Rustic Guest Chrissie Parker – The Beauty of the Grand Western Canal

Rustic Guest Chrissie Parker – The Beauty of the Grand Western Canal

_MG_2415crop (1)I’m welcoming Chrissie Parker to the farmhouse kitchen today – do grab a chair and join us.

Chrissie is passionate about ancient history, archaeology, travel, and the beautiful countryside around her Devon home where she lives with her husband.

A woman of many talents, Chrissie is also learning to play the ukelele, and that’s alongside her work as the author of thrillers, historical fiction and poetry. Her novel Among the Olive Groves won an historical fiction award in the 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards.

Today, Chrissie is walking us along the Grand Western Canal. It sounds, and looks, truly magical.


The Beauty of the Grand Western Canal

I love being a writer, but sometimes it can be quite solitary and a break is needed from sitting behind the computer. Near to where I live in Devon, is the Grand Western Canal. It’s just over eleven miles long and starts at Tiverton basin, winding its way through the rolling mid-Devon countryside, before ending abruptly at Lowdswells close to the Somerset border.

Image 1 Canal General

The Grand Western Canal was the last canal to be built in the UK, work started on it in 1810 and finished in 1838. The original intention was for it to link up with the Taunton canal/river Tone, but it was never completed due to the advent of the railways which is why it ends so abruptly. The canal was built to transport coal and limestone, there are two old limekilns, the remains of an old quarry railway, and The Waytown Tunnel – a barge wide tunnel at Greenham. The canal meanders its way through the countryside, and has no locks due to the way it was constructed. At Lowdswells the canal continues as a rough, dry section, and it is possible to walk the intended route, around 13miles, to Taunton. This section has remnants of locks and lifts, and  I especially love exploring this section, wondering what it would have looked like if it had ever been completed.

Image 2 Lowdswell canal end

Nowadays, the canal is a conservation area. There is a lot to see especially if you love a multitude of wildlife that includes swans, moorhens, ducks, and a variety of other birds such as birds of prey and kingfishers. Pike and other fish haunt the depths of the water hiding among the vegetation and it is also home to elusive otters. The canal is beautiful, serene, and a perfect place to walk whatever the weather. In winter fog hugs the water and ice clings to the bare branched trees. In spring the towpath fills with colour as daffodils, bluebells and primroses bloom in riotous colour. In summer growing cygnets paddle the water accompanied by their proud parents, enjoying the bright sunshine. In autumn leaves of russet and gold flutter to the towpath and vegetation dies back to prepare for another winter.

Image 4 Canal Bridge

As well as being a haven for wildlife the canal is also a popular tourist attraction. Runners, walkers and cyclists stretch their legs daily, kayakers and paddle-boarders explore the water, and fishermen cast their lines in search of a catch. At Tiverton basin the history and heritage of the canal is displayed in a small museum, a colourful horse-drawn barge offers visitors the chance to experience a trip along the canal, and there are two tearooms, where weary visitors can rest their feet.

Image 5 Tiverton Canal Company

Wherever you look, there is much evidence of the old canal industry, and I love imagining what the area would have been like at its height during the industrial revolution, as it seems so far away from the conservation area that it has now become. As well as the canal so many other interesting things sit right on my doorstep. We’re surrounded by public footpaths that take walkers across fields, up the back of the old quarry and through a long avenue of trees. Others wind their way across fields of corn, sheep and cows to surrounding villages, and there is an old monastery that dates back centuries.

Image 7 Waytown Tunnel

Each time I step out from behind my computer and go for a walk I’m very grateful to be able to live where I do. No two walks are the same and I really do live in the most beautiful place in the UK.


To find out more about Chrissie visit her website www.chrissieparker.com follow her blog or link up with her on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

Rustic Guest Julie Stock -Vines, Wine and Romance

Rustic Guest Julie Stock -Vines, Wine and Romance

dscn8886I’m chatting to Julie Stock in the farmhouse kitchen today and, given the theme of Julie’s post (and of her new novel The Vineyard in Alsace) we thought it only proper to forgo tea and biscuits in favour of a nice glass of vino.

Julie and I met through the Alliance of Independent Authors and we’ve been in touch throughout our self-publishing journey, with our paths following uncannily similar routes. I’m chuffed to have Julie with me today.

Can I tempt you to a glass…?


Vines, Wine and Romance

I have lived with my husband and family in Bedfordshire for nearly thirty years now, having moved out here from London shortly after finishing university. I grew up in a big new town (Slough, for my sins!) so I’d never really experienced rural life much before then. I remember finding it so difficult to get to sleep when we first moved because it was so quiet and I was used to lots of noise. Now, the peace and quiet (most of the time) is one of the things I love most about the countryside.

Once I was made redundant from my London job, I started work at The Wine Society in Stevenage and I started learning about wine and winemaking (There might have been a bit of wine tasting involved too!) I was also lucky enough to go on a trip around France with one of our wine buyers to see how he went about choosing wines to sell in the UK. I found the whole process of growing grapes magical and in my dreams, I wondered if I might one day buy my own vineyard and grow grapes too. Now I am older and a bit wiser, I know just how hard a job this is – a year-round job, in fact, like any agricultural industry, and something I’m not sure I’m cut out for.

Interestingly, Bedfordshire has its own vineyard near Old Warden. Warden Abbey has planted vines on its site since medieval times when Cistercian monks tended the fields. Today, the vineyard operates as a not-for-profit venture, offering a unique community and educational resource – and the tradition of making medal winning wines continues. Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity works with other local charities, organisations and local schools to offer social and therapeutic horticulture, learning and skills development, help for people into employment or voluntary work, a range of volunteering opportunities for local people and community groups, and a great chance to be involved from vine to wine, as well as wildlife and heritage projects. We have visited the vineyard on a number of occasions and it never ceases to amaze me just how tirelessly they work, against the elements most of the time, to produce wines in our very fickle climate.

My latest romance novel is set on a vineyard in Alsace in France and takes place against the backdrop of the harvest. I did lots of research of course to add to the knowledge I already have of what really happens during a harvest, and it convinced me that no matter how romantic it all sounds, it really is hard work. Most of us have no idea of the amount of back-breaking work that goes into making our delicious glass of wine, or any other product of course.

When we moved out here all those years ago, I had no idea of course that I would work in the wine industry, nor that one day, I would write a romance novel set on a vineyard, let alone have a vineyard on my doorstep. I now work part-time for a local charity myself and my daily drive through the countryside, passing those vineyards is one of my greatest pleasures.


Julie Stock is an independent author of romance novels, novellas and short stories. She has just published her second novel, ‘The Vineyard in Alsace’ which is available on Amazon.

She is a proud member of The Romantic Novelists’ Association. She blogs regularly about her self-publishing journey on her website, ‘My Writing Life.’ You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author page.

The Vinyard in AlsaceIs there really such a thing as a second chance at love?

Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.

Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.

Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?

The Vineyard in Alsace is a contemporary romance set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in Alsace in France.

Rustic Guest Mac Logan – How to Find Peace Without Really Looking

Rustic Guest Mac Logan – How to Find Peace Without Really Looking

Today, I’m happy to welcome my first rustic guest to the Farmhouse Kitchen.

mac-loganLet me introduce you to Mac Logan, an author from Scotland, who not only writes gritty, edge-of-your-seat thrillers (a Scottish Stieg Larsson!) but who is also lucky enough to live in the stunning and dramatic East Neuk of Fife.

Mac and I met on Twitter, and he’s been a great virtual friend and supporter of my rustic writing efforts, so I’m delighted to share Mac’s thoughts on rural life with you here.

I’ll put the kettle on, you sit back and enjoy.


 In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks. John Muir

Find peace?

What do you do if peace finds you? Can you help its search?

When I seek quotes about peace, mostly I find contrasting ideas, you know:

• the opposite of war – with countless homilies,

• an internal “good thing” that happens when you do “good” exercise, deeds, spiritual things, and so on,

• if you speak Scottish you’ll know sandwiches get a mention, (so what if the spelling’s wrong?)

Easy to Find?

What I seek is easy to find … but not in crowded places. It’s all around us, yet can lack the buzz and zip of a packed city. People miss it, yearn for it, yet seldom find it.

Strange thing, this “peace”.

Want an example?

Will a definition help our search?

peace [piːs] noun: freedom from disturbance; tranquillity.

Could this hint at both an inner and outer reality? It’s all over the place near where I live. You’ll find it too, anytime you drop by.

Bliss of peace

A hectic life with peaceful spaces may be as good as it gets these days, unless … Unless you live with and within the beauty of nature … like me, like Sam.

When Sam asked for a few words she rural headed her agenda. If you read her books, you’ll know why, even if there are city interludes and rolls in the hay. You know what they say up here: there’s nothing like the sleep of the just, but even better, the sleep of the just after. Talk about blissful peace.

I’m lucky enough to live in the country. North of the Border, true, and in the incomparable East Neuk of Fife.

Peace is all around

I made the Kilconquhar Loch video late May last year.

Rambling along a quiet lane I came to an incredibly green bank and sat on a dry stump. Warm air ruffled my hair like a lover’s caress. For a moment I slipped out of time.

Without really looking

Peace found me, I didn’t have to go looking. There, free from the noise and turmoil of modern life, stress oozed out of me as peace took its place.

Thinking back I smile and promise myself a wee dram when I finish this draft. I know peace will find me again in a soothing amber glow from a crystal glass.

Peace to you …


If you want to hear more from Mac, you’ll find him, his blog and more about his Angels’ Share series of books by clicking the image below. Mac also hangs out on Facebook and twitter, do follow him there.

angels-share-series

Rustic Guest in the Farmhouse Kitchen

Rustic Guest in the Farmhouse Kitchen

In the upcoming months, I’ll be hosting visitors in the rustic farmhouse kitchen and publishing posts which give a glimpse into my guests’ rural lives.

If you live, work, play or blog rural and you’d like to get involved, comment below or drop me a line and we’ll talk.

The guidelines are very simple:

  • Write a post of between 200 and 1000 words on a topic related to the countryside, your rural life or business
  • Include pictures if you want to (a picture of you is always nice)
  • Tell me something about yourself
  • Provide links to your blog, website or ‘buy’ site (if you have them) so readers can find out more

And that’s about it. Don’t be shy, I welcome approaches from all walks of rural life.