We visited Wells Farm in Little Milton. This was an organised trip by BBOWT. The reserve is a working farm, managed on a traditional rotation basis. The hedge margins are more than six meters wide, giving plenty of habitat for insects and birds. The fields have a mixture of soils. from chalk to sand and wet clay. Walking the fields, it became obvious as the soil types changed.
We were given tea and coffee in the Little Milton village hall. A wonderful village hall with an integral community run post office, shop and cafe.
The fields had many flowers and insects. The bird life was sparse, but then there was a group of 40 plus people walking around. It would be interesting to spend time there quietly.
BBOWT have the land on a 999-year lease, on the condition it is managed as an environmental farm. The lease was gifted to them by the previous owner. One does wonder how we could survive if all agriculture was performed in this same way…..
We celebrated our 41 years of bliss with lunch at the Black Horse in Thame where we sat outside in the courtyard at the back of the restaurant in the sun. Lack of photos of all our courses shows how concentrated on their eating we were.
R and I took a trip to Oxford to look at an exhibition at the Bodleian and for R to go to the Oxford Pen Company. She’d seen mention of the Mowgli Street Food restaurant in Westgate, so we thought we’d check it out. We had not seen it before, though I believe it has been there since the new Westgate centre had been completed. We used to eat at the Cinnamon Kitchen, but since lockdown that restaurant has closed for good.
Mowgli was a surprise, not expensive, and delicious food. Don’t think of an Indian restaurant with the standard range of curries, instead think of deliciously spiced food. We both went for the ‘Office Worker’ Tiffin box, which saved us having to decide on the individual dish. The waitress told us the chef would provide different dishes for us, except for the rice, so we could share the flavours between ourselves. While we waited for the food, we each had a yummy cocktail.
This was an excellent meal with fast service and little waiting after we had ordered. We will be back there the next time we are eating in Oxford.
A sunny bright July 2nd saw us take the Polestar 2 to Marlow to meet up with Richard and Andrea. Despite Covid, the high street was unbearably crowded, so we took a walk along the river bank. Thankfully the river walk was much quieter. Plenty of water activities taking place on the river, with multiple coaches yelling and shouting at their charges in the rowing boats. We had an enjoyable meal back at the Two Brewers pub.
On returning to the car park, my Polestar 2 had the company of another Polestar. This is the first time I have seen another Polestar in the wild.
R and I went for a trip to the National Trust house of Greys Court on a bright and sunny day. Today was a little warmer than we’ve been used to, so very pleasant. Yes more days without rain, but with a cool Northerly wind. The fields were very hard and dry. We visited to see the bluebells, unfortunately, they were not quite their best, but another week and they should be. The formal gardens were looking very pretty. We took a long slow walk across the fields to the bluebell woods, eating our Cornish Pasty lunch on some old decaying logs. Back at the house we managed our second cup of tea, served a great deal faster than our morning coffee.
This was also the longest trip in my new electric car. No need for range anxiety as the return trip was only 64 miles, giving an estimated range of 237 miles.
The cafe in the Tesco at Bicester is so much better than the cafe in the Aylesbury Tesco. The Bicester Tesco has cooked breakfast, ideal for morning sustenance while Rosemary is doing the weekly shop. They recently launched their vegan breakfast which comprises two vegetarian sausages, half an avocado, baked-beans, mushroom, tomato, toast and some steamed green leaves (spinach??).
The breakfast took a long time arriving, much longer than a traditional breakfast. I assume this was because the food had to be prepared fresh, and not from a range of food already prepared, or at least cooking on already hot griddles.
So what did it taste like?
The sausages were fine, avocado was good, spiced with some black pepper. Beans, can’t go wrong. The mushroom and tomato could have booked cooked longer with more oil. The toast was OK. The steamed green leaves were bitter and not at all nice.
Would I have this again? No, the cooked standard breakfast was so much nicer than this. I don’t have an issue with vegan foods, just I don’t think you should try and make a pretend English breakfast from vegetable ingredients. Some hummus and toast would have been so much better.
(In case anyone is thinking what a swine I am to be eating while R is food shopping, I should say I go with her blessing. In fact, she positively herds me towards the cafe. Apparently, I become irritating if I walk around with her. (So you know what to do, chaps…..)
We met Andrea, Richard and Jon at Claydon House. After we arrived, we all walked to the cafe and had a quick meal, before having a tour of the house. Much of the house was under repair because of serious cracks in the ceilings. Furniture had been removed and stored in other rooms. It was likely to become worse before getting better. After the tour, we went home for supper and copious amounts of whisky.
Saturday we met up with Ravi and Simon, plus his daughter & her family. We found Ravi, Simon and family in the Peoples Vote March. I heard Caroline Lucas giving a supportive Remain talk. There were a few leave people giving the Remainers a hard time.
