Little Big Difference

It's the little things that count!

LOOKING BACK - SEPTEMBER 2012

Its been a year and one month since I contributed anything to this blog.  This period of inactivity coincides with my relocation from the Kent countryside to the city of London (something I had to do for work and not out of choice).  

Like most working Londoners, I find myself with very little (if any) spare time. However, having recently moved closer to work, I do have a little extra time and it’s about time that I resuscitated this blog!

I thought a good place to start is from where I left off and ever since this time last year, I have built up quite a number of digital photographs from visits and experiences that I wanted to record on Little Big Difference.   

This time last year I took my grandmother to The Secret Gardens of Sandwich.  Maureen (my grandmother) suffers with Alzheimer’s and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see as much of her once I’d moved to London. So we took a trip to see The Salutations designed by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to see the three-and-a-half acres of ornamental gardens that he and gardener Gertrude Jekyll created. 

These photographs were taken at the end of September and most of the borders are coming to the end of their prime. However, it was still great to experience the organisation of the garden in relation to the house and to see Jekyll’s infamous painterly style of perennial planting.

Related Links:

http://www.the-secretgardens.co.uk/

http://www.gertrudejekyll.co.uk/

http://www.lutyenstrust.org.uk/

http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

LUNCH IN AN OLD GLOVE FACTORY AND CAKE AT THE COURTS GARDEN:

Last Saturday myself and four others filled the car and headed to visit friends who’ve recently moved to Holt in Bradford Upon Avon, Wiltshire.  We arrived just in time for some lunch and our local guests suggested a bite to eat at The Old Glove Factory just a few minutes walk away.  Intrigued and hungry we headed off on foot towards the older part of the village. As we approached the refurbished factory you could see from the presence of a tall chimney, some grain mills and various interconnecting Victorian factory buildings that this little village was once a hub of industry and making.  

The Old Glove Factory Studios was once part of J&T Beaven’s leather factory, a five acre industrial site now known as the Holt Tannery. Lovingly refurbished, some of the site now offers a work space hub, a shop and a cafe.   

To the east of the factory buildings a courtyard has been designed, within which a number of shed style outbuildings reside. The largest of which is the cafe, a pitched rectangular timber framed building with an open planned interior and various sized windows and large glass doors.

As we entered the cafe kitchen area, a buffet of many beautiful looking fresh salads and mains greeted us. There were other options from the daily menu but we all went for a main with a little helping from each of the salads.  An open chiller offered us a selection of local juices, cordials, pop and locally brewed alcoholic beverages sourced from the nearby Craft Steam Brewery. I went for a bottle of Piston Broke beer which was very refreshing!

It was a blustery but sunny afternoon so we chose to eat in the exterior eating space which borders onto open countryside.  The kitchen garden had a quirky and clever domesticated style, with aluminium animal troughs for vegetable beds, potted miniature fruit trees and random old and new garden furniture.  It had the atmosphere of eating in a friends garden rather than an establishment which I like!

Half way through our meal it started to rain so we ran into the cafe and settled at one of the long wooden canteen style communal tables.  The cafe space can be hired for events, and there were some colourful paper bird mobiles hanging from the ceiling which had remain from a wedding party recently held in there. It’s a flexible space, with lots of natural light, steel panel flooring, white washed walls and ceiling … I didn’t want to leave!

After lunch we walked to a nearby National Trust site, The Courts Garden.  We entered through a garden wall doorway and journey’d up a garden path towards a beautiful early Georgian house. 

The architect Sir George Hastings laid out these gardens in the early 1900’s.  Twenty years later after WWI, Lady Cecilie Goff elaborated Hastings scheme creating a series of pathways and terraces made of stone collected from the then recently demolished Devizes Prison.  These pathways took us on a journey through colour and scent, which followed small waterways that opened out into larger pools.  While the many different forms of sculpted hedging brought a sense of wonderland to the place.  

In 1952, Lady Cecilie’s daughter Moyra Goff planted the arboretum in an area that had previously been pasture land.  The arboretum provides the perfect place for a game of chase which both children and Swallows readily did while I was there!

After walking around the gardens we’d built up an appetite for tea and cake in the National Trust Cafe which is located within a small wing of the Georgian house.  The wooden panelled room was a wash with teapots, cakes and happy faces.  There was over fifteen varieties of cake to choose from that day, so we all ordered something different and tasted a little from each others plates.  It was a delicious and perfectly relaxing end to a lovely afternoon in Holt.

