Tuesday 28 October 2014

Quince & Rosemary Jelly

Quince & Rosemary Jelly is the last preserve of the year that we make with produce from the Garden at Number 27.

We are always inundated with quince and, as they are so hard and don't taste so good raw, there are a very limited number of uses for the abundance of fruit.

This jelly can be used in place of redcurrant jelly in stews or as an accompaniment for meat dishes. Since making this jelly I haven't bought any redcurrant jelly at all!

Makes - about 900g/2lb
Preparation Time - 20 Minutes
Cooking Time - 40 Minutes
Straining Time - Approximately 3 hours

900g quinces, cut into small pieces, with bruised parts removed
900ml-1.2 litres water
Lemon Juice
4 large sprigs fresh rosemary
900g preserving sugar

Put the chopped quinces in a pan with the water, using the smaller volume of water if they are ripe, and more - plus a little lemon juice - if they are hard.  Reserve a few sprigs of rosemary, adding the rest to the pan.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently until the fruit becomes pulpy.  
Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs. Pour into a sterilised jelly bag suspended over a bowl. Leave for 3 hours, or until the juices stop dripping. Do not squeeze the bag. If you do this your jelly will not be clear.

Measure the drained juice into a pan, adding 450g sugar for every 600ml of juice. Heat gently over a low heat, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Bring to the boil, then boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until the jelly reaches setting point (105 degrees).
Remove from the heat. Skim off any scum, then cool for a few minutes until a thin skin forms on the surface. Place a sprig of fresh rosemary in each warmed sterilised jar, then pour in the jelly. Cover and seal. Store in a cool dark place and use within 1 year.

Dartmoor - Buckfastleigh Abbey & Coming Home

This is the last of my posts about our holiday on Dartmoor.

It was the last full day of our holiday and we weren't really ready for going home. We'd both really fallen in love with Dartmoor and we'd been really comfortable and happy in Moorbrook Cottage.

For our last day we'd got a nice easy day planned, with a return visit to Widecombe-in-the-Moor to have a look round the National Trust owned Church House, which was open today as there was a Craft Fayre under way. 

We were then aiming for an early lunch at The Rugglestone Inn, followed by a visit to Buckfastleigh Abbey. 

We spent a really relaxed couple of hours sat in the garden of The Rugglestone Inn, in the warm sunshine, surrounded by ducks, which really seemed to take a fancy to us. The food was great too, we would definitely recommend it. 
Eventually we dragged ourselves away and made our way to Buckfastleigh Abbey, where we had our last Church Micro cache of the holiday on the cards, along with a good wander round the Abbey and gardens. 
We really enjoyed our visit to the Abbey, its quite a commercial affair, in that there are a number of gift shops and a restaurant, along with the abbey itself, and some some nice gardens to have a look round. 

We started with a look round the Abbey, which is open to the public, but closed at prayer times. The abbey was immaculately kept with some really impressively decorated ceilings and stained glass. 

The gardens were lovely too, with a sculpture display currently on, though I am not sure if this is a permanent thing.

We took lots of photos before heading back to Moorbrook Cottage for the last time.

Friday morning came and it was time to pack up, leave Moorbrook Cottage, and head for home. We had loved staying there and could both quite easily imagine living there more permanently.

We had also fallen in love with Dartmoor and would definitely be making a return visit.

One thing that did perk us up a bit on the way home though.  We stopped at Gloucester North services on the M5.  Now, a service station normally is not something that I would say would be a pick up, but this was a very pleasant surprise.

The services opened in May of 2013 and this is the first time we have ever stopped there.  It was completely different to any other services we've ever stopped at.  The buildings have been built to blend in with the surrounding countryside, with turfed roofs, even of the petrol station.

The services on the South bound side of the motorway are currently under construction and are planned to open in Summer 2015.

There is not a McDonalds or Burger King in sight, so it might not be for everyone, but there is a restaurant serving all manner of proper home cooked food.  It's a bit pricey, but that's service stations for you.  We were really impressed with the choice, lots of healthy options, lots of comfort food and plenty of home made cake.

As well as the restaurant there is an amazing farm shop, selling all sorts of things, including a very well stocked meat counter, with proper meat, and proper butchers, with very big knives.

