Day Light, Blue Nights

Trevose Harbour House: If you have never explored Britain’s South West, there is a place on the coast of Cornwall that is a particular favorite of mine. And it is not surprising because this town has been a magnet for more than a century, attracting notable artists and all manner of spirited individuals to experience the unique combination of light, air and sea.

Before I visited for the first time I recalled reading about the “light of St. Ives” and honestly, when you have not been there it is impossible to imagine. Since I am particularly interested in the work of artists from the St. Ives School, I knew there must be something to the place, but I suspected all the fuss about the light was a little over hyped.

Boy, was I in for a surprise. It is definitely a thing. Some people say it has to do with the relationship between land and sea, with St. Ives being uniquely situated with water on two sides. That makes sense, but after several visits, I still couldn’t tell you what it is. All I can say is there’s a palpable, positive feeling that results from being in St. Ives and I suspect the light has a lot to do with it.

trevose harbour house

I have stayed in several places in St. Ives, and each time the experience was somewhat disappointing. Walking up to catch my train back to London on a recent visit a new place caught my eye. It looked promising and I made note of it for next time, the Trevose Harbour House.

On arrival Owners Angela and Olivier were at the door to meet us. Crossing the threshold we immediately felt at home. It was a rainy afternoon and the little lobby containing a cozy living room, small breakfast area and well-appointed honesty bar, was warm and welcoming. The room was light and fresh, decorated in a blue and white color scheme. The fire place was glowing.

trevose harbour house

Angela and Olivier immediately engaged us in conversation. The combination of charming hosts and an interior I could easily make my own, gave me the feeling that I was getting reacquainted with old friends. You know your old friend you don’t see very often, but you can just pick up with immediately whenever you see them? That’s the feeling.

It’s clear that Trevose Harbour House is borne of experienced hands. While the place feels casual and new, the service feels more like that of a mature hotel. Both having studied at the famed Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne and subsequently worked for some of Europe’s top hotels, Angela and Olivier live and breathe hospitality. Good service has to be pervasive and invisible at the same time, a difficult balance to maintain. But Angela and Olivier pull it off like pros.

trevose harbour house

Trevose Harbour House is only a year old, but back when it was first being considered, it was not certain at all that it would come to fruition in its current location. Olivier tells me that the original plan was to open a small hotel in Brazil. But on reflection the focus moved dramatically northeast, and with a leap of faith, they planted their dream in St. Ives. Everything fell into place when they heard that The Sunshine B&B was up for sale and they decided to have a look. “We knew in a matter of minutes this was the place” says Olivier. And so the plan was complete. With a top-to-bottom renovation Trevose Harbour House was born.

In my opinion it’s the small details that make a place, and Angela’s personal touches are everywhere. She has a clear preference for mid-century furniture, which is quite refreshing in a small seaport town where the vernacular style can get a little tiresome. From antique books and vintage suitcases doubling as night stands to mid-century cherry sideboards combined with sleek new wash basins, Angela has seamlessly combined old and new into her own signature style. I am particularly fond of how she has upholstered vintage chairs with striking patterns from Designers Guild. Great idea.

trevose harbour house

Neal’s Yard is a great British natural cosmetic brand, and the house brand for in-room personal care. You will definitely want to buy more after using their products during your stay. Rounding out the room details is the help-your-self tea service. The perfect thing after a day of hitting the surf or relaxing on the beach.

Trevose Harbour House is Your Private lookout on the Changing Light of Beautiful St Ives

As this is a Bed AND Breakfast, you will be glad to know that Olivier is as adept a chef as Angela is an interior designer. For breakfast you are in for a real treat. Olivier prepares the most important meal of the day, mostly with fresh local produce. My favorite is the heavenly home-made muesli and the perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs: yum.

trevose harbour house

I heard talk of a Trevose sponsored beehive to come. Can’t wait to try that at a future breakfast. It will go nicely with the house-made jam, on sale to take home as a souvenir.

Along with their two lovely children, the Noverraz family is an integral part of close-knit St. Ives community. As it is with small towns, everyone knows what’s going on, so Angela and Olivier can easily advise you on how to fill your days while in St. Ives. When we visited, we expressed an interest in discovering more about the artists that have made their home in St. Ives. Olivier promptly set us up with a private tour of the Sandra Blow Studio, which was a real treat. Need restaurant reservations or a surf lesson? Angela and Olivier will have great ideas for you.

trevose harbour house

On our last afternoon we took advantage of Trevose’s picnic basket service. Olivier prepared scones, sandwiches, salad, coffee and a bottle of chilled Champagne, all packed in a classic wicker picnic basket. We whiled away our last sunny afternoon on a grassy hill near the beach, enjoying the sea and the spectacular changing light that makes St. Ives such a special and a unique place.

Details

If you plan to vista during high season make sure you book early. Personally, I prefer the off-season which is about now. For more information and booking go to; www.trevosehouse.co.uk

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Printing the World Fantastic

It’s fitting that this story should be the opener for the Devon issue. I am constantly surprised where circumstances can take you if you are willing to go along for the ride. On this occasion a friend was visiting from out of town, and on a rainy Saturday afternoon in London, what to do? A quick search online revealed some promising options.

One stood out because it took place in the Holy Trinity Church Marylebone. I recognized it because it’s one of Architect Sir John Soane’s buildings. That alone would be enough for me to get on board, but on this occasion there was an added bonus, an exhibition in the church by the organization London Made, a collection of artists working in various craft traditions.

It is here that I came across textile artist and designer Teresa Cole under her brand Teresa Green. I was immediately intrigued by the beauty of her whimsical and utilitarian designs. I contacted Teresa to see if I could arrange a visit and some weeks later, we were off on our Devon adventure.

Arriving at Teresa’s studio, we were greeted by a motley bunch of noisy neighbor dogs. All with tails wagging, it was soon clear they were not the guard dogs, more like the welcoming committee.

Textile Artist: Teresa Cole | Bearleader No.28

As Teresa prepared some tea and biscuits I took the opportunity to snoop around her studio a bit. As with many spaces where creative work happens, Teresa’s is filled with intriguing remnants of past projects and inspirations for future works. Collections of various objects and images, sketchbooks, inks, screens, and her collection of vintage shoes and bags that she adds to her product offering when she goes on the road to sell her wares.

Also evident is a strong interest in kitchenalia. Would obsession be too strong a word? In particular kitchen scales and elongated watering cans seem to be particular favorites. As Teresa tells it this was a passion introduced to her by both of her grandfathers. So there was no escaping it.

Textile Artist: Teresa Cole | Bearleader No.28

Teresa tells me that while she studied at the University of Loughborough, her plan was always to find a way to merge her artwork with everyday objects. So in 2001 she set up her own silk screen printing company and now lives and works as a textile artist in Devon. Her studio is in an old barn on a beautiful estate in Devon.

Like a true textile artist and craftsperson, Teresa has her uniform, wearing an apron every day in the style of a skirt elegantly wrapped around the waist.

So far Teresa has applied her art to tea towels, aprons, purses, bags, greeting cards and table linens. She sources all her fabrics from within the UK. Her textile art in linen and cotton all has a weighty feel to it with slight imperfections, which enhances the crafted character of her products. All her printing is done solely with safe water based inks.

Textile Artist: Teresa Cole | Bearleader No.28

Each of her illustrations tells a story. They are whimsical and delicate, each with a witty, dry sense of humor. The drawings seem to dance on the tea towels, and the tiny umbrellas on her purses seem poised ready to be opened at the sign of rain. Her signature red lipstick can be found in a portrait printed on a small purse. It has a tongue-in-cheek kind of feel. The color palette is bright and strong with most designs combining words and drawing.

Like a true textile artist and craftsperson, Teresa has her uniform, wearing an apron every day in the style of a skirt elegantly wrapped around the waist. The look is traditional, but with Teresa’s colors, patterns and details, the resulting look is very modern and practical. The look fits well with her truly English spirit — fun, quick-witted and always prepared for a change in weather.

Textile Artist: Teresa Cole | Bearleader No.28

After several teas and way too many biscuits, we said our farewells knowing that we would certainly cross paths again soon.

Special thanks to textile artist Teresa Cole for being our local ambassador — giving us great tips on local artisans, telling us where the most beautiful patches of farmland are and where to find best smoked sausages in Devon.

Details

For further information about Teresa Green or to shop online go to; www.teresagreen.co.uk

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

River Cottage To Table

Having been a fan of the UK TV series set at River Cottage farm, hosted by food advocate Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and without any new shows to watch of late, I came across Hugh’s talk at TED Exeter from a few years ago. One thing Hugh said resonated: “In order to help us connect with food, we should seek food with a story.”

With so many aspects of the world’s food supply in crisis, what’s one person to do? Well with River Cottage farm resturant and on the TV show, Hugh has made a personal appeal for us all to live better, healthier and more sustainably, by each week telling his personal stories about food. And his stories have had real impact. The national awareness towards eating locally and sustainably has never been higher in the UK. And in national and international politics, Hugh has successfully advocated for sensible and sustainable food policies in ways that will reap great benefits for consumers the world over for years to come.

Now, sadly, that the show has ended its run, Hugh has turned River Cottage farm over to the public, enabling us all the opportunity to experience, hands on, all the food stories we enjoyed on TV.

Upon arriving for our day at the farm we were greeted by operations manager Simon. He led us down the garden path, so to speak, as we made our way from the reception through meadows of grazing sheep, beehives, and crisp rows of dew-laden crops. Lambing season was in full swing so bouncing baby lambs hopped and scuttled in all directions as we passed through their domain.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

We sat down in the new dining hall and Simon treated us to some hot-drink hospitality as we learned more about River Cottage farms and resturant’s new mission and mapped out the day’s activities.

First, River Cottage farm was a TV set and laboratory of sorts for Hugh to test his farming, foraging, and husbandry ideas. Now it is a working farm and a modern state-of-the-art culinary school, which spreads Hugh’s message through hands-on instruction one person at a time.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

The facilities are state of the art and quite literally set into the landscape with vast areas of glass along the edge of the classroom. The message is clear, consider not just the food in front of you, but also where it comes from. And in most cases, the food prepared at River Cottage farm and restaurant could have been observed at some point through those windows.

The professional kitchen was buzzing with food production for the classes, and preparations for the soon-to-be-arriving guests. Dining at River Cottage is a great outing. You can visit for lunch or dinner year round. I have often been to restaurants where the term “farm to table” is batted around. Always with justification, but in this case the relationship is so close, sitting at the table while observing the farm is an altogether unique experience.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

The range of classes on offer year round cover an amazing variety of skills and topics: meat cookery, bread making, gardening, food foraging, preserves, making cider and beer, butchery. And for each subject taught in the school there is a corresponding book to remind students of what they learned once they get home. The books are also handy if you cannot make it to the farm: There is still a literary route to the River Cottage experience.

… Hugh has turned River Cottage farm over to the public, enabling us all the opportunity to experience, hands on, all the food stories we enjoyed on TV.

Because I am a bit of a fan of the TV show, getting to explore Hugh’s kitchen was a high point. One thing I learned from Hugh was that, with an old stove and an old table and a warm fireplace, you can make almost anything you want. And seeing Hugh’s old stove, table and original 17th century working fireplace in real life, it all looked even less auspicious than the simple set of tools and appliances where Hugh worked his magic on TV.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

Outside the kitchen window is the wonderful Victorian kitchen garden. It was still early spring when we visited, but you could see light green shoots all around starting to push out of the ground.

Simon explained that it took a few years to get the overgrown, abandoned farm back to where it is today. A farm is a machine for food production, but to work naturally it requires time and strategy. Each crop grows best with a certain set of nutrients which may be generated naturally by the crops grown in that ground previously. And once those nutrients are depleted the crops must be rotated. Getting the order right is the key to a productive yearly harvest. And coming up with ways to prepare food from all the crops in the rotation is the key to productive farming. Some plants have become more popular than others and tend to be over-farmed. But each plant is good if you know how to prepare it.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

We walked by a noisy gaggle of geese dashing for the pond to avoid us, and carefully avoided the chickens roaming freely around the farm, pecking the ground for any tasty morsels they could dig up. We stopped off at the pig pen for a visit with a couple of River Cottage’s heritage breed pigs. Simon politely knocked on their roof and both pigs poked their heads out to greet us. Both curious about the stranger at their door, they quickly warmed up to me, having a chew on my Hunter boots, which I took as a friendly gesture.

In the greenhouses, the first lush and juicy strawberries were starting to ripen. A few more weeks and they will ready to serve. Finally we made our way up a small hill, along a narrow footpath, and emerged in a large meadow covered with bluebells in bloom. What a brilliant mass of deep blue. On the way out we made a final stop at the lambing shed, where the newborn lambs were as curious to see us as their mothers were apprehensive.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

It is a great feeling when everybody and everything works towards a common purpose. And this is how the evolving story of River Cottage is being written every day by the people working on the land, in the kitchen and those plotting a future for this amazing place.

They say it is best to leave a place wanting more. And my departure from River Cottage was with the determination to come back soon.

Details

For information about tours, classes, or dining at River Cottage, go to; www.rivercottage.net

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Pigging Out—Oink Oink

In our travels we had heard talk of Chef Robin Rea and his establishment the Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon. So as we made our way around Devon, we could not resist the opportunity to stop in and visit the man himself, to see what all the talk was about.

Arriving in Ottery St Mary we parked in the town center and walked up the eerily quiet Yonder Street looking for Robin. It was not entirely clear that we were on the right path until we stumbled across a sow-themed shop window, complete with faux knives, metaphorically at the ready, to dispatch delicious pork parts to hungry diners everywhere. Ah, this must be the place.

The Rusty Pig Ottery has the feel of being undiscovered. The kind of place you stumble across in an out-of-the-way place and can proclaim to the world, “Look what I have found”. Unfortunately for us, The Rusty Pig Ottery is quite well known in these parts, and much further afield, as attested by his name coming up several times in conversations with strangers. But, as we discovered, through Robin’s relentless pursuit of his passion for food, charcuterie and various other food innovations, quite a unique establishment has developed. Part butcher shop, part restaurant, part lunch counter and local meeting place, Robin has created the perfect spot to work his magic.

As an aside, Robin welcomed us in one of Teresa Green’s silkscreened aprons. A blood red linen one made especially for Robin. Who is Teresa Green? Check out Check out Journal Entry No.28.

Robin’s story is as diverse as the style of his establishment. He started cooking as a teenager. First leaving Ottery St Mary bound for Australia, and then returning to London, eventually ending up at the nearby River Cottage. Finally returning home to Ottery St Mary, he decided to take over his mom’s former 99p store on Yonder Street. After a gut renovation, the Rusty Pig Ottery was born.

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Passionate about pigs, Robin keeps a few of his own, which he “lodges” at a friend’s vegetable farm. They fertilize her gardens and in return she provides the Rusty Pig Ottery with excellent veggies. He is also on a mission to educate people about animal husbandry and how we need to change our farming practices to be healthier and more sustainable. That means more vegetables generally, but better meat when you have it.

At the Rusty Pig you will only get what is in season from Robin’s local purveyors. But in Devon, that is not terribly limiting. With all its lush farmland and adjacency to the sea, it’s a food lover’s paradise. When I took Robin’s portrait in front of his store I momentarily held up traffic as I backed up into the street. As the trucks passed, Robin realized one of them was his seafood supplier and shouted “Hey! Where’s my fish?” He sped off shouting, “be there in two”. How’s that for a purchase order!

Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon | Bearleader No.30

Wasting food does not sit well with Robin. His roof-top smoker cabinet bears testament to that. He built it himself, to my eye having the approximate proportions of the puppet theaters I remember from childhood. He smokes sausages, hams, but surprisingly, also carrots and any other vegetables he has left over. The smoked carrots are the main ingredients for his home-made ketchup which is just delicious.

… returning home to Ottery St Mary, he decided to take over his mom’s former 99p store on Yonder Street. After a gut renovation, the Rusty Pig Ottery was born.

Sometimes Robin’s drive to not let anything go to waste has driven him to extremes. One of his specialties is blood meringues. For Robin they are part object lesson and part dinner entertainment. Working with a food scientist, Robin found that the protein structure of pig’s blood is virtually identical to that of egg whites. So to illustrate his no-waste message, he now makes beautiful little desert meringues out of pig’s blood. They are slightly beige, and believe me if you were not told otherwise, you would not know the difference between Robin’s blood meringues and their egg-based cousins. “It took a lot of testing”, he says. “You just need to get the sugar level right, or it tastes like you got hit in the mouth”.

Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon | Bearleader No.30

His real passion is Charcuterie and originally he set out to do exclusively that. But one thing led to another and soon Robin was preparing food for his customers on site, which turned out to be a better business model to support Robin’s constant culinary experiments. And luckily for you and me, you can now enjoy Robin’s extensive talents for breakfast and lunch from Thursday to Saturday. The day we visited, breakfast was already in full swing with locals and urban weekenders, all in for their weekly breakfast treats.

On Robin’s recommendation, we went for the Full English, which I have to say, was my best to date. Seriously, the flavor ensemble was perfect, and it was a food stylist’s dream in a sturdy black skillet with lovely vegetables, simply roasted, with blood pudding, sausages, hash and lovely thick cut of white toast.

Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon | Bearleader No.30

You would think that someone that is so passionate about charcuterie would be snobbish with vegetarians. Not so with Robin. He very clearly expresses that in this day and age a good chef should be able to cook a main course with whatever is available to them, meat or not. Learning to be improvisational allows you to develop a much more interesting palette of taste. And as with doing anything risky, mistakes happen, which then become the next innovations.

So come hungry and don’t be shy about ordering vegetarian. I was torn as to which I liked best.

Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon | Bearleader No.30

One of the Rusty Pig Ottery specials is his “dinner on demand”. If you make arrangements ahead of time Robin will prepare an ethically sourced four-course dinner for 40 pounds a head. He can host up to 15 people. Just remember, you need to book way in advance. His dinners are extremely popular and patrons travel from far away for the experience.

I left thinking this guy should be famous, I mean seriously famous. And then I remembered, he is already. It was just a lovely down-to-earth experience chatting with Robin and his team. His charm, wit and enthusiasm for food is something you very rarely see. He has created exactly the kind of place where people from all walks of life like to come and spend time with him and eat.

Go there. All I can say you will love it.

Details

For further details go to; www.rustypig.co.uk

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Taking Flight in Doddington

Since childhood I have been fascinated by falconeering. In particular, I remember being drawn in by early representations of falconeering in an art book at home, and whiling away the hours thinking about adventures that could be had with a flying companion. The idea of forging a bond with a bird of prey, a wild animal, still intrigues me.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Evidence suggests that the art of Falconeering may have begun in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC. The man responsible for bringing the practice to Europe was the Roman Emperor, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1194-1250). He reportedly would have come in contact with Arabic falconeering through his connections with Tunisia’s Hafsid rulers. And upon obtaining a copy of an 8th century treatise on falconeering, he had it translated into Latin, and this resulted in the first manual for falconeering in Europe.

Historically, falconeering was not only a practical means of hunting prey too quick to capture by other means, but a popular sport. The ownership of certain kinds of birds was an important status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe. Strict rules dictated what kind of bird you could own according to your station in life.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Birds of prey had such importance that they occupied a special place at the table during nightly feasts. With the rise of firearms in the 18th and 19th centuries, falconeering gradually faded from wide use. Only recently has the public become interested again in the practice, due in large part to the success of the Harry Potter novels.

Evidence suggests that the art of Falconeering may have begun in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC. The man responsible for bringing the practice to Europe was the Roman Emperor, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen

Although it’s an ancient practice, falconeering has changed little over time. The key equipment required is virtually identical to what would have been familiar back in the 8th century; the hood that keeps the birds calm, the glove and the bell leather jesses. Only a modern radio transmitter has been added to the kit of tools for the modern falconer to help chase down errant birds.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Modern falconeering is mostly on view to the public in sideshows for tourists at old castles. This usually involves bad actors in cheap Halloween store costumes, trying to get you into the spirit of medieval life; not interesting in the least.

So I began a search for a place where an amateur could truly participate in the sport. I was thrilled to come across The Hawking Centre in Doddington Place Gardens, Kent.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

The gardens alone at Doddington Place are wonderful. If you come with your family and not everybody is into falconeering, there is plenty to keep you occupied in the garden. The immense clipped yew hedges are worth a look. Left to grow unchecked during World War II, then owner John Oldfield decided he liked them better in their over-grown state, and now they are famous for their naturalist expression. They remind me of giant ground-dwelling clouds.

For this trip we took the train from Central London, leaving from Victoria station. We brought our bikes along for the four-mile ride from Teynham station to Doddington Place Gardens.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Arriving on time, we joined in with the group; all from different walks of life but with our falconeering interest in common. It was a gorgeous sunny Spring morning when proprietor and head falconer Leigh Holmes arrived to give us a quick run down on what he had planned for our day. Leigh introduced us to his team; Laura, Katie, young apprentice Lewes and Jo his wife, who runs the wonderful tearoom.

Leigh started working with birds as a teenager and has never looked back. His dream to bring falconeering to a wider public really shows in his enthusiasm for the sport. His young son Edward joined in on the activities periodically, in between romps in the garden. He is already an accomplished falconer, following in dad’s footsteps.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

First Laura brought out Maggie the vulture and divided us into two groups. We took turns wearing the baited glove to attract Maggie’s attention. Whoever was wearing the glove in the opposite group, Maggie flew to. Back and forth from group to group, landing on whoever had the glove with some food. It was a bit like tennis; back and forth, back and forth. We each had a turn.

Vultures are not really trained for falconry, but seeing a full-grown vulture up close was a real treat. It was interesting to learn that vulture’s feet are rather weak, but they have very strong necks, the opposite of a bird of prey. Since they live off animals that are already dead they don’t need to hunt so they have evolved different strengths to suite.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Then a quick tour through where the birds are housed. The care and maintenance of the birds is a lot of work, the most important aspect of which is their weight control. The birds need to be the right weight in order to want to fly and look for food. If a bird is too skinny it will not be able to fly. If it weighs too much it will not be interested in flying. So in order to get the right balance, each bird is weighed regularly to decide which ones are ready to fly each day. Also, each variety of bird has a different optimal weight. The constant care required to keep these birds healthy and performing well is what makes for such a close bond between bird and owner. It takes a special kind of personality to commit to caring for these beautiful, valuable and high-maintenance creatures.

In talking to the handlers, they all developed a passion for their birds quite young. And all said the same thing about their first encounter with falconry, they knew in an instant that they wanted to work with birds of prey. It was love at first sight.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Next Laura took us on a walk around the wonderful Doddington gardens with one of the falcons. Again, we walked in two groups with the falcon flying between the groups, each time searching out the one wearing the baited glove.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

I have to admit that I found the experience quite enthralling. The first time the falcon flew towards me and landed on my hand I had a split second thought, “oh boy, what have I gotten myself into now?” but then I remembered that Leigh said not show fear because they can sense it and will challenge you. So I relaxed and went with it … bird safely in hand.

Arriving back at the tearoom Jo and her helpers had prepared a lovely lunch for us with sandwiches, tea and cakes. All homemade and delicious.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

After a good break we gathered in the gardens and Laura took us on a walk around the whole estate with one of the falcons named Jojo. As we walked through grazing sheep and lambs, and past the occasional horse, the falcon would fly ahead and perch in a tree. Then on seeing one of us with the baited gloved, she would swoop down onto the glove to feed. This falcon had quite a mischievous personality. She would often swoop down, flying so low as to just clip one of us with her wings on her way to the glove. Testing us all, I presume, to see whom the weak ones were.

Next we made our way back for the big finale, Margo the eagle. We headed out to the large meadow and Margo took off. First we thought she might head off for a long high glide on the stiff breeze. But instead she flew to the middle of the field, stood there with wings spread, just letting the wind blow through her feathers.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

She is only seven month old and when she lands on your hand you can see that she is a bit like a puppy, not very certain of her skills yet and rather playful. She weighs 11 pounds so you need to summon all your strength to hold her until she takes off again to take food from another of your fellow participants across the field.

That was really the highlight of the day, and the perfect ending to a wonderful excursion to Doddington Place Gardens.

Back on our bikes, we rode to Teynham station, for the short trip back to London.

Details

The Hawking Center is in operation from the 30th of March through the 30th of September. But check the website for the latest information and for directions to Doddington Gardens; www.thehawkingcentre.co.uk

For a more in depth experience you may be interested in the five day course.

For more information about Doddington Place gardens, check out; www.doddingtonplacegardens.co.uk

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

High Altitude Greek Cooking

“Forget gourmet, discover gastronomy“ is the mantra of our hosts Fanis, Vagelis and Andonis. And they wear their message proudly. It’s the first thing we saw when they greeted us for our Natour Labs Cretan Cooking Class in the village of Milia Crete at the Milia Mountain Retreat, the words were emblazoned on their T-shirts.

I heard about these three ambassadors of Greek culture during a stay at Hotel Ammos. I contacted Andonis to learn more, and he graciously invited me to join the group for one of their Tuesday cooking courses.

The trip to Milia Crete is a story in itself. Traveling from the warm beaches of Chania to the top of the mountains takes less than an hour. The road is steep and quite rudimentary, with many stretches built with just one lane. For the uninitiated, driving up this road can be quite nerve wracking. But once you learn that what the roads lack in width, the drivers make up for in friendly cooperation, it all seems quite adequate. The caution necessary to transverse the route guarantees a slow and gentle ascent with ample time to take in the breathtaking views.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

On arrival at the Milia Crete turn off, the road narrows even more and becomes gravel, more a path than a road.

The difficulty in accessing Milia Crete is in fact by design. In the past, the route to Milia would have been invisible to anyone not belonging there. Also, the hidden nature of the village has provided shelter and security during many wars and sieges and it kept the self-sustained villagers safe and fed while they waited for treacherous events to pass. Its obscurity was its main defense and the reason that today you can walk into approximately the same village you might have visited in the 17th century.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

In the ‘70s, with the infrastructure of the village crumbling, the father-in-law of Tasos, the current owner, decided to save the village and turn it into an eco lodge with a restaurant open to the public. Every Tuesday, this is the home of Natour Labs Cretan Cooking Class. The beautiful stone houses of the village have been restored and outfitted as guest accommodations, with fire places inside, and hammocks outside perfect for reading in the afternoon sun to the occasional sound of bells from goats wandering the surrounding hills.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

On the day of my visit, a varied group showed up hailing from New York, London, Paris and Greece. Our youngest cooking participant, who came with mom and dad from London, was just short of two years old! Tasos pitched in with child-minding duty and kept the little girl entertained with visits to see the piglets raised on the premises.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

The island of Crete is rich in agriculture. A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables has amply fed the islanders for many centuries. Locals were healthy and lived long active lives. Many studies talk about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. However in Crete, as in most countries, modern industrialized food has taken over. Imported foods abundant in carbohydrates and sugar dominate in the local grocery stores, as a result, the Cretans now suffer from an obesity epidemic. I can provide a first-hand account of this as I have been coming to Greece since I was a teenager. Years ago it was rare to see anyone overweight, but on my recent visit it was shocking to see XXXL shops prominently advertised on the main thoroughfare.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

The mission of Natour Lab is to remind fellow Cretans (and visitors) about the traditional way of cooking and eating, encouraging a return to the practice of cooking with simple fresh ingredients, in season, and from local sources. At Natour Lab in most cases right from the Milia Crete. It’s a message beginning to be heard wherever you travel these days, and one championed by an ever-increasing chorus of voices advocating a more sustainable way of living.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

The take away from the course was that with few ingredients and little time you can create the most wonderful dishes. Our three-course meal illustrated it. First, was a starter of local mountain cheese and tomatoes on crostini followed by a wonderful tomato and peach soup. Peaches and tomatoes go together naturally, we were taught, as do braised lamb and a honey dish with potatoes and courgette (which is zucchini if you live in the US or Australia).

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

Bread was made fresh that morning in a wood-fired bread oven. Delicious! A high light for us all were the cookies that we made from a simple dough of flour, olive oil, honey, and cinnamon. Repurposing a countertop sausage machine, the dough was extruded into delicate shapes. This resulted in a rustic “shortbread” cookie, just as good as the original, but with no sugar or butter.

The difficulty in accessing Milia Crete is in fact by design. In the past, the route to Milia would have been invisible to anyone not belonging there.

As is usually the case when a group of strangers are thrust into a room together, it begins with a “warming up” period! And as the class was conducted in English with most in our group speaking other languages, we had additional communication hurdles to overcome. But once we all started chopping and mixing, barriers quickly melted away. By late afternoon, we were all seated around a communal table in conversation, eating and drinking the fruits of our labor, wishing we could linger into the evening.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

Check Natour Lab’s website to see what is being offered during your visit to Milia Crete. They also offer a variety of specialized experiences, including bee keeping, and hiking excursions throughout Crete. You can arrange private classes and tours to suit your schedule.

Some of the more challenging hikes require proper equipment. So if you are interested in those activities, enquire before you arrive, and get advice on what equipment to bring.

Details

For more information about Natour Lab; www.natour-lab.gr

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger