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Hopton House Update!

As I write this ( Friday 19th June 2020 ), we still don’t have a date for when we can open Hopton House B&B. I’ll update this page as soon as we have a definite date.

It’s been such a glorious spring and a real shame that we haven’t been able to welcome guests to enjoy it. Hopefully you follow me on Facebook and Instagram so you’ve been able to enjoy some of my photos.

I’ve been really very busy for the last few months, creating an online B&B course. I’ve also been spending a lot of virtual time, either on Zoom or Facebook with B&B owners who have attended my course in the past.

We’ve been negotiating all the different challenges over the past few months, supporting each other and sharing best practice. During that time we’ve created The Yellow Duck Collection, which is a map of many of the B&Bs that have attended my courses. We’re over on Facebook if you want to find some amazing B&Bs. Please give the page a like and tell your friends about it!

We don’t have a website yet but that will probably appear sometime down the line. My aim was progress not perfection and to find a way to support my past course attendees to rebuild their business post pandemic

The next challenge for us all is reopening our B&Bs in a post lockdown world. We are being bombarded with guidelines and spreadsheets and webinars, and it’s quite easy to get over whelmed with that we need to do.

What I do know is that every one of these B&Bs is thinking very hard about how to keep guests safe whilst maintaining the essential uniqueness of their property.

Which brings me on to what we’re doing at Hopton House. I don’t want to bombard you with risk analysis documents and a step by step breakdown on how we’ll clean the rooms and maintain social distancing.

If you’ve stayed before I think you know you can trust me to be doing the right thing to keep you as safe as possible, whilst maintaining the whole essence of a stay at Hopton House.

We were due to be closing the B&B at the end of September, but I’m keeping it open till just before Christmas to allow rescheduling of bookings.

Nearly everything is going to be the same but some things are going to be a different and I’ve listed them here. If you have any questions or concerns please do let me know!

NEW CLEANING AND SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES

  • There will still be lemon drizzle and homemade shortbread!
  • We will debit your card with the balance of your stay on arrival. This will be done through our booking system and means you won’t need to use the card machine
  • On check in, once you’ve rung the doorbell please stand 2M back from the door. If you prefer you can self check in, we will leave the room key in the door. The upstairs Granary room is on the left and the downstairs Barn room on the right in the annex opposite the main house on the right of the drive.
  • We’ve always had very high cleaning standards but we will be extra careful sanitising areas that you are most likely to touch such as door handles etc
  • I’m sorry but we won’t be doing room tidies during your stay. We will leave a box for you to put items you want replaced outside of your door
  • There will be fewer throws and cushions in the room and cushions/throws that are in there will be steam cleaned after each guest stay. You are very welcome to borrow guest information leaflets, maps and books from the guest dining room
  • We are able to space the tables at breakfast so they are 2M apart and will have a separate buffet and toaster for each table. Please use the sanitiser by the door when you come into the dining room.
  • You may see some changes like individually wrapped portions of buffet items. But the main breakfast choices remain the same and the bread will still be homemade
  • Please keep up with your hand washing and social distancing whilst you are with us. We will provide sanitiser and anti bacterial soap
  • On checkout please open the windows ( unless it’s chucking it down! ) and leave the key in the door.
  • We will leave plates and cutlery in your room if you want to bring in takeaway food, if restaurants and pubs remain shut. There is a small silent fridge in each room if you want to bring your own in room picnic! We can provide a platter for £30 for 2 people. Please book this at least 48 hours in advance
  • If any of your party have COVID 19 symptoms prior to your visit please don’t travel to Hopton House.

If you need to postpone your stay because you have COVID 19 symptoms or have been told to self isolate, please let us know as soon as possible. We will either refund your deposit or move your stay to another date if you prefer.

If we need to close the B&B due to government restrictions, or because we need to self isolate, we will contact you as soon as we can. Your deposit will be returned in full or we will move your stay to another date if you prefer. We will also try our best to recommend a similar property locally provided they are also allowed to open.

5 Shawl Knitting Patterns

My favourite knitting is shawls, cowls and scarves. No need to worry about swatching and sewing up seams, or spending hours knitting a jumper just to find out it doesn’t fit or suit me!

I’ve never been particularly brave with colour, sticking with blues, greys and black in my clothes. However I’ve recently discovered mosaic knitting and got into colour in a big way.

I only taught myself to knit 5 years ago, using YouTube videos. The Timehop app has just been reminding me of some of my first attempts, like a huge pink infinity scarf made of cheap acrylic wool. None of the items I knit are particularly complicated so if you fancy giving them a go, but are new to knitting – go for it!

Some of my finished projects have been proving very popular on Instagram so here are 5 of my favourite shawl knitting patterns, with links to buy the yarns I’ve used and the patterns.

For more of my favourite knitting patterns check out my previous blog post here

If you’re new to knitting, Ravelry is an amazing resource for knitters and crocheters. You can search for patterns, then see what yarns, colourways, needles etc other knitters have used to create the project. I’m on Ravelry as KJT1966. Here’s the link to my project page.

Some of the links are affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage if you buy the yarn through my link. It helps contribute to my serious yarn buying habit!

Nightshift Shawl

I can’t tell you just how much I enjoyed knitting this shawl. The colours are rich and so vibrant and the yarn I used, Malabrigo Rios, is a joy to work with. The beauty of this shawl is that you can really make it your own with endless potential colour combinations. It’s simple knit, using knit, purl, M1R ( make one right ), M1L ( make one left ) and slip stitches.

The pattern is available to buy here and the yarn here.

Nightshift Shawl in Malabrigo Rios Yarn - brightly coloured striped shawl on white dressmakers dummy

Shift Cowl

The shift cowl ( pattern available to buy here ) is the baby sister of the Nightshift. It’s seamed at the back which makes it easy to wear. I’m currently knitting my third in the original yarn, Spincycle – Dyed in the Wool. This is the most expensive yarn I’ve ever bought. But you can make it very effectively with cheaper yarns. The pink one was made with 3 balls of Drops Delight, which is just £2.30 a ball in the UK at the time of writing. The blue/green was made with Malabrigo Rastita, which personally I don’t like that much as a yarn. It’s lightly felted. But as an alternative, the most popular yarn to knit it with on Ravelry, after the Spincycle, is Malabrigo Arroyo

The Shift Cowl in Malabrigo Rastita and Drops Delight. A bluey green knitted cowl and a shades of pink knitted cowl

Groovy Shawl

One of my favourite things to do when travelling is to find local yarn stores and spend a while discovering yarns I can’t buy in the UK. There’s a lovely shop in Portland, Oregon called Knit Purl, where I spotted this shawl ( pattern available to buy on ravelry here ) made up in the shop. The yarn is a pure alpaca, Galler Yarns Prime Alpaca, and comes in a 227g skein. The shop wound it into a cake for me and I was able to knit it for the rest of my trip. With just knits and purls and increases, it was the perfect travel knit! You can’t buy the yarn in the UK but any alpaca DK or Aran/worsted weight would make a great substitute

Groovy green shawl, knitted in pure alapaca DK

Passegiata Shawl

This is another beautiful knitted shawl, that looks really effective but is oh so simple, just lots of knit rows and increases. We had a long drive down to Devon, and it’s a perfect travel or netflix bingeing knit. I knitted it in the same Malabrigo Rastita that I knitted the Shift Cowl in above.

This is a lovely lightweight shawl and would be perfect for summer evenings or weddings.

Pattern available here

Guernsey Wrap

I’ve knitted this wrap 4 times now, using 3 different yarns. It’s a simple pattern just made up of knits and purls. As a shawl, it’s very wearable either as a big chunky scarf or draped round your shoulders in the evening. My favourite yarn to knit it in has been this WYS Croft in this glorious orange colour. The yarn is available here and the pattern here.

Things to do in Shropshire this Autumn

We’re heading into one of my favourite times of the year here at Hopton House Bed and Breakfast in Shropshire. The trees are beginning to change colour and the nights are drawing in. But there are still lots of things to do in Shropshire this autumn and winter.

Hopton House B&B is perfectly situated to explore Shropshire, Herefordshire and Powys. Check availability and book securely online here.

It’s time to take long walks in the countryside, explore local market towns for unique Christmas gifts and then come back to a long bath and an evening in front of the fire at  a local country pub. Take a look at my suggestion for 5 walks in the Shropshire Countryside blog post for some ideas.

Leafless winter trees against a blue sky with wispy clouds

Or, if you prefer not to go out in the evening, you can order one of our platters to enjoy in your room. Then spend an evening curled up on one of the sofas in the room, reading, knitting or just watching some TV.

There was a time when the countryside shut down over the winter, but not anymore. There are many fairs and events to enjoy. In fact far too many for me to blog about here. I’ve added a few to my Hopton House B&B Facebook Page here.

