Wednesday 28 June 2017

Happy to be walking again

Meadowsweet.  The Queen of the Meadow.   The drink Mead gets its name from this plant as it was used to flavour it in the past.  Chaucer mentions it - "Medewurt", but it was used much earlier than Chaucer's Medieval times, as Meadowsweet pollen has been found in Beaker burial potsHere's a Dartmoor reference to it being used in a burial context too, only as a floral tribute, rather than an alcoholic drink to take into the next world.


Bramble flowers are SO pretty.

Meadow Vetchling.

Square Stemmed St John's Wort.  If you feel the stem, it really DOES feel square.  To check it wasn't Perforate St John's Wort (the two are similar), I picked a leaf off and held it up to the light.  No perforations on it.

Tufted Vetch.  Perhaps my favourite wild flower - it always brings a smile to my face.  In this photo the colour isn't very true as it is more purple than this.

Pink brambles this time.  What a beautiful colour they are, with just the merest smudge of lilac in their colouring.

I have to say I am delighted with the camera I got for Christmas (the Lumix).  It takes really good close ups and good scenery shots too.

Monday 26 June 2017


Morning all.  My sleep patterns are still all to pot, as on Saturday night first of all I found it hard to get to sleep, then I woke twice for the loo (I have to take my Montelukast tablet late evening with half a pint of water), then I woke an hour before the alarm was due to go off, so didn't sleep past 2.45 a.m.  Needless to say, that takes a while to get over.  My brain always seems to get anxious when I know I really NEED a good night's sleep because we are up early - for Malvern of course.  This time we sold there for the first time, and took an outside stall at the Antiques Fair.

Anyway, we stopped in Ledbury on the way back, to pop into Hay Wines and get a bottle of Organic White wine.  I took a few snaps on the way round.   The Medieval Market Hall (above) is particularly spectacular.  It dates back to 1653.  Around this spot in 1645 the Roundheads and Cavaliers fought.  The Royalists won.

These are Alms Houses where retired folk live.  Some of them had pots of flowers on the walkway in front of the building.  The Clocktower is part of the Library building, which is dedicated to Elizabeth Barrett-Browning (the family lived nearby).

Boots the Chemists is housed in this lovely building.

Above: The Feathers Inn.

Ledbury has won Britain in Bloom in the past, and everywhere was beautifully decorated with flowers.  I can tell you something, Carmarthen would be LAST in any competition like that.  I think they only employ one bloke in their Garden department if the roundabouts are anything to go by.  I must take a photo or two as believe me, they are atrocious!

There were several beds planted up like this with pretty roses and fruit trees.  Of course, Herefordshire is famous for its orchards, and had we been travelling through any day except Sunday, we could have stopped and bought Cherries, as there was a sign to cherry orchards on the way to Ledbury.

Finally, my end of our stand.  The splendid bobbin chair will be off to the two day Antiques Fair at the Botanic Gardens this weekend.

I may go back to bed now - I woke at 4 a.m., laid in bed till 5 by which time I knew I wouldn't get back to sleep.  Now I feel I could sleep on the head of a pin!

Friday 23 June 2017

Not feeling too clever today (plus recipes added)

I am glad I took some photos of my roses yesterday because today it has been raining from breakfast time and they will be looking very sorry by tomorrow.  This is one of the tub ones (the David Austins I have bought) - Raubritter.  It is one of my favourites.  I first saw it when we visited an Antiques Fair at Cothay Manor in Somerset and was determined to have one here.

My so-called Graham Thomas, which doesn't seem to be yellow enough. Anyway, it is beautiful.

Up the front of the house is my first rose planted here, the climber Albertine.

One recipe tonight:


Prepare your base as you wish it - plain minced beef and onion, or if you have unexpected guests, stretch it with tomatoes/mushrooms/baked beans/taco or spicy beans - whatever.


