There is one feature that will unite the Jurassic coastal sites we visit during our week in the Scarborough area. There will always be a walk down to the shore and a bit of a puff back to the cars. The first beach we visit is Boggle Hole at the southern end of Robin Hoods Bay, an SSSI known for its fossils.
For us it offers a wide platform with shallow terracing which allows us to range over the shore and down to the kelp zone in search of marine life in general and molluscs in particular. Paula Lightfoot is a whizz at finding nudibranchs. We all tend to acquire a penchant for particular molluscan groups and she has a knack for spotting the tiniest jelly blobs which do their nudibranch thing when you place them in seawater, opening their ‘petals’ like so many bright aquatic flowers. We score at least 8 species of sea slug on this shore and will go on to record them at every site we visit. Although we all take our own pictures, Sonia could be viewed as the official photographer. With her camera ever at the ready she finds old friends and makes new encounters in the marine life at our feet. She snaps conchologists at work, and captures the magnificence of the coast we are working along. She generously shares her photos with me and they provide a wonderful record to look through after one’s time on the shore of the day is over.
With samples in our buckets we haul up the slope as far as the Youth Hostel stopping for a beverage and thence to the lab to sort, stabilise and examine. Here is an opportunity for us to see how painstakingly Ian Smith retrieves minute specimens from the weeds and hydroids he collects, the care he takes in housing his specimens in small tubs and stowing them in the fridge, so that they might make the perilous journey back to Stockport to await their moment of fame before the camera.
Saturday morning and there is much scurrying around at The Old Workshop. We face a 6+ hour journey north and would like to arrive no later than 6pm and preferably earlier. We are pretty much used to leaving the house to her devices when we travel, but this time there will be guests in our absence; Ted is bringing his parents and South African grandparents for a long weekend.
The trip is uneventful and at last we find our way to Manor Farm in Hutton Buschel, a rather smart village just off the York-Scarborough road. Here we will share a week with friends with whom we have had similar sojourns at the beginning of September in such spaces as Skye, Pembroke, Roundstone, and last year in an NT lighthouse at Hartland Point. Theoretically it is all about seashores and in practice we enjoy a week of lively conversation and gastronomy. We like to cook, and it is my turn on Saturday evening.
We are not required to present ourselves at the lab. in Scarborough until Sunday evening so a walk in Raincliffe Woods allows us to stroll and catch up with each other. The area is a mixed woodland area designated as Planted Ancient Woodland, and combined with Forge Valley Woods is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There are fungi about, notably Russula, my favourite toadstools not least because they provide an opportunity to search for the Lemon Slug (Malacolimax tenellus) a fungivore with a rather limited geographical distribution in the British Isles. Anyhow I do not find it but it is an excellent photo opportunity which I seize.
After supper Bas, Terry and I drive over to the lab to catch up with the other field trip participants and meet Paula Lightfoot, our convener.
Crossing to Dorset we know we have a very busy few days ahead of us. We need to drive over to Southborne for dental appointments and will eat supper with Maddy and Andrew that evening. As it happens on the return journey we have found Parasol mushrooms in our usual place so I will cook garlic mushrooms for the Dukes, and the Palmers. I had brought some field mushrooms back with us which we ate for lunch. These have been growing on Georgy’s lawn at Reville but he has been uncertain whether they are edible species or not. Evidently yes, they are certainly a good Agaricus species.
To say thank you to Celia for having watered the plants during our absence, we take her and Eamonn into Dorchester for a curry at the Rajpoot ….. what has happened to our dietary resolve?!! As we tuck into mouthwatering dishes there is comfort in the knowledge that the following day we must walk the route we plan for the Winterborne K walkers. We need exercise badly; we are both battling with a bit of weight that needs to be shed. It is not much but we know that if we cannot shift these 4 surplus kilos each that we are carrying soon they will become part of our corporeal scenery, something we do not want.
The route needs to be ‘specked’ out because I walked our chosen route with Maddy back in March with loads of time to re-walk it with Nick to showcase it to him and also to check out the descent back to the field centre at Lower Kingcombe, headquarters of Dorset Wildlife Trust. Such has been the busyness of the year that we are in September with a month to spare before the real thing.
It is a circular route over Kingcombe Downs and Meadows. We accomplish the walk, a good 5 miles, in 3 hours with stops. We stop to admire the berries, grazing as we go, and the house martins as they assemble on the roof and associated wires of a lone house, the trout in the lee of a small stone bridge and such fungi as there are, and none of these are for the pot. Getting back to the Centre, where I admire the carved wooden birds on display there, it seems that we can eat a lunch at the Centre after our walk which will be a bit different from usual but at least the ‘Baked Potato’ and ‘Ham, Egg and Chips’ Brigades will be well served.
On Friday evening I meet up with Celia, Chris and Sally in the Greyhound where we agree plans for the Bridge weekend we are going to have at the beginning of November. The tutor is going to come to the village, stay at The Old Workshop and give us four 2-hour sessions. For me this is a once and for all attempt to learn Bridge sufficiently well to play the game and learning with a group of friends who all live within spitting distance is ideal. My biggest challenge will be to remember what I learn. Otherwise it’s “Anyone for Snap?”
The Perryman holiday progresses. Charlotte takes a day out for an interview in Paris whilst Ted and Ry climb the Eiffel Tower then take lunch on a boat trip down the Seine. Ted enjoys fishing trips with his grandfather and brings mackerel, red gurnard, whiting and Pollack to the kitchen. He is in on the game of mastering a technique for fishing sand eels. He is the personification of glee when a line of the little wrigglers is brought on board. We turn some of these into a sand eel ceviche which involves the incredibly fiddly business of filleting the eels and marinading them in the same way we marinade filleted mackerel. When we eat chez Poulet at the weekend Nick’s sand eel appetiser is much appreciated.
