There's a surprising variety of things to see and do in Funchal, Madeira. Here are some that you shouldn't miss.
Cherry-picking at Chegworth Valley and a visit to Yotes Court Vineyard make for a great day out.
One of the brilliant things about living in Kent, the so-called Garden of England, is the sheer abundance of locally-grown soft fruit available in the summer months – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and gooseberries, as well as stone fruits such as plums and cherries. In autumn, Kentish orchards are bursting with apples and pears and the local vineyards are producing a rich crop of grapes.
One of the loveliest walks in Kent takes you through the beautiful village of Shoreham to the lavender fields at Castle Farm in the Darent Valley. The ideal month to do this walk is July when the lavender is in full bloom and there’s a sea of vivid purple in the valley.
Most people will probably arrive in Shoreham by car, but the village is very accessible by train as well. Shoreham Station is only 200 yards or so from the starting-point of this walk. The narrow lanes of Shoreham mean that it isn’t the easiest place to find parking. If you’re coming by car, my suggestion would be to park along Station Road, down the hill from Shoreham Station.
A few weeks ago a Greek friend had recommended to us Ermoupoli on the island of Syros in the Cyclades as a really nice spot to spend a few days. He said it’s more popular with Greeks than with foreign tourists and is beautiful but much less frenetic than islands like Mykonos and Santorini.
So, after a few very hot days in Athens recently, we found ourselves at the port of Piraeus looking at “Thunder,” the boat which would take us to Syros.
Thunder is operated by Fast Ferries and it’s a magnificent and very well-appointed vessel. It took us to Ermoupoli, the main port on Syros, in just over 2 hours. As the boat approached the port, there was bit of a scramble as people headed down to the lower deck to retrieve their bags, but we were soon walking off the boat and along the seafront promenade. Time to find our hotel.
A review of "The Syrian Spoon" - a brand new vegetarian cookbook available now. All the recipes are from two former Syrian refugees.
I’m fortunate to live near Chartwell in Kent, the former home of Sir Winston Churchill. I’m a frequent visitor to Chartwell because…well it’s just a rather special place.
Even now, more than 50 years since his death, you can still sense Churchill’s spirit all around you whenever you visit. It’s well known that he loved the place very much, once famously remarking: “A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.”
It’s said that when Churchill first visited Chartwell in 1921, it was the view overlooking the Weald of Kent that he fell in love with. It subsequently became his home from 1922 until his death in 1965. Churchill was a talented artist and over the years Chartwell was the source of inspiration for many of his paintings. It was also a source of solace for him during the darkest days of World War II and at other difficult times in his life.
A vegan cookbook that should interest non-vegans too
I’m not a vegan myself, but like so many of us I’m constantly on the lookout for healthier ways to eat. So when I stumbled across The Vegan Bean Cookbook recently it grabbed my attention.
This is a new publication from Sicilian author and food blogger Andrea Soranidis. It’s now available in the UK and looks to be a little gem, packed full of creative and tasty recipes.
What’s the USP?
The focus is on helping you create memorable vegan meals which are good for your body, relatively inexpensive and which can be prepared quickly.
A garden makeover – a challenging DIY project
When we bought our home in Kent, we had acquired quite a large, but not very appealing, semi-circular area of front garden. It was basically an expanse of driveway gravel with a few shrubs randomly planted in borders which had been created using upturned patio bricks. The good news was that there was clearly potential here for our Japanese garden project. But how to go about it?
My wife, who comes from Japan herself, spent some time studying garden design books to figure out what sort of Japanese garden would work best in the space. Neither of us had ever done a project like this before and we weren’t really sure how to begin. But it wasn’t long before we were out digging up the front garden and levelling the whole area.
Ian believes passionately that children should be eating healthier school meals. He’s the driving-force behind https://selfsufficientschools.co.uk/ and https://vegschoolmeals.co.uk/
I first came across the Self Sufficient Schools account on Twitter last year. It had a post asking people to sign a petition to make School Food-Growing & Self-Sufficiency a dedicated subject area of the UK National Curriculum. I was curious to find out more about this initiative, which was started by North London-based Ian Dunn, because it immediately struck me as a very good idea.
I still have fairly vivid memories of school food, which, back in the 1960s and 1970s, wasn’t very good at all. This was a salad-free era. I remember great big tubs of mashed potato and baked beans, toad-in-the-hole at least once a week, and always fried fish, or fish fingers, on Fridays. If we ever saw any green vegetables they’d usually been boiled to within an inch of their lives. Desserts were stodgy and unhealthy – treacle sponge or spotted dick – and nearly everything was served with custard. Fresh fruit was a rarity!
If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I take a keen interest in the Kent vineyard scene. I recently broke ranks and slipped unnoticed across the county border into Sussex to check out the Kingscote Estate and Vineyard.
Some friends in London had organised a walking day in West Sussex last week, loosely following the bucolic route of the “Gravetye Circular” in the High Weald. The route takes you past historic houses, lakes and vineyards and through lots of natural woodland. Knowing of my interest in local vineyards they kindly invited me along. The opportunity to call in at the Kingscote Estate was not to be missed, even if it meant a 7 mile walk on a hot June day! Our walking route actually took us through Kingscote twice.