Old recipes revisited and some vacation photos

Greetings folks, I wanted to share with you a few photos and tales from my trip to England today. I’ve been having a wonderful time here. The amount of food I’ve been eating has been… ahem… quite scary and I’m not looking forward to stepping on the scales once I return to France. I should tell you all about my journey here though at the beginning of the vacation, because hey, a problem shared is a problem halved, right?

The day before I left I took the car in to the garage to have it checked out, only to be told that the clutch was almost dead. Yikes – not what I want to have to worry about when I’m making a 1600 kilometre round-trip. In the end I decided to rent a car. An expense we could have easily done without, but such is life. All well and good, we arrive in one piece (and the rental is a real joy to drive) except what do I notice when I’m stepping out of the car in England? Yup – a giant nail stuck in the tyre. Maybe I ran over it… maybe it had been there all along since France. Regardless, it had to be fixed (since the tyre went flat once I pulled the nail out), so I had to go and pay for a new one. Let’s hope the return journey is uneventful and easy!

As I’ll be sharing some photos today I thought it the ideal opportunity to share an old recipe of mine which I’m rather proud of myself but sadly, as is often the case with blogs, if you post something in the “early days”, well before you’ve really met anyone online you’ll have a load of recipes which go unnoticed and unloved. I’ve got a heap of those and I hope to breathe a bit of life into them slowly but surely. I’m going to work through my old posts, improve the photography and the layout and make them something worth seeing. After all – who says blogs have to be a linear thing… especially food blogs!

Today I’m going for something simple – my potato salad. I know – everyone has a potato salad recipe, but mine’s better! Well – I like to think so, and people do seem to love it so, for me, this is the ideal salad. Naturally, I’m always open to other suggestions. If you have a recipe you think I should try, shoot it my way! Anyway, check it out and do let me know what you think!

Potato Salad

For today’s photos I’ll be sharing a trip with you to a little town called Imber. This rather sweet little place was once, no doubt, a hive of activity. Bakeries, schools, farms, children playing, adults going about their daily lives. And then the second world war came along, and so did the British Army, and they decided that Imber was rather a good location for army training, so the poor residents were effectively kicked out. There was the promise that they could return once the war was over but sadly this promise was broken. The town was never returned to the inhabitants and for most of the year it’s not even possible to visit this place, since it’s in the middle of the army’s training range. For a few days though each year Imber is open to the public once more – including the church in the town (as you may have guessed, if you have relatives buried at this church you have but a small window each year to go and pay your respects at their grave). It just so happened that Imber is open during the Easter weekend and I was determined to profit from this opportunity!

Words of warning

A short drive away from my parents’ home-town you have to first pass through some rather desolate landscape, which often looks like something out of the War of the Worlds. The silence at this point is striking. These days it is difficult to go somewhere where you really cannot hear anything. There always seems to be the sound of cars, planes, gardening tools or “something”, somewhere. Here there is nothing but the sound of birds, and you would be forgiven for thinking that some terrible disaster had struck the earth and you were the only people left.

A Broken Tank

Another broken tank

Finally, you arrive at Imber. As you can see from the map, it really is quite isolated. Very few of the original buildings still remain, although there are one or two whose exterior structures have survived, although many modifications have been made to the doors, windows and internal structures to make them safer for the army during training, as well as having a newer roof put on.

Destroyed buildings

Another abandoned building

The interiors of the buildings are usually a treasure trove of vile-looking ration packs and spent ammunition casings (blanks I should hope), although this isn’t so common these days as Imber apparently isn’t used so often in favour of another purpose-built village some miles away.

An old fireplace

Up on the hill, overlooking the town is the church of St. Giles. Fenced off, this isn’t even normally accessible by the military, and an arrangement is in place whereby the ministry of defence will help pay towards the upkeep of the church. Judging by the state of it inside they evidently pay very little, but at least it’s not falling down. As I mentioned above, the few public holidays per year are the one chance relatives have to visit the graves of family buried here.

St. Giles Church

The large expanse of grass in the foreground of the photo above used to be an orchard back during the war era. Some apple trees do still exist, but those, much like the town  in general are mostly lost in time.

I hope you enjoyed having a little look around the town with me – I’ll be back in a few days with a recipe and also the winner of the little contest I ran last month (sorry it’s so late!). Have a good day everyone :).

