A foraging taste test

Earlier this month the delightful assistants enjoyed an afternoon stroll along the peaceful roads of Snaigow, a few miles west of Blairgowrie. There had been a fair bit of rain and the foliage was lush and healthy-looking. Fine crops of moss were growing on stone walls by the roadside.

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Taking time to appreciate their surroundings, and getting in a few neck exercises while they were about it, they gazed up at the tall trees overhead.

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In a gap between trees they admired a field populated with white and purple foxgloves.

Foxgloves

As always on their little walks, delightful assistant no.1 was keeping her eye out for foragable fare. She found exactly what she had been hoping for in the shape of wild raspberries, both red and yellow varieties.

Raspbs

Raspbs in the hand

Of the opinion that the two different colours had identifiable flavours, she conducted a taste test with her willing spouse. He was instructed to close his eyes while she popped a raspberry in his mouth. He was then asked to guess which colour he’d eaten, bearing in mind a helpful hint that the yellow ones were particularly sweet.

It all sounded simple enough, but getting a raspberry into the mouth of the taster proved more challenging than expected. Delightful assistant no.1, no doubt wishing to keep all her fingers intact, withdrew her hand too quickly after posting the berry into the slot. The taster, eyes tight shut and tantalised with a fleeting sensation of raspberry, all too soon discovered the fruity treat lying at his feet.

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When the same thing kept happening, delightful assistant no.1 explained she was struggling with the taster’s mouth being too high up. He quickly solved the problem by lowering the postbox to a more suitable height.

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This method proved successful for the next two tries. Onlookers waited agog to find out how accurate his guesses would be.

Raspberries taste test

Despite his wife’s tasting notes, he guessed wrongly on both colours. This did not detract from his enjoyment of the berries, both of which had struck him as sweet and tasty.

While his spouse had been concentrating on picking wild berries, delightful assistant no.2 had been amusing himself by waiting at a bus stop.

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Presumably public transport does occasionally go past this stop, but neither of the assistants nor their chauffeur had ever seen such a thing.

Waiting for a bus
Any sign of a bus?  No, thought not.

Following the taste test, their chauffeur noticed it was getting dangerously close to tea time. While she ran back to get the car, the tiny twosome took the opportunity to investigate another roadside diversion or two before being scooped up and whisked home for a nice cup of tea.

Poking about on the verges
Look, there’s something of interest over here.

Delights at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

On a recent trip to Edinburgh, after spending a little time mooching around other bits of the city, the delightful assistants called in at the Royal Botanic Garden for a spot of luncheon.

They settled themselves at a table in the Gateway restaurant and perused the menu.

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Inside the Gateway restaurant at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Both delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur opted for salads: classic chicken Caesar salad, and a broccoli, lentil and feta affair, respectively. Delightful assistant no.2 opted for a Rannoch smokehouse chicken sandwich.

Having enjoyed their savouries, they declined the temptation of puddings on account of wanting to get a bit of a walk in the garden before their parking ticket ran out.

The purpose of their trip to Edinburgh was to take photographs of old haunts from delightful assistant no.2’s youth, to form part of a blog post he was planning to write (his blog can be found here, although there’s no sign of the aforesaid post just yet).

One of the places he was wanting to revisit was the rock garden area of the Botanics, where he had played as a child. The route from the restaurant to the rock garden took the assistants along paths they had frequented during their many years living in the city, but hadn’t toddled along in years.

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Assistants toddling through the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

While enjoying the Chinese hillside, they stopped to pose for the camera on a little bridge next to tumbling water.

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Obediently saying ‘cheese’ for their chauffeur.

Although they were very keen to get to the rock garden, it was impossible not to be distracted by numerous interesting plants and signs along the way.

Paying attention in RBGE

Eventually, they arrived at the rock garden and were delighted to see it looking exceptionally lush.

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Rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Indeed, the entire garden seemed to have been transformed from the way all three visitors remembered it. Everywhere they looked diverse foliage was burgeoning and there seemed to be more plants than there could possibly be room for.

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Grassy path through the rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

The rock garden proved an ideal obstacle course for old people. The assistants rose to the challenge of navigating uneven levels, with their trusty sticks and each other for support.

Assistants in rock garden

Relieved to have traversed the undulations successfully they hot-footed it to the car, and off out of the city to look for afternoon refreshments. Before crossing the Forth Road Bridge, they nipped up to Craigie’s Farm just outside South Queensferry.

The farm cafe had a special offer on, of a strawberry tart and a mug of coffee for £3.50. Rather fancying this deal, delightful assistant no.1 picked up a strawberry tart and ordered the drink. Not feeling so much in the mood for sticky strawberry goo with cream, both her spouse and their chauffeur chose Bakewell tarts, also with coffee. They took their snacks to the quiet section of the cafe, set aside for those wishing to avoid excitable squawking kiddies. It was very relaxing, sitting by a window looking out to the Firth of Forth, away from the hubbub of the city.

Snacks at Craigie's
Ready for their afternoon snacks, delightful assistants relax at Craigie’s Farm, near South Queensferry.

Satisfying refreshed, they headed for home, filled with happy memories of Edinburgh and delighted to have found their old friend, the Botanics, flourishing so beautifully.

A late afternoon stroll

One Sunday afternoon in June the delightful assistants were feeling the itch of the outdoors. It had been raining earlier in the day but the sun had come out and they felt it would do them good to get a bit of fresh air and exercise.

They jumped into the car and their chauffeur drove them off to the quiet road marked ‘St Fink’ on the outskirts of Rattray, a few minutes’ drive from where they live.

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Burgeoning verges along the St Fink road.

There were a few spots of light rain in the air as they got out of the car, but nothing significant. They set off, admiring the greenery and enjoying the peacefulness.

Strolling along St Fink
Toddling along in the late afternoon sunshine.

Not long into their walk the sky began to darken and the few spots of rain increased and multiplied. They turned off the main road onto a track marked ‘Tullyfergus’, which looked as if it might offer some protection from tree branches meeting overhead.

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On the track to Tullyfergus, escaping the worst of the downpour.

Right enough, the canopy was substantial enough to allow delightful assistant no.1 to take down the hood of her jacket without risking a dampened head.

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Assistants strolling along the Tullyfergus track, grateful for the protection of leaves overhead.

Always one for keeping an eye on the plants, delightful assistant no.1 was alert to anything of interest amongst the verges.

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Delightful assistant no.1 keeping a beady eye on the verges.

As is often the case on her countryside walks, she frequently stopped to investigate things that caught her eye. This gave her spouse the opportunity for one of his favourite pursuits on such outings: a bit of stick pointing.

Stopping to admire grasses
Stopping to admire the foliage.
Stick pointing at Tullyfergus
An excellent opportunity for a bit of stick pointing.

They continued along the track until they reached some buildings that looked inhabited. The track seemed to carry on a little way, but they felt it only courteous to turn back and respect the residents’ privacy.

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At the end of the line, time to turn back and head for home.

As they walked back along the track, the rain came on very heavily. Their chauffeur ran ahead, dashed along the open road to the car and sped back to the track to pick them up. They had enjoyed their little outing, but were glad to get home in the pouring rain for a nice hot cup of tea.

Broadslap

A few weeks ago the delightful assistants passed a sign by the side of the A9 road near Perth advertising a fruit farm and cafe. The place was, slightly disconcertingly, named ‘Broadslap’.

Being of a bold and adventurous nature, the courageous twosome drove off there yesterday for lunch.

The cafe lay at the end of quite a long, and sometimes very rough, road near the village of Dunning. When they got to their destination, however, they were pleased to see that it looked very civilised.

Broadslap

They approached the entrance with high hopes and healthy appetites.

Hungry assistants arriving at Broadslap

Inside, they discovered a shop selling various pre-packaged foodstuffs and a small range of gift items, as well as free range eggs and locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Broadslap shop

In the adjoining cafe, only one of the tables was occupied, giving them a large choice of where to sit.

Broadslap cafe

They opted for a table by the window at the far end, and settled down to peruse the menu, which came in the form of several sheets of thick printed paper attached to clipboards.

Perusing the menu at Broadslap

Both assistants and their chauffeur were taken with the idea of omelettes, which consisted of three free range eggs and two different fillings to be chosen from a list of options.

Delightful assistant no.1 chose mushroom and ham, while her spouse went for mushroom and red onion, and their chauffeur opted for mushroom and cheese. A portion of skinny sweet potato fries was ordered for sharing between them.

When they had finished their omelettes, which were rather filling, they decided to forego sweet treats in favour of a gentle stroll somewhere quiet.

They drove for a short distance, through the village of Dunning and up the hill towards Path of Condie. On finding a suitable place to park, delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur hopped out into the fresh air, while delightful assistant no.2 fell asleep in the back of the car. After a short nap, he got out and joined his spouse who was wending her way back up the hill after a refreshing half hour stroll.

Assistants neat Path of Condie

Although delightful assistant no.2 walked only a short distance, the exercise provided a good stretching of the legs and the stimulating effects of a cool breeze across the scalp.

Assistants at Path of Condie

As they drove back down the hill towards Perth, they saluted a few cows in a field by the roadside. The cows showed little interest, intent on the lush luncheons burgeoning at their feet.

Cows at Path of Condie

Not so Dull

Earlier this month, one beautiful sunny day, the delightful assistants downed tools and set off into northern Perthshire for a day out.

Arriving in the small village of Dull (you can read more about Dull here) slightly too early for lunch, they parked up at the Highland Safaris visitor attraction and climbed out into the sunshine.

Assistants arrive at Highland Safaris

They enjoyed looking at a fascinating scale model of the countryside around them, pointing out things they recognised, before heading off to stretch their legs in the grounds.

The visitor centre has its own herd of red deer, but before the assistants reached the deer park they encountered a fine fellow standing on a heather-bedecked plinth, giving an indication of what was to come.

Fake deer

Round a bend they came face to face with the real thing.

Undulating paths with interesting features and beautiful views of the surrounding countryside encouraged the assistants to soak up some Vitamin D.

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Assistants enjoying the sunshine in the Upper Tay Valley, Highland Perthshire.

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traversing dusty paths

Along the paths various things attracted their attention. Delightful Assistant no.1 enjoys the scent of flowers (an interest not shared by her dear spouse) and was lured in along the tracks by fragrant blooming broom.

stopping to sniff the broom

Small boxes on posts had been set up at points along the way, and visitors were invited to stick their hands into apertures to find out what was inside. Both assistants bravely stuck their hands into a number of boxes, not knowing what might jump up and bite them.

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Adventurous assistants approach a mystery box…
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… and discover nothing more terrifying than a pine cone.

Having had a good bit of exercise on the paths, they wound their way back to the café for a much-needed spot of luncheon.

There were a number of seating choices and they decided to sit by a window in the sunshine.

The homemade quiche of the day was a cheese and roasted vegetables affair, and both Delightful Assistant no.2 and their chauffeur opted for this. It proved an excellent choice.

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Delightful Assistant no.1 plumped for chicken pie, which somewhat surprisingly came as an individual round pie rather than a slice from a bigger plated version.

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When they had finished their food they decided they’d have another little walk in the fresh air before stopping somewhere else for hot drinks and cake. They found a quiet, tree-lined path and enjoyed a stroll in the dappled sunlight.

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strolling along a dappled path

After their walk they drove a short distance to the town of Aberfeldy and sought out The Watermill Café, which they were worried might be heaving with folk. To their delight, it was unusually quiet and they settled themselves down at a large table.

Assistants waiting for snacks

While they were waiting for their treats to arrive, they entertained themselves with some of the children’s books provided for younger customers.

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The cappuccinos they ordered came with a concentrated scattering of chocolate on top. Delightful assistant no.2 tried to make his into a smiley face with his spoon.

In the cake department, they each fancied something different. Delightful assistant no.1 went for one of her favourites: lemon drizzle cake (it was deliciously lemony).

Lemon drizzle cake at the Watermill

Her spouse opted for a mango and coconut cake,

Mango and coconut cake at the Watermill

and their chauffeur went for a blueberry, coconut and almond concoction.

Blueberry, coconut and almond cake at the Watermill

Feeling very well filled, the merry trio sped home in the late afternoon sunshine, content with their delightful day out.

Bluebells

At this time of year, when the spring blooms are well under way in Scotland, the delightful assistants particularly enjoy trotting out and about amongst the bonnie bluebells.

Their bluebell rambles began last week in Galloway, in the south-west of Scotland, where they were biding in a self-catering house for a week’s holiday.

Here they are, tiny, but steadily making their way along a small road near Gatehouse of Fleet one afternoon last week.

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Bluebells by the roadside, Gatehouse of Fleet.

The following day, while Delightful Assistant no.2 was taking an afternoon nap in the house, his wife toddled off into nearby Ardwell House Gardens, to admire the enormous number of bluebells growing in the garden’s woods.

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Delightful Assistant no.1 amongst the bluebells in Ardwell House Gardens.

In places, the forest floor was thick with them.

Ardwell Woods

Back home in Perthshire, three days ago on a beautiful sunny morning, the flower-loving duo took themselves off to look at their local bluebell spectacular, Blairgowrie’s Darroch Wood.

Being a bit further north than Galloway, the bluebells in Perthshire weren’t quite yet at their best, but they certainly weren’t a disappointment.

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Darroch Wood, May 2017.

Not far into the wood the assistants came upon a seat looking out to the west across fields, with a small loch to one side. Keen to take advantage of any opportunity for a little recumbence in a pleasant place, they sat down and admired the view.

Assistants on a seat

Suitably revived for the next leg of the journey, they set off once more along the woodland path, pausing now and then to admire the floral splendour.

Assistants admiring bluebells in Darroch Wood

Assistants at the start of their walk

In the south-eastern corner of the wood, the assistants stopped to study an information board. They had to queue to get up close to it, having arrived at the spot just after a group of walkers bearing rucksacks and clad in stout footwear.

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Assistants reading Darroch Wood’s information board.
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Rucksacked walkers leaving the information board behind.

Having drunk their fill of information, the delightful assistants carried on along attractively winding paths through swathes more bluebells, accompanied by the twitterings of small birds in the trees.

Winding paths at Darroch Wood

Trekking along winding paths

As they neared the end of their walk, they found a second seat encouraging them to rest awhile and enjoy the view.

Assistants resting on a seat amongst bluebells

View from Darroch Wood
View to the east from Darroch Wood.

They were very ready for their lunch by this time, but being the ever gracious pair they are, they courteously agreed to pause for a picture with a wee chap perched atop a gatepost near the entrance to the wood.

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Delightful assistants with small clown at the eastern entrance to Darroch Wood.

Lunch and daffodils

Last week, on a cool but beautifully sunny day, the delightful assistants headed off to Balmakewan, near Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire, for lunch.

Having made their choices from the menu, they sat at a quiet table looking forward to their food.

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Delightful assistant no.1 had been struggling with her appetite for a while, but it had started to show signs of coming back.

It was this state of affairs that prompted the visit to Balmakewan, because their fish and chips had proved especially appetising on a past visit and different sizes of portion were available.

She sensibly opted for a small portion of fish and chips, while her greedy chauffeur went for the full-size job.

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Dainty portion of fish with three potato wedges, pee puree and tartare sauce
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Decent-sized fish and chips

Delightful assistant no.2 bypassed the fish temptation and plumped instead for a mushroom and brie burger, which turned out to be a burger bun containing a little lettuce and tomato topped with an enormous mushroom and melting brie. He particularly enjoyed the red cabbage coleslaw that came on the side.

mushroom and brie burger

Satisfyingly filled, the merry threesome trooped off into the grounds of Balmakewan House for a pleasant stroll amongst the daffodils.

stroll amongst the daffs

Although the air was chilly, the sunlight through the trees was beautiful.

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There were several varieties of daffodil on display, white as well as yellow, and some splendid bi-coloured doublers.

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Some of the all-yellow ones had double blooms as well.

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After enjoying the daffodil woods the slightly chilled trio were glad to get back into the car, which had deliciously warm seats, thanks to the sunshine.

It was such a lovely afternoon that they took a circuitous route home via interesting small roads, stopping off for another pleasant walk on the way.

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Daffodil woods at Balmakewan.