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The fun side of foraging

Posted on 25th May 2017

Recent news has brought to light the sheer amount of food waste in both homes and retail, leading to a market U-turn in attitudes towards left-overs. From Asda’s wonky vegetable boxes to the increase in left over recipes, we are moving away from mass production and looking to become more self-sufficient with our food.

blackberries ripening

There has been a similar increased interest in foraging. While many people remember scouting hedgerows for blackberries for grandma’s apple pie, few people have done more than that since. Restaurants have been busy jumping on the bandwagon of wildly grown goods and appealing to those who want to reduce the air miles as well as the food waste. Native is such a restaurant based in London that aims to allow their customers to appreciate nature. Native is uncompromising on their ethos and looks to inspire others to similar goals.

“Native looks to provide its guests with an original dining experience that encapsulates the country’s best wild food that is native to the UK through a combination of innovative cooking and country thrift. Our food looks to unite the country’s best foraged foods and game in a laid back, full flavour adventure through the British seasons.”

While you may want to direct your new-found enthusiasm to your nearest scrap of woodland, foraging requires knowledge and an inherent respect for natural spaces. While enjoying a Wiltshire cottage holiday, what better way to ease yourself closer to your foraging future than with a beginner’s course into the edible aspects of nature? The Wild Side of Life has different courses throughout the year and based in Wiltshire to initiate you into the lifestyle.

Whether it is a few wild flowers added to a salad or a meal of morels, we can all add a little more of nature’s bounty into our diets, and foraging for the ingredients can be as much fun as eating them.

 Image Credit: Living in Monrovia

WW1 training tunnels found in Wiltshire

Posted on 12th May 2017

Lark Hill has long been associated with the military, who began buying up land on the Salisbury plains after the declining wool trade left the area in an economic slump. The Boer war in 1899 saw the area readied for the military camps but these were increased by the First World War.

Lark hill artillery range

As the army look to renovate areas of Lark hill to make new housing for those in service and their families, the training trenches and tunnels were rediscovered. The archaeologists who worked on the site were delighted. This is the first time anywhere in the world that archaeologists have had the chance to examine, excavate and record such an enormous expanse of First World War training ground,” said Si Cleggett, of  Wessex Archaeology.

There are dangers involved in excavating the area – over 200 grenades have been found on the site, and roughly half of these are still live meaning the archaeologists had to work with experts to unearth the secrets of the dig.

What they have learnt, however, has given personality to an essential part of British history. As the training required the troops to live in the tunnels for the winter of 1916/1917, they left behind graffiti and personal effects along with the detritus of everyday living. One of the later discoveries is that of a red MG sports car, dating from the 1930’s. It could indicate unrest in the lower ranks, as it is suspected to have been belonging to a young officer, and its overnight disappearance was part of a prank.

The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum is a wonderful place to learn more about the significant military history of Wiltshire and the surrounding areas while staying in a Wiltshire holiday cottage. In light of the recent discovery so close to the museum, the local and national interest has increased.

Image Credit: Andrew Haynes (Geograph)

Start off your summer with local ice cream

Posted on 01st April 2017

While Italy may be the undisputed home of ice cream, you may be able to scoop some of your own high-end and home-grown frozen joy while staying in a Wiltshire holiday cottage. The local dairy farm of Lacock is part of the Selkley Vale Herd which stretches across Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire and is renowned for producing milk for Cadburys.  Ice Cream Cone against sunset

The long-founded belief that dairy farms of this area produce the sweetest milk will soon be put to the test in their newest endeavour. It is thought that the unique soil and grass of the area contributes to the pure taste of the produce and this is what makes the ice cream so special.

Jane Lear, Tony Doel and Graeme McFaull are the three friends responsible for this enterprise and are excited for what the summer will bring, but they will concentrate on their pure brand ethos. According to Mrs Lear: “We put as little in terms of additives in and we like to think we are at the top end.” The Lacock Dairy Farm has been farmed by four generations of the Doel family and the latest successor is pleased to see it branching out.

When ice cream first made its way to the England it was the privilege of royalty and the very wealthy, while it was only the latter half of the 19th century that saw ice cream available to the wider public. Since then however, it has gained nothing but popularity and become one of the traditions of the British summer.

Though Lacock Ice cream will be a far cry from Mr Whippy, it has had a positive reception thus far from the neighbouring business that are stocking it. With nine flavours to start the summer it is sure to be the perfect way to taste the heart of Wiltshire’s Dairy Community.