Hergest Croft Gardens

Hergest Croft Gardens are a 35 minutes drive south of us at Kington in Herefordshire. Our favourite drive down there weaves along the welsh border, via Knighton, with beautiful views to the West. And now is the perfect time to visit with the spectacular autumn colour. They are open daily from 12 to 17.30 until Sunday 3rd November. Dogs are welcome on leads.
To quote their website

 “Hergest Croft Gardens extend over 28 ha (70 acres) with more than five thousand rare trees and shrubs.  Described as “one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the British Isles”, the Gardens hold the UK National Collections of Maples, Birches and Zelkovas. The six distinct areas are Hergest Croft, the Azalea Garden, the Maple Grove, the Kitchen Garden, the Park and Park Wood”

Colourful autumn leaves under a tree

Arley Arboretum

Another must for the autumn months is Arley arboretum, which sits on the banks of the River Severn at Upper Arley, and is one of the oldest and most spectacular arboreta in the country. It’s about 55 minutes drive from Hopton House and dogs are welcome on lead. You could combine it with a day out on the Severn Valley railway, which has a stop at Arley. It’s open 10-5, Wednesday to Sunday until 3rd November.

NT Croft Castle

Croft Castle is one of our favourite places to visit with Saffy the dog. It’s just 25 minutes south of us. There’s lots of lovely walking in the parkland and woods, including a walk up to the top of an Iron Age Hill Fort, with magnificent views. There’s a lot of deciduous trees there so the autumn colours will soon be very special there.

They also run lots of events during the autumn and winter, including an Ancient Tree Walk om 19th and 20th October. This is a guided autumnal walk through the parkland. From the 16th November, the house will be decorated for a 1940’s Christmas. And on 7th and 8th December they are running Christmas wreath making workshops. More details of all their events here

Powis Castle

Powis Castle is beautiful at any time of year, but the gardens take on a very special beauty in the autumn and winter months. 

Powis Castle

Dogs at Powis

Dogs aren’t allowed at Powis Castle in the summer months, but from October through to March they relax the rules. From October through to December, dogs are allowed in the gardens on Thursdays and Fridays, then every day from January through to March. So, this is an ideal time to visit if you like to come away with your four legged friend

Christmas at Powis

From 30th November you can step back in time and experience a 1940s Christmas. 

Illuminated Gardens

From 6th – 22nd December on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 17.00-21.00, “explore the Formal Garden, Terraces, Orangery and Courtyard which will all be spectacularly lit in a rainbow of colours and glittering with festive cheer.”

If you have any more ideas for things to do in Shropshire this autumn please let me know! Check availability and book soon if you want to enjoy autumn at Hopton House B&B Shropshire.

Things to do in Shropshire this Autumn

Granola Recipe

I’ve tried quite a few granola recipes in my 15 years of running a B&B. And this is one is our favourites. Our guests love it and it’s what Rob has every morning for his breakfast, on top of chopped banana and natural Greek yoghurt.

This granola recipe is full of healthy nuts and seeds, as well as heart friendly oats, healthy oils and no refined sugar. If you make it with gluten free oats, then its gluten free. I make it with maple syrup, so it will be suitable for my vegan guests. But you could easily substitute the syrup for honey.

You don’t need to be too exact with the ingredients. If I find I’m missing some of the dry ingredients ( with the exception of the oats of course ), I just leave them out. And speaking of oats, it really works best with jumbo rolled oats. If you’re in America, you might find them called rolled or old fashioned oats.

I make a big batch of granola and store it in a couple of large kilner jars. It never lasts more than 2 weeks here, before being eaten, so I can’t guarantee how it long it will stay fresh. But I’d say about a month at least.

Ingredients

  • 400g jumbo rolled oats
  • 100g chopped brazil nuts
  • 100g chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 100g flaked almonds
  • 100g sunflower seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 25g chia seeds
  • 75g milled flaxseed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 125ml sunflower or coconut oil
  • 125ml maple syrup or honey

Method

Preheat an oven to 160 degrees celsius

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Warm the sunflower oil and maple syrup together, add the vanilla extract and then pour onto the dry ingredients. Mix really well.

Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. The baking parchment needs to hang over all of the edges of the baking tray, so you can easily pick it up and pour the finished granola into you jar once it’s cooled.

Pour the granola onto the baking tray and put into the oven. It will probably take about 30 minutes. Stir it a couple of times during the cooking time and make sure it doesn’t get too brown.

