I know I do tend to go on about how lovely Devon is… but it just is! This week, I thought I’d ramble (excuse the pun!) on about the South West Coast Path.
Not only is Devon blessed with lovely rolling countryside and dramatic moorland, it also has two stunning coastlines to the north and south. The north is rugged and exposed, while the south is softer with more sheltered bays. Devon is the chunky ‘thigh’ of the south west ‘leg’ of England that delicately dips its toe out to the far south west and the Atlantic ocean.
The South West Coast Path National Trail goes right round this leg taking in Devon and Cornwall and more – starting in the north, at Minehead in Somerset and going on for 630 miles – to Poole in Dorset in the south
It is regarded as one of the top walks to be found anywhere in the world. The heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery along the way are stunning and every day spent walking it brings new experiences.
You don’t have to be super fit, and you obviously don’t have to do all of it! Some areas, especially in Cornwall, are very steep and challenging (and very beautiful) but lots of other sections are gentle and make lovely seaside strolls.
Some people spend years walking small sections of it, ticking off the miles until they’ve done the whole thing. Others – heaven help them – tackle the whole thing in a couple of months, often for charity.
There’s a rather nifty scheme that lets you stay in B&Bs, while some obliging people will drive your bags on ahead of you so that, when you arrived footsore after a coastal canter, your bubble bath and slippers are ready and waiting for you.
There’s a very good website: www.southwestcoastpath.com which shows you everything you need from amazing photos that will inspire you, to walks that are interesting for children, or include pubs on the route (count me in!).
With all the herbs growing like mad, I thought it was time we had another herby pampering session!
Rosemary Hair Tonic
Rosemary is an excellent substitute for mildly medicated shampoos, and this tonic also helps control greasy hair and enhances the shine and natural colour.
You will need:
- 250ml/8fl oz fresh rosemary tips
- 1.2 litres/2 pints bottled water.
- Put the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, then allow to cool in the pan.
- Strain the mixture and store it in a clean bottle. Use after shampooing your hair.
Feverfew Complexion Milk
Feverfew grown prolifically in the garden, self-seeding all over the herb beds, and this is a welcome use for some of this over-enthusiastic plant. The milk will moisturise dry skin, help to fade blemishes and discourage blackheads.
You will need:
- One large handful feverfew leaves
- 300ml/½ pint milk
- Put the leaves and milk in a small saucepan and simmers for 20 minutes.
- Allow the mixture to cool in the pan then strain into a bottle.
PS. Feverfew flowers
If you haven’t got feverfew sprouting everywhere like I have… it can be cultivated easily; it is especially pretty grown in tubs and pots in the greenhouse or conservatory.
Hang bunches of flowers upside sown and leave to air dry; use as a decorative addition to flower arrangements.
When I went visiting my hen-pal Julia Wherrell the other day (see pics of me bravely holding a chicken!) I noticed her ‘fedge’ (cross between a fence and a hedge – cute name eh!) and remembered she had not long been on a willow course. I thought you might like to hear more about her fedge so I aasked her to write a bit for us this week …. over to you Julia!
“Predictably, after I came home all enthusiastic from my willow course in early May, it’s done nothing but rain! It took a few weeks for me to get into the garden on a dry-ish day and plan and plant my ‘fedge’ – I’d kept the living willow sticks (about 12ft long) in a large tub of water and the roots were looking impressive… leaves were already starting to sprout!
“I wanted a ‘division’ between two areas of garden to replace some old trellis that had rotted away. I didn’t want anything too structured or intrusive, so thought a willow fedge might work well. Normally, they are quite formally constructed, planted straight into the ground and then crossed over near the top and secured forming almost ‘gothic arch’ shapes.
“However, I’d decided I wanted to go all arty-farty and have a ‘flowing’ design that swooped down and then up again over an archway. Oh dear!
“After a few false starts, I armed myself with a large hammer and a crowbar – yes, really. I found if I whacked a hole about 8” deep in the ground, I could slot the willow in without harming the roots too much. I could then carefully bend and weave the sticks to my heart’s desire. They are amazingly flexible and I created roughly what I’d envisaged. I used the soft rubber covered wire garden tie stuff to hold everything in place.
“It’s now about six weeks since I planted the fedge, and it is growing really well. The huge amounts of rain have been a great help in making it take root. I have several established clematis (formerly on the trellis) growing over it and I’m pretty pleased with the result!
