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May 12, 2017

5 tasty dishes that go perfectly with Black Garlic Ketchup

5 tasty dishes that go perfectly with Black Garlic Ketchup
Black Garlic Ketchup - in Menorca

Black Garlic Ketchup – on balcony of my brother’s flat in Menorca

 

Have you tried Black Garlic Ketchup yet? Not heard of it? You soon will. Award-winning Hawkshead Relish have taken one of the latest must-have ingredients, Black Garlic, and turned it into a taste-bomb sauce that goes with a wide variety of dishes. They use only the best Spanish black garlic, made by ‘baking whole, fresh garlic bulbs for 40 days at a very low temperature creating an extraordinary flavour; rich, smooth & bursting with a balsamic sweetness.’  On a recent trip to Menorca I bought a bulb of Black Garlic; not knowing about this ‘baking’ process, I had a surprise to find its cloves a dark gooey texture.

Spanish Black Garlic - photo zoe dawes

I got my hands on a bottle of Black Garlic Ketchup a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with it ever since, including taking it out to Menorca for my brother to try. I’ve had it with a wide range of dishes, including steak – perfect, risotto – OK and pork casserole – different. All the dishes were cooked at home, although I also tried a couple on holiday. Here are my top 5 plus recipe tips (no measurements or detail) for your delectation.

5 ways with Black Garlic Ketchup

 1.  Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo Zoe Dawes

Fish and Chips with Black Garlic Ketchup

The umami-taste of the ketchup really enhances the flavour of beer-battered cod and goes beautifully with home-made chips and frozen peas.  I’m not a fan of tomato ketchup and usually have mayonnaise with fish and chips, but from now on I’ll be having it with Hawkshead Relish’s Black Garlic Ketchup. Try it with different fish; it could be too overpowering for more delicate types. A glass of chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was my tipple of choice – because that’s what was in the fridge …

Cooking Tip: Perfect chips. Use a floury potato like King Edwards or Maris Piper. Cut into whatever shape and size you like. Par-boil them with their skins ON (for added fibre), pat dry then put them into very hot oil. Reduce the heat and fry for about 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon or basket, turn up the heat again and flash fry the chips for a minute or so to crisp them.

2.  Jerk Chicken with new potatoes and asparagus

Jerk chicken, new potatoes, asparagus and Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

My son really loved this combination. The slightly spicy flavour of the grilled chicken was enhanced by the ketchup and the buttery new potatoes got an extra oomph. It would also go well with Canarian Patatas Arrugudas (wrinkled potatoes)The steamed asparagus (which I have with just about everything when it’s in season!) coped well.  We also tried the ketchup with unspiced chicken which was fine, but preferred the Caribbean version.  I had it with a glass of chilled French Reserve de la Saurine white wine.

Cooking Tip: Jerk chicken. Coat chicken breasts with Jerk seasoning – buy it or make your own with dried chilli, ginger, garlic, onion, cumin, thyme. I use a tasty one from Aruba, a Caribbean island I visited last year. Heat a griddle pan until very hot and place chicken onto pan. Quickly sear one side then turn over and cook for about 3 minutes, depending on thickness of chicken. Turn over again and cook for a further few minutes. Serve immediately.

3.  Sausage and garlic mash with peas and sweetcorn

Sausage and mash with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

Sausage and mash is my ultimate comfort food; I’ve loved it ever since I was a child. I prefer local Cumberland or Westmorland sausages, but any good-quality bangers will do. Hawkshead Relish, based in Cumbria, add tomatoes, spices and Anglesey seasalt to this ketchup, which may explain why it goes so well with this meal. I prefer my sausages well-grilled, not fried. My brother gave me a very special bottle of Gran Reserva Spanish Rioja 2005 which was just divine with this dinner.

Cooking Tip: Garlic mashed potatoes. Boil floury potatoes for about 20 minutes until almost falling apart. (I prefer to cook them with skins on.) Drain and put into a bowl with a little milk, butter and a few garlic cloves. You could use black garlic for a twist. Use an electric mixer (be careful not to over do it or the mash becomes gluey), a potato ricer or hand masher and mash until it’s voluptuously smooth.

4.  Black Garlic Ketchup Bolognese with Pasta

Black Garlic Ketchup Bolognese with pasta

For this dish I used Black Garlic Ketchup in my regular bolognese recipe. I also replaced the garlic I’d usually include, with black garlic cloves. THis definitely changed the flavour, adding a depth and intriguing sweetness to the sauce. I loved it but my son and his dad preferred my usual recipe so I will leave it to you to decide. Argentinean Malbec goes down a treat with this meal.

Cooking Tip: Black Garlic Bolognese Sauce. Fry the onions until golden. Remove from pan. Fry minced beef until browned all over. Drain any excess liquid and add fried onions along with a few black garlic cloves and red peppers. Stir in passata or tomato puree, a good glug of red wine (any plonk will do) and fry for a few minutes. Add some chicken stock and a hefty dollop of Black Garlic Ketchup. Cover pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with pasta and grated cheese.

5.  Spanish Omelette with salad and sourdough bread

Spanish Omelette and salad with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

A marriage made in heaven; Spanish omelette, salad and fresh sourdough bread. Eating it reminds me of happy family holidays in Spain. Serving it with Black Garlic Ketchup brings together all the flavours in one deliciously harmonious plate of food. Of course, you should have it with Spanish beer, but I like Peroni from Italy. Any chilled white wine goes well too.

Cooking Tip: Spanish omelette, quirky style. Cut waxy new potatoes (skins on or off) into thick slices and fry gently in olive oil with thinly sliced onions, for about 30 minutes. Strain and return to the pan. Whisk eggs (one per person) and pour over potatoes, with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes then, if you feel brave, turn over omelette and cook a couple more minutes. I finish it off under the grill and serve with a grating of Menorcan cheese.

Spanish omelette in frying pan

Finally, for something quite different, check out this recipe for Aubergine and Black Garlic hummus. You can buy Black Garlic Ketchup online or at their Hawkshead shop in the heart of the Lake District. Many thanks to Maria at Hawkshead Relish for giving me a sample to try; the views (and recipes) are my own.

May 2, 2017

Flamingos and cocktails on Renaissance Aruba Resort private island

Flamingos and cocktails on Renaissance Aruba Resort private island

Flamingo in front of Mangrove Beach Bar - Renaissance Aruba

Luxury hotels around the world vie with each other for a Unique Selling Point that differentiates them from the rest of the very luxurious herd. Well, the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino has an ace up its highly-coutured sleeve. Its very own private island … with its very own flock of flamingos. And Flamingo Beach on Renaissance Island is adults-only so the kiddies don’t pester the birds. I have been fortunate to stay in some of the loveliest hotels in the world but this one tops them all for sheer gorgeousness with a quirky twist.

Hotel Renaissance Aruba flamingos - photo zoe dawesThere is something delightfully bonkers about flamingos. With their spindly legs, sinuous necks, hooked beaks, salmon pink plumage and weird yellow eyes, they look like something designed by Salvador Dali. I first remember seeing a picture of a flamingo in Lewis Carrol’s surreal story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; she had a large flamingo tucked under her arm. It was looking understandably cross as she was using it a croquet mallet. I’ve seen them in zoos but never, until a truly memorable holiday in Aruba, had I seen them in their natural habitat.

Flamingo on Renaissance Aruba island - photo zoe dawes

Well, actually it’s not really their natural habitat as they have been brought in by Renaissance Aruba to add some quirky colour to the island. There were seven of them when I visited, very tame and very fond of cocktails! They seemed especially fond of Aruba Ariba, a heady mix of local liquer Coecoei, Caribbean rum and a lot more. Visitors can buy flamingo food from the beach bar and it’s a novel experience to sit in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean sipping a cocktail and have a flamingo peck from your hand 🙂

Feeding flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Island

Renaissance Aruba has two hotels on Aruba; I stayed in the adults-only Renaissance Marina Hotel in downtown Ornajestad, the island’s capital. The Renaissance Ocean Suites across the road, has comfortable suites perfect for families or couples. Both hotels have access to Renaissance Aruba Private Island via the hotel launch which runs regularly from morning to evening. It’s a real treat to step onto the boat INSIDE the Marina Hotel lobby, emerge into the Caribbean sunshine, pootle past the millionaire’s yachts to the Ocean Suites to pick up more guests then whizz across your every own private island.

Renaissance Aruba Private Island paradise

There are two main beaches; Iguana Beach is for families and Flamingo Beach is for adults – and flamingos. Sun beds and hammocks entice visitors to relax and forget about everyday cares. Spa Cove is ideal for full-on pamper sessions and Papagayo Bar and Grill serves simple meals, including excellent wood-fired pizzas with beach waiter service.  At the Mangrove Beach Bar you can get one of those popular Ariba Aruba cocktails the flamingos are so fond of. (You can watch one necking back a cocktail in the video at the end of this article …)

Ariba Aruba Cocktail

Ariba Aruba Cocktail

Renaissance Island offers a range of water sport activities, beach-tennis courts and a fitness facility. You can even watch the planes land at Aruba Airport opposite. The 40-acre island has mangroves all around and a nature reserve at one end. I saw lots of iguanas including a bright blue bobby-dazzler and a friendly pelican perched very close to my hammock one day.

