Monday 25 August 2014

Bramble Jelly Jam

Following our Family Foraging Foray, Bramble Jelly Jam was definitely on the agenda.

The last time we foraged I had a go at making Blackberry Jam, but wasn't that impressed with it.  It was just too 'pippy'. It was definitely time to up the ante and have a go at making a jelly instead, which I knew would be a bit more effort, but hoped it would be worth it.

There are loads of different recipes for Bramble Jelly on the Internet, with lots of conflicting information, especially when it comes to the pectin content of blackberries.  This is really important as not enough pectin and your jelly won't set.  Too much and it will be too firm.

There were so many recipes and so much differing information that I got a bit overwhelmed with choosing which one to go with.

In the end, I reverted to a book on preserving that a good friend had given Martin for Christmas a number of years ago and this is what we did.

Makes sufficient jelly to fill 7 small jars
There are 3 distinct stages to making this jelly
Stage 1 - Preparing the juice for the jelly - takes about 1 and 1/2 hours
Stage 2 - Straining the juice - 3-4 hours
Stage 3 - Making the jelly and bottling - 1 hour

1.35kg/3lb blackberries, washed
Juice & pips of 2 large lemons
Sufficient water to cover the fruit when in the pan
Approx 1kg preserving sugar

  • Stage 1 - Put the fruit, lemon juice & pips in a large pan. Pour over just enough water to cover, we added about 1.2 litres. Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 1 hour.
  • Stage 2 - Mash the fruit and leave to cool slightly.  Pour into a scalded jelly bag suspended over a non-metallic bowl and leave to drain.  You can leave to drain overnight, but we found ours had fully drained within 3-4 hours.  Do not squeeze the bag, to speed up the process, as this will make your jelly cloudy.
  • Stage 3 - Place a small plate in the freezer to help with testing when your jelly has reached setting point.
  • Measure the strained juice into a preserving pan.  It is really important that you use a large enough pan, as when boiling, the liquid will rise rapidly in the pan.  If your pan is too small your liquid will either boil over, or will not reach the temperature required to set.  Add 450g/1lb preserving sugar for every 600ml/1 pint of strained fruit juice. We had 1.2 litres of juice, so added 900g of sugar.
  • Heat the mixture, stirring, over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for 10-15 minutes, or until the jelly reaches setting point (105C).  You will need to watch the mixture constantly as when boiling there is the danger it may overflow, though if you turn it down the temperature will not reach setting point.  We boiled our jelly for about 30 minutes before it reached this point.
  • You can test whether your jelly has reached setting point by placing a drop onto the plate that you put into the freezer earlier.  If at setting point the mixture will ripple when pushed with your finger.
  • Once your jelly has reached setting point then remove the pan from the heat and skim off any scum, using a slotted spoon.  Ladle into warmed sterilised jars and seal.  Leave to cool, then label and store.
Definitely not as easy as making Strawberry Jam, but well worth the effort.  We have a really tasty silky Blackberry Jelly that we will be enjoying well into the Winter months.

Family Foraging Foray!

When we were kids, late summer always meant days out blackberrying. I have to be honest here, I used to hate it. Driving round the countryside trying to find blackberries worth picking, then standing on the side of the road trying to reach them, getting scratched to hell, while traffic raced past, it certainly wasn't my idea of fun. I would much rather have had a trip to the park, or just stopped at home!

Funny how your thoughts change as you get older. The idea now of going out foraging for something that just grows for free in the countryside that can be turned into all sorts of nice stuff back home is a really attractive prospect. 

We'd been waiting for a nice enough day to go blackberrying for a couple of weeks. We'd been and recce'd our favourite spot and knew the blackberries were just ready and waiting. 

We had big plans this year. Martin and dad were going to be making home made wine and mum and I had bramble jelly on the agenda. It would be the first time that Martin had made wine from scratch, the first time mum had ever made jam and the first time I'd tried making bramble jelly. 

Luckily, last Saturday morning dawned nice and bright and we met at the appointed spot. We looked like right scruff bags, all in our oldest tattiest gear as we knew there was potential for getting dirty and scratched.

