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Spring is nearly here!

Whilst it’s still officially Winter, there are signs that Spring is nearly here! And the first day of spring is less than 4 weeks away.

We had some snow last week and yesterday we drove to the top of a hill and enjoyed a walk in quite deep snow with Saffy. But today has been glorious.

stream flowing through green fields, with blue skies, fluffy white clouds and a few bare winter trees - bed and breakfast shropshire

Throughout the winter, I’ve been out everyday walking Saffy, no matter what the weather. It’s rather wonderful when an unseasonal warm day comes along. Today I took my coat off and sat down next to a stream, enjoying the sound of the water and the birds serenading me. The sun was warm on my face and there was just a light breeze.

The snowdrops are just about at their best right now. They’re out up the lane to Hopton Castle and there’s a rather wonderful field filled with them on the drive to Clungunford.

Spring at Hopton House B&B - a drift of snowdrops blowing in the breeze

If you’re planning a break to Hopton House, April is getting quite booked up but we have still got good availability in February, March and May.

If you’re a fan of food festivals ( and beer and vintage cars ) we still have availability for the Ludlow Spring Festival on 11th and 12th May.


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

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

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.


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.

Spring Break in Shropshire


It’s nearly time for a spring break here in Shropshire. At Hopton House the catkins have been out for ages and we’re now surrounded by drifts of snowdrops. I spotted the first open daffodil flower on the dog walk today and some of the tete a tete and primroses are out in the garden.

Mr B&B was away for Valentine’s Day but I awoke to find a wren sitting on the end of my bed serenading me.   We like to sleep with our window slightly open, whatever the weather, and this wren  is a regular visitor into our bedroom, popping in several times a day in search of food. If I can just get them to do the housework for me, my transformation to Cinderella will be complete.

Spring Break in Shropshire - snowdrops on the verge with Hopton Titterhill behind

It is lovely to hear the dawn chorus starting up again. This morning it started with doves and was then taken up by the robin and blackbirds. Though I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about the wren serenading me when it gets lighter much earlier.

Also it’s probably not just one wren. I happened to catch 10 of them flying up into the eves at dusk the other day. Luckily I love my birds.

I also love my frogs and I’ve noticed several in the pond recently. Luckily they are safe from the chickens this spring . Because of the current avian flu problem, they have had to be kept shut away since before Christmas. I do miss them free ranging.

a big drift of primroses in the sunshine


How To Bake A Small Batch Of Muffins

How To Bake A Small Batch Of Muffins

How To Bake A Small Batch Of Muffins

The buffet table at breakfast is filled with fresh fruit, fruit and natural yoghurts, Bircher muesli, homemade bread to toast, freshly squeezed orange juices and local apple juice and a selection of cereals. I also like to put some sort of baked goods on there as a treat.

At this time of year when I can pick blackberries from the wildflower meadow, the only thing to make is Blackberry cinnamon streusel muffins. If guests can’t manage them after breakfast  they can always take them away for a snack later when they get peckish.

The trouble with muffins is that I think they taste best warm from the oven and I don’t think they taste as good if they’ve been frozen or the next day. But the problem is all muffin recipes seem to produce 10-12 muffins and if I ate all the leftover muffins every day I’d soon need a new wardrobe.

So my challenge was to create a method that allowed me to make just 2 or 4 muffins with no waste. And I’ve done it! This recipe is also quite quick in the morning as much of it is already prepared for you. You just scoop out as much of your prepared dry mix as you need and then combine with the wet ingredients.

I’ve spent years looking for the perfect muffin recipe and I eventually found it the American Culinary Institute Cookbook.  The original recipe is for Raspberry pecan streusel muffins. This one is for blackberries. You can use any fruit that you think will work and add different nuts to the streusel or leave them out as I’ve done here.

Note when I talk about cups I mean American Measuring cups. They’re easy to buy in the UK these days but I’ve also included weights in grams.

Making Your Dry Mix

You need a large airtight jar. I have a bit of a thing about Kilner jars and can’t walk past them without buying them. The jar needs to be big enough so there’s room in there to shake all your ingredients to make sure they’re really well combined before each use.

