There is an 18 mile walking route called the ‘Octagon Way’ that takes in all eight churches, however this month’s trek splits this route in two for a much shorter circular walk visiting the four most northerly of the churches
Park up in the ancient village of Compton which is situated on the B2146, south of Petersfield. Apparently, Compton was mentioned in the will of Alfred the Great and was left to his nephew. St Mary’s Church can be found on a wooded slope at the eastern edge of the village. The church which is the first to visit of the parish which was mostly rebuilt in 1849-51 but still retains the 12th century north arcade and chancel arch. Take the footpath between the church and school up towards Telegraph Hill, standing at 160m the hill was used between 1822 & 1847 by the Admiralty as the site for a semaphore station that formed part of a chain of many such stations linking the Navy in Portsmouth to Whitehall in London, in good conditions messages could be sent in eight minutes, far quicker than any other means of the time.
The path from here gently undulates with views towards Apple Down (site of a 5th century burial ground) before rising up to the remote St Michael’s Church in the hamlet of Up Marden. This beautiful church was built in the 12th century and has been virtually untouched, it has no electricity or water and was voted one of Britain’s most favourite churches in 2013. On the walls inside the church some 13th century paintings have been discovered and preserved, one clearly seen as a male saint with a staff, most likely to be St Christopher.
Head out of the hamlet eastwards on the footpath that descends a steep wooded slope and across fields to St Peters Church that overlooks a small green and well at the crossroads in East Marden. Parts of the church are 13th Century but the building has had a few additions over the years. On the north wall of the nave can be found a millennium tapestry depicting the rural life of East and North Marden. The organ is unique in that it is said to have belonged to Prince Albert and was brought to the church from St James Palace in the 19th Century. Also at the crossroads is the well head, a wooden structure with a conical thatched roof that stands over the well and 18th century pump, the well was the sole source of drinking water until 1924.
Head out past the pond, across more rural farmland and on to St Marys Church in North Marden. This is the most northerly and remotest church in the Octagon Parish, it is 12th century and features a Caen stone doorway, that was probably shipped across the Channel to Chichester Harbour. After admiring the view head on the path downhill that passes Edgar Plantation to Bevis’s Thumb, a 60m neolithic long barrow that is approx 1.8m deep and was named after a fabled local giant. According to legend, Bevis threw his sword from the parapet of Arundel Castle to mark the spot where he should be buried and the sword landed here at Bevis’s Thumb.
A short walk on the path that follows the contours of Compton Down takes the route back to Compton, where some well deserved tea and cake can be enjoyed in the village shop and tea room.
A 14 km (8.5 miles) linear walk from Chichester to West Stoke taking in Ashling Park Vineyard.
In the past i have walked many of the LDPs around west sussex, created a route from London to Portsmouth that follows the line of the canal’s which we called ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ and now it’s time to create a new trek. West Sussex has more vineyards than any other county in the UK and what better a trek to do than to try and link them all up, hopefully visiting each vineyard to see how operate and taste their wines, which i can then feature as part of my blog. It will cover over 290km (180 miles) and include over 20 vineyards and many great features of West Sussex.
The first section is a hike of 14km (8.5 miles) with many contrasts, after starting in the city centre, it passes through water meadows and finishes in aromatic bluebell woods. It’s a long, mainly flat linear walk, however much smaller walks can be enjoyed exploring the water meadows and Stoke woods as both have many footpaths and access routes.
We parked up in West Stoke and after a short walk to the bus stop we caught the bus to chichester, timing was crucial here as as buses are every two and a half hours, not one to miss. The trek i have decided officially starts and finishes in the centre of Chichester at ‘The Cross’, just thought it was a good point in the county town of Sussex. The elaborate 15th century Market Cross in the centre of Chichester is built of Caen stone, this structure replaced the previous wooden cross that had been erected on the same site, it was used as a market place giving the poor people of Chichester somewhere to sell their wares. PK wanted a chocolate bar and ended up traipsing around Chichester trying to find one, a slight delay at the start which i will remind him of later.
From the cross head out via West Street, a busy street that passes the 11th century cathedral. The 84m tall spire has been a landmark for sailors for many years as it can be seen for miles across the flat marshlands and is in fact the only medieval cathedral that can be seen from the sea. It is well worth spending some time looking around the building, the bell tower and its grounds.
West street finishes by a roundabout, cross over and keep going straight which now takes you through a suburban residential area with some fine houses. Cross the railway via the bridge and pass under the main A27, which leads into Fishbourne, a small village that in AD43 was invaded by the romans.
Cross the old A27 and down a footpath past a house with two sculptures in the garden and the landscape changes immediately from urban to meadows. Now silted over the water meadows was once the old roman harbour and is now an AONB and part of the Chichester Harbour. An exceptionally clear stream ‘The Fishbourne’ meanders through the flat surroundings of the meadows along with many other water courses, springs and Mill Leats. This is an area abundant with wildlife, from flora and fauna to a large swan guarding a newly laid egg on it’s nest amongst other wildfowl that can be seen as the route follows the top end of Chichester harbour through reeds higher than many a person before emerging at the waters edge of the Fishbourne Channel with views across to Dell Quay. (Spring tides at this point may mean route is not accessible). The wind here was quite a strong southwesterly.
After a short walk along the waters edge the route heads inland, at this point we have been heading away from any vineyards, but a route that is really good and varied nonetheless. A mixture of quiet roads and paths takes us through some very fertile arable fields situated on the rural outskirts of Bosham where many different salad crops and vegetables are grown. We headed north towards Broadbridge at the old A27, crossed the railway and then the new A27 via a bridge and it’s quite something watching the traffic hurtle past underneath on their daily business whereas we are enjoying the peace of a coast and countryside trek.
North of the main roads we headed a short way along the road before leaving on a path that leads past a house and into a meadow which borders some private copses, the path is well signposted and soon enters the woods, you can’t leave the trail here as taping through the trees prevents you from wandering into the woods, these woods are very sparse on the ground with little growing in them, it looks like they are currently being managed.
The path exits the woods and cross dairy cow farmland to East Ashling, near to where we caught the bus. After about 100m turn down Sandy Lane which heads towards West Ashling. The road soon comes to an end and through a small alleyway we are led into another arable field which the farmer has kindly left the path marked very distinctively and easy to follow. At the far end of the field you might think you are at an ancient ceremonial site with some large stones arranged in a circle in the grounds of a horse trainers, not sure if they are just a modern piece of sculpture or of more historical interest.