Comments

  1. says

    Sorry to hear about the transportation issues – it’s very annoying to have a flat tyre – I had a friend borrow my car last year and he returned it with a nail in the tyre and off he walked into the sunset – I was not impressed. I agree with you re those early recipes. I would like to revisit mine and re-do them for the audience I didn’t have at the time of posting. Love your images – England has such a rich history xx

    • says

      Hi Charlie, luckily my Father had a can of this… er… not really sure what it is. It’s like compressed rubber foam in a can. You attach it to the tyre, turn it on and it inflates the tyre enough to drive on and seals the hole, so I could drive over to the tyre centre to have it changed. When they removed the tyre from the wheel… hahaha, what a mess. Marshmallow-like foam everywhere :D

  2. says

    What an interesting tour Charles! Such places give me goosebumps when I think of what secrets this walls keep in eternal silence… how many lives this place has touched… Such thoughts come with bitter-sweet emotions, and rather philosophical questions about life’s true meaning.
    Your salad is fantastic, with capers and everything. I think that there are as many potato salad recipes as there are cooks. And even more: I have about seven potato salad recipes in my “arsenal”… :)

    • says

      Hi Marina – I think it’s even more creepy – and sad – that this place is just deserted 99% of the year. Sure, the army might use it every now and again, and the public can go there sometimes, but if you were to be there in the middle of the night, or even on a typical day… you wouldn’t see anyone. Talk about spooky… like a zombie apocalypse or something :p

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing your adventures home, fun and not, with us. How sad about the town of Imber being emptied and allowed to fall to ruin. Did the army really NEED to keep it as a training ground?

    As to the potato salad recipe, kudos for revisiting it but I’m very happy with the version you posted and that I tried. Next time I made a potato salad, that’s the one I’m making. :)

    • says

      Apparently they “really” did :p. Not sure why… probably wanted to get out of having to pay reparations to the inhabitants. It’s so sad… the wikipedia article talks about how one farming family had to be “forcibly removed” by the army… a family that had probably been there for many generations. Another quote mentions how the town’s blacksmith was found crying over his anvil :(

  4. Wendy Leslie says

    I am enjoying your stories, recipes, and photos. Here in Sidney, British Columbia, Canada.

    Thank you

  5. says

    Wow! That really is out of the way in the middle of nowhere. It looks very peaceful…and a bit daunting. The sign about possible explosives would freak me out a tad. Very cool you got to visit a place that is rarely open. And I’m going to have to check out this potato salad recipe. We’re always up for a good one. Perhaps you should start a quest for the best of your own with potato salads. ;) So glad you’re enjoying your trip Charles and I hope the way home is much less eventful. I think each one of our family vacations has a story like that…goes with the territory I think. But I have to say, it does make for a great story and memory down the road! :)

    • says

      Hi Kristy, I’d say it’s probably more of a “just in case” thing, as I suspect the risk that there are actually a great quantity of unexploded tank shells lying around is very, very low. When I was young my family used to go up here on Easter Sunday. Very few people would visit the place then… it’s exploded in popularity (pardon the pun) in recent years, but back then there was almost no-one about. My sister and I used to run about inside the houses and collect spent ammunition which we’d then take home and clean all the dirt off. I think one time we even found a live round :D

  6. says

    haha charles I refuse to step on the scales after a food holiday. I don’t even own one hehe.Love the little tour, I feel like I’ve seen only but a fraction of what England has to offer.. I need to get out of London more! Also, good to revisit old recipes! Some wonderful ones get missed or forgotten which is a pity; I need to do that myself, in a rut for new ideas lately too :(

    • says

      Hi Karen – it was a wonderful trip. My parents did so enjoy seeing us, and it’s extra fun for them because even though we’re now back in France, they left today to go and visit my sister and their grand-daughter in China, so they get to really see everyone!

  7. says

    Well I am glad you didn’t have to find out the hard way that your clutch was gone, after all you have some very special cargo; better to be safe than sorry, for sure.
    Oh my, that poor little town, I thought only the Russians were as heartless to kick people from their homes, but now the British too? For shame. We’re they compensated? The Russians just took.
    I’m sure your potato salad is far superior , I’m loving the little capers (is that what they are?) and they look incredibly creamy, just gorgeous.
    Hope your trip home is uneventful and you return safe and sound.

