Boxing Day this year for me has been pretty decent. We woke up to a magnificent sunny morning….still freezing though. We felt we had to make the most of this sunshine (haven’t seen a lot of it lately!) and decided to go on one of our much loved long walks. Today, we would start from Kingsclere and walk to Hannington then on the Wayfarers Path to the Gallops then down into Sydmonton, through the Lloyd-Webber Estate then on to Eccinswell and back to Kingsclere. All up, around 22kms (13-14 miles).
So, although feeling a little seedy from a few! extra drinks yesterday, not to mention all that rich food, Steve set about making us a quick beans on toast and some yummy Christmas ham sandwiches while I washed my hair. I made us a thermos of coffee, Steve filled the water bottle and we were off around 8:30am and were walking by 8:45am.
The day was stunning…….so sunny with only a breath of wind. Walking conditions were sensational, although a little slippery in some spots but mostly just crunchy snow. Didn’t see much wildlife…sheep, two hares, horses, many Robin Redbreast and a large number of other birds fighting to get the last of the berries on the trees.
We stopped for coffee on the highest point of the Gallops where the veiws were magnificent, as per usual. By this stage, my bit of a hangover had disappeared in the chilly air and I felt amazing.
Three hours into the walk and I was starting to get tired and wanted to find a nice warm spot to curl up and sleep!! But we were going to finish with a pint in “The George and Dragon” pub so I had to keep soldiering on……….
We were eventually in the last field before we reached Kingsclere. The feeling we felt was that of achievement and immense satisfaction. Four hours walking on the icy snow topped landscape was a huge effort, mentally and physically. Fantastic! Won’t feel guilty having that pint of Thatchers Cider!
We pull up to The George and Dragon Pub for a couple of festive glasses before our Christmas feast at home and there seems to be a decent crowd there already, going by the amount of cars outside.
Paula looks gorgeous and offers me a glass of champagne and Steve a pint of his favourite real ale. She made the most amazing smoked salmon pinwheels filled with cream cheese and herbs…magnificent with the champagne. She also made tiny meat filled pies which went down a treat with Steve’s ale. How special was this. Just brilliant…and with class. We stayed for two drinks as we had to get back to check on the lamb..and the fire…..but it was hard to leave (again!) The atmosphere was so relaxed ……just people standing, sipping, nibbling and chatting before they had to head home for their own Christmas feast. thank you Paula and Lionel…..it was just lovely.
Woke up a little later than usual on Christmas morning…wanted to go for a walk but it was quite foggy and bleak and also very cold….made my husband and I leek scrambled eggs and bacon. A beautiful start to the day.
I make a brief visit into the dog’s room to wish Jester and Indi a very “Happy Christmas!” Jester is absolutely totally absorbed with his new Christmas bone filled with chicken (our present to him) His tail is wagging madly but doesn’t move from his bed…”Thank you Jenny, Merry Christmas to you too but could you let me finish my bone?”
Indi gets up out of his bed thinking I’ve come in to take him out for a walk! “No Indi boy, just coming in to wish you a Happy Christmas.” “Oh, that’s a shame.” I think I heard him mumble! “How come Jester’s got a special treat then? Where’s my special grand treat?” I bet he said. “In you bed Indi, have a good day.” I say to him and give him a good old pat. The look he gave me was disappointment and he resumed back to huddling up in his cosy bed.
Meanwhile Jester the little monkey was still madly wagging his tail while engrossed in his new bone. When I went over to him to say goodbye he rolled over onto his back (bone still in his mouth) and let me tickle him a little on his belly. left their room pleased to have seen the two lovely dogs.
So, it’s just the two of us this year for Christmas day (I rang my parents in Australia last night to wish them Merry Christmas as they are 11 hours in front of us here in the UK) So, I have no stress cooking for a large number and am enjoying this quiet time very nicely thank you! Not doing a traditional lunch. We will be serving a slow cooked leg of lamb marinated over night with rosemary, garlic pesto and tomato paste, topped with onion and a decent amount of red wine in the pan. This will cook for 3- 4 hrs and will fall off the bone to serve.
