Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about pollinators, St Georges day, my peach tree update and Vegan, Vegetarian and Coeliac Fair here in Newport


I am determined that everything that I plant in my garden from now on will help the bees, the butterflies, the birds and hedgehogs.  I am concerned about how wild life in my garden has deteriorated in the last 20 years despite my best efforts. So I am making a concerted efforts and hope you will too. I will try every month to make an efforts to plant beneficial flowers/ shrubs, or make some sort of hideout/ nest etc for animals and birds , I shall tell you how I get on in future blogs.

This month I have planted hyssop seeds. The seeds are very fine so I simply  put a fine layer of sand on top of them as I didnt have any pearlite available


hyssop seeds

With a bit of luck I shall have lovely blue flowers like this this summer


Generally speaking  blue flowers attract bees.. I have read that hyssop is  one of the top ten bee attracting plants.

One of our Newport local lads has made a famous career in entomology – Dave Goulson. He is now a professor of Biological Sciences at Susses University and studies especially  bumblebees. I have just bought his book  ‘A Sting in the tale’

a sting in the taila sting in the tail 2

Dave Goulson is the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation trust. A ‘Sting in the Tale’ was published in 2013,  and was the BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week”.
He details the life of bumblebees and tells us the fascinating research into the effects intensive farming and what this meas for our bee populations and on the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.

St George’s Day in Newport


St George and the dragon

We have great fun on the nearest Saturday to St George’s Day in Newport. This years its the 22nd April. Fun starts at 12 noon.


St George with the town crier

Peach tree update

For those of who who read last month’s letter, during which I related that that we covered up our peach tree in early spring as we had read that it would help prevent leaf curl. You will see peach tree leaves that – for now – the peach tree has no leaf curl! Brilliant!

Vegan, Vegetarian and Coeliac Fair

cosy hall

This is a Newport event happening on Saturday 13th May at Cosy Hall from 10.30 – 2.30.

Map another

Organised by A Very Vintage Events

My friend Berni will be there with her ‘Thank Goodness’ range of nut roasts and pies, which I have reviewed and raved over in previous blogs. Delish! I shall be there with a few of my fliers to  support the cause, and maybe nick a piece of roast on the side!luxury-handmade-nutroast-small


Hope to see you all there!!

Best wishes for Spring.



March Letter from ‘The Ferns’ B & B chatting about peaches, O’Joy in Shrewsbury and my granola recipe


We have a peach tree growing on our south wall. It is only a small tree, but when  the fruits are ripe,  my B & b visitors may be lucky enough to have peaches for breakfast.

Lovely peaches from our garden

 We do have a lot of leaf curl on it.  Mike read  in a gardening magazine – that if the tree was covered in the spring, it might prevent the leaf curl. Apparently the spring rains stir up the fungus and infects the new leaves.

peach tree

peach tree2

So we have covered it with a plastic sheet. We do try to be organic and try alternative  methods rather than fungicides.  It will be interesting to see whether this ploy works! Watch this space.

 O ‘ Joy Bistro, 81 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury

Last week we went into Shrewsbury on the bus. A nice ride via the villages of Edgmond and Tibberton and over Haughmond Hill into Shrewsbury This was a recce for a history society summer trip to St Marys church, but we decided to take in the  relatively new O’Joy vegan bistro. This bistro is partly owned by Nick Knowles of DIY SOS. See below owners Becky and Nick.

Becky and Nick at relaunch night, Feb 2016

It is open Monday — Thursday 9am — 4pm.

Friday — Saturday 9am – 5pm then 6pm — 9pm

Sunday 10am — 4pm

Mike had the ‘burger of the day’ –  Beetroot and Barley with a great kimchi (pickled cabbage)  and sweet potato chips.


Looks like someone’s tongue is hanging out of it!

Mike chose this, but didn’t find it flavoursome enough for him except the  kimchi. However, it wasnt the regular burger, so we shall have to go again and try the regular burger. I had the  chickpea & beetroot pasta with rocket and cashew pesto and garlic bread. Looked like home-made pasta. This was very tasty and filling. My garlic bread and Mike’s roll were obviously made locally and were beautiful.


The ambiance of the bistro was smart. There were a variety of wines and bottled beers – most of them quite unusual  – mostly organic.

We enjoyed  being able to go into a bistro that was right in the town centre – no  out-of-town or down an alleyway, which is often the case with veggie or vegan restaurants.


