Into The Woods

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A couple of times last week we had open house, with the kids inviting various friends around. Thursday was one of those days. I got out quite late and had another short zig-zag around a few local spots. The aim had been to arrive at or near the Lots in time to see the sunset, and although I did just about make it, I could really have done with being there about 15 minutes sooner. Whilst I was still in the woods, I caught glimpses of the western sky through the trees, which suggested that the sun was suffusing it with a warm glow of oranges, yellows, pinks and purples. By the time I had a clear view I felt that I was only seeing the final fling of the show.

Not to worry: any disappointment I might have felt was more than compensated by the fact that I bumped into two of the most talented and creative people I know*: the Painter and the Glass Artist and it was lovely to catch up with them both.

(*Not that I keep a league table of talented and creative acquaintances and friends. That would be weird.)

You’ll have noticed that I’ve skirted around Wednesday: on Wednesday we had Our Grand Day Out – a trip to Lancaster. Ta-dah! Not that there is anything wrong with Lancaster, in fact, it’s really worth a visit, but it’s our local town, so not much of a departure for us. However, we took a tour of the castle which was excellent: highly recommended. In the past, lots of castles have featured on this blog – they’re one of the things we all really enjoy – but Lancaster will have to wait; next time I shall take my camera. Whilst we were there, I bumped into another old friend and colleague, now working at the castle, and discovered that he also ranks highly in the ‘talented and creative’ stakes, what with having become a playwright.

After a very pleasant lunch at Molly’s, we went to the cinema to see ‘Into The Woods’. Did I ought to offer a review? I’ll give it 4 out of 5, because 4 (out of 5) of the family enjoyed it. My appreciation was somewhat marred by the fact that A kept elbowing me awake. That’s a couple of hours of my life I shall never get back.

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We had one errand to run in Lancaster too: a trip to the draper and haberdasher. Little S had hit upon the notion that he wanted to make himself a Teddy Bear. As you can see – he has. Well, it was a joint effort really, in which everybody had a hand (except me – I was out with my camera, but that’s another story). I suppose this means that TBH and the kids all get promotions into the top tier of the creativity league too. A and S have jumped on the bandwagon and both have materials for their own Teddy Bears.

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I mentioned the possibility of branching out into recipes: here’s a very simple soup one (to go with the bread from earlier in the week). It’s so simple, I think the only reason it works is because it’s based on homemade stock. None of the quantities are precise, because they don’t need to be.

Into a big stock pan chuck:

  • A chicken carcass, stripped of any useable meat.
  • A carrot
  • An onion, halved. Don’t bother to remove the skin it gives the stock a nice colour.
  • The leafy bits from a bunch of celery.
  • Half a dozen peppercorns.
  • Any other tired vegetables from the fridge, or vegetable trimmings, parings etc.
  • Enough water to cover that lot.

Put it on a low heat and leave it for an age. (You want it to simmer gently for a few hours).

For the soup:

  • on a low heat, sweat some veg – I used onions, leeks and carrots – in your fat of choice (mine’s currently ghee, but I think I might have used rapeseed oil this time). For soups or stews I put the lid on the pan and leave the veg until it’s properly softened (stirring it now and again).
  • Add enough stock to give the sort of consistency of soup you fancy. Chuck in some left-over cooked chicken if you have some. Simmer for say 20 minutes. (But 10 would do I think.

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How did it go down? I’ll give it 3 out of 5, because B and TBH and I all liked it. S and A weren’t so unreservedly enthusiastic, but then they’re fussy.

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Into The Woods

Homework

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Along with other small songbirds, robins are relatively short-lived. They live, on average, only a couple of years, but a few reach quite an advanced age. The oldest known wild individual was 11 years 5 months.

from the RSPB website.

Is that why some of them are grey at the temple?

Tuesday’s walk was part of A’s homework. This was a project set for Religious Studies and essentially required them to perform some sort of act of generosity. What a fabulous homework! She has chosen to help with our village Field Day’s fund-raising coffee morning. To that end she wrote a piece for the Parish Magazine; will help on the day and has also designed a poster which we were now distributing around the village.

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Now Silverdale isn’t a huge village – I found something on t’interweb which claims that the electoral ward had a population of 2,035 according to the 2011 census – but it is quite sprawling; there are odd bits here, there and everywhere, so a walk taking in the various potential sites for posters was quite a good one.

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And we detoured to some favourite spots too. Like Woodwell again…

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Despite the improved weather, compared to the previous day’s walk, I still didn’t take all that many photos. I think that was because I was too busy chatting to the kids about this and that. TBH wasn’t with us because she was decorating our downstairs bathroom. She already decorated it a while ago, having chosen a paint which I would describe as ‘Submarine Grey’. The rest of the family expressed dismay at her choice, but when it was finished we decided that we liked it. TBH didn’t. So now she has painted it a different grey, with yet another hue for the ceiling. A has dubbed the room ‘50 shades’.