As soon as we arrived we could tell that other foragers had been there before us and had picked the best of the crop. However, there were still loads to be had, especially for the intrepid forager, prepared to bash a way in and reach up high.  That's just what the walking poles and crook handled umbrellas were made for. 

As we still have a freezer full of blackberries from last years forage, we only wanted to pick exactly what we needed this year. We didn't want to end up having to store any more in the freezer.  We'd worked out we needed to pick 10lbs of blackberries to make Martin's wine and my bramble jelly and mum and dad would need the same.  

We were well prepared with lots of plastic containers and we even had the kitchen scales in the boot of the car, so we could make sure we stopped picking when we had got what we needed.

Two hours later we had the requisite 20lb of blackberries between us and were covered in scratches and stings.  It's funny how the biggest and best blackberries seem to be surrounded by stingers.  Dad had one hell of a grazed knee from exiting a load of brambles and getting his foot caught in one across the floor. He didn't half take a tumble, but it did give us chance to use the first aid kit out of the back of the car. 

Hands and arms rubbed down with dock leaves and cleaned up with hand wash and the trusty 'blue roll' which always comes in handy, we decided to call it a day. 

Not before sneaking in a crafty cache on the way home though. 

We wanted to find a cache called 'Miner's Lamp'.  It is located at a local memorial to all of the men, women and children who worked at Dexter Colliery, which shut in 1965 and Kingsbury Colliery, which followed in 1968. The wall of the memorial is built of bricks, each of which has been bought by the families of miners who worked at nearby Dexter and Kingsbury Collieries. The memorial also has a huge miner’s lamp, which is permanently lit, as an everlasting flame to commemorate those who have died and those who remember working down the mines.

This was a cache that Martin and I had looked for before with no luck. With more pairs of eyes we hoped we'd have more joy.  

We did. We found it pretty much straight away and were soon off home for a massive blackberry washing and jam and wine making session, which pretty much took up the rest of the day.

Life of Pottering - Six months on

Hi there everyone.  Remember these?  Just wondered ......
An explosion of senses - by Martin
  1. Start a blog
  2. Be more creative
  3. Learn to take better photos
  4. Get fitter
  5. Keep in touch
  6. Make my money go further
  7. Be happy
  8. Add value to Society
  9. Keep on top of general household and garden activities
  10. Have less stress
These were the definitely non 'SMART' objectives that I set myself when I started my Life of Pottering back in February.

I know, six months already.  Where has the time gone?

Well, now it's been six months since I finished work and, currently, I still have no burning desire to to looking for any, I felt I ought really evaluate what I've been up to and see whether I've achieved anything.

So here goes for a serious post.  I wasn't going to include any pictures, but that's just so boring, so I've scattered our Bodnant Garden Photo Competition entries through the post, with the captions that we included for each one.  We've not heard anything yet, so could still be in with a chance.

1  Start a blog
Yay!!  Started and still going strong.  Big fat tick!!!!!!

2  Be more creative
It's OK to be different - by Martin
This one was quite woolly.  What does 'more creative' really mean.  I feel like I've been more creative than I was when I was working.  It's as a result of having more time really.  I've cooked new stuff. I've grown lots of stuff.  I've done hanging baskets.  I've even had the sewing machine out and done mending.  I've taken lots of photos.  I've written lots of blog posts.  I've started decorating.  I've done lots of painting (the maintenance kind, not the Monet kind).  Hey, I think I've been more creative.

3  Learn to take better photos
A real mixture of light & shade - by Carol
Well, I finally understand depth of field.  I already knew what effect it gave you, but was never sure about whether a bigger number was more of a blurry background, or the other way round.  I think this one still has lots of scope for further improvement. I've not even opened the books we bought on learning to use the new Canon.  I've only entered two competitions and I've not really looked into displaying photos on commercial web sites for potentially selling on.  So, yes, I have learned to take better photos, but need to develop (see what I did there?) this one further.

4  Get fitter
Mmmmmmmmm.  Now what can I say about this one.  I've not seen Davina in a long old while.  I have lost a few pounds since I finished work, not so you'd really notice though, and I have walked to town and been out on my bike a few times.  I know, weak!  Don't really think I achieved what I set out to do here.

