Back in the U.K. for Summer…Sort of.

Last Hoorah in Hondarribia…

We said adiós with heavy hearts to our home of 2 years Hondarribia…and of course all our great mates. We had a week or so of farewell get togethers that ranged from an evening pintxo stroll down Calle San Pedro to a menú del día with our sweetheart Itziar to a grand lunch @ with Gloria & Bernard @ Andoni’s (and Carmen) Txoko (cooking society). Hondarribia & Spain will be an experience that will be very hard to beat…

Back in the U.K. – Effing Cold!

We boarded the Bilbao-to-Portsmouth ferry on time post a nerve-wracking traffic jam that Hound #2 skilfully avoided by using  her Google map skills to route us through a wee fishing village – phew! Onto England…and as we disembarked in the Land Rover, England greeted us with its typical weather – pissing rain, windy as and effing cold…more like winter than effing August!

Frome’a A Pop’n! New Places Round Every Corner! – Sam’s Kitchen & the Rye Bakery Where Billie Found A Bean Bag…Loves Bean Bags!

We spent our first 4 nights camping in our old village of Frome, Somerset as Hound #1 Billie had an important vet appointment (1 of 4) to gear up for his return to New Zealand. We greatly enjoyed our return to Frome despite the wintry weather conditions as it has truly begun to blossom with new establishments popping up around just about every corner. One of our favourite morning coffee spots was the Rye Bakery which inhabits, quite stylishly, the vast insides of an old church. An amazing space that has seen some serious investment….

We also checked out Sam’s Kitchen Deli which has a truly stunning fit out & space…but we were not so impressed with the coffee in terms of quality and price, but could easily see enjoying a glass of wine or two in the 2nd floor bar & just walking the world go by, up St. Catherine’s Hill.

Fox & Badger @ Wellow – Awesome Lunch! Top Left: Bacon & Pea Risotto with Seared Duck Breast; The bar; Grilled Fresh Mackerel with Potatoes & Horseradish Cream Atop Chard

As we wrapped up our brief stay in Frome & prepared to head for Totnes for a month in an AirBnB cottage, we decided to indulge ourselves for having camped in wintry, wet conditions with a lunch @ our fave pub – the Fox & Badger in Wellow. We have never been disappointed in a meal here and this time was no exception. Exceptional quality at a more than fair price! If you’ve never been, GO!

Home Sweet Home for a Month – Totnes, Devon

We settled into our sweet AirBnB cottage late in the arvo with a cracking evening forecast ahead weather-wise. If you ever need a perfect place to stay in Totnes that is centrally located & comfortable as then check out this place. We ended up in good-vibe Totnes because my old Land Rover needed some TLC by my Devon mechanic Kevin prior to shipping to New Zealand. And Devon in August is or can be a serious challenge accomodation & price wise. But this ticked all the boxes!

Top Left: Best BLT & Avocado Sammie @ Rousdon Bakery; Venison Burger @ The Green Dragon Pub; Landcombe Cove – Stunning!

We have had sporadic stretches of an English summer & when we do, we leverage our time & our Secret Beaches book to the max. This is an excellent informational source for secluded, unpopulated beaches – a necessary bundle of information when you live in jammed to the gills England.

Top Left: Pigs Nose Pub – A Real English Pub; Macely Beach/Cove; Coastal Fields on Walk to Macely Beach

We got lucky with another forecasted, semi-summer’s day so made a plan to walk the track along the River Dart (below) to the village of Ashprington. An excellent walk was had by all and is a favourite activity of Hound #1, Billie. Hard to beat the Devon (or Dorset) countryside with rolling hills, mucho greenery & woods and a sweet river…and the pubs! Ashprington is home to the Dunstan Arms and we had a stunner of a lunch (and a pint or two).

Top: Dart River; Billie Waits for the Pizza; Lunch @ Durant Arms in Ashprington…Rabbit Rillettes & Toast Points & Cornichons.

Top: Billie Plays Hard With Toy Gift from Mate Gorka in Hondarribia; English Summer – Needs a Fire!; Another Gift from Gorka – Txakoli Vino!

We felt that after a few weeks in the village of Totnes that a day out in the Big Smoke of Exeter was in the cards. We had a few shopping missions to accomplish that could not be satisfied in Totnes, so on the train we hopped, Exeter bound.

