Autumnal air…. 23/9/18

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After an amazing summer, little by little we are noticing the days are getting shorter, the nights cooler and the rain has started to fall a little more frequently….. Autumn is finally here.  It’s strange though as the colours changed on the trees and the leaves started falling so early due to the lack of rain, we are a little out of sync with our seasons and inevitably therefore we have been caught out a couple of times by the rain coming out of nowhere – helped by gale force winds – giving our washing (and us) a second (unwanted) rinse whilst we were out …. just one of those things we will have to get used to! We aren’t going to complain though as we have been so lucky over the last five months and although it has pretty much rained for the last 36 hours, the sun looks like it is doing its best to push through the cloud and as I look out the window of the motorhome (which is lovely and snug with the heating on) there is a woodpecker having a good peck at the tree next to us …. life’s not that bad is it?

After a busy few days in Bath catching up with lots of friends and seeing our old house we set off towards Gloucestershire to find our next little spot.  I missed a photo opportunity as we pulled in en route to refuel at Asda. Although the forecourt was 3.5m – just tall enough – the bit we had to get through to pay was a little interesting to say the least.  Not only very narrow but quickly followed by a sharp turn to the right, so as Keith eased Hattie through the gap tickling her left ear on the barrier, I guided him with less than an inch to spare to turn narrowly avoiding the back end taking out the post…. not sure why I didn’t think about taking a photo as bemused car drivers watched on, waited impatiently to pay for their fuel. Next time we will go to the sainsburys a couple of miles down the road which looked like it had easy access… or should I say exit!

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We had booked ourselves into Passage Farm CL (£17.50 a night all inc.) which was about 1km from a tiny little village called Arlingham in Gloucestershire, right at the end of a little lane in the curve of the Severn River.  Although a little more expensive than many others, the site was lovely and tranquil surrounded by walking routes,  a fantastic Community pub in Arlingham, loads of blackberries and an abundance of free apples …. pretty much everything that we like and should you want a little more there was also a Michelin recommended fish restaurant 300m away.

We did three lovely long circular walks, each one in slightly different weather and light conditions making the village of Newnham which is on the opposite bank of the River Severn look different each time we saw it.  After lots of Fresh air, we finally gave in to support the local community pub on the Thursday night before we left where we were served up good beer and wine to go with pie and fish and chips.  A great location if you are happy to be a little remote and don’t mind doing a little bit of a limbo to get in to the site, as yet again we found that the trees stroked the top of Hattie despite lowering the suspension and limboing  through….. we definately need to invest in some tree loppers!

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With the change in the weather and being further west we have had a chance to check out Hattie’s insulation, the temperature dropped to 6 degrees over night in Arlingham and we remained nice and snug without any heating.  We have however since had the heating on a couple of times and it looks like we may get good use out of it this week assuming we don’t run out of gas as the temperatures are due to go down to 3 degrees tonight and tomorrow … not really the kind of slow introduction to the cold weather that we are accustomed to!!

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After our normal morning exercise routine, which apparently kept the site managers amused whilst drinking their tea in bed in the morning, we set off to Abergavenny for the last food festival of the summer.  We had booked into Blossoms Caravan Park (£18 no elec) which is roughly 2 miles outside Abergavenny ….. up hill. It is Wales after all so we were expecting hills and rain …. and we got both!

We did a quick recky on Friday walking down into town to do some food shopping and then on Saturday, after both heading off on a run in different directions – part intentional and part due to me getting lost – we rolled down the hill to eat our way round the markets.  Abergavenny is probably the biggest of all the festivals that we have been to over the summer but it is set up in multiple locations around the centre of the town making it interesting and showing off areas of the town that you wouldn’t necessarily visit if you popped by on a whim.  Each food market area focussed on slightly different foods – 1) Cheese, wine and cider 2) Food Market (i.e. to eat there and then), 3) Indoor Market (variety of food and drink) 4) New Producers, 5) Fish 6) Farm Animals (Education and child focussed) and 7) Fire at the castle …. (outdoors / wilderness based) they all offered a variation of foods and drink both to buy and eat, then additionally there were also other stalls in the streets around the town which anyone could access, rather than the former being accessible by wrist band.

Needless to say we tasted a lot of cheese and a fair bit of gin amongst other things and with way too much choice we ended up opting for two enormous savoury onion and cheese muffins for lunch on the Saturday and some seriously fiery houmus , flatbreads and scotch eggs on Sunday.