    • says

      Hi Eva, I must say I was spoilt by the rental car. I didn’t drive such a nice car before and now it feels like driving my normal car is like sitting in a tin can.

      The people of Imber were compensated… although not very well. The money they received was minimal, and they were only given 41 days notice :(. There are some sad stories, of the farming family who had to be forcibly removed by the army… a family which had probably been there for generations, to the blacksmith who was found crying over his anvil when he heard the news!

      It is indeed capers in the salad. Sometimes I add fresh basil too when I’m in the mood, but just like this is perfect. It’s a big hit around here :)

  8. says

    What a bummer starting the trip with car troubles. Hopefully everything goes smooth from here on out. Thanks for sharing those pictures! I have read the first two books of Ken Follett’s trilogy which were on WWI and WWII. Lots of scenes in England, Germany and many other places. It’s interesting to see a English countryside that was obviously affected by the war(s). It’s just like Follett described. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • says

      Hi MJ – I’ve got the car booked in next week to be fixed. Not looking forward to that bill, but hopefully it will be problem free, knock on wood!

      I think my parents have three different books just on Imber alone. There exist places like this… not necessarily abandoned, but which have been so affected by the war, and it’s always very sad.

  9. says

    I’ve greatly enjoyed your story and photos, sorry about your car. Your version of potato salad is interesting gotta try this one day.

  10. says

    Hello Charles,
    So sorry to have missed quite a few of your posts. Had a rather hectic couple of weeks.
    I love your blog’s new look, so professional :)
    Sorry to hear about the car trouble, we had a similar episode last month. We were going on a road trip with the kids and in the middle of no where we step not into one but two huge nails!! Standing on the edge of the road changing tyres with two kids complaining is not fun!

    • says

      Hi Sawsan – no problem, it’s nice to see you here again, and I’m glad you like the new look!

      How terrible for you! I’m so, so thankful that I made it all the way to my destination! I have no idea how long that stupid nail had been in the tyre! Poor you having to change the tyre out on the road though!

      You can get this stuff in a can… it’s like pressurised liquid rubber or something. You connect it to the tyre, turn on the can and it fills the tyre with the compressed rubber. It inflates the tyre and seals any tiny puncture so it will allow you to drive to your destination in case of emergencies. I’m going to try to get a can (my father gave me his can so I could drive to the tyre shop)… really recommend it!

  11. says

    I’m so sorry to hear about your car misadventures (I have already heard somewhere about the car rental ;-) but not about the nail!). I hope your rental insurance covers it.
    This is a most unusual “touristic” trip! But I appreciate it a lot (museums, places like stone henge, other monuments… we see it everywhere, but I bet rare are people who write about such places as Imber!
    The church looks lovely; it’s a pity it’s in such a bad state, but I bet English churches are better taken care of than the French ones… and from what I have heard the British army isn’t all that rich.
    I bet your potato salad is delicious. I must bookmark and try it (do I see my beloved capers???). You should remind us of your old recipes more often!
    I suppose we all have our favourite potato salads. Wait, actually I don’t have a favourite one! I love potato salad with lots of hard-boiled eggs (and lots of mayonnaise of course!), but I also go crazy for the one with herring and onion (I posted it a long time ago). I suppose it must be similar to many Swedish salads with herring… Oh, and there is a South German potato salad which doesn’t sound very exciting, but is… addictive!

    • says

      Hi Sissi, to be honest, I didn’t even try with the rental insurance. I think sometimes you just need to chalk it up to bad luck, suck it up and pay the bill (or in this case, my parents very kindly paid for me since I was so upset about the crappy luck!).

      The insurance option I took meant I would have been liable for the first €800 of any damage or theft. I’m guessing that would probably mean busted tyres too, so it was just easier to get a new tyre and forget about it!

      I went inside the church a few years ago… it’s terrible inside… most of the floorboards are missing, and it’s very sad and cold inside. I guess I shouldn’t expect anything different… after all, it’s empty 99% of the year, but still!

      I hope you can try my potato salad – I’m not a fan of eggs in potato salad, but capers are just wonderful… really recommend it. I add chopped basil sometimes too… it makes a great addition :).

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