Romantic Breaks Blog

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By info@romanticbreak.com | 16:15 UK time, Friday, May 18, 2012

All this rain has brought the rhubarb shooting up and it's at its most delicious this time of year so I'm gently cooking it in the simmering oven of my AGA so it doesn't go to mush and stays rhubarb shaped (!) and serving it up with the breakfast buffet.

Another really easy way to cook rhubarb is to pop it into a muffin mix! Here's a really easy rhubarb muffin recipe.

Rhubarb Muffins

Take 10 oz self raising flour, 4 oz sugar, half teaspoon salt and a teaspoon of baking powder, combine in a bowl stirring with a fork to incorporate air.

In a separate bowl beat 1 egg, add 3 fluid oz  of vegetable oil, 8 fluid oz milk and approx 5 oz chopped rubarb (uncooked).

Combine wet ingredients and add to dry and stir - but do not overstir.

Pop into 12 muffin cases and bake for approx 20 to 25 mins in baking oven of AGA, 375-400degF or 190-200degC.

Nice warm with custard too!


By info@romanticbreak.com | 14:43 UK time, Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Have decided to blog as the need takes me rather than in monthly format! This blog starts once again with chicken tales! Our incubators are switched on and we're anxiously awaiting the first hatch of the year this weekend.

Chicken village is coming on nicely with our little lavendar pekin trio enjoying the first prototype.

 

 

 


By info@romanticbreak.com | 14:25 UK time, Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whoops - where has the time gone! ...Now where were we, ah yes, the last incubator batch...

A successful hatch of 4 beautiful  little partridge pekins - unfortunately all of whom proved to be boys, a little lemon pekin who on discovering she was a girl, was swiftly named Lulu, 4 buff cochins, and 4 partridge cochins, evenly divided into 2 of each sex. We were concerned that the little pekins might be trampled upon by the larger cochin chicks, and separated them.....temporarily. Such a shouting went up - and believe me these little fluffy creatures can draw your attention in a very audible manner.. until we re-united them! So the little pekins slept under the cochins as tummy warmers!

 

Well - all have now grown swiftly - we've got Lulu a lttle husband - Hank, whom she is determined to ignore, and a veritable blind date of partnering has been happening, though I am in danger of boring any readers who just aren't that into chickens, so you'll just have to come and stay!

We are creating chicken village in the motte field with some beautiful little handcrafted chicken houses which are hand made locally, and which we will also be selling, and Craig is using every vestige of his DIY skills creating runs....Much chicken wire, batoning and a little colouring of the air and it's starting to come together!

Soon to join them all will be some rescue hens , who will duly be supplied with wool and needles (kidding!)

On the B&B front our new bath robes and room fridges have been a hit, and the platters of local goodies to enjoy in the rooms are proving very popular. Soup and crumpets will also be on offer in the dining room on my nights off, should guests not want to go out and a fine new soup tureeen has been purchased to make this possible! High on my list of priorities is a re-organisation & redecoration of our lovely old dining room to allow a relaxing seating area closer to the woodburner.

We've had some of the lovely old stone exposed on the outside wall of the inglenook fireplace, and a lovely little area created by the porch which will be a great place to sit outside and enjoy a cup of tea & read the papers! It is all in fact - rather ....lovely!

 

 


By info@romanticbreak.com | 10:39 UK time, Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What a stunning end to the month of September weatherwise! The views as I venture out on a crisp clear morning to let my ever growing chicken families out are breathtakingly beautiful. It's really a "good to be alive feeling", and we're hoping to extend that with a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness special midweek offer, after all we do all like a bargain!

I write this blog with a mixture of emotions - a smile as I recall the first attempt at a crow this morning by one of Lil i-pods brothers and an overwhelming sadness that she never gor to hear it. If love and care could have seen her through she would have made it, but I don't think her little heart was strong enough and she died cosy and warm in front of the AGA. Just a Summer was all she had, but she'll live on in the baby photo we took of her which is now my Twitter avatar.

On the chicken front, many more hatchings - just one owlbeard was born out of a clutch of 3 fertile eggs, and he shouted at us until we provided him with a muticoloured adpted family of 5 week old chicks from www.chickenstreet.co.uk - added to the family of one was a further 2 owlbeard chicks, 2 Ancona chicks and a leghorn cchick (I say, I say - you have to remember the cartoon ....)

The next birth were 5 Ixworth chicks, one of which we named Noisy Norman....for obvious reasons! Unfortunately theres a reason if chicks are noisy, and as the days passed it became clear that he wasn't growing, and so another little darling had too short a life. The others are now two weeks old and  are now little fluffballs with wing feathers, which they are testing out!

As I type another pipping sound comes from the incubator where today or tomorrow we will hopefully see some cochins and pekin chicks emerge. Theres certainly truth in the old saying "Don't count your chicks...."


By info@romanticbreak.com | 16:08 UK time, Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ah August....August - where did it go - a blur of welcoming new guests as strangers and saying goodbye as friends...and bedmaking...lots of it! I managed the odd tweet or two ....well OK maybe a few more, vegetables were watered and gathered and the sun shone...a bit!

But the real August story is that of Lil i-pod. She was born in our first incubator hatch, just as the schools were breaking up for the start of the Summer holidays. Guests staying were lucky enough to watch the first chick emerge from the clutch of 10 eggs - what an amazing feat of nature - its so hard to find words to describe how miraculous it is. Lil i-pod was the last of 8 to emerge, the other 2 didn't make it. She was exhausted and needed a little help out of her shell. As we moved them all to the brooder the next day we noticed she had a splayed leg - fairly common in baby chicks, and rectified with the use of a plaster splint to fix her legs at the right distance apart and an i-pod box to allow her to stand up without being knocked over by her siblings whilst under the brooder heater- and so she gained her name. As the weeks passed Lil i-pod was every bit as mischevious as her brothers and sisters, though always more noticeable being that bit smaller. They were moved out to their new house, intially with the brooder heater on overnight inside, and all seemed well. When we went out, they would all come running to the sound of our voices, particularly i-pod, who then had to clamber onto you in an attempt to sit on your shoulder! One day I noticed a bald patch on the back of Lil i-pods neck - initially assuming as they were all getting their feathers that hers were just a little slower to grow. Very quickly it transpired that she was scratching and wounding herself, and more bald patches started to appear, which then made her siblings start to peck at her. Much tweeting,e-mailing and google searches followed and a lot of advice from very kind chicken lovers - I should particularly mention www.chickenstreet.co.uk and www.avianvets.co.uk whose advise was invaluable as unfortunately, despite the huge rise in people keeping chickens, many local vets do not have sufficient experience to diagnose. We brought Lil i-pod indoors bathed and cleansed her wounds and kept her warm, but she was clearly not happy, we tried taking her out for short periods to be with her siblings, but inevitably the pecking re-commenced and i-pod was brought back inside. The other night I was putting the chickens away with Lil i-pod wrapped in a towel, I raised the nest box cover to check on her siblings who were snuggling together in the soft hay, and she leapt out of the towel using more energy than she had done in days and quickly buried herself in and snuggled underneath her brothers and sisters. Lil i-pod had made her choice. I left her there.

Next morning she made it down the ramp and I sent Calum out to check she was eating, and he came back in solemn faced with Lil i-pod in his arms. "She can't stand or keep her eyes open Mum" Once again we wrapped her in a towel and she closed her eyes. Her breathing seemed laboured and we said our Goodbyes. Not a dry eye in the house.

But thats not the end of the story! She rallied a bit, took some water from a syringe and then stood up - we gave her favourite food - half a tomato and she pecked at it. Her wounds are healing, but she is so much smaller and weaker that, as much as I hope one day she'll join her siblings enjoying dust baths in the sunshine, I wish more than really think it will happen. With September comes an autumnal feel in the air. The colours of the beautiful countryside around us are changing as we say goodbye to Summer. A Summer where we will always remember the bravery of our little darling, and hoping and praying that she'll get to see another one.


By PerfectArc - Sam | 16:04 UK time, Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Torn as I am to get out in the garden and weed some more, I am conscious that there has been a considerable her..hum delay in my blog posts - partly it has to be said because of the website update - am currently using a NEW and hopefully quite impressive blog tool, and partly because I seem to be venting my proverbial spleen with the use of twitter - I tweet therefore I am..

Life at Walford Court meanders along, and the first crops of the season are being gathered and served up with gusto - one guest laughingly commented on the ubiquitous spring onion being served up as a garnish (porridge being a possible exception!) Other guests have commented on how delicious and fresh the vegetables and berries being served up are, which does of course make all the weeding worthwhile.

We have had to endure a few fox attacks, and we lost 2 of our ladies and one lavender pekin cockerel, the rest of the family have been moved to within a few feet of our back door, where their naughtiness continues unabated. They are watched over by the ever alert if not particularly intelligent Oliver aka Dopey (who also has his own twitter profile by the way - I do of course assist him in writing it!)

The season so far has been busy, with bookings tending to be more last minute than in previous years, and we have now installed an on-line booking facility on our home page, so you can select and book as soon as you find some dates that are suitable.

We are constantly looking to constantly improve the Walford Court experience and this season have ensured that all rooms have a fridge capable of taking a couple of wine bottles! Also now available are new lightweight robes so you can lounge around after your candlelit scented bubble bath!

We have replaced some of the furniture in our Courthouse Suite, which is now looking more spiffing than ever!

My ongoing and increasing love of my chickens, combined with my pekin ladies being too inconsistent with sitting on their eggs, has led to my purchase of an incubator - its quite exciting! I now have 10 little eggs 1 week in - 2 weeks to go with the eager but possibly false hope that one or more may hatch......watch this space!

If you are interested in keeping chickens a goods website to visit is www.chickenstreet.co.uk or follow them on twitter @chickenstreet

Over & out!


By PerfectArc - Sam | 09:43 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Well the frost has given over to high winds, so the garden is not an option today.....have been going bug eyed doing some website updating - interim stuff for romanticbreak.com, as we're planning a few bigger changes on the back of some new photos. As part of our upgrading Craig and I have joined twitter - Craig as RomanticBreak, me as WalfordCourtBnB! I did have a bit of a snort when Craig announced his intention to "tweet" romantic tips...Hmmm readers it is at this point that I feel I should share my latest birthday gift with you. I did think he had surpassed himself a couple of years ago with....a pair of bed socks! Yes - make the lovely lady in your life feel adored and gorgeous guys!! BIG tip - if you insist on giving your partner some (local garage) flowers for her birthday, make sure they are still alive -i.e. not a good idea to leave them in the car overnight in one of the coldest winters we've experienced...you will not receive the warmest welcome..Still, have got a bit of mileage out of it - lots of funnies shared with the family and B and B guests "Did you check for footprints in the snow at the local graveyard".....Oh how we laughed....


By PerfectArc | 09:43 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

My how time has flown since my last blog, with our busiest Summer ever! I am now looking out at beautiful blue skies, a hard frost on the ground, and smiling whilst watching my family of lavender pekins go about their business, the odd "domestic" occuring from time to time with Angus attempting to re-assert his authority! Since my last blog, the family has extended somewhat, and last Summer we enjoyed watching Molly and Daisy go broody, and the eggs hatch into 5 pale yellow downy chicks, later turning pale grey, with feathers following slowly. We now have 4 handsome cockerals, and 4 very pretty little hens.

Just one slight problem with the idyllic picture painted above.....mother nature....you might have to spare your blushes, Spring seems to have come early, and I was rather distracted with my veggie garden preparation by some rather noisy er activity!! Enough said!

Talking of vegetable gardens, the lovely thing about growing your own is the planning and dreaming of a wonderful crop of tasty organic vegetables on these short winter days. I've been busy planning the variety of vegetables and salads that I'll be growing in my greenhouse, polytunnel, and 6 vegetable plots, plus the extra berry bushes and fruit trees we'll be planting in before the sap rises and takes us into another Spring.

Another job this time of year is experimenting with some new evening meals, which best compliment the seasonal menus we prepare to get the most out of our home grown produce. Poor old Craig has a dreadful time having to sample my differant creations.........! Tonights experiment is a crunchy winter vegetable bubble and sqeak topped with a trio of our local butchers prizewinning sausages - pork, ginger, leek and hawlberry or pork /spring onion and stilton, with beef and horseradish, and venison. All topped off with a roasted red onion and balsamic vinegar gravy......yum! For the vegetarians amongst you, I will also be experimenting with a vegetarian option, plus more dishes involving a combination of pulses to combine with my home grown vegetables. The breakfast menu now eases my previously felt guilt of serving up Linda McCartneys veggie sausages, whilst serving the the meat eaters a high quality butchers made selection, as my own breakfast veggie slices seem to have hit the mark, with even my "don't do veg" Scottish hubby enoying them!

We've put in some nice new flat screen TV's, and even in the depths of the countryside are eagerly anticipating our first digital broadcast in April!! The fridge in the Courthouse Suite has proved popular, so we're purchasing another for our Aragon Suite, and will be offering the option of some tasty supper snacks for those of you who prefer to stay in and make the use of the luxury and space afforded by the lovely sitting rooms in the Suites. Added to the option of enjoying one of the many high quality restaurant and pub meals, or coming downstairs to my "cooked just for you" intimate dining experience, you can now get even more intimate, light some candles, open a bottle of wine and get romantic (or just watch your favourite TV programme)!


By PerfectArc | 09:43 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Aaaaaah finally spring has sprung, and the first greenery to appear are the nettles!!! Our hedgerow - now in in its 4th or 5th year with us (how time flies!) is coming along nicely - theres a fabulous wildlife friendly mix of guelder rose, hazel, quickthorn, blackthorn, spindleberry and dog rose, but a few nettles needed to be cleared away from the bases so I diligently set about doing so, bottom in the air, head in the clouds, planning Craigs next list of things to do, when I heard a little singing behind me - the song? The National Express by The Divine comedy, the particular lyrics "...but its hard to get by, when your a** is the size of a small country....!" Well the first batch of nettles may have missed,but the second hit target, and the singer had an extra couple of items added to the aforementioned list!!

I do wonder sometimes if we are exposing our guests to more than a little madness as I glanced up to see our blue foldaway garden chair making its own way slowly across the top of the motte. It was indeed being "worn" by our 9 year old, who was "being" a transformer - of course, what else could it be....(those readers without small boys may want to e-mail me for an explanation!)

Elsewhere in the garden - our cuties (little lavender pekins), being Angus and his two wives were let out of their little enclosed area to take a stroll around the garden - the sunshine and freedom must have got to Angus and certainly alleviated my concerns because he started to get a little fruity with Daisy, and a small domestic followed! Maybe guests in the summer might get to see a small family of even cuter cutees!

Our egg laying girls are overdue a little move as the grass in their area is still recovering only very slowly, so they're "breaking out" and strutting around the garden - one in particular has sussed that tearoom guests in the garden mean crumbs, and has taken it upon herself to do a little visiting! The bitching of the new speckledies has subsided and a few smallish golden brown eggs are starting to appear in the nest boxes, so we should have secured our egg supply for the summer - as long as we don't get any unwelcome visitors!!

Another brief "Meldrew moment" for Craig occurred as our tea room signs were once again removed by Herefordshire council and carted off to their depot. Readers please note we are operating illegally as we are not allowed to tell people driving along on the local roads, gasping for a cup of tea, that there is indeed a small business operating here that could relieve their suffering! A letter of disgust was duly typed, but not necessarily sent!!! Even in this idyllic spot you cannot escape the petty bureaucracies that suffocate us and threaten the continuance of small businesses - maybe the election might resolve it??!!

To end on a cheerful note we are indeed supporting 2 more small local businesses - The Dairy House at Weobley, who went out of business, but who have started back up again - you'll find their delicious organic yoghurts and cheeses on our breakfast table, and the most fabulous organic ice cream from September Organics - also based at Weobley (handy for collection!!). You just have to try the Apple and Cinnamon or Elderflower ice cream, and the raspberry sorbet is to die for!!


By PerfectArc | 09:42 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Our woodburner in the old inglenook fireplace has had a busy time of it this season - quite rightly so as it does set such a nice ambience for guests coming down to enjoy an evening meal in front of a roaring fire with a glass (or two) of wine. A section of our barn was full of wood nicely dried to provide the "roar" required, but it's all gone!! We've spent a lovely few days outside hauling in more wood from the fields which had been lying from our last willow pollarding session, but its not as dry as we'd like - the barn is now groaning from being so full of wood so bring on next Winter.....(not really!!!) We've managed to cut and split (with the aid of Craigs collection of boys toys obviously) more than sufficient to re-stock the inglenooks and keep our guests cosy till the summer starts. The views from our fields are always stunning even when the trees are not dressed in their summer finery, but its a slow start to the season, with the daffodils still reluctant to open out.

We've planted some new plum trees behind the barn, just in case our old trees in the front garden continiue their sulk into next year and provide me with only scant supples for my jams and chutneys! Craig has planted his first earlies (potatoes), but is keeping them cosy under some gardening fleece, my spicy lettuce leaves are coming on nicely in the polytunnel along with spring onions, peas, mange tout and runner beans, and I'm nursing my cucumber and tomato seedlings indoors. The "girls" are staying out later every night so Spring is almost upon us.

I have been talking pigs a lot this month - Oxford Sandy Blacks to be precise, as I'm keen to keep a pedigree breed going and provide all our guests with the tastiest bacon and sausages possible. Bit of a hitch in our plans as we are in a stand off situation with our 9 year old son who insists they will never be allowed near the butcher! Also on the livestock front we have 14 new Speckledy hens joining the rest of the girls at the end of the month, so we can expect a fair bit of bitching whilst the pecking order is re-established!!

We are in the throes of buying a beautiful, characterful old cottage in the nearby village of Bucknell, which will extend romantic breaks to self catering as well. The cottage used to be an old Inn, and has wonderful interior stone walls, 2 big roomy bedrooms, and both lounge and dining room have log burning fires. If you like eating your own breakfast in your pyjamas, this could be the place for you!! We will of course offer some lovely orange yolked eggs as part of the welcome pack, and we're cooking up some special offers so watch this space.......

The end of March sees our annual pre-season battery charging break. We'll be off to the shores of Loch Lomand for a week and might even get to read one or two of our huge book collection! See you next month!


By PerfectArc | 09:42 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Its almost March and you find me unblogged!!.......until now!

What is it with sheep? Why the death wish? This month has seen Craig & I significantly increasing our knowledge of sheep husbandry, or rather the bit that gives you experience hauling them out of streams.... I almost dashed out with my camera to record Craig in a rather compromising position standing in the stream trying to "encourage" a sheep up the bank from behind.....and all this with a hole in his wellies!

Our wonderful new "woodland" of almost a thousand trees is now established in the quarry field, being a wonderful mix of oak, cherry, field maple, lime, ash, silver birch, sweet chesnut, holly, scots pine, beech, poplar and alder, with the odd crab apple and spindleberry thrown in for extra colour! Nick from Bucknell Nurseries was quite strict about NO SHEEP once the trees were planted up, so here in my blog I must confess that we did indeed have an "intrusion" of kami kazi sheep, who chose to cross a deep and extremely cold stream in pursuit of pastures new, losing one of their number in the process. Having glanced across to admire my beloved trees and spotting above said invasion I did of course react in a calm manner....NOT! Anyway, all are now safely ensconced in the orchard field where my apple trees are protected with sheep guards, and apart from a small advance party attempting to infiltrate across another part of the stream to my veggie garden, I can safely report that we feel the troubles are behind us. (Well the veggie gardens are covered in "fleece" but not on hungry sheep - it is merely gardening fleece to keep our first earlies cosy!)

Snowdrops are still out and in abundance, but the daffodils are rising from the ground, so Spring is around the bend, which is where I shall surely end up if we have any more hassle from the wool wearers!


By PerfectArc - Sam | 09:42 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Another January, another maintainance "window", and another pile of debris and dust for Debbie! - Quite exciting though - having removed the wall and revealed the old bread oven in the dining room last year, we've now moved on to the old inglenook fireplace in the lounge, which was the old courtroom, having some lovely original oak panelling and our medieval frieze featuring the Aragon family crest. This fireplace is made up of huge architechtural type stone, almost certainly from the castle that stood on top of the motte in the 11th Century - in other words its a tad posher!

Its now a good 5 foot in depth, almost a bijou residence in itself! No trace of the old spit that was once there (and pulled by a dog so the story goes) other than a little metalwork up the chimney, and marks on the side stones where they used to sharpen their knives. But joy of joy there's a cute wee alcove thats been revealed to the right hand side, thats just the right size to hold a candle - and us girls just love somewhere to put our candles........

More importantly (hem, hem of course) is the new woodburning stove which might allow us to slightly reduce our massive gas costs, and use some of the wood from the various pollarding jobs we've undertaken during the year.

On the business front it's been relatively quiet with a few cancellations due to the fluffy white stuff thats been piling up outside. Very pretty, but we're bored with it now! The last few days of thaw has seen the snowdrops once again appearing by the stream - what a welcome sight - I'm coming over all emotional! Our local shooters have been booking their big breakfasts served up in front of a roaring log fire, and showed their appreciation by turning up to hand over the days "bounty".

Thank god for google "How to pluck a pheasant" brought some good advice, "How to pluck a duck" brought a rather more mixed response!

Last week a combination of 5 inches of snow thawing in a matter of hours with the aid of torrential rain quite understandably brought the stream over the banks, but the bund contained it barn side, so my egg laying girls were saved from having wet feet!

My first ordered seeds have arrived, so I shall be planning my sowing diary through the next few dark evenings.........well once Celebrity Big Brother has finished! 

 


 

 

Me and the King of the Jungle!


By PerfectArc | 09:42 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

The first day of December brought the first frosts (I'm still using my home grown tomatoes - must be a record!) and some stunning and surreal winter scenery around the motte, stream and orchard fields. Despite a very wet November the stream has been contained within its banks - thanks to all the excavation and bund building, and the pond has been full (but not very inviting as a swimming pool!)

I'll be planting my garlic on the shortest day, with plans to harvest it on the longest. Once next month comes I'll be planting my tomato seeds and dreaming of Spring....

...not that spring is exactly in the air when it comes to love (or lurve Barry White style - I did grow up in the 70's!) Angus the cockerel seems to be enjoying a very platonic relationship with his wives - not an egg or a peck on the cheek has been witnessed, and there's certainly not much crowing going on! Maybe he's just not into girls...Oliver similarly rebuffed the approaches of Dolly, a female black lab (though she did have a bit of a grey beard - so maybe it was the older woman thing!) She did try, but poor old dopey wasn't having any... "Hello - aren't you being a bit forward?" "Stop it now I'm getting scared", "Don't go sticking your nose there","Oi, stop it", "Let me in the car cos now I'm REALLY scared!" As Calum (age9) very sagely put it "Maybe Mummy, he's just like me .........not yet ready for love"!

The end of November saw another birthday come and go - apparantly at my age I can expect a chat up line of "Get your cardy love, you've pulled!" Craig didn't surprise me with an exotic holiday abroad - nor, surprisingly, a pair of bed socks - he's never been allowed to forget that one! We did however enjoy a lovely meal at our favourite hostelry "The Royal George" in Lingen. Its a great little pub - always has a roaring fire, a nice atmosphere and good quality, reasonably priced food. Its a popular haunt for the local farmers, so a great place to catch up on the current price of sheep! 

Maybe Gino D'Campo read my last blog and fled to the jungle after being compared unfavourably with the Hairy Bikers in the cuddle stakes at the Flavours of Herefordshire Awards! Come back Gino - I didn't mean it - especially after seeing you with your shirt off! Second thoughts - stay in the jungle, I think you're favourite to win I'm a celeb 2009!


By PerfectArc | 09:41 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Well I've extended the scope of Craigs job, which is making him almost multi-task.....not all at the same time....after all he is a boy! He has been busy putting our "Winner Best Breakfast" for 2009, and our "Commended" for Best Tearoom plaques from "Flavours of Herefordshire" on our front wall -  a bit wonky but DIY isn't Craigs strong point....I do remember a favourite after dinner trick which involved an empty bottle of wine (too risky with a full one), being laid on its side on one of Craigs newly erected shelves - yes how we all laughed! Anyway - apologies to Gino D'Campo but cuddling him on receiving the awards didn't quite match up to the Hairy Bikers last year - and it's not that I'm greedy and like a man each side, but they were slightly more substantial cuddling material! Craig might be in the National papers, or at least the Herefordshire Times doing an impression of a bull with his serviette as horns, but the Chase Vodka ladies at Awards Dinner were rather generous with their vodka cocktails.... The food was outstanding too - so if you get a chance, view the award winners on Visit Herefordshire - there are some great restaurants and pubs - and they all serve excellent quality local food.

OK, heres the food paragraph! We harvested some of our red cabbages, which I shredded and cooked slowly in the AGA with a little sugar and some apples, later adding a touch of vinegar and a little butter - absolutely blooming scrumptious! So good in fact, that its going on my New Years eve menu. I'm afarid I can't write a menu gourmet style - I prefer to call a mushroom..... well a "mushroom", and you get gravy or maybe if I'm feeling particularly fancy...a sauce, but no JUS gets served at Walford Court! The Visit Britain assessor referred to my "lardons" of bacon, which is actually Mr Griffith delicious thick bacon cut into strips! Still maybe that might sound better.....Either way, the food you get at Walford Court is local, home grown, home baked, and served with the assumption that you have a good appetite! I hope to exceed your expectations, rather than have you salivating and disappointed or  "SAD"! 

We seem to be falling into a bit of a pattern with my blog...for example say something about Craig, mention the animals, talk about food and make a bit of a mention about the weather. So, for those of you who like a bit of consistency - heres the weather bit.....Pretty awful and not worth talking about much really! The beautiful colours of Autumn have been replaced with bare trees silhouetting the landscape, very stunning against a clear sky..but thats not what we've had! The last few days have been overcast, dark and damp so the log fire has been blazing and the candles lit - still Walford Court has a lovely atmosphere, which if anything is even lovier in the winter - particularly for the festive season, so while we're closed for Xmas Day and Boxing day, we are open for a New Years special for those of you who want to soak up the atmosphere (and a little wine without having to pay taxi drivers new year rates!)- Holly will have "decked the halls" - or at least the dining room, I'm sure everyone will be "jolly"  - especially if Craig is a little heavy handed with the potato vodka, and feel free to sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la" to your hearts content. Dress code is optional, so a little "gay apparel" will not be disapproved of! Book now or be disappointed.....!


By PerfectArc | 09:41 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Well my September blog was an indicator of my energy levels - a tad lacking! What a busy Summer! October is the month where things start to quieten down at least midweek, and I can start to work through my ever growing list of "things to do"! (Yes pretty much all us girls have one - its in our genes, like baths at lava temperature, and multi tasking - which I have to say I take to all new levels!)....or so we thought, the weekday bookings keep coming too!

Not to be daunted - I set about my list...! First we had Ben with his digger (and the finest legs this side of Leintwardine! - give me a moment to recover here!). We now have a rather fine "bund" - which for those who don't recognise the term is a wee hump going around the back, up the side of the stream by the barn for the purposes of keeping flood water out of said barn. This combined with the excavation of the two streams which run either side of the motte and bailey field (also excellently dug by same young man with the legs...) should prevent our ever so tidy (ha..another job on the list), full of essential items (another ha here) barn and contents from getting covered in silt should we have to endure another monsoon year. Ben (yes you get the idea!) also excavated years of silt from our pond, which just felt like being a pond when the stream was high, Calum (son aged 8) decided it was deep enough now to swim in, and tested it out newly dug, later appearing at the back door as "Mud boy from Pond Land"! Time for ducks now!

Which brings me on to our latest addition to the occupants of Walford Court. We now have Angus, and his two wives - Milly and Daisy, residing in the old stone, one time loo (in the days before plumbing) under the dovecote! Nicknamed the cuties, they are a trio of Lavender Pekins - little balls of fluffy silky feathers, with the most wonderful feathery foot attire. Angus had a bit of a go at crowing this mrning...sweet...! My big egg laying girls would make mincemeat of him!

I've also been having a bit of a sofa "fest", purchasing some lovely blue and gold sofas and chairs, which have gone into the Aragon Suite, and Prince Arthurs room, with the big baggy sofa moved into the sitting room of the Courthouse Suite. A little re-shuffling has also meant a couch and coffee table in one corner of the dining room, and a chair back by the fireside so guest can enjoy a wee sit in from of the fire before tucking into their evening meal.

No blog is complete without the mention of food - and we've been serving up the latest award winning sausages from Mr Griffiths "Pomme Piggledys" - pork with Shropsire Blue cheese and apple - that would taste good in a tattie scone I thought....Our tattie scone range has now increased to include Herefordsure Hop cheese and red onion, Pomme Piggledy tatties, and corned beef and chilli, now being served up with my range of chutneys from this years growing season.

The weather has been wonderful, bright blue skies and sunny days but with that lovely fresh nip in the air. The hedgerow in the motte field is turning into a myriad of colours with the orange of the hazel and the bright red of the spindleberry. All around the views are stunning with Autumn colours, and Nick from Bucknell Nurseries (who very wisely doesn't show me his legs) is coming round to advise us on some planting of broadleaved trees in our quarry field, which in years to come will look glorious, especially this time of year.


By PerfectArc | 09:41 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Runner beans served up as veggies, runner bean soup, runner bean chutney, pickled runner beans, and a suggestion for runner bean pie from our Visit Britain Inspector doing her secret overnight visit. Suspicions that we may have had an Inspector in the house were only generated when less food than usual was consumed - if everything was eaten instead of sampled they'd soon have some health issues! (its a tough job having to sample all these breakfasts and evening meals - a fact I also pointed out to our flavours of Herefordshire judges, who were assessing us for Best Breakfast again this year!)

Our 4 star rating was re-confirmed with a recommendation for a Silver accolade, though 5 stars could be beyond us - we'd have to make all our furniture and furnishings match - which just isn't Walford Court - I shudder just at the prospect!

LATER THAT SAME MONTH........................

Fanfares please! Yes, yes yes - we do have a silver accolade! All those years of "Well you don't have an extractor fan in the bathroom yet", and "Maybe another chair over there", "What about draping more stuff over the bed...... more cushions ....... maybe those pretty chain light pulls...." and THEN and only then we'll consider the silver! Craig is really chuffed because he gets to haul out his drill, and put another award on the garden wall...- or maybe I should let him have a real fun day of it, and he can put our latest "Flavours of Herefordshire" awards plaques up at the same time! (I'm not being too previous here by the way - we'll know exactly what we'll get at the awards ceremony on Friday 23rd October, but as finalists we will get a plaque - and very nice they are too!)


By PerfectArc | 09:40 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Ah August August - where did it go.......

We started off the month with a lovely Ode very ably penned by Pat, who enjoyed a weekend here with her hubby, friends, and a few bottles of wine! Both were lovely couples, and its very satisfying when we have friends here enjoying a great time together - the Ode is now pride of place on our home page!

As well as friends coming away together we also have family This month also saw the Walford family at Walford Court for a weekend enjoying a "brother & sisters get together" - little did they realise on booking that they'd been outdone by mum and dad who had stayed here not long after we started running the B&B! Craig (Marketing Director, with additional responsibilty for lawns!) also tried his hand at a little photography, so I shall turn my hand to a little IT and attempt to upload a photo of the Walfords posing for us!

We also had the mystery of the ghost delivered bouquet of flowers - one of our lovely lady guests awoke to find the most exquisite bouquet of flowers placed on the couch in the sitting room of the Aragon Suite as she awoke on the Saturday morning. Her husband couldn't take responsibility, and Craig to his great surprise (and pleasure)was greeted with a kiss when she came down to breakfast! I had to honestly deny having a hand in it - so who did deliver it.....was it the ghost of Walford Court getting carried away with the romance generated by our guests......?

Back to reality, and the veggies here are doing us proud, with runner beans, courgettes, mange tout, the most delicious tomatoes and soon our sweetcorn, which, yes, is as high as an elephants eye! Whats in season gets served up here at Walford Court....so I'm trying to think of something interesting to do with a red cabbage....suggestions welcome!


By PerfectArc | 09:40 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Last month we saw someone married from the old Courthouse - this month we have had the pleasure of helping a lovely couple celebrate 60 years of wedded bliss! They left with the most wonderful comment that "Walford Court is  so special we feel it might disappear into the mist like Brigadoon as we drive away"! Well Bob & Gladys, we happen to think you were both pretty special too, and we hope you celebrate many more happy anniversaries.

This month has been berry month - its been a great year for my tayberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and whitecurrants, so they've been served up with and without apples in jams, oatbakes, crumbles and muffins, and on the breakfast table! We've supplied many a dinner table with freshly picked sweet peas, and baby swedes - and the first of the courgettes and mange tout are also finding themselves in serving dishes! Its been our busiest Summer ever so far, but after serving up a few evening meals outside in the balmy air of a Summers evening, we've had to retreat back to the old dining room, to Craigs Basil Fawlty impersonations and our beautiful music CD's.

The polytunnel is producing wonderful salad crops - I was quite overcome with 3 of the largest cucumbers I've ever produced, and my tomatoes are starting to blush at the thought!

My girls are less than happy with the rain as their dustbaths have turned into mudbaths, with a resultant slight drop in egg production, and one has gone broody with the disappointment and has been trying to hatch out a golf ball! Bless!


By PerfectArc | 09:40 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Well its blog time again, and after a really busy few months, we've had a bit of a lull this last week, which has allowed me to finally get on top of stocking up my new polytunnel with 60 plus tomato plants, and various other experimental planting! Veggie garden is looking a lot more professional following a few weeding and planting sessions, so feeling a bit chuffed with myself. Then with the water butts empty the real storm started and boy did it rain!

Duly wellied and raincoated this morning I set out with a bounding Oliver to let the chickens out, and I swear one of them stuck her wing out, checked the torrential rain and held a debate with the rest of them as to whether to set their delicate little chicken feet into the puddles - well don't mind me girls! I'm standing here waiting to count you to see if Mr Fox had a late supper last night!

The rain will be swelling my early potatoes and first pea pods so our guests over the next few weeks could be in  for a treat of the first digging and picking! A break at Walford Court should really be planned when the tomatoes are coming in warm and ripe from the greenhouse (beefsteaks) or polytunnel (cherries and standards)- superb just with a little olive oil, fresh basil and feta cheese, or if you prefer your tomatoes the British way, Craigs tomato soup cannot be compared with the vivid coloured muck you get out of a tin.

Its so great that the weather last weekend was so different - last month I had a "ta dah" moment - this month it was an "Aaaah", as our first bride was married from the Old Courthouse in beautiful sunshine. In true tradition she looked stunning and agreed to pose for some photos against the backdrop of our 500 year old yew tree. Lara & Charlie we wish you both all the very best, we really do (and we'll see you again as you celebrate your anniversaries with us!)


By PerfectArc - Sam | 09:40 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Busy, busy, busy! but at last a "TA DAH" moment. The Courthouse Suite is ready for action, and I've got the camera out...no apologies for the chintzy country feel because I LIKE it!

 

We considered changing the name to "The Bookworms room"  as the adjoining sitting room has a definite library feel to it - quite an eclectic selection of books from reference and information books to novels  - chicken keeping to motivation techniques - Jane Austin to Dickens to Jackie Collins - something for everyone! Its not the shot of potato vodka that makes the floor feel

 

a little strange - under the carpet there are some magnificent wide oak floorboards, but we do like to keep our guests comfortable with a carpet underfoot!

 

We do try to get everyone to relax and step back in time at Walford Court - but on some occasions we will embrace a little technology - so if you absolutely cannot live without your laptop, we do now have wi-fi internet access - you're NOT allowed to do any work though - maybe just a little e-mailing and accessing information........

Our first fox attack in ages occurred the other week, so we are having to be extra vigilant, and are inviting any guests to feel free to urinate in the motte field by "chicken village" (ladies please do watch out for nettles!) Must go - have a rice pudding to attend to, till next time....


By PerfectArc | 09:39 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Where is the time going (something Craig is also musing as he "celebrates" his big 5 0h at the end of this month! - I did marry a MUCH older man.......), we've had a busy Easter, which kept me tied to the kitchen, catering and creating new concoctions - my Herefordshire Hop Cheese and red onion tattie scones, served warm with creme fraiche are proving quite a hit in the tea room. Not a good month for operational things though - having LOTS of problems with Tiscali internet access, so apologies go to anyone who had a small delay with e-mail response - had to tackle the brain dulling task of calling their overseas call centre......Craig had a bit of a "Victor moment" (happening all too often, but then he is of a certain age!) My beautiful black and chrome new SMEG fridge wouldn't work when we switched it on despite all the polishing it had received!

Just "found" 3 great reviews about us on the trip advisor website - www.tripadvisor.co.uk so thanks to our lovely guests who had such kind things to say, and am happily staying in the study as Craig is enjoying his latest Meldrew moment encouraging a large (and really quite gormless) sheep out of the stream. We do seem to be surrounded by intellectually challenged animals what with the sheep, chickens and Oliver. Not so the cats, but they did rather embarrass us by tucking into a baby rabbit outside the dining room window whilst guests were enjoying the log fire and candlelight, and potentially less so - given their view, my beautiful AGA cooked meal! Ho hum!


By PerfectArc | 09:39 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Wow - what fantastic weather we are having. We've spent our spare (ha,ha) time this week re-stocking the old orchard field with more apple trees from our fantastic local nursery - no scented candles and matching dungarees there! Nick at Bucknell Nurseries just doles out loads of good advice and trees and plants at twice the quality and half the price! We've planted some Herefordshire Red Streak cider apples (Craigs request....) plus assorted extra dessert and cooking apple trees, with a couple of crab apples to help pollination (thanks Nick!) Narrowly missed spearing a couple of my girls who decided to go for the worm at the same time as my fork, but the excitment hasn't deteriorated the egg quality, with the yolks as gloriously orange as ever!

The views from the orchard are just breathtaking - you can see Leintwardine church spire in the distance and across fields and forests into Wales - good to be alive stuff!

Had our environmental health check this week too, which saw me briefly confined to the kitchen checking my fridge temperatures! All clear though and a high "score on the door for us" - phew!

My tomato seedlings have just formed their first true leaves, slow germination from the cucumbers and peppers, but I've high expectations of my costoluto fiorentinos! (big ribbed beefsteak tomatoes!)

Those boys of a nervous disposition may not want to read on as we've booked poor old Dopey in for his little op - he's wanting to stop out late with some of the local girls, and we can't be having that can we...!


By PerfectArc - Sam | 09:39 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

I know Prince Arthur might not have appreciated it, but paintbrush in hand, and a pretty determined look on my face, the bath in the en-suite to our Prince Arthurs room is now well.................pink! Oooh but it is pretty, and very romantic....

 

Fortunately the snow hasn't prevented our guests from reaching us yet, and a complimentary tot of the local potato vodka has kept the chills at bay. This week has seen some stunning sunshine and the snowdrops have made a very welcome appearance by the stream.

 

Craig and I have had a very satisfying few days out in the sunshine hauling in some felled conifers to the barn for storage for next years firewood - a barn full of wood to keep the home fires burning is a very good feeling - or have I had too much fresh air! (or getting too old - there was a time when firewood just wouldn't have that effect - best not to think about it!)


By PerfectArc | 09:38 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

I'd like to start by wishing all our lovely guests past, present and future a very Happy New Year, may all your resolutions be realised, and don't let the credit crunch grind you down! - And if it does, come and have a lovely relaxing break at Walford Court - after all, one guest did comment that we should be available on the NHS!

I'm feeling really excited about the forthcoming year, we've got together with some of our local suppliers to ensure our guests enjoy sampling the lovely food of Herefordshire - so we'll be providing a few tasty treats on your tea trays! All this of course is to promote and celebrate the Flavours of Herefordshire, and our success in last years awards for both the Tearoom and Best Breakfast (did you get to see my smiling but shivering photo in the Herefordshire Times - fame at last!)

So many of our guests must surely come from a literary backgound with the poetic turn of phrase so often found in our Guest comments book, but one in December shone out with its eloquence.

"Restful yet re-energising, casual yet with a careful eye to detail. Naturally warm with a calming, enveloping ambiance." Sir - you know who you are - you are the "Bard of Walford 2008!"

I must admit I was feeling a little poetic myself last night, as I was overseeing my girls "tuck themselves up for the night" on their perches (though not without the usual amount of bitching and arguing!) I looked out over the clear night skies at the surrounding countryside and watched our barn owl sweeping low over the field and circling the motte looking for its evening meal. The prospect of a lovely lazy January evening in front of the fire, with a pot of redbush tea, and the next episode of Celebrity Big Brother........aahhhhh!


By PerfectArc | 09:38 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

My first December blog - I feel so young and hip and trendy.....maybe it should just be named "Blah!"

Moved our girls today. The site behind the barn had thankfully, with the co-operation of "Oliver",  proved to be fox "unfriendly", but we hadn't banked on the low winter sunshine and shade from the barn turning it into a wonderful skiddy mix of mud and chicken poo.

With gritted teeth and the scars still showing from the last chicken move and a small accident with the post puncher (no - didn't knock any sense into him!) Craig was coerced into the final (made him feel better) relocation. It really doesn't help when having provided them with a lovely grassed area they don't want to move. Forget your personal trainer - think Chicken chasing! Once our fingers (and the air!) had turned blue, we got the last girl in. After the bitching and pecking of the last new intake (lovely white girls), it all seemed very calm and they retired to their houses at about 4.30 for a natter and a glass of wine (RSPCA please note this is a joke!)


By PerfectArc | 09:38 UK time, Friday, April 22, 2011

Here we go - an opportunity to natter away to a computer as much as I do to our tea room & B&B customers!

My first blog sees the Medieval Christmas in Ludlow, and a house full of guests who will hopefully enjoy the costumed jesters, wenches and hog roasters! Its all held in Ludlow castle - much fun and a great way to feel "christmassy"!

The weather has seen the fields white with frost and looking particularly beautiful with the clear blue skies and winter sunshine. (thinks - need to take the camera out when we let the chickens out in the morning)

This week has seen us posing for photos with a sausage making machine (!) with Tony from the British Pig Executive (our prize for winning Best Breakfast of the year at the Flavours of Herefordshire awards festival). A bit of a novelty, loads of opportunity for fnar fnar jokes, but being a lady I did, of course, resist.. The photos will be all over the National newspapers, or at least in "Pig Breeding Monthly!"