Image Credit: Unsplash

Looking back to the Big Freeze as snow falls across Wiltshire

Posted on 18th January 2017

Snow at Liddington, Wiltshire

The UK has been hit with some particularly wintery weather this week, as forecasts for towns across the country predict snow. Reports have cited everything from flurries to ‘thundersnow’, and in the past couple of days Wiltshire itself has become covered in a blanket of white. But, far from despairing, Wiltshire residents have been making the most of the seasonal turn by getting out into the countryside.

Some areas saw overnight snowfall on the 12th, with the Swindon Advertiser describing “a sprinkling in Swindon, Devizes and Trowbridge with Corsham and Chippenham missing out almost entirely.” The snowfall is being caused by a polar air mass that originated over northern Canada, which is spreading south across the UK creating everything from a flutter of non-settling sleet in the South West to heavy showers Scotland and Ireland. The Met Office described the weather as a “real taste of winter”, which is set only to increase in the coming days.

Although the smattering is small, residents across the county are making the most of the unusual weather. In fact, presenters Ben and Mel from Heart Radio even went out in Wiltshire on Friday morning to participate in that age-old activity of making snow angels, as can be seen in this video.

Whether the snow will become heavy enough to cause disruption is yet to be seen, but for now locals are enjoying the weather by getting out for winter walks and having miniature snowball fights outdoors. 

In the past, Wiltshire has seen significant periods of weather that would more typically be expected in a more Alpine environment. The year of 1963 is dubbed as ‘Wiltshire’s Big Freeze’, and although the blizzards occurred over fifty years ago, older residents still tell stories of their memories today. Just after Christmas, on the 29th and 30th of December, six inches of snow fell. Families had to dig themselves in and out of their homes, yet in the streets snowmen were built, snowballs were thrown and many more snow angels were born on the whitewashed pavements.

The freeze lasted through January, with some snow still on the ground in March. Several areas reported amazing levels of snowfall, with 16 inches cited in Trowbridge. As the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre explains:

“Some people in villages dug out sleds and skis from their attics and brought food and fuel into their villages; it was estimated that millions of small birds only survived because of food put out in gardens. Foxes, squirrels, and other wild animals apparently became ‘tame’, appearing in gardens in search of food”.

Whilst it is highly unlikely that we will see anything close to the conditions on 1963 in the near future, this story is a testament to the spirit of the Wiltshire community. With a reasonable and charming scattering of snow set to cover Wiltshire in the coming days, now is the perfect time to enjoy wintery jaunts and warming log fires on a Wiltshire cottage holiday!

Image Credit: Brian Robert Marshall (Wikimedia Commons)

Wiltshire adventurer awarded a Knighthood by the Queen

Posted on 09th January 2017

Wiltshire adventurer David Hempleman-Adams has recently been endowed with national prestige after he was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. Having been made a Night Commander of the Victorian Order, Sir David was recognised by the Queen for his services to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, which he has been a trustee of for 10 years.

David Hempleman Adams

Image Credit: Stuart V Conway(BBC)

Born in Moredon, Swindon, Hempleman-Adams forged his adventurous career at just 14 years old, completing the bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Since, he has summited Mount Everest twice, led over 30 expeditions to the Arctic and completed a historic solo balloon flight to the North Pole.

Although he has achieved so much in his 60 years, local figure Sir David cites his initial trip to the Brecon Beacons with the Duke of Edinburgh award as being his “lightbulb moment”. It was this experience that fostered his passion for exploration that would lead him to this position. Not only has Sir David travelled to some of the most challenging environments in the world, he also became the first person to complete the “adventurer’s grand slam” of climbing every continent’s highest mountain, a feat reserved for only the finest expeditioners.

Currently residing in Box, Wiltshire, Sir David told reporters that he was “astonished” to have been given a knighthood, and suggests that igniting the interest in discovering the world is a feat achieved by the local groups involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. He said:

“When I climbed Everest I was skilled and experienced, and the same with the Poles – it was just another day in the office – whereas that first time I went down across the Brecon Beacons I was very scared.”

“It is an extraordinary scheme and I owe my life to it, really.”

Hempelman-Adams has long been a person of note in the Wiltshire areas, having maintained close ties to the county throughout his career. In fact, during his 1993 ascent of Everest, Sir David wrote, “I would kill for fish and chips and a pint of (local ale) Arkell’s”. It is quite extraordinary that his incredible journey began in Wiltshire, and that it holds such fondness in the life of someone who has experienced some of the most fascinating countries in the world. So, next time you’re relaxing on a Wiltshire cottage holiday, remember to get outside and experience the fantastic local landscapes that led Sir David to where he is now.