November Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about herbs, crab apple jelly and local Christmas events



herb garden

Image courtesy of Newport Town Council web-site

Although it is not often that I use herbs in my breakfast offering, I have plenty of herbs in my garden. In addition we are very fortunate in Newport to be able to use a free community herb garden. I have been making dried mixed herbs recently but my rosemary died last year and my new one is too small to cut. So I went to the community herb garden to pick some sprigs. It’s a lovely quiet spot; well worth taking a seat and having a bit of quiet contemplation; especially in the summer.


herb garden

Taken at the back of our 15th century Guildhall

Crab Apple Jelly

I have been trying another type of jam for my B & B ‘rs. This is free – all from the hedgerow. Doesn’t look very interesting at the start but ends with a beautiful delicately coloured jelly; a lovely jelly set and unusual flavour. I never  made crab apple jelly before, but it was really quite easy.

canal apple tree

Mike looking for crab apples on the ground by our canal. The crab apple tree is on the left.

Firstly, you need to find the crab apples. I did two or three walks before I found a tree.


The recipe is very easy:

For 3 lbs fruit, chop into quarters – no peeling or taking cores out. Put everything in. For 3 lbs fruit, add 1 pint water. Cook them till the fruit is totally mushy. This may take about 45 minutes.


Strain through a jelly cloth – I used a piece of net curtain and suspended it using a good piece if heavy-duty string and suspended the bag on kitchen steps.


I then left it overnight. I put a piece of cling film lightly between the bowl and the bag, just so that no flies or any other debris could get in. The next day I squeezed the bag a little to get some more liquid out. ( Cookery books say not to do this because  you may end up with a hazy jelly, but I don’t think the jelly became hazy).

Similar to all jellies,  you have to measure the liquid and add 1 pound sugar to 1 pint of liquid (Not sure how this works out in metric – but imperial is easy to remember.) Boil briskly and not for very long – about 10 – 15 minutes.


Test for jelling after about 10 minutes ( To do this; put a little liquid on a saucer, put in the fridge and after a couple of minutes, test by running your finger tip along the surface and see if is wrinkles. When it does, switch off heat and pot immediately). You can see my jelly is beautifully clear, and such a delicate apple flavour! Lovely!

I have  made jam this summer from Black Lammas plums, damson, pear & ginger and now crab apple jelly. So plenty of choice for my guests!

Local Christmas markets

We have an abundance of markets. You don’t need to go as far as Birmingham. Here are a few to visit…

23rd November – 23rd December Telford European Christmas Market

2nd December Much Wenlock ChritmasMarket


This stall has two Italian veggie pies

25th – 26th November Ludlow Medieval Christmas market A very British Christmas fair!


Looking forward to December and more unusual foodstuffs to tell you about.

Best wishes,  Linda










January Letter from ‘The Ferns chatting about vegan sausages, being a snow warden and Newport wildlife

Vegan sausages – taste testing

I did a taste testing some time ago  February 2014 which was for a variety of veggie sausages  (veggie and vegan) with a friend. I have been aware of the  Italian sausages from


Tofurkey for a while, and so decided to trial them for my B & B. There are many ways to cook these but I fried them gently. However,  you can boil or grill them as well.The main ingredient is tofu. I get them from Holland & Barrett. The brand  comes from the USA.

Vegi deli is the next product, and I am looking at their Lincolnshire Sausages.  I tried Vegideli before – the sage and marjoram – but this time I tried their Lincolnshire sausages Main ingredients -wheat gluten and soya protein. Vegideli are a UK company.

Because I do Sausage Sandwiches for my B & B guests, I tasted these sausage as sandwiches.


Here are the two types of sausages cooking. Too be honest, now that I am looking at them a couple of weeks after the testing, I can’t tell which is which product!

I added sautéed onion, red pepper and mushrooms to the sandwiches and the result is a nice moist, tasty sandwich; these are on granary bread.

sausage-sandwichnewMike and I then. Here’s me doing the tasting


The result was that the Tofurkey won hands down. It’s an expensive product – but the taste is so flavoursome and intense; chiefly chilli and tomato – a lovely combination. The main ingredient is tofu which really is so good for us (high in protein & calcium) and amazingly, although an American product, it had no GMOs ( genetically modified organism)

Sorry, Vegideli sausages again not able to compete except perhaps on price – you get  double the number of sausages in the Vegideli  pack as in the Tofurkey.

