Saturday, 27 May 2017

Our visit to sunny Salcombe

Shell doorway 
We decided to pay a visit to the South Hams town of Salcombe yesterday, our reasoning being that it would probably be less manic on the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend than it would be on the Saturday. We began at the Park And Walk car park which, like at Sidmouth, is at the top of the hill. Salcombe's costs £3 for a day (or £3.03 if you don't have the right change and pay by mobile). It's then an pretty 15 minute walk into the waterside centre (allow 20 minutes to get back!). We both loved the pictured doorway, liberally adorned with seashells, which is just past the town museum.

Salcombe has a wealth of independent shops and businesses, many of which cater to more affluent residents and visitors. We noticed that a significant proportion of the houses hereabouts are holiday lets and I liked this advertising tricycle. I suspect it does not get ridden up the hill out of town at the end of each day!

We regretted not having pre-booked a tour at Salcombe's gin distillery, but did make a point of sampling Salcombe-made ice-cream and sorbet - both excellent. At the Tonic Gallery, we were both impressed by Greg Ramsden's paintings. He has an incredibly ability to capture light and to see the beauty in boatyard scenes. There are two wood sculptures currently at the gallery too, one which, resembling a wing, is particularly beautiful, but I forgot to note down the artists' names.

Back on the streets, we walked right out to the end of town passing a private quay and a row of old boatyard workshops several of which it was good to see are still utilised by boatbuilders. Others are now studios for other creative businesses including Will Bees Bespoke which makes gorgeous classic bags and purses. I was sorely tempted here!

Strolling back to the other end of the waterfront I was taken with the sign above the old public water fountain. Dire consequences are threatened to anyone caught using it to wash fish!

Salcombe has a lot of food sling establishments ranging from bakeries and delicatessens to luxurious seafront restaurants and it took us a while to make up our minds what we wanted to eat and where. Eventually we settled on The Fortescue Inn, a lovely olde worlde pub. I can highly recommend the fish finger sandwiches and Dave enjoyed his locally-smoked salmon sandwiches too.

Looking back over to Salcombe 
We toyed with the idea of taking an hour long estuary cruise, but the wide sandy beaches on the opposite shore looked too inviting so, instead of that, we crossed over on the pedestrian ferry (£1.60 per person each way). The beaches are privately owned, but open to the public and were popular with sunbathers on Friday. A few small children braved the water and I took my shoes off to wander in the surf, but wouldn't have wanted to swim. The water is still cold! We managed to get quite a way up to and through rocks before the water became too deep to continue. In the time it took us to decide whether we should continue, we nearly got ourselves cut off! The tide comes in quickly up the sand although a rock scramble was still an option.

I did like Salcombe as a place to visit. It is a very pretty little town with lots of charm and plenty to do for a day trip or long weekend. I am not sure I would be so keen to actually live there though. It was busy enough on Friday. I can imagine it being so crowded as to be uncomfortable through the summer months and getting in or out by road would be a nightmare!

Friday, 26 May 2017

Our first Trailer Tent experience at Buckfastleigh

Our Raclet Solena 
Do you remember that photo I posted a few weeks ago of the little orange trailer we took possession of on my birthday? Well it's now pitched up on a beautiful Camping And Caravanning Club CS site, The Crib, just outside Buckfastleigh. We are booked in here for four nights to get the hang of camping in a Raclet Solena and so far everything has gone pretty well! It's beautifully green here and, although traffic noise from the main road is pretty constant, it's not too intrusive and we can't see the cars for trees. Our nearest neighbours for the first night were bees and a trio of chickens! We can walk into Buckfastleigh and might go to see the steam railway there on Sunday.

Bee hives and a chicken house 
Obviously we expected that actually getting the tent set up for the first time would be considerably slower for us than it had been for the demo guy at Highbridge Caravans and it certainly was! Raclet Solenas like flat ground and the field at The Crib is sloping so we needed to borrow a plank to level it out! Once we got that sorted though, the rest was fairly straightforward and even hammering in all the awning pegs is much easier with Devon earth than it was with Spanish. I'm very happy with our Solena! The bed, with our mattress topper, is comfortable and there is a surprising amount of room in the folded-out trailer, even before we doubled the space with the awning. I love the large circular windows. They have three layers so can be dark canvas, mesh netting, clear plastic, and combinations of all three. You can see the view from the bedroom window at the end of this post. The trailer floor has a little carpet which looks much more practical than the ones that used to be in our Bailey caravan. There is also a zip-in groundsheet for the awning, but as this field is lush grass we decided not to use it here.