We meet Southbrook Road and head north past ‘Ashling Park’ the first vineyard on this mammoth trek, as we walk along the road we catch glimpses of the vines through the trees, there is no public right of way through this beautiful estate, so i had to return for a visit after contacting the Managing Director Gail. The gates automatically opened and on driving up to West Ashling House the vines could be clearly seen in their regimented rows. What an incredible setting for a vineyard in a lovely sheltered position that is only 3 miles from the sea, with some of the best weather in Sussex and soil perfect for growing grapes, you can certainly understand why their wines are award winning. We met Gail at the house that was once owned by Lord Portal who was second in command to Lord Churchill, unspoilt this place would have certainly seen some history. Gail really welcomed us to the estate and offered us a glass of their award winning cuvee, this sparkling white has stood out from 16,000 other wines to finish in the top 10 with a Gold medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards and i have got to say that i can see why, it was a lovely wine, fruity with a clean finish and i could certainly imagine enjoying this in the countryside with a great picnic. Gail showed us the plans for the visitor centre and lodges (designed by William Hardie from TV’s Amazing Spaces) which are set to be opened in October this year. The plans that have undergone much scrutiny by the national park and have been designed with the environment at the forefront, they will most definately be an asset to the park. The luxury lodges will all have a view of the vines or lake and the visitor centre will allow Ashling Park to showcase their wines, vines, carry out tastings & tours of the vineyard and have special events such as pop up restaurants. Gail was very excited of these future plans and i got to admit it is an idealyc setting among the 50 acres of Ashling Park. The sun was shining, so we couldn’t leave without a tour of the vines. Firstly we saw their latest Baccus vines that have only just been planted, standing at only a few inches tall it is incredible to think that in a few years these will be producing grapes for a still white wine. Walking through the vines that have been planted in the converted hay meadows, Gail explained who worked there and how looking after the vines is a family affair, her children also getting involved with the weeding and bottle labelling. The care and attention that they all give to the vines means that they could know each plant almost by name and are always to be sure to get the most from each plant. As we headed back to the house we got caught in a short sharp shower, however it did not dampen a great afternoon that we had had with Gail, she is a lovely person that will be a great host to all the future plans and i certainly look forward to revisiting once they have all been completed. For more information and to be able to purchase their wines please visit www.ashlingpark.co.uk or you can follow their progress on facebook.
The last part of the walk takes us into the ancient woodland of Ashling and Stoke Wood and we are soon met with the sweet aroma of bluebells as they carpet the forest floor, what a great time to walk through these woods and see the beauty of these delicate flowers. The soil of this woodland has been under tree cover and leaf litter for hundreds of years and in the spring a mist of blue can be seen on the forest floor with vast broadleaf and conifer trees emerging upwards from the hue. A lot of these woods are private but a good network of paths means the best of the area can be explored. Detours around these woods can be made, but only by keeping to public footpaths to see the flowers in all their glory. After taking many pictures it was time to head back to the car and find a pub for some well deserved refreshment. A quick check on the map with the compass ensures we take the right path, much to PK’s annoyance as he likes to use his phone app and find where we are quicker; at which point i did remind him that we could have been in the pub now if he hadn’t taken so long trying to find that Bounty chocolate bar in the centre of Chichester………..
A 12.5km (8 mile) linear walk along the coast from Bognor Pier to Littlehampton’s West Pier.
A great walk to be had on a lovely sunny day arriving in time to see the sun set over the shimmering sands of West Beach.
Bognor pier opened in 1865 and has been a significant icon for the town, in it’s heyday it would have entertained locals & tourists alike and during the war it served as a Royal Navy observation station nicknamed HMS Barbara, it was manned with anti aircraft guns that shot down a German bomber in February 1943. A memorial to this can be seen in front of the pier. Unfortunately in 1964 storms damaged the end of the pier causing the pavilion to collapse beyond repair.
Head east from the pier along the promenade and you’ll see a handful of traditional fishing boats and lobster pots ready for the next catch. Continue along the promenade to just past Butlins, where Longbrook can be explored, with exercise machines for toning up and the Aldingbourne Rife for the opportunity to spot some wild fowl. The eastern side of Longbrook has a memorial to a Hampden bomber that crashed here in 1942, it took off from Rutland to bomb Dortmund in Germany but for unknown reasons crashed on the way. Just behind the sea wall of Longbrook can be seen the railway bungalows, these carriages would have originally come from old rolling stock of the ‘London Brighton and South Coast Railway’ in 1918. The majority of carriages have been built around, however original features are still evident on some. Apparently the residents kept a dinghy under their carriages as the area frequently flooded.
Continue along the promenade to the end and take the short muddy track to the greensward at the end of Sea Lane. The breakwater known as Hannah’s Groyne marks the border between Felpham & Middleton and in 1795 was the site of a signal station built by order of the Admiralty to maintain a watch against potential french invasion, an ideal location that had great sight lines out to sea and along the coast, it was run by Royal Navy Lieutenants with staff of up to three men. The station along with Middleton church that was nearby have long been lost to the sea.
If the tide is out you can continue the walk along the sands otherwise a slight detour inland will be required before rejoining the beach near Elmer.
Walk along the path on top of the sea defence that is protecting the land behind, once known as Elmer Pool this area regularly flooded and was a fishery for eels.
Just past the large rock breakwater you’ll need to take extra care as the the concrete sea defences have fallen away along with a large chunk of the farmers field due to coastal erosion, at low tide you can make out the flint wall and foundations of a building that stood in the field. Cudlow a small port in the Middle Ages and the hamlet of Islham situated near here succumbed to the waves and were washed away in the 17th Century. A few cottages of Atherington remain and this hamlet would have been twice the size before it was also besieged by the sea.
The last part of the walk takes in the 30m high sand dunes of West Beach, one of only a few undeveloped coastal areas of sussex that has been designated as an area of special scientific interest as it has much wildlife including some rare sand lizards. West Pier is at the end of West Beach and marks the entrance to the River Arun.
Not a trek that you would immediately think of but one that takes in some interesting ‘off the beaten track’ places. Starting at Flansham we walked along the newly constructed cycle track towards Littlehampton. This seems to have taken so long and such a relief that it is now finished as it certainly caused some traffic delays in it’s construction.
We passed the 150 acres of Rookery Egg Farm that has been providing organic free range eggs locally for over 20 years and you’ll see some of the many chickens scratching about in the field, a little parched at the moment from the hot summer but the birds look happy enough.
We continued on the noisy cycle path with quite a few lorrys thundering by and then crossed the road to enter Worms Wood, a 33 acre woodland area with oak, ash, maple and birch trees that were planted in early 2000 as part of the ‘Woodlands Trust Woods on Your Doorstep’ project. It is now well established with the broad leaved trees flourishing to provide a true woodland feel. We headed through the centre of the wood, but many a time i have been through these woods and taken one of the many tracks to further explore amongst the trees. The wooden bench commemorating the millennium is situated in the central glade and here we saw some rather large rabbits running around. The wood also has an abundance of flora and fauna and last year we took a guided walk and discovered so much more.
We left the wood via the gate onto Larksfield, our first house looked over this field and looking back many memories were made here, the trees on the field have really matured too reaching quite a height, mind you we did move out 22 years ago. We headed towards Yapton Road and couldn’t believe that the small farm where we used to get some eggs and occasionally vegetables too was overgrown, derelict and all boarded up, such a shame.
We crossed the road and followed Ancton Lane eastwards passing many cattle fields and the old Ancton House Hotel which was built in the 17th century as a farm but is now a private residence. Just round the corner from here we turned into Sunnymead Close and walked to the end where there is a small Twitten into Elmer woods, a long elongated established wood that is nestled between farmland and residential estates, we took the path through the centre of the woods being careful not to fall over the mounds that local children have built for jumps on their bikes. At the far end we crossed over Grevatts Bridge which spans the deep Ryebank rife, an artificial channel which once flowed west and east linking two streams and forming the border between Middleton and Yapton. On leaving the wood we followed the edge of the wheat field, through waist high grass to the A259 (thank goodness i took a hay fever tablet), evidence of the old road can clearly be seen at this point, we then crossed over and headed through the lettuce fields towards Bilsham, the ground was exceptionally dry and the farmers had gigantic reels gradually pulling a water sprayer back across the fields, we tried to work out how long each would take to get across the field and decided that it would be several hours, i hasten to add we didn’t hang around to see if we were right. The land here is designated by DEFRA as grade one agricultural, so is of great importance for the growing of food such as potatoes, salad crops, and wheat.
Just after the allotments we got to Yapton Road, we followed for a very short way before crossing over and entering the hamlet of Bilsham by the old chapel, now a private residence but once the chapel at Bilsham consisted of a single undivided space that was originally built of flint with sandstone in the 14th century, and served as a chapel until 1551 after which it was used as cottages and storage.
From Bilsham pass through more prime agricultural land to Whetstone Bridge which also crosses the Ryebank Rife, but here the river is much bigger and has a lot more water in, swans and ducks can often be seen here paddling their way through the green weed but no such luck for us as only the remains of a trail could be seen in the weed. At this point the Bilsham Solar Farm is in full view with the bright sun reflecting off the panels. If you follow the edge of the field to the north you’ll come across an information board that explains that the Farm was built in 2014 on land that is situated between the Lidsey and Ryebank Rife. The developer worked with environmental specialists to ensure that the wildlife unique to the area can thrive here and on the site was also found some Bronze Age artefacts which suggested that there may have been a settlement here too. In 2016 the farm produced 16221 MWh of power which is the same amount to power 4000 homes.
We headed back to Flansham through the meadows and brook lands and these would suggest that the second part of the hamlet of Flansham’s name means ‘meadow’ (hamm) rather than ‘settlement’ (ham).
A chapel of ease also once stood in Hoe Lane and by 1547 it had fallen into ruins the foundations discovered indicate a building similar to Bilsham chapel, i believe that tis is likely to be in the rear of someones garden. A further short walk from here brought us back to where we started in Flansham.
The fact that the egg farm is based here suggested that i should do a recipe with eggs and what better way to celebrate the humble brown oval than with a Spanish Omelette that i have been meaning to make for ages.
1 red onion
Mixed roasted pepper
5 large free-range eggs
Salt & Pepper
Peel the potatoes and cut into thin slices. Parboil the potatoes until just soft, drain and leave the steam to dry them
Finely slice the onion, then drizzle some oil into a small frying pan and over a medium heat fry the onion until soft, then add the potato.
Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, season with a tiny pinch of salt and black pepper, then whisk together with a fork.
Remove onions and potatoes from the pan and carefully tip them into the eggs. Transfer the mixture back into the frying pan and place over a low heat for around 20 minutes, or until there’s almost no runny egg on top.
Slightly lift and loosen the sides of the tortilla and carefully flip over in the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
Turn out the tortilla onto a serving board and cut into 6 wedges.
A 10km (6 mile) circular walk from Arlesford, the watercress capital of England and around the beautiful Hampshire countryside.
We started the trek by having a look around Arlesford Station on the preserved heritage railway known as ‘The Watercress Line’. The station was open but unfortunately no trains were running today, apart from a couple of diesels that they were restocking with beer ready for the ale train that would be running later in the week. The Mid Hants railway started in 1865 and was intended to link Alton with the main route from London to Southampton, the line was in full service for 108 years, playing an important role in both wars before it was closed in 1973. It has since been restored and is now a successful visitor attraction.
We left the station and headed to Broad Street in the centre of this beautiful Georgian town, that for many years was a prosperous wool town and is now the UK’s capital for watercress. Before we turned off of Broad Street and headed to the watercress beds we caught sight of the tiny old fire station that was built in 1882 to originally house a horse drawn fire engine.
At the northern end of town we took the Wayfarers Way trail to the tranquil River Arle, with it’s crystal clear waters and gently wavering riverbed plants that can have you memorised for ages. We continued for a short way along the river and came to ‘Fulling Mill’ that dates from the 13th century, it was built to make the fulling of cloth easier and for many centuries the hammering of the fulling stocks would have been heard as they tightened and shrunk cloth into a closely woven product. The mill was disused in the early 19th century when larger mills took over this process. We crossed the river at the mill and headed towards Old Arlesford passing the first watercress beds of the trek, some empty and presumably resting whilst others were a sea of vibrant green as the watercress is coming into full bloom.
Just on the outskirts of Old Arlesford we headed east on quite a defined bridlepath through the bright yellow fields of rape. With a slight incline we followed this path all the way to Abbotstone, the site of an old medieval village. The distinct ridges in the ground indicate where the village once stood and the few trees standing eerily amongst the mounds could probably tell a story or two.