5  Keep in touch
Now, if I say so myself, I think I've done OK with this one.  I have a good number of people that I am regularly in touch with by e-mail and I have a couple of catch up days out planned in, which will be lovely. We've also had a catch up meal with people I used to work with quite some time ago, with another booked in and we've been on our annual weekend get together, so not too bad.

6  Make my money go further
I've been fortunate enough to be able to say that it's been a long old time since I've really had to think much about what I've been spending so trying to manage with less has been an interesting experience.

'Mollie the Witch' - Just like we've got
at home, but better - by Martin
I've made real good use of the Internet here and make most of my on line purchases through the Quidco cashback site.  Most weeks I also manage to get small amounts back on my shopping through Quidco, it's only perhaps 50p, but it all adds up.  Not the kind of thing I could have been bothered with if I'd been working, but having more time on my hands, it feels worth it.  My Supermarket is another good site for finding out where your favourite weekly shopping items are the cheapest.  I've saved loads by buying washing powder or dish washer tablets from a different supermarket, because I knew they were on offer.  In total, I've had just over £170 back from Quidco in my first six months - I know it's not a fortune but it's money for absolutely nothing.

Another things I've been doing, which I have posted about previously, is on line surveys.  So far I've clocked up £80 in Amazon vouchers through completing surveys.  Yes, it gets boring from time to time, but hey, I just do as many as I feel like.  I know when I'm doing my Christmas shopping, those vouchers will definitely come in handy.

I've also been having a good old clear out and selling stuff.  So far I've made about £10 through selling DVDs on line and about £80 from selling 'old tat' on eBay.  Selling on eBay is good fun!!  It's easier than I thought, especially with the tablet app and it gets really exciting watching your bids increase as the auction end time approaches.  I'm getting a bit addicted.

7  Be happy
It's OK to go 'au naturel' - by Carol
I do love my Life of Pottering.  There have been days when I've sat in the garden, in the warm sunshine, and just thought to myself ........ this is my life now, how amazing is that? Don't know how I'll feel when it's freezing outside and it's lashing it down with rain and I know it's likely to continue for the rest of the week. I guess I will need to adapt my agenda then, I have spent a lot of time outside over the summer.  

8  Add value to Society
I kind of got a bit lucky here, being voted in as the Chair of Governors at school has made this one pretty easy.  I've spent lots of time at school and am working really hard with the Head Teacher and the rest of the Governing Body to make sure that we are all as effective as we can be.

9  Keep on top of general household and garden activities
It doesn't always have to be tidy! - by Carol
Martin and I would probably have a difference of opinion on this one.  On the one hand .... tea is never on the table, quite often not even started, when he gets home from work and the dining room table and the back porch are often full of half finished projects and looking like complete chaos.  On the other hand, the beds get made nearly every day, the hanging baskets have been well looked after and the ironing gets done, in full, every week. I've also done other household stuff that just doesn't get noticed, like washing the nets, turning the mattresses and clearing out the cupboards.  I know I could do more, but hey, life's too short.  I'm happy with how this one is going.

10  Have less stress
Now here's a good one.  I have had stress!!  My AOL e-mail didn't work for a few days.  The brick edging caused a lot of dust in the garden and packaging stuff up and working out postage for eBay sales is something else.  But seriously, that's all that I can think of.  My Life of Pottering, on the whole, is pretty much stress-free.  Not sure Martin would say it's the same for him though.

So, what's next?  Well I want to continue looking at these objectives, focusing more heavily on those where I haven't really done much, then ..............................

In November this year I shall be 50.  I have no idea how that happened!!  I am currently in the process of trying to come up with a list of 50 things that I really want to do before I'm 60.  It's a bit like the National Trust's 50 things to do before you're 11 and 3/4, but for grown ups.  So far I've got about 30 things, so I've still got a way to go ...... I think that maybe I'm being too conservative, but once I've got my list, then I'm sure you'll all get to see it and hopefully, there won't be anything on there that Martin really hates the idea of as I'm not that good at flying solo.  

Watch this space, I'd love it if you keep following my adventures.

Monday 18 August 2014

Sticky Lemon & Blueberry Loaf Cake

We have had an abundance of blueberries this year and we have eaten more frangipane tarts than I care to mention, so it was time for something different.

