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Essentially England News, October 2008 -- Barge Cruises and Christmas Chocolates
October 23, 2008

Barge Cruises and Christmas Chocolates

Welcome to the October edition of Essentially England News!

And an especially cheerful welcome to everyone who subscribed to Essentially England News during the last month!
Here you'll find England news, site news, travel tips, reviews and our Recipe of the Month, all in one easy-to-digest email.

October has been a proper autumn month. The leaves on the trees have started to turn, there's a real snap in the air in the morning … and we've had days and days of the most glorious sunshine! We've done our last tandem tour of the year: a ride straight from home to a lovely little Saxon church, complete with a picnic lunch in the churchyard.

I had really looked forward to celebrating King Harold Day at Waltham Abbey this year, but a stomach bug and a missing cat put paid to that idea. Well, there's always next year and I'm happy to report that Oscar's back, safe and sound. The only remaining mystery is where he spent his four days of furlough!

What's New at Essentially England?

Three new sections have made their first appearance on the site this month.

For all book lovers, there's now a dedicated England books page. Here you can read reviews of my favourite books, and browse themed selections of England books that I'm pulling together into a number of bookstores. At the moment, there's one for Books about Prehistoric England, and a new for lovers of English food. I've collected together books and DVDs by my favourite chefs and real traditional cookery books. There are also a few good 'foody' reads, for when you have time to sit down and put your feet up.

The England Holidays section has finally gone live. Here you can find ideas for walking, cycling and driving tours. You can read about boating holidays, as in the barge cruise story that American journalist Kathy Newbern submitted to the site, or imagine yourself touring the castles and beautiful coastline of Northumberland.

I know Christmas is still two months away, but I've made a push to put up the Christmas in England section of the site. If you want to keep Christmas stress to a minimum and make your own mincemeat, mince pies or Christmas pudding, it pays to get a head start. Find out what to serve to Santa and his reindeer, pick up a CD of Christmas carols to get you into the mood for the festivities and send a festive e-card to friends and family. Recipes for traditional Christmas dishes, drinks, soups and all manner of snacks can be found on the recipes page. And don't forget to check out the chocolate page, where you can find ideas for Christmas decorations, fun treats and the – for me – ultimate Christmas gift.

Travel Tips and Reviews

After the feedback from last month's newsletter, I've decided to add a page wih money-saving tips for travellers to England. All about making your holiday money go further, which can only be a good thing in these times of economic turmoil.

And here are three to get you started:

If you're planning to travel through England by train over the next few months, check out The Trainline.

  • Train tickets are usually cheaper bought online, but at this time of year there are a limited number of special Christmas fares on offer. Snap them up before they're all sold out! The savings can be quite considerable.
  • If you're planning to do some Christmas shopping in London, you can also find special train + hotel offers on the site which will make the experience much less painful on your wallet.
  • There's also a new tool on the site which will truly benefit the flexible traveller. Select your destination and the approximate date you want to travel and the Cheap Fare Finder will suggest the most cost-effective routes and times for you.

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

The beginning of October sees many towns and villages in the country celebrate Apple Day (or even Apple Week). Apple juice is made along with apple cakes, sauces, puddings, pies and - of course - cider.

Apples also figure at the end of the month, when many Halloween parties sport baked and candied apples.

And along with the Halloween parties come the first Christmas Fairs. Some, like Battle Abbey's Medieval and Tudor Christmas Fairs are wonderful recreations of times gone by, with stallholders in period costume and many traditional crafts on show. Apart from being a fun day out, Christmas Fairs are also a good place to pick up some unusual Christmas gifts.

Recipe of the Month - Mulled Cider

Most people have tried Mulled Wine at one time or another. Redolent of cinnamon, cloves and orange it reminds you of the spirit of Christmas and warms you up wonderfully when the weather turns cold and damp.

But England is rightfully famous for its apples, which have been grown here since before Roman times. And apples are everywhere at the moment. So why not try a hot, spicy drink that's just as old and famous as Mulled Wine? Why not make Mulled Cider?

Just heat a litre of cider with 3-4 cloves, a sliced orange and a cinnamon stick. Don't boil, but steep the spices for 10-20 minutes, or until the cider is beautifully fragrant and spicy.

Add sugar if liked and serve with more orange slices.

If made with apple juice instead of cider, this is an excellent festive drink for the 'designated drivers' or the youngsters in your Halloween party.

And Next Month …

The first item in my November calendar is Guy Fawkes' Night on November 5th. This celebration of 'gunpowder, treason and plot' is dedicated to the hapless Guy Fawkes, who in 1604 tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He failed and was put to death in a particularly gruesome manner. These days, we remember him with bonfire parties and fireworks. If you're in England in November, there's bound to be one near you!

Until next month, keep well and think of England…

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