Is this what they mean by “Multi-use Trail”?

Well, not really, but this is what a trail suitable for families, wheelchairs,dog walkers, cyclists, and pushchairs has to look like when its being built.

Don’t worry though, once the construction crew have left and nature takes over, the new recycled road planing surface will weather in and it will look just like an inviting meander through the woodland.

The trail should be completed soon after Easter, but in the meantime you can still have a great visit to National Trust Parke, seeing the apple orchard, walled garden, historic parkland, bluebell woodland, riverside walk, Dartmoor Pony Centre, ending with a tasy snack of light lunch at Home Farm Cafe.

Gorge-ous Chutney

Lydford Gorge Chutney produced byDevon based Waterhouse Fayre has won silver in the prestigious 2012 Taste of the West awards.  The prestigious Taste of the West Awards is one of the most highly respected in the food and drink industry, established nineteen years ago. The awards highlight successful and high quality businesses across food and drink production, hospitality and food retail. 

Lydford Gorge Chutney

Gorge-ous Chutney

 

For a number of years the tearoom at Lydford Gorge has made its own no cook chutney to be served as an accompaniment with its pasties and sandwiches. The chutney has always been a hit with the visitors at Lydford Gorge with many visitors asking for the recipe and asking if they could buy a jar to take home.  In responding to visitor feedback and comments about the chutney the team at Lydford worked with local jam and chutney producer, Waterhouse Fayre, one of the National Trust suppliers, to use the basic recipe to produce a sellable version of the Chutney.  After much tasting by the Lydford team the final version of the Lydford Gorge chutney went into production.

 Sarah Hortop, National Trust retail manager says ‘since we started selling the Lydford Gorge chutney in the shop at Lydford Gorge it has been extremely popular with our visitors.  We still serve the chutney in our tearooms as an accompaniment.  Visitors love the fact they can buy a jar to take home.’

Visitors to Lydford Gorge can also enjoy Waterhouse Fayre’s strawberry jam also on sale in the shop with a cream tea at the tearoom.

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES

As with recent years spring and summer have swapped places which has led to an unseasonal display of  shorts at the rangers office and the Castle Drogo bee hives in full swing.  The hive had their post winter check last Wednesday and are thankfully healthy and disease free. The picture below shows some wild honey which is delicious, once you’ve taken all the bees off!

Venison

I guess if we’re going to talk about food and Dartmoor then thoughts may naturally  go to the deer that are a major part of whatDartmooris so famous for.

Recently, when I was contacting Mick Jones; North Dartmoor’s  Head Ranger, this thought rapidly become an action when, after I added a light reference to the potential opportunity to join him next time he was out shooting, I received a one line reply…You free on Saturday at 7:30? To my shame I did take a little time to consider this as getting up at 6am on my day off to get ontoDartmoor did make me wince.

Clearly I was a numpty to give this a moments consideration as when I did get there it was a beautiful clear morning, well worth getting up at such an unsociable time (for me) and, wrapped up warm enough to ignore about the cold, we soon set off.

Conversation was light on the stroll down to thedeer parkand with Mick and I both having a child of a similar age we got chatting about the comedic elements of raising toddlers.

We soon reached the entrance to thedeer parkand after some guidance from Mick we headed into a stunning, barely touched landscape of natural wild flora.

Seeing so many crafted, manicured gardens makes you forget about how awe inspiring the untouched land can be. To me the moss covered rocks, bracken and wild bushes are on a par with an underwater reef covered in coral and reeds that inspires a sense of duty to leave this untouched and in shape for those who’ll come after you. And equally a pang of nostalgia (or is it a sense of embarrassment) by how rarely I spend my time on places like this.

Strolling as quietly as I could behind Mick there was the air of a gentle morning stroll until without any warning his rifle slipped off his shoulder and was brought up to aim with the fluidity equal to me reaching into the cupboard for a coffee cup. What really caught my attention was how the character holding this rifle, poised and rigid with stance that seemed to be gripping the very ground he was standing on seemed nothing like the calm friendly chap I’d been chatting to a moment earlier. Then, due to lack of a ‘safe’ shot, the deer swiftly skipped away and Mick’s tree-like pose slipped back into the relaxed, composed style that I was used to.

It was at this point he showed me some images of deer wounded by poor shooting, a quick wake-up call as to the necessity of doing this right.

We continued on following signs left by the deer until we came over the crest of a hill Mick become planted in the earth again, poised once again with his eye down the sight of the rifle looking at a herd of eight deer. After a while they dispersed and Mick explained that if he had shot and missed the stray round would have travelled over a pathway. The likelihood of anyone walking past at that time would be so remote, but you’d never take the risk.

Our next sighting was a real gift in spotting a white doe not forty meters from us. She plodded off and again the rifle went back over my guides shoulder and as we carried on Mick explaining that there is an unwritten rule never to shoot white deer in the park.

By now the sun had risen high enough for us to have to call it a day. The final part of the trip was a show around the deer larder that was, for today, unoccupied.

I guess this means that I’ll be unable to pop by Castle Drogo, who benefit from the work done by Rangers, for their signature venison dish. This for me is what completes this story. For a time longer than I know how to measure we have hunted and in today’s world the majority of us are pretty far removed from this, but a trip up to Castle Drogo for some seasonal venison dishes helps complete this process in a way that brings us a little closer to appreciating the journey.

