June letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about Newport, sausage sandwiches and redundant churches

Newport, Shropshire

We live in a beautiful part of the country  on the borders of  Shropshire and Staffordshire.  We are so close to so many  things to do and places to see.


The first iron bridge in the world spans the River Severn

To the west is  Ironbridge,  the River Severn, Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury – all lovely historic towns within 30- 45 minutes of us

Nearby Weston Park. One of many stately homes within half an hour of Newport

To the south is Weston Park, home of Lord Bradford, the V festival and nearby to them is the Royal Air Force Museum at Cosford.

To the north is the lovely Hodnet Hall Gardens

hodnet hall gardens

Hodnet Hall gardens. They have some black swans.

and Whitchurch with its clock making history. To the east is the county town Stafford with its Ancient High House, Stafford Castle and Shugborough Estate.

ancient high house

Ancient High House – it houses a museum

Sausage sandwiches on the menu

I have decided to add to my breakfast menu:  sausage sandwichessausage sandwich

I shall be offering them with white or wholemeal bread and trimmings.  There is a wide choice of veggie or vegan sausages. .This is something that I  have eaten at Wetherspoons – called a ‘Breakfast Roll’  – and have thought it would be nice  alternative to the ‘Full English’.. So this is now on the menu.

Redundant churches

Apart from our town church, St Nicholas, there are two redundant churches nearby that can be visited. One at called the Talbot Chapel. This is about a mile  away walking down a country road. The church is now a house, but the side chapel  is open everyday and has a wonderful memorial to one of the Earls of Shrewsbury


talbot chapel

The entrance is via the drive to the church (now a house), but walk on round to the back where the chapel is. it is open all day every day.

Another redundant church is St Peter’s Woodcote. This is a couple of miles away, and again can be walked via small roads and footpaths. The church has a Norman  entrance and the most interesting thing is the grave slabs of the Cotes family; one of whom – Humphrey – died at the Battle of Bosworth. Woodcote Hall Residential Home looks after the church now, and you have to get a key to get in to the church from reception. Probably best to phone first.

st peters woodcote

The church yard is very ancient – probably pagan  era- it is circular

The Churches Conservation Trust looks after many of these redundant church.  Their website is so interesting with places to visit and things to do.

Have a lovely summer….

Best wishes



May Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about Marmite, ‘Thank Goodness’ Chilli senza carne’ and local wildlife



I see that Marmite has been given a Royal warrant. About time! The famous savoury ingredient has been made from the same ingredients – brewer’s yeast, salt, spices and celery since 1902. In 2007  a Guiness flavoured Marmite was launched and  later a champagne flavour for Valentine’s day  There are lots of famous people who enjoy Marmite but the person who said ” I’d do anything for my children except have a Marmite sandwich” must be mad. It was Madonna

This is my favourite Marmite picture


The lovely Alan Rickman

Marmite is always on my breakfast table

‘Thank Goodness’ Chilli

I have been working my way through  the ‘Thank Goodness’ range, and today I came come to the wonderful Chilli (full title Chilli Senza Carne i.e. ‘without meat’). A wonderful product – tasty, hot, looks good with its shades of red colours.  The ingredients are all natural (no E numbers) I really love this chilli. So easy to defrost and cook  – all in the microwave.

Bernadette told me of a meat eater who said that she”never really liked meat chilli until this one, and that is because of the textures”.  I agree.chill packet

chilli plated up

I served it with brown rice,  rocket from the garden and some Alpro yoghurt

eating chilli

Here’s Mike tucking in. It’s interesting   that  there are many veggie chillis around at restaurants, but most have Quorn mince and /or soya mince as well as the beans, but this recipe – perhaps because Bernie has put in chunky vegetables, green lentils and brown rice into the recipe, the textures are more interesting than it just being red beans.  Of course, the fact that there are other grains and pulses added, makes the protein content higher.

