Gloucestershire Holiday, Part 3.

So, here goes the final episode in our holiday to Gloucestershire.

The day after our Cotswold’s walk, we decided to venture a bit further from our base, and head down to Wales. Cardiff, to be specific. A long time ago when we were dating, we had a holiday near Swansea but neither of us have ever been to Cardiff before and it seemed like a good place to visit.

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The day was a little grey and chilly, but we walked through Bute Park, which contains the walls of the castle. We didn’t go in the castle as it was quite dear, but we saw the outside at least! After getting a bit cold, we headed inside to the National Museum, which had a lot of art exhibits including a very harrowing one on Mametz Wood, the battle in the First World War. It’s free to enter, so if you are going to be in the area, definitely pay it a visit.

 

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For lunch, we headed to the Cafe Atma in the centre of Cardiff. An all vegetarian, egg free cafe, almost all the menu items can be made vegan (and they’ll let you know too!). I don’t usually order curry when I’m out – probably because I figure I can make curry myself – but this looked too good to pass on – and it was amazing! Mild in heat but not in flavour, I had a chana dhal and a peanut butter subzi, with puri, cauliflower pakora, and rice. It was lovely! And the drink you can see in the background – strawberry & blackcurrant – was also very tasty.

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The next day – our final day – we went on a last walk around Gloucester before we checked out of the hotel. Fresh and early in the morning, the docks were absolutely beautiful. We also got to have a look inside the cathedral too, where the organist was playing some warming up music.

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We then headed to Cheltenham, where we found there was a farmers market going on with not one, but two stalls with vegan options! First was the Veggie Deli where we bought a polenta bake to eat for lunch, and then we came across Flamingo’s Vegan Bakery, which was a lovely stall! They had millionaire’s shortbread and I had a nice chat with the owners about how they make their caramel (they condense their own soy milk! That’s more work than I can put in!) and of course I had to buy some to sample. I also got the pictured wonderful chocolate and peanut butter cookie sandwich. I am not sure I’ve ever had a cookie sandwich before (unless you count Jammy Dodgers and Bourbons) but this was delicious.

Finally, we headed home – and were quickly greeted by the neighbour’s cat, who seemed to have missed us!

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Gloucestershire Holiday, Part 2.

After our day in Bath, we decided to head to the nearby Bristol. The two cities are less than fifteen miles from each other, and we’d originally planned to visit them both on the same day. We soon realised though that since Bath had such a wealth of places to visit, we just wouldn’t have time! So, two separate days it was.

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But first off, we headed for the seaside! Portishead is a town just a little outside of Bristol and although it doesn’t really have a “beach” exactly, it’s still a beautiful little place with some very enviable houses!

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Next onto Bristol itself, where we prepared to explore and shop. We came across St Peter’s Church in the city centre Castle Park, an old church – possibly the oldest in Bristol – which was bombed in World War II after being used as a hospital, and is now preserved as a memorial, with lovely gardens growing herbs and useful plants.

 

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We then went on to have lunch at VX Bristol. Describing itself as “Vegan Junk Food”, it has a little shop selling vegan essentials and more – loads of mock-meats and cheeses – but also a restaurant where you can get some great food. I had the “Philly”, which is a burger and cheese in a cob, grilled! Like a toastie! The cheese went all melty and delicious. Greg had a regular burger which he said was delicious too. We also got cakes to take away (we were too full to eat dessert immediately) and they were lovely but no photos as they did get a little squished on our way back!

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Finally, we paid a visit to the cathedral in Bristol. A beautiful cathedral and mostly empty by the time we got there, it also has some lovely well-maintained gardens which we visited.

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The next day we went on a walk in the Cotswold’s. We followed a walking guide from the National Trail website, taking us along part of the Cotswold Way and through the beautiful villages of Stanton and Snowshill.

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We walked up some enormous hills, but were rewarded by some stunning views of the countryside around us. Apparently from some parts of the walk you can even see into Wales, but we weren’t quite sure!

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We packed a lunch with us – cobs with some “lunchmeat” style slices I made and salad and crisps! Good food for being out walking. We’ve done a few of the walks from the National Trail website and I’d highly recommend them.

We were exhausted when we got home from the walk and stayed in the hotel again (watching Olympics once more!), ready for the next day out, which I will post soon in Part 3!

Gloucestershire Holiday, Part 1.

This past week, we have been holidaying in the Gloucestershire/South West area. We spent five nights in a hotel in Gloucester (complete with a fridge and a microwave – essential for vegans!) and travelled to various places nearby. As always, we took a whole lot of pictures of the area and the food, some of which I’ll share in this post!

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The city of Gloucester is itself quite beautiful, and on our first evening we went for a walk in the sun. We found the cathedral – which was at the time closed due to it being quite late (ah, the deceptively bright British summer evenings!) – but from the outside it was still an awe inspiring sight.

