Strawberry picking and jam

I have my very own strawberry jam! Very excited! As it’s the first time I’ve ever made it, thought it would be nice to go to a pick your own farm for strawberries. Took a day off work and set off early to Parkside Farm near Enfield. Glorious weather and I’m glad I was there early before it got too hot. Glorious strawberries too.parkside farm strawberries close up


I only needed a kilo for the jam, recipe from River Cottage Preserves Handbook, but could not stop myself from picking way more than needed.

parkside farm strawberries


I also got very overexcited at broad beans, so yes, picked way more than needed…

parkside farm broad beans


I’d completely forgotten that the walk back to bus stop was up a hill. Total fruit & veg weight (including green onions and gooseberries) was 7+kg…



Strawberry jam, made, bottled, cooling. I feel this will go very quickly but the girl at the farm shop said they’ll have strawberries right up until October so I can go back for more if needed.

Having picked a lot more strawberries than needed, am also making a cheesecake for Beloved’s family get together this weekend and strawberry ice cream. Should still have some left over too. Marvellous.

Rye and Winchelsea

Fabulous weather for a walk yesterday. The forecast was correct for once and I’d had a couple of walks worked out, one in Essex and one in Sussex, neither of which happened in the end because the trains weren’t running (Essex, boo) or were delayed from Victoria (Sussex, boo hoo). Beloved suggested a walk closer to home but I wasn’t ready to give up on the coast that easily so I searched the south coast for a beach walk and National Rail website for getting to beach without having to do plains/ trains/ automobiles and there it was – Rye. Pretty easily accessible on the high speed train to Ashford and then a local train. We did 11 miles walking from Rye towards Winchelsea, then Winchelsea Beach and back to Rye via nature reserve.

This had pretty much everything you’d want from a good walk: great scenery with lots of changes, good nature, not too many people, bits of history… Granted, it was flat but we’re totally out of shape so that wasn’t a bad thing. First, as we walked along the Saxon Shore path, lots and lots of sheep.

sheep walking rye

These two reminded me of the trio of ‘gossiping sheep’ we saw on a walk in Wales last year so I thought this photo would make a good companion piece. Quite a few sheep in this flock seemed happy to even pose for photos, later on in the day they’d all run away. Shortly after, we walked past the ruins of Camber Castle and decided to take a closer look.

camber castle


It was built by Henry VIII as defence against a French invasion but abandoned by 1627. There was lots of dried grass around, which made me think of scorched earth tactics and storming castles but managed to contain self and just walk around.

camber castle ruin


Love a good ruin, point me in a direction of old crumbling stones and leave me to it. Shame you couldn’t go inside and climb about this one.

My original plan was to bypass Winchelsea but our water supply was running low and Beloved was also quite keen on a pub stop so we did a detour. What a pretty little village. We stopped for a pint and we got some water, then went into the local church, St. Thomas’s (named after Thomas Beckett) and got a brief lecture on its history.

winchelsea church


It’s a medieval church, renovated since and now featuring some pretty good Art Deco-ish stained glass windows.

stained glass winchelsea church


Not that you can see all that much in my photo. As we’d already been to the pub and the majority of the walk was still ahead of us, we didn’t stay long in the church. I’d also decided to do a shortcut and walk the quickest route to Winchelsea Beach, forgetting the Royal Military Canal route and going across sheep pastures and dikes. The beach was windy and almost deserted.

the sea at winchelsea1


We sat in silence listening to the sound of wind and crashing waves. I took a lot of photos of crashing waves. We walked along the shingle beach back towards Rye, then into the nature reserve, where the scenery was completely different again, still and calm.

nature reserve rye

Lots of birds, lots of wild flowers and only a few dog walkers here and there. Good view towards Rye Harbour too (at least that’s what I think it was).

view towards rye harbour


We didn’t go into Rye Harbour but came back via the ruined castle although this time, we’d put the map away, decided to be clever and find our own shortcut then promptly got lost in the labyrinth of dikes, scaring a lot of sheep in the process. Eventually found a way out and back to Rye where we had just enough time to sample some very good ice cream before catching the train back. When we got to the station, the tiny platform was already pretty full with ten minutes to train and Beloved had visions of a hellish train journey back from Whitstable last year but all was well in the end and we were home in no time, exhausted, sunburnt (me, despite spraying self with lots of protection) and happy.