We had lunch in the restaurant and it was a really nice end to a lovely holiday.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Dartmoor - Buckland Beacon

We had a bit of an adventure planned for Wednesday.  A bit more caching on the moors, starting with, you've guessed it, another Church Micro.

This time we were starting off at another pretty little village called Buckland-in-the-Moor. This was a very small, but lovely little church with a very unusual clock face, in that it didn't have numbers, it had letters that spelled out the words 'my dear mother'.
I love how we always find something really interesting in all of the churches that we visit.  This time, inside there were five telegrams to and from royalty on display. Two from King George (well, his secretary) thanking the parishioners for the messages they had sent with their good wishes on his Coronation and his Silver Jubilee and three from Queen Elizabeth, again thanking the parishioners for their good wishes on her Coronations, Silver and Golden Jubilees. 

We found the information we needed from the graves in the churchyard before working out where the cache was hidden and making our way across the moors to try and find a cache called 'over or under'.

We were quite excited about this one as we needed to find two sets of numbers, one was to be found 'over' and one 'under'. There was a warning that the one under would involve getting wet. 

At the coordinates there was a little bridge over a river and we were well equipped with boots and towels so were really looking forward to the challenge. 

We decided we'd try and find the over clue first as there was no point getting wet if we didn't have everything we needed. Well, we looked for ages, all over the bridge and surrounding area but could find nothing, so ended up having to leave this one as a did not find. We were both really disappointed.

EarthCache - Large IconThe next one we were looking for was an Earth cache. This is one where you find a point of geological interest, perhaps take a photo of yourself there and answer some technical questions. This one was at a spot high up on the moors called Buckland Beacon, where below the beacon lie two rocks engraved with the 10 Commandments. These were commissioned in 1928 by William Whitely of Buckland Manor, who is buried in the church yard at Buckland-in-the-Moor church. You can see his grave in the above photograph.

It was about a half mile walk from the parking spot to this one and it was a lovely walk through the heather and the gorse, passing lots of cows on the way.  
Whilst the writing engraved on the stone tablets was really difficult to read as it had worn over time, the views from the beacon were amazing and we spent a good while there clambering over the rocks, taking photos and having lunch, well and pork pie and a Topic, washed down with blackcurrant squash. It was just the job. 
Then it was a wander back to the car to head back to Moorbrook Cottage wondering whether any more would have been done to the face in the wall. Well, we were delighted to see that the farmer was actually there just about to put the last two stones in along the hair line, so we couldn't resist pulling in to say hello and how much we loved what he'd done.

He explained that he'd had a great year, the weather had been kind and he was really happy and wanted to express that. He'd had to rebuild the wall anyway and just had the inspiration to do something a bit different. He had done it all himself, cutting the mouth and the eyes, everything.

He said it would be finished by Friday so we said we'd definitely be back to take more pictures of it finished before we headed back home.

He was really chuffed that we'd stopped for a chat, and was delighted that it had made us smile and was happy to pose for a picture before we headed off.

Monday 20 October 2014

Dartmoor - Back to the Coast - The English Rivera

The weather forecast looked promising for Tuesday and we thought it would be nice to be beside the seaside.  The plan was to go to Paignton.

Well, we got to Paignton. What can I say? We decided very quickly, without even getting out of the car, that it wasn't for us. We were really disappointed. After all, the seaside, a pier, a harbour, we'd been looking forward to it. 

We decided that, having come all this way, we would carry on along the coast to Torquay, to see whether or not that was more our kind of thing. 

It wasn't far and we were greeted by a much prettier and more interesting looking sight. Nice blue sea, lots of pretty boats in the harbour and a great big wheel. 

We decided to spend the afternoon here and started with a wander around the marina area. There were loads of boats and some really interesting artwork on the quay, commemorating the 2nd World War D-day disembarkation, including lights in the pavement depicting a Morse code message relevant to D-Day. 
Unfortunately, the information board only had the dashes showing and no dots, so we couldn't work out what it actually said. 