So, this morning I’m setting a lovely table for two! with candles. I’ve made a cauliflower cheese, prepared brussel sprouts and carrots. Also made thin wholemeal bread stick toasts for our smoked salmon caper and creme fraiche starter (we will have this when we get back from the “George and Dragon.” Cheese board includes a West Country Cheddar, Stilton and French Brie. We have some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (a gift for Steve from the big house) as well as some French Champagne and some decent Australian red wine.
We have a gorgeous fire burning now and the cottage is very cosy….oh my God! the sun is out now which is quite lovley….think I will turn a few lights off now and let the Christmas tree lights take centre stage.
We just rang Steve’s mum on skype in Florida for a Christmas chat.
We are walking two dogs today and Indi is beside himself with excitement as he comes out of the dogs room and Jester the monkey is as happy as Larry. Steve has some “training treats!” for Jester in his pocket and the smart dog already senses this and starts behaving orderly, but only after a manic run around first.
So we start out through the orchard today and Indi is looking for the tennis ball he thinks I have for him in my pocket! while Jester is just pleased to be out and responding to Steve like he is his schoolmaster!
We reach the small wood and off the leads they go….Indi, on a mission to pick the perfect spot to do his business and this sometimes takes a while….to find the discreet, right spot. Today he didn’t seem too particular and just “did the business” only slightly off the path.
Jester was running with the wind again….so free spirited. We found him digging a hole in the snow and think he found the head of a fish! Can’t believe this…. but a fish head is what it looked like. Would a bird of prey have left this? Not sure but whatever this was he was on cloud nine and running around defrosting it in his mouth and teasing Indi at the same time! “look at me Indi,” he said “You’re too old and slow to have found this. Wehhaaaay!”
We let Jester have his find which gave me time to chase Indi as he decided to run off. Not for long. After blowing my whistle for ages, he finally decided to turn around and join us. “Indi…come on, behave now!” His look at me was like he was ten times smarter than me….giving me any easy time today!
Walking back to the cottage was very rewarding. I love the snow, although the lane was very slippery in places. It was funny watching the dogs slip a little as they walked…not like us heavy adults!
Back home and I tucked the dogs up in their beds with plenty of water and a smile.
Walking just Jester again today as Indi boy is still in the West Country shooting with his master.
Still a great deal of snow covers the landscape and once Jester the young Labrador touches the ground, he’s off……….. Something about the snow makes him seem wild, running through the large garden with all the free spirit he can muster.
When he realises Steve has some treats with him, he then starts to behave, sitting to command and walking at heal beautifully. What a smart dog….misbehaves so much but when he knows treats are involved, he is the perfect student.
We take him down the lane and into the snowy woods out into the big open field that he loves. He usually likes chasing pheasants here but we have tried to stop him doing this favourite past time of his, as gun dogs in training aren’t supposed to chase! pheasants…or tennis balls! So a keen eye is kept on him here.
The walk, although very cold, icy and damp was quite reviving and all three of us arrived home very satisfied. I put Jester back in his bed, topped his water bowl up and patted him goodbye. “Goodbye little monkey, you be good…see you tomorrow.” I said. Jester looked at me kindly and said, “Don’t go Jenny, can’t you stay and play for a while?” ” No little boy,” I said.”See you tomorrow, I have to go now.”
So, I left him and went back into our cottage and put another lovely log on our woodburner and began the task or removing my boots and gaiters………
My husband Steve and I are geared up today to venture out again in freezing temperatures to walk the dogs from the big house. Just Jester today though. Indi has gone shooting down in the West Country with his master.
We have some dogie treats for Jester today, and he behaves very well. Always running ahead of us stopping to let us catch up a bit. He absolutely loves the snow …….. and being outside in the cold.