Pity about the Tofurkey name   its a bit silly really, but their sausages were great!

Being a Snow warden

I am really looking forward to the snow, because I am now a volunteer snow warden. I have had delivered my salt, my hi-viz vest, my shovel and gloves. I have  been given instructions about warming up first ,  not getting too cold,  where to put the snow and how to  spread my salt – very thinly apparently!

I broke my ankle 8 years ago and I go very gingerly on snow and ice these days, so I thought that  by clearing the snow and ice from the pavements outside our house I will benefit, not only  people walking into town but myself as well!


Just need the snow!

Newport Wildlife

We are very fortunate to have a canal running through Newport, and every time we walk along it we see a variety of wildlife. These are some of our photos from 2016

The robin (top left) was  on the path last week. He was very brave, standing on a small twig only about a yard from us. We have swans nesting every year ( top right) and this is this years brood, and a heron ( bottom) whom we suspect catches baby ducks as well as fish. Oh dear!

Well that’s it for now.

Just waiting for the snow so that I can demonstrate my snow shovelling skills. Watch this space, there may be more pictures in my February letter.



August letter from The Ferns chatting about Jaspers Oat & Barley bread, The Orchard restaurant, Newport Heritage Trail & a walk to Edgmond

‘Oat and barley bread’ from Jaspers


Some times I buy oat and barley bread for my B & B visitors. I get  all my bread from Jaspers bakery on Newport High Street. They bake their own bread on the premises – from scratch – no part-baked tat – with a proper baker.


One of my visitors enquired about the oat and barley bread ingredients; what were the quantities of oats and barley? So I decided to ask. The reply came – straight from Mr Jasper  – 50% oat and barley , 40% wholemeal wheat and 10% white.  I think that they need to add wheat flour for the gluten to make it rise. This morning I popped in for a small oat & barley bread – still warm!


and we had beans on toast for breakfast. How fresh is this!


However, completely changing the subject . . . how about going in for something completely different

The Orchard -Fine Dining


The Orchard Dining is a fairly recent restaurant on the scene in Newport. In fact, it is the only proper restaurant in Newport. It is on the High Street, and  easily walk-able from ‘The Ferns’ – in say 10 minutes. This is a really smart  restaurant- silver service. Its worth getting there early or booking in advance in order to get a table in the conservatory, which is lovely.

The only problem is that there isnt a great deal of choice for vegetarians.  We chose the two different veggie offerings: gnocchi with a tomato sauce and sweet potato and lentil bake with fresh vegetables. The gnocchi was really delicious.(This is only available on Wednesday and Thursday). My husband had the ‘bake’; it was tasty but a little too small for a man size  appetite. Slightly disappointing at £15.75. My husband said that had he known he would have asked for chips to fill him up! My pudding – Rhubarb and Amaretti sponge pudding – was delicious. The bottle of wine, although it was the cheapest on the menu -a South African Chenin Blanc – was very good.

Anyone staying at ‘The Ferns’ needs to check the menu because it changes every few months. The Orchard says they can easily accommodate special diets, so if you have any queries, just ask!

Heritage Trail

Newport History Society have published a new heritage trail. It covers the centre of the town, which includes Station Road. A copy of the book is available for our visitors to use when they visit. Please don’t take it away with you though! The picture on the front is of cattle being herded down the High Street to the Smithfield Market. This doesnt happen any more although it did until the 1950s

Cattle on the High Street with The Guildhall in the background

If you want a copy of your own or you want to buy a copy for a friend or relation copies can be obtained  at £4.50 from the Guildhall Tea Rooms

Another reason for visiting Guildhall Tea room is  a lovely cup of tea

tea at the guildhall

Walks around Newport

We walk around Newport regularly, and so I each month I shall tell you about  one of our walks. Any visitors can ask for details of any of these walks. Today we did a walk to Edgmond which was perhaps about 4 miles. This is a village near to Newport.

We started off along the western part of the canal and bumped into a swan  lazing on the tow path




At the end of the canal  we simply followed the clearly designated path  across a farm with Aberdeen Angus cattle.

At the end of this track, we turned right into a green lane which led us to Robin lane and thence to Edgmond High Street, where we stopped and visited the Church


I took so many photos of the historic  tombs here that the battery ran out  on my camera and so there are no more photos of the walk after this point!

