A Walk In The Woods: Thrunton

Autumn arrived with a vengeance today, but we’ve certainly had a good run of lovely weather over the last couple of weeks. One warm day we decided to head for the hills rather than the coast, which was still pretty busy at that point. We went to Thrunton Woods, which is off the A697, west of Alnwick.

This is a Forestry England site, planted with conifers. There are marked trails of various distance and difficulty and some lead to points of interest such as a cave (the refuge of a 19th century monk), Hob’s Nick (a gully said to be haunted by hobgoblins) and a prehistoric fort. Some of the routes are quite steep but lead to spectacular views from hilltop crags. Cyclists and horse riders are also welcome on the trails.

I was using my new mobility scooter. Some parts of the main paths are quite treacherous as they are very rough and stony, and I wouldn’t even attempt some of the more difficult routes, but that still left plenty to go at. Buddy the Labrador loves Thrunton Woods and it’s great for dogs, although ticks can be a problem. Dog owners should also note that there are no dog bins. We always see a lot of bagged up dog waste dumped near the car parks, which is horrible! Why can’t people take it home? If it’s away from a path, any unbagged dog mess left will soon decompose. The plastic bags won’t. Moving swiftly on…..

,There is always something very atmospheric about mature woodland and Thrunton is no exception. The rays of afternoon sun were filtering through the trees and it was very still: beautiful but almost eerie.

It felt warm in the sunny spots on the paths and late summer butterflies were fluttering about or alighting on the vegetation to soak up the heat.

It’s always interesting to look at the flora of different habitats. The moorland that surrounds Thrunton Woods is purple with blooming heather in late summer and there is heather on the trail margins in the woods too.

The damp ditches that flank the paths are filled with mosses and ferns.

There were large groups of fly agaric fungi, vivid red against the greens and browns of the forest floor. When the toadstools first push through the earth, they are white but the warty outer covering breaks up as the cap expands leaving white spots on the red. These are the classic fungi in children’s book illustrations, very pretty but highly toxic. In addition to the nausea, vomiting and sweating the toxins cause, there is a hallucinogenic effect, historically used in shamanistic rituals in some cultures – no wonder it is associated with fairies and elves!

The scooter battery drained quickly as the trail went uphill and had to cope with the stony parts so we perhaps didn’t go as far as we would have done otherwise (I’ve ordered a second battery so hope to solve this issue). It was still the perfect place to be that day

Scone of the Week #9

Yesterday’s jaunt took us to Amble. It was a bright, breezy day and a run down the coast was definitely in order. We ended up for our snack at Radcliffe’s Cafe Bar. Close to the harbour and the new apartment development, this place was inspired by the cafe bars that the owner visited while touring Europe on a motorcycle.

I’ve had lunch at Radcliffe’s several times and the food is great, but I hadn’t realised that they serve scones until I was there last week. The menu includes a variety of open sandwiches, soup and lots lots more. Last time I had a goats cheese, beetroot and caramelised onion chutney open sandwich and it was delicious. The bar stocks a good range of continental beers and craft gins.

There were both cheese and fruit scones available (so we chose our favourite cheese ones). Our lovely server offered to warm our scones and they each arrived with a generous pat of butter in a little dish. The butter was hard from the fridge but this soon softened on the warm scones…and what wonderful scones they were: nice and cheesy, light, with just the right amount of crust – probably as good as a cheese scone gets! When I said how much we enjoyed them I was told they were freshly baked on the premises that morning.Our coffees were served with a tiny cookie on the side – a nice finishing touch.

Radcliffe’s is also dog friendly, with water bowl and treats available. Buddy the Labrador always enjoys visiting. There is plenty of seating outside, though that always seems optimistic in February when the cold wind is whistling through the masts and rattling the rigging at the nearby boatyard. I have been in the summer, when the beer garden is buzzing – there’s a great atmosphere inside too.

Definitely worth a visit!

Scone of the Week #7

Today we returned to one of our favourite scone stops: The Rocking Horse Cafe at Rock Midsteads Farm. To get there from the A1 north of Alnwick, take the turn off for Christon Bank and after a few hundred yards you will see signs to follow for the cafe.

As usual we got a warm welcome. The Rocking Horse is one of the most dog-friendly cafes I know and many of the customers bring their four-legged friends along. Today the humans were joined by a Bedlington Terrier, a West and the cafe’s two resident border collies, Sam and Tess. Sam obviously thought that we were deprived as we didn’t have a dog with us, so he kept us company. What a friendly soul he is, and so well-behaved.

The cheese scones were as delicious as ever, served warm, with generous pats of butter and no foil wrappers to wrestle with. They were crumbly without being dry, with a good flavour and a decent crust. One of the best!

I ordered hot chocolate – and had a choice of types – either powder or proper chocolate. I went for the latter.

After a while of stirring the chocolate on the swizzle stick into the hot milk, it dissolved to make a deliciously chocolaty drink, perfect for a cold, blustery day.

I was sat next to the namesake rocking horse, so couldn’t resist taking a photo.

Since our last visit, one of the cafe staff, Janet, has opened a dog-grooming business next door and she splits her time between the two. Her new venture is called Hair of the Dog. I just love the name!

As we left, I noticed that the woods by the farm entrance were carpeted with snowdrops. Simply breathtaking.

I’m still under no illusion that winter is not over. Despite being so close to the sea, which can take the edge off the cold, we still get deep snow some winters, and little or none in other years. So far, all we’ve seen here in Northumberland this winter is a dusting on the tops of the Cheviots. Have you had snow where you are ? (Don’t forget to say where that is.)

Drinks Down On The Farm With The Dog

We visited our favourite pop-up bar this afternoon. Not far away, at Acklington Park Farm is the Rigg and Furrow Brewery. One of the barns on the farm has been converted into a bar, which opens about once a month and every December Saturday up to Christmas.

I got my favourite seat by the wood burning stove and toasted myself nicely (it was bitterly cold outside) while sipping a gin and tonic. K is the beer drinker, so he had a pint of his favourite Run Hop Run ale.

The Christmas tree is up and the lights and foliage over the bar give the place a lovely festive feel (along with the elves on the beer pumps).

There’s always a great atmosphere and I’m told the beer is excellent, though they serve gin, wine and fizz too. K has ordered a mini keg of Run Hop Run for over the holidays.

We ordered some rosemary salt fries to snack on (very tasty, nicely salted with a dollop of mayo) from Adventures in Aude, who are usually there with Audrey – a vintage Citroen truck which houses a mobile kitchen- they make the most delicious Mediterranean style flatbreads – my favourite is the chicken zatar.

Buddy the Lab loves it here – it’s very dog-friendly, with water bowl and dog biscuits available. Today he made friends with two greyhounds, an Irish Setter and another lab, as well as lots of humans, especially the people who had food!

In summer the lawn by the bar is covered in rugs and benches for people to sit out and enjoy the sunshine. Next to that is a paddock occupied by a Highland cow and her calf – we watched him get bigger every month over the summer.

Do you have a favourite place to eat or drink that’s a bit our of the ordinary?

Scone of the week #1- Rocking Horse Cafe

I mentioned in my last post that I drive my Mum to the supermarket on a Thursday and sit in the car, knitting while she shops . We usually go out for a snack after that. Here in Northumberland we have no shortage of places to go for a cheese scone (we both love these) and a coffee.

This week we visited one of our favourites, The Rocking Horse Cafe, at Rock Moor. We had excellent coffee and scones, which were served warm with proper pats of butter (no fiddly foil packets), It felt really cosy today: the log burner was blazing and it was the perfect choice for a cold November day (though there is a garden with plenty of seating to use in warmer weather).

It’s a small very friendly place – in some ways more like going round to someone’s house for coffee than visiting a cafe. It’s also extremely dog friendly – in summer there is even a dog agility course set out in the garden.

Of course there is a rocking horse at the Rocking Horse Cafe

There is a vague knitting/woolly connection here at the Rocking Horse Cafe . There are two very friendly resident Border Collies – the sheepdog breed of choice here in the UK. It would also be a rather nice place for a small knit and natter group!

Do you think I should make Scone of the Week a regular feature of the blog?