When we finally get back home, he looks up at Steve and says, “Thanks for being so kind to me, I loved the walk. Any treats left?”
“Good boy Jester,” says Steve. ” You have been very good today. See you tomorrow (with a loving pat on his head)”
Okay, no more treats by the looks of things Jester concludes….See you too Steve….
I take Jester back into the big house and pour him some fresh water in his bowl which he demolishes within a minute. He decides to settle down into Indi’s bed (it’s much bigger and cosier) and he gets away with it today! as Indi isn’t back until late tomorrrow. I put another couple of logs on the fire in the large kitchen/breakfast room and say goodbye with a rub on his tummy and a kiss from afar.
“Thanks Jenny, you’re pretty great to me,” I think he whispered!
Sunday lunch is always a treat at The George and Dragon Pub in Wolverton Townsend.
It is especially good when Paula has Roast Leg of Lamb on the menu. The sensational waft of lamb cooking as you enter the pub is truly mouth watering (my favourite roast meat, if that isn’t already obvious!)
If your lucky enough, (or smart enough to book as my husband did) the table by the fire is unbeatable, especially on an icy cold day as this was.
We settle very well in front of the roaring fire and after a pint of real ale (my husband chose Henry’s IPA) and a Thatchers Cider for me, we order our meal at the bar.
Our meals come swiftly to the table and we are not disappointed. Quite a huge serve of tender, succulent lamb is accompanied by a large roast potato, Yorkshire pudding and beautifully cooked broccoli, carrots and peas, along with a perfect amount of gravy and a side dish of mint sauce. Pretty damn good, and the Australian Shiraz Cabernet turned it into a feast for lamb loving me! Priced at £9.99, it’s extremely good grub for the price.
The other Roast of the day was Loin of Pork. Other specials were listed on another menu board along with some yummy desserts and the full menu was also on offer.
It’s always hard to leave this place….just as well it isn’t open all day as we would certainly be tempted to linger a little longer!
Took the dogs out for a walk again after lunch and I had a feeling in my chilly bones that Jester was in a very unruly mood, so I had my “strict teacher” hat on to be ready……….
It all started out okay, with both dogs walking well at heal down the lane (on leads though as there are the odd speeding nutter motorist that could easily finish a dog’s life in seconds!) So we enter the woods and off the lead and off they go……….having a wonderful time in the cold icy conditions!!
Jester runs at full speed like a little pony (as usual) and Indi pleases himself and ignores any call or whistle. Nice to see he is maintaining his usual behavior! Jester disappears for what seems like ages and all my whistling, calling does zero to locate the naughty monkey. Just when we thought he had disappeared forever, he darts out of the wood into the open field like a starving greyhound chasing a rabbit. In this case, Jester was hot on the foot of a pheasant and not a rabbit…(but would have loved that too!) May as well throw my whistle away as there was no stopping him. There is a horse racing track close by and he jumped across the beautifully manicured track in two leggy bounds….very impressive. It wasn’t until my husband gave a piercing whistle with two fingers to his mouth, that he stopped in his tracks and came running back. Thank goodness there were no horses out training on the track as there could have been an incident!
Back on track and we were walking towards home again, Jester thinking nothing of his earlier antics. Both were back into their warm beds and pleased with the exercise.
This is so quick and easy if you are rushing or have a hungry person wanting to be fed! The addition of fennel seeds goes so well with fish which is what we usually serve with these.
Use jacket potatoes or any good baking potato. No need to pre- boil, just cut into some lovely decent size wedges, (average about one large potato per person) then into a baking tray. Drizzle with vegetable oil, sprinkle with fennel seeds, sea salt, pepper and garlic powder (not too much of this as it is quite strong) cook until crisp and golden. My oven requires around 40 minutes around gas mark 6. This gives you enough time to prepare and cook some fish to serve with these potatoes.