Related Links:

http://www.glovefactorystudios.com/

http://www.thetannerysite.co.uk/

http://www.boxsteambrewery.co.uk/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/courts-garden/

http://www.bradfordonavonmuseum.co.uk/

OPEN FARM SUNDAY AT SILCOCKS ORGANIC FARM:

Today was Open Farm Sunday, a project that started back in 2006 opening working farms across the UK to the public and giving us a better understanding of what it means to be a farmer.

Through logging onto the Open Farm website I found a farm not too far from home that I wanted to visit: Silcocks Organic Farm in Tenterden, Kent.

It was a great day out for anyone interested in agriculture, the countryside and wildlife. The farm has a good shop, selling the farm produce and other local artisan products. There were also a couple of stands, one with floristry displays and the other selling wooden crafted items by Mark Sidders the Green Wood Craftsman who was actually carving wooden kitchen spoons as visitors walked by.  

For this years Open Farm event, Silcocks Farm had converted their big barn into a hay bale bar, bbq and eatery, where visitors could enjoy cooked organic meat sandwiches with local ales, beer and fruit juices.  Alongside the visiting diners, another area of the barn housed some sheep who looked as if they had just been sheered, a demonstration I had just missed!

The farm encouraged visitors to take walks around the local area and fill in a Pollinator Survey.  I took the non public footpath route through the farms grazing and corn fields, which led me to Wattle Wood, a Kent Wildlife Nature Reserve.  On my walk I saw the Silcock dairy cows and calves, and the rare breed Boresisle Herd, which huddled by a gateway that I didn’t dare enter - they were rather feisty and had really big horns!

Out of all the animals, my favourite sight was the huge Gloucestershire Old Spot pig and piglets!

During my peaceful walk across the farm estate, I could occasional hear the sounds of The Jewel of The Weald, a steam engine travelling along the nearby Kent & Sussex Railway.

Sunday Bliss!

Related links:

http://www.farmsunday.org/ofs12b/home.eb

http://www.silcocksfarm-organics.co.uk/

http://www.marksidders.co.uk

http://www.kesr.org.uk/

BLOOMING MARVELLOUS:

Back in January I posted ’Pruning Fruit Trees’ a little insight into my first attempts of fruit tree pruning, with the guidance of Alan Buckingham’s book ‘allotment month by month’.

Three months on and I am very happy to see the trees blooming!

Here are some of my favourite blossom shots!

STONEACRE: A 15TH CENTURY KENTISH FARM HOUSE.

Yesterday I walked two and half miles from my parental home through rural Kent to visit the very beautiful Stoneacre, in Otham.  

As I walked towards the medieval timber framed yeoman’s house I couldn’t believe I hadn’t visited this truly special place before!  It turns out I actually have - my parents took me when I was too little to remember, but i’m still surprised I hadn’t been aware of it’s existence in more recent times, especially as it’s such an architectural gem!  

On approaching the house’s gate entrance I was greeted by a sweet little brown shaggy dog, belonging to one of the two National Trust gardeners. Adjacent to the house, an old stable block has been converted by Stoneacre’s tenants (who live in the top floor of the house) into a outdoor cafe.

You can only visit Stoneacre on Saturday’s and Bank holiday Monday’s, so it felt quite special to be there.  Only the downstairs is open to the public but the setting, gardens, views and stable cafe make this is a highly recommended visit! 

The house and Otham Valley area is pretty untouched and it felt like a bit of an old fairy tale! I struck up a conversation with one of the tenants of Stoneacre who is keen to see more visitors and suggests that the house is a great ‘get away’ from urban life or just a bit of ‘piece and quiet’.  For me it was an opportunity to travel back in time to the life of a local yeoman and it was really wonderful to see the house and the land being kept alive as it was intended since it’s completion back in the 1480’s!

Stoneacre is a fine example of the traditional South Eastern vernacular Wealden Hall House, surrounded with fields of sheep, flowing streams, lakes, and sceneic walks!

From 12.00 - 16.00 on Sunday 6th May 2012, an Arts & Crafts Fair is being held within the house. Tickets are £5 each which includes entry to the fair, house, gardens and a free soft drink.

