Foraging and exploring the beautiful British countryside…. 27/9/20

We had been lying low, buying a few presents for Hattie – lots of cleaning products, storm straps, a new kettle – I broke the last one – a new loo – including a ‘refresher kit’ and most importantly, the most amazing flyswat. I have to be honest when we first took delivery I thought that the animal protection were going to be on us like a lead balloon – I have never seen or heard anything that sounds so brutal…. although to be fair it is quick! 4000 volts of electricity passing through a little flies body and it is fair to say that it doesn’t know much about it…. my favourite purchase of the year so far!!

To help contain our excitement – we live sheltered lives – we took a short trip over to see Liz and Pete who very kindly invited us (and Hattie) to stay on their driveway in a beautiful little village in Northamptonshire. What a lovely part of the country, so close to everything, yet beautifully tranquil. Whilst visiting, we were taken to visit Castle Ashby’s gardens which were beautiful and for the first time, saw real Meerkats …. and not just the ones on the ‘Go Compare’ advert. Yes, I know that is a very sad fact to admit but wierdly, neither Keith nor I had ever seen one before…. they are very cute!

It was a lovely couple of days, enabling us to have a good catch up and see their garden, along with the unused swimming pool before the reforms take place….. looking forward to seeing the new veg garden and raised beds!

As the pool started to be taken apart, we headed back to Holyport for a few days to catch up with the family before heading off again back down to Bath. We were last in Bath right at the beginning of the summer holidays and then this time, back the first week the kids were back at school – it has changed a lot over the six week period! So many more people out and about, shopping, eating and drinking and just generally walking or cycling… confidence is definately up.

As always, it was good to catch up with everyone and get some walking in and this time we even asked the Bath Marina Campsite whether we could possibly stay longer term over the winter… just to give us some options should we want to.

Leaving Bath we headed South again, this time to Taunton to have Hattie’s alarm and immobiliser switched over. For a while we have been looking at the Vanbitz Growler – which is the loudest alarm legally possible I think, both inside and out of the van – along with a complete engine immobiliser which not only stops anyone from starting the vehicle if it is turned on but also, should someone manage to drive off with it whilst the immobiliser is off, enable you to engage the immobiliser the next time they turn the engine off. Prevention is the best option – Hattie is our home after all and I can assure you that you wouldn’t want to be inside her when the alarm goes off now!

Once the works were complete we tried to get a campsite near Devizes for a couple of nights as we weren’t booked into the Swiss Farm at Henley until Friday but everywhere we tried – small and large – were fully booked, the world and his dog is on holiday taking advantage of the beautiful British countryside!

We therefore we ended up coming almost all the way back to Henley and stopping at Hurley Riverside Park, where we came two years ago. It’s a lovely Campsite (£24 per night fully serviced pitch) right on the river bank roughly 4 miles walk into Marlow along the river and 6 miles to Henley. Needless to say that we still haven’t made the full distance to Henley as its just that little bit too far to go there and back in an afternoon! We did however walk into Marlow and both went for a lovely morning run into Marlow too – albeit on different days…. you just have to be careful of the Swans who are incredibly territorial, especially when they have their signets with them.

After a couple of nights in Hurley we had a very short hop to Henley, where we had booked ourselves in for three nights way back in February when we had planned Steve and Sharons 30th wedding anniversary present… well after 30 years, we took the risk and thought they wouldn’t mind us tagging along! To be fair they were staying in a bed and breakfast…. we wouldn’t inflict the motorhome on them, I think that may have been taking it a step too far!

We were amazingly lucky with the weather as it was an absolute corker – we had a couple of lovely walks along the river, some drinks and then dinner at Anthony Worrall Thompson’s Greyhound Pub and Restaurant. They describe it as AWT’s playground and I can kind of understand that as it had interesting and unusual artefacts hanging from the beams and walls along with giant teddy bears…. definitely a bit unusual but very nice at the same time. The place was spacious, the gardens were beautiful from what we saw and the service and food was second to none. The only criticism is that it is in the middle of nowhere – a 15 minute taxi ride from Henley or a T-total driver is required. We will be back though hopefully as it was definitely worth repeating. All in all a lovely weekend to finish off a couple of weeks away.