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We walked down by the docks which were very windy and full of seagulls – but again full of lovely sites. Pictured above is the Johanna Lucretia, which starred in the film Amazing Grace (about William Wilberforce and his campaign to end the slave trade). The docks were surprisingly quiet and it was a lovely walk.

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On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the pizza place Fat Toni’s. They offer vegan cheese on all of their pizzas at no extra cost – which is wonderful news! We decided to try it out, along with a pot of their vegan pesto dip. They also offer vegan ice cream, but it was a rather large tub and with no freezer to store it in we had to pass! I had the “La Franca” pizza, with artichokes, garlic, tomatoes. It was delicious and so good to have a pizza with vegan cheese readily available!

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After a good sleep in the hotel, the next day we decided to have a day out in Bath, since it was only slightly over an hours journey from our base in Gloucester – and having recently graduated with a history degree (and a slight focus on ancient history) I was eager to see the city!

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Bath Abbey is simply stunning, and it’s well worth having a look inside (free entry!) – pay attention to the great windows at the west and east – one depicting Old Testament stories and the other depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. They are very impressive!

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Next we walked up a very very big hill (seriously an endless amount of steps) to Alexandra Park, where we were rewarded with this amazing view of the city. It’s hard to get an idea from photos of the view, but you could see the whole city and beyond – it was well worth the walk.

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I didn’t manage to take a picture of lunch – which was a tempeh wrap from Harvest – but I did get a photo of this lovely drink I had – I love rhubarb and this had a wonderful rhubarby taste to it! We bought our lunch to take away and ate it in the Parade Gardens in the centre of Bath, alongside the river Avon. The gardens do have a small entrance fee (£1.50 per adult) but since our lunch was fairly cheap we decided to pay for the privilege of being able to sit down and eat!

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Finally, we went to the Roman Baths. These are not cheap – a £15.50 entry fee per adult (though I got a slight discount with my student card!) but if you can, they’re well worth it. It seems like they’re going to be packed, and to be honest they are pretty busy, but it isn’t a bad thing. In fact, being busy it kind of forces you to take time to look at the exhibits and appreciate them. Do take one of the audio guides – there are some fantastic commentries by Bill Bryson along the route!

At the end of the day, we were tired and didn’t fancy eating out and so just had food in the hotel room whilst we watched the Olympics – but that was good enough for us! Having a microwave and a fridge made that easy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the holiday, coming soon!

 

A trip to North Norfolk!

At the beginning of last month, we went on a trip to Norfolk for a long weekend away. I’m afraid I’m only just getting round to sorting out the photos as I’ve been pretty busy with uni (just two more months to go though!). We were incredibly lucky to have lovely weather that enabled us to go on some great walks in the Norfolk countryside.

The first walk we went on was a round walk through Castle Acre and towards West Acre (click for walk map). We started at Castle Acre Castle (a weird sandwich of a name), which is an old motte-and-bailey castle, originally built not long after the Norman invasion in 1066!

Next we walked past the Priory, another nearly millennia old building, originally founded by order of Burgundy. We didn’t go in the Priory itself, but it’s owned by English Heritage now and you can pay to access the building.

The walk leaves the roads and takes you through fields, where we sat down and had lunch!

The sun lasted most of the walk, which was great, allowing us to get some lovely photos of the scenery.

And then finally, a walk along the river Nar, which was ever so slightly flooded, and we got a bit muddy. By now the clouds were closing in a little and we were ready for the walk to be done! But it was a lovely walk in a great area of Norfolk.

The next day, we went on a Woodland and Coastal Walk at Sheringham Park. As the name suggests, the walk began in the woodlands in Sheringham Park before heading towards Weybourne Station and the coast.

Once again, we were blessed with beautiful weather leading to great views, like the above of Weybourne village!

We walked past Weybourne Station, part of the North Norfolk Railway, which unfortunately was closed so we were unable to go in and have a look, but from the bridge overlooking it it certainly seemed a lovely quaint little place.

We also came across this marvellous sign (click the picture to enlarge) showcasing some fine Norfolk language!

Soon, the walk headed along the coast, which although providing lovely views, was extremely windy! This part of the walk was particularly difficult as it became very cold and gusty and the coastal path seemed to go on forever!

We did eventually turn off and head back towards the park itself, where the weather, once the wind had died down, proved to be lovely and warm.

And finally back in the park itself before we headed back to the car. I can highly recommend the coastal walk at Sheringham (follow the link above for the instructions) as it was really fun and had some great views of the area.

Walking in Matlock

So, Vegan MoFo 2015 is over for the year! You can see all my posts this year here if you’d like to re-visit them. It’s been great reading everybody’s blogs and seeing all the great recipes posted!

