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 White Moor

Yesterday’s walk turned out to be nearly 14 miles and that is way past Beloved’s threshold of acceptable walk length. We were walking in a different part of the forest to Sunday, heading towards Limewood in a roundabout sort of way, for late lunch. The weather didn’t look too promising but ended up being fairly dry with just an odd little shower and quite a sunny late afternoon again. The really marvellous thing about yesterday was being able to pause to take photos without the fear of camera getting wet. The beginning of the walk, at Balmerlawn looked pretty good with all sorts of colours and good reflections caused by so much rain.

new forest balmer lawn

 

We weren’t in a rush and once it became evident (or rather hopeful, really) that there weren’t going to be downpours like on Sunday, we’d go off the bridleway and into the woods taking lots of photos of things like moss. I get rather excited by moss, it’s the lovely greens and the sponginess of it.

new forest moss

 

And, later on funny trees and streams. It’s rather lovely when there is no one about and you pretty much have this whole massive forest to yourself. We did see a few people pass by here and there but probably less than 10 in total.

new forest stream

 

We’d walked about five or so miles to this point and as we had plenty of time before lunch, we walked up towards White Moor. I was pretty ignorant of the fact that there is quite a bit of moorland around here, I just expected forest really. So all this moorland has come as a great and pleasant surprise as I love a rugged landscape. We are not here at the best time of the year for heather but its purple tones can be seen just in the background of the photo.

new forest white moor

 

Walking through all this heather was also pretty good for cleaning our muddy boots but in the end that was a bit pointless. At this moment we were really pretty close to Limewood where we were having lunch but of course, I didn’t want to arrive there by road, thought it would have been nicer going through the forest. Only Limewood doesn’t seem to be frequented by people who walk so the only path leading to it (considering that it is situated right in the middle of forest) from the forest goes to the back of kitchens/ spa. We found it after much head scratching. And yes, the food was good but something was lacking from this experience. The porter had no idea about gates and exits from the grounds and one of the waitresses was pretty speechless when we said we’d walk back to Brockenhurst too. That walk back took no time, we marched it as I was afraid that we’d be stuck in the forest in the dark. Also, weirdly, OS map seems to be out of date slightly or maybe it’s just that we’re here out of season and some paths have overgrown but there was much further head scratching by me when we suddenly came out on Standing Hat, by Balmerlawn and I had us way, way back in the forest. Walk back was pretty good, late afternoon sun beautifully colouring the forest, had I known how close we were to Brockenhurst, would have stopped for more photos but never mind. Finishing with a photo of burnt bracken (it is not bracken but not sure what it was) up on the moor. Good contrast to forest which was teeming with life even at such ‘out of season’ time of year.

new forest burnt bits on white moor

Lakes journal

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    Coniston boat launch

Back in the Lake District for a long Bank Holiday weekend. Beloved thought we should have waited until September but I know my work will be busy and I won’t be able to take time off. We arrived in Keswick on Friday afternoon and it’s been positively heaving with people since. Not that we have spent a huge amount of time in Keswick but you notice restaurants and pubs are much fuller than in early July when we were last here.

It has been raining quite a lot since we arrived, which happens here pretty often making it more difficult or unpleasant to do certain walks, but so far, the weather hasn’t affected us much. On Friday afternoon, Skiddaw, the highest local peak at 931m and 5 and a half miles out of Keswick, was bathed in sunlight so we went for it thinking we probably wouldn’t get another chance. We were at the top just after 6pm after passing lots and lots of other walkers on their way down. We had the top to ourselves, a deserving end to a pretty exhausting climb (we are not very fit). I took lots of pictures with the camera, none with phone, so will post when back home. By the time we reached the top, the weather had completely changed and we were lucky that the rain didn’t start until we were almost back in Keswick. So happy that we did this, views were amazing throughout the climb and from the top. I loved how you couldn’t actually even see the top of Skiddaw for most of the climb, hidden as it was behind Skiddaw Little Man. We haven’t seen the top of Skiddaw since either, it’s been covered in cloud.

Saturday’s weather forecast was ‘rain’ so we hopped on a bus to Ambleside and, from there, on another to Coniston for a day out in that part of Lake District. We were lucky with the weather again, for although it was cloudy, we managed to avoid the rain for most of the day. In Coniston, we walked to the lake shore, famous for Campbell’s crash while attempting speed record in the Blue Bird, had a look at Coniston Old Man standing tall above and thought it could be a good one to climb one day. Then we headed back via Tarn Hows, a short walk from Hawkshead Hill (we got a bus to that point), and this was a simply magical setting, which my photograph doesn’t do any justice to. It was too overcast for my phone. Anyway, you can see that when Lake tourism became popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this is what the ‘picturesque’ tourists had read about and come to see. They still do in large numbers. As we left to catch the bus to Hawkshead, lots and lots more cars arrived. Did not see anyone but us on foot.

