Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Featured on Film

Clenston bw

… St Nicholas, Winterborne Clenston …

If you are looking for some breathtaking quintessential English loveliness, you need to take a trip down the Winterborne Valley.  Where, as you emerge from columns of trees lining the road, you will see St. Nicholas church in Clenston.  Set back, in amongst the fields, it is almost as if time has left this building completely untouched.

This church is so charming and unspoilt that it was used for the wedding scene in the 1996 film, Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Mr Knightley and Emma actually walked down this aisle to their happy ending!

clenston 2

… beautiful architecture …

clenston view

… the gateway out onto the car park …

If you fancy a visit, you can park in the grassy car park before walking through the wrought-iron gate and down the sweeping path.  Take some time to look at the amazing countryside that surrounds the church before going inside and having your own little Jane Austin moment!


The Highlights

house warming

… a happy new home …

This week has been full of excitement so far… Our friends moved into their long-awaited, beautiful new home and we were invited round for our first visit.  We all sat in the kitchen with heaps of cakes and tea to talk about where the sofa should go, which wall the prints and photos would be best displayed and how to choose paint colours for a calming, yet motivational home office space.  It was so nice to see our besties with grins of happiness at finding a house that they love so much already!

rose pruning

garden plan

For the remainder of the weekend, I spent the unseasonably warm days pruning back the roses quite vigorously. My aim was to leave four or five of the largest ‘trunks’ before removing any side stems back to the first healthy bud.  I also removed any stems that were looking leggy or unhealthy.  Any shoots that now appear will be left until Spring, when they can be pruned, less dramatically, to start to build next year’s shape.

All these long days in the garden, had me scheming of a new garden design for next year.  There are still some parts of the garden that aren’t working for me.  I need a planting section that can deal with some shade, as well as a re-design of the main outdoor sitting and eating place.  As the measurements have all been taken, I can spend some of the winter batting ideas around and mixing things up a little before a final decision is made. Of course, I will let you know what I decide!

Have a great day!

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | A Mediterranean Feast

ban the bland2

… Olives Et Al, Sturminster Newton …

The Olives Et Al shop in Sturminster Newton is like a refuge for me.  It’s the place I go to, not only for the great products but to soak up the atmosphere.  I linger, just to bask in the whole wonderfulness created by the friendly people and the delicious food.

The Olives Et Al headquarters is to be found just on the outskirts of the town (please see map and info, here). There is lots of parking and they are open from Monday to Saturday, 9am – 5:30pm.

The shop is just one part of a rapidly expanding, exciting business and, as locals, we are able to take full advantage of sampling the delights, almost as soon as they are created.  Seemingly, the shop sprang up as a bit of a happy accident due to people arriving at the factory doors and asking, very sweetly, if they could try bits and pieces and possibly buy some while they were there.  After mentioning this fact recently to my Mum and Dad, they looked a little sheepish and admitted that they had been guilty of doing just that!

great gifts

The shelves are lined with jars, boxes and packages, all with engaging labels and wrapping, making the deli my first stop when finding gifts for those who love their food.  While under the guise of choosing presents to go in a Christmas, birthday or house-warming gift hamper, you can secretly treat yourself to trying the huge variety of imaginative oils, nuts, bread and other tasty snacks.

find your favourites

The main hub of activity is around the ‘olive station’.  Bowls and bowls heaped with glistening olives are ready to be tried.  There is a very Mediterranean attitude towards shopping in this deli, as tasting and trying are positively encouraged.  How else can you decide whether you will love the olives with stuffed tomato more than the feta-filled variety? Complete strangers can be overheard comparing notes and views over the different flavours and bonding over the slightly naughty feeling you get when you try ‘just one more’ before buying the biggest pot on offer!

taste test

Everyone seems to have their own special favourite, which is put into the basket automatically, while actually on a mission to find something else.  Simon, the manager, is partial to the Putney Sauce (incredibly delicious with soft cheese), Mr D-F loves the Tapenade Provencal, while I cannot get enough of the Raspberry and Mint dressing, which enhances almost everything, including salads and fish dishes.

wow your guests

I was completely in awe of these beautifully coloured, massive meringues, all stacked up and looking tempting. The next time that I am in need of a pudding with wow-factor, I’ll definitely be dropping in to pick up one of these beauties!

save the date

To make matters even more exciting… Olives Et Al are hosting their annual Great Big Huge Dorset Feast on 22nd November.  Taking place from 10am – 4pm, they promise a huge tent, full of local food and drink producers, where tasting is a necessity.  I’ll be taking my Christmas list and my camera and will no doubt, see you there!

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | The White Mill

white mill 1

… White Mill at Sturminster Marshall …

Goodness this is a beautiful building, completely tucked away down a narrow lane.  The perfect, peaceful place for a walk and a chance to relax.  It is a National Trust building and it is possible to have a look around at the original mill workings (take a look at the website here, if you’re interested in opening times).  It wasn’t open when we went, but it was just as lovely to walk around, while there was no one here, we shared the space with a pair of Egrets by the water’s edge.

We also had a walk over the incredible White Mill Bridge, where there is only just room for single file traffic.  Despite the cold wind that seemed to be blowing us sideways, we spent some time peering over the edge looking for fish (we didn’t find any)! The rule in our house is that if there is water, we have to look for fishes… Honestly. Sometimes we spend at least ten minutes inspecting deep puddles!

oldest bridge 1

This is definitely worth a trip, if you’re in the area.  A real hidden piece of lovely Dorset! Have a wonderful Sunday x

oldest bridge 2

Yarn | Organising The Stash

organise the stash1

This little piece of organisational joy happened quite by accident. It sort of evolved as I was thinking through a problem.

I have a bit of difficulty when planning a new project. As far as I am aware, there isn’t a shop near to me that has a wide range of yarns to go and have a look at, leaving me having to buy online.  Although this is brilliant because I get an exciting woolly delivery, it does limit me in terms of seeing colours in real life.

After collecting up all of my oddments of yarn and balls that hadn’t quite been made into anything yet, I set about making up some granny triangles.  Nothing fancy and not too big.

Once each triangle was finished, I labelled them with their colour and make.

organise the stash2

… all labelled up …

I now have lovely little stacks of colourful triangles, all labelled and ready for reference. I did spend five minutes arranging them into little crochet sandwiches  … but that’s because I got sidetracked!

Now, when I am pondering over the next blankety colour scheme, I get out my triangles and see which ones take my fancy, before I place my yarn order online.

Hooray for organisation (…and for playing with crochet sandwiches)!

organise the stash3

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Hidden View

bulbarrow view 1

… the view from the top of Bulbarrow Hill …

A secret little viewing spot that I have loved from the earliest days that I can remember. Even on a cloudy day, with moody-looking trees, it is spectacular.  Just the right place to sit and have a think while the wind blows all of your stresses away. I don’t think any of my descriptions could do this place justice… so I’ll just leave you with the pictures …

bulbarrow view 3

Have a wonderful Sunday x

This Week | Highlights


… Keith intrigued by her reflection in my lens …

This week has been rather a mixed jumble of happenings so far.  After noticing that Keith had a bit of a cold developing, including enormous coop-rattling sneezes, we formulated a Keith-get-well plan.  This included lots of fresh clean water with an added garlic clove, some Poultry Spice mixed into their food and an hourly check up!

Happily, by the next day Keith was completely back to normal and was being her usual happy (grumpy) self! Not a sign of a runny nose anywhere!

Custard creams

… an exciting take on custard creams …

We also had family visiting over the weekend and there was a request for a cake of some kind.  I felt like baking something completely new, but nothing in my recipe books grabbed me, until I came across a biscuit recipe for ‘Melting Moments’. This is a very smart, fancy version of a custard cream biscuit and were completely delicious but seriously full of sugar.  When making biscuits myself, it really reminds me of how much sugar must go in to shop-bought biscuits and halts me, momentarily, from eating them by the handful, until I forget about the sugar content again! Anyway, if you just want an occasional treat to go with a strong coffee, these are perfect and the recipe can be found in The Primrose Bakery Book.


… last of the clary …

I spent some of the more sunny parts of the days preparing the garden for Autumn. I cut back the stems of the rock roses, trimmed the herbs in the bed and generally had a tidy.  Much of this year’s Clary was over and needed taking out, but in amongst the brown, I found one plant still happily radiating purple petals and so I left him be as a reminder of summer, just for a little while longer!

I hope you’re having a great week so far.

Crochet Poppy | Ready to Remember

frothy poppy

… crochet vs. paper poppy …

Remembrance Day is not far off the horizon and it got me thinking about the number of paper poppies that I always seem to lose within minutes of receiving them.  No matter how carefully I pin them on, after a while of busying about, I look down to find the red petals missing and just a pin sitting there, not really looking supportive of Remembrance Day at all.

I thought it might be better, for this year, to crochet a happy-looking poppy that will stay on through thick and thin. I will of course still donate but will leave the paper poppies in their tray for someone else to come to terms with!

I found a beautifully simple but effective flower pattern on the lovely blog Very Berry Handmade.  I have kindly been given permission to feature it here on The Dorset Finca, but I have translated into the UK version. So if you are into US crochet terms, pop on over to Very Berry using the link above. If you are happy with UK terms, please read on…

To make the poppy above, I used Stylecraft Special DK in Lipstick with a 4 mm hook.

Start with a Magic Circle and make 4 double crochet (dc) in the circle and close the circle by pulling the tail end (4 stitches).

R1: 2 dc in each dc round, join last dc to top of 1st dc with a slip stitch (ss) (8 stitches)

R2: 2 ch then 1 ss in next dc, 2 ch. Repeat all round then join round with ss (8 chain spaces)

R3: In each chain space make 1 ss, 1 chain (ch), 2 treble crochet (tc), 1 ch, 1 ss. Complete the round with ss into 1st ss. (8 petals created)

R4: Holding the flower facing you, take your hook to the back of the work and insert it round the 1st chain made in R2. Make ss round the chain, ch3, ss round the 1st chain underneath the next petal then repeat 7 times & complete the round with ss into 1st ss (8 chain spaces).

R5: Into each ch sp make 1 dc, 1 ch, 3 tc, 1 ch, 1 dc. Complete round with ss into 1st dc. (8 petals created).

R6: As in R4 take your hook to the back of the work and make ss round the 1st post of the 1st petal created in R5, ch 4, ss round next post then repeat 7 times & complete the round with ss into 1st ss (8 ch sp).

R7: In each ch sp created in R6 make 1 dc, 1 ch, 5 tc, 1 ch, 1 dc. Complete the round with ss into 1st dc.

Fasten off & weave in ends, except for the tail end.  I then used the tail end yarn to sew on my button to create the centre of the flower.  By adding a safety pin onto the back, the poppy should stay in place for good!


crochet poppy 1

 … there are lots of alternative flower patterns on Pinterest if you feel like mixing it up …

After making one poppy, you will have no doubt mastered this pattern! Once Remembrance Day is over, you can change up the colours to create corsages for your coat or bag to brighten up the winter season.

alternative poppy

… crochet flower made with 3 acrylic yarn colours …

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | An Organic Gem


Gold Hill Organic Farm, Child Okeford

It was about a year ago when I discovered this organic farm, nestled just under Hambledon Hill in Child Okeford. Despite my lack of realisation of its existence, the plot has been growing organic vegetables for 25 years and it is clear that the Gold Hill farmers know their onions (sorry, couldn’t resist).  The first time I visited, after asking permission, I was allowed to roam around the rows of growth and poke my head into the various poly-tunnels.  I was so staggered at the enormous range of produce that can actually be grown, in England, throughout the year completely organically.

Just walking into the shop (open from Thursdays – Sundays) will make you gasp, as brightly coloured, healthy-looking veg is heaped into wicker baskets, having only been harvested moments before. It really is something to see.  The lovely people here are also very honest about the one or two things that they can’t grow, such as potatoes. These come from another local farm, as for some reason the plot here didn’t agree with potatoes and they had a terrible time with blight.

 A recently new venture for the farm (and already a huge local success) is their veg box delivery service. Priced very reasonably and delivered throughout Dorset to people’s doors, the veg is picked the very same morning that it is delivered to you.  A feat of genius in my opinion!

Now for the really secret and delicious bit… In amongst all this organic loveliness, is a…  cafe! Yes, yippee! My complete favourite thing in the world. (Many of you are now exclaiming… ‘but I thought you said your favourite thing was…’) so please forgive me for having so many favourite things.  Food and a cup of tea is really up there in the top three.

lemon and polenta cake

… homemade lemon and polenta cake …

There are homemade cakes (baked that day, of course), a range of things to eat for lunch with delicious salads… all organic and fresh.  We sat outside in the warm September sunshine with an incredible piece of lemon and polenta cake each, a pot of tea and watched the gentle goings on at the farm, framed by Hambledon Hill in the background.  It really was a lovely afternoon!

For a bit more information and directions, you will find Gold Hill Farm’s website here.

baskets of goodness

… baskets bursting with delicious things …

Red Velvet Hedgerow Cake | Recipe

berries and frosting

… perfect after a long walk picking blackberries …

I have to start by saying a massive thank you to the creative lovelies at CakeNess for helping me out with this recipe. Their cakes are always so incredibly delicious and provide much cake wow factor! If you don’t fancy making this yourself, you can find CakeNess, here. They would be more than happy to whip you up a batch!

This recipe is so useful to adapt to the different seasons; blackberries in the autumn, strawberries in the summer… and will always be a winner as hostess gifts or for housewarmings.

cake close up

For the cake: 200g unsalted butter, 175g light brown sugar, 2 large eggs, 175g self-raising flour, 2 tbsp red food colouring, 150ml Greek yoghurt, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 30g cocoa powder

For the frosting: 150g icing sugar, 75g cream cheese, 250g blackberries (or other berries of your choice)


1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 2 pound loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper.

2. Use 100g of the butter and beat it with the brown sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time with 1tbsp of flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the food colouring, Greek yoghurt and vanilla. Fold in the remaining flour and cocoa powder until smooth.

3. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave in the tin for a few minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool thoroughly.


Use the leftover butter and whisk until smooth. Add the icing sugar, beating again before adding the cream cheese. Beat the mixture until thick and pale in colour.

Spread the frosting over the top of the cake and top with the berries.

top view cake

 … et voila …