Archives for posts with tag: Braunston

What would you do if, as you sat down with six months of bank statements, a cup of tea and a huge dose of determination, you received this message:

‘Hi Trish, we’re going to be harvesting a small batch of honey in about an hour. If you’re in Braunston you’re welcome to come up and see how it’s done.’

This was a message from beekeeper Neil Bannister owner of the gorgeous Southfield Cottage that Richard and I stayed in at the beginning of our trip. Guests at Southfield find a jar of honey in the cottage when they arrive. I had a lot of fun using it.

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I shook my head over Neil’s message. I was in the middle of a chore I’d put off for weeks, involving all those bank statements and a complicated analysis of who’d paid what for what. I contemplated texting, ‘So sorry, I’m right in the middle of something really important, can’t make it. Maybe next time.’

But was I mad? There was no way I could say no.

The view from Southfield cottage is lovely. In the foreground is a lovely meadow, cropped short by cows and sheep.

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Then there’s the canal, separating us from Braunston Marina. And then, beyond that, a vista of distant hills. But perhaps the most distinctive part of that landscape is something so close to the cottage   you’re apt to miss it altogether: a higgledy-piggledy row of beehives.

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I just had to go and see how the honey gets from those hives into a jar.

‘Richard, I’m just going to run up the hill to the village for a while.’

He looked up with surprise. ‘What did you say?’

I had not ten minutes before given Richard a very stern lecture on how I was going to be working all evening, that he was going to be cooking supper and that there was no way we were going to binge-watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

‘I’m going up the hill to watch Neil and Kim harvesting honey.’

‘And your grand plans?’

‘Shelved. See you later.’ And with that I jumped out the boat onto the jetty and set off up the hill.

A couple of hours later I was back on the boat with a little jar of the freshest honey I’d ever possessed plus some thyme and sage. Kim, with great foresight suggested I pick some herbs from the planter outside Southfield Cottage. These ingredients would turn into a perfect breakfast.

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But what could I do with the honey that would do justice to it? What would show it off to its best advantage?

It would of course be perfect with toast and lightly salted butter. The bread would have to be the best. Sourdough would be perfect. Well, I wasn’t going to be able to make that and there was no way I’d find it in the village shop, I was sure. I’d have to think of something else. Scones, nope. Crumpets, nope. I needed to use some of the herbs too. Thyme goes so perfectly with honey.

What about oat and thyme pancakes?

After a quick google search I found this recipe for oat pancakes by Rosie Sykes on the Guardian. It was perfect. You mix the oats and milk and leave the mixture to stand overnight. In the morning you beat in a couple of eggs and some bicarb and cook. I did make a couple of changes. I used baking powder instead of bicarb and added a very generous pile of fresh thyme leaves.

I served the oat pancakes warm with butter and honey on some and crème fraîche and honey on others.DSCF1855

The oat pancakes were the absolutely perfect platform for the honey.DSCF1838

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Boaters, if you have moored up for the night in Braunston, had a pint at the Admiral Nelson and a hearty breakfast at Gongoozlers Rest, I suggest a stroll up the hill from the canal to the village to complete your revictualling. But boaters beware* you need to time your visit very carefully or you’ll come away mighty disappointed.

Walk over the bridge and up the path from Braunston Marina, itself a joy, into Nibbets Lane and in no time at all you’ll reach the High Street.

Turn left and just in front of you you’ll seeThe Old Plough. Richard assures me the beer is good at The Old Plough. They do serve food there too, although we didn’t eat there this time.

The Plough Braunston

Continuing along you’ll come to Southfield Cottage which if you need a bed for a night (or more – you won’t want to leave) is a haven. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s Braunston’s gem – and it’s the home of Southfield honey.

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There are some other gems and delights in Braunston too.

Turn right at the top of Nibbetts Lane and you’ll find Braunston Community Café run by volunteers. The food is well priced, good and fresh, and you’ll be welcomed by a friendly faces. We had pots of tea and  sandwiches and walked away feeling very happy.

Cafe Braunston

Our next stop was for some serious supplies. You’ll get all the basics at the convenience store including a good range of fruit and vegetables, wine, local eggs and bacon.

No matter how well stocked the convenience store I do recommend popping into the butcher over the road where you’ll find good quality meat, sausages, pies, chutneys, preserves, vegetables and eggs.

But no revictualling expedition would be complete without a trip to one of Braunston’s institutions, The Braunston Fryer.  Here your impression that Braunston is a friendly village will be cemented. You’ll be greeted by Gurvinder ‘Bob’ Gill who recently took over the Fryer.

Braunston Fryer Bob

Everything is cooked to order so if you’re in a hurry you need to phone in advance to order. If not you can happily while away the time chatting to Bob while he carefully cooks your food. He’ll no doubt tell you that he refuses to pre cook anything other than a sausage or two and that people come from Rugby to Braunston for the fish and chips, notwithstanding that Rugby has about five of its own F&C shops. That’s something to think about.

In all the years we’ve been in Braunston I’ve never bought fish and chips from The Braunston Fryer. I’m  not sure why not. But there is no question that the first thing I’ll do when we’re back in Braunston will be to run up the path to get some fish and chips for supper.

The real question is how will I fit in all the trips up to the village and along the canal to savour the delights of Braunston.

* Braunston Community Café and The Braunston Fryer have limited hours and days. Neither one is open on Sunday or Monday and the community café isn’t open on Tuesdays either. The convenience store however has long hours everyday – open from 6am.

The word revictual is one  that was drummed into me and many other South African schoolchildren year after year in the endlessly repetitive history classes that culminated each year with the Great Trek.

Our history ‘began’ in 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in search of a revictualling station for the Dutch East India Company. Well, to be honest, I do remember a brief mention of the Portuguese sailors that predated him and some passing reference to the existing Khoi pastoralists and the San hunter-gatherers of the Cape.

It was those early Dutch settlers who started the much-feted Company’s Gardens in the infant Cape Town. We learned of the fruit trees that were planted: apples, pears and quinces. We learned of the grapes that were grown, the vegetables and herbs cultivated to revictual passing East India Company ships.To this day some of those original plants still survive: there’s a pear tree, and part of the wild almond hedge used to keep the local inhabitants at bay.

1750_Bellin_Map_of_Cape_Town,_South_Africa_-_Geographicus_-_Gundriss-bellin-1750Even before the Dutch arrived with their culinary traditions, there was the natural bounty of Africa: from the abundant oyster beds of the Cape, to the apparently inexhaustible herds of game, not to mention a wide array of indigenous plants. But the culinary influence of the settlers is indisputable.

Recently I’ve not been revictualling in the Cape of Good Hope, I’ve been revictualling in Braunston, the heart of the UK canal system, a village that must surely have been a revictualling station since the day that the first canal boat passed though in the late 1770s.

Today you could easily cruise through Braunston, marvelling at its proud history, admiring the historic boats moored in and around the marina and possibly stopping for water, fuel or a pump out not realizing that it is a perfect place to revictual. Don’t rush through, I urge you to stop, for at least a day or two, and check out the revictualling opportunities. Braunston canal If it’s just a few basic provisions you’re after, you could do very well by stopping at The Boat Shop at the bottom lock. You’ll get milk, cheese, sugar, tea, various tinned foods, ice-cream and many other basics. What you’ll also find are all sorts of painted canal ware for your kitchen, from mugs and teapots to biscuit tins.

Sticking to the tow path,  you’ll find Gongoozler’s Rest. Gongoozler* or not, it’s a haven for those who are in need of a slap-up breakfast the likes of which it’s impossible to find anywhere else in the vicinity of Braunston. There’s the Gongoozler’s Breakfast, the Individual Breakfast, omlettes and a vegetarian option too. And the vegetarian option isn’t just a nod to vegetarians either. It’s a proper breakfast that will certainly not leave you feeling short-changed. If one of their giant breakfasts is not what you’re after I’m quite sure you could be easily tempted by a slice of cake or a bacon roll.

But a canal would not be a canal without a decent pub looking out over its waters and Braunston is well served by the Admiral Nelson. It lies at the end of the ominous-sounding Dark Lane but the approach by water is of course more fitting.Admiral Nelson

Here you’ll find something for both boaters and gongoozlers alike. You can have an elegant and fine meal in the restaurant section or a beer on the grass overlooking the lock. And the staff are kind and obliging and will even fill your own beer mug with a pint of Nelson’s Nectar as you dash from boat to pub and back while filling and emptying the lock.

Nelson's Nectar

All are well catered to along this stretch of canal, thirsty dogs provided for, too, by a kind boater.

*  According to wikipedia “Gongoozler” may have been canal workers’ slang for an observer standing apparently idle on the towpath. Though it was used derisively in the past, today the term is regularly used, perhaps with a little irony, by gongoozlers to describe themselves and their hobby.

The word may have arisen from words in Lincolnshire dialect: gawn and gooze, both meaning to stare or gape. It might be presumed that such an expression would date from the nineteenth century, when canals were at their peak, but the word is only recorded from the end of that century or the early twentieth. It was given wider use by the late L. T. C. Rolt, who used it in his book about canal life, Narrow Boat, in 1944.

“Gongoozler” as a term may also be used in any circumstance in which people are spectating without contributing to either the content or interest of an event.