We joined a minor road here which led us through this tiny hamlet with its many river tributaries and we then headed up to ‘Itchen Stoke Down’. After climbing for some time we were due for a well earned break and at the cross paths near the top we decided to stop and to take in the varied wildlife such as the yellow tipped butterfly, cowslip growing in the path edges and kites hovering above, looking for their next meal. I also tucked into a pink kitkat that i bought earlier, which was made from the new rose chocolate. We took in and admired the great views across the Hampshire countryside to the edges of Winchester where the white domes of the science museum could be picked out too. The raised mounds of the tumuli in the surrounding fields that are known as Itchen Stoke Down Barrows were also clearly visible too.
Continuing on the Wayfarers Way we then headed back down towards Arlesford passing further watercress beds before reaching the River Arle again, where wildfowl such as ducks with their ducklings and little egrets were going about their business. We also met up with a swan that albeit behind a fence was very grand in it’s demeanour.
We strolled along the banks back towards the town, passing the ‘Eel House’ that straddles the river. Built in the 1820’s its purpose was on dark moonless nights between August and November to trap mature eels at the start of their amazing migratory journey to the sargasso sea. For more than 160 years the river keepers would catch the eels in nets and sell them live to merchants from billingsgate market. It was only a short walk back from here through the town and past the church to the station that completed this months trek.
This months recipe is inspired from the fresh watercress that was seen growing in the fields.
Cook the pasta following pack instructions. Meanwhile, put the watercress and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and blend for a few secs until finely chopped. Add the grated cheese, half the almonds, the olive oil, lemon juice and sugar. Season well, then blend until you have a smooth purée consistency.
When the linguine is cooked, drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan and pour over the pesto, using a little pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Stir everything together and divide between 2 bowls. To serve, top with the shaved cheese and remaining almonds.
A circular walk of 9km (5.6 miles) in a lesser known part of the Duke of Norfolk’s Estate just outside of Arundel.
The walk starts by passing by Waterwoods Cottages situated either side of ‘The Waterwoods’, which is on the roundabout between the A27 and A284 (Be really careful how you cross here as these roads are exceptionally busy at times). The tarmac drive heads away from Arundel through a picturesque valley with high wooded banks to the south, with big reveals that look like they may have been landslips in the past, opening up the chalky ground allowing some wild garlic to grow amongst the exposed roots of the trees. Further on the lakes of Chalk Springs trout fishery are visible to the right and a few anglers are seen on the banks, one trying to land his catch. We popped into the fishery so that Tim could pick up ‘The Informer’ and after flicking through the pages proudly showed us a picture of himself with a large trout as he often fishes here and brings back a few trout. The chalk springs trout fishery is fed from a spring that emerges through the chalky downs and originally had only two lakes. It was created in 1984 on what was the old watercress beds, the alkaline and mineral rich waters would have provided a great environment for growing watercress. Chalky spring water also has copious amounts of invertebrate for the trout to feed on and since the fishery opened a couple more lakes have been added whereby giving fly fishing anglers more variety to catch trout in the crystal clear spring waters. For the non anglers and with advance notice fresh trout can be netted and bought here.
Continuing along the drive it starts to steadily climb up hill and go further into the woods on a path that suddenly become very muddy following the recent rainful, time for a bit of dodging the puddles and balancing on the strategically placed branches. The woods were not that deep and we were soon emerging into open downland. We followed the edge of a field that seemed to have pens set out for breeding pheasant in ready for the new season. Following this path took us into sherwood rough, a forest that has been extensively cut back, but is evident that it is sustainable and managed as new trees had been planted. Walking through here you can also see across a small valley and it was so reminiscent of a prehistoric britain, it just seemed so unspoilt and you could imagine a large velociraptor appearing from the trees (our imaginations running wild here i think!). Trekking further upwards and looking over our shoulders we had some great views back to the coast with rampion wind farm standing proud in the sea.
Both Sherwood Rough and Dalesdown Woods have had medieval settlements that have been discovered in these woods and although archaeological digs have taken place here, little information could be found on them. The official footpath through this wood can easily be missed as there are many tracks and fire breaks here too, so the good old trusty map and compass were put to really good use.
As we were approaching Fairmile Bottom Nature Reserve more and more Yew trees were becoming apparent with their mangled branches all inter twining with each other and now giving a very different feel to britian, one of a more mystical nature. The Yew trees led us up to Yew Tree gate on the edge of Fairmile Bottom and if we had headed straight down the hill from here it would have led us to where an old cafe once stood. The wooden Fairmile cafe was first mentioned in 1939 by a local resident from Madehurst and it became a very well known landmark with those on their travels stopping here for a brew and cake. Unfortunately the cafe was closed and demolished in 2000, however it has since been re-assembled to its full glory at the Amberley Working Museum and is once again serving teas, coffees and cakes.
We found a path that was fairly straight at the top of Rewell Hill and tracked it through the woods that also contained many yew trees amongst the dense beech woodland, it was great to see the occasional marsh orchid amongst this wooded landscape too. After a short way we dropped down the hill to the open grazing land of the Fairmile Bottom, the yew trees here had been fenced off due to their toxicity to any cattle that grazed this land. Looking up at the woodland it was fascinating to see the many contrasting colours of green amongst the trees, from the fresh new leaves of spring to the hard dark spines of the yew trees, spring seems a great time to visit this reserve as many yellow cowslips were in full bloom.
After walking through the open grassland we headed back up the hill through what seems a tunnel of yew trees to the top of Rewell Hill, where we were met with a lovely array of blue bells with their misty blue haze on the forest floor and delightful aromas floating in the air.
We passed through Rewell Wood, another area of managed forest that also has patches of open land where trees once stood and that have since been cut back, distant blue bells added a hue of blue on this desolate forest floor. After passing Rewell House we were soon back in open downland and being rewarded with some fine views to the coast overlooking Bognor, Littlehampton and beyond to Worthing. The spire of the Arundel Cathedral could also just be made out at the distant end of the path that we were following.
We dropped back into the woods that are above chalk springs and followed the path back to Waterwoods Cottages where we started, passing a few more patches of wild garlic on the way.
The recipe for this months trek has been inspired from both the smell of wild garlic in there air and trout from Chalk Springs.
Trout Fishcakes with Wild Garlic Salsa Verde
For the Fishcakes:
400g Cooked Chalk Springs Trout, flaked and bones removed
300g Mashed Potato with milk
3 Spring Onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp Dill
Zest of 1 Lemon with juice of half
For the Salsa Verde:
1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp handful Kalamata Olives
4 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tbsp wild garlic leaves, chopped (or Chives if out of season)
1 – 2 tbsp red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp French mustard
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Make the salsa verde by roughly chopping the parsley, wild garlic (chives), garlic, olives, capers and cornichons then mix all together. Then put into a large bowl and add the mustard, extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
For the fishcakes; mash the potato with a dash of milk in a large bowl then add the trout, chopped spring onion, lemon zest & juice, dill and parmesan cheese and thoroughly mixc. Add salt & pepper to test the seasoning, then leave mixture to cool. ]
Divide the chilled mixture into as many portions as required depending on the size of fishcake preferred.