Cue ...... Sticky Lemon & Blueberry Loaf Cake

175g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g Greek yoghurt, plus extra for serving
200g self-raising flour
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon curd, plus extra for serving
100g blueberries, plus extra for serving

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar (I soften my butter by heating in the microwave for 30 seconds) with a hand mixer.  Whisk in the eggs one by one, then stir in the yoghurt.  Fold through the flour, then stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  3. Roll the blueberries in lightly in flour.  This will stop them from sinking. 
  4. Pour a layer of cake mixture into the loaf tin, then dollop and slightly swirl some of the lemon curd over it.  Scatter about half of the blueberries on top, then pour in the rest of the cake mixture.  Finally dot the rest of the lemon curd on top and swirl it again and lightly press in the rest of the floured blueberries.
  5. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until it is golden and baked right through.
  6. Cool the cake in the tin for a while before turning out onto a wire rack.
  7. Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt & lemon curd, with blueberries scattered on top.


I have made this recipe twice and once my blueberries didn't sink and once they did.  The time they didn't sink, they were dry before being rolled in flour.  The time they sank, they were wet.  I would suggest ensuring that the blueberries are dry before rolling in the flour.

The Brick Edge

Completing the brick edge to the bottom half of the lawn has been on the to do list for a long old time. This year we were determined to get it done.

Whilst we had done the top half of the garden ourselves with the help of some good friends, the bottom bit was bigger and we couldn't face all that digging out.

We managed to source the same bricks and rope edging, at a much higher price, as we'd used the first time, and we decided to get our man in to do all of the hard work. It was not going to be a cheap project, but we thought it would be worth it to just finish off the hard landscaping.

The chaps had convinced me we wouldn't need a skip to get rid of all the turf and soil that would be dug out and, as this would save us about £120, I let myself be convinced that we could re-distribute the soil around the garden and take the turf to the local tip.

I should have stuck to my guns.

After digging out a fraction of the footings for the edging there was no more room for distribution of any more soil. From doing a ring round it would be at least five days before we could get a skip as we would have to apply to the council for a permit as it would have to be left on the road. Luckily we had a stack of rubble bags in the shed and on day one we managed to get two sides of the edge dug out and to fill about 25 bags with excess soil and turf.  Actually, when I say 'we' ........ well you know what I mean.

As Martin was working away in London, I lugged them all to the top of the garden and we did one trip to the tip and got rid of seven.

Boy did I ache.

Day 2 and Martin was back and on a 'rest day' as he'd been working nights over the weekend. He left London at the crack of dawn and was home for about 9.30 - What a trooper - I tell you now, there was not much rest for him. He arrived back to be greeted by a delivery of bricks and slabs that needed moving from the front to the back of the house and about 35 bags of soil to be taken to the tip. Well, he should have listened when I said we'd need a skip. We drafted Dad in and got cracking.

We got in three trips to the tip and all the bricks, slabs and edging stones from the front to the back.

By the end of the day the extra slabs we were having laid were down and we were just left with 12 bags of soil which were being recycled to my sister, Sarah's garden, to fill her new raised bed. They picked them up later that evening, 12 bags in the back of a Mazda 3, we'd only risked 7 in the back of the CX5. Hopefully they didn't have to encounter any speed bumps on the way home.

Day 3 and time to crack on with the actual laying of the brick edging. We were really looking forward to seeing this go down as this was really what this job was all about.

One thing I hadn't really thought about was dust!!!! Well, I did want mitred corners, both on the bricks and the rope edge and you can't get those without a bit of noisy, dusty angle grinding. It didn't take long before my well nurtured baskets and tubs were all looking a bit of a dull grey colour.

Now I know you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs but this did make me feel a bit despondent.

Up to now we hadn't really seen much mess and we'd worked really tidily, bagging and clearing up as we went along. By the end of Day 3, the garden looked a bit like a war zone!  There was going to be some serious hosing down needed to get us back to full technicolor.

Day 4 and I was hoping we'd be finished today, as we were off for the weekend on Friday and I didn't really want to go away with the job not quite finished.  The morning went really well, with the majority of bricks laid and just the final and smallest edge left to go.

