Monday 23 October 2017

Beautiful Britain - Quarr Abbey, Isle of Wight

Hi there everyone

This is the first of a series of posts sharing our thoughts on some of the places we visited and the things we saw and loved on our recent holiday to the Isle of Wight.

Having arrived on a Saturday after travelling for pretty much the full day we opted for a nice easy day on our first Sunday and started out by having a relaxing Sunday lunch in the very cosy Fishbourne Inn, which we stumbled across whilst out for a drive.

Whilst lingering over lunch and deciding what to do next we saw that Quarr Abbey was literally a stone's throw away and decided that this would fit the bill nicely for the rest of the afternoon.

In all our research, before coming away, into what we wanted to do whilst on the island, neither of us had come across the Abbey so we had no idea what to expect at all.

We were both most pleasantly surprised, it was a real treat and even more so for us having no pre-conceptions about what to expect.

The new church and monastery was built in 1907 and the buildings are like no other abbey or monastery we have come across before. Our first view had us very intrigued and we couldn't wait to explore.
It is a fully working monastery and, as such, the site has a very peaceful and tranquil feel about it, lovely for a short wander on a sunny afternoon.

You can find out lots more about the history of the place from their website but there is a whole range of activities for visitors including a visitor centre and shop, an art gallery, tea-room, farm shop and gardens, as well as the new and original monastery buildings.

As ever, the first place we explored was the walled garden. Within the garden we found the tea-room, with plenty of both in and outdoor seating, and the farm shop, where lots of produce grown within the garden and orchards are available for sale ...
Also, within the walled garden, we found the chicken runs, where rescue hens provide eggs for use in the abbey kitchen and for sale in the farm shop.
We wandered past the chicken runs and the allotments ...
... to a spot where we spent a good while, just taking in the view ...
... and trying to catch good shots of the butterflies, which were just loving the buddleia ...
This little chap was a treat to watch too ,,,
There was time for a quick regulation selfie before carrying on to see what else there was to see. We took a walk through the woodland to the old abbey ruins, which were of a much more traditional style and in an absolutely beautiful spot ...
By now, we were starting to flag, but still had time to have a quick look round inside the new abbey and the rest of the grounds ...
Where we found plenty more butterflies ...
... statues ...
and even an abbey inspired bike rack ...
That was about it for our visit, though you can buy pig food in the farm shop and use this to feed the abbey pigs, which we didn't actually get to see.

We really enjoyed spending a couple of hours here, though it is definitely one of the lesser known attractions of the island we are so glad that we stumbled upon it and would definitely recommend calling in if you are passing.

Just Loving Autumn #1 - Slow Cooker Dinners

Hi there everyone

I just love Autumn and thought it would be good to share some of the things that make it one of my favourite seasons of the year.

We haven't turned the clocks back yet, but we are already getting used to drawing the blinds and cosying up with lots of candles, a good film and a slow cooker dinner. Whilst we do use our slow cooker all year round, it's in the Autumn when its use starts to really ramp up.

We used it twice this last weekend and, as it's been so long since I've shared a recipe, I thought you might like this fab Chinese style pulled pork with vegetables, which just happens to be very Slimming World friendly ...

When it comes to quantities of pork
just go with what feels right for you ...

Pork shoulder joint
1 large onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 orange pepper, sliced
250g mushrooms, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
2 tbsps light brown sugar
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsps grated ginger
2 tsps Chinese five spice
500g passata
3 tbsps light soy sauce
4 tbsps dark soy sauce
2 tbsps Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp cornflour


Place onions, peppers, carrot and water chestnuts in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Mix together the sugar, black pepper, garlic and ginger and rub this all over the pork joint.

Place the pork joint on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker and surround with the mushrooms. 

Sprinkle with the Chinese five spice powder and mix together the passata, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and cornflour and pour over the pork.

Slow cook for 6-8 hours.

Remove the pork from the slow cooker, check fully cooked, shred up and add back into the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

Serve with rice and enjoy in front of the TV watching a good film ...

Find out more about what we love about Autumn and see what we got up to whilst on holiday on the Isle of Wight over the coming weeks πŸ˜€

Tuesday 17 October 2017

The Grange - Ningwood, Isle of Wight

Hi there everyone

As you will probably know, we are not long back from a fortnight's holiday on the Isle of Wight.