Coat each cake in the flour then dip them in the egg and coat in the breadcrumbs. Fry the fishcakes in hot oil until golden brown and crisp.
Serve with a fresh asparagus salad and Nutbourne tomatoes.
A circular walk of 10km (6 Miles) celebrating Goodwood cheese and taking in two distinctive hills, ‘The Trundle’ with it’s fantastic views across Sussex and Levin Down, a nature reserve with some outstanding features in the landscape.
31st March 2018
Theres’s no tasting on today’s trek however the walk takes us to some beautiful parts of Sussex that Goodwood has named it’s cheeses after, namely Levin Down and Charlton.
Susan, Belinda, Tim & Kiah joined PK and i today for this months foodie trek and as a bit of a teaser we drove by Goodwood and down the hill that we were soon to be climbing back up, haha!
We parked on the street in Singleton, just outside the Partridge Inn and changed into my nice clean dubbed boots. Singleton is an anglo-saxon village nestled in the Lavant Valley amidst the hills of The South Downs National Park, it’s name comes from ‘sengal’ which means burn’t clearing, not sure why it is derived from that. We left the village passing through the churchyard of the Saxon church ‘Blessed Virgin of St Mary’ and then into Manor Farm for our first encounter with squidgy mud as we trudged through we each tried to pick the best route through with some sinking deeper than others in the mud. Clean boots no longer……doh!. Ahead of us now was the climb up to the ‘Trundle’, why do we put such a steep climb in straight away at the start of the trek.
I had my nordic poles with me today and found that they actually helped in walking up the hill as i could push on them with my arms too. As we ascended the hill we could see the weald and downland museum through the leafless trees to our right and the new downland gridshell building that has been built there. The ‘ Weald and Downland’ Museum started with a single building in 1968 and now 50 years on has over 50 buildings from the South East of England, each carefully dismantled and rebuilt in the museum. The museum has various themed days throughout the year and courses on rural trades & crafts. I have visited the museum on a few occasions and the food fare and christmas market they put on are great as the whole place comes alive and it’s very clever how exhibitors are placed around the site in the many buildings, i particularly enjoy seeing and tasting the food cooked over the open fires that would have once been eaten in the time of the old houses. Onwards and upwards with views to Goodwood Racecourse to our left.
The first steep part of the hill complete and after lots of puffing and panting it levels off a little and is now a gradual climb to the road and car park, the jokes about why didn’t we park here were so predictable, but funny all the same. From the car park it was another steep climb to to the top of the trundle, passing through the stiffest gate i have ever encountered, they must have hardcore sheep here, i made it into a good workout though. Onwards and upwards we were soon on the remnants of the fort walls on which we walked around the entire perimeter. The walk up was quite hot and now on top is quite cold in the breeze that’s blowing. The trundle also known as ‘St Roches Hill stands at 206m (676ft) and has a gentler climb from the south unlike the steeper climb we chose from the north. The Trundle is the site of an old iron age hill fort and the ditches/embankments can be clearly picked out and would have formed the fort walls, they are great to walk around. Apparently there was a chapel up here too, but there is no evidence of this here anymore. There was some fantastic views on the top over sussex and hampshire to the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth’s high buildings could be picked out of the slightly hazy distance and the Isle of Wight looms out from the sea.
From the Trundle we headed down to the road, and followed the outskirts of the world famous Goodwood racecourse that has held horse racing here since 1802, when the Third Duke of Richmond introduced horse racing to Goodwood for the benefit of the officers of the Sussex Militia. A detour into the woods of Goodwood Country Park would have been good here too.
At the far end of the racecourse we took the chalky track down through the managed forest of Charlton Park. We had loads to talk about and rather than set the map up i led the way down the wrong track, after heading down through the woods for a while, i suddenly realised that we should be by the side of the racecourse. PK took great delight in checking on his App to confirm that we were on the wrong path and then told all sorts of tales about how his app has saved the day……lol, (i still prefer the map and compass though). We now had to do a slight back track here as the talking was what made us go down the wrong path, something i was always telling the scouts about.
We set up the map at the paths junction and took the correct track this time that runs alongside part of the racecourse giving some great views down the track. This path eventually leads into Charlton, passing a memorial to the troops of the Sussex Yeomanry who served in WW1 and WW2. Albeit a small village Charlton has a number of surprising claims to fame, such as, the place where the first Women’s Institute in England held its inaugural meeting at ‘The Fox Goes Free Inn’ during the First World War and it also appeared as a fictional Scottish village called Tullock in the episode ‘Terror of the Zygons’ of Dr Who in 1975. We tried to eat lunch at the ‘Fox goes Free’ but found that they had no space for us as it was easter weekend and they were packed out. We decided to phone ahead top the partridge inn at singleton and continue on.
We left Charlton by road to the west and soon after head up ‘Levin Down’, a nature reserve that is managed by the West Sussex Wildlife Trust. Levin Down is covered in natural scrubby grassland, the landscape of this reserve is so different from the surrounding agricultural fields and is a site of special scientific interest. The name Levin Down is derived from ‘Leave Alone Hill’ which meant that the land was too steep to plough, whereby allowing an abundance of flora, fauna and wildlife to flourish here. It also has some great views looking out over Charlton, Singleton and Goodwood beyond. It was a muddy steep climb up to the reserve and due to the chill in the air we didn’t see much wildlife. We had been extremely lucky with the weather today and albeit a bit cold on the top of the trundle it was pleasantly mild otherwise. However on Levin Down looking out beyond the Lavant Valley we could see that Singleton was beginning to disappear into a haze of rain which was headed straight for us, the cloud must have been moving at some speed as shortly after it did indeed start to rain, however not too hard and also whilst we was on the descent to singleton.
We entered Singleton by the cemetery and school and just before us was the River Lavant in full flow, a great opportunity to wash some of the chalky mud from our boots. A short walk through the village and we were back at the car outside the Partridge Inn, so in we went for our meal that we had booked. The food here is really good and uses different ingredients, we all ate well and the ‘Red Bream, Fregola, Garlic Sauce & Nutbourne Tomatoes’ from the specials board was absolutely delicious.
