Wednesday 24 August 2022

Fig Tart

To use up the tail end of the garden figs I made a couple of savoury tarts - one to eat and one to freeze. The fig tree produces an abundant amount of fruit each year, especially considering its humble origins. It was rescued whilst we were holidaying in the South France, a poor tiny specimen of a tree struggling hard to grow out of an old stone wall in the countryside.
I use a good quality bought shortcrust or puff pastry when making tarts - quick, easy and reliable. 
Pre-roast a red onion and red pepper together in rapeseed or olive oil, then sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar to help caramalise. When cool place the pepper and onions on the pastry. Next cut the figs in half placing them on top along with plenty of cubed blue cheese. I prefer the strong flavour of English Blue Stilton, but any blue cheese will suffice. Sprinkle all of this with a little more oil, a few more drops of balsamic vinegar, and some freshly ground black pepper. When cooked add your preferred herbs.           
The tart is cooked within 15 - 25mins - Fan 180℃ - Electric 200℃ or Gas mark 6 - quick, easy, and really tasty.
A similar story is also attached to this pink Oleander plant. It sits in our outside porch all year round. and is one plant that has flourished well during our very long hot summer. A small cutting, no bigger than my small finger, wrapped in damp tissue paper, came home with us from Sicily several years ago. The reason I took a cutting was simply because the flowers were an unusual very deep red and I was only familiar with Oleanders in various shades of pink and white. But, as you can see, when it grew, it reverted to type and is 'pink'. Perhaps the original red Oleander was a hybrid!!! Regardles I am happy to have it thriving here - its a source of special memories from Sicily.

Saturday 20 August 2022

Updated Post

The Poignant Last Dance of the Mayflies
The river rises, flows over its banks and carries us all away like mayflies floating downstream. They stare at the sun, then all at once there is nothing.

Utanapishtiu, The Epic of Gilgamesh - a legend from ancient Babylon and Akkad. 
There are no two ways about it the Mayflies life is short, lasting from 30 minutes to one day, very occasionally two days. It often occurs that an entire population of mayflies hatch together during a couple of days around the end of May or beginning of June. Their primary function is reproduction, but as their journey begins and they emerge from the rivers and streams they face dangerous hazards from hungry fish such as trout, ducks, and birds who are on the look out for insects to feed their fledglings.
Before becoming Mayflies they live as nymphs in the riverbeds, hiding under rocks in the sediment and feeding on algae. The nymph stage can last for several years during which time it will shed its body skin more than 20 times whilst maturing and developing.
We have both seen the Mayflies dance, just once, when we were visiting the Highlands of Scotland during one summer in June. We had finished our evening meal and were taking a stroll along the river bank following a warm June day. It was twilight, a deep orange sun was sinking rapidly behind tall trees on the horizon. We were admiring the River Dulnain in Carrbridge, at a spot where it is crossed by an ancient packhorse bridge.
Suddenly, we became aware of huge flies dancing just above our heads, glinting and shimmering gold in the dying embers of the sunlight, their performance hugely enhanced by their long surreal tails. We were both delighted and amazed as we watched and admired their balletic movements, but were unsure as to what exactly they were. As we watched our growing anxiety was whether they might be a giant species of mosquito who would relish making a meal of us. But how wrong we were? It wasn't until we watched a BBC nature film that we realised just what a special and magical scene we had been party to. We had witnessed the dying, dancing, final moments of hundreds of female Mayflies. Having been mated they were judging exactly where would be the perfect spot in the river to lay their eggs, before then plunging themselves down into the flowing waters to deposit their precious cargo and die. 


This repeat post came about as a  result of a post written by David in which he mentions Mayflies, and the perils that they now face as a result of pollution and our changing climate.   

Saturday 13 August 2022

Little Langdale via Wrynose Pass

We both breathed a sigh of relief to have made it safely into Little Langdale. The road taken, Wrynose Pass, is not for the faint hearted. It is only one car's width wide, with few passing places and a steep drop down into the valley. Fortunately we turned right towards Little Langdale if we had turned left then we would have encountered the even harder pass over Hardnott. We have driven up and over Hardnott in our younger days, but the last time my husband said "never ever again". Both passes were built over 2000 years ago by the Romans. There is even a dramatically-sited Roman fort at the very top of Hardnott which was founded under Emperor Hadrian's rule. Hardnott takes you high up over the Fells, but once you begin to drive over the peak it is impossible to see the continuing narrow road ahead due to the very steep incline. For a split second it is like being perched in mid-air not knowing whether the road carries straight on, bears to the right or the left. In one of his books, Alfred Wainwright warns drivers who have come over Wrynose from the east to expect "an even tougher climb" over Hardknott, which he says should be approach with "the utmost concentration and caution". Both Hardknott and Wrynose have the reputation of being England’s two most outrageous roads. 

We unexpectedly came across a small car park. Stopped the car, pulled on our walking boots, and set off to explore the valley, our lunch safely ensconced in the rucksack. 

We appeared to have the entire place almost to ourselves, we saw no more than half a dozen other walkers. Fortunately at the beginning of the walk we met two men, and when we spoke to them about the hair-raising journey they advised us to continue along the road in the same direction, which apparently improves, rather than retracing our steps.

We were pleased that we were wearing walking boots as the valley path climbed higher and higher, but it was well worth the trek. The footpath ended with a view of this magical 'U' shaped valley, all beautifully laid out  before us.

Lunch eaten, we began making our way back along the narow road to collect the car for the drive down along the winding road into Langdale. 

Safely down, our thoughts turned to wondering what might be on the menu that night. We always looked forward to and anticipated the meals that the hotel served, all featuring delicious local produce.

Back at the hotel we were seated at our table looking out over the extensive grounds, when who should walk in but Susan Calman! the Scottish comedian, who was seated at the table next to us.  

She was accompanied by one of the Directors of her shows and some of the crew from Channel 5 TV. Apparently she had just been filming the last of her series "Grand Day Out in the Lake District" which will be shown this Autumn. 

P.S - Don't be deceived by these very green photos taken in the Lake District. Here in the Cotswolds it is a very different story. Our land is parched, the grass is the colour of straw and we have seen less than a teacup full of rain for over two months. The heat is stiffling, and there is a big concern regarding fires, everything is tinder dry. We are desperate for rain, it needs to rain for weeks and weeks.

Thursday 4 August 2022

Homage to Cumbria

For most of the last five decades, Haweswater was the only place in England where golden eagles resided. They returned in 1969 thanks to a healthy and expanding population in Southern Scotland. The Haweswater pair nested on Harter Fell which overlooks its southern end (shown above). After a few years they then moved over into neighbouring Riggindale, where a short lineage remained until the demise of the last male in 2015. Sadly Cumbria and England as a whole, has been without golden eagles ever since.

The Lake District, as she always does, worked her special magic on us - a green haven of beauty, peace and tranquility.

Her nineteen freshwater lakes sparkle like strings of diamonds, some fringed by ancient deciduous trees, others wild moorland. 
The stonewalled fields sit beneath a dramatic backdrop of rolling hills and fells whose azure shades change minute by minute throughout the day. The fields and the fells are cropped by the local Herdwick sheep. Beatrix Potter was a passionate and respected breeder of them. In 1943 she was the first women to be voted President-elect of the Herdwick Sheep Breeds Association.

Like our own Cotswold landscape, the Lake District is covered in thousands of miles of handmade drystone walls, built, maintained and renewed by generations of farmers and drystone wallers.

The merry sounds of gurgling water flowing over stones as it travels along the becks on its journey from the high fells down into the lakes. The weather can be fickle, but it is that very mercurial nature which makes it what it is - a verdant, lush beautiful landscape. A place beloved over the centuries by poets, painters, locals and visitors alike.

The stonewalls, barns, and properties are built from limestone that formed 320 million years ago in a shallow tropical sea. England then lay close to the Equator. The limestone contains fossils, corals and shells - look carefully you will find them.
   "The loveliest spot that man hath ever found."
William Wordsworth - born 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumbria

Monday 1 August 2022


We left behind our sun scorched Cotswold escarpment for the temperate green pastures of northern England. 

Walking through the beautiful dales and valleys presented us with a continual feast for the eye and gave us enormous pleasure.  We loved watching the weather roll across the tops of the high fells turning their colours from palest blue to deeper more dramatic shades within moments - the wide variety of wildflowers, ferns, foliage, and rocks adding their colours to the mix.

 Visited some historic places that particularly interested us, and ate delicious locally sourced food at our hotel. We met some interesting people along the way - especially in the hotel.                                        Once the many jobs that occur following travels away from home have been accomplished, I will sort through the photos and return.