We had a really nice relaxing lunch sat on the balcony of the Living Coasts cafe before having a wander along the coast in the other direction . 
Our caching exploits in Torquay were a bit dismal. We found that three of the ones we wanted to do had been disabled and one we couldn't find, even after phoning a friend who had been on holiday to Torquay last year, but they didn't find it either. In the end we found just two, so at least we haven't blown our consecutive days caching goal as yet. 

Before heading back for Moorbrook Cottage, we had a short drive along the coast to Babbacombe. We parked up near the funicular and walked along the gardens towards our last cache of the day. 

It soon became clear that there was no way we were going to walk down to the final location, which was in a car park, so I made a managerial decision to retreat to the car and drive down. 

When we arrived back in the car this had turned out to be a good decision! As the road was sooo steep. It was the steepest that our new Mazda CX5 Geowagon had been down and up. It certainly was a test of commitment. 

Anyway, we got down OK and had a quick dash to find the cache without having to pay the parking (naughty we know, but we were only going to be there for a couple of minutes .... Officer!) 

Now, how do we get back home?

Dartmoor - Dartmeet

It was Monday and we had thought we might go to Paignton, we really wanted to get another visit in to the seaside. However, we woke up to a very dull day and, looking at the weather forecast thought we'd save the coast for Tuesday.

We decided we'd have a nice easy day, with a lie in, and then just nip up the road to Dartmeet to have lunch at Badgers Holt, followed by a wander around. 

Dartmeet is one of those places that you will either love, or do everything in your power to avoid, especially in summer when the place is teeming with tourists. It's a bit like Dovedale in The Peak District. 

The main attraction is exactly what the place-name suggests, its the place where the West and East Dart rivers meet - namely a confluence. They then flow on down the valley for a couple of miles when the river becomes the 'Double Dart' which flows down to Buckfast to become the 'River Dart'. And apart from an ancient clapper bridge, that is basically your lot. 

As we have never been here before and we love old stone bridges we just had to go and have a look. It was a bit mizzley when we arrived so we decided we'd have lunch first and then have a walk around. 

Now, how can I describe Badgers Holt? Well ....... Firstly, it's not like we expected at all. We expected a pretty, quaint, stone built tea room kind of place. It's not like that ....... At all. It's ........ Well, it's ......... Weird. 

Inside, it's a dark, pine, tongue and groove clad, wooden building. There are banks and banks of formica tables and 70s kitchen chairs, with pretty freaky 3D pictures of puppies and kittens on the walls, and bright blue and pink sheepskin rugs hanging from the rafters. 

It was also very, very quiet and could definitely have done with some background music going on.

We did actually go in and came straight back out, before deciding that, yes, we would have lunch here as planned. 

The menu selection is huge. From every kind of roast dinner, to sandwiches, to your normal pub grub like lasagne and scampi and chips. There was also a pretty impressive cake and dessert selection, with the biggest lemon meringue pie I've ever seen. 

Martin had a lamb and mint burger and I had a cheese sandwich, both with chips. Both the food and the service couldn't be faulted. 

It was quite popular with a constant stream of folks, mainly fairly old, coming and going. After we'd finished eating we had a quick look round outside. They have a collection of small 'petting' animals, which did actually look quite sad. There were also a couple of very friendly cats mooching about.

The whole place had a unique style all of its own, one of which we could both safely say we had never come across before. So, overall, food was great. Would we go back? Mmmmm. Difficult to,say.  If we were in the area and wanted cake, it's probably had the best selection of anywhere else we've been, so I could see that it would be a possibility.

We then went on to have a look at the old clapper bridge, which was fascinating, though a good proportion of it is now missing. We both took turns at clambering over the rocks to stand on the bridge to take some photos, which was pretty unusually adventurous for us.
We then had a wander down the footpath on the other side of the river where we went across some stepping stones, more adventure, it's almost like being on Outward Bound - LOL. 
Obviously our final goal was to pick up a cache, well we hadn't done one yet today and were trying to beat our previous record of the number of consecutive days that we've found caches on. It's only currently at 7, but we thought we might be able to get to 8 this week.

It was then back across the river to head back to Moorbrook cottage to spend the afternoon chilling out.  A really nice easy and relaxing day. 

Carol's cottage pie was on the menu for tea, so it looked like it would be my turn to cook.