225 G (8 oz) S-R Flour
50g (2 oz) margarine
150 ml (1/4 pt) milk
75 g (3 oz) grated cheese
beaten egg

Sieve the flour with 2.5 ml ( 1/2 tsp) salt and rub in the margarine.  Add the milk and mix to a soft dough.  Roll out to a 38 x 18 cm (15 x 7 inch) rectangle.  Sprinkle with the cheese.  Loosely roll up the dough from a long edge, cut into slices with a scone cutter and arrange around the meat mixture in the oven dish.  Brush scones with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little more grated cheese.  Bake in oven (200 deg. C/400 deg. F/ Gas 6) for 30 minutes.


8 oz (225 g) self-raising flour
4 oz (115 g) butter
4 oz (115 g) caster sugar
8 oz (25 g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped (you can use eating apple if that's all you have available)
Grated rind of one lemon
1 medium egg, beaten
2 oz (60 g) sultanas (optional)

If you want the ginger version, add a handful - a couple of ounces (60g) of crystalized ginger - either the ready to use strips, or chopped up lumps or the balls in syrup chopped up.  Makes SUCH a difference to the flavour.

Set the oven to 375 deg F or gas mark 5.  Put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Stir in the sugar, apples, lemon rind and egg and mic well.  Add the sultanas, if desired, and ginger.  Put the mixture into a well greased 8 inch diameter cake tin and bake for 30 - 40 mins until golden in colour.  Serve warm as a pudding or eat cold.


3 oz (85 g) butter
3 oz (85 g) soft brown sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup, warmed
6 oz (170 g) plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger (though I always use a little more)

Set oven to 400 deg F or gas mark 6.  Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl and add the golden syrup, flour and all other dry ingredients.  Mix well to form a firm dough.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface, form into about 30 small balls and place 4 inches apart on greased baking trays.  Cook for approximately 10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.

Enjoy your baking.

Despite a good night's sleep I am still feeling tired and woolly-headed.  NOT something I want to be carrying over for tomorrow, which has an early start and a busy day involved in the equation.

Thursday 22 June 2017

A day of baking

I was in a very positive mood when I came back from seeing the Respiratory Nurse at the Hospital last week, as my tests showed a 20% increase on how they had been last year.  I have had to up my Fostair inhaler and have been prescribed a stronger one (hopefully temporarily - she has suggested carrying on until the pollen season is over and then trying the lower dose again). 

I was in a baking mood and decided to fill the freezer.  Dorset Apple Cake times 2 - one with crystalised ginger in, which brought it to a whole new level of yumminess!  I'll add some recipes later on.

A tray of Dorset Ginger Biscuits ready to go in the oven.  These were not a patch on my Cornish Ginger Fairings I usually make.

Beef Cobbler with cheese scone topping.

I doubled the cheese scone mixture and made some scones, which are now in the freezer.

A pan of Spaghetti Bolognese sauce, also frozen.

A Panasonic loaf too . . .

Phew, what a heat wave we have had.  It is overcast and much cooler today so I should be able to just have to water round once instead of morning and evening.  I shall leave you with a photo of one of the roses in pots - a David Austin rose, Teasing Georgia.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

About the moor - particularly Merivale and its antiquities

I am sat here with my sweaty hair scraped into a pony tail, and clad in my skimpiest top and shorts (bought yesterday as this hot spell has caught me on the hop and anything skimpy previously in my chest of drawers got sent to charity a year or so ago, when cold wet summers seemed to be the new regime.)  At least I am cool (imagine a pink sausage roll with legs . . .)

I have been spending short spells in the yard, doing a radical weeding of the flower bed out there which was just a mass of Aquilegia seedpods and weeds.  It wasn't too bad earlier on but it is absolutely broiling out there now so I have retired indoors, by an open window.  Thank heavens for stone walls two feet thick which make our house cool on the most scorching day (unless you go up into the attic that is!)

