Back to Back Issues Page
Essentially England News, September 2010 - Ancient Battles and Autumn Colours
September 30, 2010

Ancient Battles and Autumn Colours

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.

It's beginning to feel a lot like... autumn. Delicate mist blankets the garden outside my study window, college has started and we're contemplating moving house. I can't wait for the trees to turn colour and suddenly look forward to long solitary walks - something that doesn't really appeal to me in the middle of summer. Apple cake and plum jam are made and it's on to the blackberries and sloes next. Autumn is wonderful!

What's New at Essentially England?

The site makeover is almost done - another couple of weeks or so - and I thank you for all the patience you've shown and the many mails with comments and encouragements. It helped make a lot of work go that much faster.

At this time of year, visitor questions tend to go in two directions: the best places to visit and stay during autumn and winter, and Christmas gifts.

I've revamped the Christmas section of the site and will add new bits and gift ideas for England, history and food lovers as I find them.

As for places to visit - it's the section I'm working on right now. Have you ever considered watching a pennyfarthing race? For the non-English, a pennyfarthing is an ancient bicycle with one very large and one very tiny wheel - named after two old English coins. I'm told they're very tricky to ride, so watching a bunch of them racing should really be a sight.

Travel Tips and Reviews

Travelling through England during the autumn and winter can be very rewarding, especially if you like city breaks. London is always a favourite, but if you've a bent for history you might also want to consider York, Winchester, Salisbury, Canterbury and Norwich.

All boast cathedrals, castles and some impressive museums. There's excellent shopping and even better food. And not far outside each there's glorious countryside.

Travelling in the autumn and winter means hotels are less crowded and holiday cottages are cheaper and often available for weekend breaks. Check out Places to Stay in England for a selection of hotels and wonderful evocative cottages.

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

Just because it's getting colder and the nights are drawing in doesn't mean you have to stop exploring England. There are a few historical gems that are all the more wonderful at this time of year.

Head to Battle Abbey near Hastings in Sussex on October 9th and 10th to celebrate one of the most decisive events in English history: the Norman Conquest. This year, English Heritage, the guardians of the site, hosts an enormous re-enactment of the famous ancient battle between King Harold and William of Normandy. It's a little ahead of the actual date, October 14th, but will be truly spectacular.

Alternatively, you could celebrate King Harold Day at Waltham Abbey on October 16th. Harold Godwineson owned Waltham. When he fell ill with a fever following a campaign in Wales, he recovered when prayers were said for him in Waltham. Once recovered, he rebuilt the church and has been associated with Waltham Abbey ever since. King Harold Day celebrates this association with music and re-enactments, with talks and exhibits. It makes a truly great day out!

If your mind is not so much turned to ancient battles and long lost kings, but you would rather enjoy spectacular autumn colours and good food, then make your way to Stourhead. It's one of England's grandest landscape gardens - and to my mind best visited in autumn, when the colours are simply glorious.

Broadsworth Hall in South Yorkshire is equally famous for spectacular autumn colours, especially the gold of its beech trees. Set against the deep green of evergreens, the vibrant gold colour just sings out to your soul.

Recipe of the Month - Blackberry Vodka

My mind is turning towards the first frost and the joys of harvesting sloes and making sloe gin. While I'm waiting for the season to close in, blackberries are at their best. And they can be used to make a similarly intriguing concoction.

Blackberry Vodka doesn't quite have the subtle, mysterious undertones you can expect from fully matured sloe gin, but it makes a very tasty aperitif.

You need the absolutely ripest blackberries, enough to fill a bottle or decorative jar. Rinse the blackberries carefully and layer into the jar with slivers of lemon rind.

Add 1 tablespoon of sugar per 250g / 1/2 pound of blackberries. Ripe blackberries have so much natural sugar, that you don't need much. Fill the bottle or jar with vodka and give it a good shake.

Keep the blackberry vodka in a dark, cool place. Shake daily for a week, then once a week. Your mix should take about 8 weeks to be ready. The blackberries will be almost disintegrated and the vodka will have turned a deep ruby colour. Strain very carefully through muslin into a decorative bottle or jar.

I like blackberry vodka served chilled in sherry glasses as an aperitif. But it also makes a good mixer with fizz and a sliver of lemon rind.

And Next Month …

Hopefully, October will see the site makeover complete. And once I've recovered from than I'm planning to add lots of new traditional recipes and lots more history.... Hope you'll stay with me.

Until then, keep well and think of England…

P.S. If you think that some of your friends or colleagues might like to read our newsletter, then please forward them this mail. They can read newsletter back issues and subscribe here.

Back to Back Issues Page