Tag Archives: Frome Valley Walkway

The Ripening Hambrook Harvest

From Little Acorns....,Rocking Dog

From Little Acorns….

I escaped the kitchen and ALL that china for a brief while yesterday. I was surely succumbing to cabin fever or should that be soapy sud kitchen fever! Real Live Rocking Dog provides the perfect excuse to drop the tea towel and  get out on the Frome Valley walkways which hug our fortunate doorstep.

How lovely to walk in sunshine and have blue fluffy cloud skies as a gorgeous last day in July canopy. Along the walk there were burgeoning and ripening crops of sloes, bullace, elderberries and blackberries. I spied a particularly luscious crop of blackberries over a pennant stone wall. Alas, they were unattainable with the river a watery barrier. A host of birds and other wildlife will have a veritable feast with no humans able to access and pick this precarious crop. Other bird food is ripening ready for the colder less plentiful days of late autumn and winter. Haws, rosehip and holly will serve them well.

Family folklore suggests that my fathers maternal family may have been Huguenots. Have you ever witnessed how  many French folk behave on a beach, they are not sunbathing, they are not swimming .. they are foraging! They have pails and spades, nets and lines and going in search of lunch or to find bait to catch lunch! Mussels, whelks, coastal plants, shrimp and crab are simply not safe. I see ripening elderberries and think of their addition in a summer pudding, an apple pie or crumble, ice cube or stew. Sloes and bullace again are destined in my mind to immersion in vodka or gin. I love to use the bloated alcohol soaked berries in rocky road and in ice creams, sorbets and warming winter stews. Just maybe, yes maybe I indeed do have French foraging blood flowing in my veins!

I love the way the Italians celebrate and give thanks to every crop they harvest and every animal they hunt. There are ancient walled hilltop towns close to where we live in Umbria which annually celebrate the bread, the oil, the wine, the saffron, the wild boar, the sweet chestnut, and so on! In the spring we were treated to the most wonderful feast at the little village hall in “our” village. The valley was vibrantly yellow with Mimosa trees and so this tree was celebrated along with World Women’s Day. The men (with undoubtedly some help of the female kind in the background!) of the village cooked for the women. We sat down to plates of crostini followed by two pasta courses (one with a pork ragu sauce and the other a tomato sauce). Lamb, steak and locally produced sausages cooked on a wood fired brazier together with a delicious dressed salad came next. Finally a specially baked mimosa coloured iced cake was proudly bought out and served with Grappa. Throughout the meal we had bottles of very quaffable locally produced red wine and then it was time to dance. Bad dancing translates and is understood in whatever language you speak! The Macarena danced for the final time it was time to wearily and bloatedly stumble home. Each woman was presented with a branch of Mimosa as she left together with hugs and hearty “buona notte’s”. It was such a lovely multi generational community event and we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. We do not celebrate anything enough in this country and unfortunately unlike the Italians many British would not embrace a party encompassing all generations.

Back to walking along my favourite Hambrook walk (nicknamed “Mr Badger walk” because of an old sett along its route) the earth was littered with crops that hadn’t quite made it. Amongst the carpet of last years autumnal leaf fall there were conkers, beech masts and cobnuts lying like jewels. They had simply dropped before their time or had been slain by squirrels not willing to wait!

At the stile there was a solitary doe eyed cow with Bully the blooming big bull. I couldn’t help thinking “poor cow!” Perhaps she’ll have her very own harvest in the spring.

Very soon it was time to return to THAT china … but I felt so much better after a brief but wonderful nature filled sojourn.

 

Future Harvest,Rocking Dog

Future Harvest

Ditto!,Rocking Dog

Ditto!

Unattainable Harvest,Rocking Dog

Unattainable Harvest

Too Early....,Rocking Dog

Too Early….

...Too Late!,Rocking Dog

…Too Late!

One For The Pan,Rocking Dog

One For The Pan

Late Summer Harvest,Rocking Dog

Late Summer Harvest

Christmas Harvest,Rocking Dog

Christmas Harvest

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow,Rocking Dog

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow

If You Go Down To The Woods Today…

Reaching To The Sky,Rocking Dog

Reaching To The Sky

Most days walks with Real Live Rocking Dog take me along semi-wild woodland paths which closely hug the River Frome. I love witnessing the change of the seasons and the ever-changing flora and fauna.