Friday 17 October 2014

Dartmoor - Bovey Tracey

On Sunday the weather forecast was a bit unpredictable.  Hazy sunshine and showers.  Should we risk the coast again? Or should we stay a bit more local?

We decided on a drive across the moors to Bovey Tracy, a place that neither of us have ever visited, for a wander around and, you guessed it, a spot of Geocaching.

We drove back through Widecombe-in-the-Moor and out the other side, stopping at the top of the hill to pick up our first cache of the day, as well as take some pictures of Widecombe church. The views were amazing, though it was a little hazy.

We would definitely be re-visitng lots of places if we had another bright blue sunshiney day before we went home. 

There was so much going on on the moors today. There were people and animals everywhere - cyclists, walkers, horse riders, cows, sheep, ponies. People walking across the moors, people having picnics, people silhouetted on the tors. It was a sight to behold and actually really nice to see so many people out and about enjoying the natural Autumn beauty of the moors. 

We picked up a few more caches on our way to Bovey Tracey before parking up in a car park at the start of a multi cache we wanted to do, called the Mosaic Trail.

There are a number of mosaics that have been placed around the town and it was our job to track them down and then answer questions to get the numbers to then fill in the final destination co-ordinates. 

We loved the mosaics and I seriously think I can feel a new project coming on to keep me busy over the Winter months.

We managed to find all that we needed and worked out the co-ordinates for the final cache hiding place. 

It was then time for a break for lunch in the roof terrace cafe at the craft centre, and very nice it was too, before picking up one last hide before heading back over the moors to Moorbrook cottage.

As we passed Haytor the path up to the rocks looked like a motorway. There were so many people walking up and down. 

It's weird, you'd think it would spoil it with there being so many people around but it didn't. They are pretty much all concentrated in a particular area, and there is plenty of deserted moor to see as well. 

Like this morning, it was just nice to see so many people appreciating what we are so lucky to have close to home.

Dartmoor - Caching on The Moors

The plan for Saturday was to rest our legs a bit, as we'd done a fair bit of walking about so far.

I had planned a route of caches on a circular route around Dartmoor, that we could do in the car, with not too much walking.  We were hoping that we would also get to see the more natural side of the moors. 

We started off just down the road in Leusdon, with another Church Micro that was just a short walk from the designated parking spot to pick up some clues around the churchyard, followed by a short walk back to pick up the cache.

We did stop for a wander around the church, which was decked out with fruit and flowers, we presume for the harvest festival. 

We then moved on to Holne. Another pretty little village with a pretty little church, another wander around the churchyard looking for graves, another wander round the church and another Church Micro. 

After taking lots of photos of a very interesting looking yew tree it was into the local community run cafe for a big breakfast for Martin and a sausage and mushroom sandwich for me. 

Next stop was a parking area by the Venford Reservoir for a good old yomp across the moors to pick up a couple of caches that were pretty much in the middle of nowhere. So much for resting our legs, but then, we did need to walk off breakfast. 

The scenery was amazing, we could only begin to imagine how beautiful it would look with a bit of blue sky and sunshine, today was quite dull.

We found what we were looking for and took loads of pictures before making our way back to the car. 

We were then on the homeward strait and had a quick stop at Dartmeet in the way past to see what was there. It was a really lovely little spot and we were too tired to do it justice today so decided to save it for another day. 

It was then back to Moorbrook Cottage for chicken tagine, which had been in the slow cooker all day. I'd like to say I'd got up early and made it but you'd all know that just wouldn't be true.

Monday 13 October 2014

Dartmoor - Widecombe-in-the-Moor & Castle Drogo

On Friday we decided we would do a bit of exploring on the moors.

We were heading for Widecombe-in-the-Moor, where we had a few caches planned and a visit to Church House, a National Trust property, before moving a bit further North, via Moretonhamstead, to Castle Drogo, another National Trust property. 

We picked up a cache on our way to Widecombe. The cache owner had put a note on the cache page stating that the local farmer was completing some work at the cache site so it may not be possible to do. When we arrived, there was clear evidence of work under way, lots of cows lolling about on the verge, but no one around, so we managed to pick this one up nice and easily. 

We were really intrigued by the work that was under way and made a number of return visits during our holiday to photograph the progress.  We were so impressed, and surprised, with what the farmer was doing, that I felt it was worthy of a blog post of its own, so you can read more about it here

We carried on to Widecombe, where sadly we couldn't visit the Church House, as it was in use by the local nursery and is only available for visits by National Trust members when not in use by the local community. We would have to try and come back another time. 

All was not lost, as we also had a Church Micro cache on the agenda. Church Micros are a series of caches all based around, funnily enough, churches.  We really like them as we love looking round pretty churches and finding out a bit of local history.  The Church Micro in Widecome is a Multi-cache, so we had to have a good wander around the church and church yard, looking for clues as to the final hiding place for the cache.

We started off inside the church, looking for a model of the legendary old grey mare and her riders, on their way to Widecombe fair.  We needed to find some numbers from the information plaque. We found the model but before we had finished collecting the numbers we needed, we were interrupted by a guided tour so we decided to head outside and come back a bit later after the tour had moved on.

Outside we needed to find a memorial bench, which we found easily enough to give us a bit more of what we needed.

We then needed to find the grave of Olive Katherine Parr, also known as Beatrice Chase, a local novelist. She is said to be related to Katherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII. We had a really good wander round the churchyard looking for this and, whilst we were wandering around, the tour came out of the church and the tour leader said we could go back in and enjoy the peace and quiet now they had finished!

I decided to be cheeky and asked if they knew where I could find Olive's grave. They were very happy to help and actually took me to the spot, so that was a bit more of what we needed under our belts.

We then headed back in the church to finish what we had started and we soon had the final co-ordinates, which led us to the final cache location and a very unusual cache container.

From Widecombe we headed for Castle Drogo, calling in at Moretonhamstead on the way to pick up another Church Micro. For this one we had to find information on three different graves before being able to work out the final cache location.

There was some work going on at the top of the tower today and we even got to see workmen abseiling down, which was interesting to see to say the least. Fortunately they hadn't roped off where we needed to look.

We managed to find what we were looking for and there were some serious signs of Autumn at the final cache location.

We finally managed to wend our way to Castle Drogo.  This is one of those places that we've passed signs for, on the way to and from Cornish holidays, more times than I can remember, but it's always been a bit too far off the beaten track for a visit, so we were both really looking forward to finally getting to see it.

We knew that it was currently under a massive renovation programme and the castle itself is pretty much fully scaffolded, and covered on the outside, with all the beautiful treasures stored away.

First stop was the National Trust cafe for a very nice lunch and, as there was a Multi-cache set around the castle and grounds, we wanted to take a bit of time out to make a note of what we were looking for.  Well, that was our excuse, the venison sausage baguette, goats cheese and red onion toastie and treacle tart went down a treat.

We started off with a wander through the gardens and down to the castle.  All of the stonework from the roof has been removed to allow renovation to take place before being put back. There are pallets and pallets of labelled stone just waiting for renovation or return to their original site.

You are able to climb to the top of the scaffolding to view the roof in its current state, but our knees didn't feel up to this today.

We had a really good look round the inside of the castle.  The Trust have done a really good job of keeping the castle accessible during the renovation and have made use of lots of the original letters and plans of the castle to make for a very interesting visit. It is really unusual to be able to see the bare bones of the structural make up of the building and it was really interesting to see the sheer magnitude of the task in hand.  It was also very unusual to see the mechanics that are propping up the roof whilst the work is being done!

We ended up working really hard in our hunt for the cache, which had been set around the castle and the grounds.  We felt like we were being thwarted at every turn but we were not giving up. Oh no!

At the moment what you need to find for clue one is not at all visible because of the renovation work, but we were not deterred and with a bit of initiative and a very helpful Margaret we managed to find what we needed.

The second clue was nice and easy to find, the third took us a while but we got there in the end.

We were a bit surprised to see where the final cache location was, we were shattered and were hoping for a short walk back to pick up the final on the way back to the car. However, this was not to be.

When approaching the final location we weren't sure whether we were supposed to go where we needed but got the OK from a very kind gentleman who knew exactly what we were after, which bode well.

