Saturday, May 05, 2007

Kilpeck Church

Drove back to Cornwall, stopping off to see Kilpeck Church, particularly the sheela-na-gig carving. It's a beautiful, really peaceful spot and an amazing church to find tucked down a leafy little lane. Heard a cuckoo in the trees, first one I've heard for years and years.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Clun and the Waterdine

Our 1st wedding anniversary!

Walked around Clun, up to the castle and round the village. The castle is having work done on it, with men and scaffolding so didn't like to go too close and ferret around. Bought a couple of cards and a PD James in the antique shop, and walked up to the church. Looked at the ducks on the river (also the Clun) and took a picture of the 14th century packhorse bridge.

Drove down to Llanfair Waterdine to suss out where the restaurant is for this evening - just as well as we completely missed it the first time through, it having a teeny-tiny sign behind a climbing rose painted the same colour as the building.

Drove up through Leintwardine to Craven Arms and went into Harry Tuffins, which is the local supermarket chain. And I use the term 'local' advisedly. Mind you, it did have Blue Dragon oyster sauce which Cornwall appears to have stopped selling completely, so yay.

Back to the cottage for packing and clearing up before going out this evening. Made pasta to eat on the journey back tomorrow before realising that we actually have nothing to eat it *with*. Oops. Still, it'll do for dinner when we get back, yes?

Drove back to the Waterdine for seven thirty. It used to be an old pub and is several hundred years old. We were directed to armchairs in the bar area where we selected a bottle of wine (Argentinian Chardonnay. Which was excelent. What do you mean did I just point at the one that said chardonnay and wasn't the cheapest?). They brought us appetisers of a teeny tiny hot cheese biscuity thing, straight from the oven, and a puff pastry smoked salmon thing. And a little pot of olives.

The (female) owner appeared and proceeded to bray loudly and at length at the couple behind us (the only others in the bar, and I think they were staying there) about how she went to Anthony's villa in March and wasn't it simply wonderful. Now, fair play, she can talk about what she wants, but this was so loud we'd have had to raise our voices to talk ourselves. And there was /no/ other noise in the room, and she was standing just in front of them. And she didn't draw breath for five minutes. When the other couple's table was ready and they disappeared (not having been able to eat their appetisers due to being talked at) we heaved a sigh of relief. Then she reappeared and came to talk at to us. Mercifully shorter but just as loud, and obviously not actually interested in anything we had to say, just making her presence felt.

We moved into the dining room (lovely little vases of fresh wild and garden flowers everywhere). It was a reasonably small room, and there were two other couples besides us. Two. There was a deathly hush over the room for a lot of the evening. The couple in the far corner conversed occasionally in whispers, and the older posher couple behind us (think retired Major, in fact we'd decided the whole place was ideal for a episode of Midsommer Murders) talked at normal volume which I was immensely admiring of and Chris found very irritating. We sort of murmured on a level in between. But seriously, it could have done with some background music or something.

Our starters arrived - Chris had Cornish crab with crispy salad (which appered to be the small bits of cucumber and tomato on top of the crab tower). I had smoked haddock mousse with cucumber and dill. Now the salmon mousse we'd had at the cottage had been fantastic, and I suppose I was expecting something like that. What arrived, was a rounded mound of bright yellow something, in a lake of equally yellow something, all flecked with green dill strands (one of which I discovered plastered to a tooth much, much later). I took a bite. Only, it wasn't a bite, because this had the consistency of very wet scrambled egg. So fortunately (or I don't know what I'd have done, because it didn't come with anything) there was bread on the table, and I mopped it up with that. It was - yellow, is about all I can say. And slightly fishy. And the texture was truely foul.

So the mains arrived, I had confit of salmon (I'm not entirely sure what confit means*, but I'm reasonably certain it doesn't translate as 'a piece') with onion risotto and creamed leeks and saffron sauce. The first mouthful gave the impression of a rather chlorine-y taste, which I thought for a heartsinking moment was the fish, but tracked down to the saffron sauce. So the generously sized salmon was nice enough, and the (very) little mounds of creamed leeks were ok. The risotto was rather claggy and not the best I've ever had, but hey, it was edible.

Chris had loin of Gloucester Old Spot pork, which I thought was a bit tough and overdone, but he liked. Oh, the crackling was fantastic though. Celeriac mash, roast new potatoes and marjoram sauce. He gave it the seal of approval, but said there could have been more of it.

I had been going to have the crisp lemon tart with cassis sorbet, but when this was delivered to the couple behind us it looked like the sorbet was just a drizzle of purple round the outside. This obviously came as a surprise to the lady as well, as she queried it, and it turned out the waitress (or the chef, presumably, unless he'd gone to bed by this point) had forgotten it. So it arrived rather forlorn in a little metal cup. But I'd gone off the idea by then, and plumped for the iced strawberry parfait with strawberry and balsamic tart. The tart was a brandy snap basket with chopped strawberries (in a balsamic something, doubtless) and the parfait was indeed iced, so much so I thought I was going to break the plate getting the spoon through it. It was okay. The whole meal was okay, which is a shame, as at each point it had the potential to have been fantastic.

Chris had almond chocolate brownie with white chocolate ice cream, which disappeared reasonably fast so must have been good.

We went back to the bar/lounge for coffee, and were given squares of something dark chocolatey with bits of fruit in to go with it.

As soon as I'd put down my coffee cup the waitress/barmaid appeared and asked if we wanted anything else from the bar. I'd barely fnished saying no when she said 'oh I'll get you the bill then we can close up'. Erm. Okay, we'll be off then. Ten pm it was. Bye.

