Posts Tagged ‘cows’

Gradbach Mill (day 2)

This is day 2 of a trip to a Youth Hostel (which opened in 1984) called Gradbach Mill. It seems like an odd name to me. Looking up the history tells us the name possibly comes from a Henry Gratebach mentioned as living in the area in 1374.

We decided on the full breakfast to start us off: orange juice, grapefruit, cereal, big fry-up, toast, & tea. We set off walking up the hill. Initially on the road we soon came to a turn off and began the cross country stuff. OS map in hand we were making for a village I’ve mentioned in a previous post but will keep it as a surprise for now. Here’s a narrow bridge over a stream

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Then just a bit further on a TV aerial attached to a drystone wall. We couldn’t immediately see which house might be using it but closer inspection revealed the wire to it was broken. It does show how difficult it is to get reception in the area and the lengths people will go to to try and get a signal. (You might remember I mentioned that the hostel didn’t have any for TV, phones or PC.)

After crossing a few more fields we were onto tarmac for a short while. The road had been resurfaced recently and there was a 10mph speed limit sign. Here it is.

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This gentleman had obviously fallen over. We deduced he had probably been running and therefore exceeded the speed limit causing him to end up flat on the road. (He seems to be pointing at the sign to warn us.) We thanked him and moved on. There wasn’t time to help him but we hoped he was ok.

Across a few more fields and we were nearing our target. Here’s the sign

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Yes, it’s the sign for a village called Flash. If you remember the post from 10.4.13 (I is for interesting) you will know that this is the village whose height above sea level has been measured and found to be the highest in England and in fact the whole UK. We wondered what to expect but set off on the 1 mile to get there indicated by the sign; not surprisingly it was all uphill! The edge of the village is some way out from the houses and here’s the sign. Shortly after, a cyclist went past us and we almost felt as if we should be cheering and running alongside like they do in the Tour De France and maybe shouting Allez-allez. We didn’t.image

And a little further on in the village itself we saw this sign on the wall of the pub

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Yes that’s right – the highest pub in the British Isles. If you need an edge that’s not a bad one is it? After 2 hours walking across fields, up hill and down dale we were ready for a quick stop: a drink in the highest pub in the UK would be nice. We knocked on the door and were told that it didn’t open till 4pm! (It was 10.58am.) There are some who believe the term “flash money” comes from the alleged counterfeiting of banknotes in the village. It’s a nice idea and seems to fit but it’s probably an inference made from a novel (Flash) written in 1928 by Judge Alfred Ruegg rather than historical facts.

The next building was the old schoolhouse.

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And a little bit further

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Of course there’s no “new” police station.

We carried on and came to the local primary school. Here’s the sign.

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Now read that motto under the logo at the top: ‘Reaching Ever Higher’. Remember where we are – the highest village in the UK! I liked that. However after a bit of research and a conversation with a local person we found out that the school was actually closed. Apparently, in Sept 2012, the school roll fell from 7 in 2011 to zero pupils and the school closed at the end of Dec 2012. The local council said that in the last 10 years only one child had been born in the catchment area. Property prices also meant it was difficult to attract younger families to the area. The village had had a school for over 250 years (since 1760) so very sad it could not continue. (The Ofsted inspection in April last year gave a figure of over £22,000 funding required for each pupil; a comparable figure for my local urban primary school is £3,700 per pupil.)

Next building of interest was this one

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It looks like a large square house but originally it was a Wesleyan Chapel built in 1784 (and rebuilt in 1821 according to the date stone). There were 60 members of the Methodist Society which grew to 90 by 1790. In the 1851 Census there were 180 attending the evening service. It closed in 1974 and, as with many old chapels, is now a private house.

We walked on. Although a fair way out of the village we came to a place called “Flash Bar Stores And Coffee Shop”. We got some food here as it was almost lunch time. As we sat outside this vehicle pulled up in the parking area next to us.