Now that the month of food is over, I shall make a post pertaining to the “Walks” part of this blog’s name!

We moved to Derby a few months ago and this leaves us in the great position of not being very far from some lovely walking areas. We decided on Sunday to drive up to Matlock and go for a short walk there.

The River Derwent

Matlock itself appeared to have some sort of fair going on so we swiftly left the town and found a route by the river. It was part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way which is a 55 mile trail which begins at the Ladybower Reservoir right in the heart of the Peak District, and ends near Shardlow at the edges of Derbyshire, where the Derwent joins the Trent.

Our first view in Matlock however was the impressive Riber Castle, which stands high on the hills above the town and yet is somewhat incongruously flanked by a crane and building supplies. It is not open to the public, and from what I can tell is in the process of being converted into apartments.

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The first part of the trail was not particularly interesting being just a small path by the roadside, however we quickly came across a train station and just missed a steam train puffing by!

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The station appeared to be small and unstaffed and the train did not stop there. The route then turned into woodlands and countryside which was particularly beautiful in its autumnal colours.

Me in the woods.

The path soon opened up further into fields and countryside full of sheep and other farm animals!

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Finally, before we turned back, we came across a lovely orchard full of many different apples which made me wish I could jump over and sneak a few away! We stopped for a snack in one of the fields which the Derwent ran through, then turned back to Matlock!

Road Trip Snacks! – Vegan MoFo Day 29

The penultimate prompt for Vegan MoFo 2015 is “What would you bring on a vegan road trip?” Now, if hypothetically I was going on a vegan road trip and had unlimited funds, I’d probably buy expensive vegan chocolate and snacks from specialist stores. But…although that’d be super tasty, I can’t afford that and I haven’t done that! So I’m sticking with what I know.

When we go on “road trips” (there’s only so much road to trip in the UK!) I tend to stock up on cheap and easy snacks. Mostly sweets and things that aren’t so great for you – but who cares, are holidays really meant to be healthy?

So here I have a selection of the treats I like to buy, all of which clock in at £1 or less!

First lets start with the savoury. These Rosemary & Olive oil Ritz crackers are awesome, and I get them from any supermarket. Bring along a pot of hummus to dip them in!

I love Pringles – and they’re great because they have a little “tick” next to the word vegan on their ingredients list if they’re safe! But these are also really good and only £1. Tesco’s version. Their plain ones are also vegan.

Marmite crisps!! Make sure to get the Walkers brand, as the other older brand of marmite crisps are not vegan. These are recently back and are strangely good. Can buy in packs of six from supermarkets.

Ok that’s it for the savoury, on to the sweet. Where would a vegan snacks list be without Biscoff? These Lotus biscuits come in handy snack-size packets, ideal for dipping in tea or coffee. Found in packs of 16 in pound shops.

These little fruit flakes are actually kind of healthy. You can get them in all different flavours, they are made from condensed fruit purees and are like mini gummies. From supermarkets or pound shops!

And of course Oreos! These are a pack of 10×2 packs I got from a pound shop. You can get rolls of them too, but here in the UK only the regular and the Golden flavours are vegan.

Bon Bons! Tesco’s own make and delicious. Blue Raspberry is such a nostalgic taste.

Skittles! Skittles are now vegan – they didn’t used to be vegetarian either but they changed the recipe and made it suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. My favourite is the sour flavour.

Talking of Skittles…these are basically Vimto flavoured skittles – you can get them from pound shops. Delicious!

So there you have it, my cheap and cheerful road trip list!

Hillside Animal Sanctuary, Norfolk – Vegan MoFo Day 18

When we were on holiday in Norfolk this summer, we visited Hillside Animal Sanctuary in West Runton. That’s near Sheringham and Cromer. Hillside also have a sanctuary closer to Norwich but that one is not open so often.

It was a wonderful place and really makes you think about what the farming industry does to these poor animals. Hillside currently has over two thousand rescued animals, most of whom were rescued from farms. They do undercover investigations too – exposing horrendous conditions in farms across the country. It’s horrifying how these things go on in secret, torturing the poor animals that so many people buy without a second thought in their supermarkets. If you read their Wikipedia page you can get a small glimpse into some of the things they do.

When you see so many of the rescued animals now living happy lives in peace at the sanctuary, after all the horrors they’ve been for, you can’t help but be inspired by them. Turkeys wandering around in the sunshine, knowing they’ll never be eaten for Christmas? Hens giving themselves a dust bath knowing they’ll never be shoved in a tiny cage again? Animals turned from skeletons into healthy, happy creatures? Just a few of the things you’ll see here. They even have a mini lake with ducks and geese!

And what’s even more special about this place – it’s all vegan! They have a gift shop, which is where I got the cookbooks featured in this post, along with trinkets, calenders, t shirts, and vegan-slogan mugs!

