Category Archives: reviews

Lines to River Cottage


Often a journey begins in stillness, an anti-action, a passage in a book, an overheard conversation or a program on TV sparks a wish to explore and experience. The journey is traced out in mind or map, fingers crossing miles, tracing flat planes and pressing down contour folds. The map is as distracting as the landscape itself, lines draw out the gaze, shapes on the horizon encourage tangents to be taken but when you have a goal in mind a map is the key to it.

I wanted to find the original River cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s first location of his experiments to live off the land. The TV series had inspired me a great deal in my early twenties and at that time Dorset had seemed a very distant place, an old England with an ancient landscape of crazy paved fields and endless hedgerow. Growing up in the industrial landscape of North Lincolnshire it has always seemed a world away from the landscape I knew.

Industrial farming has left much of the flat lands of Lincolnshire open, hedgerows no longer border fields, points of reference are lost as farms seem to drift in a sea of ploughed earth. There is very little topography to speak of and what is there is so over used it cannot hope to hold any secrets. The landscape has been opened like a map and like paper lies flat for all to see.

It had not been a planned journey, Liz and I had decided to go camping for a fortnight and explore Dorset will no real itinerary but to just drift from place to place letting one place inform the next. The idea of finding the River Cottage had come to me as I sat in the car navigating through the winding Dorset roads, with a road map on my knee. As we traveling east my finger mimicked the direction on the map and I noticed Chideock was to be the next village we were to pass through, which I remembered was one of the places mentioned on the series. I’m not sure I mentioned it to Liz at the time but it started me thinking that the cottage must be somewhere close by. It was purely by good fortune that we decided to go next to Britport choosing a campsite north of the little town. The campsite was an industrial affair like a golf course housing refugees from the city, we took ourselves as far from the madding crowd as we could, hiding our tent behind a hedge in the hinterland between lawn and the fields beyond.

I had been given a small printed map, which gave little information other than the main road in and out of the site with places to eat being the main points of reference. However luckily for me whomever drew this little map had added a clue in the form of a single line with the words River Brit written along it. I had a clear memory that this was the river to which River Cottage got it’s name and that in one episode Hugh had traversed this river by canoe down six miles to the sea. It instantly struck me that this campsite must be four or five miles from the sea and so the cottage must not be far away.

Having explained this good fortune to Liz and armed only with a road map and the little printed map we somewhat foolishly set off there and then down to the river in the beautiful warmth of a late summer afternoon. By another stroke of good fortune we found a small bridge and footpath which led to the other side of the river, the wrong side for the cottage but an easier route than pushing our way through the mass of overhanging Willows. The path led through a timeless meadow lit by the low sun and dancing with flies, lying in the long grass we found a full badger skeleton, I took the skull as a momento of our journey.


We seemed to have walked for at least two miles and be getting further from the river as we went and I was becoming increasingly anxious as the sun was beginning to set over the hills, it would soon be dark and we would soon be lost within it. Finally the path skirted around to the left and another bridge took us back across the river and into a steep stubble field, in the bottom corner was a gate through which you could see a lane and beyond that the sun setting behind the rolling hills of Dorset. It was one of those views that shires of this typography have in abundance and never fails to grasp the imagination of this Lincolnshire lad from the flat lands.

Beautiful this view was but a cottage it was not, the lane seemed to imply that we had somehow missed this elusive abode, my natural irrationalness had clouded my perception and it was Liz who pointed out the little house through the hedge to our left. There it was, River Cottage, leaning up against the hedgerow as if in a game of hide and seek, we had found it. The little porch was unmistakable and I was so taken in by the details I had remembered from the series before I knew it I was at the front door. I don’t know why I went through the gate and up to the door, I had found the place but I needed to get closer, the door was ajar and the light was on inside, as if welcoming travelers. If it had not been for two loud blasts of a gun coming from the other side of the house I think I would have gone inside but the shock brought me to my senses and I turned and joined a grinning Liz in the field, where she took a photograph of myself looking rather shocked.

In a country where every square mile has been mapped, every inch turned, chopped or grazed, there seems little to explore but for exploring’s sake but setting out to find a location is no less a task because of it. Distances, contours and spot heights may all have been collected but the landscape still is in constant flux, it is still new to new eyes and surprises can still be found when we peer through hedgerows.