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There were a few birding opportunities during the walk…

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Goldfinch.

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Greenfinch.

We’ve been teasing A because she made the mistake of telling us that one of her peers has elected, for their charitable homework, to cook a family meal once a week. Why couldn’t she choose that? – we wanted to know.

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To be fair to her, she does chip in. When she saw that I was making bread for instance, she immediately wanted to help. That’s one advantage of being at home and not rushing around to visit places etc – there’s time for card games and baking.

Not that this bread takes much making. I used a very simple recipe taken from the flour packet. I shall summarise, otherwise it will take longer to type (and to read) than it does to make:

  • 15oz bread flour*
  • 2 teaspoons dried yeast (recipe says 1, I used two)
  • pinch of salt
  • 9 fl oz warm water
  1. Chuck it all in a bowl, in that order, mix it with a fork (you can use your fingers, but it sticks and you end up with huge dough mittens).
  2. Knead briefly until it comes away from the sides into a ball.
  3. Leave it for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Knead it again, just a few seconds.
  5. Flour a surface, squash the dough out into a rectangle then roll it up. Turn 90 degrees, repeat twice more.
  6. Put it in a greased (actually I cheat and use those paper liners) bread tin.
  7. Leave it to rise in a warm, draught free place. Might take two hours.
  8. Put it in the the oven, 200 degrees C, 25 minutes.

Butter it whilst it’s still warm. Enjoy. We all love it, and it’s really simple to do.

*There is a secret, however. This isn’t any old bread flour. Oh no. We made this using Granarius flour from Little Salkeld Watermill. I suspect another high quality, stone ground flour would do. We like their flour particularly, because we’ve been there, watched it being ground and had the whole process very thoroughly explained to us.

Their website has a slightly more complicated ‘simple’ bread recipe which I might give a try. If you want to buy their flour I suspect you might need to live in the North, preferably close to a Booths, although they don’t always seem to stock it. Or you could visit the mill, and their wonderful cafe, and try the lovely walk along the River Eden there.

And here I’ve been worrying about making individual posts for several short walks. Back in 2011 I made five posts just for one short walk.

Homework

Sharp’s Lot Picnic + Eat Your Greens II

Throwing a frisby

And then – it was warm! Only for a day, but what a boon. We walked the short distance to Sharp’s Lot, not a new novel by Bernard Cornwell, but along with Pointer Wood and Clarke’s Lot, a small National Trust property on the outskirts of the village. We chucked a Frisbee around and picnicked on hotdogs, with sausages heated up over the trusty Bushbuddy…

Heating hotdog sausages 

….which for some reason I can’t quite fathom we got going straight off this time and which really roared, warming the sausages and boiling a couple of kettles full of hot water in no time.

TBH and A decided to head home after our picnic, but the boys were content to play with sticks and poke about under boulders…

Playing with sticks 

So, this being a sheltered spot where things often seem to appear earlier than they do elsewhere, I had a wander with my camera, seeking out some signs of our delayed spring…

Hazel catkin 

Hazel Catkin (male flower)

Female hazel flower 

Female hazel flower.

Barren strawberry 

Barren strawberry.

New hawthorn leaves 

New hawthorn leaves.

More lichen 

More lichen.

An abundance of primroses 

In a dip in the limestone pavement in Pointer Wood, there seems to be the perfect environment for primroses – they really thrive here.

An abundance of primroses II 

There’s always something new and/or odd to look at when we’re out locally, on this occasion it was this bracket fungus on a broken branch…

Bracket fungus 

Bracket fungus II 

Bracket fungus III 

On our outings this Easter we’ve been foraging for ramson leaves. Non more enthusiastically then little S, who loves their garlicky tang.

Gathering ramsons 

I’ve twice made this soup with them:

Serves 6

  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek
  • 3 average potatoes
  • A dash of vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 l of chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150 ml cream
  • 50 ml white wine
  • 100 -150 g of ramson leaves
  • Salt and white pepper

1) Slice onion, leek and dice potatoes. The size doesn’t matter because it will be blended in the end. Chop the ramson leaves.

2) Sweat onion and leek in oil and butter mixture in the pot. Add potatoes, bay leaf and hot stock. Keep cooking at moderate heat.

3) When potatoes are cooked and soft, add cream, wine and ramson. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to gentle boil, turn down the heat and blend everything in blender.

4) Serve hot with toasted white bread or baguette.

This recipe is from Picante Cooking.

