (and now second) batch of mince pies have been made and for the first time in his life, Keith actually made popcorn in the motorhome – I thought everyone made it when they were younger – but what he missed out on exploding corn kernal excitement when he was younger, he will be making up for in his 50’s and for many years to come no doubt!!

So… we are staying put for the next couple of weeks, catching up with family and friends locally whilst the world goes crazy over Christmas.. but we will be back on the road again in January. So, enjoy the festivities and lets hope that 2022 brings everyone health, happiness, some travelling possibly slightly further a field and lots of lovely food!!

And just in case you would like to see where we have been over the last couple of months…..

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!!