From the church, however,  we took the footpath nearly opposite, which took us down to the ‘Long Ford’ over the Strine Brook and then back along Longford Road eastwards into Newport. It took us a couple of hours – gently strolling along on a very hot afternoon.

The figs are ripening on our fig tree, waiting for new B & B visitors…

Have a lovely summer


July letter from The Ferns talking about Veggie Pret a Manger, local artist Carole Baker and the restoration of our canal

Veggie Pret a Manger


Pret opened its Little Veggie Pop Up shop on Broadwick Street, Soho on 1st June. It has been almost a year in the making. The objectives were to give our chefs a turbo-challenge to come up with delicious new veggie and vegan options and also to ask our customers what they would like to see end up on Pret’s shelves permanently. We predicted our Veggie Pret shop would see sales drop by up to 30% and the project was expected to be an investment (i.e. a loss maker).It has been so successful that it has been reported the coffee and sandwich store is likely to open more meat-free shops.The chefs created 45 plant-based dishes for the pop-up store in Broadwick Street, and the eight top sellers are all vegan.

Bosses decided to trial the project, called ‘Veggie Pret’, after sales of vegetarian products doubled in 2015.  In the three weeks since it opened  takings are up 70 per cent

Carrot – Pret Veggie Pop Up

Well done Pret a manger!

Carole Baker – local artist and teacher

Quite a few of my guests come to Newport to take part in  painting courses run by Carol Baker She lives about 5 minutes drive from Newport town centre in the countryside at Weston Heath , and several of my guests have enjoyed  and been inspired by her venue and her  exciting  paintings. . She is inspired by the landscape, bold, vibrant colour and texture fascinate her and she strives to create exciting and evocative paintings. Here are three paintings that Carol has allowed me to feature in my blog

 Below Title ‘Woodland Walk’
Acrylic on box canvas 50x50cm
Inspired by one of the many walks close to my studio –  backlit trees at The Lizard

Below Title ‘Bathed in Light’
Acrylic and collage on box canvas 80x80cm
Inspired by a walk from Newport to Gnosall along the railway track (Shropshire)

Linda says “so atmospheric”

Below Title ‘Floating High’
Acrylic and texture on box canvas
Walking at the Stiperstones in Shropshire with the Long Mynd in the distance


Linda says:  I feel as though I’m there – so very high up!

Carol is a busy person: teaching painting workshops, travelling around the country for both inspiration and to take part in exhibitions. She was elected Member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in April 2008. Carole regularly exhibits there and in prestigious art fairs and galleries throughout the UK. She is gaining international recognition following articles published in ‘International Artist’ magazine . She has contributed to a series for The Artist magazine on practical painting techniques in acrylics.

Carol says of her courses  – that they are

•    Friendly and individual tuition.
•    Daily demonstrations and critiques.
•    Course fees: from £65 including all tuition and refreshments.
•    Workshops limited to 6 people unless otherwise stated.
•   Studio based – Full day, 10am – 4pm
•    En Plein Air – Full day, 10am – 5pm
Ideal if you wish to
•    Find fresh ideas and powerful new direction for your work.
•    Recharge your artistic batteries.
•    Meet like-minded artists.


Carole’s workshops are aimed at people who want to ‘loosen up’ and be freer. Carole paints in such a way as to draw the viewer in, to let them decipher certain elements, and therefore, lots of detail need not be laboured over…. just a suggestion of what is there is often all that is needed, making the finished work more exciting, evocative and bold.

She has  her studio open for visits from 28-31 July 2016 .Open 10am-5pm each day
Must go and have a look!

Newport Canal

Image result for newport canal

What used to be the old town marina

We are fortunate in having a canal through our little town. It doesn’t go anywhere – it was chopped off in the 1960s, and the local Canal restoration Society are trying to link it up again with the Shropshire Union at Norbury Junction.

Image result for newport canal

Restoration work going on

The Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust are aiming to raise a huge amount of money  in order to get the rest of the canal watered and useable again. A mammoth task. if you can  help by supporting them with money or  volunteer work, well worth it.

The canal is not just a wonderful place to walk – so peaceful, but we also see  ducks, swans and herons  when we walk there.


Here is a photos that I took fairly recently on the canal. Lovely!

I feel a walk coming on . . .Have a lovely summer