Friday, 30 May 2014

Sharpenhoe Clappers

The Sharpenhoe Clappers is a short drive from Ampthill, and run by the National Trust.  There is a reasonable size free car park, and there are a lot of footpaths around there, not just on the Clappers.

Go when the day is really clear and you will be able to see for miles, if you have binoculars take them and see how far you can see, kids just love looking through them.

It is chalky like the rest of the Chiltern hills, apparently formed from fish bones. The ice age stopped to form the 'cliff' of the clappers. 

The woods are a great place to explore, but are steep in places.

There are a few benches dotted about, and a big grassed area, that you can sit on for a picnic if you take a blanket.  There is a footpath to the woods that you can wheel a buggy, and then explore the rest of the place on foot.  There are no toilets at the site.

NT says:
"Reputedly haunted, Sharpenhoe Clappers is a classic chalk escarpment and part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is crowned with traces of an Iron Age hill-fort and an impressive beech wood."

There are a few walks in the area, here is one that I have found, that has lots of useful information:
Walk like the Clappers

Note that the pub in Sharpenhoe has closed down.
Country Matters in Hexton is a short drive away, and they have tea rooms, toilet and local products for sale. (SG5 3JD Hexton)
facebook page
and there is also a pub right opposite.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Country Markets history

The Country Markets organisation has roots going back to 1919, when the Agricultural Organisation Society (now DEFRA) sponsored the setting up of co-operative markets to sell surplus produce.  The first markets were Women's Institute (WI) markets and continued under this name until 2004, when it was decided set up the markets as a standalone concern.

The very first market was in Lewes East Sussex on 14th December 1919, and was a collaborative of several local WIs.  Initially it was for selling the produce of members of the local branches of the Women's Institutes, but soon it expanded to others - small holders, cottagers, ex-service men.  At its height, the market was selling produce from members of 23 different WIs.   Anyone could become a shareholder, small holders, cottagers, ex-service men, etc, and it has remained the same, costing 5p to join.

There are currently over three hundred Country Markets throughout England, Wales and the Channel Islands.  Country Markets baking and preserves can now also be found in a small but increasing number of local community shops and similar outlets.

Country Markets Ltd and all the Country Market Societies are co-operative social enterprises, registered as Industrial & Provident Societies with the Financial Services Authority.  The organisation as a whole has an annual turnover of around £10 million.

In 1932 (National Federation of WI) NFWI decided to expand marketing activity and held a conference on February 4th at Caxton Hall, London. The prime objective of the conference was to investigate possible methods for marketing foodstuffs which are were being wasted when member's gardens are glutted with produce for which no means of marketing exists.  It was attended by 183 representatives from 47 counties.

By the end of 1932 nine counties had set up registered County Marketing Societies.  Individual markets were registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act.

In 1990 NFWI became a Charitable Company limited by Guarantee.  As a result the Charity Commission and the NFWI legal advisers suggested a more 'arms length' relationship.  By 1992 the annual turnover of country Markets was £10million but NFWI was a 'not for profit' organisation.

Finally in 1995 Markets separated from NFWI, adopting a new name 'WI Country Markets Ltd'. It moved into separate offices and became self financing. In 2004 the use of the WI initials was discontinued.
- See more at: The WI

Ampthill Market started in November 1973, and so celebrated its 40th birthday last year. 

And here is another did you know..... some allotment societies will not allow their members to sell their excess produce and there is some interesting reading here: selling allotment produce and also here which gives clarification.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Ampthill Open Gardens

For the last 4 years there has been an Ampthill Open Gardens event, and this year there is a another planned for Sunday 29 June 2014.

Each time there has been around 12 gardens open throughout the town, they have been in clusters, and with the exception of a couple you could walk to them all.  

Although some have driven between the clusters, and some have biked, but I have walked.

The gardens are varied, big, small, loads of planting, a mix of veg and plants, and even chickens, just something for everyone.  So far the weather has been good every year - so I am sure it will be good this year!

There is normally at least one garden that has refreshments including cakes, check on the map before you start your tour so that you get there at the right time.

I think the last few times there has been a couple.

Here is a random selection of some of the gardens that have been on show over the last few years.

more info on this link:
Open Gardens

So mark the date in your diary, well worth going.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Handknitted Baby Cardigans

We have a small selection of handknitted cardigans and jumpers for babies, they are mainly for age up to one year.  Our knitter isn't a fast knitter and is unable to take orders, but enjoys knitting little things, they would make a lovely gift that is unique, not just off the High Street shelves.
Cute short bolero, will fit for a while :)

Pop by the stall and see what is on offer there is often some cute hats as well, send a message if you are interested and we can make sure that there will be some knitting there.

This one has recently sold, it was a pretty pink and thought it was worth sharing, as it may be made again!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A spotlight on plants

At this time of the year we have a range of plants, they have been raised and cared for by our members and are knowledgeable about the plants that they have raised.  

There are shrubs, perennials, annuals and vegetables plants, so something for everyone.