The photograph on the top is Bennett's Cross, which is close by the Warren House Inn on Dartmoor.  It used to lean greatly, back in Crossing's Day, but since then has been put straighter.  There used to be WB marked on it but this has been erased by weather.  The letters stood for Warren Bounds - marking the boundary of  Headland Warrens across the road (where rabbits were once farmed to feed the miners at the Vitifer Mine which is nearby).  It is believed that this cross also marks the boundaries of North Bovey and Chagford.  Whether it was named for a 16th C tin miner named William Bennett, who had mining rights in this area, or whether it took its name from a chap called Ellery Bennett who around 1860 supposedly found the cross lieing in the heather and erected it again no-one can say for sure.  The wonderful Legendary Dartmoor site will give you more information and photographs and you may be there some time, enjoying all the links.

Bennett's Cross from the side.  It could possibly have been a standing stone originally, which was later "Christianized" .  Now for some antiquities at Merrivale which were definitely NOT Christianized . . .  Another LINK to Legendary Dartmoor and a really good piece about the Merrivale complex - far better than I could write it up from Jeremy Butler's books on the archaeology of Dartmoor which grace my bookshelves up here. 

Stone row with blocking stone at the far end.

Stone row terminating in a stone cairn - it is possible (to my mind) that perhaps the stone circle came after the cairn. 

Another burial chamber, a kist this time with a splendid capstone - it was even more splendid until someone decided it was perfect for cutting a pair of gateposts from in mid-Victorian times . . .

Below, the man made leat which runs nearby and I believe provided water at the Merrivale Quarry.

Above and below, the remains of huts - just a circle of stones which had once helped form the base of the dwelling now remaining. 

A wonderful ritual complex, and one which I know far too little about.  Off to remedy that.

Monday 19 June 2017

Morwellham Quay - Part 2

This big overshot water wheel reminded me of photographs I had seen of the big wheel at Laxey on the Isle of Man.

This was one half of the village shop.  Sadly it wasn't open when we were there.  The staff have to spread themselves thinly, doing various different talks and jobs about the place.  I thought this was a good teaching aid for school childfren (there were two groups there when we visited) but not a patch on Beamish!

A very sleepy Jack, the Clydesdale horse who was used for all the delivery jobs when they were filming at the farm. 

That photo of the Dartmoor Laddie again.  Both chaps were falling asleep from boredom.  Hate to think of them inside in this weather.

There were also a couple of pens of this year's lambs and a goat, who was free range and pleased himself where he wandered.

Another inside shot, this time in Ruth's cottage.  The "Betty Maid" for drying laundry is what we have here, two of them in our kitchen.

The bedroom in Ruth's cottage, with a rag rug beside the bed.  In the programme, Ruth showed how to make a clippy rug like this one.

Some clothing from that period hanging up.  From what I remember, the grey top looks like something a young girl would have worn over the top of her dress.

I wanted to do a post about Bal Maidens, but will have to suffice with a link to an atmospheric piece of writing which tells you how children as young as 8 were employed breaking the rocks.  This cap would have been worn but how much protection it offered from chips of rock flying into people's faces is debatable.  I've always fancied making one of these - trapunto work and neatly sewn folds.

It is too hot up here now and I need to be back to the decorating downstairs.

Friday 16 June 2017

Morwhellham Quay - Part 1

We set off across the moor on Friday morning, heading for Morwellham Quay, which I have wanted to visit ever since seeing the excellent series "Edwardian Farm" on tv, which was filmed here.  One of the first sights was of the sailing ketch  "Garlandstone" which was built in 1905 at Calstock using timber from the nearby Cotehele estate.  She was the last but one wooden sailing ship built in Britain.  She was first registered in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire in 1909 and sailed around the coastline and across to Ireland, with various cargoes, until the 1960s when she was bought by an American, but a decade later, found abandoned, and was bought by the National Museum of Wales and subsequently moved to Morwellham Quay in 1987.  Looking inside the hold, she was full of mud (following a bad flood in 2012 I believe).  This area has suffered several horrendous floods and there are flood level marks feet above my head on the buildings there.

