I would say that this last week has felt a little bit closer to normal than recently. It wasn’t normal, life just isn’t, especially in a pandemic. What I mean is that despite the face coverings, social distancing, and incessant use of hand sanitiser, I went for a blustery walk, went out for two meals, and even went to an event at a local Farm Park. A slice of normality in what has been year missing a lot of that.
I still can’t visit my family, they’re inside a tier three area, and I’m doing my best to be as covid safe as possible personally so that I’m not putting myself or anyone I might get to visit later at undue risk. But I definitely fall into the camp of wanting to live, to go, to do. You can keep the busy shops in town, I don’t want to go there, but I’m very happy visiting restaurants and other places that are taking it seriously and doing their part. They need us, and I need them. And of course, I love to get outside into the countryside for walks and views and fresh air, we all need that.
And so, this weekly blog takes the form of the weekly blogs I expected to write when I started this series back in January. An opportunity to speak about the little things I get up to in between the bigger things. In this case, a meal at The Gloucester Old Spot, the Enchanted Light Trail at Cotswold Farm Park, Afternoon Tea at Tewkesbury Park Hotel, and a short walk to celebrate the end of Brynn’s amazing Shetland challenge.
Relaxed Meal Out at The Gloucester Old Spot
I’ve mentioned before that one of the positive side effects of these strange times of social distancing, for me, is that restaurants are quieter, calmer, and more spaced out. For me, personally, that makes dining out, one of my favourite ways to spend an evening, an even more pleasant experience. And while I completely understand that restaurants could certainly do with being able to get more people through the doors in order to make some much-needed money, I have to admit I quite like being in pubs and restaurants in December without being squeezed between office parties and large family groups. In fact, we don’t normally bother in December at all, because it’s generally so busy. You have to take the small personal positives, don’t you?
We spent an evening at The Gloucester Old Spot, a pub specialising in local ingredients and recipes near Cheltenham. And we ate very well indeed, probably a bit too well! I had the confit duck with Gloucester sausage, cured bacon and haricot bean casserole, which was served with a pile of roast potatoes and enough seasonal veg for four people… It was very good indeed, I would happily order the same again, although might not eat lunch beforehand! My dessert, the lemongrass and coconut panna cotta is probably not something I’d go for next time, it was a little on the bland side, just a bad choice from me – you can’t make the right choices all the time.
If you’re looking for a great meal in the Cheltenham area, I’d highly recommend The Gloucester Old Spot. We’ll be back in the New Year for sure.
Enchanted Light Trail at Cotswold Farm Park
The highlight of my week has to be spending an hour wandering along the Enchanted Light Trail over at Cotswold Farm Park on Friday evening.
The trail, which takes visitors all around the farm, is full of magical lights and sounds. Honestly, it was so beautiful, just wonderful. There is a set trail to follow which takes you from the visitor centre right the way to the park’s boundaries and back. There are boards all along telling the story of the trail, and all kinds of different light displays providing the mood and backdrop.
Even as two adults wandering through the beautifully lit woodland it was a magical experience, I can only imagine what it would feel like for kids. The organisers here had created a story that was both easy to follow but detailed enough to keep the interest up throughout. And there was even an opportunity to feed the goats and toast marshmallows on an open fire, the perfect way to spend an evening!
These light trails are cropping up all over the place these days, and I totally get why. I visited Sudeley Castle a couple of years ago for their Alice in Wonderland trail, and there’s also one down at Westonbirt Arboretum (although I think that’s sold out). They are such a lovely way to make something of the dark wintertime.
We are fortunate to be in a Tier 2 area which means that going to places like this is still within the rules, and I was very happy with the way the Farm Park ran the event, keeping numbers down to help people spread out. Of course, this is a self-guided walk and as such some people will be faster than others, but family groups were being perfectly good at keeping socially distant. No issues from me on the covid-safe front here.
It really was an opportunity to see Cotswold Farm Park like never before – and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it early on a Sunday morning before it was open! I was gifted our tickets thanks to a good friend, but I would highly recommend the trail for the entry price and will certainly be back next year if they do it again.
Afternoon Tea at Tewkesbury Park Hotel
One of the first things I did when I knew we were definitely coming out of lock down in early December, was get my birthday-present Afternoon Tea booked in. I really felt like I wanted to cash this gift in before Christmas, and use it as an opportunity to celebrate my birthday (read my birthday weekly blog here) in a slightly more fun way than I could on the actual day.
I think I expected it to be a little busier at Tewkesbury Park Hotel, but we were the only people in the restaurant. I know I said above that I like having space and calm in restaurants, but it was sad to see it so empty. We sat by the large windows with views of the golf course as the sun set, it was a lovely setting.
Our afternoon tea included some lovely sandwiches (with the crusts cut off, of course), scones served with Cotswold clotted cream and raspberry jam, and a selection of wintery-flavoured cakes and pastries. It was all delicious, especially the clementine macaron with kumquat which I could have easily eaten a handful of. There was enough food for us to bring some home for the following day – I’m so glad it’s okay these days to ask for a box even when you are in a nice hotel restaurant!
I also learnt that Tewkesbury has its own mustard, I had no idea! I must get some Tewkesbury Mustard to have at home. It is made using medieval ingredients and comes in balls, a tradition that dates back before the 16th century. Who knew?!
I absolutely love an afternoon tea and won’t ever tire of sitting with good company, good tea, and a mountain of savoury and sweet treats to while away an hour or two. I’ve tasted a fair few in my time but know I’ve really only dabbled in the very British tradition. More, please. And soon.
Walking Three Miles with Brynn
On Sunday morning I was able to join fellow GetOutside Champion for a virtual walk… 15-year-old Brynn has spent lock down pushing himself 1,679 miles, the equivalent of the coastline of Shetland. Brynn and his family invited anyone who wanted to join them for the final three miles, which I was glad to be able to do here in Gloucestershire.
I headed up onto Cleeve Hill, my local hill, to do my three miles and record a little message for Brynn. The weather on Sunday was atrocious here. Okay, maybe not quite atrocious, but it was certainly horrible. Wet, windy, cold, ideal for staying at home. But it was so good to get out, it was the least I could do to help Brynn celebrate the end of his amazing challenge.
Brynn has been using his challenge to raise money for Ability Shetland, who helped him rediscover the great outdoors thanks to a fabulous all terrain Mountain Trike, which is a really fantastic bit of kit. He’s raised a whopping £6,460 – you can read the full story on Brynn’s JustGiving page and follow the family on Instagram and twitter.
Don’t forget, if you like hiking, I’ll be on the telly on Tuesday evening talking about the West Highland Way. Check out For the Love of Britain on ITV1 at 7.30pm. And read the behind the scenes blog I wrote here.
As always, I would really love to hear from you in the comments below. Tell me something about your week… maybe your favourite spot for afternoon tea?