Hotel Renaissance Aruba Island pelican

However, it’s the flamingos that make the island so special and the reason I’d book to stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino, as opposed to any of the many other excellent hotels here. There are plenty of things to do on Aruba but without doubt, my favourite was relaxing on a beach with a little flock of quirkilicious flamingos …

Watch Flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Island

Want to see the flamingos up close – and quaffing a cocktail? Here you go!

Special thanks to our host Amayra Boekhoudt, who looked after us on behalf of Aruba Tourism. If you’d like to find out more, visit Aruba website and follow their hashtags #discoveraruba and #onehappyisland on Social Media.

Find out more things to do on Aruba here

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Flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Private Island

April 19, 2017

The top 3 health benefits of walking in the great outdoors

The top 3 health benefits of walking in the great outdoors
Walking is man's best medicine - Hippocrates Photo: Nk'Mip Desert Centre, Osoyoos Canada

Nk’Mip Desert Centre, Osoyoos, Canada

In today’s non-stop world of digital input and 24 hour news, with people stuck for hours at a PC or almost permanently attached to a smart phone, many of us struggle to find time for ourselves. External pressures create stress and mental health issues are surfacing at a more rapid rate than at any time in our history. Eating habits have changed, with more people putting on weight and we’re generally far less active than we used to be. One simple activity has been proved to help alleviate all these problems for just about everyone, irrespective of age and circumstances. WALKING is available to most us – and it’s free.

The Health Benefits of Walking

1.  Walking improves your physical health

Walking in Rwanda jungle

Walking in Rwanda jungle

‘Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.’ NHS UK

It’s great news that such an easy form of activity can produce such significant effects. Simply swapping the escalator for the stairs or walking to the shops instead of going in the car makes a difference. A recent study on the health benefits of regular walking says it can add 7 years to our lives and help repair DNA. Ideally we need to be doing 10,000 steps a day but any walking can help. I don’t manage anywhere near that most days, but then at weekends aim to do at least that, if not more. You can walk alone or with family and friends. There are plenty of walking groups and hiking holidays if you’re looking for company.

HF Walking Holiday Castle Howard

HF Walking Holiday Castle Howard

On a lovely walking holiday in Yorkshire, I hiked about 5 miles a day; the oldest walker in our group was 78 years old and I couldn’t keep up with her!

2. Walking improves your mental health

Guided walk on Galapagos Islands Ecuador - photo zoe dawes

Guided walk in the Galapagos Islands

‘A good walk can do wonders for your mental wellbeing. … Being active has a whole range of benefits when it comes to mental wellbeing. It improves self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, and it reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue.’  Walking for Health

For many years I have been prone to depression; not the crippling clinical depression that some poor folk suffer from. More a low-level, debilitating feeling of gloom and pointlessness. There’s usually a reason; money-worries, relationship problems, health issues, family stuff. I’ve had counselling and therapy, which has helped and my doctor has always recommended old-fashioned ‘fresh air and exercise’ to counteract it. (Family members and friends who have it much worse than me have been helped by medication, CBT and other therapeutic techniques). On a trip to the Galapagos Islands I was feeling very low due to some personal problems, but walking in this stunning landscape, communing up close with nature (and swimming with sea lions!) and a good chat with a friend, left me feeling heaps better.

St Patrick's Chapel Heysham Lancashire - Zoe Dawes

St Patrick’s Chapel

I often go to one of my favourite places near where I live, Heysham Barrows in Lancashire, which has great views across Morecambe Bay to the Lake District.  After a brisk walk and a sit down beside the ancient chapel, the moody blues are blown far away across the water …

3.  Walking improves your spiritual health

Walking boots - overlooking Grasmere in the Lake District

Overlooking Grasmere

There are spiritual benefits to walking (at least once daily) if you consider that walking is a solitary activity that allows the opportunity for prayer, meditation and high thought. But it is also a time to reflect and process as well as to express appreciation for natural beauty  Sharecare