We got to the final approach, only to find that, today of all days, someone had set up a camera on a tripod and was taking automatic timed shots pointing exactly where we needed to go. Well, we didn't want to spoil the pictures, but we had worked so hard and were not going to give up.

In the end we took the long way round and managed to find what we needed without ending up being on film.

We had a really interesting visit and will definitely be back in a few years to see the castle in all it's glory when the renovations have been completed.

Dartmoor - A Trip to the Coast - Dawlish & Teignmouth

On Thursday we woke up to bright sunshine and the coast was on the agenda for today, so we were off out early for us.

We started off in Dawlish, which I have only ever driven through so it was good to get the chance to have a good look around. There isn't that much to see but it is really pretty and the blue skies and sunshine made it feel really relaxing.

We had a walk down the Main Street to the sea front and then ambled along the front, past the jetty, to the brightly coloured beach huts, in the warm sunshine, taking plenty of pictures on the way.

The railway station in Dawlish is practically on the beach and it was fascinating watching the trains whizzing past, almost in touching distance, as they travelled along the coast, in and out of the tunnels through the cliffs. 

This part of the coast took a real battering from some bad storms earlier in the year and it was good to see that all the storm damage had been completely repaired. 

We picked up the first two caches of our holiday in Dawlish, one along the side of the train tracks and another on our walk back to the car through the park, which was teeming with all kinds of variety of ducks. 

Most impressive were the black swans, which I have never seen before, but Martin tells me that Dawlish is quite famous for. They were moving so gracefully across the water, unfortunately a little too far away and facing the wrong way for a good photo call.

One of the chaps who looks after the river was clearing some weeds from the weir and, never one for passing up an opportunity, I asked him if he could get them to come and pose for a decent photo.  I was joking really, but he immediately began to whistle and, lo and behold, they gracefully made the way over.  Gob-smacked we both got the cameras ready and managed to get a few decent pictures that really captured their sense of regality.

After a couple of hours wandering about we headed off along the coast to Teignmouth, the next town along the coast. 

Again, we didn't do much other than have a really relaxing, slow amble along the sea front, picking up a few caches along the way, before stopping and sitting outside, looking at the sea, for a very late and chilled out lunch.

We then headed back for home, thinking we would definitely have to make a return visit as we'd only really seen a small part of the town.

The View whilst we were having lunch - lovely!

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Dartmoor - If you're happy and you know it, let it show!

Early on in our stay we picked up a cache just down the road from our cottage.  We were on our way to Widecombe-in-the-Moor. 

The Cache Owner had put a note on the cache page stating that the local farmer was completing some work at the cache site so it may not be possible to pick up the cache.

When we arrived at the cache site, there was clear evidence of work under way, lots of cows lolling about on the grass, but no one around, so we managed to pick this one up nice and easily. 

When we looked more closely at the work underway, it appeared that a face was being built into the dry stone wall ..... What do you think? 

We were most impressed and thought it was a really unusual, but definitely, fun idea that we had never come across before.

We passed this spot again, later in the week and could see that good progress was being made. It was most definitely a face. The eyes had just been installed. We really hoped we'd get to see it finished before we had to head for home. 

We came back past the wall again on the Wednesday before we were heading home and, hurrah, the farmer was there, stood on the wagon just about to put the last two stones in along the hair line, so we couldn't resist pulling in to say hello and tell him how much we loved what he'd done. 

He said that he'd had a great year, the weather had been kind, the harvest was in and he was really happy and wanted to express that. He'd had to rebuild the wall anyway and just had the inspiration to do something a bit different. 

He had done it all himself, cutting the mouth and the eyes, everything. He said it would be finished by Friday so we said we'd definitely be back to take more pictures of it fully completed before we headed back home. He was really chuffed that we'd stopped for a chat and was delighted that it had made us smile and posed for a picture before we headed off.

Daft as it may sound, this was one of the real highlights of our holiday.  When we went back to take our pictures of the wall in all it's glory, there was another couple parked up, who had stopped to look at it.  They were taking pictures too, so we filled them in on what the farmer had told us about why he had done.  We think it will most definitely become a favourite local landmark.