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The Art of Doing Nothing Much in the Shropshire Hills

Most B&B owners, myself included, will have a whole section on things to do on their website. But I was thinking the other day about my own favourite holidays and they seem to involve doing nothing much at all.  

My favourites have been; lying on our hotel bed in Rome watching hundreds of swifts flying round the Pantheon, sitting on a beach in Maine looking out to sea for hours on end, lying in a Swiss meadow looking up at the mountains, sitting by a Scottish loch.

Luckily, living in Shropshire, I’m able to indulge in my favourite hobby of not doing very much in nature on a regular basis. I present to you;

The Art of Doing Nothing Much in the Shropshire Hills

Last Monday was an unexpected glorious morning. I had a long to do list but abandoned it to do the short walk to the top of our nearest hill and lie in the grass and just breathe it all in.

A pair of wellies on top of a Shropshire Hill with hills in the background and beautiful blue skies
Lying down on top of a hill in April

And it’s not the first time I’ve done that. I have an app called Timehop on my phone. It shows me pictures that I’ve posted on social media in previous years. It would appear that for the last 5 years in this 2 weeks in April, I’ve been walking to the top of that hill and doing nothing!

The previous week we had another perfect day,  so my to do list was once again abandoned and I drove to Rhos Fiddle nature reserve. Here I sat in a lay by watching lambs and listening to skylarks.

A ewe and her lambs in the Shropshire hills on a glorious spring day
Near Rhos Fiddle Nature reserve listening to skylarks

In February, I rediscovered a favourite road from here to Clunton Coppice. It’s a tiny lane with amazing views. This time I sat and closed my eyes and meditated for a while. On opening my eyes there was a Goshawk sitting on the post by the car watching me.

Back in May, I’d driven along the same road in search of a field of bluebells and ended up lying in a field doing nothing for an hour. That photo of my boots got on the BBC weather!

A pair of boots from someone lying down in a Shropshire Meadow on a beautiful May Day

Even on a rainy day I’ll quite often drive out and park up a lay-by with a book, just so I can listen to the rain on my car roof, with a beautiful green backdrop. Though on a very rainy day I’ll often just head to the Granary Room and sit and read or knit and listen to the rain.

a tiny Shropshire Lane with bare trees on either side
A tiny Shropshire Lane on a grey day

I’ve yet to do it ( it involves leaving a Mitsi for too long ) but one day I’m planning to jump on the Heart of Wales line at Hopton Heath with some mindless knitting and enjoy the beautiful journey down to Swansea just so I can come back again.

If you’re planning a visit and the idea of  doing nothing much at all appeals, let me know and I’ll share my favourite “doing nothing” places.

And if your  Idea of doing nothing involves not going out to eat in the evening, remember you can always order a platter to be waiting for you in your room fridge!

Local Shropshire Cheese Platter - B&B Shropshire, Hopton House

 

Local Restaurants

Local Restaurants

We have good news for everyone who loves the Jolly Frog. It has got a new chef and management team, has had a good spruce up and is now open for business!

Whilst the fish menu is not as extensive as before, it still features a good amount of fish, as well as meat and vegetarian dishes and the pizza oven is still producing lovely pizzas.

There’s a bar menu and an a la carte menu – you can mix and match and order from both.  And also a list of daily specials.

We’re very much looking forward to getting up on the deck on the first sunny day evening that’s warm enough.

Another one of our favourite local restaurants, that we head for on a sunny day, is the Lion down at Leintwardine ( about 3 miles from us ). The food is very good and it’s rather idyllic sitting there on the riverbank watching the kingfishers, dipper, sand martins and jumping fish.

Take the train to dinner

We’re very lucky to have the Heart of Wales line of the doorstep, just a few minutes walk from us. There are very few trains a day but the timings do mean that you can get a train down to Knighton or Bucknell in the evening and then get it back again to Hopton House.

The Baron at Bucknell is a favourite of many of our guests and is about a 10 minute walk from the station.

At Knighton both the Red Lion and the Horse and Jockey get very good feedback for their food.

The evening train runs from Monday through to Saturday ( Sunday hours are different ), leaving Hopton Heath at 7.04 and returning from Bucknell at 10.04 and Knighton  at 9.58. Please do double check the train times before you set out and always book your pub as they can get very busy.

Evening platters

If you’d rather stay in in the evening, we can provide you with a cold platter. I leave these in your fridge ( it is a silent fridge! ) in your room ready for your arrival, along with a freshly baked loaf of my homemade honey granary bread.