This month i feel that a recipe is not required and that the three cheeses that Goodwood produces (Charlton, Levin Down and Molecomb Blue) which are all named after the locality, should be served quite simply on a cheese board with fresh fruit, crackers and a good homemade chutney. Enjoy!
Easy Level walk around Burton Mill and Chingford Ponds Nature Reserve
6.43km (4 miles)
Following a bout of flu and bad weather; this month was always going to be a challenge in getting a good hike in, so on my recovery i decided that it would be good to pick up on the foodie element of chocolate as a pick me up and then keep the miles down with a nice easy stroll around the nature reserve of Burton Mill and Chingford Ponds.
The day started by visiting Petworth Farmers Market and in particular Mike from Noble and Stace Chocolates. I was particularly interested in visiting his stall and tasting some of the chocolates as he uses local ingrediants in his chocolate to set them apart and make them unique, the great thing also is that some of the chocolate themes have been inspired from previous foodie treks i.e. edgcumbe coffee, blackdown distillery and Arundel brewery. Mike Noble makes quite a variety of handmade chocolates and each one made is a work of art not only in visual appearance but also taste, both created from the many processes that has gone into making just that single chocolate. We tasted the chilgrove gin along with a cream truffle and langhams beer chocolate, all were very smooth and subtle show casing the quality of the chocolate with just a hint of the special ingredient, my favourite of the day was the gin.
After stocking up on chocolate, dinosaur pasty and smoked salmon pate it was time to do a small trek so we headed south a few miles from Petworth and parked up at the Burton Mill Pond nature reserve which is managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. It was a beautiful day, there was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was shimmering on the ponds and the wind was not so raw here as we were sheltered by the trees, although the air temperature was only a few degrees above zero. These ponds really remind me of the lakes we visited in canada, both by the beauty of the setting but also the bogs that surround the ponds too.
We (Susan, Cookie and I) parked in the small car park next to Burton Mill, which is now a private home. A mill has been on this site since the 11th century, however in the 1700’s this area had a huge iron making industry, so the streams were dammed to form ‘Hammer Ponds’ that fed the water wheel in the mill whereby driving a hammer which was used to produce cannons for Spain. The current mill built in 1780 on the foundations of the old iron forge was used to mill flour up until late 1990’s. On leaving the car park you get your first glimpses of these beautiful ponds, however we started by following the nature trail signs and walking though the woods called Newpiece Moor to the the west of Burton Mill Pond. The walk through here was quite sparse today as it was a cold February day, the birch and alder that make up this wood were bare, at least the ground underfoot was hard. The path is relatively straight through this moor with marshland between the path and the pond. From the path a detour can be taken through the marshes to the waters edge to catch a glimpse of the many dragonflies and wildfowl that reside here.
At the far end of the moor we could see ‘Burton Park’, a large 19th century country house that has been a private residence up to the 2nd WW when it was requisitioned by the army, following the war it was used as a girls boarding school up to the 1980’s and then a police dog training centre before being converted into flats in the 1990’s. The trail does not immediately pass the house but is worth taking a small detour to see the norman church of St Richard, a grade one listed building that stands in the grounds. There were some giant chestnut trees too, that must be many hundreds of years old and have an incredible girth of over 10m.
We however continued on the signed trail passing Snipe Bog and through the small residential estate of Lodge Green. As we were approaching Chingford Pond the sound of running water can be heard from the dammed outlet that winds its way to Burton Mill Pond. After ascending a small embankment the beauty of this tranquil lake can be fully seen. The wild fowl were swimming quite happily on the icy cold water and the sun was glistening on the lake as it was low in the sky. When you here the word ‘pond’ you think of a small village pond where there are a few ducks and lillies, however both Burton Mill Pond and Chingford Pond are each approximately half a mile long, but quite narrow. The lake is passed at it’s narrow end and on leaving Chingford Pond the path soon drops down into ‘The Moor’, another small piece of woodland home to some very tall pine trees that have the smallest pine cones imaginable. The moor runs along the side of Burton Mill Pond and leads to Burton Pond Woods which is home to the acid peat bog called the ‘Black Hole’, we safely crossed via some restored boardwalks, however we didn’t see any dragonflies as it was too early in the year, perhaps a return visit is in order.
Shortly after crossing the boardwalks the woods finished and the land before us changed from the peaty bog to a much drier piece of heathland called Welch’s Common which lies just above the marshes, such a contrast with it’s drier acidic soil and heathland grasses. We ambled across the common but didn’t see any of the lizards or adders that reside here, on the far side we exited the common via a gate and decided to cut our trek shorter so did not carry on following the nature trail but joined the road instead which took us back to Burton Mill and where the car was.
The recipe this month is a chocolate orange mousse and is inspired by the chocolate that we tasted at the start of the day, the orange could be omitted from the recipe below and a Noble & Stace flavoured chocolate could be used instead giving the mousse a different subtle flavour
Chocolate Orange Mousse
200g of high quality plain chocolate
120ml Orange Juice
3 Large Eggs, separated
50g Caster Sugar
A few drops of orange extract
Place the chocolate and orange juice in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of just simmering water. Heat gently, stirring, until the chocolate is melted.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks and orange extract with a wooden spoon until well combined.
In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg whites with the sugar until stiff peaks form, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
Spoon the mousse into individual dishes and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Top with softly whipped cream, if desired.
My first blog of 2018 is a tough walk that tackles ‘The South Downs’ from the steeper north side. Parking up at Bury we headed off on the Literary Trail at the foot of the Downs towards West Burton, part of a long distance route that we followed last year. Shortly after starting we spotted a headstone just off the path in the wooded edge of a field, the stone was placed as a memorial to Fred Hughes; the farmer who owned Southview Farm below and his wife Winifred, what a great spot this is looking out over the farm he once run.
We continued on to West Burton a small village apparently dating back to Saxon times and is said to have had it’s water once supplied by a fresh spring emanating from the chalky downs. Heading south out of the village we started to ascend Westburton Hill, gradually at first and then in the wooded are making up part of ‘Egg Bottom Coppice’ the path became much steeper, certainly one for getting the heart pounding. The path circled around the steepest parts of the coppice, thank goodness, and after approximately 1km we met the South Downs way, took a few breaths then continued upwards.
As we neared the openness of the top of the downs we were met with a cold biting wind that numbed the chin, can’t complain too much as it is January after all. As we followed the South Downs way we passed Toby’s Stone near the top of Bignor Hill, the stone is made up of a few steps and is a horseman’s mounting block commemorating the huntsman James Wentworth-Fitzwilliam. As we descended slightly from Bignor Hill following the South Downs Way on looking south we could just make out the ridges of the ‘Barkhale Neolithic Camp’. It must have been tough living up here!