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On the top right above the windscreen you might be able to see “Your Library”. Yep that’s right in these more isolated places there is no local library so the villages depend on a mobile one. I spoke to the driver who told me he covers quite a large area. Each stop has a scheduled time so people know when to expect him. While we were there a couple of folks came; one lady had an armful of books. I do hope this service will keep going as it’s a big help for those who can’t get to the town libraries often miles away.

After lunch we walked all of 20 feet (6 metres) across to the Traveller’s Rest for a drink. The place had a bit of a theme of “ye olde England” with the toilets being labelled – Knights & Damsels.

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Soon it was time to head off as we were only half way round on our walk and it had taken 4½ hours so far. (Lunch and drink though had taken longer than we had anticipated!)

On a lane we came to one of those stalls left unattended with an honesty box for stuff you buy. Although we didn’t buy anything there was a note hanging on it

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I think you can probably read it. Imagine that a colony of Wallabies once existed in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

This next pic looks simply like a stone bridge.

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Could be anywhere? No, this is quite a special place called “Three Shires’ Head”. It’s the point on Axe Edge Moor where the borders of 3 English counties meet: Cheshire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire. It’s an 18th century packhorse bridge over the River Dane; remember that’s the river that our Youth Hostel in its original incarnation used to drive the big water wheel that powered the mill machinery.

The rest of the route back had one difficult part. We came to a field of cows and of course we needed to be the other side. When you get close up to cows you realise just how big they are and how easily just 2 or 3 could cause you a lot of damage. You don’t mess with cows, you will lose! (Same for horses by the way – when our kids were younger we were walking across a field and a herd of horses surrounded us. Unsure of how to react, and being townies, we tried to push our way through. Man versus horse – another one you’re not going to win. Fortunately something took their attention and a small gap appeared so we could make our escape.) We skirted the herd of cows keeping close eye on them. Heads came up and a few started heading towards us. We took a bigger sweep out onto a farm track behind another wall before coming back into their field and heading for the stile at the other side.

And soon we were back at the hostel. Then it was evening meal, more backgammon & head off to bed for night 2. We liked this place.

 

River life

Since I started working at Ham House, my life revolves around the river more than it ever has, despite living next to it for years. The tides, the plants, the water sports, all these things are changing with the warm weather and there is always something different and interesting to see. Here are a few things which might greet me on my walk to work.

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High tide! That there, where those swans are swimming, that’s the path where I usually walk. My options are two. Firstly, I can walk quite a long way back until I come to a path that will take me up to the road and around to meet up with the path further on where it is dry. OR I can simply roll up my trousers to my knees and wade through. I always choose this option, which means that most of my shoes are soaked and lined up to dry out in the hallway. (Check out the cows in the second photo, all gathered behind the wall to watch the silly humans squealing and trying to keep their trousers dry.)

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In the distance to the right, there is a polo match going on. I watched it yesterday after work for about ten minutes. I’m not going to pretend I knew what was going on. Or that I was even close enough to see it, even if I did know how polo works.

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I don’t know if you can see through the small gap in the foliage, there is a longboat of sorts, with about ten people rowing. It looked really old school, like they were setting off for a Viking battle.

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A lone boat just bobbing about on the water. I wanted to jump in it and row the rest of the way home. I have decided that my life would be nicer if I rowed to work. I just need a boat. Anyone got one they can give me?

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Talking of boats, a few years ago I decided that I didn’t have enough upper body strength so I would join a rowing club. I looked into joining this one until I realised that you probably need to be part of this crowd to afford the fees.

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The Star and Garter up on the hill. This place is for disabled servicemen and women and must be a lovely way to spend your days after the horrors of war.

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A half naked man showing off!

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A boat which comes around every summer and puts on puppet shows for kids.

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Anyone who’s been on even one date has to come down to the river on a sunny day. Women sitting on men’s knees on benches, tanned couples sitting under trees and talking in low voices to each other, teenagers listening to music aloud on their phones and looking nervously around. They’re all here on the river on a sunny day.