Yesterday was mild and I was aware of the wonderful sound of birdsong. Spring really does feel as if it is on its way. There were huge splendiferous rugs of Snowdrops and budding Daffodils, Primroses, Violets and Celandines. In a month or two these wild blooms will be succeeded by carpets of bluebells and wild garlic. Later still there will be drifts of wild Foxgloves, Cow Parsley and Himalayan Balsam

On yesterdays’ walk I loved the towering bare branched trees reaching into the still grey winter skies. Such wonderfully dramatic silhouettes. Soon these giants will be cloaked with verdant lush greenery and provide nesting places for a variety of woodland bird species.

Dry stone walls were covered with impossibly green velvety moss and there were cascades of ferns tumbling down the Pennant stone “cliffs”. Everything really seems to be sparking into life, I just wish the mud would finally subside!

 

Rocking Dog Huddle tonight 7-9 at the kennel. Look forward to seeing you.

Whose Home?,Rocking Dog

Whose Home?

Abandoned Pipe,Rocking Dog

Abandoned Pipe

Mossy Wall,Rocking Dog

Mossy Wall

Cheery Celandines,Rocking Dog

Cheery Celandines

Snowdrop Rug,Rocking Dog

Snowdrop Rug

Wild Violets,Rocking Dog

Wild Violets

Primrose,Rocking Dog

Primrose

More Trees,Rocking Dog

More Trees

Tired Real Live Rocking Dog,Rocking Dog

Tired Real Live Rocking Dog

An Archive Post By Default!

It's Hot Cross Bun Time!, Rocking Dog

It’s Hot Cross Bun Time!

On Saturday evening we headed out to the Souk Kitchen, Apsley Road. After parking the car I attempted to shut the car door. After three attempts I realised there could just perhaps be something preventing it closing properly. DOH! it was my camera. The irreparable damage to said camera has made me resort to archive pictures today.

So no pictures of all the delicious food we ate at The Souk i’m afraid. Lovely memories however of eating soft shell crab, flatbreads, taramasalata, Halloumi with mango, Merguez Sausage and houmous. Our party of four skipped main courses, but of course could not resist something sweet. Delicious.

Spring is still trying to desperately struggle through the cheek nipping cold. On Friday I went to blow away the cobwebs on The Downs with Real Live Rocking Dog. This green lung is Bristol’s answer to Central Park. Snow, sun and the wind buffeted me across the green frosty expanse. The views along the Avon Gorge were magnificent, and Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge looked resplendent in the glinting sunshine. Large hawks soared above the gorge enjoying the warming thermals and I briskly moved on, trying to find my own warmth!

In the garden, snowdrops, hellebores and primroses are all peeping through. I am a warm weather gardener and I sadly haven’t yet been tempted to get out there digging.

The cold outside invites thoughts for warming food inside. With generous stashes of Hot Cross Buns in the shops what could be lovelier than a Bread & Butter Pudding using these seasonal buns (click on link for the Rocking Dog recipe). Of course out of season brioche slices or buns could be used, and at Christmas what could be more festive than using Panettone (perhaps with a dollop or two of mincemeat and candied peel).

Tomorrow I am on a mission to walk along part of the Frome Valley Walkway to find wild garlic. It is also known as Bear’s Garlic, Devils Garlic, Gypsy’s Onions, and Stinking Jenny (I wonder who poor Jenny was!) Oldest daughter is recipe testing for Abel & Cole and needs a supply of this pungent leaf. If my mission is successful a large bundle will be making its way by rail on Wednesday evening. The leaves of this seasonal crop are useful for making soups, pesto, and in tarts and casseroles. I can’t say i’m fond of eating it, but I adore seeing it’s pretty starry white flowers in its shaded woodland habitat.

I hope you are enjoying the first glimpses of spring whilst hopefully staying warm and cosy.

Hellebores, Rocking Dog

Hellebores

Primrose Place, Rocking Dog

Primrose Place

Snowdrops, Rocking Dog

Snowdrops

Follow Me For..., Rocking Dog

Follow Me For…

 Wild Garlic, Rocking Dog

Wild Garlic

Cobweb Blowing, Rocking Dog

Cobweb Blowing

The Mistletoe Has Been & Gone!