A Day Out in Exeter…

We were able to tick a quite a few boxes in Exeter – I succeeded in replacing my about-to-disintegrate Levi jeans & Hound #2 raided all the Op Shops (Charity Shops for non-UK folks) nabbing some books & DVDs. We also managed a quick squizzy of Magdalen Road, foodie central for Exeter.

Thurleston Beach, Devon…

We were gifted with another stunner of a summer’s day…only problem it was a Bank Holiday Monday. Hound #2’s whole family has a genetic aversion to doing anything on a Bank Holiday, especially going to the beach. But we sort of devised plan which was to leave super early, get a swim & beach time in and do a coastal walk to the village of Bantham to the Sloop Inn pub for at least a pint & maybe lunch…crowds dependent.

The beach was awesome…until the hordes horded in. General theory is that any beach you can drive to & has a cafe or beach bar will have a tsunami of folks by lunchtime. And it always strikes us as funny or strange that if you are only willing to walk 10-15 minutes farther along you will almost always find a near empty, secluded beach.

The Sloop Inn was also awesome – we knew nothing about this pub but we dodged another Bank Holiday bullet by arriving a bit early when no one was there (yet) & placed our food & drink orders & grabbed a table in the empty garden courtyard.

The meals were stupendous and exceptionally well priced…wish it was our local!

The Sloop Inn, Bantham, Devon: Smoked Mackerel Salad & Local Mussels in Cream/Butter Sauce – Superb All!

Well, as we count down the days to our New Zealand return, frantically ticking off dozens of boxes of things to do with Billie the Jack Russell, my 1975 Series III Land Rover (Gertie – going to New Zealand!) & us and all our stuff, we have this (below) to return to…a massive slip – the backyard is now ever so much closer to the back door. Happy, happy, joy, joy in our wee casa in Lyttelton :-(.

Welcome Home…

Autumn Grayling Hunting in Devon, UK


Home Sweet Home In Search of Autumn Grayling

I had to bring my 1975 Land Rover (Gertie) back to the UK for an MOT – Spanish options looked like the proverbial massive can of worms. So to make it a more pleasurable trip (and weather permitting & it did wonderfully), I set myself up for some autumn fly fishing. Base camp for the duration was the Castle Inn in Lydford – sweet wee place that is perfectly located for many West Country Angling Passport rivers as well as Dartmoor National Park.


Promotion by Selfie

The West Country Angling Passport scheme is awesome – if you do not know about or have not used it please give it a try. The scheme makes loads of UK rivers available to fish at a very affordable price – use or lose it as they say. It needs your support – get going folks!


Beautiful Waters…River Lyd, Devon

My first day on the water was on one of my faves – the wonderful River Lyd in Sydenham. Flowing though an amazing Elizabethan estate, the river is chocka with fishable varieties of fish – brown trout, grayling, sea trout and even the odd salmon. I hooked & landed 17 brownies and I saw 3 massive sea trout feeding side by side. One leapt clear out of the water to snatch a floating caddis fly and was an easy 6-7 pounds and beautifully coloured,


River Lyd Brownies…

My second day put me on the River Tamar on the Netherbridge Court beat. I have fished this several times before and it is minutes away from the Ham Mill, Netherbridge and Druxton beats. All are a great day of fishing….


River Tamar – Netherbridge Court Beat

While getting my Land Rover MOT’d I timed it perfectly with the Frome Farmers Market and picked up some tasty Somerset salami and rich Glastonbury hard goats cheese. A fly fisherman has to eat and this hit the nail on the head.


Fly Fisherman’s Lunch Supreme

Though I was mostly in search of grayling, my first day was 100% brown trout…second day put me back on track and brought this wee beauty to the net. It is an autumn fish with colours to match.


River Tamar Grayling – Sweet

My 3rd and final fish was again on the River Tamar but on the Druxton Beat. I have also fished this before and it has some sweet water but a good chunk of it is dead slow pools. Not my cup of tea…that said, it was good for 8 solid fish – 3 grayling with one to 12″ and 5 brownies. A good day had by all…


River Tamar, Druxton Beat & Grayling to the Net.

Fly Fishing Wales 2015…


River Otter, Devon

On my fly fishing ‘bucket list’ before departing the UK for Spain was one new river for me, the River Otter, and one old faithful, the River Bray. I had driven past the River Otter countless times during my fly fishing adventures in & around Dartmoor but had never cast a line or dangled a fly for a brownie. It looked so damn enticing from the A30 whizzing past Honiton that I put it on the ‘must thrash’ list…


River Otter, Devon

Just like most of the UK waters, someone (company, hotel, syndicate, person) owns the fishing rights and in this case it is the Deer Park Country Hotel. They charge not an unreasonable about of £30 for a day on the river but there are a few problems or hassles. First off, the river is in need of some TLC – there are quite a few deep pools that make wading up stream impossible so you absolutely need to get out & walk, but the banks are steep and mobbed with serious thickets of nettles, thistles & brambles. Second, there is no kind of beat management – it is just a ‘first come, first cast’ kind of deal which given that they technically have 3 miles of river might not be a problem on a given day but would help to manage the resource better so all interested fishing parties have a good day.


River Otter Lively Brownie…

That said, I enjoyed a gorgeous weather day and also managed to hook a few trout…using some of my own newly tied nymphs which was a great reward for the day.

My next destination on this final Devon fishing trip was the River Bray which has become one of my favourites of the Westcountry Angling Passport Scheme which is one of the best (besides the Wye/Usk Foundation) things in British fly fishing. I cannot praise it enough in terms of the fishing opportunities at an affordable price that it has opened up to the average fisher person like me. Get on to it folks and use it or lose it!


River Bray, Devon

The water on the River Bray comes as close as you can get to a chalk stream in this part of the country – and at more than 2km of water you have a decent day of fishing for all of £15…and I have never been disappointed as it seems to hold a good stock of fish where a normal day for me would be 15-20 netted and more than twice that hooked & lost. And the canopy has been pretty well copiced so casting is free & easy.


River Bray Brownie…

I was a late discoverer of Wales, for some odd reason I had this idea in my head that it was so far away & difficult to get to. Then I started to hear about the Wye/Usk Foundation & went on to order their fishing booklet which peaked my interest a bit more. Then my partner & I decided to do a week’s trip up into Wales to do some winter walks and I was amazed that from our home in Somerset we could be in Wales in less than 1.5 hours! Well that clinched the idea to fish Wales – wish that the idea had smacked me across the face a wee bit sooner!


Trericket Mill B&B and Camping Site

Post an extensive read of the Wye/Usk Foundation booklet & online perusal of the beats, I came up with a plan & booked myself into the most friendly & hospitable of sites in Wales that you will ever find – Trericket Mill Veggie B&B. Alistair & Nicky are hosts supreme providing all the mod cons a camper could ask for in a stunningly beautiful setting. Besides the great camping space, they run a warm & cosy B&B and also rent out self catering cabins.


Home Sweet Home in Wales…Including Table & Chairs & Firepit!

Post my arrival @ Trericket Mill, Alistair suggested a quick & easy wander down to have a peek at the River Wye…which I made a bee line for to watch the sun set & catch the masses of swallows having a feast on the hatching bugs…


River Wye @ Dusk…The Gromain Beat.

I know the Wye/Usk Foundation’s 230 miles of water in Wales is a superb fishery without a doubt, but it was just not to be for me on this trip. My first day of river exploration began with the Upper River Irfon which is a tributary to the Wye and came highly recommended from a fishing guide mate in Devon.


Upper River Irfon, Wales

The water was STUNNING – and the thought kept going through my head when I come across water this clear & clean – why are there NO FISH? It just cannot be that an environment this pristine cannot be attractive to fish…but in 5 or so hours of wading & casting & sitting & watching – nada. I started to get the feeling that like many new waters & areas, you had to build up or have access to local knowledge about the when’s, where’s & how’s to catch fish. I went through a similar learning curve when I moved to New Zealand many years ago.


Upper River Irfon, Wales

I fished 2 other rivers on this trip but I have decided not to write about them or show any pictures as they were not the best foot forward for the Wye/Usk Foundation waters. Though I did catch fish, it was not under the circumstances I would say made for a pleasurable day (jungle canopy, herds of sheep in the river, a section that looked more like a rubbish tip than a river).


River Usk @ Penpont, Wales

My last water of the trip was in the Rive Usk at Penpont, which without a doubt was superb water…just not for me to catch some trout. I fished for about 2-3 hours before I even managed to site and/or scare a decent sized fish. Spotted a good 3 pounder but he was about 6 inches from the bank in about the same depth of water so I just had a good watch. I was using the same gear I had used on the rivers the previous day when I hooked about a dozen fish so I was not sure why that was failing here.

I would really like to give Wales another go – and I hope I get the chance before we return to New Zealand…

Cornwall Fly Fishing Adventure – and Food Too!

We took a chance and booked a wee cottage (Pixie Cottage) in Crossgate (just outside of Launceston) for a week at the end of September for (a) me to finish out the fly fishing season on the River Tamar; (b) for Hound #2 to hopefully snag some boogie board beach time on the Cornish Coast and (c) Hound #1 (Billie) to have another Billie Holiday.


By lucky coincidence (ahem!), one of our favourite local independent wine merchants, the Yapp Brothers in Mere, were having their annual Autumn tastings and it was only a modest detour on our way to Pixie Cottage. It has been a while since we have attended a decent vino sampling & this ticked more than the most boxes. The Yapp Brother’s wines on offer were predominately French (their speciality since 1969) and all excellent, with our 2 faves being the Domaine Py AOC Corbières: 3ème Cuvèe Blanc 2012 (white) and the St. Chinian Magali 2010 (red).

Rant break: These small, independent wine stores are such fantastic repositories of wine knowledge and offer up a far more interesting selection of winemakers than the Big Boy Supermarkets, but even as I write this, they are under threat which is very sad news for anyone who gives a hoot about wine. It seems that in a very short time & not too distant future the English retail wine world could very much be like Henry Ford’s Model T – you can have any colour (wine) as long as it’s black (it’s on our supermarket industrial wine stock list). They are Starbuck-ing our wine options. And it’s not like the Big Boy Supermarkets don’t already scarf up a decent chunk of your vinous dollars as they reportedly account for more than 70% of all wine retail spending. Support your local wine shop – fast. Ranting all done…

In addition to the wines on offer, the Yapp Brothers enlisted the help of some of their foodie friends, Godminster Organic Cheddar and Chesil Smokery in Dorset. And if a caffeine hit was required before the drive home, Claude the Butler was on duty. So since we were now all stocked up wine-wise for our week at Pixie Cottage, we needed some lunch…


On our ‘to do’ board at home we’d pinned an article from one of the weekend rag’s magazines on what to do if you found yourself in the Somerset Levels. Well we were, so we made a zig-zag-backcountry-lane detour to the glowingly written about White Hart Inn in Somerton. Somerton is a sweet village and this pub (and inn) is a perfect match. The White Hart prides itself on being a pub (there is a restaurant too) in all the best senses of that word – welcoming everyone, including dogs, warm atmosphere & affordable food & drink. It takes seriously the mantra of supporting local producers whether you are talking food or drink. After a good scan of the menu (provenance of suppliers are included FYI) we opted for light bites – Hound #2 gravitated to the ham sandwich with chutney (£4.75 – when’s the last time you saw a pub sammie for less than a fiver?) and Hound #3 felt the wood fired pizza would hit the spot (£10.95). Correcto on both accounts…


Wood fired Pizza


House Cooked Ham & Chutney Sandwich

Our hunger pangs satiated, we got back on the road to make a pit stop @ the Lifton Farm Shop for some provisions (the sweet corn was the best we have had this summer) before our scheduled arrival time @ Pixie Cottage.


Crossgate and Netherbridge Pools on the River Tamar & Pixie Cottage

Pixie Cottage was everything we expected and it suited the 3 Hounds to a ‘T’ – Billie absolutely loved the massive lawn to bounce around in and Hound #3 could not believe the River Tamar ran right past the property – score –  with 5 different fly fishing beats on the River Tamar within walking distance of Pixie Cottage and Hound #2 was a hop, skip & a jump to the Cornish Coast! So with the weather more than co-operating, fly rod & boogie board in hands, a bit of river thrashing & wave whacking was in order.


The Harris Arms has kept coming up in our epicurean readings for not only a great reputation for its food, it is also quite renowned for its wine list – in fact, named the Best Wine Pub in Britain for 2013 we will have you know. We had a fun, down-memory-lane chat with Rowena (owner with partner Andy) who had spent time in our home space of New Zealand learning how to make wine in Gisborne. And more vinous fun was had perusing the multitude of empty, excellent bottles decorating the various nooks & crannies – someone’s had loads of fun.


Classy Beverages

Hound #2 made an early decision to go a wee bit lighter on her main to leave enough space for something sweet (Baked White Chocolate Cheesecake – £6.95) & picked the Tomato & Basil Soup  (£4.95).

Alex had Soup du Jour - tomato & basil....she was saving room for dessert.

Tomato & Basil Soup

Hound #3 had no such plans for a sweet finish and hesitated not a nano-second for one of his perennial, palate pleasers – Duck Confit (£12.95). The Duck was served with a flavour bursting, awesomely Autumnal accoutrement of Chorizo & Bean Ragout with a side scoop of Mash to soak up the au jus. This was SO GOOD I had to get the recipe…find it below.

So as the UK starts to feel truly autumnal (rain, wind & cold), anymore Cornwall adventures will be put on hold till the weather comes right again….


Duck Confit with Chorizo & Bean Ragout on Mash

Chorizo & Bean Ragout 

Soak dried Haricot Beans in water (keep in fridge) overnight.

Cook the beans in fresh un-salted water (not the water you’ve soaked them in) until they start to split.  Strain them, refresh in cold water to stop them cooking and then strain them until they are pretty dry – if you have a vac pack machine you can vac pack them, then refrigerate and they’ll keep for a week or so.  If not, keep them in the fridge, in a closed plastic container, for a few days (they will go off quite quickly) but you can cook them the day before you want to make the sauce. 

Dice chorizo (mild or hot to your taste).

Make red wine sauce as follows (this is the simple way to do it without making your own beef stock).

I suggest that you get hold of the stock ingredients from Essential Cuisine they make really great stuff.

1 litre of beef and chicken stock mixed together 50/50 (1/2 tablespoon each of stock powder).

1/2 bottle for strong red wine (Argentinian Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon).

2 x banana shallots skinned, halved and sliced.


Crushed clove of garlic (skin on).

Put the stock and all the other items into a large pan and reduce by about a third.

Add some Essential Cuisine Concentrated Veal Jus – 1 tablespoon – you will have to stir really well into the simmering liquid as it takes a long time to dissolve.

Reduce by a further 20% approx.

If you make a mix of 1oz butter and 1oz flour in advance (soften the butter so you can mix the flour and then harden in the fridge) you can then dice about half of this and add to your sauce whisking vigorously until it’s dissolved.

Cook the sauce at a simmer for about 10 minutes to cook off the flour – this will, with luck, thickens the sauce.

Taste and season to your taste.

You should then strain through a fine strainer into a plastic storage tub.

To make the Ragout, just bring the sauce up to a gentle boil & add the bean and the chorizo and hey presto you have the red wine sauce with chorizo and haricot bean ragout.

Indian Summer in Cornwall…


Cornish Indian Summer

The UK’s August weather was more akin to autumn than anything approaching late summer, so when summer made a surprising resurgence in early September, we made a bee-line for the Cornish Coast…and what a damn good decision that was! The kids are all back at school so the beaches & campgrounds were ours and ours alone just about.

CORNNinConstantine Bay is one of our top beaches so we based ourselves in the lovely wee village of St. Merryn, which is just a stone’s throw from Constantine as well as Harlyn Bay. On our previous trip we had tested Nin’s Tea Room out & it ticked all the breakfast boxes so we decided to stick with the tried & true for our first holiday meal.


Smoked Haddock & Poached Eggs

Hound #2 opted to go the ‘healthy’ route and ordered the Smoked Haddock with Poached Eggs (£7.95) – it was declared estupendo! And almost a meal & a half with the full plate of toast that came with…



Hound #3 made a more conventional breakfast choice – a BLT Bap (£4.50 – Nin’s also have a Breakfast Bap) which, again, was almost a meal & a half but a great way to load up on some fuel for the day’s activities.


Rick Stein’s Pub – The Cornish Arms

Even though St. Merryn’s is tiny, it has 2 pubs: the Farmers Arms which is located smack dab in the village centre and Rick Stein’s place the Cornish Arms which is just a hop, skip & a jump on the way to Padstow. We hit the Farmers Arms for an evening beverage and dropped into the Cornish Arms for a holiday lunch.


BBQ Chicken Caesar Salad

The Cornish Arm’s menu offers good, solid pub food done to the highest order and is in no way a too fancy joint. We both decided the BBQ Chicken Caesar (£10.95) was what most tickled our fancy and indeed it did the job. It was nice to try some of Rick Stein’s food without partaking of the Rick Stein commercial frenzy you are exposed to in Padstow.


The Fab Rugglestone Inn in Dartmoor National Park

For our drive back home to Frome, we wanted to cruise via Dartmoor National Park as it is one of our most favourite Devon spaces. Our old Land Rover mechanic Kevin had highly recommend the Rugglestone Inn in the heart of the park @ Widecombe in the Moor so lunch was put on the agenda. And our mate Kevin nailed this one in spades – we loved it so much we forgot to shoot any food pics! But we are planning to return for a long weekend in the autumn & camp out in the cottage & hike the moors.


A Billie Holiday – Woof! Woof!

And as much as we love & enjoy our holidays, our Jack Russell Billie loves them even more…except when visiting National Trust Estates where he has to be tied up.

Miller’s Farm Shop’s Newest Addition – Lyme Bay Fish Shack


Fishmonger Dan & Fisherman John @ the Lyme Bay Fish Shack

We have waited with baited breath (pun intended) for the newest addition to our local farm shop (Miller’s – blog post here) to actually open and sell us some fish. We watched as the tradesmen measured, sawed & hammered bits and bobs together and slowly the Lyme Bay Fish Shack began to take shape.

We did an initial trial purchase of some beautiful looking pollack as a test case for a big lunch planned for the parents. The fish passed the taste & fresh test with flying colours! So we headed back the morning of the big day & were lucky enough to not only have Dan the Fishmonger in his usual spot (major design flaw has too tall Dan whacking his head on the ceiling every few minutes), but John the Fisherman who had just delivered his catch. Could not have been any fresher unless we had caught it ourselves which is the next adventure  – to head out for a bass fishing trip with John on his charter boat Outcast IIGame on, John!

So if you have an itch for some fish, make a quick stop @ the Lyme Bay Fish Shack and Dan will sort you out…


Hound #3 Chats with John The Fisherman

National Trust’s Killerton House & Farmers Market


In our efforts to visit as many accessible Devon farmers markets as possible, the super combo of a visit to the National Trust’s Killerton House and a farmers market was a no brainer decision. It is a small market as they are working hard to replace several producers who have left due to work & time contraints but what is there is very good.


The Hounds Stroll the Market


Cheese Please!

Two great locally farmed meat folks were on hand – West Kidland Farm & Burrow Farm. We chatted with Catherine (red haired one in photo below) from West Kidland Farm about her lamb (Lincoln Longwool) which she swore was the the ‘best in Devon’, so we snatched a beautiful rolled shoulder (being weighed in the photo) which is one of our favourite cuts. It needs to be cooked slow & low to let it tenderise but we feel it is the cut that tastes the sweetest. West Kidland is a family run farm and Catherine calls herself an ‘accidental farmer’ as it was her parents that bought the farm 9 years ago to accommodate their fast growing menagerie of various animals. She moved in with husband Nils to help out and the rest is history. Besides the luscious lamb, West Kidland Farm also has rare breed Berkshire pork, Dexter cattle and a mix of chickens, ducks and geese on offer.


NB: Food Hound #2 has a guilty pleasure – diet coke!!!

Burrow Farm is a fascinating tale – Neil & Sally Grigg had never farmed or raised cattle before but were keen & undaunted to take on the tenancy in 2007. Six years into the ‘experiment’ they have successfully established a pedigreed herd of Red Ruby cattle, opened their Red Devon Beef Farm Shop and a bed & breakfast. Phew! Just recently they won the National Trust Fine Farm produce award for beef – seems they took fine to farming.


Isca Ales were also on hand, unfortunately for them 10 o’clock in the AM is a wee bit too much south of noon for a bit of beer tasting. But they are local & looked damned good.



Pies, Pies, Pies


A Plethora of Piscine Pates..

So folks, the Killerton House Farmers Market is this Saturday – JUNE 15th!!! If you don’t find something to tempt you at the market (unlikely) then you can grab a coffee & cake @ the cafe, sniff your way round the 2nd hand book store, peruse the National Trust shop or just simply enjoy a stroll around the stunning grounds and gardens – much of it dog friendly as Billie the Jack Russell will attest.