First you put all the dry mix ingredients into your jar and shake really well. This is the ratio of ingredients you need but you could double ( or even triple if your jar is big enough ) them.

  • 1.5 cups ( 225g ) plain ( all purpose ) flour
  • 0.5 cups ( 115g) caster ( fine ) sugar
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp salt

Making Your Streusel Topping

You don’t have to use it but the streusel topping really makes these muffins. You can add nuts or different spices if you like. I make up a big batch of streusel topping and put it in the freezer, then just scoop out 0.5 tablespoons per muffin

  • 2/3 cup ( 110g) plain ( all purpose flour )
  • 2/3 cup ( 110g) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons ( 60g) melted butter

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then mix in the butter till you get a crumble like mixture with big crumbs. I use my Kitchenaid mixer for this because I’m lazy but you could do it in a big bowl with a wooden spoon.

Put this into a freezer proof container or a plastic bag, seal and put in the freezer.

Making Up Your Muffins

For each muffin you need 35g or 3.5 tablespoons of dry mix combined with about 35g or 3.5 tablespoons of the wet ingredients.

This is where it can be a bit problematic as you may need you find 1/2 an egg. You could always beat up the egg and throw half of it away or use it in scrambled eggs, an omelette or another recipe.

For 4 muffins I used one of our very small eggs which I weighed ( out of the shell ) to be 40g.  A normal egg is about 80g.

I wouldn’t get too worried about being that precise with the ratios of the wet ingredients. What you’re aiming for is about the same volume of dry ingredients to wet, so if your egg is a bit bigger just use a bit less buttermilk.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius ( 170 degrees for a fan or 375 F )

For 4 muffins you’ll need

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup ( 50g ) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup ( 50g ) melted butter
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small egg ( about 40g or whatever size egg you have beaten and weigh/measure out 40g or 4 tablespoons )

Beat the wet ingredients together. Shake your prepared muffin mix well and weigh out 140g ( 3/4 cup + 2 tbs ) into a bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until it is just combined. Don’t beat or over mix as this makes the muffin tough. Stir through the blackberries ( I use about a tablespoon per muffin ).

Put into 4 prepared muffin cases in a muffin tin. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with about 0.5 tbs streusel mix straight from the freezer. Bake for a bout 20 minutes until risen and golden.


New Breakfast Specials

The Full English remains a staple at the B&B, but I’m seeing fewer of them ordered these days, so I’m adding in some new breakfast specials.

Pancakes, Eggs Benedict and herby mushrooms with poached eggs are all favourites with our regular guests and they all appear on the menu everyday.

But occasionally, for a bit of variety or because I’m catering for special diets, I add in a few new dishes.

Avocado toast with lime and coriander on sourdough and poached eggs is a recent addition to the menu, brought back from that London by my daughter.

I’ve also taken the waffle maker out of the cupboard and dusted it off, so I can now offer sweet waffles with berries and maple syrup or savoury waffles with bacon and fried eggs.

Avocado toast and poached eggs - new breakfast specials

Learn to Knit Workshop in the Shropshire Hills!

As a fairly new, and now completely addicted, knitter, I’m very pleased to announce we will be running a series of knitting workshops here at Hopton House.

The first workshop will be “Learn to Knit” for beginners ( or those, like me, who may have knitted a bit years ago but have forgotten it all! )

The workshop will be held in our dining room here at Hopton House. You’ll be able to enjoy our wonderful views of the Shropshire countryside, the birds and chickens, whilst learning your new skill.

There’ll be coffee, tea and homemade cake available throughout the day and a locally sourced buffet lunch.

Anna Wilde, who will be running the workshops, is a very experienced knitter and also a great trainer. With Anna’s expert help you’ll learn how to cast on, cast off, knit, purl, create different patterns and, also how to correct mistakes in your work.

We have 1  workshop planned on Thursday 5th May. It  will start at 10.00 and finish by 16.00. If you need accommodation, it will be available at Hopton House on a first come first serve basis, or, if we’re full, we can arrange it at local B&Bs just a 5-10 minute drive away.