Bignor Hill car park is where ‘Stane Street’ crosses the downs, a roman road of 56 miles in length that once would have linked Noviomagvs (Chichester) and Londinium (London) in around 70AD. Today it is easily traceable on many maps by the straightness of some sections of the A29, A24 and A3 along with many straight bridleways. If drawing a line between London Bridge and Chichester Stane Street does not deviate any more the 6 miles from this direct route. Maybe a route to discover and blog in the future.
On leaving the car park we headed to the two masts at Glatting Beacon that can be seen from miles around and this was the highest point of the day at 245m above sea level. We then start to descend the downs between Scotchers Bottom and Glatting Hangar, which gradually descends first and then steepens as you enter the woods. We followed the bridleway down which was quite difficult to make out as the ground here was a carpet of leaves over a path that looked like it was not used very often. Some quite big rocks were hidden under this leafy path so watching the footing was really required here. After having descended about 120m through the woods and with the embankment on your left we came across many trees that had very recently fallen and blocked the path, probably in the recent ‘Storm Eleanor’. Luckily after PK scrambled over the the first of the fallen trees we were to take the easterly path down the side of Glatting Beacon. On passing through the woods many more trees had fallen and needed scrambling over. Here we crossed another spring from the south downs as it trickles it’s way down. On exiting the woods we crossed the field to Glatting Farm, not the easiest of walking as the ground here was very fertile soft mud which has a tendency to clog up on the bottom of the boots making our feet so much heavier, it was like we were wearing lead boots.
At Glatting Farm we stamped our feet and cleaned our boots in the puddles but to no avail as we were very shortly going to be crossing another field exactly same that would once again clog our boots up.
Since descending the summit we were beginning to feel hungry and had made several references as to what we’ll have for lunch in the pub, “pie was good, soup a good choice or even a bowl of hot stew” we would say as the hunger pangs set in, we then joked about how the chef was off or they just stopped serving food meaning we would have had no lunch. The pub we were headed for was the White Horse in Sutton another small village at the foot of the downs, which also has the springs running through. We picked up the Literary Trail and took the route between the houses into the village, a small section that we clearly remembered. Just as we approached the road we could see the pub and our shoulders drooped a little as it did not looking as inviting as it did when we stopped here in the summer, as it was covered in scaffolding and the windows were very dark……….our hearts sank as we read the sign on the door which said that it was closed until the spring due to refurbishment. We sat in the bus stop opposite with a look of sorrow on our faces thinking about what to do, i had only eaten an apple and tangerine on the hills (as i had eaten my emergency rations on a previous trek, not as an emergency but because they were going out of date and i had not replaced them…..lesson learnt!). PK had had his snickers bar on the hill and was now making suggestions of phoning a taxi to take us to The Cricketers in Duncton.
The atmosphere had now changed and with no lunch in our bellies we decided to head off in the hope that Bignor Roman Villa was open and we could maybe get some cake in their cafe. We therefore headed back on the path through the houses and across field following the Literary Trail towards Bignor. At Bignor we passed the Mill, the church and took the path towards the Roman Villa. The Bignor Roman villa is classed as a courtyard villa and houses some fantastic mosaics on the floor, apparently some of the most intricate in the country. The villa was discovered by George Tupper in 1811, George was a local farmer and was plough his fields when he struck the ‘Summer Dining Room Fountain’. It was then excavated by a local man from Bignor and has been open to the public since 1814, however today the Roman Villa was closed, so no cake and coffee for us. We carried on past the vineyards that are in front of the villa and in a great sheltered position being shielded by the downs. I was beginning to tire now and very much feeling the fact the i had had no lunch, i mean i did want to start a diet to shed some of the pounds i gained over christmas, but not this much of a diet….haha.
Just passed the villa we crossed ‘Stane Street’ again and passed Grevatt Wood. On reaching a minor road we new we were then nearing the farm shop where we would be able to get something to eat at last, but first we needed to get there, so we followed the road a short way and was to take the second path eastwards, first of all we thought we had walked past it, then back tracked and still couldn’t find it, PK got his OS App out and still it was not apparent so we had to back track to the first path east and head across the fields; which was to be the last little bit before reaching the farm shop and where we had parked. Even these last few fields were proving quite a challenge to us as they were so waterlogged.
Eventually we got to Southview Farm where they rear a lot of the meat and dairy that they sell in Charlie’s Farm shop. So i took my exceptionally muddy and wet boots off, hopefully not too smelly but really pleased that my feet were bone dry inside and went into the farm shop. The farm shop is now owned by Charlie and Sarah Hughes of Southview Farm and has a great selection of locally produced foods along with a butchery selling beef, pork and rose veal that are all reared on the farm. High on the walls of the shop can be seen images of old photos of Charlie’s ancestors including Fred Hughes working on the farm, i found these pictures extremely interesting particularly as we had seen the head stone of Fred Hughes earlier on in the walk. I really wanted some rose veal but unfortunately they had none available so i opted to buy some steak for dinner that night; which by the way was really delicious and tender, cooked simply to a medium rare. I also got some cheese straws and a donut for PK from their bakery to eat there and then.
A short walk from here back to the car and the end of a really good walk. The recipe this month is inspired by the meat sold at Charlies Farm.
Rose Veal with Butternut Waldorf Salad.
4 x 200g veal rump steaks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
450g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
170g plain Greek yogurt
80g cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Juicy and tangy apples, cored and chopped
3 Sticks of celery, chopped
170g Toasted walnuts
Mixed baby green salad leaves
Coat butternut squash in olive oil, season and roast the chopped rosemary until tender and slightly caramelising at the edges. Leave to cool.
To make the dressing lightly whisk the yoghurt, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, chives together and season to taste.
Put chopped apple, celery, butternut squash and walnuts in a bowl and lightly coat with the dressing. Set aside.
Preheat a griddle pan and season the veal, put a dash of olive oil on griddle with rosemary and cook the veal to your liking. Remember to leave it to rest after cooking.
To serve, diagonally slice the veal and arrange on plate with butternut waldorf salad and mixed green leaves.