Our new 'toys' are great too! I'm sitting in my HiGear Delaware chair to type this post. It's good as a leisure or dining chair and I love the sturdy flip-up side table. We got one each to go with our folding Quest table. I like the efficient small gas jets on our Kampa Cucina double hob and it sits neatly on our old Outwell cupboard. Also Outwell, but a new acquisition, is our 24 litre EcoCool coolbox. It can run off mains or 12v and has a low power eco setting that actually works well. Apparently it can also be set to provide warmth - keeping cooked food hot - but we haven't tried that yet. Finally we've got our own little portable flushing toilet too! There is a shed bathroom onsite at The Crib, but the portable toilet is ideal  for the middle of the night.

So we're all set for a superb Bank Holiday Weekend and have fingers crossed that the glorious weather lasts until Monday.

The view from the bedroom!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Upcoming live music gigs I'm looking forward to

Since my last gigs post we heard truly amazing music from Rebecca Loebe and Luke Jackson at Starcross, and from Charlie Dore (with choir!) at Kingskerswell. Don't forget Rachel Ries is performing as Her Crooked Heart in Devon This Saturday (the 27th of May). We will be venturing to Kingsbridge to see her. It's essentially a house concert. Contact for more details and to reserve your seat!

June 2nd is our next live music gig and this one will definitely be fab as it is Carrie Elkin, a musician we've known for years, together with her husband, Danny Schmidt, whom we have known even longer. Carrie is touring Europe to promote her new album, The Penny Collector, and we will catch her at The Bellows at The Wheelwright Inn which is in Colyford, East Devon. Carrie has an amazing voice and I am keen to hear her new songs. Tickets for this gig are available directly from the venue.

We have a slightly longer gap before two back-to-back gigs in the east of the country. First we are booked to see Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin at Billericay Library - of all places! Gigs in unusual venues seems to be becoming 'a thing' and this Devon folk duo have five (I think) library gigs coming up across Essex. The Billericay date of The Libraries Tour is in the 16th of June and tickets are available through We Got Tickets. Other dates in the same week are at Maldon, Rayleigh, Harwich and Loughton and those four town name links take you to their respective We Got Tickets pages.

Back to Americana music and I don't know much about Jonathan Byrd, but Dave is keen to see him and that is a good enough recommendation for me! But if you want a second opinion, Rich Warren of WFMT in the Chicago Tribune says that Jonathan is “one of the top 50 songwriters of the last 50 years". The UK tour is from the 12th until the 23rd of June and we are going to the Eye gig on June the 17th at a Community Arts Centre venue called The Bank. Tickets for this gig are available directly from the venue and if you struggled to make the checkout work before, it has now been fixed!

So that's our live entertainment for May and June so far. Let me know if you're coming to any of these too and in the meantime, have a scroll through these South West gig listings from WeGotTickets and see if anything else catches your eye!


Monday, 22 May 2017

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

First off, has everyone eligible registered to vote? Remember you have only got until 11:59pm TONIGHT and I shall throw a right hissy fit if any of my blog readers don't vote!

Register To Vote Here!

Already done?
Great, let's look at another quintet of discounts and voucher codes starting with a tempting offer from book DVD and music sellers Speedyhen. Speedyhen already offer free UK delivery on all their products and often have discounted prices too. Now they are adding to their generosity with £5 off spends of £25 or more for new customers. The offer doesn't apply to ebooks, but is valid for everything else and lasts until the 30th of June. Simply use code NEWCUSTOMER17 at checkout.

If the changeable weather keeps catching you out at the moment, Weird Fish have the answer to staying warm. They are offering 30% off a selection of their fleeces and I particularly like this Bina style one in faded jade reduced from £35 to £24.50. All the 30% off fleeces are shown on This Page for Women and on This Page for Men so there's no checkout code to remember, and the promotion lasts until the end of May. Weird Fish also offer FREE Standard UK delivery on all orders, FREE International Shipping on orders over £100, FREE UK 90 days Returns and Exchanges and Next Day UK delivery for just £2.99.

Summer is coming (honestly!) so now is a great time to take advantage of early season offers at Go Outdoors. Their 20% off Big Brand Event finishes tomorrow (23rd May). Go Outdoors has got a superb range of everything you will need for a camping staycation or a festival weekend. We got lots of gear for our trailer tent recently! It is worth remembering that even more stock is often available online than in store and UK delivery is free with spends of over £50. Having a Go Outdoors discount card unlocks great discounts, plus Camping And Caravanning Club members are entitled to an extra 10% off the card price (although not in conjunction with other offers).

Homewares and gift shop Museum Selection has a sitewide sale on at the moment with many items reduced to half price. I love their historically inspired pieces, especially the art nouveau and art deco styled trinkets and accessories. The pictured ceramic Babbacombe Marmalade Cats are made just a couple of miles from my home in a continuation of the long tradition of Devon pottery in Torbay. At the moment you can buy one for £9.99, reduced from £19.99, or a pair for £17.99.

And finally an offer which isn't available just yet but will be valid over the Whitsun Bank Holiday Weekend from the 25th until the 29th of May. Get 20% off Absolutely Everything at Twinings! Shop hundreds of amazing teas and infusions from around the world, plus treat yourself to stylish gifts, teaware, accessories and more or stock up your present drawer for the rest of the year! Use the code WEEKEND20 at checkout.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Sunflower Seed Milk and Cookies recipes

Sunflower Seed Milk and Flour 
After another superb Kingskerswell gig last night, I am having a quiet cookery day today. We saw Charlie Dore at Kingskerswell Church where she was backed by the Totnes Pop-Up Choir. I love Charlie's music anyway, but the choir made it all the more magical! Take a look at for the rest of her tour dates and for more great live music in South Devon.

Back to the kitchen! I'm cutting down of our dairy intake, partly for personal health reasons and partly for environmental reasons, which got me into trying various nut milks to make our breakfast porridge. Interestingly, in blind taste tests (because I didn't tell him!) Dave actually preferred non-dairy milks and my favourite was almond, but I wasn't so keen on the price. Having seen a few bloggers extolling the pros of homemade nut and seed milks, I decided to give it a go. is a particularly good resource and I eventually settled on their Sunflower Seed Milk as being the best suited to us.

Milk Ingredients
140g sunflower seeds
Water for soaking

4-5 dates (optional)
700ml water

I put the sunflower seeds into a bowl with enough water to well cover them and leave them to soak all day (or overnight). I then drain the seeds, discarding the soaking water.
I put the soaked seeds into a high sided saucepan together with 700ml of fresh water and a few dates for sweetness. The dates are optional, but we both have a sweet tooth here! I use my handheld blender to liquidise the seeds and dates which usually takes a couple of minutes. Of course, if you have a food processor you could use this instead.
When all ingredients are blended I hang a jelly bag over a largish bowl and pour the seed-water mixture through it, squeezing at the end to make sure as little liquid as possible is retained with the seed pulp. This is pretty good exercise for hand strength!
The liquid is the finished milk which I decant into a fridge jug ready for the morning's porridge. It does separate as it stands, but a quick stir-up with a long spoon brings it back together again.

Oat And Date Cookies 
Cookie Ingredients
160g chopped dates
Hot water
1 ripe-ish banana
2 tbsp peanut butter
70g oats
175g sunflower seed pulp

In a great instance of Waste Not Want Not synchronicity it turns out that the leftover sunflower seed pulp from milk-making is a perfect flour substitute in Oat And Date Cookies. Any excuse for cookie baking!

I start to make these by soaking 160g of chopped dates in hot water for 5-10 minutes to soften them. I also set the oven to preheat to 180c although I need to look into whether these cookies would also bake in the slow cooker as I think this would be more economical and energy efficient.

I mash the banana into a large mixing bowl and mix in the peanut butter. I then drain the dates discarding the water and stirring the fruit into the banana mix.