We are often asked for plants that come up every year, you need to look for hardy perennials or shrubs.  Generally perennials die down every year, and then come back in the spring, so don't panic, and try to remember where you have planted them - in case you start weeding :)  The bees like the flowers of many perennials.

Shrubs need a bit of a prune, more for tidying up than anything complicated, some lose their leaves.  By pruning can mean that you can keep the shrub smaller, and generally best to do after flowering, and they are great for birds.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Walk - map update

I have amended the map for this Walk so that you can now click through for some points of interest, I hope that you find it useful, have you been for a walk yet?  The bluebells are all finished now, but it is still a lovely wood to walk through.

Here is the interactive map to Houghton House

This LINK is a walk down through the woods and exit at the bottom of the woods, back up to the farm and then home.  It took 2 hours - but we did stop every now and again, and bought a newspaper in Martins on the way back!

We did see a red kite in the distance as well, well I think it is!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Toast and marmalade

Did you know that in 2003 Leeds university researched how to make the perfect piece of toast?

They came up with an equation, as scientists should, and gives the details butter and toast temperature.

Researchers' found that people think the perfect piece of toast should have partly melted butter patches on it, improving its taste and texture.

For this to work, the butter should be applied at fridge temperature of five degrees Celsius.

The formula was developed following research commissioned by Lurpak.  They wanted to know how the properties of melting butter affects the taste of toast.

They studied thickness, specific heat, density, the initial temperature of the toast, the weight.  All this lead to this statement:

Professor Bronek Wedzicha
"To produce the patches of butter most people said they preferred, the bread needs to be heated to at least 120°C, and the butter should be used straight from the fridge, applied unevenly within two minutes of the bread coming out of the toaster.

"The amount of butter should be about one-seventeenth the thickness of the bread," he said.

So next tome you sit and have your morning toast and marmalade from the Ampthill country Market you may need to rethink your strategy :)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Handmade cards - retro

There is generally a selection of handmade cards on Ampthill country market every Thursday.  Some are stamped and then watercoloured, others have been cut from paper and card, and other techiniques.

They are all blank inside, but often have a greeting on the outside.

The retro feel of the 1950s and 1960s are popular at the moment, and here are selection of cards with this theme,  Suitable for female and male recipients.

If you like one of the cards and need a greeting changed or added, this is often possible just contact us either on the stall or through the website (see link at side), and it can be arranged.  

Whilst we cannot guarantee that these actual cards are available, as each are unique, there will be similar cards always available.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Chocolate cake

There are loads of cakes on the Ampthill market every Thursday, but if you enjoy baking I thought I would share another recipe.

Here is a really excellent chocolate cake recipe, I got it from a free cocoa recipe leaflet years ago and it is in ozs not grammes - like many of my recipes - sorry.

Hot Milk Chocolate Sponge

Makes a 7 inch cake
3 eggs
8 oz Caster Sugar
4 oz Plain Flour
2 tbsps Cocoa
2 tspn baking powder
4 fl oz milk
1 oz Margarine

Chocolate Butter Icing:
3 oz butter softened
8 oz icing sugar
2 tbspn cocoa powder 3 tbspn boiling water, mix and cool

Whisk the eggs and sugar together really well until the mixture is thick and pale.  Sift flour and cocoa and fold into egg mixture.   Heat the milk and margarine together (I do mine in the microwave), make sure all the margarine has melted and the milk is hot. Sprinkle the baking powder on top of the cake mixture.  Then pour on the hot milk on top of the mixture and allow to froth up, fold together. Pour into two 7 inch sandwich tins.

Cook at gas mark 4, 180c or 350f, for about 40 mins, cool on a wire rack.

Mix water and cocoa powder, then beat all ingredients together. This should be enough to fill and top the cake.

I often fill with fresh whipped cream, and just sprinkle icing sugar on the top. 

Make a stencil or use a doily to make a pattern with the icing sugar.  I have also drained a can of crushed pineapple and added to the cream....yum yum. 

Perfect with strawberries or raspberries.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Swiss Gardens - closed for restoration

The Swiss Gardens are nearby to Ampthill and are closed at the moment, they are due to open in July this year  They are busy spending £2.8m of lottery grant money on an amazing restoration project.  

Check out their posts on twitter and facebook, and it is worth having a look at some of the photos, some beautiful art work will be going in as well as major replanting schemes.

It takes about 20 minutes to get there from Ampthill, once it is open I would love to hear from anyone that goes, and what you think of the work that they have done.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Griffin Farm Apple Juice

Griffin Farm apple juice, sold by the bottle on the market.

The Apples are grown in small orchard at Griffin farm, they are naturally grown with no pesticides or fertiliser.

The tree varieties we have are:
  • Charles Ross 
  • Blenheim orange
  • Coxs orange pippin
  • Discovery
  • Russet
  • Bramley
  • James Grieve
  • Ellison's orange

There are different batches pressed, the variety currently on sale is Bramley and Blenheim orange.

All the apples are picked by hand by the family.

