Photos by Simon Ellery
By Gary Scarlett. First published on his Blog “Chunky Mamil” on 5 December 2013
I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit lately and riding my mtb so I thought I’d put both of those straight today. I have been riding though and meeting interesting people so although the keys have been idle I haven’t. With my rest days falling during the week and a last minute window in my good friend Jennifer’s schedule, I grabbed the opportunity to visit her and ride some of that flat stuff last Wednesday. Nice riding around the levels a real haven for birds, swans, herons, starlings the odd magpie and even a partridge but no pear tree 🙂 We rode some of those long straight roads they like around there but thankfully with little wind, stopped for coffee, chatted and even found a hill to ride up on the way back.Yesterday started a bit damp but I had to get out so did a quick loop on the road bike, it wasn’t too bad and was glad I got out. Still lots of colour about but as a friend of mine commented about this photo, winters coming over the hill 🙂
In the afternoon I was invited to lunch by the lovely Elke who promotes all things good on Exmoor through her Exmoor4all website. She had organised a Christmas lunch for some Exmoor business folk and kindly invited me along too as I always try to show how wonderful it is around here through the blog. The location was The Culbone, a pleasure to get to as it means driving up and along Porlock hill with great views to enjoy on the way. The food was excellent and so was the company, nice to meet people I sort of knew through twitter and some new people too.
So to today, very windy so definite mtb day, getting blown across the road on the road bike didn’t appeal at all. The usual slog up to Hopcott but sheltered and the trails were dry after this cold snap and rapid progress to the top of Grabbist hill with the wind behind me. Although it was dry the tracks are covered in leaves and hide roots, rocks and toxic dog leftovers, luckily just the odd stone whacked me in the shin today.
I went for a loop around the Crown estate woodland on the other side of Dunster, hard going in the wind on the exposed climb up and around Black Hill to the trig point. The descent was very quick but a bit boring on the fireroads but once nearer Dunster I rode some more interesting tracks before heading back up Grabbist Hill.
After negotiating the ascent of Grabbist I headed back up the ridge and down some of my favourite tracks back towards home, felt good, rode up stuff, not a bad ride at all.
Annette Strauch kindly shared her memories and photos of Exmoor with us:
Nine years ago I visited Exmoor for the very first time with Mark. He had been there many times as it had been a family tradition for him since he was a little English boy with his red hair ready to explore with his boots on and sticks in the hand what he could find next.
It was in the autumn of 2004 – and even back then we stayed in Holy Tree Cottage – in Exford when we came together and stayed for a week. We did many walks then as we did on any visit (the rain never put us off), went to see Dunster, including the castle, of course. On the cobbled stones we even met a giant!
Every time I have visited Exmoor, it was in the autumn. A mysterious time when it gets dark quite early and the local people celebrate Halloween. We’d see some deer in Horner Woods as well and notice the hunting. This last time Mark brought his binoculars.
Then we came again two more times until 2009. Afterwards we were busy working and committed to other things. On all those occasions when we were in Exmoor we had always found new places to explore. One time we did a long walk to Dulverton along the river which Mike, Mark’s Dad had recommended (as well as another walk to Withypool, the place with the beautiful bridge) where this October we visited Gallery Number Seven and bought a book, had a Cream Tea with the tasty clotted cream. In one of the shops there we spoke to two locals who had not walked to Tarr Steps for years and were inspired. They were two elderly ladies but happy to see us so active. One time we went to Bampton Fair which is close to Exmoor and really worth experiencing. Culbone Church is always great to walk to. We have done it twice or even three times now, this autumn from Porlock Weir. Oh, Porlock! I do love the cottages there. Mentioning houses, one needs to write about Selworthy with the lovely buildings there. Wherever you go it is lovely to come back to Exford, seeing Dunkery Beacon (we walked there once, too!!) or maybe a deer or a few – then going out to the White Horse Hotel, having a pint of traditional cider and maybe a venison baguette which seems to be very popular.
So romantic (in a nice way) indeed!
One time we walked in the Lorna Doone Valley with the rucksacks on our backs, fully prepared for a picnic. Along the river we walked – and the characters of the Lorna Doone story became alive. The moorland is breathtaking! In our rucksacks we also had fudge from the fudge shop in Dunster. My favourite is the maple and walnut one.
Watchet plays a role in the Lorna Doone story – and we were looking for fossils there once. If you look long enough you might find an ammonite.
Next time we’d like to bring our bikes and come in spring or in the summer. I’d like to see the heather when it is purple!
And the Exmoor Beast? Well, that is still a mystery!
Last Friday, Neil of Experience Exmoor spent most of the day out on Exmoor with the charming Nicki Chapman and the BBC film crew of ‘Escape To The Country’ .. here are a few pictures:
The episode is likely to be broadcast in about five months.
Red Devon Beef Shin (whole or ask our butcher to dice it for you)
Carrots, Parsnips, Onions
Exmoor Ale, English Mustard, Plain flour, Olive Oil, Salt and pepper.
Pre heat a large, heavy based pot until it is smoking hot.
Add the olive oil followed by the devon red beef and allow it to sear off.
The beef will release water, keep searing until this water evaporates and the beef maintains its beautiful rich red colour. Add the onions, diced carrots, diced parsnips, thyme and rosemary.
After approximately 10 minutes of simmering add one table spoon of English mustard and a small amount of plain flour to thicken the mix. Continue simmering together and mix well adding the Exmoor ale gently to the mix.
Gently bring to the boil, once reached turn the heat completely down to simmering point for 1.5 to 2 hours until tender.
Creamed mash potatoes lends itself perfectly to this stew, perhaps add a little cheese such as bath blue to compliment the stews flavour perfectly. Another perfect accompaniment is some roasted vegetables…….
A perfect Exmoor hearty stew. Enjoy!
Jack Scarterfield, chef at The Culbone, who is also one of the owners, has kindly sent us this recipe.
Born in Bath, Jack’s journey in search of excellent produce has taken him all over the world. He returned to Somerset to share his passion with you. The fabulous cooking skills (and secrets) of Jack Scarterfield can now be yours!
“I love the game season on Exmoor. We are surrounded by stunning produce from pheasants to wild rabbits, beautiful venison that you can see running through the moor and delicate sweet partridge which is my favourite at the moment. It’s not just the great game I have on the door step that excites me, it’s all the lovely hearty seasonal veg that goes with it, local foraged wild mushrooms, truffles, curly kale and wild berries all great friends with most of the game.”
Roasted pheasant breast with Somerset cider and colcannon
2 whole pheasants, breast removed, skin left on
4 peeled, boiled and mashed Maris piper potatoes
2 large handfuls of very finely sliced curly kale
1 large onion studded with 6 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 stick of celery
200ml double cream
Half pint Somerset cider (we use Thatcher’s)
50 g cold diced butter
First make your sauce by roasting the pheasant legs and carcass for 30 mins to give flavour and colour. Then add to a large sauce pan with the celery, carrot, onion and bay, cover with water and boil for one hour. Drain off the stock discarding the bones and the veg, reduce stock for a further 20 mins, then add cider and cream. Reduce again by half and put to one side.
To cook your pheasant you will need a non-stick pan on medium heat. Brush the pheasant with olive oil and season well with salt and cracked black pepper. Place skin side down into the pan and cook for 4 mins until gold brown, then turn over and switch off the heat.
To finish your dish, warm up your mash adding the kale – the heat from the mash will be enough to cook the kale. Season and place into a warm serving bowl.
Warm up the sauce, whisking in the cold diced butter to thicken, add the pheasant to finish cooking for one minute and serve on top of the colcannon.
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Tel 01643 862 259
The Culbone is situated on the A39 between Porlock and Lynmouth. We are the Highest Restaurant on the whole of Exmoor, so the driving experience is breathtaking with dramatic scenery. We look forward to welcoming you.