They also have a cafe which is what they call “animal-friendly”. This means vegan, I discovered after I asked. Nothing is made with animal products at all! It’s fascinating because it’s proper “packed lunch” fare – lots of cheese sandwiches, cakes, and crisps – but all of it is vegan.

I had a cheese and tomato roll, with crisps and salad, and my husband had a sausage and pickle roll. All vegan. Followed by some lovely cakes from the Vegan Cakery – there was a huge selection of cakes there to choose from! You could also get vegan snack ice creams from their freezer if you liked, and teas and coffees all made vegan.

I liked this because although it didn’t loudly proclaim “THIS IS VEGAN” it was – and the place was pretty popular, but I imagine most people didn’t even realise they were eating vegan food. Which is something that could completely change people’s minds on veganism, food that is not particularly “healthy”, not particularly “fancy” – just normal, everyday vegan food that tastes good.

So, if you’re ever in Norfolk, do plan a visit to Hillside! If not, check out their website or their gift shop online or just try and find a similar sanctuary near you. Hillside have rescued many animals (one poster said 200 just this year!) but there are so many more stuck in horrible conditions around the world, and they need all the help we can give them.

Sandringham & Hunstanton

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday – we’ve gone away for the weekend to my Granny’s in Norfolk. It’s lovely here but the internet is certainly sporadic!

We started off the day by heading to Hunstanton Beach – which was really quite foggy and overcast! But still a lovely beach, we go there again and again.

After heading back for lunch, we went to Sandringham woods for a walk with my Great-Uncle David and his two dogs, Hetty and Florence.

That’s Hetty there running on ahead!

Sandringham is such a beautiful place – and the sun had decided to show it’s face so it actually became lovely and warm!

We also went to the orchards at Sandringham where they sell Pick Your Own apples.

We got some eating apples (Cox’s) and some cooking ones (Bramleys) so hopefully I’ll be doing some sort of apple baking soon!

Finally, we headed back to Granny’s and spent the evening sitting infront of the fire. Yes it is only September – but her house is several hundred years old and gets very cold in the evenings!

Dovedale

As I’ve posted about before, we recently moved house…and we realised that we now live a fair bit closer to what is one of the prettiest places in England, the Peak District! So, when we had a free day, we decided to go for a walk in the Dovedale area, famous for it’s stepping stones.

Dovedale is a valley through which the River Dove flows, and has been a tourist attraction for well over a century, with the stepping stones themselves being used by Victorian tourists. These days the site receives more than a million visitors per year – in the summer holidays and weekends it can get extremely busy.

Luckily we went on a weekday outside of the school holidays, so whilst there were still a few people around, we weren’t crowded and we got the stones to ourselves!

The water in the river was pretty low – it’s not been raining much here recently – which meant the stones were super exposed. We saw plenty of dogs paddling in the river alongside the stones!

We walked further through Dovedale past the stepping stones, and past many other features. It’s a fascinating area, where the river cuts through and creates all sorts of interesting things- there’s the Lover’s Leap, which involves climbing a huge number of stairs to reach a high point above the river. There are many legends involving spurned lovers attempting, and failing, to jump off the area. Supposedly the steps themselves were made by Italian prisoners of war in WWII.

We walked through the Straits – which is where the valley turns into a gorge, and the pathway has been raised in order that it doesn’t get flooded constantly.

We also walked around Thorpe Cloud, which is a large hill right next to the river, and provides some outstanding views.

(you see Thorpe Cloud itself in this picture)

I find this area of the country to be one of the most spectacular. Although it’s difficult to visit if you have to come on school holidays or weekends, due to the amount of people who flock there, it’s still completely stunning. There are many other places in the Peak District too with more outstanding views, and I’m sure we’ll be visiting them at some point!

Beacon Hill Country Park

Todays post will live up to the “Walks” part of my blog title.

September may mean that “Winter is coming”, as George R R Martin would say, but it doesn’t mean that winter is here yet. The weather was gorgeous – 20 degrees and beautifully sunny, so we decided to take a visit to Beacon Hill.

Beacon Hill is the second highest point in Leicestershire – supposedly from the very top you can even see to Lincoln Cathedral! Well, I didn’t see that far, but you certainly get a good view.

The park is full of wooden carvings, of people and animals, such as these rather interesting looking sheep:

There are also long haired cows wandering around! Previously when we have been the cows had been roaming the paths right next to us – kind of nervy when the cows are bigger than you! But this time they didn’t seem that interested in us, only in eating!

There are some really beautiful places in Leicestershire. Perhaps when someone mentions Leicester, beauty is the last thing that most people think about it – but you don’t have to look far to find lovely scenery and parks, wildlife, nature, some places really very beautiful.