We’ll provide everything you need to complete a small project in a day; needles, yarn, darning needle and an easy pattern all in a bag for you to take away.

The cost of the workshop will be £85 including refreshments throughout the day, lunch and your goody bag. Places are limited to a maximum of 6.

To secure a place, we ask for a £35 deposit, which can be paid by debit or credit card over the phone, paypal or bank transfer. The remainder is payable on the day of the course. Please call Karen on 01547 530885 or email

Please note that the deposit is non-refundable if you cancel unless we are able to resell the workshop place.


Kenneth Branagh and Mince Pies

I’ve been down on one of my quick trips to London this week. It was my daughter’s birthday – she lives in Crouch End, and we had managed to secure tickets to see Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench in a Winter’s Tale. So we had a nice couple of days of theatre going and shopping and eating.

I’ve been a huge fan of Kenneth Branagh since I was a teenager and saw him in quite a few plays with the RSC. Most memorably I saw him in Henry V then I was at university. I went to the stage door and got his autograph, then wrote him a letter to which he replied with a signed photo and a very nice letter back. That made me a very happy student.

A couple of years ago he did Macbeth in a deconsecrated church in Manchester. Tickets were like gold dust and there was no chance we were going to get one – I read recently they sold out in 9 minutes. Then they put on an extra final performance for charity with a champagne reception beforehand. We’re not sure how but we managed to get 2 tickets.  We got to the reception and realised that most of the fellow audience members were quite famous. We spotted Kim Catterall and John Sessions to name just a few.

Like Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale Production was amazing ( let’s be honest you’re not going to get an unbiased review of anything Mr Branagh does from me, but Mr B&B really enjoyed it and there was  a standing ovation ).

I had a seat 2 rows from the stage. Actually we both had 2 seats at the front but they’d reconfigured the theatre since we bought the seats and  Rob’s seat no longer existed. Luckily he managed to get a seat with lots of legroom and no one in front of him a bit further back.

Unfortunately Kenneth didn’t come to the stage door this time, which is probably a good thing as I really am a bit too old to be standing at stage doors ( husband in tow this time ) playing the besotted fan.

Because we are lucky enough to be on the Heart of Wales line I was able to get the train all the way back to Hopton Heath with only 1 change the next day.  I was feeling a bit sad on the train. It’s always a bit of a downer coming back after a great 2 days with the family. However it is always lovely, after the bustle of London, to get back to the peace and quiet of the Shropshire countryside.

It can take a bit of time to get back, as I had an hours wait at Shrewsbury. There are some great coffee shops in Shrewsbury itself but my bag was pretty heavy on the way back, so I grabbed a table in Starbucks at the station and cheered myself up with a huge mug of a tea and the first mince pie of the season.

I’ll be making mince pies at the B&B from now until 1st January so please do come and stay and try some.

I’ve copied my favourite recipe below.


5oz cold butter, cut into cubes
8oz plain flour
1oz sugar
zest of half an orange
1 egg
1 jar of mincemeat
a little water
1 small beaten egg

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C or Fan oven to 180 degrees C.

Rub the butter into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs ( I use the food mixer ), add the sugar and orange zest and mix well. Add the egg and mix well until it forms a stiff dough. You made need a few drops of water but not a lot.

I put the pastry wrapped in clingfilm for at least 30 mins.

Cut the pastry into 2 then roll out quite thinly on a floured surface. I use a large and medium pastry cutter to cut out 16 large and 16 medium sized circles. You’ll probably need to pull together the trimmings of pastry and reroll them a few times.

Take a mincepie tin and line with the large circles. ( My mincepie tin only has 12 holes so I do it in 2 batches ). Put about a teaspoon of mincemeat in each ( be careful not to overfill ). Brush the edges with water and then put the smaller circles of pastry on top. Crimp the edges together. Brush with beaten egg and put in the oven for 20 minutes. My oven isn’t very even so I time for 10 minutes then turn round the tin and cook for another 10 minutes..

Put on a cooling tray and dust with icing sugar.