We managed to buy our own weight in Cheese and cured meats not to mention the local Sausages, bumped in to a friend from Horsham who has recently moved to the area, learnt about preserving, curing and smoking and avoided the best part of the rain…. can’t all be that bad!

The weekend was finished off by a visit from an old friend who had come over from Monmouth for dinner ….. a homemade Cassoulet with Apple and Blackberry Crumble – despite having been spoilt by all the food at the festival you still can’t beat good home cooked food on a dark, wet evening!

Monday morning we woke in the clouds with a damp mist that looked like it was going to turn quickly into rain but thankfully it held off whilst we did our exercises and got ourselves on the road – a complete change from what we found by the time we got to Reading …. Sunshine and 26 degrees.  As much as we love the country, I think it will be a while before we go back to Wales!!

We are settled back at the farm again now in Holyport with five weeks until we go to New Zealand, just contemplating whether we can get another trip in before we go….. watch this space!

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It’s all about food…. 8/9/18

Not that it ever isn’t but this last month has been less travel and more experimentation as we have stayed fairly local to Windsor and Maidenhead except for a long weekend away with Hattie to Essex to the Smoke and Fire Festival (Mundon CL, Maldon £9 a night) ….. need I say more ?

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The above pretty much sums up the whole weekend… it was meat, meat, meat and a bit of beer and cider to go with it!  The festival had different competitions throughout the weekend, the most enjoyable – or perhaps I should say beneficial for us – were the Chilli making contest, where you could buy a spoon for £3 and we got to go round each of the 15+ competitors happily receiving a small pot from each to try, the only difficulty was deciding who we wanted to give our spoon to at the end, demonstrating our personal favourite … naturally there were a few that needed a couple of tries!  On the Sunday the competitors cooked up pulled pork, Brisket and Ribs, unfortunately they cooked way too much to submit to the judges so they gave out the rest to passers by … result.  Not really a festival for non-meat eaters but to be fair several of the stalls had a vegan option… not sure how well they did as there wasn’t many a vegetable that passed our lips that weekend!  Gary did sample the only fish / seafood BBQ stall though which was equally as impressive!

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As the weather has remained so good we have been making the most of the Bar B Q … although controversially we have actually just replaced the Cadac.  Our long lasting old faithful which has been with us all the way since we set off four years ago, cooking everything from paella’s to casseroles and Sausages to veggie burgers has now been donated to a new home, hopefully they will get as much use and lovely food as we have.

The new Bar B Q – a Napoleon before anyone asks – joined us just over a week ago and has pretty much been used every day since …. Beef burgers, Chickpea Burgers Swordfish Steaks, Lamb Steaks, Roasted Vegetables, Corn on the Cob, flat breads and Pizza …. (for those of you haven’t seen my blog before, just click on the highlighted word for the link to the recipe or go to the recipe tab above)

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We have been building up slowly making sure we get the temperatures right before we start to use it for more ….. we are very impressed so far and excited by the prospect of roasts and smoking food going forwards – so watch this space!

I jumped ahead of myself with our new addition … obviously far too excited about the array of foods we are going to cook but I also appreciate that our life isn’t as interesting for the rest of you when we stay put but as you can see, food experimentation has been the theme this month and despite the festival being fairly meat oriented, the experimentation has had a bit of a vegan twist including Chickpea Meringues which you wouldn’t know were eggless…..

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I have made them a couple of times now … even for a slightly more picky audience (Yes, that is you Steve and Alex!) and they went down a treat – well worth a go!

We have also made Vegan Meatballs which we served with Spaghetti Squash and a ratatouille sauce which were gorgeous

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Other new recipes that have been added to the blog which were also equally as tasty are Spicy Jackfruit Fajitas, BBQ Jackfruit Burgers ….. yes, I have just found Jackfruit and it does actually come out like pulled pork if you put the right spices with it – really delicious!

Wanting something slightly quicker to make than rolls on occasions, Keith has been having a play with flat breads and even did a Masterclass on Pashwari Nan with Paul Jagger (Bake Off) at Great Missendon Food Festival a couple of weeks ago, whilst I have been experimenting with crackers and come up with Chia Seed Cracker which are really quick and easy to make and go really nicely with a good bit of cheese!  Not unfortunately what can be said for the Cauliflower Nachos that we tried earlier this week which were a bit of a disaster…. not even going to bother adding the recipe I am afraid.

We have hit the road again and are back in Bath for a few days to catch up with friends with the hope that the summer will give us another few weeks of sunshine even though the days are getting shorter.