If you have a busy life, choose a good quality frozen fish product and pop this into the oven 25 minutes before the wedges are ready. So simple and quick. Serve potato wedges and fish with fresh lemon and a side salad (like I love) or peas (which my English husband loves!) In any case, it is pretty yummy. I spoil us with a home made tartare sauce……….it provides a dressing for the salad and so dreamy with the fish and potato. Will post this recipe soon…..
One of my favourite, relaxing, most enjoyable pastimes….. to kill an hour in the early evening, is sitting with my husband at the round table by the amazing, blazing fire at the George and Dragon Pub in Wolverton Townsend.
It’s a five minute drive or so from our place and never disappoints. I occasionally drag my husband there at lunchtime on my day off for a pint and a serve of their lovely pork pate. We find it hard leaving that table when it’s bitter and cold outside!
It is a very well run country pub and as the owners have been there for 25yrs now, they take great pride in the running of the place. My husband is a huge fan of real ale! and will be delighted to tell anyone that Lionel tends his cellar of ales to the highest standards. “This is very good”, “top class” is often heard from his lips (when the pint glass isn’t touching that part of his face!)
Christmas is looking magnificent here already with Lionel’s talented wife Paula decorating the characterful pub with her touch of Christmas. She has a lot of class and does a brilliant job at running this pub with Lionel.
Even though we are in the depths of bitter, winter conditions now, I must mention this pub in the summer is also a real gem. They have a huge, magnificent green outlook from numerous tables facing a beautiful old willow tree. In the spring, this is under planted with a huge display of daffodils. Also, plenty of parking and very dog friendly. We are off there for a bite to eat on Friday night, perhaps a bottle of a lovely Australian red wine along with a great steak from Wyatt’s Butchers Wolverton Park…..Magnificent! Hope no one has booked the round table by the fire! Will keep you posted!
Set out for our afternoon walk with Indi (so excited and pleased to get out into the cold! of -2 celsius) and Jester just pleased to be out ……..
Jester is very well behaved today and walks to heal down the long pebble driveway, then sits to wait to be put on a lead to enter the lane. Very good puppy! I talk to them constantly which I think Indi quite likes but Jester, I think gets very board with my voice and constant “Jester, heal! Jester, Heal!” Indi responds to heal very well until he enters the woods and then just basically responds to direction when he wants…..he’s seen it all and won’t be bossed about by some Australian girl who has no idea what elite level of gun dog he is!!! Okay Indi, that’s okay with me as long as you have a lovely walk and don’t wander off!!!!
The scene is like walking into the set of the “Adventures of Nania…” I find this so breathtakingly beautiful and enjoy every step of the way. My co-walker with the dogs (and husband who by the way is an Englishman) typically says, “it’s alright seeing this at Christmas time, but day after day is too much….” So….. anyway, dogs and I are loving the conditions and we finish the walk with the sometimes naughty boy Jester behaving very well. I fill up their water bowls and make sure their bedding is sorted out for another bitterly cold night ahead. See you tomorrow boys! No taking them out before bed tonight as the owners will be home and will do this later on.
It is SO cold now and I have to keep reminding myself that Indi and Jester are just dogs……Let them out before bed tonight into their vast garden then came back in 10-15 minutes to find them waiting at the gate saying “where the hell have you been Jenny? We are freezing!'” Well, maybe an Australian dog would say this but I think these two Labradors are pretty hardy, not so much Jester (yet) the 18mth old; but Indi the grand 8yr old gun dog is extremely accustomed to the cold and wet. He’s a legend. What a great dog he is.
As I opened the door to the dog room to settle them down for the night, Jester, the monkey went straight to Indi’s comfy bed, hoovered around for any bones or balls he could steal…couldn’t find any so decided to wait there for the old boy…… to share his bed! Indi prefers to sleep alone, so Jester was gently coaxed back into his own warm bed for a long sleepy night.