St Peter’s Church, Clayworth, Nottinghamshire – first ever Christmas tree festival!
Christmas tree festivals are community events that bring people and local organisations together. Individuals and groups supply and decorate a Christmas tree. This particular Christmas tree festival is St Peter’s first ever! There are currently fifteen trees in this inaugural display, all lit, decorated and on show collectively. But for a limited time only – from now until Saturday 21st December. It is not here for long and St Peter’s in Clayworth, North Nottinghamshire will be open every day until then from 10.00am until 4.00pm.
Local organisations get involved
A couple of local organisations have provided a themed tree to reflect their business, such as the popular local bar and restaurant ‘the Blacksmith’s Arms’ https://www.blacksmithsclayworth.com/. Then there’s the ‘go to’ website for all events, things to do and what’s on information for the North Nottinghamshire area https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/
An opportunity to visit the Traquair Murals
So, if you missed the ‘big one’ in town, now is your chance to savour flavour of this individual display. Enjoy this smaller but cosier exhibition in a local, historic, village church. Take advantage of this opportunity to see the ‘Traquair Murals’ as St Peter’s is home to the largest works of art in the East of England. They are are well worth a visit in themselves. You can read all about them here: https://savourthemoment.co/country-life/the-traquair-murals-the-what-murals/
Edible tree decorations to take away ‘Treats and Treasures’
A couple of the trees are decorated with edible treats. Help yourself to one or two – take some home or pass them around. This is a free event but there are opportunities to leave donations. There is a safe in the wall near the door for donations and also one or two collection boxes near the trees. Refreshments are available too.
Heartwarming and unforgettable
Every Christmas tree festival is unique and has its own charm. St Peter’s would welcome your visit. It is a heart-warming and unforgettable sight especially when the trees are lit and it’s dark outside.
Share the joy
In recent years Christmas tree festivals have become increasingly popular as a way of bringing communities together. They provide the opportunity to raise money for the church or local charities. Most importantly they share the joy of the Christmas message and add a little extra sparkle to the Christmas festivities.
Don’t miss this chance to visit, time is running out – it will all be over on the evening of Saturday 21st December.
I recently had the very good fortune to be invited to a bloggers event at the Barrister’s Book Chamber https://barristersbookchamber.com/ in Retford, North Notts. The book shop has opened a new department ‘Murder and the Barrister’ on the top floor of the listed, Georgian building that it occupies.
The Barrister’s Book Chamber put on a ‘movie night’ for us bloggers in their fiction room. Comfy chairs, bean bags, nibbles, popcorn and drinks and we were set for the film. ‘Clue’ is a 1985 drama/mystery/comedy based on the board game ‘Cluedo’ and was perfect for the occasion.
The tour begins
With the film over we were given a tour of the upper rooms. Unique decor of scarlet blood splats against the signature ‘Barrister’s blue’ runs throughout and up the dog-leg staircase. There are street names on the walls of where the Ripper’s victims were found, which are a conversation piece in themselves.
Agatha Christie… of course!
A little nook that has a Georgian window, is currently home to ‘Agatha Christie’. This little area will become home to other famous crime writers over time.
The crime fiction room is completely filled with every kind of crime fiction you can imagine. Generally the price rule throughout the shop is paperbacks £2 and hardbacks £3 – which is a steal. If there is a particular book that you are after, they will do their best to get it for you, although it might cost a bit more. As you might expect, so do special editions and some vintage books.
An all-purpose Workshop Room
Moving on and we are in the ‘Workshop Room’ or meeting room. Tastefully kitted out with tables and chairs to make a welcoming space. The potential uses of this area are endless. It can be a quiet area for yoga, meditation, networking, crafting or IT workshops…
A stenotype too!
Finally on the top floor is the Barrister’s room which is small and quirky. It holds a collection of Jack the Ripper books amongst other things. The Barrister’s robe, wig and brief bags are on display in here too. A real-life stenotype is in here too! (Only ever seen in period courtroom dramas before.) And if you are lucky enough and Dave is around, you may get to hear all sorts of fascinating anecdotes and stories which bring this room to life. Dave is the man who physically brought Angela’s dream of the Book Chamber to life. They are a very talented team.