I add the oats and seed pulp and mix everything well together with a wooden spoon. Once there is a sort of dough I use my hands to form it into small balls, lightly flatten them nd place them onto a baking tray. This size batch makes 16-18 cookies. I have found if I flatten them and then place them on a baking tray, they bake without sticking so the tray doesn't need additional greasing or flouring. If I press the cookies onto the tray to flatten them, they do stick!

I bake the cookies on a high oven shelf at 180c for about 15 minutes or until they start to brown on top. I remove the tray from the oven and let them stand for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Delicious with an afternoon cuppa or as an on-the-go snack!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

#ThrowbackThursday - where we were on this day in Mays past

Early Spring by Eric Slater 
I wasn't sure whether to go ahead with this Throwback Thursday post when I realised that its date would be the 18th of May. My Mum died on this day four years ago and it is still a difficult anniversary to get through even though I try to ignore it in favour of remembering the happy times of Mum's birthday a week later.

On this day in 2012, a year beforehand, I blogged about a fascinating art exhibition held at Eastbourne's Towner Gallery. Entitled Point Of Departure, its theme was primarily paintings and photographs of the coast between Newhaven and Beachy Head, the port through which so many thousands of travellers have passed, and the white cliffs that are the first sight of Britain when returning home. The exhibition featured a small section dedicated to the print artist Eric Slater who swiftly became one of my favourites.

So, as already explained, I'd rather just forget this point in May 2013 and I notice I just blogged recipes at the time rather than actually writing proper posts. This Salmon And Pesto Penne concoction is still one of our favourites.

On the 18th of May 2014 I blogged about a new job I had just found I had been successful in getting. Only temporary, but it meant I had the summer working as part of a good team at Wealden District Council. Dave and I had recently collected our new-to-us car as well as putting our Polegate house on the market so things were definitely looking up and, as it turned out, my whole life was going to change!

New boots! 
By this time in May 2015 our UK caravan tour was well underway. We were in Yorkshire and had just spent a good day in and near to Bakewell and Eyam. The museums there are both definitely worth a visit and we took the opportunity to devour a genuine Bakewell-baked Bakewell Tart! I was also delighted to buy these Gabor boots at the Peaklander Factory Shop. Two years later they are still going strong, albeit a bit scuffed around the toes!

And last year we had just paid our first visit to Cockington Court near Torquay. We had decided to put down new roots in Torbay and were starting to explore our new home. Cockington is a beautiful village and manor house with walking opportunities, artisan studios and workshops, art exhibition space and a cafe. There's also a cricket pitch where we said we must go to watch a game on a sunny afternoon. We still haven't though and I caught myself making exactly the same suggestion when we were back there last week!

Cockington Court 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Ask Book Publishers to Stand Up for Free Speech and Forests!

As a keen reader and a book blogger, I was upset at the latest email I received from Greenpeace yesterday. It appears that, although many book publishers are doing their best to reduce their environmental impact, the company from which they buy much of their paper doesn't have good credentials - and it is trying to bully dissenters.

After years of successful Greenpeace campaigns to protect Canada's forests, one logging company, Resolute Forest Products, is trying to silence Greenpeace and our ally, The company is suing Greenpeace for hundreds of millions of dollars in Canada and the USA. If it wins, Greenpeace’s ability to advocate for forest protection anywhere in the world will take a huge blow.

Mile by mile, Resolute is destroying some of Canada’s most vibrant, ancient forests. But rather than working with Greenpeace on finding solutions, Resolute is trying to hide its actions by suing us - trying to force us into silence. We will not be silenced.

Please sign the Greenpeace petition

Resolute produces paper for some of the biggest book publishers in the world and will listen to its customers. Please can you send a message to publishers, asking them to stand up for the forests? Many major publishing companies including Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, and Hachette source paper from Resolute.

We’re aiming for 500,000 signatures by May 31 when we’ll take your message to Book Expo America in New York - one of the largest publishing industry gatherings in the world. Your voice will help us convince publishers to stand up for free speech and the forests.

We want publishers to:
1. Ask Resolute to produce book paper without harming intact forests and threatened wildlife habitat.
2. Encourage Resolute to stop attacking free speech.

Please can you tell the publishing industry to support Greenpeace and stand up for free speech?