My day off today and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it in this country than a walk through the countryside.
The past couple of days of heavy downpours has made the ground very wet and boggy, so today’s long walk was extremely challenging, physically. My husband Steve planned the route for today and we were up early making sure we had an energy fueled breakfast and packed bananas, granary/wholemeal bread, a little dark chocolate with a small amount of seeds, nuts and dried fruit. This worked well for us as the estimated time of 4hrs Steve worked out actually turned into 5hrs! We also had a lovely big thermos of coffee and water bottle……..very organised!!
A sensational walk I have to say. We started off at the Gallops, walked for 25 minutes until we took a new path to walk through Ashley Warren Down and the footpath along the old Roman Road along Caesars Belt. From here we made our way to Litchfield and onto the tiny hamlet of Dunley. This was lovely….beautiful cottages overlooking a peaceful, hedged green. Wonderfully maintained and a delight to walk by.
From Dunley, the path took us through Lower Woodcott Farm which had a fantastic barn conversion built next to the impressive main farm house. But the path continued up a constant slope and I was thinking when were we going to have a break from all this hill climbing as I was beginning to feel like a mountain goat! No relief in sight yet as the walk up to Ladle Hill and the fort ruins was all up hill and it wasn’t until we were past the fort that we noticed our muscles relaxing. This section was magnificent. The field by the looks of it had been kept under growth control by a decent flock of hungry sheep but it was so green and looked like it had been mowed by the gardener! From this height we had a magnificent view of Sydmonton Court Estate, the country house of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Massive chimneys towered over the rooves of this impressive house….it was a fantastic sight from this viewpoint.
So, we were on the home straight from here really but we had one more rather unwelcome climb back up to the Gallops before we could collapse! into the comforts of the car seat! It was extremely satisfying though as we walked the last leg of our lengthy journey. Five hours walking up and down slopes was certainly physically challenging. Our fitness was increasing to a higher level and that feeling was fantastic. All up, we walked 14.5 miles (about 25 kms) and we still had an hour of dog walking to do when we returned to the estate/cottage!!! No pint in the George and Dragon today…we had too much to do.
Set off this morning at 7:30am after a quick breakfast and cup of tea for another long walk. I made us sandwiches, thermos of coffee and we were off to Kingsclere. A pretty good start to the New Year ahead, that’s for sure.
BBC weather website is wrong again! and instead of expecting thick fog, we were greeted with a lovely morning…..broken cloud with the sun trying hard to peek through in places. Walking conditions were pretty good temperature wise with little wind….but quite soft underfoot. Mud that cakes hiking boots like you weigh an extra tonne isn’t the best but being out in the fresh air was wonderful.
So, from Kingsclere we walked to the outskirts of Hannington towards Malshanger Park. It was beautiful…..Steve added a detour on another trail we had not yet walked and it was worth the extra distance. We then made our way towards Kingsclere but this time through some lovely countryside we hadn’t walked for a while. It seemed we were constantly climbing slopes and not many down hill sections. No complaints really just pleased to achieved such a great distance for our fitness…. not to mention the enjoyment and health benefits of breathing in all that clean, country air. In all, we walked about 25kms (that’s about 15.5miles I think) A little further today but we pulled up very well with no injuries to speak of. Of course we finished the walk with our traditional pint in “The George and Dragon” pub and after a lovely hot bath to soak our tired muscles we were feeling pretty good.
Having an Italian Beef Casserole this evening with some lovely savoy cabbage. Think a serve of this in front of the fire will do us the world of good after our efforts today…..and along with a glass of red or two, I think we will sleep very well tonight!
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.
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!
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!