“I really would recommend a living structure, provided you have the room and the roots wouldn’t be too close to your house and/or a watercourse as willow is very invasive. It’s great fun to play around with and very cost effective. It doesn’t have to be willow either, I am told hazel is good too. As the fedge grows, I will need to clip it back and tie in shoots and my ‘artistic’ design might prove tricky, but I’m optimistic!
“Of course, you could just make a conventional shaped fedge, they are lovely too. I’d recommend going on a willow course – there are lots around the country (have a look on Google), to feel more confident in what you are doing, and there’s lots of information on line too about how to plant and care for willow.
“With some spare bits of willow, I made my spoiled chickens a ‘living igloo’ for their run. They have, of course, done their best to peck it to bits, but it seems to be surviving. Resilient stuff is willow!”
July is here and let’s hope it finally means the start of summer! Warm summer evenings are perfect for drinks parties when the emphasis is more on conversation than food. Here are two lovely fruity drinks that are bound to get the conversation flowing!
Strawberry Summer Cup
This summer cup is really lovely but, beware when sampling it – I’ve known people to drink very large quantities of this because it is so delicious!
You will need:
- 300 ml (1/2 pint) Grand Marnier liqueur
- 300 ml (1/2 pint) Kirsch liqueur
- 4-5 litres (7-8 pints) medium-dry white wine
- 2kg (41/2lb) ripe strawberries
- 6 oranges
Slice the oranges and strawberries, then place in a large bowl and pour over the Grand Marnier and the Kirsch liqueurs. If possible, place in a refrigerator and leave to soak for one hour, but not much longer or the fruit will be past its best. Then pour over the wine and stir the mixture well.
Spiced Fruit Cooler
This recipe is a very good reason for giving alcohol a miss – it’s much nicer than some wines I’ve drunk in the past! It’s also so delicious the poor old car drivers in the party won’t feel they are missing out either.
You will need:
- 1.8 litres (3 pints) sparkling mineral water
- 1.8 litres (3 pints) fresh orange juice
- 900ml (1 1/2 pints) fresh grapefruit juice
- 900ml (11/2 pints) fresh lemon juice
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 cloves
- 175g (6oz) sugar
- 450ml (3/4 pint) water
- 275g (10oz) runny honey
- 1 orange for decoration
- 1 lemon for decoration
- ice cubes for decoration
Thoroughly chill all the fruit juices and the mineral water. Mix the 450ml (3/4 pint) of water, cinnamon sticks, cloves and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Stir gently until all the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the honey, stirring until it has dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Once the mixture has cooled, strain it into a large punch bowl (preferably the most attractive one you can find), and add the fresh juices and the sparkling mineral water. Stir gently. Decorate with slices of orange and lemon and ice cubes.
As the weather was vaguely summery on Sunday, Richard, Welly and I decided to trot up onto Dartmoor to see my Hen Pal.
It turned into a beautiful sunny evening and we had a good nose around the veg patch, admired the living willow ‘fedge’ (a cross between and fence and a hedge!) and then went to say ‘hi’ to the chickens.
Welly finds anything even vaguely feathery very, very exciting and proceeded to do quite a bit of barking and rushing about. The hens, very wisely, ignored him, secure in the knowledge he was the other side of their fence.
The chicken I am holding (rather gingerly!) is, we think, a Barnevelder, affectionately known as ‘The Dinosaur Bird’, so named by a visiting godchild! She does have a rather fierce pre-historic look to her, but was very friendly and tolerated me holding her in a somewhat amateur way.
Chickens in the garden are very soothing. Their ‘pock pock’ sounds and bustling nature are somehow very relaxing. But, as my Hen Pal says, spend half an hour watching a flock of hens and you’ll understand all about the terms ‘henpecked’ and ‘pecking order’. They have a strict hierarchy and can be quite vicious to each other, especially to the poor little soul who’s bottom of the pecking order. Nature red in tooth and claw…
The star of the show really has to be the Cream Legbar who lays the beautiful blue eggs. She has a wonderful floppy comb and looks like someone on her way to Ascot with a ridiculous hat! She’s rather independent though so getting her to pose with me for a photo wasn’t an option sadly, but we’ve got one of her on her own anyway.
Opening the nest box is always very exciting and I wasn’t disappointed – four eggs for that day and there was even a blue one! They are, of course, the most delicious eggs and the yolks a beautiful deep yellow colour.
The drive up on to Dartmoor is always a lovely one and it was nice to get out and see it in the sunshine, we’ve had so little of that in June. Here’s hoping that July is rather better!