I nipped off to B&Q for more ballast and cement whilst 'my man' cracked on with the final bit of digging out to enable the laying of the last strip.

All was going really well, it looked like we would be on for an early finish.  There were only a few more bricks left to lay, before a mammoth clearing up session could being.  Then the rain came.

Luck was on our side.  After sheltering under the trees at the bottom of the garden for about half an hour and putting the World to rights, the rain passed over and we were back in business.

One last push and we were done.  Yay!!!  Another job off the list.

I think it looks great by the way!  Unfortunately I can't say the same about the grass - now we really need some rain!!  Crikey, I sound just like my mother!!

Will Sidney's War - In Graylingwell

Will's own diary record and his official war record differ slightly in the date they show Will as coming 'Back to Blighty' from his second posting to France.

His personal diary shows this as being on 5 March 1917, his war record shows 8 March 1917, though this also shows him being admitted to Graylingwell hospital on 5 March, so these dates are a little uncertain.

What is certain is that sometime early in March 1917, Will was admitted to Graylingwell hospital in Chichester with pains in his head and limbs - or PUO, Pyrexia of unknown origin.

This wasn't Will's first stay in hospital whilst on active service.  His official war record also shows a stay in the Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol in 1916.  It seems that following Will's return from his first posting to France in June 1916 he was admitted to hospital with appendicitis.  He spent 96 days in hospital before being discharged on 16 September, just a couple of months before being posted back to France for the second time.

We have a few postcards which Will must have sent to Ethel during his time in Graylingwell.

Will was discharged from Graylingwell  on 20 April 2017, after being there for 45 days.  His next posting was to Sunderland from 30 April.  It appears that Will was late in reporting to Sunderland as his war record shows that he overlapped a furlough and was docked 2 days pay on 3 May 1917.

We know that Will visited Doncaster on his way through to Sunderland.  The two photographs shown below were taken of Will at F J Seaman's Photographers in Doncaster on 27 April 1917. Whilst we can find no evidence to confirm this, we are certain that Will would have spent some time seeing his family and Ethel en route from Graylingwell to Sunderland.

Will spent the rest of May and the beginning of June in Sunderland before being posted back to France, for the third time, on 9 June 1917.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Weekend Away - Monsal Head & The Magpie Mine - The Peak District

On Sunday morning we woke to bright sunshine and blue skies.

After breakfast we decided to head for Monsal Head to admire the view and take some photos. We had been this way when we were staying at Holmesfield earlier in the year but couldn't even see the car park from the road because of the fog.  Today we were not disappointed and spent a good while taking lots of photos of both the valley and the viaduct.

We then had a short walk up the road to pick up a cache at a local chapel before starting off on the journey home.

We did a bit of a detour to have a good look at the Magpie Mine, which we have both passed lots of times but have never actually stopped and visited.

The Magpie Mine, which is just South of Sheldon, was one of the most famous lead mines in the Peak District.  It is the only one with a significant part of its building still standing, having been taken into the care of the Peak District Mines Historical Society in 1962.

The mine is first recorded in 1795, though the workings are probably much older. It finally ceased operations in 1958, though the working in the 1950s mined little actual lead. The heyday of the mine was in the mid 19th Century.

The proximity of other mines often led to disputes, and the Magpie Mine and the Red Soil mine disputed the working of the Bole Vein on which they both lay. In 1833 this led to the deaths of 3 miners from the Red Soil Mine who were suffocated underground when the Magpie miners lit a fire to try to drive out the men from the opposing mine. Three miners were tried for murder, but acquitted. However, it was said afterwards that the Magpie Mine was cursed and it never really prospered thereafter.

It didn't feel cursed today.  It looked lovely in the summer sunshine and we took more pictures before finally making our way home.

We could have spent hours taking photos of the mine, the skies and the light were fabulous and it just looked beautiful.  However, we needed to head for home so we wandered back up the footpath to the car.  Martin found the ruined building on the opposite side of the road with the open door on the upper storey particularly intriguing.

We love the English countryside. There are so many hidden treasures, steeped in history, only a little off the track, that are most definitely worth a look.  I can't see that we will ever tire of exploring this green and pleasant land that we are lucky enough to call home.

