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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

Healthy Breakfast Bowl

Healthy Breakfast Bowl

I do love my food and cooking, so I like to think that the breakfasts I serve at Hopton House are a bit of a treat. I offer the full English breakfast of course,  but you’l also find lots of specials to choose from.

Eggs Benedict or eggs Royale ( substitute the  bacon for salmon ) are probably the most popular breakfast special. If you’re vegetarian and fancy Eggs Florentine, let me know before your stay and I’ll make sure I have some spinach in.

The fluffy buttermilk pancakes are also very popular and my personal favourite breakfast. I love mine served with crispy bacon and maple syrup.

Healthy breakfast bowl recipe. Turn overnight oats into a healthy breakfast bowl by adding berries, nuts, banana and seeds

If you don’t fancy a cooked breakfast, there’s a breakfast buffet table with cereals, fruit, organic natural Greek yoghurt, fruit juice, homemade white and granary bread to toast and some sort of baked goods. I also put out bircher muesli ( or overnight oats as it’s commonly known )

I’ve converted a lot of people to bircher museli. It’s very easy to make and will last for 3 days in the fridge, so is great for a quick breakfast when you have little time in the morning. The recipe is below.

To make it into your own trendy healthy breakfast bowl, just add berries of choice, banana, seeds ( I like chia and pumpkin ) and nuts.

Healthy breakfast bowl. Turn overnight oats into a healthy breakfast bowl by adding your choice of berries, bananas, nuts, chia and pumpkins seeds.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of apple juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup of full fat greek yoghurt
  • 1 grated apple – granny smiths are perfect.

The night before ( but it works fine if you only do it an hour before ) put the oats in a bowl and add the water and apple juice and stir well. Add in the greek yoghurt and grated apple.

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread Recipe

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread Recipe

We’re big fans of cinnamon here at Hopton House. My husband is particularly keen.  Normally I can’t tempt Jess & Rob with a fresh baked sweet bread in the morning, but they both make an exception for this.

OK it’s got a lot of sugar in it, but I’m a firm believer in enjoying everything in moderation. If you’re trying to cut down on refined sugar than leave out the cinnamon swirl mix and make it with honey instead of sugar.

It also tastes very good as a gluten free cake. Make with gluten free self raising flour and gluten free baking powder. Add an extra tablespoon of buttermilk as gluten free flour absorbs more liquid.

You  make it in a 1lb loaf tin  & it needs to be completely cool before cutting.  If you don’t have time to bake it for 45 minutes and cool it before cutting, you can make it as 6 muffins, cooking for about 20 minutes at 20 degrees higher oven temp and no cutting required.

This is  incredibly easy to make as it’s one of those cinnamon swirl banana bread mixes where you just bung everything into the mixer. It also lasts quite well so can be cooked the day before. Or you can double the mix and make 2 loaves and put one in the freezer.

Makes 1 lb loaf

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread Ingredients

  • 50g coconut oil ( use sunflower oil or softened butter if you prefer )
  • 90g soft brown sugar ( caster sugar or honey – if using honey only use 60g )
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 110g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp buttermilk ( you can happily substitute 1 tbsp milk or 1 natural yoghurt as who wants to open a whole buttermilk carton for 1 tbsp but it does create a fluffier result )

Cinnamon Swirl Mix

  • 4 tbsp of white sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C ( or 150 degrees for a fan oven ). Put all of the banana bread ingredients ( not the cinnamon swirl mix ingredients these are added separately ) into a mixing bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high for 2 minutes. Combine the white sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.

Line a 1lb loaf tin with a loaf liner. Put half of the mix into the lined tin. Take a 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon swirl mix then sprinkle over the wet  mix. You’re looking to have the mix completely covered with sugar & cinnamon. Then add the remaining wet banana bread mix to the tin and finish off with the rest of the sugar cinnamon mix.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes till they’re firm to touch. Just keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t brown too much.

If you have any remaining sugar & cinnamon mix you can store it in a airtight jar for next time ( or sprinkle some on your porridge in the morning )

 

An easy cinnamon swirl banana bread recipe. It's moist and delicious and easy to adapt to make it gluten free or with no refined sugar Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread (3)

Lemon Drizzle Cake Recipe

The best easy lemon drizzle cake receipe | based on a recipe by Mary Berry but made even lighter with buttermik | All my B&B guests love it | click through for the recipe and bake it this weekend!

Every guest who arrives at Hopton House Bed and Breakfast  has a whole cake waiting for them in their room to enjoy during their stay. Usually, unless I’ve had a special request, this will be a lemon drizzle cake.

This lemon drizzle cake recipe is based on one of Mary Berry’s, though I’ve adapted it to fit into 3 1lb loaf tins rather than making it up as tray bake. I’ve also upped the temperature which gives a nice cracked top to the cake which I like.

Replacing Mary’s recommended milk with buttermilk makes this lemon drizzle cake recipe even lighter and fluffier

Lemon Drizzle Cake Recipe

You need 3 1 lb loaf tins – I line mine with ready made paper liners.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees ( for fan oven )

Ingredients

For the Cake

285 g (10 oz) self raising flour
225 g (8oz)  caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
225g (8oz) softened butter ( I normally just use a whole pack of butter which is slightly over 8 oz)
5 Hopton House eggs ( which is about 4 large eggs )
4 tablespoons buttermilk
grated rind of 2 large lemons

For the Drizzle

175g (6oz) granulated sugar
juice of 2 large lemons

Put all of the ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 2 minutes.

Divide the mixture between the 3 loaf tins.

Put in the oven for 30 minutes – check after 30 minutes to see if the cake is firm on top. You will probably need longer but only allow 5 minutes at a time. You want just cooked.

Take out of the oven and leave for 5 minutes. Prick all over with a skewer ( I use my meat lifting forks – creates 4 holes at  a time – how lazy is that? )

Mix the sugar & lemon for the drizzle and pour over the cakes. After another 10 minutes take out of the tins & place on a wire tray – this is where is really helps having the ready made paper liners because it keeps any of the drizzle that has fallen down the sides in place.

This will keep for several days as it’s so moist and they also freeze well.

If you’ve enjoyed making this recipe, have a look at my recipe blog for more recipes from Hopton House B&B

Butterflies in Shropshire

Painted Lady Butterfly in Shropshire

With the lovely weather in Shropshire over the last few weeks,  we’ve been seeing an increase in the number of butterflies in the wildflower meadow. The meadow is a bit more wild than flower at the moment. However, this means there are lots of nettles for the butterflies to lay eggs on and for the caterpillars so eat.

I’m always excited to see the first painted butterfly of the year. The painted lady is actually a long distance migrant to the UK. You can read a bit more about it here.

Shropshire Yarn Shops

We’ve just come back from our Summer Break on the North West Coast of America. We had a great time visiting Vancouver BC, Seattle, Portland and Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast.

We did a lot of sightseeing, walking, wildlife spotting and lots and lots of eating. I also discovered a new holiday passion and that was finding local yarn shops. It’s the first time we’ve been back to America since I discovered the knitting bug and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed visiting lots of lovely woolly shops!

For those of you that don’t knit or crochet you’re probably a bit perplexed by now, but those of you that are yarn addicted will understand.

So we’re back from holiday, a little jet lagged; it’s an 8 hour time difference. I’ve set 4 alarms to make sure I’ve been up in time for breakfasts this week, Luckily I have lovely repeat guests in who wouldn’t be too cross if I was snoozing whilst on duty.

I spent far too much on yarn whilst I was on holiday. I’ve just finished a shawl using the beautiful green alpaca yarn that I bought in Portland, Oregon.

Green knitted shawl with greenfinch mug - shropshire yarn shops

It got me thinking about the lovely yarn shops we have here in Shropshire, so I thought I’d share my favourites with you, so you can do your own yarn shop crawl when you come to visit

1) Ewe and Ply, Shrewsbury

Ewe and Ply is a fabulous little shop on the gallery level of Shrewsbury Market Hall. On Instagram they describe themselves as “Purveyors of fine yarns, quality notions and sundry items. Unreformed yarn geeks”

Shrewsbury Market Hall is a wonderful place to visit with lots of wonderful shops as well as some great restaurants and cafes.

2) Sheepish, Bishops Castle

Sheepish is in the market town of Bishops Castle, about 12 miles from us. They are passionate about promoting British and fairtrade yarns. They’re very friendly and happy for you to sit and peruse patterns.

Bishops Castle has a couple of galleries, cafes, good pubs and a few microbreweries. It’s home to the oldest brewery in England. All ideal if you’re with a reluctant yarn shopping partner.

3) Ippikin, Much Wenlock

Ippikin is another small, but perfectly formed, local yarn shop in the market town of Much Wenlock. It is a well established wool shop stocking fabulous yarns; both local and independent specialists as well as all the brand names. And also very friendly too.

Much Wenlock is a wonderful market town, with interesting shops, a fabulous priory and great pubs and cafes. It’s also very close to Ironbridge.