Afterwards, we went to the Branca Restaurant for a good lunch and then a walk around University Park.
Today was a lovely bright and not overly cold day, so off we set to RSPB Otmoor to check out the Starlings. Would we recognise our local Starlings as they came in to roost in the reed bed! We arrived at around 2.45, the car park was already full, bar one space for us. We headed out slowly looking for birds. To be honest, there were not many around, the scrapes were empty. The walk to the reed bed is around 1500-2000 meters. There are several viewing points, we chose one a little bit further on, where there should be a few fewer people.
Shortly after sunset the Starlings started to arrive and did their murmuration bit. Interesting how small groups of birds had to join in with the big group before going in to roost. Once roosted there were large waves of starlings flying over the tops of the reeds as they moved around to other locations.
As we were leaving we saw a green flash in the sky, fairly low down and travelling North. The trail was very short, and it seemed to travel slower than a meteor, and faster than a sattelite. The short trail was also quite wide. It was visible for a couple of seconds. No idea what it was.
Rosemary and I had a trip to Oxford today. Parking virtually impossible in Oxford, so you have to use the Park and Ride. Being retired, the cheapest and easiest way into Oxford is to park at the Bicester Park and Ride which is free. Then catch the S5 into Oxford, yet again free with your bus pass, and they supposedly run every 15 minutes. The website shows you live arrival times of buses, ours was a tad late.
In the city of Oxford, we went straight to the Library where there was an exhibition of books and magazines. The Bodleian is a copyright library so receives most publications from the UK. These included erotic publications, some of which were subsequently banned. The access to these publications was restricted and categorised as Phi. Students could see them for research purposes only with a written note from the Director of Studies. Most of the books displayed in the very public area were very tame, you could hardly believe any of them would have been banned in the UK.
Next was the business of the day shopping, clothes shopping. Having spectacularly failed at this, it was time for lunch at the Cinnamon Kitchen, an upmarket Indian Restaurant on the upper floor of the Westgate shopping centre. There are several restaurants up on the roof. Many with outside seating for warm days. A token gave us a free glass of bubbly and we had a fine meal.
After lunch we had a look around John Lewis. They were still doing their Black Friday sale, and all the Google Equipment was matching the online Google prices. So tempted to load up with a few more Google Home Speakers. I was also looking for active noise cancelling headphones for travel. I did learn a couple of things though. Noise cancelling means two things, Noise cancelling can apply to microphones in the headphones enabling the other party to hear you above background noises, or it can be to remove the noise of the environment from the music you are listening to. Be warned, it’s not obvious when you look at the devices. Most of the headphones on display were not working (battery flat), and to pair your Bluetooth phone to the device was nigh impossible, you had to find the device, and I have never seen so many Bluetooth devices available for paring on my phone.
Well after this, it was home time, but we had to go to the sweet shop for some aniseed balls. These were purchased at Hardys Sweet Shop on the High Street. It is so much further down the road than we ever imagine. We always believe we have gone past, and the shop has closed. Aniseed balls purchased for Rosemary. I won’t touch them now after a large dentist bill to replace a cracked tooth; I tended to crunch them up with my teeth.
Another trip organised by the Berkshire branch of the Cambridge Society was a visit to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. This was not exclusive to the Cambridge Society, we populated two groups of around 10 people for the tour. There were several other groups visiting.
We arrived in bright sunshine, checked in at the gatehouse and drove to the visitor car-park. We started off with a short talk and then we were on the way to see MAST. This was a British device looking at new ways to contain the hot plasma. It was undergoing an upgrade, adding new containment electromagnets, and a redesigned device to remove the gas and debris from the fusion reaction. It was not operational and was being dismantled to fix a leak which was letting in air. Hopefully, it would be up and running in a couple of years.
After MAST we saw JET, which is still at the forefront of Nuclear Fusion research. It still holds the record for generating the most power. It also had recently been upgraded and was building up to break new power records. It is funded by a collaboration of European countries and was testing out manufacturing ideas to go into the ITER reactor in France. For instance, the robotics required to perform maintenance tasks, such as replacing the Beryllium lining tiles. When a test is run on JET, it can consume 2% of the UK national electricity supply.
I find it amazing how old these devices are, and they are continually being upgraded as the science improves. ITER will be the first Nuclear Fusion reactor which will run and test out a commercial reactor engineering build. After it has been built and tested, the first fusion reactors may enter service. This is still 30 years away so it is likely I won’t be around.
After the tour, we left in the torrential rain for the pub, The Swan in Sutton Courtney. Nice meal, and the company of some Cambridge alumni for interesting conversation.