Actually, I left out the cream and the butter. And I served it with homemade bread, since I’ve discovered this holiday that making bread, even without a bread-maker, is both very easy and very satisfying to do, and what’s more, that if I make it, the kids will eat wholemeal bread. Having flour from Little Salkeld Mill, which one of our local Booths now stocks, probably helps too. (more about Little Salkeld Watermill  and there wares here)

A fierce briar

Sharp’s Lot Picnic + Eat Your Greens II

Eat Yer Greens

B foraging

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was extolling the virtues of nettles as a vegetable in the Grauniad Weekend magazine recently. TBH declared herself willing to give it a go. The boys weren’t interested in going for a walk, but when I rebranded the idea as going foraging, B jumped at the chance. The sun was shining, but there was a fierce and bitter wind blowing, (although it wasn’t as cold as it had been the day before when we visited Skipton for fish and chips on our way home from York and it was sleeting). We didn’t need to walk very far, since we have a plentiful supply of ground elder in our own garden. We had to go a little further afield for our nettles.

We were soon in the kitchen rinsing a large colander full of greenery (more ground elder then nettles). We cooked them in the drops of water retained from their wash, then added fried onions and garlic and a generous pat of butter.

Nettles, Ground Elder, Onions, Garlic, Butter

And…..?

Well – surprisingly tasty. I suspect that it was actually the ground elder which was the real winner – a pleasant tangy flavour, far preferable to spinach as far as the nippers were concerned. (Although the novelty value helped.)

Eat Yer Greens

Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof

Or: Not fixing the summer house roof.

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One day left of half-term, and now I really will have to fix the summer house (read: glorified shed) roof. It needs re-felting – just the kind of DIY fun I really relish. But then, at the eleventh hour, a phone call from our friend C, the painter, “We’re going for a walk tomorrow and we wondered whether A might like to come with us. Or you could all come?” Hmmm – tough decision.

The plan was to park on the Clawthorpe road, between Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof Crags – to explore Farleton Fell in the morning, return to the car for a picnic, and then to have a wander around Hutton Roof Crags in the afternoon.

Despite having had an extra hour in bed, with the clocks going back the night before, both families managed to be late for the rendezvous. Still, we were eventually underway, with occasional blue-sky and sunshine.

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If you have being paying very careful attention, you will know that back in August, after we last came this way, I discovered this detailed map, which shows some of the many paths on the fell. I was looking forward to trying it on the ground. A cautious person might have compared it with the OS map and discovered that it has some walls missing. I chose instead to lead two families of small children around in circles, thoroughly confused by the fact that usually reliable linear features like walls seemed not to conform to reality at all. Taking the OS map with me to supplement the new untried map might have been wise with hindsight. Eventually we found the route we were looking for however, a new one to me, taking a line to the top which was further west than the path I have used before. This route had the advantage of a final climb to the summit along a ridge of limestone pavement.

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Kent Estuary from the summit.

It was quite late for lunch by now and the kids were starving, so we took a more direct route back to the cars. Although when we came across this ‘shark sculpture’…

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..the kids were captivated and temporarily forgot their grumbling stomachs.

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C had suggested stoves and a cooked lunch, which seemed like a very fine idea, so I had knocked up a Dutch Hotpot in preparation. This is a very cheap and cheerful dish which I’ve been making for years and which usually goes down well.

  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 pint stock
  • 1 lb spuds, cubed
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 dessert apples cored and chopped
  • 1 green pepper (although on this occasion we had red so I used that)

Bung it all in a big pan then simmer it for half and hour. Simple. It’s nice with some Gouda cheese grated on top, and the recipe suggests that it should be served with bacon, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried that.

I’ve had this dish in my repertoire since my student days when I found it in ‘Grub on a Grant’ by Cas Clarke, the book which was the basis of most of my early attempts at cookery. It was a good starting point, mainly reliable, although I should warn the curious that nobody had a good word for the Carrot and Banana Curry.

We’d found a sheltered little spot on the verge, by a gate, and after hotpot and tea and sundry supplementary snacks, the kids played hide-and-seek whilst the adults lay on picnic rugs and enjoyed the sunshine and a few moments of relative peace and quiet.

Time was marching on, however, and if we wanted to make the top of Hutton Roof Crags at S pace we needed to be on the move.

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Because most of Hutton Roof Crags is covered in dense scrub, and the OS map doesn’t show any of the paths, it was useful to have this map along. We followed the re-entrant which crosses Uberash Plain, and is named (on the OS map) as Potslacks.

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The second right turn of this path heads onto limestone pavement and if I hadn’t been here before and known how hard the turn would be to spot, I’m not sure that we would have found it.

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Just short of the top the path emerges from the trees and wider views open out.

We returned via Uberash breast which is a long low cliff, and later disturbed a roe deer shortly before arriving back at the car.

In all, a grand day out. But not half as much fun as mending the shed roof would have been, obviously.

Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof