Monday, 22 December 2008

Santa comes early

I was sitting drinking a cup of tea and reading the Guardian when I heard the sound of piped carols. It got louder and louder; then there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find Father Christmas sitting on his sleigh outside, though there were no reindeers in evidence; he was being pulled along by a man in a Landrover. It is a lovely festive tradition in Ashburton. In the days up to Christmas, Santa travels around the town, calling on local children and raising money for charity.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Burning bushes

Up on the moor, by Bench Tor, we kept seeing bushes that looked, at a distance, as though they were on fire. On closer examination we found them dotted with jelly-like fungi, in a range of colours from blood-orange through to clementine. Very Christmassy. My Roger Phillips Mushrooms book tells me they are Yellow Brain Fungi. Nice. We also saw the perfectly named King Alfred's Cakes. Back in the woods we found some rather elderly hedgehog mushrooms, which nevertheless went happily into a stew for dinner.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Gone fishin'

My brother Matthew was down and so we headed off to Babbacombe Pier in Torquay to do some angling. It is a pretty spot, with beautiful views, and, even better, it was deserted, so we didn't have to share the pier with anyone. We caught five whiting and a dogfish, using ragworm and mackerel as bait; we put the dogfish back. Whiting are apparently the winter equivalent of mackerel; they cruise around inshore in shoals and are quite easy to to catch. I baked them using a Madame Prunier recipe involving butter, wine, parsley and shallot. They were delicate in both taste and texture.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Stepping stones

The waters of the West Dart were dark and muscular. Swimming with two friends, it was a struggle pushing against the current (but a good way of fighting the cold). We swam upstream, before drifting back down again. I call this stretch of river the Amazon, because a snake swam across my path when I was there in the summer. No sign of snakes today though - only sheep.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Parson and clerk

If you travel on the train between Exeter and Newton Abbot, you will see the Parson and Clark as you pass along the rugged red-cliffed coastline between Dawlish and Teignmouth. They are two sandstone stacks, just crying out to be swum to. Well, we made it to the Clerk - the stone visible in the picture - but not to the Parson which is 'round the corner'. It was quite hard swimming, but very satisfying to make it to the rock, climb on it triumphantly, and then jump off.