Being outdoors in beautiful surroundings can be wonderful for the spirit as our minds and bodies. There has been a lot of talk recently about mindfulness, a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. In this way we tap into what some call our soul or spirit. Deepak Chopra, a well-known supporter of alternative medicine, advocates Mindful Walking as a way to, “ … provide a deeper connection to the spirit.” One of the reasons the Lake District and many other National Parks around the world, are so popular, is that they are places where our soul reconnects with its natural source. Strolling near water ie the sea, lake, river, pool, in or near mountains, amongst trees, flowers, grass and other natural sights can bring peace and harmony if you give it a chance …

Lake District Walking sign

Lake District Walking sign

TWO other benefits are for CREATIVITY and SOCIABILITY; I’ll be writing more about that in a future post. I wrote this article partly in response to the Easter interview with Prince Harry who spoke so movingly about the death of his mother and suffering from mental health problems as a result. He and his brother Prince William are raising awareness of mental health issues and their high profile contribution will hopefully help more people to talk about depression and mental health.

The other trigger was Julia Bradbury commenting on BBC Radio 4 about the physical and mental health benefits of walking. As a business coach, I offer #walkntalk coaching sessions where the client and I go for a walk to explore the issues that concern them. Invariably, just being outside and moving rather than stuck in an office, frees up the thought process and solutions to problems present themselves more readily.

“If you seek creative ideas go walking. Walk n Talk with The Quirky Traveller

Maybe this article will persuade you to get out and have a good walk more often; it’ll do you a power of good in more ways than you may have imagined. Do leave a comment sharing your thoughts on the positive impact walking has had on you any time – I’d love to hear from you.

Click here for info on Walk n Talk with The Quirky Traveller

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Top 3 Benefits of Walking

April 4, 2017

A fabulous night to remember at Cumbria Family Business Awards

A fabulous night to remember at Cumbria Family Business Awards
Sue Coulson, Janett Walker and Sophia Newton - Cumbria Family Business Awards

CFBA organisers Sue Coulson, Janett Walker and Sophia Newton – photo Victoria Sedgewick

‘I gotta feeling’ by the Black-Eyed Peas rocked out from the speakers as Sue Coulson, Janett Walker and Sophia Newton stepped onto the stage to announce the start of the very first Cumbria Family Business Awards. Sue, whose company, Coulson Associates was one of the CFBA  sponsors, Janett and Sophia had worked tirelessly for many months in the run-up to the ceremony in March 201 7.  “From over 100 applications we had to whittle it down to about 30 finalists. The judging panel really had their work cut out!”  The tone for the evening was set as they held up the ‘Wrong Envelope‘; a reference to the recent Oscars fiasco when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty read out the wrong name of the Best Picture winner!

Cumbria Family Business Awards - the Wrong Envelope

Sue, Janett and Sophia with the ‘Wrong Envelope’

An audience of 250 people, including the finalists, their families and friends plus sponsors, judges and the media, enjoyed a fabulous evening with delicious food, plenty of drink and a fair smattering of gossip. As Sister Sledge belted out ‘We are Family’ the celebrity host stepped up to the mike …

Cumbria Family Business Awards 2017

Dave Myers opens Cumbria Family Business Awards

Dave Myers introduces the finalists

Let’s face it, you don’t choose to have a business in Cumbria to make millions. You do it because it’s a great place to live and work.” So said TV chef Dave Myers as he opened this glittering event at the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal on the edge of the Lake District. All the businesses nominated for the Cumbria Family Business Awards are family-run, and many have links with the area going back for generations. Some could move away from the area and probably be more profitable, but choose to stay in and around the Lake District because of its inspirational landscape and local links. There were 12 categories plus Ones to Watch. Finalists included well-known names such as Hawkshead Relish, English Lakes Hotels and The Herdy Company as well as lesser-known but equally significant business including The Churchmouse in Barbon, West Coast Composting and JB Banks, as small ironmongers in Cockermouth. Winners included Zeffirelli’s Restaurant and Cinema (Food & Drink Establishments), PHX Training Providers (Professional Business Services), Sally’s Cottages (Smalle Leisure and Tourism Business) and Bells of Lazonby who won Food and Drink Producers AND Outstanding Cumbrian Family Business of the Year.

Winners Cumbria Family Business Awards 2017

Zeffirellis, PHX Training, Sally’s Cottages and Bells of Lazenby

The beautiful glass awards were made by local artist Jo Vincent, ‘…. designed to reflect the intimate relationship between family businesses and Cumbria.’  The ‘star prize’ was an enormous ceramic bowl, created by Siobhan Newton. ‘It combines three iconic Cumbria materials: Egremont Haematite, Coniston Slate and Shap Granite – along with Cumbrian rainwater!‘ Full list of the Winners of Cumbria Family Business Awards here. I was seated on the Lamont Pridmore table, main sponsors of the event, along with Bells of Lazonby, who were clearly overwhelmed at winning both their category and the overall award. “It’s such a great honour. We really had no idea we’d win, especially against such strong finalists.”

