Easier, better or both?


Walk from Great Comberton to Nafford Lock

We made the most of a gap in the weather today to explore a beautiful section of the Avon valley.

Our walk began in Great Comberton, crossed a gentle valley and a couple of brooks, then headed up the hill, along the ridge above the river towards Nafford.

The views were gorgeous – birds bobbed  on the river, the spire of Pershore Abbey could be seen in the distance, Bredon Hill rose up behind us and the Malvern Hills were spread across the horizon in front of us.

The wind on the ridge was a chilly, so it was good to head down to the sheltered area near the river bank when we reached Nafford. We crossed an impressive little steel weir, stopping to admire the wheels and gates that controlled the water rushing down the river after the recent storms. Then we headed for the relative calm of the lock where we sat for a while enjoying a warming cup of coffee and the sight of a canal boat heading gently down river.

Nafford Lock

Nafford Lock

The return leg to Great Comberton was a lot faster due to the strong tailwind provided by the approaching storm. It was a wonderfully refreshing walk, that certainly blew away the winter cobwebs.

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Walnuts

We had a bumper walnut crop in Worcestershire this year.

My Hubby is crazy about walnuts. He has identified every walnut tree in our village plus most of those growing wild around Bredon Hill.

In our house, Walnut Fever is biphasic:

The initial phase starts in late June/early July, when unripe, soft, green walnuts can be harvested to make Nocino. This is a delicious, deep brown walnut liqueur, traditionally made Italy.  (However, the fervour of this phase has somewhat abated in our household since Hubby’s initial attempt to make Nocino last year resulted in a rather startling green, bitter concoction.)

The second and most intense phase starts in autumn, when the walnuts are ripe and ready to be harvested. At this time of the year my foraging Hubby ensures that every walk passes a walnut tree or two, and we head home to the sound of nuts clattering in bulging pockets. The rest of the day is spent happily cracking the shells and savouring the wonderful fresh flavour of the newly harvested walnuts – so much better than those bought in the shops.

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Washing on the Line

Washing basketI grew up in a warm sunny climate where, on most days, it was possible to hang washing on the line to dry.

Then I moved to the United Kingdom and had to purchase my first tumble drier. This was essential, as I worked long hours during the week, and it always seemed to rain on precious weekend days when I had a chance to do the washing.  If it didn’t rain, the local pyromaniac would invariably decide to burn his garden waste just as I was taking the washing out of the machine. There’s nothing worse than smoky washing.

I have accepted the presence of a tumble drier in the house somewhat reluctantly, as it does get the washing dry when it’s wet outside. However:

  • It uses a lot of electricity
  • No matter how careful I am, and no matter what temperature I use, the tumble drier seems to accelerate the deterioration of fabrics.
  • It increases the risk of sock-pair-divorce.  (Where do socks go? And why do they always take off alone??)
  • Clothes that contain elastane shrivel.
  • Worst of all, duvet covers seem to get in a major, “soggy-in-the-middle”, twist, unless I baby-sit the process.Pegs

I’d far rather dry my washing in the fresh air on the line any day. It’s only a pity it’s such a rare treat here in the U.K. I spent a few weeks in California recently and was sad not to see many washing lines while I was there. Such a pity when the climate is so warm and dry. Laundry could be dried so easily there, without wasting all that electricity by tumble drying.

Fortunately, I get to use my washing line more often these days. I have a less hectic job and am no longer constrained to doing the laundry on weekends. So I can wait for those precious, dry, sunny days to get the washing out in the fresh air. After a dull, damp winter it’s such a joy when spring arrives and I can bypass the drier and head straight into the garden with a load of clean goodies.

It’s amazingly therapeutic spending a few minutes pegging the washing on the line, listening to the birds and watching the clouds scudding across the blue sky. For the next few hours I can look out the window and see the laundry gently floating up and down in the breeze. It is also satisfying knowing that I’m harnessing energy from the sun and the wind rather than using electricity. Drying washing on the line is also free!

On the line, bedding and clothes dry evenly and wrinkles seem to disappear. There’s something special about washing that has been dried in the sunshine. It’s warm, crisp, smooth and smells wonderful. We love jumping into bed and smelling the sunshine on our freshly laundered sheets – like for Dharma and Greg, “Clean sheets day” is one of the highlights of our week.

