Snow! Snowsnowsnowsnow

I love snow.  Why I live in the southwest of England, given this, is a bit of a mystery.  Although, as I have frequently documented on this blog, the southwest has many other redeeming features which may make up for the lack of frequent snow.

Two weeks ago, though, there was proper snow.  The sort you have to shovel.  We were away for some of it (see previous post) but when we got home on the Sunday there was shovelling, snowball-throwing, and hot cocoa-making.  I took a few photos but as it was cloudy, things weren’t as sparkly white as I would have liked.  Still- snow!!  (It’s now a distant memory, sadly…)

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A wintry visit to Dartmoor

For my Christmas present, Mark arranged for us to take a long weekend trip down to Dartmoor, to stay in a manor house hotel near the moors and luxuriate in good food, lovely surroundings, and quiet winter walks.  The trip was absolutely wonderful and coincided with snow, which made everything a bit more magical.  We woke up on Friday to a dusting of snow, which was more pronounced on the top of the moors.  A snowy walk around a reservoir worked up our appetites for afternoon tea and cake.  The following day we went to visit Tintagel, the mythical birthplace of King Arthur.  As it was winter, the shops selling tacky plastic swords were mercifully shut, and some wild and windy weather made the castle ruins very atmospheric.  In fact, I don’t think they often get weather other than ‘wild and windy’, given the castle’s position right on the edge of the west coast, jutting out into the sea.

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Sparkle dust

Frost in the sunshine is one of my favourite winter things.  I feel so lucky to live in the countryside and have the possibility of waking up to sleepy hillsides with mist rising and frost on the fields twinkling in the sunshine.  It has been warm-ish and soggy the past few weeks, not proper winter at all, but this weekend we are due for a frost and I cannot wait to wake up and go for an early-morning scrunch across the fields.  (Just IMAGINE how excited I will be if it snows, which I am sure it will not, but maybemaybemaybe it will!)

I took these photos a few weeks ago, during the last cold spell.  Fingers crossed for similar scenes tomorrow.

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A New Year’s walk

New years’ day was sunny and glorious- hopefully a sign of things to come.  We walked around Blagdon lake, sometimes on footpaths and sometimes on country lanes.  The views were beautiful, and the lake very quiet.  It is a nature reserve and a habitat for lots of birds and other wildlife.  I feel very lucky to have this landscape on my doorstep.

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Apple and blackberry

I am still catching up on blogs I meant to do in 2012!

This year we had some brilliant blackberry-picking adventures.  Living out in the countryside, blackberries in hedges are as common as, well, blackberry hedges, so it was not difficult to find a field in which there were more blackberries than we could carry home with us.  We also have a bramley apple tree in the garden.  So there was much jam-making, all of it done by Mark, and a little bit of pie-making (by me).

The pie below is a simple blackberry and apple pie, with an all-butter crust (half the weight of butter to flour, rub in, add ice water to bind etc) and about equal volumes of chopped up bramleys and blackberries, with a generous sprinkling of sugar.  Doused in cream, it was very good indeed.

I should confess now that whilst I did an extraordinary amount of Christmas baking this year, I took no photos of any of it.  Oops.  I was extremely proud of my mince pies, though, particularly as the pastry finally actually worked out.  I put this down to a combination of tips from Nigel and Nigella (Slater and Lawson), who suggest, respectively, chilling the liquid used to bind the pastry with ice, and placing the bowl full of flour and small cubes of butter into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill once you’ve measured it all out and before you rub the butter into the flour.  I did both, and the pastry was consequently very easy to work with.  I also followed Nigella’s tip to use 00 flour (that’s 2-1 Nigella to Nigel, if you’re counting.)  I may need to make another pie shortly to be sure I’ve cemented my skills from this festive season.

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A midwinter walk

Christmas has come and gone, and it’s a new year.  We went for a walk along the top of the Mendips in between downpours the other day, and found a new route.  Now if we can just live here and explore for the next 20 years, we might have as many walking routes as my uncle Tim has in North Yorkshire!

We found a crumbling stone barn, a field of sheep, and lots of puddles.

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This sheep was remarkably clean, considering the weather we’ve had.

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Mark patiently waiting for me to finish taking photos…

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