Yorkshire (part two): York

After saying farewell to Pickersgill Manor Farm, we headed to York for two nights. We’d been watching the reports on the news showing the flooding in York which had resulted from the wet weather on previous days and didn’t really know what to expect. However, we were staying on the outskirts of York city centre and it was mainly right down by the River Ouse where the worst of the flooding was. The racecourse (which we passed on the bus on the way into town) had also suffered badly in the rain and looked like a lake. The birds seemed to be enjoying it, but I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to have your home flooded (as some were down by the river).

Anyway, as we got to York fairly early on our first day there, it meant we effectively had two days to explore the city. Everyone I’d spoken to before going said that York was lovely, and they were right. It’s a lot like Canterbury, which happens to be my favourite town (well, city) in Kent. We also just happened to be there while the York Food Festival was on, so there was even more to see and eat than usual.  There were cakes, champagne tents, meats, preserves, and all manner of other local Yorkshire goodies on show, and I feel very foolish for not having taken any proper pictures of them…

We got lunch from York Hog Roast on our second day there. As well as their two places in York city centre they also had a stall at the food festival. I had the works- roast pork, crackling, stuffing and apple sauce. It was gooood. As we’d stuffed our faces with hog roast at lunch time, we didn’t want an enormous dinner, so we opted for tapas at Ambiente on Goodramgate. I know tapas isn’t exactly traditional Yorkshire grub, but it was probably one of the best meals we’d had while we were away. Ambiente is a small place and they could only accommodate us in the bar area, but it was just right (and an interesting challenge to fit all of our tapas plates on the tiny bar table!) The caramelised chorizo and potato and the mushrooms with caramelised shallots and tarragon cream were particular highlights. It’s worth mentioning that the restaurant has a good vegetarian and vegan selection- not just a few token dishes. I’ve had better calamari but I’m not complaining- the food went down well with a nice glass of red (or pint of light, refreshing Cruzcampo in Owen’s case) and it was a nice way to end the holiday.

Our other York-centric activities included visiting the Jorvik Viking centre, walking the walls (all of them) and visiting the (alleged) grave of Dick Turpin. And, of course, here are some photos…

Flooding in a park by the River Ouse.

Walking the walls

The Shambles: For centuries, this street was lined with butchers’ shops. Butchers’ waste such as offal and guts would be discarded into the middle of the street. Lovely!

York Minster in the evening.


Yorkshire (part one): Pickersgill Manor Farm

After visiting relatives in Cheshire for a couple of days, Owen and I began the main part of our holiday at Pickersgill Manor Farm near Silsden, on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales. Pickersgill is a working farm which is home to sheep, pigs, cattle, chickens and a duck. It has two large, comfortable B&B rooms, and we stayed in the one on the ground floor. The room was immaculate with a large en suite bathroom and beautiful views across the Yorkshire countryside (when the weather allowed it!) The photograph above was taken from the door to our room.

The breakfasts here are (literally) award winning and are cooked by Lisa, who runs the B&B while her husband Marcus runs the farm. Lisa and Marcus were friendly and welcoming, and breakfast is eaten at the family table in the kitchen. We were also invited in for tea and cake when we first arrived, which I thought was nice. A full English breakfast at Pickersgill includes, among other things, eggs from the farm’s chickens, sausages made with pork from its pigs and black pudding which is handmade locally (and which was some of the best black pudding I’ve ever tasted). On one of the days we were there we had porridge, which was lovely and creamy. I’m not sure if it was made with full fat milk or whether there was some cream in there but it was a good start to the day, especially with some local honey dolloped into it. We also sampled one of Lisa’s tray suppers on the first night we stayed there (as we didn’t really feel like venturing out). This was brought to our room and was a hearty roast lamb dinner followed by apple pie and custard (proper custard, made from scratch) and a jug of elderflower drink.

We ate at a few local restaurants after asking Lisa for recommendations- these included The Fleece in Addingham, which was lovely and cosy with friendly service and good, reasonably priced food. We’d incidentally eaten lunch earlier that day at another pub called The Fleece which was in Skipton. The name was the only similarity between the two places- our experience in The Fleece in Skipton involved walking into a pub which was eerily quiet (apart from one country music song which suddenly played over the speakers before everything went quiet again) and ordering something which was apparently a cheese toastie, but which was almost unrecognisably flattened and cooked to a greasy crisp. This was served with an enormous portion of chips in an apparent attempt to satisfy your appetite once you’d given up on the salty inedible sandwich.

On our last night at the farm, we ate at the Purple Garlic Indian restaurant in nearby Silsden. Again, the service here was friendly and welcoming and the food was excellent and very reasonably priced. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do justice to the generous portions (including onion bhajis the size of your fist), mainly because feeling under the weather had taken away my appetite and I couldn’t really taste anything properly. It was a real shame as I love curry and I hate wasting food- I’d have asked for a doggy bag if circumstances had allowed!

During this first bit of our holiday, we also visited Betty’s Tea Rooms in Ilkley. We had tea and cake (well, Owen had coffee and cake as he doesn’t drink tea because he’s odd) and it was all very civilised. This was another of Lisa’s recommendations- she’d mentioned at breakfast (while icing a cake, as you do) that she’d trained with Betty’s previously and said that it was a nice place to go on a wet day (which it was).

Apologies for the lack of pictures of food- I’m not really one for taking pictures of my food when I’m out and about but have a look at the websites if you’re interested or are looking for somewhere to stay or eat in Yorkshire!

To make up for the lack of food pictures, below are some photographs we took while walking the Ingleton Waterfall Trail. We walked the trail when I was feeling particularly snuffly and full of a cold, and had therefore only managed a bowl of Rice Krispies for breakfast. I really should have forced myself to have a bowl of porridge because the 8km walk nearly finished me off! It was very enjoyable though and the scenery was beautiful. It was also the only day the weather was good enough to do it while we were in that part of Yorkshire so I’m glad I sucked it up and just got on with it.

Tree trunk covered with coins.

Thornton Force- the most well-known waterfall on the Ingleton trail, which apparently provided inspiration for the artist William Turner.

The hump to the right of the picture is Ingleborough- one of the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks.

The orchid experiment

Orchids are one of my favourite flowers, and up until now I’ve had three orchid plants living with me in the flat. Two of them are phalaenopsis plants which I bought when they were reduced to about a pound each in Homebase because they’d finished flowering (I’m such a sucker for a slightly sad looking plant that’s been reduced because it looks like it’s past its best). That was a couple of years ago and I’ve had loads of flowers from them since. One of them has actually been in bloom for about three months now- they must just really like that spot on my windowsill. I also have what I believe to be a dendrobium orchid, which was a keiki taken in 2007 from a plant my mum had. It’s struggled along ever since, and I’ve had to rescue it from near death a few times by removing it from the orchid compost it was potted in and just leaving it in a jar of water. This seems to have worked as it’s now grown lots of healthy looking roots and I’ve planted it back in a pot of orchid compost. Fingers crossed it’ll finally get settled!

Keiki taken from my mum’s plant in 2007.

People often seem to think that orchids are difficult to look after, but I think as long as you put them in a place they like, they pretty much look after themselves. Phalaenopsis orchids in particular make good houseplants.

One of my phalaenopsis orchids.

Being an orchid fan, I’ve been particularly enchanted by the orchid section of the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens on the two occasions I’ve visited. On my most recent visit there, I was inspired by the orchids growing on bark and branches to have a go at trying something like that myself at home. I realise I’m being a bit ambitious, bearing in mind I don’t have a special conservatory with regulated temperature and humidity like Kew Gardens does. However, the seed was planted (no pun intended) in my mind so I sourced the necessary items online:

Clockwise from top – large piece of cork bark, LEGO Boba Fett to show scale, raffia, sphagnum moss, dendrobium taurinum keiki, white dendrobium nobile keiki. (Large portion of optimism not pictured.)

I bought two keikis to attach to the bark. The dendrobium nobile came from Ashford (which is half an hour’s drive from where I live) and the dendrobium taurinum came from Malaysia (which is a 14 hour flight from where I live). I was actually surprised at how well the dendrobium taurinum had fared on the long journey here, but I’ve still decided to put it in water for a bit to promote the root growth before I transplant it onto the bark as it wasn’t quite as healthy looking as the other one:

This is the finished product with the other keiki attached to it, the idea being that the roots will grow into the fissures of the bark over time:

And this is an example of an orchid display at Kew Gardens which inspired me to embark (again, no pun intended) on this project (which looks a lot more spectacular than the example above!):

While the bark of trees is an orchid’s natural habitat, a first floor flat in Kent is not, and I haven’t really thought through where to put the bark now I’ve attached the orchid. There is a fine line between having a beautiful display of orchids growing happily on bark and a weird looking thing cluttering up the living room, so I’m hoping it doesn’t look too tacky…

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

I first went to Kew Gardens sometime in the early Noughties. I went on my own as I couldn’t think of anyone who’d want to go with me, but still absolutely loved it and have wanted to go back ever since. So, we recently happened to have a day off together midweek and decided to go. Owen is used to being dragged round all sorts of horticultural visitor attractions in various parts of the country, so walking round Kew for five hours was par for the course. I actually saw a lot more this time round as we had all day and the weather was perfect too. Even Owen said he enjoyed it, which for someone who’s not that interested in plants is saying something.

I think my favourite part is still the iconic Palm House- an original Victorian glasshouse built from wrought iron and hand blown glass. You can walk up decorative spiral staircases inside it to the balcony, which gives you a view down over the enormous tropical plants and trees below. I’ve decided that my dream house would have a conservatory very similar to this- maybe slightly smaller. Only very slightly mind. I’d have twisted, woody vines climbing up inside it with orchids growing on the branches, and I’d spend hours in there, my hair gradually getting frizzier and frizzier in the humidity…

Anyway, we took about a bajillion photos, and here are some of them…

Hibiscus flower – possibly ‘White Kauai Rosemallow’, if my Googling serves me correctly.

Orchids growing on a branch.

Madagascar Periwinkle – extracts from this plant have been used in the effective treatment of leukaemia.

The Waterlily House – god it was hot in there. Beautiful though.


*Blows dust off blog*

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here, but our recent purchase of a spangly new DSLR camera has given me a reason to start posting again, as it enables me to take half decent photos despite my lack of skill in the photography department.

We recently went to Dungeness to have a play around with the new camera and to take in one of Kent’s more unusual landscapes. I had high hopes of spotting some birds of prey (perhaps a hobby or marsh harrier) at the RSPB nature reserve there, but, alas, we didn’t see any. We did see lots of other things though, and took lots of pictures. (Unfortunately, some really nice pictures of a great crested grebe and a lovely close up of a blue dragonfly were lost as we had the camera on the wrong setting, but you live and learn.)

While we were there, we also popped into The Pilot, a well-known pub on Dungeness seafront. We weren’t hungry enough for one of their famous fish suppers, but we did snaffle some tasty whitebait which kept us going for our (extremely windy) walk down on the shingle beach.

Caterpillar babies in a bush.

Viper’s bugloss

Dungeness nuclear power station