Back home for car cleaning and unpacking before flaking out in front of the latest delivery from lovefilm - Noah.  There's nothing like a bit of Russell Crowe for whiling away a Sunday evening.  It was good to see Emma Watson as something other than Hermione too!

Monday 11 August 2014

Weekend Away - The Long Rake & Lathkill Dale - The Peak District

We arrived at River Cottage, following our stop off in Ashbourne at about 4.00pm.  After a good look at the gardens and feeding of the trout in the river, it was time for a quick shower before getting ready to meet up with our friends for a nice meal and good old catch up at the local pub, The Bulls Head.

We a nice meal, lots of good chat and agreed to meet up the following morning for the annual walk!

Saturday morning dawned to grey clouds and more heavy rain, but a very nice breakfast to set us up for the day.  As the falling out of the car knee injury had put paid to us partaking of the annual walk so we left the others to it and headed off for a morning of caching and dashing.

We were glad we did as, not only did I get to rest my knee, but at least one of us got to stay dry. Martin got pretty wet as he was jumping in and out of the car hunting for caches in the very wet and long undergrowth. He really is a trooper!

We found a really interesting series of caches which had been placed along the Long Rake, near Youlgreave that we fancied having a go at. These caches had been placed at designated Sites Of Meaning by marker stones to celebrate the Millennium.  The commissioning of 17 marker stones was a millennium project of Middleton and Smerrill in The Peak District. The stones mark the 17 entrances to the local parish. Each stone is inscribed with text chosen by members of the parish and is considered a public manifestation of private thoughts and feelings at the start of a new century.

We managed to find just 4 of the Marker Stones in total.  You can read about all of them and the project here. We will definitely be visiting again to see the others.

"Live as if you’ll die tomorrow, Farm as if you’ll live forever" - Traditional
A local farmer suggested these traditional lines. They reminded him that we must look after the countryside, the environment in general and our community, handing it on, if possible, to the next generation in a better state.

"A dull sky, Feel the cold. Touch the snow, A lonely landscape. Hear the wind, See the hills. It’s freezing cold, And empty" 

Youlgreave Primary School visited Arbor Low as part of a school project on a bitterly cold day. Back at school two of the children wrote these lines whilst working with poet David Fine.

"The rakes and spoils of man’s hard toil, has shaped this land"

Derbyshire Aggregates agreed to adopt this site and the ladies who do Accounts (but not lunch), decided to compose these lines informed by their knowledge of the quarry industry and of how The Rake was formed.

"Bright Under Green Limestone Edges. With Queen Ann Lace and Cranesbill in her Hedges" - Michael Dower

Suggested by Emma Youatt, carved by Heritage Stoneworks. Sometimes called the Bugle Stone, after the name of the community newspaper that Emma founded and edited.

We also managed to do another of the Guide Stoop series which we discovered on our trip to Holmesfield, earlier in the year.  If you look very closely at the photograph you can just about make out the 'YOUL'. This marker would have provided directions to Youlgreave.

We all met up at the Lathkill Hotel for a sandwich for lunch, before we headed back to River Cottage for a quick shower and a crafty doze before heading over to the caravan for a BBQ.

It looked like the weather was perking up a bit, so we were hoping that it would hold for the evening.  We were lucky.  Apart from one quick shower which had us darting in for cover, the weather for the BBQ was great, you wouldn't have believed what it had been like earlier in the day.

We enjoyed a jug of Pimms in the evening sunshine and started the BBQ off with a tray of breads, halloumi cheese and anti-pasti, which was lovely.  We then had steaks done to everyone's individual requirements, chicken and vegetable kebabs with lots of salads and new potatoes.  We chatted the evening away and finished off with a very nice cheese board, before heading back to River cottage for our last night before heading for home.

We'd had a lovely day, in spite of the weather.  Beautiful countryside, good friends and good food. What more could you ask for?

Weekend Away - Ashbourne - The Peak District

How far to London?
Once a year we have a annual get together with some old work friends.  This is the third year we've met up and, whilst some friends were stopping in their caravan and some were travelling each day, we were booked into the River Cottage Guest House in Ashford-in-the-Water, which is not far from Bakewell.