Cumbria Family Business Awards Dinner - Castle Green Hotel Kendal

Dinner at Castle Green Hotel

Earlier, as guests arrived, a welcoming Drinks Reception Market served up sparkling wine and got us all in the mood. Photographer Victoria Sedgwick had us all posing for glitterati photos and Castle Green Hotel did us proud on the hospitality front.  We ate very well on local produce that night. I had Cartmel Valley smoked salmon, smoked salmon rillette, beetroot, horseradish and rye bread, followed by Eden Valley chicken, fondant potato, shallots, wild mushrooms and broad beans, finished off with delicious Windermere Ice Cream and Grasmere Gingerbread. All served with excellent wines – thank you Graham Lamont! Every table had Wax Lyrical candles, bottles of Hawkshead Relish’s new product, Black Garlic Ketchup, prints by artist Daniel Cooper and also signed copies of books by Cumbrian authors to take home. I chose Dances with the Daffodils by Matthew Connolly.

Paula Scott, Sue Coulson and Zoe Dawes at Cumbria Family Business Awards

Paula Scott, Sue Coulson and Zoe Dawes at CFBA Awards – photo Victoria Sedgwick

Dave Myers was an excellent host, bringing his inimitable humour and a local awareness that was much appreciated by everyone. He stayed on until every award had been given, every hand had been shaken and every selfie had been taken. A real gent and a great Barrovian ambassador. This photo of the winners sums up a great evening of fun and laughter, business excellence and Cumbrian friendliness.

Cumbria Family Business Awards winners 2017

Cumbria Family Business Awards winners 2017

Many thanks to Sue Coulson of Coulson Associates, Janett Walker of Make it Happen and Sophia Newton, The Good News Girl for inviting me join in such a wonderful celebration. More CFBA photos by Victoria Sedgwick here.

Castle Green Hotel

I stayed overnight in the Castle Green Hotel, a four star hotel on the outskirts of Kendal, in one of their very luxurious Executive Bedrooms, complete with a huge four-poster bed. See what the room really looks like; watch this short video recorded on my arrival, before the CFBA evening started.

For many years I was a member of the hotel’s excellent gym; use of their Health and Fitness Club with swimming pool and spa was included in my stay. Breakfast was delicious and I was pleased to see local produce including Hawkshead Relish sauces, Cumberland Sausage, Lakeland Mues muesli, organic milk and bread from More Bakery in Staveley.

Breakfast Castle Green Hotel Kendal

Breakfast at Castle Green Hotel

Find out more about Cumbria Family Business Awards and Cumbria Family Business Network here.

March 30, 2017

Quirky Travel Photo: a blue-footed booby in the Galapagos Islands

Quirky Travel Photo: a blue-footed booby in the Galapagos Islands

Blue-footed Booby on Espanola Island Galapagos Ecuador - photo zoe dawes

Razor-sharp beak pointing towards the sky, the blue-footed booby flaps its wings in a couple of wide-angled swooshes, then returns to preening its brown and white feathers. Its bright blue feet seem to be suckered onto the rock, never slipping as it grooms and turns about, having a good wash. Beside it, flopped out as if totally exhausted, lies a young chick, all white, fluffy down and head akimbo.

I’m realising a life-long ambition to see one of these very quirky birds in their island home of the Galapagos Islands. Actually, it was initially my Mum’s dream to see them. She loved birds, especially the blue-footed booby with its blue beak and feet. We were probably watching a David Attenborough documentary the first time she showed me one, laughing at its comical appearance and hilarious name. Sadly, she never got to see them in the wild, but I am remembering her as I take photos of this one with its young.

Blue-footed booby and chick on Espanola Island Galapagos Islands Ecuador - photo zoe dawes

I’m in Ecuador on a trip with Metropolitan Touring, specialists in South America travel. We’ve already seen the historic sights of Quito, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site and spent a few days in the cloud forest at Mashpi Eco Lodge. But the highlight of this life-enhancing trip is a four day cruise on Yacht La Pinta to see the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. On the first day we visited San Cristobal Island and the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Centre, where the highly-endangered giant tortoises are bred. Day 2 took us to Punta Pitt with its large colony of bachelor sea -lions; one of the main highlights was swimming with sea lions, something I’ll never forget. On the third day I finally got to see the blue-footed booby and many other birds, including rare waved albatrosses, red-footed and nazca boobies and thousands of red and black marine iguanas. Our final day was spent at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, to see the giant tortoises, reared here to be released onto the islands in a unique breeding programme.