Lee Valley, Cheshunt to Broxbourne, Broxbourne Woods

yellow meadow

We haven’t been able to get out for a long walk in weeks. I’ve spent the past few weekends writing a tricky essay for a course, finally finished it last week and now I’m on a break until the autumn. The weather was just perfect yesterday and we thought about going to the coast but decided, in the end, against a longer train journey and walked closer to home. Over the past couple of years we’ve been walking the Lee River path on and off and we’ve done most of it below Waltham Abbey and the M25. Yesterday, we decided to take a train to Cheshunt, walk up the river path towards Broxbourne, then leave the river and walk in Broxbourne Woods, a nature reserve. We did 10 miles in total. The first half of the river path was quiet, it got busier as we got closer to Broxbourne, the woodland, later on, was pretty deserted and so were the meadows we crossed on our way back to Broxbourne and train home.

lee river cheshunt

lee river private fishery sign

This sign was about 1/2 way between Cheshunt and Broxbourne. The first stage of Lee Valley walk, between Cheshunt Lock and Turnford Marsh had little paths going off, good for exploring and probably good for fishing, I don’t know, I just took lots of nature photos and spent a lot of time following butterflies.

blue flowers cozens grove


blue flower


I’m getting better at taking close up photos of flowers and plants but never know what I’m taking photos of. Must be an app somewhere for this sort of thing, shall do some research.

Hoddesonpark wood


Scenery change, Hoddesdonpark Wood above and the meadow is just marked ‘Hoddesdon’ on the OS map. Part of the walk was along Hertfordshire Way, think I’ll look up where it comes from and where it goes as it’s very easy for us to get up to this part of the world. It’s worth coming back to for the lovely scenery.

North Downs, Westhumble loop

Perfect day for a walk yesterday, warm and pleasant but very difficult to decide where to go. One option was to go to the coast, another was to go in search of bluebells and the last to go to Box Hill in Surrey. Bluebells are, by all accounts, not quite out (I wanted a proper bluebell carpet, not just a few here and there), the weather was a bit cloudy and coastal walk would have been better in the sun so we settled on Box Hill, in a roundabout sort of way. We did a loop, just under ten miles starting and finishing at Box Hill & Westhumble station, walking across Ranmore Common, then along North Downs Way up to Box Hill and back to the station. Scenery was fabulous, Ranmore Common in particular – proper ‘green and pleasant land’, gently rolling hills, woodland coming alive with spring flowers covering the floor and birds singing everywhere around us. The views from North Downs were excellent, even though it was cloudy, the sun would come through every now and then and light up a particular field or a tree. We took a little path just below the actual Downs Way and there are benches scattered along the way to sit and enjoy. Then, quite unexpectedly, as you loop around the Denbies Wine Estate and walk by Aschcombe Wood there they were – bluebells out in all their glory, a proper carpet! Cries of joy and happiness and a warning – bit of a photo overload…

bluebell carpet aschcombe wood bluebells aschcombe wood bluebells aschcombe wood carpet

After this, the rest of the walk was not as good – how can you top the bluebells! Even Beloved was impressed by the bluebells! Anyway, Box Hill was a bit of a let down. The climb was a good little workout albeit spoiled by people coming down, hogging the footpath. The top was heaving with people and cars, hordes of people just drive up then sit down – no wander this country is getting more obese by the minute. We walked about Box Hill too and the further we were from the car parks, the quieter it was. Thankfully, we managed to find a quieter route down through woodland. We stopped for a pint at the Stepping Stones pub in Westhumble, which is a pretty little village, then caught the train back to Waterloo.

trees on Ranmore Common Ranmore Common, we stopped here for a little picnic.

North Downs view from The Spains View from The Spains, North Downs Way.

north downs woodland in springNorth Downs Way, footpath by Denbies Wine Estate.

ransom flowers stepping stones car park Ransom flowers near stepping stones, Box Hill.

clover on mossy tree stump Clover growing on a mossy tree stump, Ranmore Common.

bluebell ashcombe wood And finally, a bluebell


South Downs, Devil’s Dyke

We haven’t done a long walk in a whole month and the weather oracle that is the BBC said it would be sunny today so off we went. Several trains later, we got to Fishersgate and made our way across South Downs to Devil’s Dyke. The weather was perfect, the expanse of the blue sky and the rolling hills just so life affirming. It was good to be out.

