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Essentially England News, November / December 2009 - Birthdays, Normans and a Smoking Bishop
December 09, 2009

Birthdays, Normans and a Smoking Bishop

A 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.

Itís dark and damp outside and weíre closing in on Christmas. Thereís the usual raft of minor disasters Ė phone line dead and DVD player not working when wanted Ė plus the worries about what food to have in the house over the festivities.

Apart from all that Ö weíre doing peachy. Essentially England will celebrate its second birthday next Monday and weíre celebrating in style. For the first time ever we topped 1000 visitors a day! Thanks to all of you who keep looking us up and who spread the word about Essentially England!

We really appreciate you!

What's New at Essentially England?

Iíve fallen in love with the Normans all over again! Itís still one of my favourite periods in English history. Just imagine living through all these changes! Also, I was being asked a lot of questions about life in Norman England, the conquest and Ė of course Ė Norman castles. Answering each individually takes a lot of time, so instead the Norman England section is seeing a revamp that I hope will make it more user friendly.

Thereís now an A-Z listing of Norman castles in England, which Iíll be extending as we research / visit them. Iíve also added a Who is Who of the Norman kings of England, for those who are interested to find out what happened after William the Conqueror died.

And if you have a question about England youíll know where to come to ask it, donít you?

Travel Tips and Reviews

For our holidays, we love exploring different parts of the country. Usually, we take the tandem and rent a cottage somewhere remote.

The cottage rental company we know best and have used for years is English Country Cottages and Iíve recently become one of their affiliates. They allow me to feature their cottages, while they pay me a commission when someone books through my site. It means more exposure for their many terrific cottages, while it helps us with the costs of running Essentially England.

For my first attempt at this Iíve naturally picked my favourite England county: Northumberland. And youíll easily recognise all my favourite places: Seahouses, Rothbury, Otterburn, the Cheviots and the coast around Lindisfarne.

Iíve tried to find a good selection of small and large properties and, as usual, I tend to veer towards the whimsical or slightly unusual. Please take a look and, maybe, let me know what you think?

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

Food festivals and Christmas Markets abound at this time of year, but there are a few gems for history lovers, too. These two ideas make great days out, but they could also double as a rather unusual Christmas gift for someone with a historical bend.

If youíre anywhere near Dover, make a point at visiting the Henry II exhibition in the Great Tower. English Heritage have really gone to town, trying to recreate the space as it would have looked in Henryís time. Iím sure the amount of colour and pomp will surprise you! And during December you can really experience the atmosphere with a traditional Christmas lunch followed by a special guided tour of the Great Tower. With blazing log fires and castle chambers dressed with sumptuous tapestries, experience the atmosphere of a medieval royal court in winter. Pre-booking necessary, please ring 01304 211067 for more information.

If stone circles, hill forts and barrows get you going, then why not go see Stonehenge in a way you've never seen it before?

On Wednesday, 31st March 2010, English Heritage offers its members a chance of a Stonehenge tour with a difference. Led by an English heritage expert, you'll visit Durrington Walls, The Cursus and Woodhenge, finding out all about the recent digs that have taken place on the sites. The highlight of the tour, though, is access to the famous stone circle itself. While you'd usually have to stay on the walkway and behind the ropes, on that one day you can get close up and personal with the stones.

The tour runs between 3pm and 7pm, includes afternoon tea and costs £23. You can book it by calling 0870 333 1183.

And if you or the person you're planning to surprise are not English Heritage members, why not add English Heritage Membership subscription to your gift. Amongst the many benefits are special member events like the Stonehenge tour and free entry to over 100 castles and historic sites in England.

Recipe of the Month - Smoking Bishop

I was going to suggest a very special take on bread and cheese this month, but itís so cold and damp outside that I think something warming and tasty would be much more the thing. And Iíve just come across this marvellous collection of historical drinks recipesÖ.

Smoking Bishop gets a mention right at the end of Dickensí A Christmas Carol, and seems to have been well known to the Victorians. It seems a bit of a lengthy process for making a hot drink, and Iíve no idea which bishop lent his name to the concoction, but it sounds tasty enough.

For four people youíll need:

  • 15 cloves
  • 1/2 bottle of ruby port
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 50g / 2oz sugar
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 2 oranges

Bake the grapefruit and oranges in a medium oven until flecked with brown, then stick them with the cloves.

In a large saucepan warm the wine with the sugar, then add the clove-studded oranges and grapefruit. Steep on a low heat for three hours or so.

Strain the wine through a sieve into a clean pan. Squeeze the oranges and grapefruit and add the juice to the wine.

When about to serve add the port to the mix and reheat the whole. Donít boil the Smoking Bishop or it will lose all of its potency! Just get it hot and serve in large warmed mugs or heat-proof glasses.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

And Next Month Ö

If the feedback is good, Iíll find more cottages in other parts of the country. Apart from that all will be Norman for a whileÖ.

Until then, keep well and think of EnglandÖ

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