I found the chilli fairly hot,  and was glad to have the yoghurt with it.However,  let’s face it, if you buy a chilli, you really dont want to be disappointed by it being a bit gentle! Bernie  told me that  she  always has the rice,  yoghurt and  salad with it, so that, if people find a chilli too hot, they can temper it with these cooling sides.

As before the chilli is available all around the country – see her stockists  and, of course, at the Greenfields Farm Shop, Donnington, which is where I get mine.

 Wildlife round about here

And lastly  the local wildlife. We do a lot of walking so here are few local shots.

The bluebells nearby at the Aqualate Woods, which Mike took a photo of last week, were wonderful. Those colours are amazing.

bluebells aqualate


Signets (9) and  a heron photographed on the canal today. The heron, below, is getting particularly brave – just beyond someone’s garden.

heronWe always have two  families of swans; one on the east end and one the west end of the canal so during the summer months they are a great source of enjoyment

and finally,

especially for viewers who are family and friends, here are three photos relating to our younger son’s marriage last week: Richard married Hannah

Left R & H.       Right top me with my brother and sister  R bottom me throwing confetti

Have a lovely summer everyone















March Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about Percy Thrower, Mediterranean nutroast and Spring

Percy Thrower

Here in Shropshire Percy Thrower has a special place in our hearts. The first TV gardener and the person responsible for garden displays in Shrewsbury’s Quarry  by the river Severn. He moved to Shrewsbury in 1946, as the Parks Superintendent, becoming the youngest parks superintendent.

percy thrower

.He was also Shrewsbury Flower Show’s chief horticultural advisor and lived in Quarry Lodge  while parks superintendent.

Percy’s daughter, Margaret,  will be appearing at a lunch and fund-raiser for our Newport Cottage Care Centre on Sunday 17th April 12.30. Her talk is entitled “Three Generations of Gardeners”. It cost £12.50 which includes lunch.  See website

cottage care

From a historic view-point, the Cottage Care Centre is quite unusual. Lady Annabel Boughey, a local landowner from Aqualate Estate,  gave the money in 1914, for building a hospital for the town. It didn’t get built till 1930, however, it is a lovely building. It is chiefly now a day centre for the elderly but the NHS still uses it for X-ray work and physiotherapy.  Very useful for the town not to have to travel all the way to Wellington to our nearest hospital.  I myself have had the benefit of the physiotherapy unit-  and its only 100 yards down the road. Excellent!

Mediterranean Nutroast

And now here is my regular feature on ‘Thank Goodness!’ products.mediterranean-nutroast ‘ This month I tried the Mediterranean Nut roast

Bernadette, whose brainchild this company is – and who lives in Newport –  suggested a novel way of serving the nutroast as a stuffing for Mediterranean peppers. The ingredients in this nutroast include:  cheese, onions, courgettes, cashews, Brazils, peanuts, eggs, olives, tomato purée, sun dried tomatoes, red peppers, quinoa, gram flour, garlic, butter, basil, mushrooms and herbs. Don’t those ingredients look interesting?

It was dead easy to cook the stuffed peppers. For two people I used two peppers  –  Romano this time. I had never tried Romano before, but   an unusual shape which is something of a talking point in itself.romano pepper


I cut the peppers  lengthwise and took out the seeds. Divided the nutroast mixture ( defrosted but not cooked)  equally . Added  a little Cheshire cheese to the top- optional. Brush peppers lightly with olive oil and bake at 190C for 45 – 50 mins.



I served it with a rice, pea and leaf salad with lemon & lime dressing. The  texture was crunchy which went well with the rather soft  peppers. I could see pieces of olive in there. The olives and tomatoes gave it a tangy flavour. The recipe was easy and very impressive. Will certainly do this again.

stuffed peppers3

How to get your Mediterranean nutroast? If you live near to Newport Shropshire, go to Greenfields Farm Shop at Donnington. if not,  have a look on the internet at  the ‘Thank Goodness’ website, where stockists all around the country can be found.