The Blue Footed Booby and Galapagos wildlife on video

The blue-footed booby settles down on the rock beside its chick, takes a brief look at the English woman grinning at it, sticks its beak in its feathers and goes to sleep. My dream is realised; and reality is a thousand times better than the dream. Hope Mum’s getting a look too …

NB: The name booby apparently comes from the Spanish word bobo (“stupid”, “fool”, or “clown”) because the blue-footed booby is, like other seabirds, clumsy on land. They are also regarded as foolish for their apparent fearlessness of humans. (In that case all the creatures in the Galapagos Islands must be foolish becuasue none of they seem to fear humans!)

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Blue-footed booby and marine iguanas Galapagos Islands - image Zoe Dawes

Want to find out more about the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador? Click links

No Place on Earth like the Galapagos Islands

Swimming with Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands

The Culture, History and People of Quito, Ecuador

Mashpi Lodge and the Heavenly Hummingbirds of Ecuador

More Quirky Travel Photos here

March 21, 2017

Enjoy a relaxing spring weekend beside Grasmere in the Lake District

Enjoy a relaxing spring weekend beside Grasmere in the Lake District
Relaxing beside Grasmere in the Lake District Cumbria - photo zoe dawes

Relaxing beside Grasmere

The stone hits the water with a splosh and rippling arcs curve further and further out towards the fells in the distance. Light peeks through darkling clouds as the weather god makes up his mind whether to shower Grasmere with sunshine or a wee bit more rain. A flash of brightness indicates the decision has been made and the clouds slowly part to reveal the blueness that’s been hiding there for the past couple of days. It’s spring in the Lake District, no better place on earth to be at this time of year …

Grasmere Lake on a spring day in the Lake District, Cumbria - zoe dawes

I’ve found a little bench at the end of the lake and am enjoying a rest after a gentle meander along the shore. It’s Saturday afternoon, halfway through my weekend break at Dale End Loggia, a pretty little holiday home looking over Grasmere, not far from the popular village made famous by William Wordsworth. Earlier in the day, I’d met my aunt and uncle, who live in Kendal, and we’d gone round Allan Bank, one of Wordsworth’s homes in this area. It’s got a quirky charm, with minimal decoration and rooms where children paint and women make lace. A huge map of the area encourages visitors to place a marker to show their favourite view.

Grasmere map at Nationals Trust Allan Bank

I have no problem choosing one; looking out from the balcony of my bijou residence at Dale End. That morning I’d eaten my breakfast outside and watched the light shifting across the lake, the hotel opposite reflected in the dark waters, listening to Canada Geese cackling in a field nearby. Behind me, sheep munched merrily on the first spring grass and early morning walkers strode up the lane, waterproofs and rucksacks prepared for whatever the day would bring.

Breakfast Dale End Loggia Grasmere Lake District

A trio of ducks pootle past, a female and two males. It will soon be time for ducklings. Easter is just around the corner and there’s a feeling of anticipation in the air. The trees are budding and spring flowers are peeking out. I lie back and enjoy the luxury of simply ‘being in the moment’ … My reverie is interrupted by loud barking. Two dogs are having a chat, their owners idling beside the water. Eventually one of them is dragged off to continue their walk and peace returns.

Dogs beside Grasmere lake, Cumbria - photo zoe dawes

Dale End Loggia – Grasmere

I’d arrived at Dale End Loggia on Friday afternoon. I was immediately drawn to the view from the balcony. Neat lawns stretched down in front of the building, a converted cow byre. I could see all along the lake. To the left, the village and Helm Crag, known locally as ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ due to the craggy rock formation on the top of the hill. Mountains surround the area and opposite Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Trust lie waiting for visitors from around the world. I can just make out the Coffin Route, a delightful and easy walk from Grasmere to Rydal, above the hotel. Grasmere Island, recently acquired by the National Trust, floats in the middle of the lake. Whatever the weather, this is beautiful, relaxing place to stay and I love it.

