Saturday, 31 October 2015


I don't really approve of trick or treating and coming back from our holiday meant Halloween 2015 had to be a small affair.  The girls wanted to carve pumpkins so we stopped off at the supermarket to buy some, which following the unpacking of the car they carved!  We ate tea to the light of the pumpkins (plus the ones painted at Stokesay Castle)

Then I hid some sweets in the garden which they had to find in the dark with the help of some glo-sticks. Followed by a game of donuts on strings!  

Hawkstone Folly

Today we visited Hawkstone folly which is a  wonderfully, atmospheric woodland with different follies, caves tunnels and woods. It is a Grade I listed landscape dating back to the late 18th Century and apparently a fine example of a Picturesque English Garden.  It was not too hard to imagining why in 1988, the BBC filmed an adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis.

We walked about 5 miles up and down steep slopes and there are lots of steps and narrow paths to get around and it was very slippery in places and tree roots to try and trip you up. There are numerous health and safety warnings around.

One of the first places we came too was the the monument, which was built to honour Sir Rowland Hill, the first prominent member of the Hill family who bought this estate. He was the first protestant mayor of London during the 16th century. His great great great great grandson Sir Richard Hill had this column plus most of the other follies built after he took over the estate in 1783. There are 147 steps to the top and you are supposed to be able to see 12 counties, although it was rather too misty when we went.

The other follies we saw were: 

  • Gothic Arch which sits on top of Grotto Hill overlooking the surrounding countryside.
  • Gingerbread Hall which is a thatched, open sided wooden building where originally you could wait for our tour guide and buy gingerbread! 
  • The Retreat which is a simple man made alcove carved into the cliff face with seating.
  • The Hermitage which is a thatched wooden building.
  • The White Tower, although it is now red.
  • The Urn which is a tribute to a English Civil War ancestor
We also enjoyed the various tunnels and the grotto (you need a torch) made by the Romans mining the sandstone.

It was a lovely walk, and the girls did enjoy the Halloween trail, although I felt it was a little expensive at £2 for a small gift of a chocolate at the end!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Stokesay Castle

Today we visited the English Heritage property of Stokesay Castle which, according to the English Heritage website, is the best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England.  It was built at the end of the 13th century by Laurence of Ludlow, who at the time was one of the richest men in England.

I loved the wooden roof over the great hall, which has many of the original timbers It was also good that much of the castle could be accessed including the roof the tower and inside the upper floors of the west building, including the original wooden staircase.  However, there are no signs within the castle, instead we enjoyed  audio tour!

They also had a Halloween event on and the girls enjoyed painting a pumpkin candle holder and listening to spooky(ish) stories!  

It is not a big place and really only took us an hour to look round!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Corndon Hill/ Mitchell’s Fold stone circle and Powis Castle

Today we enjoyed a spectacular walk up Cordon hill which at 513 m offers amazing views and is on the border of England and Wales.

We also visited the Mitchell’s Fold stone circle which once consisted of some 30 stones, 15 of which are still visible. The girls were less impressed but considering it is over 3,000 years ago it is quite amazing! Legend suggests that during a time of famine, a fairy gave a magic cow that provided an endless supply of milk. One night an evil witch milked her into a sieve. When the cow realised the trick, she disappeared. The witch was turned to stone and a circle of stones was erected around her, to ensure that she could not escape.
 We then had a quick tour of Powis Castle (not realizing it closed an hour after we got there).  Inside was quite amazing - we really enjoyed viewing the medieval staircase, the book of hours, a 15 century illuminate, and the amazing yew topiary.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Stiperstones

Today we wentf for a walk to the Stiperstones which is a quartzite ridge formed 480 million years ago during the last Ice Age in which the summit stood out above the glaciers and was subject to constant freezing and thawing which shattered the quartzite into a mass of jumbled scree surrounding several residual rocky tors.The Stiperstones’ strange landscapes has created many local myths. The best-known of these is that of the Devil's Chair which is the highest and most imposing of these outcrops. 
According to legend, the rocks of the Devil's Chair were brought there by the Devil himself. He was carrying a load of stones in his apron(!) and apparently travelling across Britain from Ireland, when he fancied a bit of a rest. According to the legend, the Devil was actually planning to use his load of stones to fill in the valley on the other side of the Stiperstones, which is known as Hell's Gutter. Unfortunately for him, as he got up after his rest on the highest rock of the Stiperstones, his apron strings snapped and the rocks tumbled out. Instead of picking them up, the Devil left the rocks scattered all over the ridge - the mucky pup - and the legend has it that you can smell the brimstone on them in hot weather.
The weather started nice, but after lunch turned to rain.  

Monday, 26 October 2015

Blist Hill and Ironbridge

Today we went Blist Hill in Ironbridge which is a recreated Victorian Town.  We enjoyed looking in shops and houses, buying and eating fish and chips, sweet shopping and the fun fair.  However, it felt small compared to Beamish and the Black Country Museum and it was disappointing to have pay extra for things (such as going on a train ride to hear about life in a mine).  Also by the time of the afternoon came the bakery had run out of bread and the candle dipping activity had run out of candles which the girls were upset over!

 Then we walked to Iron Bridge which is first arch bridge in the world to be made of cast iron.  

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Minton Hill to Cardingmill Valley

Today we started our walk up Minton Hill which led on Long Mynd, which provided some amazing views. We saw the  Midland Gliding Club launching gliders which is one of the last clubs in Europe to regularly launch gliders by bungee.We carried on to Pole Bank , the highest point on the mynd at 516 m, before descending to Church Stretton via a  flight of steps by the small but beautiful waterfall of Light Spout. We also took a detour to the disused,reservoir in the Carding Mill Valley and had a play pulling ourselves up the rope pull. Then we turned to come home and discovered a tire swing in some woodland!  

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Attingham Park

Today we went to Attingham Park.  We started having soup and cake in their stable cafe, before going for a walk around the parkland where we spotted lots of deer (but no rutting) and the girls enjoyed their beautiful playground (full of logs to balance on).  Then the big girls and I went in to the beautifully stunning house where every room was full of knowledgeable friendly guides.  We learnt the meaning of the French, bouder (to be bored), completed the tricky mouse hunt and did dressing up.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Bryon's Pool

Today we went for a shot walk around Bryon's Pool where named after Lord Byron, who is said (by Brooke, at least) to have swum there. The pool is now below a modern weir where the Bourn Brook flows into the River Cam.  Autumn was clearly on its way and I got to see a Kingfisher. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

fridge cake

 Today P and I made Fridge cake for the girls' snack.

  • 200g of your favourite dried fruit, (mine had cranberries, apricots and Pineapple)
  • 150ml orange juice (or rum, whisky or Cointreau for grown-ups but I actually used apple juice as we had some open) 
  • 200g digestive biscuits 
  • 150g dark chocolate 
  • 150g milk chocolate 
  • 120g butter 
  • 1tbsp golden syrup 
  • 100g flaked almonds or other nuts, chopped (but as it is for school which is no nuts I used glace cherries which P chopped)

Put the chopped fruit into a small pan along with the juice or alcohol and heat very gently until the fruit becomes plump and squishy, and has absorbed most of the liquid. Set aside to cool. Break the biscuits into small pieces.

Line a roughly 20cm square brownie tin with baking paper (you can use a little butter to stick it down at the corners).

Melt the chocolate, butter and syrup in a pan.

Tip in the rest of the ingredients and stir until they're all coated with chocolate.

Spoon the mixture into your baking tin and press down firmly with a wooden spoon to make it as flat as possible.

Put in the fridge for a few hours until it has set solid, then lift the paper out, and cut into squares with a sharp knife.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Beetroot Flapjacks and Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Biscuits

Today for snack P and I made:

(1) Beetroot Flapjacks

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 80g muscovado sugar
  • 250g rolled oats
  • 2 medium sized beetroots – peeled and grated
  1. Melt the butter and syrup in a large saucepan.
  2.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until the mixture is well combined.
  3.  Stir in the grated beetroot, followed by the rolled oats
  4.  Press the mixture into an 8” square lined tin, using the back of a spoon. 
  5.  Bake at 180C for about 30 minutes until golden and firm. Allow to cool before cutting into 12 slices.

 Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Biscuits

  • 125g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 1 large free-range egg (beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g oats (I used jumbo porridge oats)
  • 50g chocolate chips
  1.  Pre-heat oven to 190C and line a baking tray.
  2. Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan and then take off the heat and add both the sugars, mix well before adding the rest of the ingredients, stirring them well.  
  3. Using a large spoon, scoop the mixture into small mounds on the prepared baking tray, making sure they are set well apart as they spread during baking. 
  4. Bake in pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until just golden brown and just firm.  
  5. Allow them to cool for 2 minutes on the tray before carefully transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.