Thursday, 22 June 2017

A day of baking

I was in a very positive mood when I came back from seeing the Respiratory Nurse at the Hospital last week, as my tests showed a 20% increase on how they had been last year.  I have had to up my Fostair inhaler and have been prescribed a stronger one (hopefully temporarily - she has suggested carrying on until the pollen season is over and then trying the lower dose again). 

I was in a baking mood and decided to fill the freezer.  Dorset Apple Cake times 2 - one with crystalised ginger in, which brought it to a whole new level of yumminess!  I'll add some recipes later on.

A tray of Dorset Ginger Biscuits ready to go in the oven.  These were not a patch on my Cornish Ginger Fairings I usually make.

Beef Cobbler with cheese scone topping.

I doubled the cheese scone mixture and made some scones, which are now in the freezer.

A pan of Spaghetti Bolognese sauce, also frozen.

A Panasonic loaf too . . .

Phew, what a heat wave we have had.  It is overcast and much cooler today so I should be able to just have to water round once instead of morning and evening.  I shall leave you with a photo of one of the roses in pots - a David Austin rose, Teasing Georgia.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

About the moor - particularly Merivale and its antiquities

I am sat here with my sweaty hair scraped into a pony tail, and clad in my skimpiest top and shorts (bought yesterday as this hot spell has caught me on the hop and anything skimpy previously in my chest of drawers got sent to charity a year or so ago, when cold wet summers seemed to be the new regime.)  At least I am cool (imagine a pink sausage roll with legs . . .)

I have been spending short spells in the yard, doing a radical weeding of the flower bed out there which was just a mass of Aquilegia seedpods and weeds.  It wasn't too bad earlier on but it is absolutely broiling out there now so I have retired indoors, by an open window.  Thank heavens for stone walls two feet thick which make our house cool on the most scorching day (unless you go up into the attic that is!)

The photograph on the top is Bennett's Cross, which is close by the Warren House Inn on Dartmoor.  It used to lean greatly, back in Crossing's Day, but since then has been put straighter.  There used to be WB marked on it but this has been erased by weather.  The letters stood for Warren Bounds - marking the boundary of  Headland Warrens across the road (where rabbits were once farmed to feed the miners at the Vitifer Mine which is nearby).  It is believed that this cross also marks the boundaries of North Bovey and Chagford.  Whether it was named for a 16th C tin miner named William Bennett, who had mining rights in this area, or whether it took its name from a chap called Ellery Bennett who around 1860 supposedly found the cross lieing in the heather and erected it again no-one can say for sure.  The wonderful Legendary Dartmoor site will give you more information and photographs and you may be there some time, enjoying all the links.

Bennett's Cross from the side.  It could possibly have been a standing stone originally, which was later "Christianized" .  Now for some antiquities at Merrivale which were definitely NOT Christianized . . .  Another LINK to Legendary Dartmoor and a really good piece about the Merrivale complex - far better than I could write it up from Jeremy Butler's books on the archaeology of Dartmoor which grace my bookshelves up here. 

Stone row with blocking stone at the far end.

Stone row terminating in a stone cairn - it is possible (to my mind) that perhaps the stone circle came after the cairn. 

Another burial chamber, a kist this time with a splendid capstone - it was even more splendid until someone decided it was perfect for cutting a pair of gateposts from in mid-Victorian times . . .

Below, the man made leat which runs nearby and I believe provided water at the Merrivale Quarry.

Above and below, the remains of huts - just a circle of stones which had once helped form the base of the dwelling now remaining. 

A wonderful ritual complex, and one which I know far too little about.  Off to remedy that.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Morwellham Quay - Part 2

This big overshot water wheel reminded me of photographs I had seen of the big wheel at Laxey on the Isle of Man.

This was one half of the village shop.  Sadly it wasn't open when we were there.  The staff have to spread themselves thinly, doing various different talks and jobs about the place.  I thought this was a good teaching aid for school childfren (there were two groups there when we visited) but not a patch on Beamish!

A very sleepy Jack, the Clydesdale horse who was used for all the delivery jobs when they were filming at the farm. 

That photo of the Dartmoor Laddie again.  Both chaps were falling asleep from boredom.  Hate to think of them inside in this weather.

There were also a couple of pens of this year's lambs and a goat, who was free range and pleased himself where he wandered.

Another inside shot, this time in Ruth's cottage.  The "Betty Maid" for drying laundry is what we have here, two of them in our kitchen.

The bedroom in Ruth's cottage, with a rag rug beside the bed.  In the programme, Ruth showed how to make a clippy rug like this one.

Some clothing from that period hanging up.  From what I remember, the grey top looks like something a young girl would have worn over the top of her dress.

I wanted to do a post about Bal Maidens, but will have to suffice with a link to an atmospheric piece of writing which tells you how children as young as 8 were employed breaking the rocks.  This cap would have been worn but how much protection it offered from chips of rock flying into people's faces is debatable.  I've always fancied making one of these - trapunto work and neatly sewn folds.