I’m not ignorant enough to ignore that for some people this is an enormously contentious issue and I’m not versed well enough to defend Deer Management, but I am at ease with this process. I guess if I wasn’t then I would have enjoyed a Saturday morning lay-in.

These are not a bunch of testosterone fuelled red-necks with a no-deer, no-beer mentality; nothing could be further from the truth. What you have is a team who, in my opinion, if you cut them would bleedDartmoor. A team who’ll happily take their eye off the prize to take in the vast, awe inspiring views of the landscape around them. This is not done for any misguided glory, but as a process to maintain a healthy, natural and sustainable balance. Again I should be careful not to incite any adverse reaction from those who may disagree with the principles of Deer Management. I guess my view is simply this… there is a deer management system in place, and I feel that you couldn’t ask a better man to be leading it.

 

 

Mellow fruitfulness

Autumn is beginning to show its wares. I spotted this fine show of Fly Agaric on the side of the path to Sharpe Tor at Castle Drogo. These wonderful fungi are a real herald of autumn their bright red colour telling everybody to look out we are poisonous. Although seldom lethal they will make you very unwell. Their close relatives in the Amanita family the Death Cap and Panther Cap will be lethal however.

Eating fungi can be very rewarding and on the continent everybody does it. The problem is you do need to know what you are doing or suffer the consequences. Interestingly with some fungi two people can sit down to the same plate one can be fine the other suffer severe sickness. Some fungi can be fine unless you have alcohol with them.

We have some fugal forays in our events this Autumn its great to go out with an expert and learn about these amazing things. Did you know that the single biggest living organism is a fungus. A fungus is like an apple tree growing underground with its branches and twigs growing through the soil the ‘mushroom’ is the fruiting body like the trees apples popping out above the soil.

 

The parasol mushroom is an elegant beast sometimes standing over a foot above the ground it is very difficult to confuse with anything else and very good to eat.

One of my favorites is the giant puff ball it is impossible to mix up with anything else and if picked young, sliced and fried with butter and garlic is to die for. Hmm probably not the best way to say that.

We have a fungal foray at Hembury woods on the 9th of October and another on the 23rd October at Castle Drogo. See our web site for more details.

For The Love of an Orchard

Everybody’s guide to growing and cooking orchard fruit, beautifully illustrated book on special offer for £10.00 in Castle Drogo shop now, while stocks last.

Why not visit Castle Drogo on Fathers Day for Locally Produced Parke Apple Juice and Winkleigh Cider tastings in the shop, these products on special offer, buy one get one half price, ideal treats for Dad on Fathers Day.

Parke Apple Juice – Juice from apples grown and harvested from the orchards at Parke, on the edge of Dartmoor.

Sam’s Poundhouse, medium,dry and scrumpy cider. Produced by the apprentice (now master cider maker himself) of the infamous Master Cider Maker Sam Inch, of Inch’s Cider. Sam’s Poundhouse ciders are made using only Devon Apples. Fermented and matured in 100 year old oak vats to give Poundhouse its distinctive flavour.

The proof is in the pudding

At this point in the year there is some real anticipation as to what we can be digging up; rhubarb, radishes etc

What I don’t want to dig up though is the archaic, moth eaten debate around the origin of the cream tea. Jam or cream on top??!! Is this really still going on? How about we start a new trend of topping our scones with delicate, alternating strips of cream and jam? Or for those more enlightened amongst you how about a well balanced jam & cream yin yang symbol? We’ll all hold hands and chant about a world free of prejudice…. then scoff them down afterwards.

The more relevant debate should ideally be stimulated by our heading ‘The proof is in the pudding’, especially as I have an incredibly sweet tooth (and thankfully a fast metabolism to help shift the additional calories). And here is where I want to throw down my gauntlet (or oven glove) and declare that the cream tea at Castle Drogo is by far the best I’ve ever tasted.

The adorable Sue Hooper, Catering Manager at Castle Drogo, didn’t need to manipulate my over eager competitive nature. She just simply sat me down, and left me to my own devices saying that I was to have no distractions whilst I enjoyed this treat.

The scone did exactly what I wanted from any home baked treat, it took me straight back to my Nan’s kitchen.
The subtle crust housed the dense dough that started my journey of reminiscence

The Devon clotted cream topped its competition by being consistently dense all the way through. No thick crust hiding something disappointingly thin and runny underneath, just every ounce spreading lavishly over the scone.

Their jam is there secret weapon that few others can compete with.  When we say local I don’t mean fruit bought from Spain and made in our kitchen. No, no, no…..What we mean is fruit that is gown in Devon and then made without any nasties and sent to the castle. It’s jam that some of us will remember and the younger audience will possible have never known.

Now, I credit myself with some fine table manners, but even I couldn’t resist licking my finger and winding it around my plate to collect every single last crumb.

Mmmm. Satisfaction.

So if you want my advice head over there, but promise me one thing, don’t talk about the history of the castle, or what’s blooming in the garden, or even about your journey. Actually I don’t want you to talk about anything. Just follow Sue’s advice. No distraction, just think about every mouthful as it’s going down and maybe like me you’ll go on your own brief little journey back in time.

Now I must finish, hunt for my keys, and get off to see Sue and the team as I have now decided to be the Head of Cream Tea Quality Control. It’s a tough job, hey?