You will need:
- 1 pair stout, ideally waterproof walking boots
- 1 mobile phone with a downloaded copy of Zelma Barnes’ excellent Bowcombe Down from Carisbrooke walk (no. 3142 in Walking Britain)
- 1 small plastic bag
- 2 more plastic bags if it’s going to be muddy (for your boots: you can put them inside your boots beforehand if they’re not waterproof, or use them after to save your car)
- £5 in change (for parking and eggs)
- £5 more if you are partial to Old Rosie and/or cake
This weekend’s forecast was the sort that makes racing sailors recruit as many lard-arses for the rail as possible and make sure that the guy on the bow and trimming the spinnaker really know what they’re doing. A sensible crewman packs her neck towel and hopes that the course setter is in a good mood.
True to form, of course, it’s been pretty nice, sunny and with light winds, which is always a bit of a shame for the beginner sailors as they’re like as not to end up back on the pontoon before they have the chance to set sail, extra weight being more of a problem in light winds.
I didn’t go sailing, however, as due to a long time commitment to a mate and a pair of running shoes, I’m entered in next weekend’s ABP Southampton 10k. And to say I’m “not race fit” is a bit of an understatement. I can barely run to the top of the road. Handily, the Island has a good set of old railway tracks, which Beeching considerately closed down so that we could use them for other types of leisure. In particular, the newly christened “Red Squirrel Trail” (yes I saw one! I saw one!!) is pretty good for pathetic runners such as myself being flat-ish and car free, so on Saturday I tried out my race pace (slow – really slow) for about 8k down the side of the Medina river. Which wiped me out for the rest of the day.
So yesterday, I was planning to go swimming to get my muscles working again, but it was such a lovely morning that a walk seemed like a good idea.
There are loads of footpaths on the Island. Some of them are ancient roadways that were probably first laid down by neolithic man out for a stroll with his neolithic wolf/dog/thing in order to drop in with the neolithic neighbours over the next tumuli. Others are more mudpie pits which are entertaining to wade in if your wellies are long enough, but less fun if you have trendy festival-type ankle boots. Some of the footpaths on the island disappear every year, not because our farmer landowners are antipathetic to walkers (they’re not at all) but because the paths themselves fall off the back of the Wight. This happens much more often than you might imagine, so if you’re planning a walk on the wild (i.e. south) side, it’s worth checking before you set off that your route doesn’t take you up and down a sheer, clay cliff face. Yes. Been there, done that, threw the gloves out.
The 4.8 mile round trip I picked takes a circular route up through Carisbrooke past the Waverley Inn, onto the Tennyson trail (fantastic views) and then down and around the Bowcombe valley where the Lukely brook fiddles its way towards Newport. In late April, the May is budding in the hedgerows, the periwinkles are grabbing their time in the sun before the wheat banishes them to perpetual shade for another year, and if you’re lucky, you may see a wild cowslip or two. And of course, there’s the wild garlic.
The smell of it hits you as you get into Cow Lane, at the bottom of the shute as you come off Bowcombe Down. Swathes of it carpet the dipping lane at the feet of the trees and in the shade its both fresh and sweet. Perfect for quiche. I picked a handful of leaves from a number of plants and stuck them in my backpack.
I’d never been to Bowcombe. This old manor has a real feel of ancient solidity and the road through it must surely have been there since they built Carisbrooke Castle next door. It’s a pretty place, beautiful in spring sunshine and the brook gurgles properly through it, just like a country brook should.
Towards the end of the walk is a ford, something that as a child always made me feel like the car and the whole family was doing something slightly naughty, and if you take a left at Clatterbrook Shute instead of following the proper route up Miller’s Lane there’s another one. There were a couple of small children throwing sticks into the water for a very much smaller terrier. When the dog realised that it was truly out of its depth, and likely to be swept off towards the bright lights of Newport (Bowcombe really is small) then it got onto the footbridge and tried to catch them with its paws. Cute, intelligent, but fundamentally ineffective.
If you’re eager to make your own wild garlic quiche as authentic as possible, then you can slide up Clatterford Shute and a lovely lady in the last house on the left will sell you half a dozen very brown eggs for an excellent price. Admittedly you’ve deviated from the quiet route, and instead of taking the back lane to the car park you’ll have to walk 100 yards down the busier Bowcombe road. But at least it takes you past the pub and its excellent cake on the way home. I had the apricot and pecan.
Very nice. I’d recommend it.
By the way, if you want a recipe try this:
- Make up enough shortcrust pastry for the tin you’re using. If you are feeling really Island-ish, use half Garlic Farm Garlic and black pepper butter for the fat (you can buy it in the Co-op in Carisbrooke across the road from the car park). I had about 2oz Garlic butter, 2oz ordinary butter and about 6oz flour.
- Separate three of the eggs, and whisk up the 3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks with about an inch by 3 inches of finely grated cheese. Chop all your wild garlic with scissors into the mix. Stir well.
- Grease your flan cases and line with the pastry. Fill with the quiche mixture and bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at about 180 / gas mark 4-5 for about twenty minutes or until the pastry is golden and the quiche has set. Cool for a little and eat however you want. I tend to chop warm bits off the cooling quiche until I get too guilty to have more.