the hills are alive south downs1


the hills are alive south downs


Fields and hills on one side, hills, fields and the sea on the other. We stopped at the Devil’s Dyke pub for a couple of pints and a late lunch then made our way back to Portslade and trains back – walked just over 10 miles in total and the last 4 miles in an hour, just managing to catch the Brighton train. All together just glorious but legs a bit stiff now… Oh well, glad we finally have some fabulous spring weather.

devil's dyke coming up


view from devil's dyke


devil's dyke

New Forest ramble

We came back from New Forest on Tuesday afternoon totally revitalised. Traffic, roadworks and ensuing chaos of daily London life felt weird and alien. So did the crowds later on Tuesday evening in Soho. Over the past couple of years I’ve really come to appreciate the positive effect that a good long walk – or a few days walking, preferably in the middle of nowhere, has on me. We walked just over 40 miles (around 65km) in two whole and two half days. On our last morning, we had a leisurely stroll from Brockenurst towards Lyndhurst and then back, around 6.5 miles. The weather wasn’t really sure what it was doing but it stayed dry so we could pause every now and then and admire the wealth of colour everywhere despite this still being the ‘bleak’ time of the year.

New Forest last day


The leisurely pace allowed us to ponder existence of bigger beasts in the forest although we couldn’t decide whether saskwatch or a T-rex could have left these marks

New forest last day pondering on existence of saskwatch


And we also got close and personal with yet more moss. Can’t help myself, it is too lovely…

New Forest last day mossy tree stump


We got better at finding our way around, recognising paths and wading through the mud. Did not see a soul until right at the end, a man walking a dog in the distance. While it felt great to be the only people about, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad that there weren’t more people about appreciating this. It is a shame that a ‘season’ lasts only for a few weeks in summer. There are people staying at hotels but perhaps they spend more time at the numerous spas rather than being out and about.

At the end of the walk, I took a parting shot from Balmer Lawn

New Forest last day Balmer Lawn


And another of Lymington River, which now seemed much reduced after last week’s rain.

New Forest last day lymington river reduced


I’d spent the best part of last week checking the BBC weather page and worried that the weather would be too bad to really enjoy our little break. Shouldn’t have worried, we had a great time even on the wettest day when the rain was really bad. Would we go back? Yes, I think probably in late spring or summer. I’d particularly like to go back to Lymington saltmarshes and do that whole walk because the little bit that we did was great fun. And then there are other bits of New Forest that we didn’t do at all. The great thing is that this is only an hour and a half from Waterloo, easily doable in a day.

Now if only spring would arrive properly…

New Forest: Brockenhurst to Beaulieu

Yesterday’s New Forest walk – 9 or so miles through the forest from Brockenhurst to Beaulieu. We set off at 10am and it was very wet but the ground was flat and we walked along the bridleway path so we didn’t get too muddy. It was too wet to get the camera out for most of the walk, which was a shame as the scenery was fabulous everywhere you looked.

This photo, which I took with my phone, shows flooding just on the outskirts of the forest. This was by Lymington River, which we walked a few miles downriver on Saturday.

floods on way to beaulieu


I used a tiny break in the downpour to take the camera out just for a few minutes. This is one of only few photos of the actual forest I took.

new forest trees


We are heading back to the forest after breakfast today so hopefully, I’ll be able to take some more photos.

Once in Beaulieu, we stopped for coffee and cake, my rucksack leaving a nice little pond on the floor. We then went off to have a look at National Motor Museum and ruins of Beaulieu Abbey – not that I care about cars particularly but the museum was actually pretty good, especially the older cars. And our jackets slowly dried off. Once outside it actually stopped raining for the afternoon. There was even some blue sky as we walked around the ruins of the abbey.

beaulieu abbey


And, as we headed back to Beaulieu, it was positively sunny!

beaulieu river


A bench may just about be visible in the gap between the trees, what a lovely spot. By this point, we’d walked about 10.5 miles so Buckler’s Hard and Nelson’s shipyard was unfortunately a bit too much. Instead, we stopped for a pint prior to dinner. Dinner was a few miles away at The Pig, who kindly booked taxis to pick us up and drop us off. Rather annoyingly, as the cab picked us up and we were driving back towards The Pig and Brockenhurst, the weather looked absolutely glorious. I caught the last rays of sunshine on this big oak tree outside The Pig

tree by the pig