* Confit (French) is a generic term for various kinds of food that have been immersed in a substance for both flavor and preservation. Sealed and stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months, and can be reheated to extend its useful life. Well I'm fairly sure it wasn't that.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hay on Wye

An hour's drive south to Hay on Wye today, second hand book capital of the country! The weather started off cooler and misty, but by the time we got there it was blazing hot again.

There really are dozens of bookshops here, and they're all twisty ones with mysterious staircases and musty basements. It's fantastic. And they're not just antiquarian/expensive ones either, there's all sorts. Bought six books from various places (a Clive Cussler, 2 Garth Nix, a Jeanette Winterson, a Janet Evanovich and 'A Fete Worse Than Death', which I've been trying to get hold of for over a year).

We had lunch in the beer garden of the Blue Boar, I had the cassoulet (which was £13 but not bad, although could have done without the over-boiled carrot strips piled on the top) and Chris had a tomato and cheese bap.

It was probably a very boring day for Chris, who spent most of it waiting outside various bookshops for me. But apparently he made friends with a dog and a cat, so that's alright then.

We've managed to coincide our visit with them doing something to the direct road from the cottages to Clun, meaning every morning and evening going to and fro, we have to do a big loopy detour. The diversion is only in place this week. Typical.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Shrewsbury Abbey

Today we headed north, to Shrewsbury, about 25 miles away. We parked opposite the Abbey, of which only the church of St Peter & St Paul remains. Our luck held in terms of avoiding inadvertant recitals, when we discovered that just as we arrived - 1pm on a Wednesday - should have been the start of a weekly free concert, but this week the organ was broken. We looked round - it houses part of the original shrine of St Winifred - and walked round the outside.

Walked across the bridge over the Severn into the town, of which much is timber framed. Very busy with traffic but very pretty, and a lot of shops.

Stopped off at The Old Post Office pub for a drink - sat outside in a little courtyard surronded by timber framed buildings. Moved on to look round the town - bought postcards. The museum was closed (for much of 2007), annoyingly.

Walked up to the castle - the later (Civil War) castle houses the Shropshire regimental museum, but you can go up to Laura's Tower which is a little turretty thing on the site of the original castle mound without paying the entrance fee. This has spectacular views to the north and east, including the Abbey.

Walked back through town along St Mary's and stopped at Cloisters teashop on Wyle Cop for a very nice piece of homemade coffee cake (me) and a good plate of BLT sandwiches (Chris). It was sweltering hot in there in the sun, so much so the icing was melting on my cake! (and no, that's not a euphemism).

Back to Clun by about five. Wilbur and Myrtle from the Bothy have been replaced by another couple and bugger me if this bloke wasn't sat outside staring at us too. He continued staring until I stood in the window and stared back, at which point he found something terribly interesting in his paper.

Have run out of wine. Cock.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Cloudless blue sky today, and really hot. Took the back roads south towards Hereford, through places called things like New Invention (and on the way home, Evenjobb. Wanted to know if there was a twin town called Oddjob). East of Leominster, through Bishop's Frome (saw an oasthouse but no hop bines) and Much Cowarne. Lots of orchards laid out around here, many of them relatively new. Lots of apple blossom blowing in the breeze.

Into Hereford and we headed for the cathedral cloisters coffee shop. Had a nice pot of tea, and I had a slice of strawberry cheescake. Good selection of homemade cakes available. We were sat in the sunny cloisters courtyard polishing these off, when who walks out of the cafe door but someone from work! "And I thought Cornwall was small!" he said.

Looked round the cathedral - walked right into an organ recital, which sounded spectacularly discordant and awful. A piece by John Challenger according to the leaflet thrust into my hand by the little man on the door (who also said "don't worry it's almost finished" heh).

Found the crypt and the tomb of St Thomas Cantilupe, and one of the chapels has new stained glass celebrating the life and works of Thomas Traherne.

Walked round the outside again, vaguely wondering where the chained library was. I hadn't known there was one, but then saw a sign, and now I wanted to find it. While I was surreptitiously staring at the Bishop's Palace gatehouse, eventually spotted a sign pointing to the chained library again, which turns out to be through the cafe and out the other side. £4.90 to look. And they don't even show you any of the books. They did have a copy of the prophecies of Merlin though. It's the biggest one in the country apparently, as the gnome in residence told us proudly (the library, not the prophecies). We also saw some medieval book chests that the bishops travelled around with. Oh, and the Mappa Mundi.

Walked past the Green Dragon Hotel, (that looked a bit too posh to wander into dressed as scruffs) and had a look round the musuem, which was small but free. And had a piece of 14th century human skin that had once been nailed to a church door. Bonus.

Wandered around the shops, found a good cheap second hand bookshop, bought a copy of Superstitions of the Countryside for 80p.

Made our way back to the car, bought monster ice creams - mine was a scoop of summer fruits (blackcurrant & raspberry) and a scoop of elderflower, and Chris had a scoop of blackberry & apple and a scoop of vanilla.

Drove back through Kington and Knighton, along the edge of Radnor Forest. Lots of bluebells up here, not a sign of the white pests littering Cornwall.

It's half past seven as I'm writing this, and it's still bright sunshine and blue skies. Bloody windy this far up the hill though, and our patio bit doesn't get the evening sun which is a shame.

Mouse on toast for supper. Oh alright, smoked salmon mousse then, compliments of the house.