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    Tarn Hows

Hawkshead is a charming, twee little village, proper old school with narrow passages and twee shops and tea rooms, I’d been keen on seeing it for some time. We got some very good cake in a cute little tea room for the journey back and then sampled some local ales in a pub. By the time we eventually got back to Keswick, it was raining pretty hard. We only stopped in Ambleside long enough to grab a bite from a caf we really liked last year, Gaggling Goose I think it’s called or something similar. 20120827-073146.jpg

    Hawkshead Bitter and Coniston XL

Weather forecast for yesterday said ‘dry’ so we thought we’d walk in Borrowdale. Got a bus to Seatoller and planned to climb to High Spy, then walk along the ridge and back down to Grange. Only about 20 minutes into the path towards High Spy, it started raining. We decided to have a go at climbing anyway, Wainwright’s guide pointed at only one rough and steep bit by disused quarries. Unlike Skiddaw, though, this climb was fun. 20120827-073205.jpg

    Climb via disused slate quarry

When we got to the top, however, everything was covered in mist and cloud, you could not see more than 20 feet around you. This sort of thing happens a lot in the Lakes. We abandoned the ridge walk, came back down past the quarries, then continued to Grange along the path lower down. Beloved said this was his favourite walk so far, this had everything, gills (mountain streams) and waterfalls, imposing cliffs, disused mine shafts piles and piles of slate, then the scenery completely changes into woodland as you get nearer to River Derwent and Grange. Have no idea how long the walk was, path from Seatoller to Grange is 5 and a half miles without taking the climb into account. Would love to come back here and do the ridge walk as well, it eventually leads to Catbells. 20120827-073219.jpg

    View over Borrowdale, mist settling on our way down.

Not quite sure what we are doing today yet, think it’s meant to be raining, wifi in our room is practically non existent so even checking the weather is a laborious process, hence no blog posts over the weekend and this long, journal one this morning. Has taken a whole to get done so getting it out early before the signal goes off again!

Summer garden

Am away in Wales this weekend, so no baking or sourdough bread making. Instead, posting pictures of a lovely garden in bloom, with crazy turbo pinks and oranges, flowers looking super happy as there’s been so much rain lately. It’s a sunny morning outside, hoping to get beloved out of bed for an early walk without much success so far. Must try harder!

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Kennet and Avon Canal walk

Yesterday’s walk, along a short, 2 mile stretch of Kennet and Avon Canal between Aldermaston and Woolhampton, then up towards Bucklebury for lunch in a friend’s pub.

Also walked through Carbins Wood but didn’t take any pictures of it as was a bit difficult to  pick out a path through bog and mud and we were running late. Weather was rubbish as usual, canal bit was the nicest part of the walk despite the rain. Lunch was excellent including a pint of great local ale. Would like to return in better weather perhaps and walk through Bucklebury Common – it sounds like it belongs in the Shire/ Hobiton, no? Definitely avoid going on a Saturday when there are races at Newbury as train full of yobs wearing suits and drinking beer. Smelly and loud. Canal walk so peaceful and quiet in contrast.

Photos manipulated and filtered with Pixlromatic – have installed some new filters and effects (paid for them too, which I don’t do very often!). Am going to try and use apps other than Instagram for photos now that Instagram has reinstalled ‘share’ button for all photos. Why can’t you just save and then decide for yourself whether you want to share instead of being forced to?  Am blaming stupid facebook.

Off to Kew today for a walk and lunch with beloved’s family. Meant to be sunny for a change, yay!

Long weekend in the Lakes

Spending a long weekend walking around Keswick in Lake District – this is Ashness Bridge, very picturesque.

Weather is pretty decent for walking if not for photography. There have been a few light showers here and there since we arrived on Friday lunchtime but not as bad as the forecast said. However it’s cloudy and the peaks are very windy, I had this marvellous plan to walk across several yesterday between Buttermere and Keswick but turned away when we got to the summit of the first, Whiteless Pike. A few other walkers, who looked way more experienced than us also turned back. It got too windy to really stop and admire the view at the top too. We caught the bus back towards Keswick and climbed up Cat Bells instead.

View of Keswick and Skiddaw Little Man in the back from Catbells. Skiddaw itself has been covered in clouds for the past couple of days.

What I really love about Lake District is the sheer variety of landscape and nature, every walk brings some new surprise. On Friday, we came across some truly fabulous waterfalls on High Lodore – we encountered hardly a soul too and yesterday, the views from Whiteless Breast and Whiteless Pike were totally breathtaking, also lots of lovely wild flowers and ferns everywhere.

So, no baking this weekend but I’ve used some leftovers – bridge rolls I made for the Jubilee weekend provided sustenance on the journey up while banana bran cake (leftover from muffin mix) has been brilliant to take with us on walks.

 

Black pepper rye bread + walking in Oxfordshire

I love the fact that I started a bread this morning assuming I’ve enough flour. Ha! I didn’t, only had a little of strong white flour left. So, in today’s bread, Black pepper rye from Dan Lepard’s Short and sweet, I used a mix of rye and wholemeal flours to make up for the lack of white. I knew it wouldn’t rise quite so much but didn’t particularly care. It came out slightly baby size, especially when compared to last Saturday’s Challah:

Lovely crust, strong peppery flavour, here it is sliced:

Photography not quite outstanding today… oh well, I was hungry and didn’t fancy spending too long picture taking. Thought the peppery rye would go very well with buttery, creamy scrambled eggs so that’s what we had for breakfast:

Again, love my choice of green table + green plate for photography. Should really work on my ‘styling’. As I said, I was hungry and it tasted lovely.

Finishing today’s post with a photo from yesterday’s walk, just outside Oxford, glorious countryside, an exhilarating walk through windswept fields after a boozy lunch. Did not take pics of windswept meadows as didn’t think iphone camera was up to it but this little stream was very pretty: