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Essentially England News - A Roadtrip with a Tasty Finale
April 07, 2017

A Roadtrip with a Tasty Finale

Welcome all to this month’s newsletter. I’m happy to report that, at least in our corner of England, it’s very much looking like spring. A few days of lovely sunshine and suddenly everything is blooming. And I'm once more reminded how many different shades of the colour white there are. At least when it comes to blossom. The thorns have been busy flowering for a while, the sloes are making the hedgerows look as if there’s been a sharp frost and now the fruit trees add a tiny hint of pink to the landscape. Apart from the white, the primroses are taking over my garden and the first of the tulips was brave enough to unfurl its petals.

Spring Blossom ©

It’s a far cry from March with its days of rain and even flurries of snow, but March was a good month regardless. For us, it was a month to look both ways. We celebrated our silver anniversary with a roadtrip up north to Scotland, reminiscing over places we’d visited before, but also going down a few new avenues, to make memories for the next 25 years. Two of those new discoveries I’d like to share with you.

First Up... Carlisle

Close to the border with Scotland and just off the M6 motorway, Carlisle is a place that had long been on our must-see list. Problem is, when you're on the way to somewhere in Scotland, it's often not sensible to stop. This time around, we made it part of our trip - and I'm really glad we did. Until we talked to our landlady at the Warwick Lodge Guest House - and if you need a place to stay in Carlisle, we very highly recommend the lodge! - we didn't know that Carlisle was England's biggest city! Okay, not by population, which is around 100,000. But it covers approximately 400 square miles and that's a lot more than any other city in England. Fun fact, that.

Carlisle City © Besides this claim to fame, Carlisle has a varied and sometimes rather bloody history. Not surprising seeing it's situated only a few miles from the Scottish border. The castle once housed a captive Mary, queen of Scots, and - not at the same time, of course - the clansmen captured after the Battle of Culloden during the 1745 uprising. They were held in rather horrendous conditions, crammed together in windowless storerooms until they left Carlisle Castle on their last journey to the gallows and a traitors' death.

Carlisle's cathedral, as one would expect, is a much more peaceful spot. Begun in the 1120s, when the wooden motte-and-bailey castle was rebuilt in stone, it is the second-smallest cathedral in England. Don't pass it by when you visit, though. Go in and take a look at the painted ceiling and medieval painted wooden screens. Listen to the organ or a choral service and make sure you take the stairs down into the treasury. It's worth it.

I'm pleased we stopped in Carlisle, even if it was just for a little while. It's a friendly town full of surprising nooks and crannies that you could spend days exploring. There's plenty of shopping, too, and a huge range of places to eat out. And seeing we now know a lovely guest house, I could imagine that we'll go back one of these days. There's Roman history and quite a few sites and sights we haven't explored yet!

And a Tasty Twist...

On the way back south, we'd planned in another stop in a town we'd not visited before: Penrith. We'd skirted around it during our coast to coast tandem tour a few years back, but since that was all about tiny roads without traffic and fewer people, we hadn't stopped. I'm glad we've now rectified this omission, since Penrith was delightful, even if we only had a morning to explore. We stayed at the Premier Inn right in the centre of town, also a first, and I have to say it: their advertising campaign speaks nothing but the truth. Very comfortable room and everything you could possibly need to recover from a long drive south in driving rain and the occasional flurry of snow.

In the morning, we went to explore Penrith and imagine my delight when we found two things I love: a castle with a connection to Richard III and a food festival! There's unfortunately little left of Penrith Castle, but it served as Richard's base while he was Lord of the North, and I could imagine myself walking in his footsteps.

I wonder what he'd have said to the railway station opposite.

The centre of Penrith is made for exploring. It consists of a raft of small squares linked by tiny alleys and only slightly wider streets and is filled with a bevvy of small independent shops and plenty of eateries from cafes to pubs to restaurants. We couldn't fail to note the decidedly orange theme to the town's decor and soon found that we'd stumbled into the annual marmalade festival.

Marmalade stalls all over, produce merchants, street entertainers and much food made a colourful end to our quick meander through Penrith. And -of course - we couldn't leave without tasting some of the food on offer. Not when the cooking smells made our mouths water and we had hours on the motorway ahead of us. The local specialty is, of course, Cumberland sausage - and for that Saturday morning, it had been adapted to fit with the festival's marmalade theme.

Cumberland sausage with marmalade admittedly sounds a little strange, but turned out surprisingly tasty. The marmalade didn't go on top as I thought - that's chilli sauce in the picture - but into the sausage mix itself. Yes, I could taste it. And yes, it worked.

Cumberland sausage with marmalade at the annual Penrith Marmalade Festival

I've never made sausages before - and I'm not sure I ever will - but the combination of crispy, grilled sausage and bitter orange marmalade was something I took away from the day. And with the weather getting warmer and barbecue season not too far off, I'm thinking of red onion and marmalade relish, or an apple, chili and marmalade barbecue sauce to accompany grilled pork sausages. If it works, I will report back with the results. And if anyone has any savoury recipes featuring bitter orange marmalade, please share!

And Next Month …

For the moment, this is all from us. April is a great month, since a) it's getting warmer and brighter and b) towards the end of the month we'll get the first English asparagus. And that, as you all probably know by now, is a highlight of my year.

Until then, please take care.

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