A Change is as Good as a Rest

We have returned to Winter Base. Our trip took us as far as Battlesteads (more of which, soon) but the impending arrival of Barbara, the knowledge that our new pod tent was not secured very well, and the fact that Vincent had sprung a leak all added up to make sense of a return to base. I cancelled our proposed britstop in Kielder and we headed home yesterday after checking out at Wark… via B&Q in Carlisle, where we purchased self amalgamating tape and jubilee clips but failed to find the correct type of corrugated pipe for Vincent’s waste system.

We arrived here yesterday afternoon and I went to collect the mail. Happily the set of hard ground tent pegs that we had ordered had been delivered.

Today we pegged the base tent out properly, then added a few breeze blocks for that added ring of confidence. Mr L dropped a breezeblock and put a hole in the tent door. That’s okay, at least he missed his foot. The self-amalgamating tape was wrapped around Vincent’s waste pipe and has been left to set before we test the seal.

We shall sit Barbara out here and then set off for Moffat on Saturday morning, sorry to have missed our wilding at Megget but happy to know that it is a great deal more sheltered here than it would have been up there.

If the tent outlives Barbara then we shall happily leave it up over Christmas while we go away.

Our plans for the post-Christmas period are evolving but not yet structured. We shall wing it once the world returns to normal. The weather will have its say but for now we have a totally new outline plan for the New Year. To be honest the idea took us by surprise when it arrived but we are more than happy to act on the whim.

Am I being mysterious? There is a reason.

I am kind of happy to be back at Kippford. I missed the scenery and I missed the trees. Things have changed here in just a few short days. For one thing, Dalbeattie Forest is closed for logging. We had to walk up the hill to Mark Hill woodlands with Nell today.

The year and the seasons move on. Although the Winter Solstice is just that, the arrival of Winter, the evenings here are now already lighter. When we went away the groundsmen were finishing work in the dark – they are now going home in daylight. Also, the tips of all the spring bulbs are emerging now and there was no sign of those last week. Winter may just have arrived but signs of better times are showing.

Laundry done, tent fixed, dog walked, van fix hopefully in place… we kicked back with a curry and a beer. Tomorrow I’ll do more laundry then prepare the van for going mobile again. It’s all go.

In fact there has been so much “go” that we have yet to find time to really look at this year’s Pablo’s ATH. Then today Sydney got around to announcing the annual SUMS Puzzle Hunt, which begins on Monday! If the weather remains poor and we are confined to the van at least we shall have plenty to entertain us.

So, Battlesteads… want to know more? Well, start here at Two Snails then come back to hear all about the meal.


So:warm welcome, great room, fabulous soak in the bath. Then dinner.

We had booked our meal for 7 pm. It was an 8 course Tasting Menu and we chose to be surprised rather than to see the menu. The dining room was not busy, with just three other couples eating when we sat down. Only one other diner followed us so the waitress had plenty of time and gave us all the necessary attention. We had the Wine Flight package with our meal and all wines were served by the young man on bar duty.

I shall do my best to remember what we had an in which order the dishes came but don’t hold me to any level of accuracy (blame the Wine Flight)

Pink Italian Fizz (a Prosecco, I think) welcomed us to the table. This accompanied the two initial courses IIRC.

1 – A slate platter of Anti-Pasti meats included a Duck Pastrami (delicious), Salami, Chorizo, Smoked Brie etcetera. A home-pickled courgette slice (really delicious), a tiny piece of bread and some home-grown salad sprout garnish finished the plate. We both loved the pickle but overall failed to see the point of the first course and it lacked coherence.

2 – Demitasse of Cauliflower and Truffle – a rich soup so thick it might not have been called a soup at all but a purée. A happy marriage between the cauliflower and the black truffle drizzle. I think some cheese may also have been involved. Mine was lukewarm when I dove into it but I had no idea if that was intentional – but as I worked my way down the bowl the soup was hotter at the  bottom, so I think perhaps it should have been returned to the kitchen, though the temperature did not detract much from a very acceptably tasty dish. It needed some additional texture and was in fact the course that might have benefited most from one of the wide variety of “bloomer crisps” that peppered other courses.

(So far as we could tell, a Bloomer Crisp is a very thin and crispy croûte of a flavoured bread made, we assume, in-house.

An Italian Rosé accompanied

3 – Semi-freddo and Carpaccio of Beetroots with a beetroot purée and beetroot and yoghurt crisp, a beetroot bloomer crisp and a single perfect pea shoot to garnish. The semi-freddo was creamy but not overly rich. The star of this plate was for me the carpaccio but I adore all forms of beetroot ( shop-bought pickled beetroot being the single exception)  and was always going to love this course.

A Sancerre arrived for the fish course

4 – Ceviche of Tuna with Seaweed and a Chili Mascarpone –  well, I never thought I would see the day when I ate (and positively enjoyed) a raw fish dish!  Given a menu, I would never have selected this dish and nor would Mr L but we agree that the point of a Tasting Menu is to be brave and to attempt everything. Well we got lucky with this one and the dish was awesome. The Pomegranate seeds were a wonderful counterpoint in the Ceviche and the garnish of Coriander leaf worked well. The tiny quenelle of chili mascarpone was a delight in itself but it also harmonised well with the dish as a whole. The “seaweed” however had me in transports of delight, being the chef’s take on the seasoned fried cabbage “seaweed” that I always go for in a Chinese restaurant when it is available. Delicious does not seem a big enough word to describe the leafy green morsels. I did suggest that I should like a bag of these to take away… with no luck

5 – Goats Cheese and Balsamic something – served in a tiny shot glass, this savoury ice cream or possibly parfait was an absolute knockout but it certainly was not the sorbet that was announced. Totally scrummy an I would happily have eaten more. Much.

A Côte du Rhône washed down the

6 – Beef Cheek and Mashed Potato where a large (relatively) piece of tender beef sat on some really good mash and exceptionally fine gravy, with carrot and broccoli. Enjoyable, if uninspired/uninspiring.

A dessert wine followed with the dessert trio

7 – Chocolate Brownie, White on White Ice Cream, Lemon Posset all on one plate and garnished with a single raspberry speared on a crispy biscuit cigarillo. The chocolate brownie was good and came with a warm chocolate sauce. The white ice cream contained white chocolate pieces and made an ideal foil for the brownie.The two together would have made a perfect dessert. The Lemon Posset sat in a small glass bowl on the plate and was garnished with a crisp biscuit heart. It was a good example and perfectly delicious but it sat at odds on the plate, forming an unnecessary distraction.

Taylor’s LBV formed a natural accompaniment for the final course

8 – Cheeseboard (to share) of three Northumbrian cheeses with home-made Damson Chutney, further Bloomer crisps, some chewy banana strips and a couple of very pedestrian commercial biscuits for cheese that seemed wholly out of place. No butter. The cheeses were Darling Blue (from Doddington) an unpasteurised Ayrshire milk cheese, Birdoswald from Gilsland and a cheese washed with Newcastle Brown Ale! All three cheeses were good but  the chutney was a little on the brutish side. As for the bananas… WTF? The Bloomer Crisps were the winners on this plate and were very good accompaniments.

We took coffee and Armagnac in the lounge… where  the house cat joined us.

I think we would do it again, given half a chance.

No photos, it would not have been classy to whip out the camera when my dining partner deserved the whole of my attention.


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