We distribute our smoked mackerel pate wherever we are invited to eat; the last four days involve a Friday night fish supper with the Perrymans at Criee du Tomahawk, Saturday evening chez Poulet, Sunday lunch chez Taille. Then Monday lunchtime is spent with the Daniells and the Lerminez chez nous when I serve a fish pie and Tanou provides a delicious fruit tart for dessert. There is time for a swim at Le Dranguet, a bodhran session for Nick and Anne and then we drive out to Reville to enjoy a cosy supper with Bri and Georgy. She cooks us a delicious chicken and mushroom risotto and what I love is that it is flavoursome through all the ingredients. She has used a good bouillon. Over our meal we lay plans for our jaunt to the Loire to do the Chateau trail.
On Tuesday evening we board the ferry with a determination to eat less and lose some weight! I am afraid we have found that ‘Appetite comes with eating; the more one has, the more one would have.’
These dry summer weeks the garden has best been left alone….. apart from the pots and hanging baskets which are demanding children, flagging if not ministered unto. In particular the hanging baskets into which I planted salad leaf, and young basils; out of date seeds I found languishing in my basket of plant labels and cut up tights. They have provided pickings to mix into the constant stream of green salads which I make up as substitutes for other more calorific fillers.
But it rained the other day, finely and persistently and what a difference that hydration episode has made. The lawn is green and all the plants look as if they are now going to grow a bit more. We are definitely going to get a second show of delphiniums, my gorgeous blue boys who echo the azure heads of agapanthus.
I could spend many hours cutting back and weeding but time is a bit short so I concentrate on potting up young Echium and Helleborus plants to order, and put the Cerinthe and ?Hollyhock/Malva seedlings into the Yucca bed where I hope they will survive snail predation and progress to their next stage.
The great ripening of figs which we have enjoyed comes to an abrupt end, and we pick Victoria plums as they are ready until that crop is spent. I have not been bothering to buy any other fruit. We might just get a picking or two of our late raspberries before we leave at the end of August…….. wait and see.
August days trickle past. Anne and I aim to swim at Le Dranguet every day, which target we more or less achieve despite a decline in air temperature and an increase in cloudy skies and windy intervals. When Tatane comes to stay with Anne and Francois, she joins us for a swim too. We now enter the sea boldly, wade out and plunge under without ado.
The Perrymans settle into a holiday regimen. Not so much time is spent on the beach as last year, it just ain’t quite hot enough! But CJ and Ry discover a pleasure in games of tennis on the courts down by La Hougue. They cycle a lot. After our first Potjie evening I book the Perryman duo for two Potjies more. On Friday evening Brigitte and Georgy eat with us, en famille style, after Bri spends the afternoon attending to the nails on our hands and feet. The Ps produce the seafood version of yestereve, preceded by chipolatas to nibble with drinks, and after the contents of their cauldron, we eat BBQ steaks. And a peach tart from Gibon :)
The evening is happily rounded off when we play some games of pool. Ted, diminutive and Hobbit-like, approaches the table when it is his turn and wows the adults with his prowess; some mysterious, Gandalf-like being periodically swoops in for a bit of ball adjustment!!
And then we start all over on Sunday with a lunching event chez nous when the Magic Cooking Pot is called into service again and I say “Cook, little pot, cook” and it does!………. Belly pork, sweet and regular potatoes, black-eye beans, shallots simmer in juices flavoured with spices and fridge jar emptyings. Together with rice and red cabbage we offer this to the Tailles and the Tuttles and we rollick our way through a sunny Sunday afternoon. Quelle Bonheur.
Yes the Perrymans are back for another action-packed seaside holiday…. with a bit of good food and wine thrown in.
A super-excited granny scooped up a bundle of glee when the car pulled up in front of the house. Cue for lots of beach-oriented stuff like proper swimming in the sea, shrimping around Nick’s boats for prawns to keep in a mini-aquarium, kayaking. The structures around the recently pruned mimosa provide tree-climbing moments. The guys went fishing on Friday and caught mackerel. Cue for a mackerel fest; we now add ceviche of mackerel to our repertoire.
Market day was an ordeal to be worked through. It’s a bank holiday weekend here so the thoroughfare between the stalls either side of the ‘high street’ is packed. Fortunately I am feeling leisurely and in my wanderings find an amazing stall selling olives, tapenades and other preserved goodies. The adjacent stall has a wonderful variety of tomatoes.
Nick is at sea, Ryan services bikes, so after lunch CJ, Ted and I head for the beach at Le Dranguet to join Anne and Tatane where we all swim. In the evening the Tuttles join us for an apero and Ted meets their grandchildren, Emma and Matteo.
Netting the prawns was a fun moment. It being high tide we were not able to get low enough on the shore to turn a few rocks to look for small invertebrates for the tank. Instead Nick took Ted and me to the pontoon from which he moors his boat where we lowered nets into the water and ran them along the weed which grows along the submerged wooden structure. In just a few minutes we had caught about 50. Back at the house we put them in the small glass aquarium where Ted watched their antics and we talked about the prawn body plan and how they earn living. The following day we cooked the largest for our fish soup and returned the rest to the sea.
On Sunday evening I roast two chickens and we feast. On Monday Charlotte and Ryan provide a fabulous BBQ of swordfish and bream and a seafood potjkie which I would be quite happy to dive into and spend the rest of the week grazing. It’s like I said, good times, good food :)