The ploughman’s platter is very popular with local pork pie, pate, ham, cheese and chutney. The smoked salmon platter has several different types of smoked salmon. The local cheese platter has 5-6 local cheeses. I can also do a vegetarian or vegan platter on request.

I charge £25 for  a platter for 2. Please make sure you either book your platter at the same time as you book your room or give me several days notice before your arrival.

Local Shropshire Cheese Platter - B&B Shropshire, Hopton House

We aren’t licensed so can’t sell you wine, but we provide both wine and champagne glasses in the room so please bring your own. If you’re a beer or cider drinker we have an amazing array of local ciders and beers. Harry Tuffins Supermarket in Craven Arms isn’t on the normal tourist trail but it’s local beer and cider department is a sight to behold! Let me know and I’ll leave pint glasses in your room.

Weeping Poppies at Hereford Cathedral

Yesterday, Rob and I popped down to see the Weeping Poppies at Hereford Cathedral. Thousands of ceramic poppies cascade down the front of the Cathedral  until 29 April 2018 as part of the final year of 14-18 NOW’s UK-wide tour. The display is free and open to the public.

Weeping Poppies at Hereford Cathedral - just a 50 minute drive from Hopton House Bed and Breakfast Shropshire

There will special events at the Cathedral and throughout Herefordshire to mark the contributions of the men and women of Herefordshire to the war effort. You can find more details here https://herefordcathedral2018.org/

Hereford is about a 50 minute drive from Hopton House. The cathedral itself is very interesting to visit. It’s home to the Mappa Mundi, believed to be the largest Medieval map still to exist. More details can be found here https://www.themappamundi.co.uk/index.php

Hereford is an interesting city with a mix of independent and chain stores. It has new shopping area with lots of different restaurants. Rob and I ate at The Beefy Boys which is great if you love beefburgers!

Weeping Poppies at Hereford Cathedral

Countryfile Magazine

We’re very excited and grateful to be included, as the B&B to stay at,  in a fabulous article on Shropshire  in this month’s Countryfile magazine.

Countryfile magazine cover featuring a robin in a snowy scene and an article on Shropshire

It’s a lovely article written by Marie Kreft,  who wrote the latest Bradt Slow Travel Guidebook to Shropshire. If you’re planning  a visit to Shropshire in 2018, I would recommend you definitely go out and buy it as soon as possible.

It would make a great Christmas present packaged up with a gift voucher for a stay at Hopton House. Email me for more details!

We also added to the excitement last Tuesday, when Carol Kirkwood chose one of of my photos ( see above )  to accompany the weather forecast on BBC Breakfast. Shropshire had seen the lowest official recorded temperature that night and our view looked amazing.

Fear not that you’ll get cold here at Hopton House. Both B&B rooms have individual thermostatic controls so you can set the temperature to whatever you like at any time of the day or night. And the road outside is gritted so actually getting snowed in has only happened once in our 13 years of being here.

Murphy

I have some sad news I’m afraid. We had to say goodbye to Murphy the B&B dog last week.

He was nearly 16, though he never looked it! This photo was only taken recently, but he’d slowed down a lot over the summer and started going downhill quite quickly a couple of weeks ago.

Untitled design (18)

He was the most amazing dog. We rescued him 13 years ago and he stole the whole family’s heart within 24 hours. He was very clever, loyal, nearly human, very naughty and very funny.

He was the first dog in his training school to get a Kennel Club gold award in obedience training. Though he never really put all that training into practise – he was just good at passing exams.

Up until a few years ago his very favourite thing in life was playing MurphyBall and going to the woods. As he got a bit older he was only really happy if he was within a few feet of me.

Mitsi, Rob, Jess and I are all missing him terribly, but we’re able to remember him with a smile and a laugh.

Great Shropshire Books

Three great Shropshire books to plan your visit

Shropshire is still something of an undiscovered county. This is great if you’re visiting. There are far fewer people here than in more popular British tourist destinations.

Of course,once people have visited once, they can’t understand why it isn’t more popular! Many first time visitors go on to become repeat guests at the B&B, having fallen in love with the county.

If you’re planning a visit but aren’t sure what to do when you come here, I thought I’d recommend some books for you to get a taste of the county.

Of course, if you want to wait for your stay, we have all these books available for guests to read here at Hopton House. They also make great gifts to take away or remind you of your trip to Shropshire.