We had a nice slow start to our weekend away in The Peak District and set off late morning on the Friday.

It wasn't the most auspicious of starts as I managed to fall out of the car onto the garage forecourt when we called in to use the cash point! Yes, I know, you will all be laughing, but it wasn't that funny at the time and I had a very sore knee, with a nice big graze, so not sure I would be to make our long walk that we had planned for the Sunday. 

Not raining just yet!
To put this into context, this is definitely a girl hazard just waiting to happen. I had my handbag in the footwell by my feet.  Come on, you know we all do the same. Well, I put one foot out of the car onto the ground and the other got caught in the strap of my handbag and I ended up unceremoniously in the floor. A big thank you to the kind man who was passing who stopped to see if I was OK, while my bemused husband was trying to work out where I was, as he couldn't see me from his side of the car.  Fortunately there are no pictures of the incident available!

Anyway, we were soon on our way and decided to stop off in Ashbourne en route to do a spot of Geocaching. There was what is known as a multi-cache in the town centre. This type of cache involves following a series of clues around a given area, collecting numbers which fit into an equation to give the co-ordinates of the final location of the cache. 

We were really looking forward to our wander round Ashbourne.  It's a really pretty little town/village on our way to The Peak District, right at the start of the Tissington Trail, and it's one of those places we often drive through, but very rarely have a stop.  As we arrived, the heavens opened, which was a shame, but we still had a really nice walk, even though we got pretty wet. 

It's definitely raining now!

There were 8 clues in total, at different points of interest around the town centre, on a walk which was about 1.4 miles long.  We gave ourselves a well earned break, and a rest for my knee, towards the end of the walk, with lunch in the Flower cafe on the Market Square.
Who on earth are Brian and Lorna?

Fully refreshed and almost dry again we found the final information that we needed and managed to work out where the cache was actually hidden  Martin made a nice easy find, before heading back to the car, in more torrential rain, to continue our journey to River Cottage.
Yep ....... Still raining!  But at least we found what we were looking for.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

River Cottage - Ashford-in-the-Water

When did we visit?
1-3 August 2014

How much was it?
£125 per night, so £250 in total

Who did we book with?

What were our initial impressions?
We parked off the road at the rear of the property and our first view was of the garden which was just lovely.

John and Gilly, the owners, were on holiday for our arrival but we were greeted by Nigel, who, along with his wife Barbara, were on B&B minding duty.

Nigel was really friendly, showed us our room, which was really charming, with a lovely big bathroom with a walk in shower.  It was really nicely decorated with lots of little touches that made it really comfortable.  The bedroom and the bathroom were both spotlessly clean.

He then showed us the dining room, where we would eat breakfast, and the garden.  He brought us some bread so that we could feed the rainbow trout in the river and we spent a good while watching these and just chilling out before unpacking the car.

We were both really impressed and looking forward to our stay.

Our likes over the course of our stay
It was really warm during our stay and we were grateful for the desk fan which had been thoughtfully provided.  This got plenty of use.

Breakfast is served between 8.30am and 9.30am, with last orders at 9.15am.  There was a small cold buffet table with fruit juice, cereal and fruit to start off.  This was followed by a number of different choices, including a full English breakfast, poached eggs on toast or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.  The full English was a real full English and comprised of bacon, sausage, egg, mushrooms, black pudding (if you like that kind of thing!) and a grilled tomato.

The reality was that you could really have had any combination of what was on offer, cooked however you wanted.

There was also what felt like an unlimited supply of nice fresh hot toast with a good choice of locally made preserves.  The rhubarb and ginger was particularly tasty.

Breakfast certainly set us up for the day.

Whilst the property was lovely and really well located, the bedroom was just charming, the breakfasts just the job, I think what gives River Cottage the edge has to be the welcome that you receive.  Both Nigel and Barbara and John and Gilly, who we met on our second morning, seemed to genuinely want to make sure that you had the best stay possible.  Although we didn't need to ask for anything, we got the feeling that if we had, if it were possible, it would have been provided.

Anything that could have made it better?
As we both like plenty of space when sleeping a king size bed would have been lovely.

Would we recommend staying here to friends and family?
Most definitely.

Would we stay here again?