Saturday, September 29, 2012


Today we set off for Edinburgh via Bamburgh and other points north. Arriving early at the castle, we had time to walk along the walls, although it was extremely windy, and we saw people on the long, golden sands beach walking their dogs and having waves of sand blown into their faces.

Inside the castle are magnificent high ceilinged rooms full of treasures, and down in the basement there are wonderful kitchens including various strange objects such as a very early vacuum cleaner. 

Our next stop was Berwick with its Elizabethan walls and viaducts enclosing the original town. We took the self-guided walk around the walls, reading the plaques full of interesting information. One was all about a certain L.S.Lowry who spent many summers living in a house just by the walls with lovely views across the water.
Three bridges - the furthest is Royal Border Viaduct

House where L S Lowry spent summers

 We also saw the Royal Border Bridge built in the late 1840s that is a railway viaduct - although not quite at the English/Scottish border. That is about 3 miles further north.

After suitable refreshments we drove on along the coast and made Edinburgh in time to stretch our legs a little before the celebrations.

Friday, September 28, 2012


We had a celebration to attend in Edinburgh, so decided to visit the north east of Emngland on our way up to Scotland. We stayed in Alnwick for a couple of nights - arriving last night in time for dinner, and today we have spent the whole day around the Gardens and Castle.
The Gardens have been painstakingly created by the Duchess of Northumberland after she found them in a sad state ten years ago. Now there are several garden areas all surrounding the amazing Water Gardens. The Grand Cascade 'performs' every half hour and there are apparently four different displays. I don't know if we saw them all, but we did watch at least two performances when we were in the Garden.

We walked all around, visiting the different areas, coming at last to the serpent garden with its water sculptures using all sorts of different scientific phenomena to create them. The special Torricelli sculpture was sadly undergoing repairs, but maybe we will go back one day to see it.
And I shouldn't forget to mention The Poison Garden, hidden away behind decorative security gates, where poisonous plants and others used in medicine are kept safely out of harm's way. It is guarded by the gatekeeper who has a sort of Hagrid's Hut to keep warm in.

 We indulged at the cafe and then went on to visit the castle, which has apparently starred in the Harry Potter movies. There are strange figures on the ramparts and a lantern that has definitely been seen in HP, and it was all very interesting. Around 700 years old, it has been in the Percy family all that time and they still spend the winter here. When they are in residence, the castle is closed to visitors and the family host hunting parties.

When we had seen all there wasat the castle, we walked into Alnwick town and had to have a cup of tea at Grannies. We decided against the Tea Cake that had been recommended by friends, it was really enormous and we had already asked the B&B landlady to book a restaurant for dinner! We walked alll through town, ending up at Barter Books, a second hand bookshop in the old railway station. It has to be seen to be believed - an amazing place.

Alnwick Garden
Alnwick Castle
Barter Books

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tour of Britain

Today was the eighth and final stage of Tour of Britain featuring Team Sky with our Tour de France/Olympic cyclists needing cheering on. This final stage came through Guildford twice, so we planned to try and see them both times. We found the whole of the High Street barricaded off with our usual side all parked up with the huge support vehicles, so no good for viewing, but managing to cross at an official crossing, we just had time to get a carry-out Starbucks and find a space opposite Vacansoleil's truck before the circus began.

Was this a track tester?
Who is that in the lead?
First of all we had the speeding police bikes with blue lights aflash and sirens blaring. Then several support vehicles with anyone from commentators, guests, judges, controllers and medics inside came hurtling by. A couple of lone cyclists raced up the road, but no numbers and no followers, so we thought they may be 'testing' the track for the real racers.
The Peleton
At last came the lead group, flashing by in an instant and then a long gap to the peleton, who also raced by with plenty of cheering, whistling and waving.They went off into the Surrey countryside, leaving the spectators with a couple of hours to kill before their return for the finale.
We struggled through the crowd down to the top of the High Street and took a sharp right down Jeffries Passage to the relative quiet of North Street. We soon wheeled round the corner at the bottom and came back onto the High Street where they were holding a little side show race between several folk connected to the sponsors and broadcasters.

A Bamboo bike by Zamboo
They went off a ramp in pairs competing against each other up the cobbles starting with 16 and eventually ending up with a grand finale where Mr Johnson of Johnson Health Tech was narrowly beaten by the winner, whose name we didn't catch!          

Even the event mascots had a go!

Time for another break, and when we got back on the track, we found a place on the bridge over the Wey Navigation where the riders would sweep round the corner from the Godalming road, across the bridge and then up the full hill of the High Street.

We had quite some time to wait, but eventually the whole jamboree came whizzing by; and at last the cyclists all tightly bunched, cheered on by thousands of fans as they swept up the hill to the finish line. Amazing fun, enjoyed by all!

Up the cobbled High Street

The finish line
For the presentations

The Winner, Jonathan Tiernan Locke
Mark Cavendish gives an interview

Tour of Britain
Visit Surrey

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nana's Apple Jelly

My neighbour came by with a bag of apples, just some of a hoard she had received from her brother-in-law. As she was getting sick of peeling, coring and cooking them, she was ready to give some away. 

With my windfall I decided to try again my grandmother's apple jelly recipe after many years of neglect. It worked a treat and here is the result.

The good thing about making this jelly is that you don't need to peel or core the apples, just chop them roughly, then cook until mushy with some grated lemon zest and water. I strained the pulp through a jelly bag overnight and then boiled the resulting liquid with granulated sugar and lemon juice. After five minutes or so of boiling I started testing the jelly for setting - a cold plate in the fridge helps with this. It took about twenty minutes in the end, then I was ready to pour the liquid into sterilised jars. I use small ones, so the two kilos made about eight small jars, altogether. It's such a lovely jewel like jelly with a delicate peachy colour, and it is delicious with lamb and pork as well as stirred with yoghurt, too.

Nana's Apple Jelly (updated to metric)
1.8kg cooking apples, washed and roughly chopped
1140 ml water
Grated zest and juice of a lemon
Granulated sugar - measure about 450g for every 500ml of juice after straining

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Wisley Flower Show

This year Wisley Flower Show was held over five days for the first time, and we could not have ordered better weather as the sun shone and at times it was almost too warm! Over 40 of the best nurseries came to sell some excellent plants to the visitors along with some other garden related tools and ornaments etc. There was even some barbecuing going on by Company of Cooks, which seemed popular as plenty of people were occupying the seats on the Seven Acre lawn.

Up in the trials fields there is a dahlia trial going on and we were asked to vote for our favourite blooms. It is difficult to choose as they are all so different and colourful.