Maple Nut Granola Recipe - A blue pottery bowl of granola with blueberries in front of  jar of granola and a bowl of yogurt

5 Best Breakfast Recipes from Hopton House

5 Best Breakfast Recipes 

I’ve been running Hopton House Bed and Breakfast here in Shropshire for 15 years now. I have no idea how many breakfasts I’ve cooked, but it’s quite a few! Here are the top 5 breakfast recipes.

Guests often ask me for my recipes, thinking they may all be secret. However, I’m always happy to share and have written nearly all of them up here and on another blog. I thought I’d link back to the 5 Best Breakfast Recipes in this blog.

Each morning, at the B&B,  I load the buffet table up with freshly squeezed orange juice, local apple juice, homemade nut granola, homemade white and granary bread to toast, natural Greek yoghurt, freshly prepared fruit, a fruit compote such as blueberry and lime and some sort of baked good, such as banana bread or muffins.

To start their breakfast, my guests can also order porridge, which I slow cook in the bottom of the AGA or bircher museli – oats soaked overnight in apple juice with Greek yoghurt and grated apple ( recipe below ).

It’s rare that guests then don’t go on to have some sort of cooked breakfast. Of course, there’s the full English but I also offer lots of breakfast specials such as Eggs Benedict or Buttermilk Pancakes. If I know in advance that guests are vegan, vegetarian or can’t eat some foods, I also offer a few extra options.

These recipes are some of the favourites that my guests enjoy. I’ll be writing another blog post soon linking to some more.

Apple and Blackberry Pancakes

5 Best Breakfast Recipes - 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 is perfect in autumn when the hedgerows are heaving with blackberries and the apples are just ripening. The recipe uses my favourite pancake recipe and adds a blackberry and apple compote.

Find the recipe here

Healthy Breakfast Bowl

5 Best Breakfast Recipes - Healthy breakfast bowl recipe. Turn overnight oats into a healthy breakfast bowl by adding berries, nuts, banana and seeds

I’ve converted a lot of my guests to bircher muesli over the years. It’s a fabulous healthy but delicious breakfast recipe, which you can make several days ahead. If you’re too busy in the morning to make breakfast, it’s great to have sitting in the fridge ready to eat or take it to work with you! It’s full of all the foods that are really good for you like heart friendly oats and apples and tummy friendly natural yoghurt.

Find the recipe here

Banana Bread

5 Best Breakfast Recipes - Easy cinnamon swirl banana bread recipe. A quick and delicious breakfast bread which tastes just as good made with gluten free flour

I like to put some baked goods on the breakfast buffet table. One of my favourites and probably the easiest is this banana bread. It smells wonderful, keeps getting better for several days and uses up those overripe bananas!

Find the recipe here

Lemon Drizzle Cake

5 Best Breakfast Recipes - A lemon drizzle cake sliced on an olive wood chopping board, with lemon slices and a bowl of sugarwood

Ok, this isn’t strictly a breakfast recipe, but this is the cake waiting for my B&B guests when they arrive. It would actually work well as a sweet breakfast cake. This recipe is based on Mary Berry’s Lemon Drizzle Cake, but I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it my own

Find the recipe here

Gluten Free Oat and Banana Pancakes

5 Best Breakfast Recipes - a stack of gluten free banana pancakes with raspberries, nuts and maple syrup

If you’re avoiding gluten, these gluten free banana pancakes are really nice. They are quick to prepare with just a few ingredients and they taste really good, even for the gluten eaters!

Find the recipe here

I have lots more breakfast recipes on a separate blog here http://shropshirebreakfast.blogspot.com/

Happy Birthday to Hopton House!

On 24th July, Hopton House B&B celebrated its 15th birthday Happy Birthday to Hopton House!

It was on that day in 2004 that we opened the doors to our first guest, who happened to be the hotel inspector – a baptism by fire! She awarded us a 4 star rating with a silver award, and 4 years later we went on to receive a 5 star gold award.

In that time, we’ve welcomed many hundreds of wonderful guests to the B&B. I decided to leave the rating scheme, as I’m not really a 5 star landlady. And quite a few people told me that they are put off by a 5 star rating, worrying the B&B will be too formal. Those of you that have visited will know that we’re anything but formal.

My aim is to create a warm, contemporary, welcoming and relaxing space for guests, whilst indulging my love of wildlife ( the garden is designed to be wildlife friendly ) and my dogs ( only 1 dog right now but hopefully that will change soon ).

I’m delighted to say that this year about 70% of the guests staying have visited us before, which is far more important to me than a few stars 🙂

Images of Hopton House - dog friendly B&B Shropshire

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 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.