View of Grasmere from Dale End Loggia, Lake District

Grasmere from Dale End Loggia

Dale End Loggia is ideal accommodation for a couple wanting a romantic break or a solo traveller looking for a base from which to explore the southern Lake District. Or a busy travel writer in need of an escape from the digital world and some inspiration for a book she’s been talking about writing for decades … The Good Life Cottage Company kindly offers me this l’al place to stay and I am in seventh heaven. Its open plan, L-shaped design is compact and well-equipped. There’s a kitchen with all mod-cons, seating in front of huge windows to enjoy the scenery outside, a small table for meals or work-station, big comfy double bed and bathroom with shower. A stream with a tiny bridge, runs through the charming sloping garden and there’s a picnic table for eating out and enjoying the view on warmer days . With walks from the front door and only five minute’s drive to Grasmere village, it’s got everything you need for a Lake District holiday.

Dale End Loggia and garden overlooking Grasmere - image zoe dawes

Dale End Loggia and garden

During this weekend I visit the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden, which is just coming into bloom beside Wordsworth’s family graves and stock up on Grasmere Gingerbread. I pop into the Herdy Shop and the Heaton Cooper Gallery and but sadly too late to have a slice of lemon meringue pie in Baldry’s, one of my favourite tea rooms in the Lake District. I buy a prawn paella from the Co-op to have on Friday evening with a bottle of appropriately named ‘Quirky Bird’ wine kindly left by Natalie, manager of The Good Life Cottage Company. On Saturday night I drive to Zeffirelli’s Cinema in Ambleside to see a film and get some excellent fish and chips from The Walnut Fish Bar.

Grasmere and Ambleside Lake District

On Sunday morning I will try to write, for that is what I’ve come here for. I’ll be totally relaxed and have no excuse for this area has most definitely inspired me. But the lake will call and, after a desultory hour tapping away at laptop, I’ll give up and go outside. I will take one last walk around the garden, admiring the daffodils flowering beneath a budding tree. A wood pigeon will coo gently above me and a group of children will romp along the lake path on their way back to the village. I will slowly pack up my bags, check the doors and windows are locked and reluctantly say farewell to my weekend retreat. I will go down the hill to Faeryland Tea Garden for one of their legendary scones and sit by the lake in the cool spring morning, remembering all the ways I have enjoyed this weekend.

Faeryland tea and scones beside Grasmere Lake District - photo zoe dawes

Faeryland tea and scone

But that is all to come. For now I am still enjoying sitting here on the bench, listening to the water cascading over the rocks into the River Rothay as it makes its way towards Rydal Water. For this moment in time all is right with the world in this special place amidst the hills of Cumbria …

Bench beside Grasmere Lake District - photo zoe dawes

Bench beside Grasmere

Dale End Loggia

Have a look round Dale End Loggia in this short video filmed during my stay.

If you’d like to stay at Dale End or are looking for a Lake District holiday cottage, contact The Good Life Cottage Company. Locally-run and well established, they know what makes a great holiday. You can follow them on Twitter: @cottagesinlakes  and Facebook: thegoodlifecottageco. I’m delighted to be working with them sharing with you some of their charming places to stay and things to do in this beautiful part of England.

The Langdale Gale: a traditional Lake District Show Jonty’s Cottage Elterwater

A Lake District weekend in lovely Elterwater Braegarth Cottage Elterwater

Travelator Media out and about in the Lake District Daw Bank Cottage Chapel Stile

Three very special cottages in the Lake District  The Malt Kiln Broughton Mills  The Woodloft Elterwater Swallows House Skelwith Fold

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A relaxing weekend Grasmere Lake District

 

March 8, 2017

Celebrating the life and tragic times of Branwell Brontë

Celebrating the life and tragic times of Branwell Brontë
The Bronte Parsonage Haworth Yorkshire - by zoe dawes

Brontë Parsonage Museum

The ‘Pillar Portrait’, half way up the stairs of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, says it all. The most famous sisters in the world gaze enigmatically into the distance, dressed in simple Victorian dresses, drab colours reflecting what might be perceived as their drab lives. They were ‘stuck’ in some remote Yorkshire village on wind-swept, rain-drenched moors, spending their days writing or travelling away to teach children in other people’s homes. In the painting, between two of the sisters is a paler, blurry column which, on closer inspection, shows the outline of a male figure. That ‘pillar’ is actually the artist Branwell Brontë, who painted himself and his sisters around 1833. For some reason, possibly composition, he then painted himself out of the portrait and, until recently, he’s been painted out of history too.