Looking out to the front of the bistro

And so nice to be able to recommend this to my vegan B & B’ rs, for whom the Newport  area is a bit of a waste land…


My Granola recipe

Quite a few people have asked me about my  maple syrup granola recipe,

Lindas granola

So I am now selling my granola recipe to  B & B visitors. These will be on the fireplace in the breakfast room. I shall be selling the recipes for  Newport History Society, who are in dire need of funds!


Well the weather  here is cold and windy, but the bulbs are flowering and so is the peach. The sparows are nesting in the roof next to our house and it is interesting to watch them making their nest, so it must be spring!

Best wishes



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.



September Letter from ‘The Ferns’ chatting about Norbury Junction, Newport’s Food Frenzy & Shropshire damsons

A walk around Norbury

Every month   we go with my  brother & sister and their partners & do a day long walk around the Shropshire countryside. This month we walked  around Norbury. This little village is famous for  there being a  marina on the Shropshire Union Canal. Narrow boats start here; there is a pub overlooking the canal and some very pleasant walks along the tow path. It is about 10 minutes by car from Newport.

We set off on a 7 miles round trip- visiting the 5 Millennium Stones that the parish placed around their borders in AD 2000. These were boulders that are erratics that local farmers had found in the fields and are now placed at intervals around the parish

Image result for millenium stones norbury junction walks

A lovely way of celebrating the centenary. These stones will be there for millenia.

Half way around we had a coffee stop at Norbury Junction. Then we moved on to Loynton Moss for a lunch break – a very boggy  place run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust

Image result for loynton moss

and back to Norbury Village Hall which is we where we left the car. I have a booklet  available for visitors who wish to walk the trail


Newport’s Food frenzy Sat. 24th September

Newport to get Food Frenzied

This is Newport’s first step into food festivals and it is all very exciting!.  It is being organised by a committee of volunteers from The Newport Town Team.

Chiefly this will be  a street market, but  there will also be  a food theatre, competitions and High Street trader events. The street market will take place in the historic cobbled St. Mary Street, on wider foot paths near the Butter Cross, on the Adam’s Grammar School lawns, and  by the canal nearby.

The Orchard restaurant in Lower Bar is doing wine tasting with canapes in the afternoon and a special dinner in the evening with live music.. Stalls currently booked to take place include Greenfields Farm Shop, Plan B (Newport) Brewery, Weal Ales Brewery, French Flavour, ZainZ Catering, Bim’s Kitchen, and Shropshire Salumi and Newport 21, who are going to do a food utensil swap – you bring a kitchen item that you bought by mistake or no longer us  and you can swap it for something else

I am particularly interested to see our local veggie expert Berni Mccarthy will be  letting you try her  ‘Thank Goodness’ range of nut roasts.


Bernadette says these are guaranteed “easy meals”, especially for those busy times when preparing dinners for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians at the same time; plus it makes  easy eating in a more healthy way

All Bernadette`s nut roasts  use the freshest ingredients. They have drawn great interest from the cookery and vegetarian communities. Antony Worrall Thompson recently declared Berni`s nut roasts winners with 10 marks out of 10 in a vegetarian cookery showdown in the Sunday Express.

Joules’ Market Drayton  beers will be on offer as well as our Newport brewery

There will be food competitions and a variety of street entertainers, so sounds like a really great local event. Lets hope the weather holds up!


I am overwhelmed with damsons , and have been making jams, chutneys and stewed damsons. We get ours- naturally organic damsons –  from my brothers’ in law farm in Shropshire

The first thing was jam, then I went onto stewed damsons, which helps me keep the freezer clear for other things


Stewed damsons

and then damson chutney


Simmering chutney

My recipe is very simple and comes from a ‘Good Housekeeping’ recipe book that I bought when I got married  in 1970. Sorry this is all in imperial weights!


3½lbs damsons       1½ lb brown sugar      2 onions

2½ pints malt vinegar     clove garlic  ½ oz salt

½ lb raisins    ¼ lb dates  ( leave out if you dont like dates, like me)

1 oz ground ginger

Method   Wash fruit. Chop onions. Crush garlic. Chop raisins and dates. Mix all ingredients in a pan and simmer for 1½- 2 hours. Remove damson stones. Pour into jars and cover immediately.



That’s all for this month. The damson chutney will be available for my Continental breakfasters and obviously the jams for everyone.


PS Still got a few more damsons to work on! Now what shall I do with them?





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




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