Well done Berni! Healthy, full of goodness and tasty.


Well, Sunday was the first day of spring. We have blackbirds nesting in our  evergreen honeysuckle bush and frog spawn in the pond. The broadbeans are coming up in the greenhouse, and I am trying to get Mike to dig up the rest of the  Pink Fir Apple potatoes before they start to sprout again. They are a lovely potato – very knobbly  so you can’t peel them. Just  wash them.



Is a this  a  sign of global warming?  For two years running I have had English marigolds surviving the winter Here they are in the garden on Sunday.


Best wishes, Linda


February 2016 Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about Nadyia Hussain, luxury nutroasts and hedgehogs

 Nadiya Hussain

Newport is very fortunate in having Nadiya Hussain  – the winner of Great British Bake Off 2015  – come to the Newport Show on Saturday 9th July.


The mum of three will be giving cookery demonstrations, talking about the competition and how it has changed her life. Newport Show takes places in the lovely setting of Chetwynd Deer Park and lake, about 1 mile outside Newport town centre. For visitors to my B & B it would be a half hour’s walk or you could drive there.

deer prk

Chetwynd Deer Park

deer park4

Newport Show

I watched all  of the episodes, and  was surprised at her  new ideas about  unusual flavours for desserts and cakes. Ditto Tamal – another contestant. It was interesting to see Paul Hollywood, taste, think about it, and in a rather surprised way, say, ” That really works!”

Thank Goodness Luxury Nut roast

luxury-handmade-nutroast-smallI am working my way through the range of the ‘Thank Goodness’ company; a business run from my town (Newport Shropshire). Bernadette who runs the business is not a vegetarian but her partner is, and so it came about that this lovely range of products happened through catering for two different styles of eating. Not only are they very good for you, but, in addition, it makes easier the vegan/ veggie in a  family of meat eaters.

veggie nutroast1The cook in a family of meat eaters might wonder what to give the veggie to eat, but here is your answer. It  would fit in with the meat and two veg brigade and you simply put in in the oven. So in December we tried the vegan nut roast which was excellent. This month we have tasted the Luxury Vegetarian Nutroast.

veggie nutroast2 Continue reading

December Letter from The Ferns chatting about vegan nutroasts, Nature’s Kitchen and ‘Bon natale!’

“Thank Goodness” nut roast company

In Newport we not only have me with my Veggie  B & B , but around the corner  from me there is a great  nut roast business called ‘Thank Goodness’ run by my friend, Bernadette McCarthy. I featured  her in my last blog with her ‘Shroppies Pie’. She has won awards for her delicious nutroasts

Today I am tasting  her ‘Luxury vegan nut roast’. The nut roast was easy to cook, just open up the top and put  it in the oven for 20-25 minutes

opening the packet

Opening up – prior to cooking

You can see just from opening it up, there are lots of interesting ingredients in there, and   we had  large portions.  I cooked it from chilled and it took only 20-25 minutes.   There were   lots of ‘big’ ingredients – chopped nuts  (some large some small – brazils, cashews, hazelnuts)  which give a variety of flavours and bite-ability. The vegetables are onions, carrot, courgette and mushroom plus lentils and the  nutritious quinoa.

vegan luxury nutroast


It had no egg in it  but held together really well. One of the reasons that people put egg in  anything is to hold it together. Bernadette told me that they did a lot of testing on all the recipes, and the addition of gram flour and peanut butter were the secret ingredients for holding it together – plus these two have additional  protein, which most people wouldn’t know about

Once cooked you can see how delicious it looked with the cranberries  peaking through – they added extra festive  flavour and colour.

I bought my ‘Thank Goodness’ nutroast from Greenfields Farm Shop Donnington, Telford  but other places to buy  are listed on their website.

Mike’s  verdict was “Fantastic! ” In fact this was as good as  or better than my nutroasts ( and I’ve been a vegetarian for 40+ years) , and its not often that I think to myself “This is as good as  my home cooked food”  –  but it was! It was lovely. We shall be having more at Christmas.