The trek today is a little further afield and takes in Blackdown Hill the highest point in West Sussex along with some Christmas ‘Spirits’ at the end. Visible for some distance Blackdown in the Low Weald is geologically part of the greensand ridge and sits on the Sussex/Surrey border. The Greensand Ridge is a distinctive escarpment in south east England and is made up of mixed greensand/sandstone which is often wooded. It runs from the East Sussex coast, around the Weald, which was formerly a dense forest stretching across Sussex, Surrey and Kent. Then back to the far eastern end of the ridge which forms the northern boundary of Romney Marsh.
We parked up in the National Trust Car Park in Fernden Road, a small car parking space that will only take a few cars and started our trek by walking West through the woods along the road.
Shortly after starting out we pass Upper Blackdown Farm which was partly damaged on 4th November 1967 when a caravelle airliner plane owned by Iberian Airways crashed into the side of Blackdown Hill. The plane was on it’s way to Heathrow from Malaga in Spain and was bringing 30 tourists back from their holidays. It is thought that the crash was due to an error in reading the altimeter as the plane was on the correct flight path for Heathrow and the black box did not show up any technical faults. A memorial stone to the lives lost can be found in the Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey.
We continued along the road to the bend at Blackdown park and then headed north west, keeping the park wall to our left, after approximately 200m where the wall stops we took the footpath heading north east up the hill, this part of the trek was to be the steepest and with all the huffing and puffing i sounded like Darth Vadar going up the hill. A short stop half way to catch the breath and also get some sneaky peeks between the trees of the views to come. The ground under foot was very soft as it was a carpet of brown leaves that had fallen from the trees in the Autumn, this provided a cushion between us and the soggy mud underneath. After ascending 100 metres we reach the top and started to see the fabulous views ahead of us. We headed for the Temple of the Winds’ and sat on the stone curved bench that was put there to honour WE Hunter, who donated the land in 1948 as a memorial to his wife. The Hunters are remembered by an engraving into the stone seat. Apparently the ‘Temple of the Winds’ is named after a bronze age circular bank.
The views from here are absolutely awesome, the viewpoint is looking south and so many points could be picked out, the rolling south downs were very distinct . The day was so clear that through a valley in the downs you could see the blue hue of sea with the newly constructed Rampion Wind farm in the distance. To the East Gatwick airport was visible and on talking to a couple it is really good up there at night as you can see all the lights of the runway.
From here we headed north following the Serpents Trail along the plateau at the top of Blackdown Hill, the path through here is surrounded by heather, gorse and silver birch. We also saw the bog ponds albeit they were frozen over and in the warmer weather they are a haven for many dragonflies. We headed slightly off the path to find the triangulation point, so that we could officially say we had reached the highest point in Sussex. Then carried on through the beech Hangers; named such for the amount of beech trees in the area. Flint artefacts have been found at the top of Blackdown and show that there has been some sort of settlement on Black Down since the mesolithic period (c.6000BC), perhaps the name ‘Temple of the Winds’ was taken from one of these settlements.
Following the path along the top of this hill we were following in the footsteps of Tennyson who lived at Aldworth house and would walk these paths daily. Our route takes us right past his house but unfortunately only a few glimpses through the trees could be made as the property is not very visible or open to the public. This house was designed by Sir James Knowles for Lord Tennyson and built in 1869. It was occupied by Tennyson until his death. Tennyson died in the house on the 6 October 1892
Continue to follow the serpents trail along the top and look out for the path that heads downhill on the right (the one that we missed and walked straight past), i am all for the traditional map and compass, whereas PK likes his technology with the map on his phone and especially taking pride in proving me wrong when i have take the incorrect path, like we did at the top here and ended up in the wrong car park. We start to descend down a narrow path by the side of Tennyson’s house which is quite a steep descent so watching your footing is a good thing.
The descending path brings you out on to a road on which we followed for a couple of kilometres, i try to avoid roads as much as i can however don’t be alarmed that we are walking on the road; as only one car passed in the whole time we were walking along it. On meeting the T junction cross over and take the path to the right of Shopp Hill Farm.
This path takes you over many styles and through a few fields and woodland. Most styles had easy access for dogs to pass through, except Cookie decided that she was going to try and squeeze through the fence rather than take the easy route, whereby getting her head stuck. After a quick rescue she was free and we continued through to Lurgashall.
We enterend Lurgashall via the church grounds of St Laurence Church and although we didn’t see it, it has a stained glass window celebrating the millennium showing the working lives through history, our boots were too muddy to go in. In Lurgashall we stopped at the Noah’s Ark pub for some lunch, a bowl of soup for myself, a Burger for PK and a dog treat for cookie with some water that she decided to tread in and spill all over the pub floor. The food was very good here and certainly refuelled our energy, so after lunch and we headed out of the village on Dial Green Lane and took the first footpath heading northwards. We followed the edge of a few more fields and pass by the side of Windfallwood Common which is made up of many Silver Birch Trees.
Opposite Windfallwood common we stop at the Blackdown Distillery and Winery. The door was closed so we rang the bell and waited. A really friendly lady answered and invited us in to taste some of the drinks that they produce here. Vodka and Gin are both produced here and are filtered through charcoal to create a much smoother taste and then very uniquely are infused with the sap of the silver birch trees from Windfallwood Common. The Elderberry Liquer is also very good and made using local elderberries too, very good with cheese! They also do a christmas pudding flavoured vodka which unfortunately had sold out. So after trying many spirits and liqueurs and with a bottle of elderberry liqueur for Susan it was time to head back up the hill.
Taking the path next to the distillery we gently started to ascend the base of Blackdown Hill. On this path you can see the many vines growing from Blackdown Ridge Estate, a local winemaker that would be good to revisit in the summer when in full operation. It was an uphill climb of approximately 100 metres before we got back to where we had parked but not as steep as the first section of the day.
December’s Recipe is inspired from the Gin from Blackdown Distillery and is used to cure some salmon that can be enjoyed over the festive period.
Gin & Beetroot Cured Salmon/Trout
1 side of Salmon
100g golden caster sugar
2 oranges and zest
2 medium raw beetroot
150g sea salt flakes
1 bunch dill, chopped
50ml Blackdown Gin
Lay the salmon side out and pin bone them out with your fingers or tweezers.
Grate the beetroot and drain most of the liquid from it.
Mix all the remaining ingredients together with the beetroot to make the cure, can be done in a food processor to make a paste.
Stretch two large sheets of cling film on a baking tray and lay the salmon side skin side down.
Pack all the cure mix over the salmon including the sides until it is fully covered. and wrap up tightly in the cling film.
Lay another baking tray on top and with down with some tins and put in the fridge for 24hrs.
The day after remove salmon from fridge and scrape off cure mix, rinsing under the tap removing any remaining cure and pat dry.