Another idea would be to package up one of these books with a gift voucher for a stay at Hopton House – what a great Christmas or birthday present!

Click on the picture of each book to buy direct from Amazon.

Slow Travel Shropshire


Marie Kreft is a local author who has long been in love with Shropshire. She has written this wonderful guide on Shropshire for Bradt Travel Guides.

She moves around the county describing things to do in the countryside and towns, places to eat and stay. The emphasis of the book is on Slow Travel, taking time to enjoy local food, characterful places and leaving the car behind where you can.

A Year in Shropshire


Just released is this lovely book from the Hayward Family, filled with photographs of Shropshire throughout the year. John and his father, Mike Hayward, fill my social media streams with the most wonderful images and have now produced this great book.

It would make a great gift for any fan of Shropshire.

A Shropshire Lad


For the poetry lover in your life, this beautiful book combines A.E. Housman’s famous A Shropshire Lad poem with some glorious images of the local countryside.

If you look North out of both the Granary and Barn room you’ll see Clunbury Hill, immortalised in Housman’s poem:

“Clunton and Clunbury
Clungunford and Clun,
Are the Quietest places
Under the sun”
Great Shropshire Books - 3 books to help plan your visit to Shropshire England. They would also make great Christmas or Birthday gifts. #shropshire #travel #christmas #gifts
 
Please note that this blog post contains affiliate links. For each book you buy via Amazon I receive a small commission. I only ever recommend products I use and like myself. All funds received go to the dogs’ vet bills!

 

Blackberry Pancakes

Blackberry pancakes with an apple, blackberry and cinnamon compote

We’ve enjoyed a very busy summer here at Hopton House B&B, so it was about time for me to have a couple of days off, to rest and recharge, ready for a business autumn

Unfortunately, despite planning a long lie in, Storm Aileen did her best to keep me awake last night, then I forgot to turn off my alarm – d-oh. This was closely followed by a craving for sausages and pancakes ( I blame lack of sleep and the fact that “Come on Eileen” was stuck in my head and wouldn’t be removed till I play it at full volume )

Pancakes and sausages are my 2 favourite breakfast ingredients and, as it’s autumn, there are lots of lovely ingredients in the garden to go with them.  So I headed into the orchard, where the apples are throwing themselves off the trees and the wildflower meadow, where we have lots of blackberries just now.

I’ll be putting these pancakes on the breakfast menu for a short while, but book soon if you want to try them, as the blackberries won’t last for long

Delicious, fluffy blackberry pancakes with an apple blackberry compote | a perfect autumn recipe for using up a glut of apples and blackberries #apples #autumn # recipes

This recipe will feed 2 people very generously with about 5 small pancakes each. You could halve it for more  a manageable breakfast.

Pancake Ingredients

  • 1 cup ( 150g ) Plain ( all purpose flour )
  • 2 tablespoons ( 30g ) white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda ( baking soda )
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup ( 225 ml ) buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon ( 25g ) melted butter
  • About 30 small blackberries

Compote ingredients

  • 1 large eating apple – granny smiths are good – cored, peeled and chopped into large cubes
  • 10 small blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons ( 25g ) melted butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon on brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Method

Put the apples, butter, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in a small frying pan and cook over a medium heat for about 6 or 7 minutes.  Stir it frequently and keep an eye on the apples. It may take less of more time depending on your apple type. You want them beginning to soften but not disintegrating.

When the compote is ready, take it off the heat and stir in the blackberries and maple syrup.

Mix the dry pancake ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. Stir the wet mix into the dry mix, Don’t over stir – just stir enough so that all the flour is mixed in. You’re looking for it to resemble a thick mix like extra thick double cream.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Brush the pan with melted butter generously, then put about a couple of tablespoons into the pan for each pancake. Don’t overcrowd the pan as the mix will spread. Put 3 blackberries into the top of each pancake.

When bubbles start to appear  on the top of the pancakes then flip and cook until browned on both sides – just pick up the edge of the pancake with your spatula to check how brown it’s getting. One of the tricks to getting perfect pancakes and is getting the temperature right. This will depend on the weight of your frying pan and the temperature of your cooker.

Serve with the compote and extra maple syrup if required. Oh yes  and I recommend a couple of sausages too, with or without Dexy’s Midnight Runners playing in the background.

5 autumn knitting patterns

5 Autumn Knitting Patterns

Whilst I don’t want to wish summer away too soon, I do look forward to autumn.  It’s my very favourite time to go away. We usually head to the English countryside, spending the day taking long walks,  kicking leaves and enjoying the countryside.