The beauty of these products is that at Christmas time or any other celebration, the fact that if you have a vegetarian or a vegan in your party or someone who wont eat the type of meat that you are serving, can be catered for with ease. No fuss! Easy peasy!

In 2016,  I shall eat my way through all of ‘Thank Goodness’ range! January will be the cashew nut pate which we shall try over the Christmas period.

 Nature’s Kitchen

Healthier Eating, Ethical Thinking


This is the motto of another  company that really interests me. I found them at the Greenfields Christmas Event last weekend, which included them selling vegan muffins. I have always had a desire to use little dairy and  fewer egg foods, so these looked just what I wanted. Their website  say that they produce “Healthier baked goods with a focus on seasonal, Fairtrade and vegetable based recipes.  I tried their  biscotti which were excellent and am hoping that they can supply me more muffins nearer Christmas.

The company can be found on twitter @NKShrewsbury  and on facebook/natureskitchenshrewsbury12308626_1651683861765902_8164188030236542325_n

Bon Natali !

Those of you who read my blog last month will have seen my very easy recipe for Limoncello (see below). Wonderful recipe from my sister Pam.

20145 cheewrsSo here we are  celebrating Christmas with my home-made limoncello  and damson gin   “Salute!” as my dad would say.

Merry Christmas!

Linda and Mike

Pam’s Limoncello

6 oz (plus more if you need it sweeter) sugar                   150 ml water

zest and juice of 6 unwaxed lemons                                        700ml vodka


Put the sugar and the water in a pan and boil for 3-4 minutes until syrupy. Then cool. Add the zest and lemon juice and the vodka. Bottle and shake daily for a month or so.






Letter from ‘The Ferns’ chatting about cashew pate, Green Monkey and a hairdryer

‘Thank Goodness’  Honeyed Cashew Pate

This Christmas we tried the ‘Thank Goodness’ Honeyed Cashew Pate. We had had it frozen, and was easy to get out and defrost for a Christmas buffet.

cashe pate 1

Well this was an interesting product to review – something a bit unusual.  Just to remind my readers I am working my way through the products of ‘Thank Goodness’ a local Newport, Shropshire company who chiefly produce nut roasts. I reviewed the Luxury Vegan Nutroast in my December 2015 blog; a really great product!

I now embark on the Cashew Nut Pate with Mike, Richard and Kelly.  We didnt all agree about this product but the gist was: The flavour was quite sweet but not alarmingly so.  The texture was a cross between a dip and a pate. Personally I prefer something a bit more solid. The texture worked well on crackers, but probably not  as a sandwich filling.We couldnt taste the orange liqueur,  but we could, the honey.


cashew pate3


So we thought it unusual and something a bit different – perhaps for a special  occasion. Also, I need to tell you from where you can buy this pate. Our local store is Greenfields Farm Shop Donnington, but have a look at the ‘Thank Goodness’ website for other suppliers.

‘Green Monkey’ at Joules at Market Drayton

Another local business which is of interest to vegetarians and vegans who feel a bit iffy  about drinking wines and beers with finings  / isinglass in them (the swim bladder of fishes, usually sturgeon). Isinglass enables the drinks to be manufactured more quickly. However, Joules brewery at Market Drayton, about 30 minutes from Newport,


The brewery tap at Market Drayton The Red Lion

now have a lager type beer which is called ‘Green Monkey‘ . It  is not pasteurised or artificially carbonated. Green Monkey is  lagered for up to four weeks. This method develops a naturally carbonated drink and it contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives or additives such as finings. gm

Once a month they also do brewery tours

You can find their pubs anywhere in the region from Birmingham to Chester

Here in Newport we have The New Inn, on Stafford Road. See below

new inn1new inn2


My last bit of news is that I now have a  PAT tested hair-dryer in the guests bedroom! Hurray!

hair dryer

Happy New Year to all!








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