Washing on the line


Yellow, Orange and Gold

The colour palette in our corner of Worcestershire is shifting again. Over the last few days the colour of the leaves on the trees around Bredon Hill has started to change into the yellow part of the spectrum. Autumn has started.

We popped into the Batsford Arboretum near Bourton-on-the-Hill yesterday. It’s a great place for tea or a light, informal lunch. They have a good selection of hot meals and sandwiches and there is usually a gluten-free option or two in their delicious cake selection. The restaurant is in a beautifully designed modern, wood and glass building. It’s light and bright inside and outside is large deck with stunning views of the Cotswold countryside.

We hadn’t planned going into the Arboretum, as we thought that autumn had not quite got going yet, but as we were there, we decided to go inside anyway. Good decision! It was a warm, clear, still afternoon and perfect for a walk among the trees. The aptly named Golden Mile was a spectacular succession of yellows, golds, bronzes and oranges, with bright red acers thrown in for good measure. The low autumn sunshine filtering through the leaves was quite breathtaking. We left feeling wonderful and so pleased that we’d decided to pop in and have a look.

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Nirvana at the Clover Mill

The Clover MillWorcestershire has a wonderful new spa, which nestles in an idyllic setting between Cradley and Suckley.  The Clover Mill is a very special spa. Arrive stressed and tense and leave feeling relaxed and wanting to learn a whole lot more about Ayurveda.

I approached the Mill along a little track then rounded a bend to find a Tudor cottage and a stunning Cotswold stone mill.  The grounds are beautiful – wild flowers, fruit trees and a lake.  There are three eco-lodges for those lucky enough to be able stay for one of the Clover Mill’s speciality ayurvedic, yoga or meditation retreats. Alpacas, bunnies and birds completed the picture.

IMG_0081The treatment rooms are in the lovingly restored water mill. The millstone, water wheel and mill workings are displayed behind glass panels en route to the steam room.  A biomass boiler supplies under floor heating. Once I entered the serene treatment room, the eco credentials of the spa became apparent. I was surrounded by natural materials; wood, cotton and linen.

Before the treatment began, a questionnaire and chat allowed the therapist to assess my “Dosha”. The questions were interesting and I was amazed at how well the assessment characterised me. The choice of oil and nature of the massage was tailored to my Dosha. I placed my clothes in a grass basket and popped on a crisply ironed sarong.  There was even a little box in which I could store my jewellery – a lovely touch.

Cotswold Stone WallThe massage was blissful. The oil was gently warmed and had the most divine, subtle aroma. A warm pad on the couch ensured that I remained toasty throughout. It was one of the best massages I’ve ever had – the therapist has been doing massage for many years and it showed. She was technically superb, intuitive and passionate about ayurveda and it’s the focus on wellness.  Stress drifted away and muscles that had been stiff for months melted. At the end of the massage there was a warming cup of herbal tea.

After the massage I had a light, healthy lunch made by the spa owner, Julie, who is a passionate cook. Most of the ingredients for the meal were harvested from the garden. Julie had even gone to the trouble of whipping up some gluten-free courgette and pinenut muffins to accompany the delicious beetroot and elderberry soup. There was a divine lemon polenta cake to follow.

I left The Clover Mill in a warm glow, skin soft and lustrous, feeling relaxed, nurtured, happy and planning the next visit.


Crunchy Buckwheat Granola

Before the strawberry jam disaster, I did have some culinary success last week.

During the winter, I saw an interesting recipe in a newspaper using raw buckwheat as an ingredient. However by the time I’d managed to find a shop where I could buy raw buckwheat, I’d lost the recipe. Since then the buckwheat has been hanging out in the cupboard, looking for something to do.

Earlier this month we tried a gluten-free muesli, which was pretty good, but rather pricey (amazing how costly items become once they are labelled gluten-free). Interestingly the muesli contained buckwheat. I wondered if this would work in granola too, so I hit the internet in search of a recipe.Crunchy Buckwheat Granola

I found this super Crunchy Buckwheat Granola recipe on the “Kath Eats Real Food” website.

I made just two changes to Kath’s recipe – I substituted chopped, mixed nuts for the whole raw almonds, and sunflower oil for the canola oil.

For those with metric ovens, 300 degrees F is ~150 degrees C.

The granola was a great success – crunchy and delicious. If you use  gluten-free oats, the granola is gluten-free too. I’ll definitely be making this again & again. Now if only I could remember where I purchased that buckwheat ……??