Related Link: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stoneacre/

Twitter: @NTStoneacre

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!
I was in Waterstone’s yesterday and came across Pippa Kendrick’s delicious looking cookery book The Intolerant Gourmet!
Last month both my boyfriend and one of my oldest friends discovered that they have food intolerances.  So I am interested to see how they can still enjoy eating without feeling like they’re missing out!
Whether you have a food intolerence or not, Kendrick’s book holds an array of lovely looking recipes - definitely worth considering a browse when you next hit your local bookshop! 
To find out more about World Book Day visit: http://www.worldbookday.com

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!

I was in Waterstone’s yesterday and came across Pippa Kendrick’s delicious looking cookery book The Intolerant Gourmet!

Last month both my boyfriend and one of my oldest friends discovered that they have food intolerances.  So I am interested to see how they can still enjoy eating without feeling like they’re missing out!

Whether you have a food intolerence or not, Kendrick’s book holds an array of lovely looking recipes - definitely worth considering a browse when you next hit your local bookshop! 

To find out more about World Book Day visit: http://www.worldbookday.com

WALK ACROSS FEBRUARY FIELDS:

I took these photographs during an 8 mile walk this afternoon in Kent’s North Downs.

The walk began at Harrietsham station, uphill to the Pilgrims Way and onto a National Trail towards The Ringlestone Inn, a 16th Century ale house.  A brief stop at the Inn, and then back to the circular walk, downhill towards some breathtaking views of Kent’s agricultural scenery and a beautiful sunset.

Links: 

http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/northdowns/

http://www.theringlestoneinn.co.uk/

http://www.wfminkent.co.uk/

SEASIDE & SHOP FRONTS IN HASTINGS:

I’ve had lots of wonderful times in Hastings and yesterday’s impromptu visit just added to the pot of happy memories!

Each time I visit the Old Town and see the beach it always feels like I have somehow forgotten the enchantment of this place! A great destination for pottering and still witness the old english seaside charm! You can spend many hours sifting through numerous beautiful independent boutiques and characterful shops! It’s a great place to find vintage gems (minus the London hyped price tag) and pretty interior and reclaimed items! There are also some nice little cafes, bars and pubs in and around the Old Town!

The new Jerwood Gallery, located just behind the beached fishing boats, is due to open next month. It’s great that Hastings is getting a contemporary exhibition space but all the new development in and around the gallery is black!! I appreciate that architects like to look to the local context of an area for design inspiration, but for me this has been taken too literally! As a consequence the new buildings have hijacked the local architecture of the original blackened net drying huts and created  a bit of a blackened overkill!!

For a wholesome lunch go to the Land of Green Ginger Cafe or for some great fish & chips we can recommend Whites Bar. For a local ale and a log fire visit The Jenny Lind Inn pub!

Links: 

http://www.littletreasuresvintage.co.uk/

http://www.landofgreenginger.org/

http://www.hastingsfish.co.uk/

http://www.whitesbar.co.uk/

http://jennylindhastings.co.uk/

http://www.jerwoodgallery.org/

IN AN ENGLISH COUNTRY GARDEN: A year in the life of a 1970’s garden, depicting the change in season - and the owners’ wardrobe.
I found this piece in The Sunday Times Magazine yesterday! 
There are lots of special moments in the documentation of this elderly couples home life and although I never met them, I love Mr & Mrs Sweetman! I love their garden and the personalities that shine through in their outfits, postures and body language. 
Links: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/?CMP=INTni26

IN AN ENGLISH COUNTRY GARDEN: A year in the life of a 1970’s garden, depicting the change in season - and the owners’ wardrobe.

I found this piece in The Sunday Times Magazine yesterday! 

There are lots of special moments in the documentation of this elderly couples home life and although I never met them, I love Mr & Mrs Sweetman! I love their garden and the personalities that shine through in their outfits, postures and body language. 

Links: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/?CMP=INTni26

CAPEL-LE-FERNE FARMER’S MARKET:

Every tuesday between 10.00 - 12.30 a non-profit making farmers market is held in the Capel-le-Ferne village hall, near Folkestone in Kent.  All profits go towards the maintenance of the village hall.

I popped down to the market for the very first time this morning to find a cafe in the hall and about 20 stands selling a variety of local and homemade produce. 

The most exciting stall for me was The Sandgate Bakery!! It was wonderful to see so many types of freshly baked breads on sale, many still warm from the oven!  I found it very difficult to select just one item from the husband and wife team, who were more than happy to tell me about the different breads and suggestions on how best to enjoy them.  I sensed a real passion from these artisan bakers and you could see this in their produce!  I ended up buying a large Sourdough loaf and a Pain’Rustique but I honestly wanted to try them all! 

I also bought a couple of jars of Apple, Date and Walnut Chutney from Alkham Valley Preserves and Pickles.  A lovely chunky spicy chutney  - tried and tested and very yummy!

As soon as I got home I sampled both breads with some Lurpak butter - simple and delicious! I am now an advocate for The Sandgate Bakery and highly recommend any bread lover to check out their website for further info on how and where to find their floury delicacies!

Links:  

http://www.thesandgatebakery.com/index.html

http://www.kfma.org.uk/market-page.html?marketID=6

http://www.hogroasting.org/Preserves.html

NUTTY CUPCAKES!!

Last week I made 24 nutty cupcakes, half were pistachio flavour and the other twelve were moist walnut! The recipes for both came from volume 1 of Cupcake Heaven magazine. They were very similar in method and ingredients and equally simple to make!

Both flavour varieties were delicious and enjoyed by my nearest and dearest, though for me it was the pistachio cupcakes that rocked!  Enjoyed best with a cuppa :-)

Pistachio cupcakes

Makes 12

For the sponge:

85g (3oz) unsalted pistachio nuts

115g (4oz) organic butter, softened

140g (5oz) organic self-raising flour

2 organic eggs, lightly beaten

4 tbsp organic greek style yoghurt

1 tbsp chopped pistachio nuts, to decorate

For the buttercream:

115g (4oz) unsalted organic butter, softened

2 tbsp lime juice cordial

200g (7oz) icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180 degree C/ Gas Mark 4.  Put 12 paper cases in bun trays.  Put the pistachio nuts in a food processor or blender and process for a few seconds until finely ground.  Add the butter, caster sugar, flour, eggs and yoghurt, then process until evenly mixed.

2. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until risen, golden, and firm to the touch.  Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

3. To make the buttercream, put the butter and lime cordial in a bowl and beat until fluffy.  Sift in the icing sugar and beat until smooth.  Swirl the buttercream over the cupcakes and decorate with the chopped pistachio nuts.

Moist walnut cupcakes

Makes 12

For the sponge:

85g (3oz) walnuts

55g (2oz) organic butter, softened

100g (3.5oz) organic caster sugar

grated zest of half an organic lemon

70g (2.5oz) organic self-raising flour

2 organic eggs

12 walnut halves, to decorate

For the frosting:

55g (2oz) organic butter, softened

85g (3oz) icing sugar

grated zest of half an organic lemon

1 tsp lemon juice

NB.  Double the frosting ingredients if you like plenty topping - i did!

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degree C/Gas Mark 5.  Line a 12 hole bun tim with 12 paper cases. Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  Be careful not to over grind, as the nuts will turn to oil.

2. Add the butter, sugar, lemon zest, flour, and eggs to the walnuts. then blend until the mixture is evenly combined.  Spoon the mixture into the paper cases.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

3.  To make the frosting place the butter in a bowl and beat until fluffy.  Sift in the icing sugar, add the lemon zest and juice, then mix together well.  When the cupcakes are cold, spread the frosting on top and finish with a walnut half to decorate.

BEARSTED FARMERS MARKET:

This morning I visited my local village farmers market in Bearsted, Kent.  It was great to see a busy turn out and a nice variety of stool holders, selling local produce and crafts!

I treated myself to three very tasty local products, all sampled! 

A bottle of Davis & Davis Chiddingstone Medium Dry Superior Kentish Cider produced from locally grown apples in Kent and created by a team of two brothers.

I then bought a jar of seriously delicious Blackberry & Apple Curd from a family run business based in Maidstone called The Happy Apple, who make unusual combinations of chutneys, jams and curds from Kent produce!

My final purchase was an attractive bottle of Victoria Plum Gin from an intriguing company called Nip from the Hip.  This company is ran by a mother and daughter team creating fruit flavoured gins and vodkas from locally grown Kentish fruits.

There was a good variety of food being sold at this market, however a stall selling local cheese and dairy products was definitely missing!! 

The market takes place on the fourth Sunday of every month from 10am - 1pm!

Bearsted Farmers Market, The Green, Bearsted, Kent, ME14 4DL

Links:

http://www.kfma.org.uk/market-page.html?marketID=55

http://www.thehappyapple.co.uk/

http://www.nipfromthehip.co.uk/

PRUNING FRUIT TREES

Last week I bought ‘allotment month by month’ by Alan Buckingham.  A great book for beginners providing month by month advise.  

I am working in my fathers garden, which has a variety of overgrown fruit trees and four empty vegetable patches!   

Today, I made a start on some of the fruit trees (apple, plum and pear).  These trees are about fifteen years old and haven’t been pruned for years! Last September I visited my father to collect fruit from his garden and make jams and other preserves.  Unfortunately I found tonnes of rotting fruit both on and off the trees!! They’d grown too high for picking and the overcrowding had caused disease on some of the branches! It was very sad to see such a waste of food!

In the January chapter, Buckingham suggests that pruning (established and freestanding fruit trees) should take place between November and February when the trees are dormant.

Before you make your initial cut, bear in mind what you’re trying to achieve.  Your first aim is to cut out any dead, damaged, or diseased wood.  Your second is to remove any overlapping and overcrowded branches.  And third is to stimulate the growth of new fruit buds for the coming year.’

There are pruning tips and advise on the tools you need for pruning and how to remove branches etc.

I used secateurs, a pruning saw and my dad stepped in with a hack saw and a ladder to help with the heavy and high up branches!

I hope they become healthier and their fruit can be harvested more easily this year!!! 

We will see!

Maureen’s Moist Fruit Cake

This is my grandmothers recipe!! Its seriously easy to make and very tasty!

Ingredients:

4 oz / 113g  glace cherries

1 x 250g  tin of pineapple in juice

4oz / 113g  organic butter

12oz / 340g  mixed dried fruit

6oz / 170g  soft organic brown sugar

8ox/ 227g  organic self raising flour

2 x  medium sized organic eggs

Method:

Preheat the oven to 150 degree C (fan assisted) or 170 degree C.

Line an 8inch/23cm round cake tin with greaseproof baking paper.

Chop the cherries and the pineapple (keep the juice).

Put in a pan with the pineapple juice, butter, dried fruit and sugar.

Heat to melt the butter but do not boil.

Leave to cool, and then stir in the flour and eggs.

Put the cake mixture in the lined cake tin and bake for about one and half hours until firm, and a skewer comes out clean!

Place on a cooling rack until cool enough to remove and serve with a nice cuppa!

Organic Vanilla Cupcakes 

It was my mothers birthday last Sunday!! I bought her a pretty three tier cake stand and made some delicious cupcakes to go with!

I found this recipe in a magazine I bought last summer called ‘Easy Bakes cakes and puds’ by Good Housekeeping!

It was a very simple recipe and the cakes came out great!!

Ingredients:

175g (6oz) organic caster sugar

175g (6oz) very soft organic unsalted butter

3 medium organic eggs, beaten

1tsp organic vanilla extract

175g (6oz) organic plain flower

1tsp organic baking powder

For the icing and decoration:

200g (7oz) very soft organic unsalted butter

1tsp organic vanilla extract

375g (13oz) organic icing sugar

Sugar sprinkles - or anything you have in the cupboard thats pretty and edible!!

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C (160 degree C fan) mark 4. Put 12 paper muffin cases into a 12-hole muffin tin.

2. Put the sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs a little at a time - if the mixture looks as if it’s going to curdle add 1tbsp flour.  Beat in the vanilla.

3. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Divide the mixture evenly among the cake cases and bake for 18-20mins until golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

4. To make the icing: put the butter, vanilla and 2tsp hot water in a mixing bowl and beat in two-thirds of the icing sugar with an electric hand whisk.  Gradually beat in the rest of the icing sugar until you have a soft but spreadable consistency that holds its shape.

5. Fill the piping bag, fitted with a large star nozzle, with the icing.  When the cakes are completely cold, pipe swirls on top of the cupcakes. Decorate with sugar sprinkles or any other cake decoration you like!

NB.  To make chocolate icing add cocoa powder to your icing mix - I added enough for a good chocolate colour and flavour!