Saturday, 16 April 2011

Lyne Down Cider

As I was in Gloucester I had a wander through the excellent Farmers' Market, that is held every Friday in the city centre.  After a good browse I bought some cider from Lyne Down cider, who are based near Ledbury, Herefordshire;  two bottles of single variety cider [a dry and a medium sweet] and a bottle of perry.  I tried some of the cider last night and it is very good. 

One day I am going to apply for a liquor licence so I can sell locally produced cider and beer in the shop.  How it will be received I wonder?  I'm trying a glass of my own scrumpy at the moment and I don't think it's very commercial!

The Judge's House

Yesterday I had a trip to the cash and carry in Gloucester and had a couple of hours to spare so I nipped into the city centre for a mooch.  Most of my favourite buildings in Gloucester are pubs [the New Inn, the Fountain, Cafe Rene etc. etc.] but there is one none pub building, known as the Judge's House, which I find enthralling. 

It is reputed to be the biggest and most authentic sixteenth century timber framed town house in the country.  The catch is that you can't really see it.  Another building was subsequently built in front of the facade of the Judge's House, so that there is now a small narrow lane between the two buildings.  It is down Westgate Street, just passed McDonald's and next door to the Santander Bank.  Until recently the Judge's House was an independent book shop, but is now empty and on the market.  I am told that the upper internal floors of the building have not been touched in 400 years.

If you sidle down the alley, known as Maverdine Lane, strain your neck and look upwards then you can see the tremendous façade.  It is covered in anti-pigeon spikes and it is rather gloomy, but marvellous none the less.  I wonder how the sixteenth century merchant who built it would feel if he knew that his splendid house was now next door to a Spanish bank, and especially one that had consumed several long standing British banks?

Proceed through the goes no where.

Look up.....difficult to get a good photo....

I hope these photos do it justice.  I would have thought that in this digital age the façade could be 'scanned' and then reproduced somehow.  I hope a new use is found soon for the building and that it is a sympathetic one.  It would make a good pub.........

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Hedgerow Blossom

The hedgerows appear to be heavily laden with blossom this year which bodes well for a bumper crop of hedgerow fruit this autumn.  Hopefully the frost will not be too severe over the next month or so and the blossoms will be allowed to mature.

GWR Manure

Roy Nash is a gentleman who supplies me with a few greetings cards.  Roy is in his mid 80s and is a very talented photographer.  He lives in Swindon and has day trips to the Cotswolds when he will take lots of photographs.  Roy has accepted the digital age and manufactures all his cards from home; they come with an envelope and are individually wrapped in cellophane.  They're great sellers and are especially popular amongst the Japanese visitors. 

I very much enjoy chatting with Roy as he spent his entire working life with Great Western Railway [GWR] over in Swindon.  Apparently all employees of GWR were provided with subsidised coal which was delivered to their homes by horse and cart.  The horses were stabled underneath the railway arches and their manure was collected on a daily basis.  The manure was then mixed with sand and used in the casting process of the iron locomotive cylinders. 

The massive GWR works at Swindon is now a retail outlet centre and there is an excellent museum there called Steam, which is dedicated to the history of the GWR  For some smashing old photos of the works go to

A chap came in yesterday whose ambition it was to travel on all the remaining steam and narrow gauge railways in the UK.  He said there are approximately 130 in total and so far he had ticked off 58.  I'm going to have a crack at it on my retirement.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Nettle Beer

The hop was introduced to this country in around the 1520s and before then many other things were used to flavour beer.  Nettles were one of them.  Have a go at making your own nettle beer and you may be surprised at how refreshing its earthy citrus flavour is.  I should think it must be good for you too.  This recipe is taken from Roger Phillips's 'Wild Foods', which I think is a lovely book.  If I were you I would half the quantities as two and a half gallons is a lot to drink if you don't like it.  Also, pick your nettles at this time of year when they are young as older nettles are full of an acid that irritates the kidneys. 

100 nettle stalks [with leaves]
2 1/2 gallons water
3lb sugar
2oz cream of tartar
1/2 oz yeast

Boil nettles with the water for 15 minutes.  Strain, and add the sugar and the cream of tartar.  Heat and stir until dissolved.  Wait until tepid, then add the yeast and stir well.  Cover with muslin and leave for 24 hours.  Remove the scum and decant without disturbing the sediment.  Bottle, cork and tie down.

I [Richard not Roger] would use champagne yeast, or the very least a good wine yeast, but please don't use bread yeast or the beer will be yuk!  I also use old plastic lemonade bottles which are far more convenient than glass, cork and string.

A little nettle - don't use big ones.

Roger Phillips mentions several hedgerow plants that were brought over by the Romans, who grew them as vegetables.  Over the years we have forgotten about them and now see them as weeds.  Alexanders is the most notable of these plants.  It was grown extensively in medieval monastery gardens and was very popular in the vegetable garden up until the 17th-century.  It's a Mediterranean plant and is very good to eat and Roger describes it as a 'most exciting vegetable'.  Quite peculiar how we have been obsessed with all food and drink from the Med' for the last forty years and have almost forgotten about a delicious Med' veg' that has grown here in abundance for the last 2,000 years.

Last year's cider is a resounding success.  It appears to have gained a soft, rounded quality that the previous year's batch certainly did not have.  This is apparently due to a second fermentation called the malo-lactic fermentation.  The sour lactic acid turns into softer malic acid and makes the drink far more palatable.  Thank goodness.

The buds are coming out in the hedgerows and soon we won't be able to see the lichen.  It will be great to see the hedgerows in all their splendour again, but the lichen has provided some enthralling bits of colour over the winter months.