Saturday 30 July 2016

Settling in to our new Torquay home

View from our window 
Having got the keys to our new flat on Wednesday, we've spent the time since bringing car loads of our possessions over from our Bailey caravan, deciding whereabouts everything should now go and enjoying wandering delightedly from room to room. It does feel strange to suddenly have so much space after almost two years in a caravan! I was a bit sad to see Bailey put into storage today, not forever fortunately, but for the few months during which we establish our new home on the English Riviera in Torquay. The most amazing thing here is the stunning view from our lounge and bedroom windows. I'm going to waste hours gazing out across the town and harbour!

Daisy Cakes cafe 
On Wednesday we did have to wait an hour or so for the previous owner to finish up and leave so took the opportunity to discover what will now be our nearest cafe and it's a great little independent. I love the decor! Daisy Cakes is named for the youngest daughter of owners Kate and Johnnie. Kate bakes delicious cakes for the cafe - we know, we tried them - and also creates spectacular cupcakes and special occasion confections for weddings etc. There's a limited savoury menu at Daisy Cakes and their highlights are the weekly Pie Nights on Fridays and Saturdays which we definitely want to try soon. After just nine weeks, the Pie Nights are apparently already so successful that booking is essential so we will have to get organised.

Our few remaining items of furniture are still in storage in Sussex, along with loads of other small items that we can't completely remember so I am hoping we don't duplicate purchases before we can retrieve everything. I will show off our new dining set in this Monday's furniture-themed SmallSteps post, but in the meantime I have finally been able to unveil my birthday present from Dave and Gilly at Luthier's Supplies. It's a solid wood piggy chopping board which looks fab in our new kitchen. Thank you guys!

And we've had our first visitor already! Zoe from Property Ladder popped in for a cup of tea yesterday and brought us this beautiful rose. It is meant for outside, but while our lounge is so bare, I want to keep it indoors and enjoy the glorious colour! Property Ladder were the estate agents handling our flat purchase and Zoe did such a good job that we are very happy to recommend this company to anyone looking to buy or sell their home in Torbay and South Devon. Just please do mention that 'Dave Greene recommended you' when you get in touch. We might get a reward!

Thursday 28 July 2016

#ThrowbackThursday - where we were on this date in Julys past

Gallery North art
in July 2012 
I really enjoy looking back over my past four years of blogging and remembering where I was and what I got to do or see. Sometimes the years seem to stretch back forever, other times they could have passed in the blink of an eye! Mum used to say 'don't wish your life away because you're a long time old'. I know what she meant, but I am finding that time is speeding up as I'm getting older. It passes faster each year!

This July is particularly special as Dave and I celebrated our 13th anniversary on the 13th. Yay us!

Here's a selection of other July memories:

I visited Gallery North's Open Part II on the 28th July in 2012 and wrote this post the day after. Gallery North is a quaint little art venue in Hailsham and their Open displayed a varied selection of artistic disciplines including painting, photography, ceramics and mixed media work.

Sunflowers in Eastbourne in July 2013 
Saturday 27th July 2013 was apparently 'a perfect day' - walking, sunflowers, poetry, art, lunch out with Dave, book shopping and then music in the evening with a fab Tom Russell gig at the Palmeira in Hove. Russell is an amazing songwriter whose lyrics are about very different subjects to the norm. Several songs have a strong Mexican-Spanish vibe to them and the album we had then recently downloaded has great brass instrumentation although, of course, the brass section hadn't flown over to play at the Palmeira. According to his website, Tom Russell is touring the UK again in January 2017. There aren't any venues confirmed yet though. I'm not even sure which country I will be in then either!

Pears ripening
in July 2014 
July 2014 was a frustrating time as selling our Polegate house was becoming a far more dragged out process than either of us had anticipated. I commented at the time that it was about as much fun as watching pears ripen, the joke being that the pears on our tree never actually did ripen so I always ended up poaching them in red wine to make them edible. To pass the time, I had begun ebaying and freegling pretty much everything we owned. Now we have a new flat, we have the problem of transporting the remaining stored stuff from Sussex to Devon. Fortunately there's almost enough in the caravan to tide us over - once we've trawled Torbay furniture shops for a bed!

July 2015 in Penrith 
Our UK caravan tour last summer had brought us to cloudy Penrith by the end of July 2015 and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting this vibrant town. It is a fab place to ShopLocal - which fits in perfectly with my current SmallSteps blog post series - and I liked the interesting historical architecture too. We got to see an RSC production broadcast to the Alhambra cinema and I was impressed by Penrith's sense of its identity. Plaques and marked walks guide visitors around the town showing its heritage and we enjoyed simply strolling the streets and alleys, drinking in the ambience, before we were tempted to start shopping in earnest.

Great memories, but that's it for my July ThrowbackThursday. Join me again next month to discover whether previous Augusts actually felt like summer!

Tuesday 26 July 2016

We're back in Devon trying out Sedgewell Farm campsite and buying beds

View from our caravan door 
We're due to pick up the keys to our new Torquay flat on Wednesday and so are back in Devon again, making the most of our few remaining nomadic days by zooming around furniture shops and seeking caravan storage. Don't get the wrong idea though. This isn't the end of our touring adventures! We just want to have a static base for a while so our caravanning life will be an exciting contrast again.

In our attempts to try out as many campsites near to our new home as possible - we want to be able to make recommendations to potential camping visitors! - we have chosen the Camping And Caravanning Club site at Sedgewell Farm this time around. Previously we have stayed at Widend, Dornafield and Lemonford. Sedgewell Farm is near the village of Olchard and very conveniently located just off the A380, although, as we discovered, the turnoff is easy to miss. It is considerably smaller than the other three, officially just having fifteen pitches, and is
Bailey at Sedgewell Farm 
nicely laid out with five level caravan pitches along a terrace with a good view out over a wooded valley. Space for tent pitches is on a second terrace below. The prices quoted on the website are a bit out of date and we are paying £20 a night (it is highest season) for the pitch with our own electric hookup and water tap. Waste and waste water are a short distance away. There is also a nice timber building with toilets, good showers and a washing machine. Some kind soul has installed tempting snack vending machines too!

Despite being the first week of the school holidays and the lower part of the field being packed with families in tents it is pretty peaceful here. There is some traffic noise from the A380, but it isn't intrusive and there is often enough quiet to hear the birdsong. The campsite is pitch dark at night too because the proximity of a bat colony apparently means even low level lighting cannot be kept on at night.

Sedgewell Farm is about fifteen minutes by car from the edge of Torquay and also handy for Newton Abbot which was good for us today as we wanted to revisit the British Heart Foundation furniture shop on Queen Street. They have a wide range of good condition furniture and electrical items on display, but the only item I really liked this visit was this vintage green sofa which is actually for sale through the BHF eBay shop. We then drove on to Paignton where we very very tempted by a sofa and chair suite which arrived at The Bargain Box at the same time we did. We saw it being offloaded! However, we haven't yet measured the flat's doors so couldn't be sure it would fit through. Hopefully ino one else will buy it before we can return! The badly spelled, but well stocked Half Price Bedz shop was the only one to actually take any of our money today and they've done rather well! We've found a new bed and mattress for ourselves, plus those all important beds and mattresses for the guest room, and the first of two deliveries is due on Friday. Hopeful visitors may now form an orderly queue!

Sunny Torquay! You can't see our flat from here 

Monday 25 July 2016

SmallSteps week 4 and finding BuyBritish toiletries

Week 4 of SmallSteps is going to feature BuyBritish bath and body products, but first I will recap my week's efforts.

If you're new to this theme, I am blogging a series of Monday posts about ideas I think might help our disUnited Kingdom communities to get through the post-Brexit turmoil ahead. You can read the first post here. SmallSteps lifestyle changes, if embraced by enough of us, could help to keep our towns and communities afloat through the uncertain months ahead.

I've decided to keep a track of my attempts to practice what I preach! My initial three SmallSteps were:

1) to CheckTheLabel and BuyBritish whenever possible
2) to ShopLocal and spend at least £5 each week in independent local shops
3) to eat healthily and walk or cycle short distances
and last week I added
4) Not to use self-service checkouts or Pay At Pump.

So how did I do this week?

My ShopLocal spend was just a £1.30 loaf of multiseed bread from Truffles Bakery in Hailsham, although I realised that I didn't include our £30ish spend at last week's festivals in my roundup. Can I allocate it to this week?! We began to ShopLocal for events in our Devon to-be-home as well and now have tickets booked for NTlive broadcast of The Deep Blue Sea at Torquay's Central Cinema and for the Lauren Housley gig at Kingskerswell Parish Church. I've heard rumours of a Richard Shindell gig at the Pig And Pallet in Topsham too, but tickets aren't on sale yet.
The apple and courgettes for my BBQ salad were BuyBritish as was the Borderfields rapeseed oil for the dressing. I also bought Borders and McVitie's biscuits - both brands baked in the UK - and British strawberries and free range chicken.

photo from Ora 
The Ora kitchen roll I mentioned last week is great and I can't see myself ever wanting to return to regular rolls. The cone tower is surprisingly elegant and fits on a low caravan shelf. I think it will be even more convenient on the kitchen worktop once we are in our new flat (Wednesday, eeek!). The sheets are circular and just as absorbent as other brands we have used in the past. I was concerned that two rolls' worth of paper taking up the space of a single roll would turn out to mean cheap, thin paper, but this is most definitely not the case. A good buy!

I walked for at least half an hour on five days, mostly to Hailsham for a spot of shopping and, once to post a Literary Flits giveaway prize. (Have you entered this week's giveaway?)

Now let's talk pampering!

My favourite bath and body products for years have been Lush solid shampoos and conditioner bars which are absolutely ideal for my travelling lifestyle because there's no chance of loosening caps and accidental spills. I can take a whole bar on aeroplanes too without needing to attempt decanting into silly mini bottles or paying way over the odds for travel-sized products. Once we're based in Torquay though I'd need to traipse to Exeter to visit a Lush store, so if I'll be resorting to mail order, I thought I might as well check out other BuyBritish alternatives.

Faith In Nature 
In a spooky coincidence, just as I was starting to write this post another company I like emailed about their latest promotion. Faith In Nature are offering their summery Tropical Range at half price for a limited time and the last day is TODAY so do all rush at once! And if you've found this post later than the 25th July, sorry you missed out, but I think their products are easily worth full price anyway. Faith In Nature don't make solid bar shampoos, but who could resist layering the chocolate shampoo scent with that of the coconut conditioner and, if you wash your hair a lot or set up a co-op with a few friends, splashing out on the 5 litre bottles (yes, really!) makes good economic sense.

While researching what will become my Torquay ShopLocal businesses, I was delighted to discover that I can actually purchase natural soaps and shampoos made within walking distance of my new home. Green Wyse is run by medical herbalist Dawn just three miles away and I am looking forward to sampling the various scents of vegetable soap/shampoo that she creates. I might give the toothpaste a try too. I also want to visit The Soap Stall in Torquay's Indoor Market which apparently is at The Market Forum. I've 'borrowed' the photo below from The Soap Stall's Facebook page - doesn't that display look fabulous?!

The Soap Stall, Torquay Indoor Market 
Please do feel welcome to link to your favourite / your own BuyBritish and ShopLocal businesses in the Comments. Make sure to say in which town they are so other nearby folks will know to look out for them!

Finally I have made a blog badge from my SmallSteps logo image. If you would like to join in this Monday (or any day) blog theme, feel welcome to display the badge and let me know about your post so we can link up.

Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML

Sunday 24 July 2016

I've found a new blog tool: LinkWithin

I was pottering around other blogs this morning, as I like to do, and noticed a great widget on Dishfunctional Designs. I enjoy Laura's creativity and, if you're interested, she makes fabulous recycled jewellery including stunning unique pieces from china fragments. Anyway, Laura has a nifty widget on her blog which uses some kind of algorithm to dredge up and link to old blog posts that are in some way related to the topics of current posts.

The widget is called LinkWithin and it is free to install and use. It's dead easy too, at least for the Blogger platform. I haven't tried it on Wordpress or anywhere else. I simply told the LinkWithin site my email address, blog URL and chose Blogger from the platform dropdown and it pretty much took care of the installation itself. The widget is displayed at the bottom of each post and I think it looks pretty good! It's even reminding me of historic posts that I had forgotten I had written! On the downside, LinkWithin doesn't seem to show up in mobile view so if you can't see what I am talking about and you're reading this on a phone or tablet, you will need to switch over to desktop view. Scroll down and hit that 'view web version' button.

Are you back? Whad'ya think?

As a thanks to Laura for installing LinkWithin on Dishfunctional Designs so I could find it, here's a couple of examples of her gorgeous jewellery. Do click through and check out her shop!


Thursday 21 July 2016

Colourful courgette BBQ salad recipe

My colourful salad 
I love colourful food so was particularly pleased with how this throw-it-together salad turned out. We had been invited over to friends for a BBQ dinner (well, invited ourselves actually!) and I wanted to take a salad dish as part of our contribution. Said friends have a great leaf-filled veg garden so a green salad was already taken care of and the only useful ingredients I had were a small tin of organic sweetcorn and a crisp apple. I later raided the store cupboard for sultanas too.

Fortunately Morrisons came to the rescue. While Dave looked over the butchery counters I wandered the greengrocery aisles and returned with Special Offer stickered mini organic courgettes (zucchini) and pomegranate seeds. Yellow, red, green and pink. Perfect!

My final salad consisted of:
150g of Green Giant organic sweetcorn
1 cored and diced crisp red apple
1 diced mini organic courgette
About 100g of pomegranate seeds
A good handful of sultanas

I had learned from my previous Frankfurter And Apple Pasta Salad (blogged here) that using mayonnaise in a dressing mutes all the colours so I left it in the fridge this time and, instead, made up a barely there dressing which just coated everything and stopped the apple browning, but allowed all the flavours to remain fresh and unswamped.

My dressing was:
2 tsp Borderfields rapeseed oil
1 tsp Epicure balsamic vinegar
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice.

And that was it done! Quick, easy and delicious!

Tuesday 19 July 2016

A festival weekend - Arlington Gets Cajun & Wealden Food Festival

Strum n Bass (n Bash)
at Arlington Goes Cajun 
We're trying to make the most of the small festival opportunities open to us during our stay in Sussex - that's the festivals which are small, not the opportunities! You might already have read about our trips to Broadstock in Crowhurst and to Eastbourne Feastival? This weekend just gone we stayed local to our current Hailsham campsite but still managed to take in Arlington Gets Cajun on the Saturday evening and Wealden Food and Wine Festival on Sunday afternoon.

Arlington Gets Cajun is essentially a village affair which raises much needed funds for the MS Society, but Dave and I have supported the event several times now because Dave has been asked to play guitar as a guest with the Cajun Dawgs. You can see him on the right of the photo below, in the red t-shirt. The Dawgs were the last of four great musical acts this year preceded by blues singer Dave Beckett, duo Strum n Bass featuring Bash, and Rough Chowder. I think my highlight was probably Rough Chowder who played a fabulous set.

Three Dawgs plus Dave 
This year Arlington Gets Cajun included an art show in the village hall together with cake sales and pre-loved books, and a gazebo outside shaded the BBQ run in aid of local hospice Demelza. I bought a couple of gorgeous cards by artist Julia Hawker but I won't show them here because I know their future recipients read this blog! Of course I couldn't resist the books although I did only get two. I was disappointed with my BBQ vegeburger which, even with onions and cheese, was bland. However, the Arlington Gets Cajun event was another opportunity to wear a new-to-me vivid pink dress I bought for the Eversley wedding and that came from Hailsham's Demelza shop!

Justin and the Argonauts
at Wealden Food and Wine Festival 
After lots of dancing the night before, I wasn't sure I would have enough energy for the Wealden Food and Wine Festival. Fortunately it didn't require a lot of effort! We went to the inaugural event in 2014, but missed last year's which was apparently at a different venue and didn't have as much atmosphere. This year, the festival returned to English Heritage's Pevensey Castle which meant that English Heritage Members could get in free. The £2 entry fee for the rest of us was very reasonable though, especially as it included a choice of a reusable commemorative cup or cloth tote bag. The Park and Ride from Stone Cross Nursery was very convenient for us and expertly stewarded by 1st Hellingly Scouts who took the opportunity to fundraise for their upcoming jamboree! Other folks rode in on vintage bicycles as part of a Bexhill Classic Cycle Group organised ride.

We arrived in time to hear Pocketsize play beautifully (Pocketsize are also playing at Eastbourne's Underground Theatre tonight) and also thoroughly enjoyed discovering Justin And The Argonauts whom we hadn't heard before. Their music is great fun and I would love to see them play again. Also perfect sunny afternoon music was Helen Sharp And The Soulshine Band. We had seen Helen in an acoustic bluesy trio at Broadstock, now she was a disco diva with a very funky sound!

Vintage penny farthings
from Bexhill Classic Cycle Group 
Between sessions of enjoying the music we did, of course, get to try and buy the food and drink on offer too! Our luch was from Indian street food stall Simply Veg where we both chose vegan foods that we had never had before. I ate Bhel which is a kind of puffed rice salad and Dave had Patra which was made from Colocasia. Downsview Farmhouse ice cream made for a welcome cooling dessert and I am actually wishing I had more right now. It's stiflingly hot today! Greenway Fruit Farm was selling the most delicious cherries I think I have ever tasted and I tried a couple of sparkling wines from Bluebell Vineyard as I was hoping one might be good for a forthcoming gift. Stone Cross Windmill had a stall selling their own wholemeal flour which I've bought before and been impressed with. It's a good strong bread flour. Then we ended our day at Mini Mouthfuls where we chose four 100g sticks of fudge for the price of three. What's not to like about that?! Of our Chocolate Orange, Chocolate Ginger, Cherry Bakewell and Banoffee selection I think the Banoffee was my favourite.

Now I just have to hope that Torbay can put on similarly good events to get us through August and beyond!

Monday 18 July 2016

#SmallSteps week 3 & Do I Really Want To Eat That?

It's week three of SmallSteps already! How are you getting on?

If you're new to this theme, I am blogging a series of Monday posts about ideas I think might help our disUnited Kingdom communities to get through the post-Brexit turmoil ahead. You can read the first post here. SmallSteps lifestyle changes, if embraced by enough of us, could help to keep our towns and communities afloat through the uncertain months ahead.

I've decided to keep a track of my attempts to practice what I preach! My initial three SmallSteps were:

1) to CheckTheLabel and BuyBritish whenever possible
2) to ShopLocal and spend at least £5 each week in independent local shops
3) to eat healthily and walk or cycle short distances
and last week I added
4) Not to use self-service checkouts or Pay At Pump.

Photo from Dippy Doodahs
So how did I do this week?

The Handyman, a hardware shop on Hailsham High Street, stocks G4 10w 12v lightbulbs at £1.35 each which were just what I needed to buy for Bailey so I got two - ShopLocal but sadly not BuyBritish. I also had a good mint tea and a granola slice a few doors away at Dippy Doodahs for £2.50. Hailsham Street Market on Saturday was only about ten stalls, but did include a butcher, a greengrocer and a selection of pie and cake stalls. I spent £6.60 which brought my ShopLocal total up to £11.80 for the week and I am happy to recommend the Bacon And Cheese Slice and the Sweet Potato Pie made by Bay Tree Foods who came from Heathfield, and the Coffee And Walnut Cake and the Mixed Fruit Topped Sponge baked in Hellingly by Tracey's Kitchen Cakes. We supported local festivals Arlington Goes Cajun and Wealden Food Fair too, but I will blog about those two tomorrow!

Sweet Potato Pie from Bay Tree Foods served on
watercress, rocket and spinach leaves

Two BuyBritish finds caught my eye at Holland And Barrett. Firstly Dragonfly Tofu is made organically in Devon so that will soon have even fewer food miles to get to my plate. I like the marinated flavour. I also found VBites Gourmet Beanfeast Pate which, admittedly, doesn't look fantastically appetising, but does taste good! Then in Tesco I saw a new super compact kitchen roll made in the UK by Ora. It apparently compresses two rolls into less space than a single roll without any absorbency loss and is easy to use one handed. Now if that's not a selling point ... ! I'll blog more about Ora when we've given it a try.

I walked into Hailsham four times, but we did also drive once to the supermarket because there were bulky heavy items. We did use a staffed checkout though and hardly had to queue.

Were you intrigued by my Do I Really Want To Eat That title? I've been listening to an audiobook edition of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan this week. My full book review will publish over on Literary Flits at noon today and the issues Pollan illuminates tie in perfectly with a lot of what I am considering here. He investigates various food chains in America from unrecognisable-as-farming industrial processes right down to wild food foraging. I don't think British beef cows are (yet) raised in the horrifically toxic environments Pollan describes, but Brexit is likely to leave us without EU legislation protecting food standards and animal welfare, and therefore at increased risk from American-style profit-driven food production. Along with Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery which I read early in 2015, The Omnivore's Dilemma provides much food for thought (pun intended) about what we eat and to what extent that food may be more harmful to us than its manufacturers want us to realise.

In a leap that will make more sense if you have read either (or both) books mentioned above, I've stumbled across a great online resource for tracking down local farm shops and farmers markets. It is Hey Farmshops and I just needed to put in what will be my new Torquay postcode for the website to identify all the farm shops within a 19km radius. I could then also specify how I wanted to travel and was shown a marked route from my home to the nearest, Occombe Farm, which is 6.4km away by bicycle. I'm yet to discover how much of that route involves insurmountable hills!

Finally I have made a blog badge from my SmallSteps logo image. If you would like to join in this Monday (or any day) blog theme, feel welcome to display the badge and let me know about your post so we can link up.

Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML

Sunday 17 July 2016

Happy Kiva Repayments Day!

La Excelencia en Cristo Group
in the Dominican Republic 
It's the 17th of the month again so I am excitedly watching my Kiva loan repayments coming in and deciding to whom I will relend the money this month. If you don't already know about Kiva, it is a kind of middleman microlending organisation which enables lenders and borrowers across the world to find each other. I have been lending on Kiva for nearly four years now and am proud to have made 142 loans helping businesswomen in 60 different countries.

This month I have lent to:

La Excelencia en Cristo Group in the Dominican Republic
Refane and her group, La Excelencia en Cristo (pictured above), live and work in a rural community, called a batey, located in the eastern region of the Dominican Republic. Bateys are often located in the middle of vast sugarcane fields and function around the rise and falls of the harvest or dead season. In times where there is not much opportunity for work in the fields, Refane and her group depend on their small businesses to create an extra income source and balance out the cycles of agrarian life.

Aye Mi's Group in Myanmar
Aye Mi's Group in Myanmar 
Aye Mi is 28 years old and lives in Than-Ban-Chaung Village. She is a tailor and makes clothes for men and women. She has worked in this job for the last 10 years. She is proud of being a tailor because it's her own business, she's really interested in sewing, and she is very happy in cutting and designing clothes for customers. Every year, especially in March, she is very busy sewing Myanmar traditional wedding dresses for the customers who have their wedding ceremonies. She uses the profit from her business for her family's nutrition, to buy accessories for her shop and saves some money for future plans.

Arevik in Armenia 
Arevik in Armenia
Arevik is 33 years and is a old retailer from Kapan. Arevik, together with her family, runs a stall where she sells fruits and vegetables. This stall is her family's main source of income. Arevik shares her living with her husband, 2 kids and parents-in-law. Arevik's stall stands out among others with affordable prices as well as polite service. Arevik has many customers and loves what she does for a living. She applied for this loan to pay for a stock of fruits and vegetables to sell on her stall. This will give her a chance to attract more clients and improve her family's accommodation.

Why not join me on Kiva and help out too?

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Pitched up in North Warnborough and walking the Basingstoke Canal

Albion Farm Caravan Club CL 
As you might have seen on yesterday's blog post, we spent this weekend just gone in the Hampshire village of North Warnborough. We stayed at a Caravan Club CL on Albion Farm which was a lush green field with a small allotment area in the corner. Sadly, we were far too early to scrump any runner beans! It was not the most peaceful of CLs as there were military helicopters regularly flying overhead, but Albion Farm has the great advantage of being within a couple of minutes walk of the Basingstoke Canal so we took advantage of this to go walking on two days - one day out-and-back in each direction. This weekend marked the first time we had ever done more than a single night without an electric hookup. Albion Farm CL doesn't have electricity - just waste disposal and fresh water - which we did know when booking but had, of course, completely forgotten about by the time we turned up so there was a brief panic when we realised neither of our phones were charged up! Fortunately our friends Chris and Marta were already on the site too and lent us their USB in-car charger to save the day. We've now got a couple of our own - from Poundland! No electricity means cheaper pitch prices and Albion Farm is a very reasonable £10 a night or an even better £50 for a week.

Odiham Castle 
Our first canalside walk took us to Odiham Castle, now a ruin, but once an important British historical site. King John had the castle built with construction beginning in 1207 and it was from here that he set out to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 - the very same Magna Carta we saw in Lincoln Cathedral last year. Having grown up in Lewes, Sussex, I know the De Montfort name well and Eleanor De Montfort, daughter of King John, was granted Odiham Castle by her brother, Henry III, in 1238 making it one of the most powerful households in the country. Odiham was ruined by the early 1600s and these days only part of the keep remains visible.

Newlyns Farm Shop 
Also easily walkable from Albion Farm is the fabulous (and dangerous to wallets) Newlyns Farm Shop. I didn't know anything about this place prior to my visit so just wandered along in the hope of getting a few decent apples. I must have spent twenty minutes wandering around the displays of fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and cheeses, jams and chutneys, cakes and biscuits, ... I could see why customers need to take a break in the cafe! In the end I bought an interesting Good Taste Bakery Lardy Cake because I had never tried it before. Not sure I would again either because, although it had a good flavour, it was very greasy. I guess the clue is in the name! The Isle Of Wight Biscuit Company's Cinnamon Shortbread was excellent - very short and with a delicate cinnamon taste that complemented coffee perfectly. I am also pleased with the Compost Heap card I bought but can't say too much about it here because it's for Dave for our anniversary tomorrow - thirteen years together. Yay us! Instead I'll plug the Yorkshire Mix boiled sweets from Bonbons which are probably my favourite travel sweets for the car, and the Wooden Spoon Company Damson Jam which we haven't opened just yet, but which I am looking forward to because we have eaten their jams before. With all that shopping, it took a lot more effort walking back to our campsite than it did walking out!

The Basingstoke Canal, which was completed in 1794, cuts through the former site of Odiham Castle bailey on its route. In total it runs for 37 miles from West Byfleet in Surrey to Basingstoke although, since a tunnel collapse in the 1930s it is now only navigable as far as Greywell. The Basingstoke Canal Society has lots of information and history on their website and they also run John Pinkerton Cruises to help finance the canal's upkeep. John Pinkerton owned the company which originally constructed the canal. For less mobile people, canal trips are available via Accessible Boating, a great initiative which provides two boats that are specially designed and equipped to cater for those with disabilities or reduced mobility.