January letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about teas, preserves and birds in the garden

Teaswhittards teas

I was bought a variety of Whittards loose teas  for Christmas, and I decided that I wanted to test them against some of the teas which I have on offer for my visitors. I always have English Breakfast, Early Grey, Redbush sometimes Chai; the latter is sometimes hard to source in Newport. The selection of teas were tasted by myself and my hubby, Mike.

We tested the two Earl Greys- one Twinings and one Whittards.  We enjoyed them both but both of us thought the Twinings had better flavour and aroma. This derives from the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange. Just in case you are wondering why ‘Earl Grey’? I shall tell you ….  “Earl Grey’s Mixture”, is assumed to be named after Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s and author of the Reform Bill of 1832. Lord Grey reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavoured with bergamot oil

rooibos and earl greyYou can see from this image, why the redbush tea is so named.

We moved onto the standard Whittards breakfast tea and compared with PG Tips. We both agreed that they tasted pretty much the same; so I shall carry on by buying PG Tips, as it is a more reasonable price.
two english breakfasts

I should also mention that in Ironbridge there is a Tea Emporium, which we visited last week, and it is well worth a visit when in the area.


The jams that are on  the breakfast table are all home-made. Usually my own, but occasionally my sister’s. She is a great cook and always experimenting with recipes.  Last year we had Jostaberry jam from her garden on the breakfast table. The Jostaberry is a cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant.

cupsI always have one home-made marmalade on the breakfast table and one home-made jam. The one in the picture here was Fruit of the Forest.

Birds in the Garden


  I was watching Bill Oddie on the TV today and he was  telling us about birds in the garden.  He mention niger seeds and how they attract gold finches. We have niger seeds out for the birds and it is interesting that only the goldfinches seem to eat them. We weren’t aware of any goldfinches in the vicinity until we put out the niger seeds. It took them a while to find the feeder – may 3-4 months – but since then they are frequent visitors. It is so nice to have something colourful in the garden at this time of the year. We also grew some teasels for them but havent seen anything feeding on them as yet.

Another Newport attraction

Always of interest are the auctions at Brettells,  just off the High Street. Viewing is Saturday and Monday and the auctions are always on Tuesdays 10am. Some auctions are general bric a brac , but once a month they have high-class antiques. Here is their calendar for 2015 .  Sometimes they are featured on the Antique Road Trip TV show. See below last summer.


James Braxton Vs Philip Serrell

I look forward to the New Year with anticipation and especially the Spring and the warm weather!
Best Wishes, Linda