My walk to Ham House

I do this walk once or twice a week when I go to Ham House to volunteer and I love it. Once I’ve got out of town, I hit the river and this is the best part of the walk….

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Through Buccleuch Gardens….

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Out the other side and along the edge of Petersham Meadows…

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Petersham Meadows on my left and the Thames on my right…

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Cows in Petersham Meadows…

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Ducks on the path…

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The Thames, behind a ton of forage-able dock leaves….

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Horses came here recently!

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Marble Hill House on the opposite side of the river so I know Ham House is soon….

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When I see an open space in the trees ahead on the left, I know Ham House is only another minute away…

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Sure enough…

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The little bridge….

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The trees are hiding the house…

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Horses from the riding school next door….

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Almost….

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There it is!

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To the right of the front door, the windows you can see at the bottom here, those are the kitchen windows! I spend all day looking out at feet!

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I take the side gate around the building (that’s my kitchen window again, bottom left)…

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… Which brings me to the door the volunteers use to get in, the black one on the left….

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I then go down a few steps to the bathroom area….

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… Into the eerily quiet and empty downstairs, which contains the bathroom, the beer cellar, the kitchen and the mess rooms…

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Turning left, I get into the scullery, which then opens out into my favourite room in Ham House….

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The kitchen! This is where I spend all my time baking, the room I know most about and the place where I feel most comfortable, whilst working at the…

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Beautiful and huge old table, built in the kitchen in 1610 using elm wood from an elm tree on the estate. This table is my favourite thing in the house. And probably my favourite table of all the tables I have known.

Readers, if you do not yet have a favourite table, I suggest you get onto it.

And that is my journey, once or twice a week. It’s quite nice, as it happens.

Things I learned at Waltham Place (Part 2)

1. The way to cut an onion without all the tears is to first half it, then peel each half, then slice it, leaving you with the two ends. The chemicals that make you cry are released when you cut the end off which has the roots so if you cut that off first, all the chemicals will be released, hence all the sobbing while chopping.

2. Sorrel is way tasty!

3. Nettle soup is surprisingly bright green.

4. Cows will let you know if they like you or not. If you put your hand out low, they will come over and smell it, rather like a dog. If they lick, then you’re in there. If they lick your face, then you’ve really pulled. If, however, they shake their horns at you, it means they definitely do not like you.

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5. Chickens have a self programmed ‘bedtime’. Without any prompting, at the bedtime, all the chickens, on cue, will run to the coop together and go inside to bed.
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6. Commercially produced bread is full of additives, one of which is put in to delay the arrival of mould when it is getting old. Yet it will start to grow mould after just a few days. Homemade bread, however, has no additives and, so far, I have had it for five days and there isn’t even a suggestion of mould.

7. Adrian, the chef at Waltham Place, spent six months working at the Savoy. There were 65 chefs working in the kitchen there and all the cooking terms were in French. You either picked up French very quickly or you got bollocked for doing everything wrong!

P.S. Part 1 can be found here.

Sorrel soup, rye bread and bluebells (or: Back to my spiritual home)

“Every day is like a day on the farm. Every meal is a feast. That’s a day in the Marine Corps.”

Well, not the Marine Corps at all. My favourite farm.

What’s that you say? You don’t have a favourite farm? Pffft. All the cool kids have a favourite farm. And mine is Waltham Place.

I went there in March on a fruit preserving course and had been itching to get back. Since getting my groceries from Abel and Cole, I am totally on the soup scene, for using up the leftover vegetables the day before my new delivery. So when I saw the soup and bread course, I booked myself in straight away!

After my last traumatic journey to the farm, this time around was relatively easy. In fact, on the bus to the farm, I saw the exact same two ladies who had rescued me last time and went and thanked them again.

Arriving at the farm, I saw the familiar faces of Nikki and Adrian, who run the courses. You feel you are in safe hands as they gently take control, ensuring everyone has tea and biscuits and helping the group of strangers to gel.

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We got straight into some chat about what makes good or bad bread, the fact that bread has been around for thousands of years and about mixing your dough with the end of the wooden spoon.

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Apparently that’s how the Italian grandmothers in Tuscany do things!

I mixed and kneaded and shaped and then left it to prove in the warm kitchen….

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…before starting on some sorrel soup.

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I’ve not eaten – and certainly never cooked with – sorrel so I was a little nervous but Adrian ripped off a leaf tip and got munching, encouraging me to do the same. And it was surprisingly tasty – lemony but not sharp. More like a salad dressing which had been made with lemon. It was bursting with flavour. I couldn’t believe I’d never eaten it.

After making and straining the soup…

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…the bread was also finished proving and baking. Mine was a rye bread made with a sourdough starter Adrian had been brewing up for five days.

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We each then quickly threw together another loaf. I did a plaited white loaf next (which I got started on before I could photograph it, sorry!).

Then we had a fabulous lunch of our own soups and a previously baked loaf for dipping. It was so good. Sorrel soup, people! It’s the way of the future! Lemony but savoury. It didn’t need any seasoning as it has such a rich rounded flavour of its own.

Then we went for a lovely walk around the estate, which was much greener than my last visit

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The chickens!

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One of the cows! (Danda says I can have a cow, although it’s still a no on the chicken.)

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Any day now, this place will be head height with long grasses and colour!

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The Japanese garden will soon be looking lovely too.

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The lime tree lined walk.

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The blanket of bluebells starting to cover the forest floor.

We returned to the centre, oversaw the baking of our second breads (one person had decided to mark his with what can only be described as a nipple, a bread nipple, if you will….)

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…and sat down for some well earned tea and cake…

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A coffee cake on the left and a fruity tray bake on the right. Both were delicious, obviously.

A lift back to the station from a fellow course student would have finished the day off nicely, apart from the 3.5 hour journey home because of train delays. But even that couldn’t ruin the loveliness of the day 🙂

E is for….

EGGS!

Eggs come from chickens, which are the key to my imaginary life. In my imaginary life, I have chickens in my garden. Currently Danda is blocking the acquisition of a chicken for the back garden.

What’s that? My garden’s only the size of a small room and the chicken would have hardly any space to walk around? Yeh, ok. Way to rain on my parade. I’ll never become a farmer if I’m up against such constant negativity.

Anyway, back to chickens and eggs and my alternate universe life where I live on a farm. My day on my farm goes as such….

At 7am I leap out of bed, bright as a daisy and ready for the day ahead. I can’t wait to go and see my beloved cows and chickens and piggywigs.

“Good morning, dears!” I sing, Julie-Andrews-esque, sailing effortlessly from field to field, greeting my animals, who love me for my Mother Earth qualities. Never mind that when I was actually on a farm, I was mostly tramping through soggy mud and vaguely tried to stroke a cow on it’s nose but it turned its head and licked me instead and its spit was all supergluey and disgusting on my fingers.

But it will be different on my farm. I will be at one with nature and glide around, happy and loving.

After greeting the day and my animals, I will approach the chickens who, rather than clucking frantically and heading in the opposite direction, will swarm around me, cooing affectionately while I make my way to the coop and collect some eggs.

While returning to the farmhouse, I will pass the cows, kneel briefly with a mug and get some milk (cause it’s really easy, right? And only takes a minute or so and there’s no faffing around with buckets or stalls, is there? Good, I thought not). The cows look at me, doe-eyed with love, and moo to send me on my merry way to breakfast.

I arrive in my lovely kitchen with a rustic flagstone floor, shout out to Danda and put the kettle on to make tea. I crack and scramble the eggs and toast some of the seeded bloomer bread I made the night before. Danda and I eat scrambled eggs with toast and drink tea with our fresh milk. Our toast is buttered with the butter I made from churning the fresh cow’s milk yesterday.