We took the Wightlink Ferry from Lymington on a beautiful warm Autumn afternoon.

We had a fabulous time with plenty of blue skies and sunshine and got out and about a fair bit, so I have lots to tell you about our visit and some of the places that we saw.

I thought I'd start though with a review of The Grange, which was our home for the fortnight.

When did we visit?
16-30 September 2017

How many does it sleep?

How much was it?
£1550 plus £400 refundable
security deposit

Who did we book with?

First Impressions ...

Upon arrival the property looked exactly as described on the website.

It was tucked down a quiet lane, right on the edge of the village and felt lovely and quiet. It was set back from the road, with neighbours on either side, but open countryside to the rear.

Inside, again, was just as described, bright, light and very spacious.

There was an open plan dining and living area, with three big comfy sofas, a nice big TV, an open fire and a nice big dining table. There was also a tiny downstairs loo tucked away under the stairs.
View back to front entrance from bottom of stairs
Open plan lounge area
The views from the back door were lovely, a nice big garden, with plenty of patio space and views to open fields beyond. There were ponies in the field at the bottom of the garden and we had regular visits from a woodpecker during our stay, which was a real treat. Sunsets were pretty impressive too.
Through to the left of the main living area was a big kitchen and through the kitchen was a 'games room' with a desk, sofas and another huge TV, hooked up to a PS3.
Upstairs is accessed via an absolutely stunning oak staircase and galleried landing. My pictures don't really do it justice, but it was beautiful.
Upstairs there are three bedrooms, two double and a twin, all bright, spacious and en suite.

So, first impressions were very good and we were looking forward to spending the next two weeks staying here.

Our likes over the course of our stay ...

  • The layout of the property worked really well for us, there was loads of space for us, our guests and all of our stuff
  • The whole property was really comfortable, the beds, the sofas, it was dead easy to get nice and cosy
  • The location was great, though to be honest, wherever you would stay on the island you wouldn't be too far away from wherever you wanted to visit
  • It was lovely and quiet, the road wasn't busy and the neighbours were very friendly
  • It was fairly well equipped, the kitchen had everything that we needed
  • The wifi was a bit slow, but was always available
  • The showers were nice and powerful and there were nice big towels
Anything that could have made it better ...
  • We were a bit disappointed with the level of cleanliness of the property. It wasn't by any means filthy dirty, but it could have done with a deep clean. The outside windows were fairly dirty, the drain in the fridge was blocked so the base was full of water and the shower heads needed a really good descale, amongst other things
  • There was no welcome pack at all, not even a pint of milk, though there was a kitchen cupboard full of half empty packets of all kinds of things
  • Overall there was a strange feel about this property, it was almost as though the owners had upped and left in the night, leaving behind lots of personal possessions, like personal photo albums, toiletries and other bits and pieces
Would we recommend this property to our friends and family?
In spite of the level of cleanliness we found on our stay, the property is stunning and we would definitely recommend it as being a good base for a stay on the island

Would we stay in this cottage again?
Although it did work really well for us, it really is a bit big for just the two of us and if we visited again we would probably prefer to try and find something a bit smaller.

Monday 9 October 2017

Beautiful Britain - Bodnant Gardens NT, North Wales

Hi there everyone

Remember this?
Back in November 2014 Martin found out that one of the photos he had taken at Bodnant Gardens had been selected to be included in their 2015 calendar.
Well, as well as being included in the calendar, all of the photos selected were to be displayed in the entrance tunnel at Bodnant.

We've been intending to make a re-visit for ages, to have a look at the photo on display, and we managed to call in on the way back from our weekend in Betws-y-Coed back in August.

This is what we found. We were so excited ...
As we had only called in on our way home, we didn't have a really good look round all of the garden, but we did manage to walk down to the pin mill to have a look at the rose garden ...
And we stopped off at the lily pond on the way back, no sign of any children pond dipping today ...
In spite of the time of year there was still plenty in flower ...
There was just time for the piece of obligatory National Trust flapjack 😜before it was time to head for home.