This sloping area is where Ruth planted up Strawberry Plants as since the advent of railways, fruit was sent on the milk train to the London markets.  The Tamar Valley was well suited to Market Gardening, with its fertile soils and the warm climate gave crops a head start which meant they reached the markets earlier than those from other areas, thus making higher prices.  As you can see, some of Ruth's strawberry plants (or their offspring) are still in evidence.

This area once had large areas devoted to fruit trees such as the Cherry, though there is little trace of them now, sadly.

Morwellham Quay was once the centre for exporting copper ore from the copper mines in the area, and also processed Arsonic and Manganese.  The copper went by sea to "Copperopolis" - Swansea, which had smelting works first set up around 1720, by wealthy landowners who had mine holdings in Cornwall.  Swansea had several main attractions to draw these early entrepeneurs there - water (the river Tawe) and coal from local mines.  It also had a safe harbour.  A century later there were 9 smelting works in the city.  The ore ships travelled back to Morwellham laden with lime (which was slaked at the lime kilns which still remain on site) and slate which was used as roofing and weatherboarding.

I hope that you can read the information board above.  Basically this is where the Mine Agent James Medlen and his wife, their son and their maid lived.  Beside the main domestic rooms of this cottage was the Assayer's Laboratory (see bottom photo below).   His wage (c. 1860) was £200 a year - that would equate to £160,000 nowadays.  He was a very important man, and oversaw all the deliveries of coal, timber etc for the mines in the area, as well as the testing of the ore, and the exporting of it to Swansea. 

At the end of the 19th C it became more profitable to import copper from South America (indeed, our local family here in this parish were the Bath family, who were involved in this trade.)  When the slump happened and mines were forced to close, Cornish miners emigrated in large numbers to wherever there were mines in the world.  It is worth noting that from 1884 - 1902 the copper mines of the Tamar Valley mined 700,000 tons of copper. and it was "the richest copper port in Queen Victoria's empire" (taken from the BBC book "Edwardian Farm").  Incidentally the wonderful word I sometimes use (and my NZ friend Rosie uses a lot) "fossicking" originates from the habit of folk scratching a living from scratching through the spoil heaps of the abandoned mining sites.

The heart of the home, where the cooking would have been done on the range (presumably the original one?).  The big wooden trough at the front (we sell these on occasion and many of them come from Central Europe these days) would likely have been made from sycamore (which withstands damp and regular cleaning) and would have been where they proved the bread dough.  Just behind it near the wall are a couple of butter stamps, scales behind it (though these don't look like the food scales of the period) and then a cream-coloured earthenware dairy bowl or "steen".  This was generally used for dairy purposes - settling cream to skim off to make butter, or for setting small amounts of dough to rise - whatever it might be practical for.  Right at the very back, the circular wooden implement is a knife sharpener.

Upstairs, an old iron bedstead just like the one I had as a child, with a pretty patchwork quilt with a pinwheel design.

Another of the bedrooms, with the air of the Master's Dressing Room . . .

There were pigsties and "useful outbuildings" the other side of the cobbled track at the back of the cottages.

In the 3 small rooms above the Assaying Laboratory was more living accommodation, this time of a very humble kind, as for miners.  A voiceover said that as many as thirteen people were housed in one room, and the beds were of the very basic "palliasse" kind - just an old hessian sack stuffed with straw - I bet that was lumpy - with a blanket over the top for warmth.

No range in this kitchen - any cooking was done over an open fire and the big cast iron cooking pot on the floor wouldn't ever have seen much in the way of meat - a bit of fat bacon added to the broth when money allowed.

The family's "apartment" with ever decreasing bed sizes down to baby's cot.

Finally, the photo of the Assaying Laboratory mentioned above.