It is too hot up here now and I need to be back to the decorating downstairs.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Morwhellham Quay - Part 1

We set off across the moor on Friday morning, heading for Morwellham Quay, which I have wanted to visit ever since seeing the excellent series "Edwardian Farm" on tv, which was filmed here.  One of the first sights was of the sailing ketch  "Garlandstone" which was built in 1905 at Calstock using timber from the nearby Cotehele estate.  She was the last but one wooden sailing ship built in Britain.  She was first registered in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire in 1909 and sailed around the coastline and across to Ireland, with various cargoes, until the 1960s when she was bought by an American, but a decade later, found abandoned, and was bought by the National Museum of Wales and subsequently moved to Morwellham Quay in 1987.  Looking inside the hold, she was full of mud (following a bad flood in 2012 I believe).  This area has suffered several horrendous floods and there are flood level marks feet above my head on the buildings there.

This sloping area is where Ruth planted up Strawberry Plants as since the advent of railways, fruit was sent on the milk train to the London markets.  The Tamar Valley was well suited to Market Gardening, with its fertile soils and the warm climate gave crops a head start which meant they reached the markets earlier than those from other areas, thus making higher prices.  As you can see, some of Ruth's strawberry plants (or their offspring) are still in evidence.

This area once had large areas devoted to fruit trees such as the Cherry, though there is little trace of them now, sadly.

Morwellham Quay was once the centre for exporting copper ore from the copper mines in the area, and also processed Arsonic and Manganese.  The copper went by sea to "Copperopolis" - Swansea, which had smelting works first set up around 1720, by wealthy landowners who had mine holdings in Cornwall.  Swansea had several main attractions to draw these early entrepeneurs there - water (the river Tawe) and coal from local mines.  It also had a safe harbour.  A century later there were 9 smelting works in the city.  The ore ships travelled back to Morwellham laden with lime (which was slaked at the lime kilns which still remain on site) and slate which was used as roofing and weatherboarding.

I hope that you can read the information board above.  Basically this is where the Mine Agent James Medlen and his wife, their son and their maid lived.  Beside the main domestic rooms of this cottage was the Assayer's Laboratory (see bottom photo below).   His wage (c. 1860) was £200 a year - that would equate to £160,000 nowadays.  He was a very important man, and oversaw all the deliveries of coal, timber etc for the mines in the area, as well as the testing of the ore, and the exporting of it to Swansea. 

At the end of the 19th C it became more profitable to import copper from South America (indeed, our local family here in this parish were the Bath family, who were involved in this trade.)  When the slump happened and mines were forced to close, Cornish miners emigrated in large numbers to wherever there were mines in the world.  It is worth noting that from 1884 - 1902 the copper mines of the Tamar Valley mined 700,000 tons of copper. and it was "the richest copper port in Queen Victoria's empire" (taken from the BBC book "Edwardian Farm").  Incidentally the wonderful word I sometimes use (and my NZ friend Rosie uses a lot) "fossicking" originates from the habit of folk scratching a living from scratching through the spoil heaps of the abandoned mining sites.

The heart of the home, where the cooking would have been done on the range (presumably the original one?).  The big wooden trough at the front (we sell these on occasion and many of them come from Central Europe these days) would likely have been made from sycamore (which withstands damp and regular cleaning) and would have been where they proved the bread dough.  Just behind it near the wall are a couple of butter stamps, scales behind it (though these don't look like the food scales of the period) and then a cream-coloured earthenware dairy bowl or "steen".  This was generally used for dairy purposes - settling cream to skim off to make butter, or for setting small amounts of dough to rise - whatever it might be practical for.  Right at the very back, the circular wooden implement is a knife sharpener.

Upstairs, an old iron bedstead just like the one I had as a child, with a pretty patchwork quilt with a pinwheel design.

Another of the bedrooms, with the air of the Master's Dressing Room . . .

There were pigsties and "useful outbuildings" the other side of the cobbled track at the back of the cottages.

In the 3 small rooms above the Assaying Laboratory was more living accommodation, this time of a very humble kind, as for miners.  A voiceover said that as many as thirteen people were housed in one room, and the beds were of the very basic "palliasse" kind - just an old hessian sack stuffed with straw - I bet that was lumpy - with a blanket over the top for warmth.

No range in this kitchen - any cooking was done over an open fire and the big cast iron cooking pot on the floor wouldn't ever have seen much in the way of meat - a bit of fat bacon added to the broth when money allowed.

The family's "apartment" with ever decreasing bed sizes down to baby's cot.

Finally, the photo of the Assaying Laboratory mentioned above.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Dartmoor hill ponies

I couldn't resist sharing this little mare having a roly poly session on the moor.  The Dartmoor hill pony is NOT the shining dark brown darling of the show ring (complete with little tot on board in a leading rein class).  These are feisty little mongrels whose ancestry dates back to the Medieval times, when they were described as being of all sorts of colours, including grey, piebald and skewbald.

Since then, many other small breeds have been added to the mix  - especially in Victorian times when, like the New Forest breed, other stallions were used to "improve" it.  The little grey mare looks as if she may have Welsh Mountain ancestry.  Elsewhere on the moor I saw a pony who looked like a mini-Highland, in colouring and looks.  Shetland was another popular inclusion.

