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August 30 2014

Favourite 5 - Our guests top tips for Exmoor

— Knapp House

Our guests have been busy making the most of Exmoor.  Here are the things they recommend this month. 1.STARGAZING.  It is not surprising Exmoor is a Dark Skies Reserve!  On a clear night the stars are just amazing.  We will give you cosy rugs and lashings of hot chocolate and you can go onto the Moor and enjoy the show.  You won't be disappointed. 2. DAHLIAS AT DUNSTER.  It is the perfect time of year to see the secret Dahlia Garden on the way into Dunster Castle. Our guests have been making lists for their own gardens...no such thing as too much inspiration. 3.STORM CLOUDS OVER DUNKERY BEACON.  Climb this local landmark and if you time it right you can watch the storm clouds roaring by.  On a clear day you can see across to Wales and down the Somerset and Devon coast.  We'll give you soup and a sandwich...

June 16 2012

Its all celebrating here on Exmoor

— Knapp House

Well the Diamond Jubilee weekend was predictably wet.  Fortunately not too wet to light the jubilee beacon up on Anstey Common.  It was just fantastic and you could see 30 other beacons across Devon.  There were fireworks too and I am told there is a bit of beacon envy down in Dulverton where the chat over coffee is about how fantastic the Anstey event was.  On the Tuesday the village tea party was not just very wet but extremely windy too.  At one point I had to abandon pouring the champagne to hang on to the end of the marque to stop it taking off.  I was doing a very poor job I must say and had to be helped out by the tug of war team!  Just the job.  But despite the weather there were games and a dog show and of course a tug of war.  In the...

January 27 2012

The Ups and Downs of Living with Trees

— Knapp House

A century of natures' investment came to an end at Knapp House on Sunday.  With a crack like gunfire and a groan, the huge Cedar tree that marked the boundary between the formal garden and the meadow beyond came crashing to the ground squashing the fruit trees newly planted just a few weeks ago.  Surprisingly I am much more upset about the loss of the old than I am about the destruction of the new ,so lovingly planted and staked as my investment for the future. It has taken over a hundred years for this glorious specimen to flourish.  It has been watered by the soft Exmoor rains, encouraged to the light by bright spring days.  It's sweeping black green branches have swept the ground decorated with the first snows of winter and it has swayed and bent in the autumn gales.  I am aware that someone over a hundred years ago planted...

December 7 2011

Christmas - 17 days and counting

— Knapp House

I am getting Christmas fever....You know that low level anxiety when you wake in the morning and it is another day closer without you having done any Christmas shopping or written a card.  It is our first Exmoor Christmas too and this beautiful Art and Crafts house deserves to be beautifully dressed and party a little, so there is some planning to do!  I am going to tackle the wreaths tomorrow and have been chasing the birds away from the holly berries.  I've cheated a bit on the mistletoe and hawthorn berries, they came from a friends' orchard and the layby just outside South Molton....a bit of foraging.  Talking of foraging I found the most wonderful wood blewitts under the beech trees on Sunday.  Got every mushroom book out to aid identification and tried to remember what I was taught on my River Cottage mushroom course.   I've made the mincemeat...

December 7 2011

The stars are out on Exmoor

— Knapp House

It is all about stars on Exmoor at the moment.  Not the Hollywood sort mind you, this is more galactic, more Milky Way than Madonna.  Ever since the news that Exmoor has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve the place has gone star crazy.  Even I’ve been out in the garden, weather permitting, gazing upwards.  A few weeks ago it was so spectacular that I was tempted to take a mat outside and just lie there looking up for as long as it was dark.  And that’ s the thing of course – dark – it is very dark on Exmoor.   Of course all this star obsession only serves to draw attention to how little I know about the constellations.  Is that Orion’s belt?  I have absolutely no idea.  A friend helpfully tried to show me the ap she had downloaded onto her iphone which you point skywards and...

November 10 2011

Up the apples and pears!

— Knapp House

It has been a fantastic year for apples and pears.  Now I know what those "bags for life" are really useful for, collecting the fruit.  The doorstep is groaning with the bags of russetts, blushed cookers and sweet little eating apples, just waiting for me to get to them and turn them into something to last well into next spring. Some get turned into crumble and pies for the freezer but this is jelly time of year at Knapp House.  First off the blocks was Spiced Apple Jelly.  The kitchen smelt fabulous, Christmassy really, all the cinnamon and cloves simmering with the soft apple pulp.  The jelly is the most sensational delicate pinky orange, and the first spoonfuls have already been adorning my morning toast.  I made Chilli and Lemongrass Jelly again this year because everyone has been raving about it.  Wonderful with lots of things, but particularly spinach and...

October 16 2011

Tasting teas on Exmoor - Darjeeling to Dulverton

— Knapp House

Indian and China, black and green, the fragrant Madam Butterfly of teas Jasmine, I have  been drinking tea since the days when my cup had two handles and I could hardly pronounce it.  My mother was a great believer in the power of tea to sooth and heal, to sort and to make everything better.  If, as Catherine Douzel suggests, each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage, then where better to conjure images of colonial tea plantations, old trading routes and blending mysteries than the tasting room at D.J. Miles in Minehead.  Who would have thought that tea heaven could exist on the edges of Exmoor and that I would be lucky enough to be here to watch our own Knapp House tea being blended?  There are 12 very secret different teas in the Miles Original Blend, and who knows how many possibilities being laid out for me to...