All this and cake too
You don’t have to be on the look out for a book to visit this shop either. A lovely, comfy little tea room is at the back of the ground floor. Incredible homemade cakes are created by Laura, another member of the team, which she brings in fresh every day. Also in here are vinyl records, as well as tea and coffee of course!
You never know what you might find in this Aladdin’s cave
Remember those colour-coded Penguin books from the 1930s and 40s? Well there are quite a few of the green ‘murderous’ ones on display… but don’t tell everyone!
Keep your eye on the Barrister’s Book Chamber, there is always something new happening there. I wonder what’s in store next for this clever little shop?
A cup of tea and a chat with Rachael Care – The Cottage Vegan
Although we live in the same, small North Notts village, I had never met Rachael – until the village plant sale at the Clayworth Memorial Hall. A few of us had taken homemade cakes to sell to help boost the proceeds. Rachael had made a selection of vegan muffins which looked eye-poppingly gorgeous.
A gap in the market for vegan food locally
She and I chatted and it seemed that she was on the verge of starting up her own business ‘The Cottage Vegan’. Having done some research locally she discovered that there is a gap in the market for home-prepared, vegan food. After the plant sale we linked up on Facebook.
Such glorious cakes
The pictures she was posting of her glorious cakes gave me the idea that someone I know might appreciate one of her creations. I messaged Rachael and within minutes she responded saying that she was baking at that moment and would have a carrot cake ready for me that very afternoon. Now that is service! The cake went down a treat, it tasted divine and it didn’t break the bank!
Cup of tea and a chat
I asked Rachael if she fancied a chat over a cup of tea and she kindly invited me to her cottage. And it is is exactly as you would imagine – a typical English cottage in a typical English village! She has over a hundred cookery books and her kitchen is all neatly laid out ready for the next baking session. It seems that ‘The Cottage Vegan’ (very aptly named) went ‘live’ on 1st July. One month in and business is already brisk. Simple word-of-mouth alongside social media and the orders are rolling in.
We made a connection
She and I seemed to connect, having much in common: a love of cookery, making things, creativity and ‘flavour’! I was bowled over by her determination and passion and asked her how she had arrived at this point in her life – on the cusp of a new business. It seems that she has taken a long and winding route to where she is now.
Back to school
Rachael has worked with various companies in administration and also at one point as a carer. But she had always harboured the desire to learn to cook, although she could already cook she wanted to learn to do it professionally. She was encouraged to follow her dream by her husband so gave up her job and started a vocational college course https://www.don.ac.uk/.
If you don’t ask you don’t get
With a need to keep some money coming in and also to get a foot into the catering industry, she took a job as a chamber maid at a local hotel with a fine dining restaurant attached http://www.mountpleasant.co.uk/ . One thing led to another and she dared to ask the Head Chef if he would give her a job. To her surprise he said ‘yes’! and he continued to be her mentor and oversee her progress… and her rise to pastry chef.
Home is where the heart is
Something that has always been on her mind is, like me, she loves to be at home. All those endless days spent staring out of someone else’s window with a longing just to be at home. Also like me, she enjoys her own company. All this points to where she is, developing her own business from where she loves more than anywhere else to be… her own kitchen.
Business is booming
Market research was to supply her husband’s colleagues with her first bakes, actively encouraging their feedback – and ultimately their orders, which began to gather momentum. She now finds herself very busy. Because she is flexible and open to suggestions she is constantly adding new lines and experimenting with flavours. She will even prepare a week’s worth of readymade vegan meals to people who don’t have the time to shop and cook. It’s a service that is clearly much appreciated.
Get in touch with Rachael at the Cottage Vegan
Have a look at The Cottage Vegan’s Facebook page and if there’s anything thing there that tempts you (believe me there will be whether you are vegan or not!) send her a message. https://m.facebook.com/thecottagevegan/
Variety is the spice of life
So, it’s not just cakes… it’s Jamaican patties, vegan lasagne, bean and vegetable casseroles, flatbreads, vegan burgers, the most amazing gâteux, muffins and cakes – and probably anything else you might ask of her. All her bakes and makes are made to order with top-quality, local produce… and lots of love.
I have always had an interest in make up and being a girl of the 60s I wore it a lot! Socket lines, white lipstick, eyeliner – you name it! I so wish that I could create the look I want without looking like ‘mutton dressed as lamb – or worse… a clown!’ The moment I met Elaine I knew she had the skills for the job. So, with a hand-mirror I watched as she worked her magic.
Her very own make up studio
Elaine has her own make up studio at her house near Worksop, North Nottinghamshire.She welcomed me into her Aladdin’s cave of cosmetics, brushes and mirrors.It was a jaw-dropping moment – taking a step into another world.I sat in her client’s chair and as she had asked me to take the make up I use along with me, we looked at each item and talked about how I used it.I explained that I had got to the age where I felt almost invisible. Gone are the days when I might turn heads. I told her that I struggled with eye make up because of my hooded eyelids.She convinced me that this should not be a problem.
Stay ahead of the game
As she got to work, we chatted and she told me that there were tricks that could be used to shape the face and camouflage problem areas.It soon became clear that Elaine knows what she’s talking about and is also very good at what she does.She has her favourite products too and although she doesn’t sell cosmetics she will happily recommend – one of her favourite brands is Charlotte Tilbury https://www.charlottetilbury.com/uk .Elaine likes to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry and visits the trade shows and exhibitions, picking up information and learning about new products in the process. And of course sharing hints and tips with other make up artists along the way.
A face map
She explained everything that she did and why she was doing it.She told me about every brush and why she used it and not only that but she wrote everything down onto a face map for me. I could take this away with me to follow and (to try) to recreate my new look for myself.This would be a challenge and it will take practice but I will certainly give it a go.
The make up bug
Some years ago she worked on the beauty counter at Boots and I think that’s where she originally got the ‘make up bug’.One thing led to another and before she knew it she was a fully qualified Make Up Artist with a regular gig at the West Retford Best Western Hotel https://www.westretfordhotel.co.uk/.However, her workload has increased to the point where she can no longer maintain the time spent there.I get the feeling that she will always have a soft spot for West Retford and their door will always be open to her. She also lectures on the subject at Retford College and regularly lets students accompany her to appointments for the experience.
A growing portfolio of delighted brides
She has tended to many nervous brides and bridesmaids on their big days, which is a huge responsibility.But Elaine is clearly very experienced and passionate about what she does.And she is very good at putting her clients immediately at their ease, making every one of them instagrammable.
Confidence is the key
Despite all the creams, shadows, lipsticks and pencils Elaine firmly believes that the most important element of make up is ‘confidence’ which comes from withinAnd she is right too but having Elaine to do your make up for you first would give you a head start in that department. She is a little miracle worker! I left her studio feeling like a million dollars.
A session with Elaine costs £40 and gift vouchers are available
Liam Wildish has recently become a local hero and celebrity with his community-spirited, clean-up of the area. He runs his own ‘Clean Scene’ window cleaning business and he took it upon himself to clean the odd road sign or two https://www.cleanyx.com/GB/East-Retford/216885679007526/Clean-Scene-Window-Cleaning. This snowballed and he was soon cleaning nearly all the road signs that were safely accessible for him – in his spare time and at his own expense. His work was noticed and he found himself in the local paper and then… before he knew it… on BBC Television’s ‘The One Show’ being interviewed by Matt Baker and Alex Jones. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/ And he went viral too!
Litter-picking grabbers at the ready
His Facebook following soon grew and he used his newfound celebrity to launch his ‘Clean Up Retford Campaign’. He jumped through all the hoops to organise a ‘Sunday Morning Clean Up’ and invited all those who could make it, to join him. Having checked with the local council, he read out the ‘dos and donts’ and made everyone aware of the ‘risks involved’ and then handed out hi-vis vests and litter-picking-grabbers!
A good crowd for a first community event
I estimate that approximately 20 people turned up, including some members of the local youth club, a dad with a baby strapped to his chest and even a few people from outside the area.
Many, many, many, cigarette butts
The litter pickers sorted themselves into small groups and broke off in different directions. We were to return to the start-point in two hours. Fortunately the day was fine and warm and friendly banter made the two hours fly by. Many, many, many cigarette butts and at least twenty full bags of rubbish later, Liam’s first community action was complete.
A growing initiative
I am sure that this initiative will grow and that Liam’s next community event will receive even more support. Credit due to the lad, he gives his time for free and his enthusiasm is infectious. His intentions are good and he sets a fine example. We need more Liams!
We shouldn’t have to rely on someone else to clean up our mess
Retford is an historic, Georgian market town in the Bassetlaw area of North Nottinghamshire and like every other small town it faces struggles. I think we all know that resources are scant and we can’t always rely on these already overstretched funds to keep our environment immaculately clean. It is up to us as individuals to take responsibility for our actions.
If everyone did a little – the effect would be huge and we would all benefit
If only everyone would do just a little bit – like tidying up outside their own front door or outside their business – life would be so much sweeter. It should only take a few minutes, it would be so worth it and the world be a better place… for everyone.
Every little helps, as some big supermarket once said.
The new ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is the latest arrival to the Barrister’s Book Chamber family https://barristersbookchamber.com. It is entirely dedicated to children’s books all stocked in the new, cosy premises. You will find it in rural North Notts https://www.northnotts.co.uk/. But this is not your average high street shop. This member of the family-run business only sells books for kids -in a very imaginative way. ‘The Barrister in Wonderland’ sits on a busy thoroughfare. It is bright, fun and instantly welcoming. The perfect place to get lost with a new find.
So many children’s books
The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is at 66 Carol Gate in the heart of the historic market town of Retford.As you might guess from its name, it reflects the classic story. It is an adventure inside and out. This is an independent bookshop that specialises in only children’s books. It aims to appeal to inquisitive minds.
My own secret hiding place
The ‘Barrister’s Book Chamber’ itself arrived on the Retford high street eighteen months ago. However, since then I have taken many friends and family to visit this ‘book shop with a tea shop’. It is my ‘meeting place’ of choice. There are nooks and crannies in which to get cosy with a cup of tea and a piece of cake… the cakes, well that’s a whole blog on its own! So, I was very eager to meet the newest addition to the Barrister family.
A real delight
This little gem is full of fun artwork, it covers every available surface. A tea party is the centre of the window display… and also on the ceiling inside! It is a sight to behold. Children of all ages will be completely entranced. There is even a ‘grassy’ area for kids to sit and sample new stories. See if you can find the White Rabbit disappearing into a hole with his pocket watch. I promise he is there but not quite where you might expect to find him.
Story book wall
An entire wall is filled with story books, both new and second-hand. There is a ‘Young Reader’ section too with easy to find books all sorted alphabetically by author. Board books for tinies for as little as £1. Arranged around the counter are vintage and classic story books and annuals. Then there is a reference or non-fiction section with history, science, maths, cookery, crafts… and of course, a teen fiction section.
Souvenirs of the visit
Unique book-marks, page markers, story blocks and lots more can be purchased at pocket-money prices. A nice reminder of a visit to a very special little book shop.
Open to suggestions
The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is a children’s bookshop with a difference. The staff loves kids and kids’ books. The manager, Laura, is keen to form relationships with local schools. She would like to hear what her visitors want and will be led by them. Events will be very much driven by what her customers want.
Inspiration for young minds
This bookshop is completely child-friendly and is bound to inspire and entertain young readers. It is jam-packed with brilliant characters, tall tales and wonderful stories. The perfect place to get lost together in a book.
Something for every child
There are bright displays to entice young readers to choose their next read, from board books for babies, to thrillers for teens. As a result there’s an eclectic collection with something for every child.
The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is home to some of the cleverest, bookish decor you’ve ever seen. It is easy to navigate and there’s plenty of space to browse. Kids will love to explore the shelves and hand-pick their new favourite character.
A comprehensive selection
This is a treasure trove of children’s books. A boutique that has almost every genre of book to inspire young ones to dive into a story. The in-the-know booksellers are eager to recommend the perfect story, which is sure to encourage a love of reading – in even the most reluctant of readers.
A veritable treasure trove
This magical emporium is full of second-hand and new wares. Vintage finds and treasures just waiting to be discovered. It is exactly what it says above the door – a wonderland of books just for kids. Perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in some classic and well-loved tales – at a pocket-money price!
On my morning scroll-through Linkedin, a contact of mine, Susan Hallam of Hallam Internet, https://www.hallaminternet.com/ had posted an image that stopped me in my tracks.It was a simple image taken in my home town, Nottingham.It was predominantly the ‘Council House’, only slightly obscured by some Fothergill Watson architecture, which I visualised to be at the bottom of King Street.
My home town
I could almost be on a vantage point looking down into the city-centre, perhaps on the roof of the Royal Concert Hall? At least that’s how it made me feel.This image could have been taken anywhere in the world:Istanbul, Prague, Bruges but no, it was Nottingham.And how stunningly beautiful it looked too.
A popular post
I don’t usually share images, or any old article about marketing that I come across but this was different; this shouted ‘share me!’It wasn’t long before my screen lit up with notifications.Almost 40 likes and over 1000 views in a very short space of time.
I commented on the post and within minutes the photographer, Tracey Whitefoot, had responded to thank me.I also noticed that she had replied to every single comment both previously and since.
I went to Tracey’s website http://tracey-whitefoot.squarespace.com and was blown away with her architecture and landscape images.I wondered if she would agree to a chat over coffee and cake, which I could feature on my blog.She didn’t hesitate, need any persuasion or even baulk at the 60 mile round trip either. Coffee and cake then at the Barrister’s Book Chamber https://barristersbookchamber.com/ in Retford, north Nottinghamshire.
Two hours just flew by
I had no idea what to expect – neither of us knew the other!I need not have worried.Tracey was easy to talk to and to listen to… she was relaxed and generously shared her story and her time with me.She has achieved so much – and she is on the cusp of more adventures and even greater things.It was clear that this was going to be no ordinary chat but a fascinating, rollercoaster ride!
It started as just a hobby
Tracey is a Nottingham lass, born and brought up in Chilwell and currently living and working out of Carlton.Most of her work – the bread and butter – is marketing and PR photography, quite a bit of it for both the city and county councils and community-based stuff with colleges, theatres and the local press.It had always been Tracey’s hobby and she had already made the decision to take up photography professionally but an opportunity came through a colleague .She was pushed to get out and take some pictures for someone that her friend thought would be a good contact.It worked and she began to get paid photography work.
Anything that came in after that, if she didn’t have the skill level required, she would do lots of prep and dummy runs the day before!
Around the world
Tracey went to Australia for the first time in 1998 and worked as a ‘Jillaroo’ on a cattle station.After which, much of her early career was spent in sales and then after selling the house she returned to Australia in 2004/2005.She has been all over the world with her camera.She has no formal training although she did think about it briefly but she was doing quite well enough without it.
I had questions prepared that I thought I should ask but they somehow seemed to be irrelevant.Like, ‘which photographers does she admire?’She says that she has great respect for her peers and other female photographers making a living as a professional – like Birmingham-based Verity Milligan and Lincolnshire-born, wildlife photographer Chris Weston, who was a great help when Tracey started out, his books helped her with a lot of the technical aspects of photography.
The million dollar question
And then, ‘what makes a good picture?’Her answer, I now see, is staggeringly obvious; ‘the light’ was her response.This is what makes her get up so early in the morning, this is what motivates her.It is clear in all her compositions and landscapes that this is the most important thing to her – the light!Sunrises, shadows, sunsets and shafts of light.She will go to any lengths for the right light to get the shot that she wants… and it shows. Visit her website and see for yourself!‘The light’ is her motivation.It doesn’t really matter where, as long as the light is right.
Prolific and vibrant images
If today is stressful then treat yourself to a few moments of calm… look at Tracey’s images on http://Www.alamy.com search for lavender and you will be immediately transported to the lavender fields in France.You can almost smell the perfume!
Tracey’s enthusiasm and love of light and life are contagious, she has a real energy.She says she’s ‘bonkers’, I say she’s a genius!
The next big thing
Her next adventure in search of light will take her to Everest basecamp in 2020.I for one, can’t wait to see the what she captures there. But then I hope she soon returns to Nottinghamshire’s best kept secret that is Pilgrim Country, perhaps she will find light here too.
If it’s enthusiasm, energy… and light you want, talk to Tracey.
Plough Monday can be traced right back to medieval times.It traditionally saw the return to work after the break for Christmas, especially in northern and eastern England.The traditions for Plough Monday varied from village to village.Plough Monday was originally the first Monday after the twelfth day of Christmas, 6 January. Epiphany.
A unique tradition
The tradition very nearly disappeared during World War 1 and then again in the Second World War.Credit is due to the players and the landlords of both village pubs for upholding this unique tradition.
Naturally, the day before Plough Monday is not surprisingly known as Plough Sunday.This tradition more often than not, now takes place in Clayworth, North Nottinghamshire, on the third Sunday of January.
The death of the earth
In medieval times and in the dead of winter it was thought that the earth ‘died’ and there was a possibility that nothing would ever grow again. It was difficult to believe that the earth would ever wake up and again provide food..
A battle between Light and Dark, Good and Evil, Life and Death
I am lucky enough to live in the village of Clayworth in north Nottinghamshire, England where the most well-known of these plays still takes place.The ‘script’ is usually a bit of nonsense but has a hidden, topical message somewhere within. A pretend battle is fought between Light and Darkness.Darkness is killed and then brought back to life by some miracle. The death of the Old Year and the arrival of the New Year is symbolised in this tableau.
The village pubs
This year the play was performed as usual in the surrounding villages on the Friday before Plough Sunday.
The bar at the Brewers’ begins to fill from 12.15pm and by 12.45pm when the players arrive, it is absolutely heaving. Get there early, get a drink and a seat… and if you think ahead book for Sunday lunch, you won’t be disappointed.
A fiddler and an accordionist enter the pub, followed at different times by the players: the Clown, the Plough ‘boy’, the ‘Horse’, the Soldier, Old Eezum-Squeezum (sometimes known as Beelzebub), and the Doctor.Sounds bizarre and yes it is, but highly entertaining and amusing with rhymes and short songs which have been passed down through the years. There is even a sword dance!
It was once common for those who took part in these plays to blacken their faces as a disguise.They might also include something to associate with nature in their costumes such as a flower or feathers.
The climax of the play is the fight between Light and Dark,Good and Evil, Life and Death. It culminates in the slaying of Darkness (Old Eezum-Squeezum) – who is usually brought back to life by ‘the Doctor’ – and everyone lives happily ever after – with a pint in hand!
Good luck, fertility and wealth
The play brings together farmers and villagers. The purpose of the play is to bring luck, fertility and wealth. You need to be there in order to get your share, so put the date in your diary for 2020!
I did some guest blogging on a couple of other sites like https://thegrandparenthub.com/ this is a site that shares ideas and things to do with the grandkids and is full of inspiration. And then there’s my local ‘What’s In and What’s On’ website for my region https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/ which is full of things to do and places to visit.
Travel played a big part in my life during 2018. South coast of England, east coast of the USA , west coast of the USA and Scotland. There is an old saying ‘travel broadens the mind’ so perhaps there should be a bit more of it.
The New Year is just around the cirner
2019 is already beckoning and it would be good to get to know my own country better. Perhaps an extended tour of the UK in a motor home? https://www.justgo.uk.com/ All suggestions gratefully received.
There should be more exercise. I could sign up for a ‘long walk’ or train for a half marathon. Again, all suggestions considered. I do need a challenge.
And then of course there is ‘sausage making’. I recently purchased a sausage maker. That is a story/blog, for another day.
It’s the best policy
I have to be honest and admit that I don’t like the turn of the year. The ticking of the clock. The anticlimax. The resolutions. The stepping into the unknown. But it is just another day with a different number when all is said and done… isn’t it?
So, with some trepidation I will welcome in 2019. It boils down to two things: being healthy and happy. That is all I wish for my family, friends and of course you and me.
Happy New Year dear reader, I hope it will be kind to us.
I like gin and so was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Plymouth Gin on a recent visit to Devon. I discovered everything I ever wanted to know about gin.
A visit to Plymouth Gin Distillery
The cost of a tour of Plymouth Gin http://plymouthgin.com/ is £7 (no concessions) and it is worth every penny. There were about 18 others on the tour too. We were asked to lock away our bags and cameras and switch off our phones.A strict ‘no photography allowed’ policy is observed. Which is a shame, Iwould like to have iincluded an image or two of a Victorian copper vat or perhaps a few ‘botanicals’.
The tour lasts for forty minutes and is finished off in the bar with either a complimentary gin and tonic or a miniature gin or sloe gin to take away with you.
The oldest distillery in England
Plymouth Gin has been on the Barbican near the famous harbour since 1793.Parts of the building date back to the 1400s when it was a monastery inhabited by the Black Friars… and their distillery – it is now the oldest working gin distillery in England.
A link with the Pilgrim Fathers
Plymouth is renowned for its associations with the navy.One of its most famous sons being Sir Francis Drake. It was also the last port of call for the Pilgrim Fathers before they set sail for the New World in 1620 https://www.mayflower400uk.org/visit/scrooby-babworth/notts-attractions/mayflower-pilgrim-visitor-centre/. A wooden plaque in the upstairs cocktail bar lists some of those who boarded the Mayflower on their way to lay down the foundations of what we know today as the United States of America.An image of the Mayflower, the ship on which the Pilgrims departed these shores, is on every bottle of Plymouth Gin.
From its earliest origins in the Middle Ages, gin has developed from a herbal remedy to a major player in the spirit industry. Gin was based on the Dutch drink known as jenever. It became popular in Britain when William of Orange became King William III of England.English soldiers who fought in Holland in the 17th century, drank jenever to calm themselves before battle.It soon became known as ‘Dutch Courage’ which we know today as drinking alcohol in order to steady the nerves.
Gin was also known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’. In the mid eighteenth century the effects of gin on the family and economy were disastrous. Gin was the poor man’s drink because of its affordability. Drinking it had started out as a medicine but as it was cheap and readily available, men became impotent and women became sterile. This caused the London birth rate to drop. Also, drinking a pint of gin and having an extremely hot bath was recommended as a way to induce a miscarriage during the 1950s and 60s.
Botanicals are the core flavouring agents for gin. They can be roots, fruits, herbs or spices.The botanicals used vary but all must contain juniper berries by law.
Juniper is the most important botanical in gin. In the 16th century it was used as a remedy for indigestion. The juniper is a hardy bush and grows wild all around the globe. And it is juniper that gives gin its pine aroma and bitter(ish) taste.
When dried the essential oils obtained from coriander seeds provide an unexpected citrus top note to gin.
Cardamom is one of the world’s most expensive spices.It is from the ginger family and is often found in the rice portion of your Indian takeaway.Not much cardamom is needed.It can provide gin with a distinctive, spicy flavour that works with juniper and coriander.
Orris root is from the rhizomes of the Iris plant and has a faint, sweet aroma. If you are old enough to remember Parma Violet, then it is very similar to that.However, it is not used for its scent but for it’s fixative powers.
Angelica root, which we know as the crystallised green streams used in cake-decorating and trifles, adds another earthy note to the gin and marries the other botanical ingredients together.
The oil derived from lemon and orange peels is used as flavouring in gin. Different brands of gin use varying blends of botanicals which gives them their individuality.
The alcohol that carries the botanicals in Plymouth Gin is wheat-based and comes from Yorkshire.
Exit through the shop
Three types of gin are on sale in the shop at the end of the tour: Regular Plymouth Gin is 41% and is generally used for a standard gin and tonic. (Tonic water originally contained quinine which was used to protect against malaria in the tropics.The gin was added to disguise the bitter taste of the quinine).
And Navy Strength
Navy Strength Plymouth Gin which is 57%. It seems that ordinary strength gin – if leaked onto the gunpowder on board ship – would render the gunpowder useless. But they found that the higher proof gin, if accidentally spilled onto gunpowder, would enhance the properties of the powder.And so Navy Strength was provided for officers of the Royal Navy, which they drank with water.Ratings, however were still issued with their rum ration.
And Sloe Gin
Sloes are harvested locally from Dartmoor. They are stored in sugar and gin for four months to make a delightful, slightly almond-flavoured liquer.It goes well with Stilton as an alternative to port.
Copa Balloon Glass
I also purchased a Copa glass.This is the type of balloon glass that has a stem, a bit like a red wine glass. The Copa de Balon glass dates back to the 1700s – so not as modern as I imagined.
A Gimlet is gin mixed with lime cordial.Again, this has its roots in the Royal Navy, the lime provided the vitamin C and is where English sailors got their name ‘Limeys’ (from the Yankees).
A Pink Gin is again thought to have originated from the Royal Navy. Plymouth gin is a ‘sweet’ gin, as opposed to London gin which is ‘dry’, and had angostura bitters added as an antidote for sea sickness.
A typical pink gin is one part gin and one dash of angostura bitters.
So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about gin. Drink anyone?