The Bronte Sisters - Pillar Portrait at Bronte Parsonage

The Brontë Sisters ‘Pillar Portrait’

The lives of these creative siblings were, in fact, highly creative; Charlotte, Emily and, to a lesser extent, Anne Brontë, are known to readers around the world today for the dramatic novels they wrote in their father’s parsonage in Haworth. The lowly governess got a make-over as a romantic heroine when troubled employer Rochester fell for his daughter’s teacher in Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë). The Yorkshire moors will forever be associated with moody Heathcliff and his doomed love in turbulent Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). The trials of the abused wife of an alcoholic husband were tackled for the very first time in harrowing detail in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Brontë). However, brother Branwell Brontë is notorious as the drunken, layabout brother who came to nothing and died an alcoholic’s death in his late-twenties. But there are many more layers to their story and the place to learn all about it is the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

Bronte Parsonage Dining Room Haworth Yorkshire - image zoe dawes

The Dining Room; costume from ‘To Walk Invisible’, Charlotte’s portrait and head of Branwell Brontë

I’ve been here many times over the years and each time am struck anew at the inspiring yet tragic story of this curious family who produced such creative talent and died such sad deaths. Last month I returned, this time to see a new exhibition which throws light on Branwell Brontë and adds a poetic note to his helter-skelter life.

Branwell Brontë

Born in June 1817, the fourth of six children, Branwell’s mother died when he was only four years old. He had five sisters, two of whom died within weeks of each other, aged 11 and 12 years. He showed some talent in literature and art and his adoring father, Patrick Bronte, had high expectations of his only son. Branwell’s self-destructive tendencies appeared relatively early; maybe paternal pressure and creative sisters contributed to this. Drug and alcohol addiction plus a possible affair with a married women were elements of his rackety adult life. He died on 24 September, 1848 at the parsonage, ‘… most likely due to tuberculosis aggravated by delirium tremens, alcoholism, and laudanum and opium addiction, despite the fact that his death certificate notes “chronic bronchitis-marasmus” as the cause.’ [Wikipedia]

Branwell's Room curated by Simon Armitage at the Bronte Parsonage Museum Haworth - image zoe dawes

Branwell’s Room

The Brontë Parsonage Museum celebrates his bicentenary with two significant works, Branwell’s Room and Mansions in the Sky, both curated by renowned Yorkshireman, Simon Armitage. “As a poet of this landscape and region I recognise Branwell’s creative impulse and inspirations. I also sympathise with his desire to have his voice heard by the wider world …” Branwell’s Room is a collaboration between Armitage and Grant Montgomery, production designer for the excellent BBC production To Walk Invisible which focuses on the last three years of Branwell’s life and his challenging relationship with his sisters and father. (Costumes from the TV programme are on display throughout the parsonage.) The room is an evocative representation of what it could have looked like at that time, with rumpled bedclothes, unfinished poems, a discarded laudanum bottle plus writing desk and sketches. It’s as if he’s just popped out the Black Bull pub and will be rolling drunkenly back up the hill at any minute.

The Black Bull, Branwell Bronte's local pub in Haworth Yorkshire - photo zoe dawes

The Black Bull

In the Bonnell Room is an exhibition entitled Mansions in the Sky. 11 objects relating to Branwell are on display, including his letter to William Wordsworth when he was 19 years old, from which the exhibition gets its title. There is also the macabre sketch A Parody showing death leaning over a bed and Branwell’s wallet. Lying alongside are poems by Armitage giving a personal response to each item. In an interview in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner he explained he was trying to imagine what Branwell would have been like today. “One of the objects in the exhibition is his wallet and I wanted to think about what it meant to him – it was always empty. In the poem it becomes a contemporary object; there’s a condom in there, his dealer’s phone number, a credit card with cocaine on the end of it.”

'Mansions in the Sky' Branwell Bronte exhibition Haworth - photo zoe dawes

‘Mansions in the Sky’ exhibition

The Brontë story unfolds throughout the Haworth parsonage via the rooms which hold many original items of furniture, clothing, footwear, art works, writing paraphernalia, first editions and much more. Fans of the sisters’ books and poetry come from all over the world to see the home where they produced such enduring works of literature. Their brother Branwell now gets the attention he deserves, in a unique and moving tribute to this sad figure who longed for recognition and is finally getting it in a little village on the edge of the Yorkshire moors.

Mr Bronte's Bedroom with Branwell and Emily Bronte costumes - Haworth Parsonage

Mr Brontë’s bedroom with Branwell and Emily Brontë costumes from BBC ‘To Walk Invisible’

The Rise and Fall of Branwell Bronte exhibition is on display until 1st of January 2018. Wordsworth’s letter is on loan from the Wordsworth Trust until August 2017. For more information contact the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

If you enjoyed this, you will probably like David Hockney at Saltaire, Yorkshire

 

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