The rest of my day is spent as such. I visit the vegetable garden later that morning, to gather asparagus and tomatoes and potatoes and chard, which I will make into some kind of new potato salad for lunch. I also collect leeks and carrots to make soup with.

I visit the little pigs for some fun really, to watch them snuffling about and rolling over in the mud. Ah, my farm life gives me such glee.

I tend to the roses and the lavender and notice, with pleasure, that the bees are swarming around, collecting nectar.

This reminds me to check on the new hives so off I go. Rather than stinging and causing me to swear, the bees buzz a friendly hello and clear out of the hive, hovering politely nearby until I finish and they can return. I find a glut of honey and extract it with ease. None of the honey drips on me and none of the bees are angry.

“Have it,” they buzz, smiles on their little bee faces. “It is a gift.”

I accept their gift, graciously taking it to the kitchen (it comes already in jars, right? That’s what’s in bee hives, isn’t it? Pre-packed jars of honey) and think what to make with it, for I am very Mother Earthy and like to make everything from scratch using the lovely gifts that the earth has presented me with. I make some breakfast muffins for the following day using the honey and I also glaze some apple slices and gently roast them for later this evening.

As there is a deer cull at the moment, the farmer next door has brought me some venison, which I have minced and mixed with lots of herbs and am currently in the process of making into sausages, because I make everything from scratch and am never pressed for time and never burn things and people always rave about my sausage making skills.

Before the sun sets and I start cooking my venison sausages, I skip around the farm saying goodnight to each animal individually. The chickens hug my ankles with their wings and offer me presents of eggs, which I take back to the kitchen to make into custard for having with the apple slices later.

Tired, but fulfilled and relaxed, Danda and I eat our dinner in front of the log fire and listen to the sounds of the cows mooing.

Being a farmer would totally suit me. I’d be ace at it, as is obvious from this post, cause I well know exactly how to be farmer. Isn’t that obvious? I can’t believe Danda won’t let me get a chicken and have eggs in the morning. It’s like he doesn’t realise that this whole post could become a reality, if only I had a chicken.

I’m being stifled here. Stifled.

Things I learned at Waltham Place

1. Chickens lay eggs when it’s sunny. They’re like solar panels. They only work with sunshine. In the winter, they don’t lay because there is no sun. They are designed to have a break for a few months of the year. Battery farmed chickens are kept indoors with the lights on so that they will lay all year round. That is why they die sooner. They are not being given a break while it is winter. That’s also why the yolks in battery farmed eggs are all pale and yellowy, cause the chickens are quite weak and their diet isn’t very natural. The farmers give them commercially produced feed so their eggs are not as good quality.

2. During the time when it is sunny, chickens lay eggs all the time, regardless of the presence of a male to fertilise. That is the difference between just eggs and potential baby chickens. When there’s a potential baby chicken in an egg, after being laid, the chicken has to ‘go broody’ and sit on it for 24 days, turning it every day. If the chicken lays the egg but then potters off outside and leaves the egg, it will not become a chicken. At Waltham Place, these are the eggs they then take for cooking with. This eases any guilt I may have felt about eating scrambled baby chickens on toast for breakfast.

3. Buttermilk is not the liquid that gets squeezed out of the butter once you have finished churning it. As a butter-maker myself, I had it on good authority that this was buttermilk and so used it in recipes which asked me for it. Who looks stupid now, hey?

4. My Living Responsibly project looks so feeble in comparison to the self-sufficiency at Waltham Place. The air miles on the food I usually buy are ridiculous! I shall make an effort, at least a couple of times after April when the farm shop opens, to go over there and buy things. That way I know the food miles are minuscule, compared with my fruit and vegetables flown in from different continents. I will also make an effort to look on the packets and buy as locally as possible.

5. I want a chicken in my garden.

6. A cow would be good too, for the milk. Milk from the shop will feel like a poor compromise now.

7. Cows from different regions have different personalities! It’s true. The Jersey cows which are new to Waltham Place are apparently a lot more ‘protective’ of their young than the local ones.

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