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Economy drive DAY 6

horsforth farmers market

Today was a bit of a tough one we needed essential supplies ‘toilet roll’ and it was also Horsforth farmers market, which is new and I feel I want to support it. With thrift in my heart I set off, the supermarket was easy milk,toilet roll, toothpaste £4;75 a knock to the budget again but will last all next week too.

The farmers market is a different story, do I just walk by? do I just browse? no I hate browsing I’m off in. Horsforth farmers market is a small but growing one this being about the 4th one. How could I not show solidarity Ohh and they have duck eggs!

I bought

6 duck eggs – to make a cake, and please a 9 year old.

2 goose eggs – to please a poorly girlfriend

1 bottle of apple and raspberry juice – probably the best juice in the world

1 jar of honey – literally from around the corner, and chatted bee keeping possibilities

5 leeks – because I like leeks.

coming to a total of £10:30

Do i feel guilty? a little, do I care? no, I’ve a bag of organic local produce, my cash went straight to the supplier, I chatted food and bee keeping, I walked there and back, it was a beautiful day. We spent the rest of the day in the garden spending nothing, polished off the best juice in the world.

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economy drive Day3

breakfastFinally a cash free day! I prepared myself, eggs from the bottom of the garden for breakfast- that’s from chickens not a new Tesco’s that’s popped up under the hedge. Lunch of pasta and store cupboard leftovers, all made and ready to go. There is also plenty of food for dinner later so no money need change hands today.

However that’s until we both have to leave the house, the car has been ruled out so the train it is. Here is my minor moral dilemma, not to sound like the Roger the Dodger of rail travel but sometimes on the 2 stop, 7 minute trip nobody checks your ticket. Meaning a saving of possibly £5 for the two of us. My OH decides to buy a return for £2:50 while I take a chance. We take the train get off nobody checks, I’m up but feel a little of a cheat. the day runs smoothly apart from a need to print some work, at a cost of 20p! my throat tightens, until a friend offers to print them as I did it last time, I sigh with relief and eat my lunch. Serendipitously while sharing the lift with the tea tray lady I cheekily ask if there are any biscuits left? to my delight there is a whole plate full which she kindly gives me, it feels like a very small victory.

I meet my OH in the park on the way home and we get the train together home again due to the rammed train no checks, I’ve had a completely free day without having to resort to a radical lifestyle change.

* disclaimer- I normally buy a train ticket

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pig husbandry

Excellent video, beautifully filmed just watch it

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The economy drive, DAY 1


“That’s the last straw! we’re going on an economy drive.”

I’m not sure if the rest of the house got the reference, perhaps I watched too much TV as a child but I don’t care I’ve had enough. I can’t seem to blink without spending money at the moment. I know that  food, mortgage, warmth and the car all need paying for and I’m not about to live in a cave drawing Eastender’s on the wall and eating nuts but it’s getting too much, even when we all agreed on Sunday to survive on £20 this week (not including bills) it’s day one and we’ve failed! and that’s my point life’s getting too expensive.

We had agreed on living on £20 for the week, just as an experiment, to see what happened, to see where the money goes. It’s not so scary it takes a little commitment but not much danger, there’s probably more food in the house than I realize and I could probably do without a lot of things (keep repeating booze is not an essential..)

Here’s what happened, my OH get’s downstairs, there’s no porridge, cereal and she’s gluten free so no toast, so she has scrambled egg, using 3 of the six eggs we have- the chickens are not laying as regular at the moment. She then decides to get the train instead of driving to work which cost around £8 a week instead of £20 petrol. Ok at this point we’re winning.

As she leaves the house I realize she has not taken a packed lunch! First fail. I think ah well that’s OK she’s saving on the train and not using the car, until I remember it’s the last night of her upholstery class, meaning she needs to drive there and pay £12:50 for the class. Cutting a huge hole in the £20 budget.

I’m at home all day, so get the stove on and live like a Hobbit in the front room, boiling the kettle and making both breakfast and dinner on the stove, trying to feel that it’s making a difference. I use 2 eggs bread, pasta found at the back of the cupboard and the remains of pesto in the fridge.

We have what feels a decadent dinner of roast beef and the trimmings – bought at the weekend- my OH admits to spending £2:50 on her dinner but drops the bombshell of £3:99 on cough medicine!

Bringing Mondays grand total to £20:69

69p more than what we agreed to live on for the week. I can see that this is going to be tougher than I thought. in the words of Sid James “If you’ve got it spend it and if you ain’t got it, get it!”

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