A touch of Shetland in this one I think.

This was the stallion in charge of this little herd.  I think he's quite a nice type - very deep and compact.

A couple of his mares - I think the mostly-black piebald could be his daughter.

Another daughter, probably just a two year old in age.

The grey mare rolling again.

Here she is upright.  Her foal should be born in the next month or so.

Finally the traditional Dartmoor.  This is Laddie, who was the pony who was used in the filming of the Edwardian Farm, which took place at Morwellham Quay.  Originally unhandled, this pony was "started" (getting used to being handled, and then ridden etc) by a local horse whisperer.  Tomorrow's post will be about our visit to Morwellham Quay.

We had a busy day here yesterday.  I bought two trays (7 lbs in each) of plums and tomatoes for £1 each at the greengrocer's at Abergwili on Tuesday.  Half of the plums I stewed up and froze, and half of the tomatoes went to make a Summertime Chutney, with home-grown courgettes from the freezer, peppers, onions and spices.  A jar went straight away, along with just the prettiest Fuschia (Mrs someoneorother!) to our neighbour who had fed the cats for us before son Danny arrived to stay the weekend.  I'd quite forgotten how much I enjoyed chutney making and will probably do some more today.  I found a lovely recipe for Orange Chutney, which has preserved Ginger in it, and thought that would be a nice one for Christmas gifts.  I've also got a plum recipe . . .

I am trying to work my way through emptying the freezer of its oldest inhabitants and chutney is a good way to tackle the oldest veg.  Tea (for me at any rate, as my OH doesn't "do" pasta in any way, shape or form) is going to be Ravioli with a tomato/peppers/onion sauce - you sense a theme here?!

With the sunshine, we were lured out into the garden yesterday to tackle the collapsing trellising.  I had bought 3 panels a couple of weeks back - we still need a 4th - but the 3 are up and when I have found the plastic ties, I will refasten my rambler roses across the new panels.  Whilst we were doing this, I also had a huge tidy up of plants in the bed behind the trellis (it was the only way I could reach it!) and now have room to tuck in a couple of White Foxgloves I bought as small plants for 50p each earlier in the year.  They have grown on well and need to get in the soil and grow on. 

It was pouring with rain when I got up this morning, but the sun has come out now and hopefully we can get some more work done outside, but pollen levels are very high and I don't like to push my luck, especially as I have tests with the Respiratory Nurse tomorrow.  Still, so far, so good - I'm better than I was, and the pollen hasn't really hit my lungs yet.  Quite often in June I end up in A&E and/or on Steroid tablets to get my breathing back to normal.  Hay fever doesn't affect my nose any more - just goes straight to my lungs.

Much reading still being done, and I am now on Val McDermid's The Mermaids Singing.  I treated myself to the DVD box set of the tv series Wire in the Blood, which originated from her novel, and very good it is too.

Back later. Enjoy the sunshine.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Postbridge and some Dartmoor views

Here is the view from our B&B window - so peaceful, and I enjoyed watching birds flitting about (Jackdaws and Magpies much in evidence!)  The room was "comfortably appointed" but the shared bathroom (supposedly with just the occupant of the single room across the landing) turned out to be shared with all the letting rooms - we were glad to have got in their first thing!

View of the bridge over the Dart from the Clapper bridge.  The rain had raised river levels and speed.

The Medieval clapper bridge.

There were several big bushes of Broom in flower on the river bank.

Ferns looking verdant.  Light levels were low and so my clever camera used the flash.

As at home in Wales, every surface becomes covered in green moss.

The remains of the Gunpowder Mills.  There is a spooky story about the Hairy Hands and we were talking about this at the Warren House Inn with Joss Hibbs (who lives in a cottage by her Pottery at the Powder Mills).  She mentioned several recent occurrences of practiced drivers (one of a fire engine) suddenly ending up in the bog on the approach to the cottages, so perhaps the Hairy Hands are still there!  Apparently they were all that remained of a worker at the Gunpowder Mills, who - before leaving for Italy where he had been left an inheritance - went back into the Mills to collect something, still wearing his hobnail boots.  They struck a spark, and there was an almighty explosion and all that was found of him was his hands and his empty boots . . .  BTW, we went back before we left, and bought our joint Christmas present for several years to come from Joss's Pottery.  It's a huge Charger (plate) by Carole Glover.  From the link you will see her style, which is strongly influenced by 16th and 17th century slipware, especially from Devon.

There is a Tor on top of this hill, but the low cloud hid it on the day I was taking photographs.

Small foal with a good bit of Shetland blood.  These Dartmoor hill ponies are mongrels but tough as old boots and can cope with the poor grazing and wet moorland weather.

Once the clouds lifted, there were wonderful views elsewhere on the moor.

Enjoy.  I can smell my bread is cooked so I had better go down and rescue it.  I set it off in the Panny at 6 a.m. this morning - a half and half Granary and white flour.    More photos to follow.