Monday, 31 March 2014

Two by two

I haven't seen the new Noah film but the adverts have made me notice all the animals that are pairing up after this winter's floods.

From our flat I've seen goldfinches, blackbirds, robins, great tits, wrens and dunnocks singing and finding mates as well as the usual flock of noisy house sparrows. The most interesting thing this week has been the resident blue tits (who are using our feeder and nesting nearby) furiously fighting off a pair of long tailed tits that were visiting the feeders opposite us. For such small birds all four were fighting with huge energy and noise.

It's that noisy time of year. Nature is looking for mates and it's often a matter of life and death. Thankfully us humans can just sir back and watch. My new bat detector is ready on the windowsill. Soon I'll know which species the local bats are. That will be another species to add to the huge list of residents on our street along with the bees, butterflies, swans and other birds, foxes and of course the humans.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Still Drinking Local

This week has been full of sunshine which is a nice change from the rest of the winter.

And a sunny March afternoon was the perfect setting for wine tasting on the rivet Dart. We visited Sharpham Vineyard to test out red, white and rosé English wines; all of which I would happily drink again.

While British wines are still higher in price than your cheapest European or new world wines they compared well with mid range options from overseas. With almost any speciality, locally produced product there is a premium for buying close to home from small independent growers. But it's a premium that I think is worthwhile.

The whites we tasted were a lovely range of flavours from dry elderflower and gooseberry notes to deep creamy vanillas. I learnt lots about how the vineyard adapts its vintages from year to year, and how depending on the weather whether grapes end up being used for red or rosé wines.

This tasting was also wedding preparation as we're trying to source as much local produce as possible to feed our guests this summer. The Summer Red was a particular favourite and since affordable English red's are an unusual find we stocked up. I just hope the bottles make it until the wedding, they're very tempting sitting in the kitchen!

As well as local wine we we're surprised to find delicious local cheeses to taste on site too. The staff were very knowledgeable and the price of a (gold) tasting which included three wines and two cheeses at £9 per person was very good value for a great afternoons entertainment. Especially if your party pick different wines to taste! We managed to end up swapping between us and trying about six wines in the end.

So with the warm weather hopefully here to stay there are many reasons to look up your local vines and try a bottle from near you. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Drinking Local

Buying locally cuts down on food miles, we all know that. But I rarely think about buying local for drinks other than beer, cider and fruit juices. What about my morning tea or (occasional) evening glass of wine?

Tea and wine aren't often thought of as English products. Most people still haven't ever tried an English wine despite there being loads of good vineyards across the UK. There's even one in Yorkshire! For tea I've recently discovered that it's being grown in Cornwall. This Cornish tea is as tasty as any other I've tried and perhaps is a sign of our changing climate.

Next week I'll be blogging more about Devonian vineyards but for now I'm off to find one of them for a tasting to try it out!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Train Of Though

On Saturday I travelled a long way by train. Seven hours from the sunny south west up into the north east; old friends, veggie pasta bake and laughing until it hurts are worth it.

For once the train was cheaper, and probably faster, than driving. I do love it when the green choice is the cheap choice. I couldn't have had a 2 hour sleep mid journey and I wouldn't have seen half as much of the country if I had driven.

Through the somerset levels a quiet came over the carriage as we all watched the waters, still covering most of the visible land, either side of the train. It may not be in the news at the moment but the impact of sever weather is still being felt. We must get better at water policy and planning for flooding. In the future we're likely to see more not less of this.

Throughout the journey I saw deer, buzzards, daffodils and newborn lambs. You can't mistake the season. I'm getting soft in the south and while it may be march and officially spring now getting off the train up north didn't feel warm at all!

I saw a white horse carved onto a hillside I'd never seem before, a rainbow and there seemed to be more stubble fields left unploughed this year compared to normal. Maybe another sign of the wet weather as almost every field on my journey had at least one flooded corner.

Mostly I enjoyed the journey because it was time spent thinking and watching. Just like a long woodland walk I saw the beauty of our countryside, some wildlife and had nothing else to do. It was relaxing. I arrived feeling fresh and rested rather than tense and tired which is what the drive would have done.

Others may not agree but for me it's a lovely way to spend a day. Hurrah for train travel!