Starry Bunch, Rocking Dog

Starry Bunch

A beautiful couple tied the knot on Saturday. Unbelievably they gave me free licence with choice of flowers and plant material for a wedding arch, hurricane lamp frouing and fifteen table vases. Brave folk!

I hope the photo’s in today’s blog give you a taste of my foray into floristry. The arch evolved with several voyages out onto the Frome Valley Walkway and Rocking Dog garden for armfuls of ivy. As time went on I became very picky about type of leaf etc..! Wired on to the metal frame together with battery operated fairy lights (Wilko) this formed the basis of my woodland arch. White frame covered, I wired in young eucalyptus and variegated ivy to form a bower. Hours passed. The arch was transported in three sections to the venue by two burly chaps. Job done.

Dawn arrived and after another trip to the St Philips Flower and Fruit market I filled glass tanks with mistletoe, eucalyptus, and limey green and white parrot tulips. In place of Oasis to support the arrangement I tucked lime halves into the vases. Hurricane lamp bases were arranged with sprigs of mistletoe and I loved them for their simplicity.

At the venue The Rodney Hotel, Clifton, I got back to the arch. I secured more ivy to disguise the section joins, added a cloud of mistletoe to the bower and hung further clumps from the arches’ frame. A generous bunch of mistletoe was hung from the inside of the arch ready for the “You May Kiss The Bride” moment, and silvery glints were added with mercury heart baubles. The crowning glory was a gilded pear. I Pritt-sticked (yes really!) a Conference pear before applying sheets of gold leaf, gently patting down the flakes with a paint brush. The fairy lights were switched to gentle twinkle mode and then it was time for me to simply vanish!

Life continues to be stressful, but those hours of wiring, arranging and florally improvising were quite therapeutic. I was sad that the claw-foot bath was looking quite desolate without its burgeoning mistletoe display, and sad that there was NO mistletoe left! But then….hallelujah… a bunch had been left behind by the front door. It was time for my doors to be adorned with a mistletoe spray. Gingham ribbon and some metal stars added some glory to my simple door decorations. The Christmas decorating is slowly gathering pace and I can play you know who without any guilt whatsoever!

Woodland Wedding Arch, Rocking Dog

Woodland Wedding Arch

Gilded Pear, Rocking Dog

Gilded Pear

Mercury Heart, Rocking Dog

Mercury Heart

Parrot Tulips In The Mix, Rocking Dog

Parrot Tulips In The Mix

Romantic Chalkboard, Rocking Dog

Romantic Chalkboard

Romantic Hurricane, Rocking Dog

Romantic Hurricane

Spring Along The Frome Valley Walkway

Fleeting Blueness, Rocking Dog

Fleeting Blueness

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Extract from Spring. Gerard Manley Hopkins

We are truly fortunate to live literally on the Frome Valley Walkway. The walkway stretches for 29km and runs from the centre of Bristol through to the base of the Cotswold Hills.

I love walking various stretches of it everyday with Real Live Rocking Dog. Each season brings with it an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Spring has come bursting in with a carpet of pungent wild garlic and Bluebells. Ferns are slowly unfurling with the warmth of dappled sunlight, and vibrant Kingcups enjoy their drying bogland. Inevitably the change in season will bring with it Himalayan Balsam and Wild Foxgloves and Cow Parsley.

I came upon a truly spectacular fungi yesterday. It was quietly growing on a fallen tree, with some of it’s rust coloured discs the size of dinner plates. It was so perfect.

Wildlife includes frequent sightings of the surreally lapis blue Kingfisher, Squirrels, Damsel flies, Moorhens and Coots. Less frequently we have been delighted to spot Herons, Deer, Freshwater crayfish and recently a weasel.

Most mysteriously for the last three years there has been a large white rabbit in a field close to the walkway. It all feels a bit Alice in Wonderland … but I celebrate the fact that he (she) continues to survive despite a serious lack of camouflage!

Walk This Way, Rocking Dog

Walk This Way

Blubell'd Glade, Rocking Dog

Blubell’d Glade

Wild Garlic, Rocking Dog

Wild Garlic

Magnificent Fungi, Rocking Dog

Magnificent Fungi

Dunking Ducks, Rocking Dog

Dunking Ducks

Wild Cherry, Rocking Dog

Wild Cherry