This is my perfect autumn day, finished off by a long soak in the bath with a good book and then an evening curled up knitting in front of the TV. In fact, doing all of the things my guests enjoy doing when they stay here at Hopton House!

When I start packing for my holidays these days, the thing I get most panicky about ( I have my capsule wardrobe sorted thanks to Pinterest ) is what knitting I’m going to take with me. To save you the same panic,  if you’re packing for a relaxing break away in the country,  I thought I’d share my very favourite top 5 autumn knitting patterns for you to enjoy.

If you want to enjoy a few days relaxing in the Shropshire countryside this autumn,  check availability, book a few nights at Hopton House and pack your knitting needles today!

1. Decorate your house with knitted pumpkins

5 autumn knitting patterns | knitted pumkin

I normally buy a few mini pumpkins to decorate the house in autumn, but last year I discovered this pumpkin knitting pattern. I’ve become a bit addicted to knitting these, which is good because everyone loves them and wants to take them away.

You can use any weight wool you have handy. Your pumpkin will be smaller or larger depending on the wool you use.

I knitted a beautiful little green pumpkin using one of my favourite yarns, Rowan felted tweed DK, I love it in avocado. You can buy it online from LoveKnitting here

Green knitted pumpkin - pumpkin knitting patter. 5 knitting projects to bring on your autumn trip to Hopton House B&B here in Shropshire

2. Wrap up in a beautiful Guernsey Wrap

5 autumn knitting patterns | wrap yourself in a Guernsey wrap

I’ve made 2 of these Guernsey wraps now. It’s my go to wrap for when I get a bit chilly. I made the first wrap with the recommended wool but the second with DROPS nepal, which is a lovely springy alpaca / wool blend and is also very cheap!

3. Keep your tea warm with a squirrel tea cosy

5 autumn knitting patterns | knitted squirrel tea cosy

I knitted this tea cosy when we were holidaying on the Gower peninsula in Wales. It was my first attempt at knitted animals and is a bit of fun. It’s a great easy to follow pattern.

4. Get ready for winter with a knitted hot water bottle cover

5 autumn knitting patterns | hot water bottle cover

This is a fabulous free pattern for a knitted hot water bottle cover. It’s quite clever as you can adapt it to any size of hot water bottle. You can make it plain or add your own coloured design or cables.

5. Knit a quick pretty leaf facecloth

This is a pretty autumn leaf lace design facecloth. It’s great if you’re just starting out on lace knitting and want to practice. I knit washcloths and dishcloths when I’m in between bigger projects.

5 autumn knitting patterns | some great knitting patterns to knit when the weather turns cooler | great Christmas presents

Please note that this blog post contains some affiliate links. I only ever link to products I use myself and recommend 100%! I don’t make a lot from this but it all helps with my rather large monthly vet’s bills

 

Pumpkin tomato soup

Pumpkin tomato soup

It’s approaching that time of year when soup becomes a staple lunch item on my B&B courses. Debbie, who provides the lunch, always brings along a soup made with fresh ingredients from her garden.

Here at Hopton House, I also make soups for mine and Rob’s lunch, using whatever produce someone has donated to me. Sadly, I seem to have run out of time to grow my own again this year.

I’m not a huge fan of courgettes, pumpkins etc in their natural state but I do like them when they’re combined with tomatoes in a soup. Tomato soup can be a bit thin and acidic when it’s just made with tomatoes, but by adding a pumpkin or courgette it mellows and thickens the soup.

This is probably the easiest soup in the world. And it’s very low calorie. I calculated about 70 calories per bowl, assuming you’ve got 4 bowls out of this recipe.

I make it with tinned tomatoes but you could use fresh if you have a glut.

If I have a large pumpkin, I’ll chop all the flesh up and portion it into 200g bags and just pop them in the freezer. You can then make more soup later on with the pumpkin straight from the freezer.

This also works well with courgettes and marrows.

Add 1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes if you like a bit of heat!

Pumpkin tomato soup ingredients

  • 200g roughly chopped pumpkin
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves if you like
  • 1 tablespoon sundried tomato paste
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock ( I use Marigold bouillon but I’ve also just used water with salt added when I’ve run our of stock )
  • black pepper to taste

Method

Put all the ingredients in a large pan. Bring to the bowl, then simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes. Puree with a stick blender. Check seasoning.

If you like you can serve with creme fraiche or soured cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Serves 4

An easy and delicious pumpkin and tomato soup recipe | very quick and easy to make | only 70 calories per bowl | can also be made with courgettes or marrows | try it today!

 

 

9 things to do in Shropshire this autumn

9 things to do in Shropshire this autumn

Shropshire is an undiscovered county sitting on the edge of the West Midlands between Birmingham and Wales. Here at Hopton House we’re just 6 miles from the Welsh Border and only 1/2 mile from Herefordshire.

It’s not on the main UK tourist trail but one thing is certain; when travellers accidentally come across Shropshire, normally driving through it to get somewhere else or visiting a food festival, they invariably fall in love and return many times.

I love Shropshire for its wonderful countryside; dramatic hills, valleys and woodlands but it’s more than just countryside. There are a few things about Shropshire you might find quite surprising and  many things to do and places to visit. Here are a few of my favourites.

1. Home to the first successful food festival in the UK

Ludlow, in the South of the county and 20 minutes from us, has become well known in recent years for its food festival. It’s held every year in the 2nd weekend of September and was the first successful food festival in the UK. It’s held in the grounds of Ludlow Castle and in the surrounding town. If you want to avoid the crowds, go first thing on a Friday.

7 things to do in Shropshire this autumn - visit the Ludlow Food Festival

2. Home to royals

Long before Ludlow became known for food, it was the administrative capital of Wales. Arthur, Prince of Wales, and probably better known as older brother to Henry VIII, was living at Ludlow Castle with his wife, Katharine of Aragon, when he died in 1502.  His heart is buried in St Laurence Church. The castle is home to the annual Medieval Craft Fair during the last weekend in November.

3. The Oldest Brewery in the UK

If you like your beer then Shropshire is the place to visit. It is awash with breweries and Bishops Castle is the home to the Three Tuns brewery, the oldest licensed brewery in the UK. There are several beer festivals held through the year, The Clun Valley beer festival is held in October.

4. The world’s industrial revolution started here

Given  how rural it is, it may come as a bit of a surprise that  Ironbridge in Shropshire was home to the industrial revolution in the 18th century. Today there are many museums for you to explore Shropshire’s industrial past. Blist’s Hill is an open air recreated Victorian Town.

5. Amazing geology

The Long Mynd is well known for being one the most beautiful areas in the UK, but it also has some of the most fascinating geology. The most famous Silurian site in the world is Wenlock Edge. A 400 million year old coral reef is now exposed and lots of fossils have been found here.

9 things to do in Shropshire this Autumn - visit and walk on the beautiful Long Mynd

6. Walk in the steps of Keira Knightley

If history, food and geology aren’t your thing and you’re more of a film buff, then Stokesay Court was the country house used in the film, Atonement. It’s open for guided tours once a month. On the 3rd September this year there’s a special open afternoon to celebrate 10 years since the film was made there. A special thank you to Tim King for letting me use his photo of Stokesay Court.

7 unusual things to do in Shropshire this Autumn - visit Stokesay Court, where Atonement was filmed

7. Visit the place where the modern Olympic Games all start

If you watched the Olympic Games in London in 2012, you may have wondered why one of the mascots was called Wenlock.  Much Wenlock in Shropshire is home to the Wenlock Olympian Games., which were started by Dr. William Penny Brookes. These games are thought to have inspired the modern Olympic Games that began in 1896.

Much Wenlock is a lovely town to visit and you can follow the Olympic Games Trail.

8. Enjoy amazing autumn colours

Whilst New England in America is renowned for its autumn colours, we also have some amazing displays here in Shropshire on a smaller scale. Last year the colours lasted well into November, which is when I took this picture. The hills turns purple with heather – visit the Stiperstones or the Long Mynd to get the best displays.

9 things to do in Shropshire this autumn - enjoy beautiful autumn colours

9. Visit Stokesay Castle

Just 6 miles from Hopton House, visit  the finest and best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England. Stokesay Castle was built in the 13th century by Laurence of Ludlow, who at the time was one of the richest men in England.

9 Things to do in Shropshire - visit Stokesay Castle the finest fortified manor house in England

Discover Shropshire for yourself. Hopton House is perfectly located to visit all of these places. Check availability and book online today!

9 things to do in Shropshire this autumn | visit English Castles | enjoy amazing scenery and autumn colours | visit the home of the modern Olympic Games and the industrial revolution

 

9 things to do in Shropshire this autumn