Have you tried any yet?  What did you think?

Friday, 2 May 2014

Walk to Houghton House and King's Wood

I have searched around and most of the published walks are for at least 2 hours, so thought I would put together this short walk, which I think should take you about an hour, and then another 20 minutes to look around if you choose.

Ampthill Market market is in the main car park behind NatWest bank, and we are the nearest to the bank, come and say hello.  We can hold onto your purchases until midday, so you can go and wander and not miss out on the best cakes :)  Or we normally have quiche in various sizes, and small cakes - so take it with you, along with something to sit on and enjoy a picnic on the lawns of Houghton House.

Here is a sketch of the route:
Sketch map and here is the route for printing

As there is no parking in the centre for a stay for longer than 2 hours, you will need to park in laybys in Woburn Road, or in the park car parks, or in a side street, please park thoughtfully.

This route is mainly on gravel track, but there are places that are mud tracks and these can be very muddy in wet weather, so be prepared, and part of it is up hill.  There are no seats anywhere on the main walk, nor any toilets, both are available in the centre of town.  There is a seat just outside Kings Wood.
view from Church

Start at St Andrews Church see below for directions.

Follow the track that is on the left of the church as you face it, just past the Church you will see a track forking to the left (this will be where you will return), and a track to your right. 

Take the track to the right and follow the path through the old graveyard, through the gate and down through the new burial ground until you reach the gate to the gravel farm track at the bottom.

Turn left this is Gas House Lane.  Keep on this track until you go over the cattle grid shortly after you will see sign that takes you diagonally across the field to your right.  

Sometimes there are cattle in this field, so take care
You will be passing the building (Lodge Piece Farm) that is at the end of the track, on your left.  Go through the metal kissing gate.

Keep following the mud track. It turns to the right once at the end of the Lodge Piece Farm, and then left along the edge of the reservoir.  Then you will reach a track, you will need to turn left and then you will see a gate almost immediately on your right that takes you into the farm yard.

You have a few options depending how much time you have:

  • You can turn immediately right and wander up to Kings Wood, this is definitely worth doing if the Bluebells are out mid to end of April normally. 
  • Or you can cross the farmyard to the left, and pick up the track on the other side turn right and walk down to Houghton House. 
  • I would allow at least 20 minutes for each, to return back to the farmyard.
  • Or if you just want to head back to Ampthill, and continue in a circle, you need to turn left on either track, they join up and take you back to the main road to Bedford (B530).
NB this is part of the Greensand Ridge Walk

Once you reach the road, you will go left, you will need to cross over the road to the footpath (this is a bit of a pain, and can be busy).  Walk down the hill just a short way past the first house on the left, and you should see an entrance to a footpath, cross the road and go through the gate and follow the path.

This is Holly Walk, and it will take you all the way back to the Church, it is probably about ½ a mile.  You can just follow the road down into Ampthill.

So that is the basic walk here is more information:
Houghton House

Houghton House
Owned by English Heritage.  It was built in 1615, and by 1794 it was partially dismantled.  There are so many pictures and loads of information on the internet, just do a quick search.  Check out their website and download a free pod cast.

King’s Wood
Kings Wood
King's Wood is an ancient broad leaved woodland, that has been planted since mediaeval times. The commonest trees are ash and oak, there are also sweet chestnut, turkey oak, and sycamore at the southern end: hornbeam, beech and oak can be found in the middle. There are some beautiful wildlife and plants: bluebells, yellow archanger, wood spurge, wood aneomes, goldilocks, lesser teasel and wood speedwell.  

It is a beautiful quiet place, as you enter the path splits into 2.  The left path will eventually take you down to Houghton Conquest, and if you turn right at the first chance you have it will eventually take you back to the gate.  This will probably take 20 minutes at least.  The path to the right follows the edge of the wood more closely and you can exit out into the fields.  I have taken a picture of the sign as you enter the wood, which has a map and some information.

Holly Walk

Holly Walk
Holly Walk is a banked footpath made in the early 1820s for Lord Holland as a short cut to the church from Park House.  Thatched cottages were built at either end, the Church end one having been rebuilt following a fire with a tiled roof.

This the area of the farm where the tracks meet:
google maps
NB There is a small car park halfway through this walk at Houghton House. 

Directions to the church
Woburn Road for the park
This is the road from the A507 from the North/west direction eg Milton Keynes, Ridgmont, signposted Ampthill.  There are 2 car parks that serve the park, and laybys along the road.  The second car park is nearer to the town.  

  • Coming from Flitwick/Dunstable direction you will need to turn right into Woburn Road at the first mini roundabout 
  • From Maulden it is the second mini roundabout right into Woburn Road.
St Andrews Church is off Church Street, which is the road to Maulden, on your left as you head towards Maulden.  From Woburn Road head down the hill towards the centre of town, turn left cross the road to the ‘market square’, this has benches and the town’s pump. 

NB I have found a few printed leaflets for walks starting in Ampthill and will add them to the blog and website, look for the links.