Easier, better or both?


Stove Top Fans

Stove Top FanOur cute little Sterling engine stove-top fan has arrived.

We decided to buy a stove top fan, to speed up the circulation of warm air around our living room, as it can take a while for the heat that radiates from the surface of our wood burning stove to reach other parts of the room.

We identified two types of stove top fans that are free to run, and don’t require batteries or mains power. Both use heat from the stove (or more precisely heat differentials) to drive the fan and are based on elegant, albeit different, scientific principles.

1. A Seebeck effect fan is driven by an electrical current, which is generated by a thermoelectric effect (i.e. a current is produced when the junctions between different metals are at different temperatures).

Sterling Engine Stove Top Fan2. A fan, which uses a Sterling engine to convert heat from the stove into mechanical energy. In this device, a column of air is heated, it expands, pushing a piston upward, the air is then rapidly cooled, it contracts, pulling the piston downward. The up and down movement of the piston, rotates an arm which turns the fan.

We chose a Sterling engine stove top fan, made by Kontax, a boutique engineering company based in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The fan is beautifully designed in stainless steel, glass and graphite.

This wonderful gadget works a treat. The living room now gets warm and cosy soon after we light the stove. Heat also circulates to the rest of the house. We have lots of fun and get an enormous amount of satisfaction watching the little engine bobbing elegantly up and down. It has been a great talking point with visitors too. We would highly recommend this ingenious device.

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Walk From Hailes Abbey

We recently did Walk no. 15 from our “50 Walks in the Cotswolds” book. This 5 mile (8km) circular walk starts at Hailes Abbey near Winchcombe and crosses fields to the villages of Didbrook and Wood Stanley. It then joins the Cotswold Way and heads across beautiful, rolling hills to Stumps Cross and past a stone monument and the ruins of an iron-age fort at Beckbury Camp. The monument is a good place for a little break and a chance to take in the superb views of the Cotswold countryside. The path then heads down the hill towards Farmcote (a visit to the village requires a little detour) before returning to the Abbey.

The walk takes in two simple, but beautiful churches and the much grander, ruined abbey.

Hailes church is opposite the abbey and well worth a visit. It contains the remains of wall paintings from the 14th century and original floor tiles rescued from the abbey.

St Faith’s chapel in Farmcote village is a sweet little building in a stunning setting. It has a pretty stone font, medieval roof timbers and the remains of a Saxon arch.

Hailes Abbey is owned by the National Trust and managed by English Heritage. It was founded in 1246 and was a powerful Cistercian abbey until 1536, when it was closed under Henry VIII’s Dissolution policy. It is reputed that Thomas Cromwell (not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell) watched the destruction of the abbey from a vantage point on the hill above. This spot at Beckbury Camp is now marked by the stone monument which we passed on the walk. The abbey audio tour that is included in the entrance fee is quite fascinating. It describes the history and day-to-day workings of the abbey. We were amazed to see the 750 year old toilet/drainage system still in working order. The abbey ruins are in a tranquil spot and very beautiful. A good place to rest and reflect at the end of a super walk.


Apples

I love farm shops. These rural gems provide a fascinating glimpse into the cycle of life on the farms and orchards in the Vale of Evesham. They also hold new surprises on each weekly visit, from season to season throughout the year.

Our village is surrounded by orchards, so it’s usually hard to miss the apple harvest in autumn. But we have been disappointed this year. During blossom-time this spring the bees and their fellow pollinators were unable to fly, due to incessant rain. The result – our apple tree and most others in our village, are bare. Even hubby, who is pretty expert at scrumping, arrives back from each walk with barely a bulge in a pocket these days.

However, a wonderful surprise awaited us at the Wayside Farm Shop this week – an oasis of apples! Lovely, local apples, with such low food miles, that they could have walked there. And the variety – Russets, Jonareds, Spartans, Crispins, Howgate Wonders, in addition to the more common Cox’s, Bramleys and Galas. What a delight.

As most of the apples were the same price, we filled our bag with a selection of varieties tha we hadn’t tried before.  How exciting. We’ve been taste-testing our haul all week. The only problem…… we can’t remember which is which. Oh, never mind. We can always pop back to the farm shop for more.


The Merits of Ash

We had a super lunch in the Crown and Trumpet in Broadway yesterday – a luscious lasagne for hubby and a cheerful chilli con carne for me (spiciness just right).

This old poem was hanging on the wall above our table. Quite a coincidence, after my last post about the performance of different species of trees as firewoods. I’ve transcribed the poem, as the attached photo is a bit wobbly.

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year;
Chestnut only good they say
If for long it’s laid away;
Make a fire of Elder tree
Death within your house shall be;
But Ash new or Ash old
Is fit for Queen with crown of gold.

Birch and Fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last;
It is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread;
Elmwood burns like churchyard mould –
E’en the very flames are cold;
But Ash green or Ash brown
Is fit for Queen with golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke
Fills your eyes and makes you choke;
Apple wood will scent your room
With an incense-like perfume.
Oaken logs, if dry and old
Keep away the winters cold;
But Ash wet or Ash dry
A King shall warm his slippers by.


Firewood

There is quite an art (and science) to making a good fire. Since having our new stove installed, our fire-making skills have improved daily. We can now get the fire going on the first lighting – most days. We have experimented with a variety of woods and have been fascinated to see how log size, tree species and degree of seasoning really do affect how well the wood burns (as all our “stove veteran” friends have been telling us).

After testing wood from a number of sources, we have decided to buy our logs from Tiddesley Wood, a nature reserve near Pershore. Their logs come from mixed woodland and are well seasoned, as they are stored for at least 2 years before being cut. As a result, their wood burns beautifully and the seasoning ensures that we can avoid the perils of a spluttering, popping and smoky fire. The woodland is sustainably managed and the profits from log sales go towards wildlife conservation.

As this is one of Tiddesley’s log-sale weekends, hubby popped over there today to load up his car with luverly firewood. We are so pleased to have our little Clearview stove and to have found such a super source of wood. This great combination is better than heating with oil in so many ways.


Lunch at Tisanes

One of our favourite places for a light snack or afternoon tea in the Cotswolds is Tisanes, a super little tea room in Broadway.  We love the atmosphere, the food and the efficient, friendly staff. There is an entire menu devoted to loose-leaf teas and they have a good selection of coffees. We can’t resist the sandwiches filled with warm, runny brie, bacon and avocado. They do traditional cream teas and always have a good selection of delicious, freshly-baked cakes.  This is quite a special place if you are on a gluten-free diet. The sandwiches are available on gluten-free bread, and the gluten-free victoria sponge cakes, scones, toasted teacakes and other goodies ensure that tea-time is a treat for everyone.