As it has been quite a while since the last blog – I have been distracted with worky-type stuff – not on really – but also really struggling with the new WordPress editor which has set me back a good two to three weeks in publishing this.

We have even set off again on another trip – which wasn’t my intention before publishing the blog but what can one do if you can’t get the tools to work! We set off on Thursday, heading up to just ourside a little town called Stone in Staffordshire where we had booked into a CL at the back of The Greyhound Inn (£7.50 a night no elec). Arriving mid afternoon, the sun was shining and we were welcomed by the four beautiful donkeys, a few ducks and a really large pig – oh, and the staff at the pub were lovely too!!

Unfortunately, we were also welcomed by a rather steeper ascent into the carpark than we expected. If we had thought it would have been quite so bad we would have raised the suspension but as they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing…. so we now have a slightly grazed bottom that we need to get fixed.

We were meeting Kevin and Petra (and Molly, the dog) who were parked up with their barge in the Marina a couple of miles up the road and grazed bottoms aside, we had a lovely couple of days. We ate in the Greyhound the first night and the food, beer and ambience was great… all the classics including bread and butter pudding and pecan pie – although I went a bit off piste for dessert with a rather nice licorice ice cream to go with scoops of an equally delicious rum and raison and vanilla…just to cleanse the palate!

After a cold night – yes, the heating has now officially been turned on – I set off on a run – annoying the hell out of the local ducks who didn’t want to be disturbed at what was obviously an ungodly hour (not)- and Keith did his exercise in the pub car park before Kevin and Petra came and picked us up for a trip to Trentham Gardens where there was a craft fayre and and exceptional selection of fairy sculptures which were absolutely amazing.

We then tried to find lunch in a local pub which was closed so weirdly ended up in Neil Morrisey’s pub which was actually excellent and not over priced. We only wanted a sandwich but Keith got swayed by fish and chips and Kevin by a Burger…. I’d like to say Petra and I were sensible but we still probably ate too much considering what we were cooking later… heho!

Dinner was in fact on the boat, Petra had fancied trying the Butter Chicken that I made a while back so Keith and I rustled it up on the barge along with some nan, rice and pickles and just to finish off the lovely day Petra had made a beautiful tarte with creme pate and fruit – we were truly spoilt.

We moved on again on Saturday, taking extra care not to scrape our bottom again on the way out of the car park, doubling back on ourselves to get back to Lutterworth for a couple of days to meet up with Gail and the kids. We have stayed at the CL (Orchard Farm, £14 a night inc.) before and it is lovely and tranquil – this time we were welcomed by the cows and calves who were clearing out the apple trees in the field in front of us before the donkeys could move back in.

We have been cooking and entertaining a fair bit and we have even started to go out to eat a few times… really pushing the boundary! We have both always loved cooking so it has been a bit of a struggle to force ourselves to go out again when it doesn’t feel necessary to take the additional risk of mixing with others. That said, we do want to support the local businesses so bit by bit we are spreading the love and it is fair to say that The George on the Green in Holyport appears to be getting a bit more than its fair share recently!

Since the last blog ‘Pip‘ has been born. Pip is our Sourdough Starter, very kindly nursed into this world by Carly, our sister in law (Keith’s brothers’ wife). Pip has been with us now for about 8 weeks and amazingly, she is still alive. We have made lots of different things with her discard but so far, we still haven’t actually found the right moment to make sourdough bread…. it takes a bit of planning! So far our Sourdough experimentation has included
– Sourdough Drop Scones – which is literally just the discard!
Sourdough Flat breads
Sourdough discard Pizza

The Happy Pear vegan cookbook is also playing a big part in our life at the moment as all the recipes are not only really tasty, slightly different from the norm but also fairly easy to make.