Foodies Heaven

Welcome to Foodies Heaven.

My love of food started at an early age, cooking with my Grandmother baking cakes.  My grandparents had a large garden that my uncle grew many kinds of vegetables in along with the green house where I used to go and sit with the salt from the kitchen happily eating the tomatoes.  That is how I remember vegetables tasting fresh from the garden with meat fresh from the local butchers, belly pork slow roasted a breast of lamb with roast potatoes braised liver and onions all now fashionable but were then the cheaper cuts of meat.

When I left school i went on a YTS learning catering while i waited to join the Army as an apprentice chef, I never liked the army but loved cooking so i left and worked in various restaurants.  I left the industry many years ago but have continued to enjoy cooking and food.

In the last few years I have become increasingly interested in free range and organic food, shopping at the local farmers markets and farm shops, the tastes and smells reminding me of how meat and veg was when a child.  We should all support our local producers and buy as much as we can from them rather than the multi national supermarkets whose only concern is profit not quality, for those that say they have to use a supermarket through cost this again is not true, my local butcher does 2 free range chickens for under £7 you will not get these prices and quality in any supermarket.

On this site I will try to bring you information on all things food form book reviews to recipes and guides.  If you have any ideas or are looking for something in particular drop me a mail or message and I will try my best to help.

 

 

Perfect Chips

Deep fried perfect chips

Proper chips not skinny little fries from fast food outlets but chunky deep-fried in beef dripping chips just like we had as kids.

There are only a few steps to perfect chips number one is your choice of potato a good floury potato is best for chips so you can not go far wrong with King Edwards or Maris Pipers.  Number two on your checklist is the fat you cook your chips in forget vegetable oil or sunflower oil what you need is a proper fat a natural fat such as beef dripping or lard.

Peel and cut the potatoes in to chips the width of your thumb giving you a nice chunky chip, always rinse the chips well to remove the starch, then dry well.

IMG_4843[1]

beef dripping

beef dripping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat your fryer to 150c lower chips in remember never more than half fill any pan or deep fat fryer with fats or oils.  Fry for 6-8 minutes until they just start to colour remove from fryer shake excess fat from chips and place on kitchen paper and allow to cool once cool place in fridge and chill.

The second frying is at 170c and for around 3-4 minutes until the chip is just about cooked through again remove from fat drain excess fat and place on kitchen paper and allow to cool.

twice cooked chips

twice cooked chips

To finish off your perfect chips heat your fat to 190c, it is only going to take about 2 minutes to get that golden brown outer and keep that soft fluffy inside of your chip.

 

 

perfect chips

perfect chips

 

Perfect chips and Steak

Perfect chips and Steak

The extra bit of effort really does make it worthwhile if you want perfect chips.

 

 

Charity BBQ

bbqd

 

So as the season for cooking outdoors comes to an end for the majority of people and as Summer drifts in to Autumn I decided that I was going to have a bit of an end of season party in the garden.  As most people who know me are aware when I cook in the garden i don’t just throw a few burgers on the BBQ in the past it has been whole shoulders of pork with various sides for about 75 people while having a live band in the garden, another time turning out about 50 12″ pizzas when I got the new wood oven.  I decided that I would make it a charity BBQ and raise some funds for worthwhile causes.  We will be raising money for 3 great charities that have personal meaning to myself but that also do amazing work.

They are:

Talking2Minds

Talking2Minds was established in 2008 with the sole purpose of helping those suffering from PTSD or other severe stress related conditions.

Pilgrim Bandits 

The Pilgrim Bandits was established by a small group of Special Forces veterans in 2007 with the sole aim of using our unique training and experience to help and inspire wounded soldiers to live life to the full.

Hope GB Hope GB is a voluntary support group which provides practical help and encouragement for people affected by autism.

I then wondered how best to raise funds for the charities other than donations from guests attending the BBQ for the feast of fine food that I would be serving up.  I started messaging people on twitter and facebook and began getting donations of raffle prizes and even of meat for me to actually use at the event. Within a few days I had donations and prizes from the people listed below.

Pork for the pulled pork and other pork goodies is being supplied by

Quiet Waters Farm    We are a small, family run, mixed farm in Atherington, in the heart of North Devon.

The Welsh Pig Company   Happy pigs are stress-free, looked after with care and given everything they need to live how pigs live best: outdoors, free-range, with plenty of sunshine and stimulation.

Sausages not your average BBQ bangers, all from award winning producers.

Native Breeds  Native Breeds are a small Charcuterie based on the Lydney Park Estate in Gloucestershire.

Trealy Farm  Local award winning charcuterie based in Penperlleni Monmouthshire.

Bread

All BBQ’s need bread in some form but this will not be stodgy white buns this is bread from a world champion Artisan baker.

Alex Gooch  Local artisan baker using only the finest ingredients.

Raffle and Auction prizes

Ioshen Knives  Without doubt the best knives I have ever used.

Ian Mckend Mac’s BBQ  Suppliers of all good things BBQ from smokers to wood chips.

Higgledy Garden  grow traditional annual flowers in a Cornish paddock. They are grown without the use of any chemicals and are available to buy online and from a select few Cornish shops.

Bev Reed  Award winning pâtissier who has worked at  Claridges in London and Michelin starred restaurants at Château de Montreuil in France, Stuckis and Der Walserhof in Switzerland and L’Ortolan near Reading.

Liz Knight  We make flavours and special seasonal treats inspired by the food that grows around us – here in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside.

One Mile Bakery  The One Mile Bakery delivers handmade bread, soups and preserves within a one-mile radius of its kitchen in Cardiff.

Trish Maccurrach  stock includes tripods, enamel hanging Kotlich/Bograc and colourful enamel cookware. Everything is suitable for camping and use on an open fire.If you have not discovered outdoor cooking yet, now is the time…

Illtud Llyr Dunsford  Charcutier Ltd is an artisan charcuterie company which brings together British, South European and North American methods of curing.

Cwrtau Bach Farm grows greenhouse produce and creates award-winning homemade, artisan foods in the heart of West Wales.

Vivien Lloyd  enthusiastic about the use of selected varieties of home grown ingredients to achieve the best possible flavours in high quality preserves.

Roadii  Open fire cooking and campfire chat….the self contained firecooking system that beats a barbie anyday.

Blaenafon Cheddar Company  are a specialist cheddar cheese company based in the World Heritage site of Blaenafon, South Wales. At present we produce fifteen very distinctive cheddars and four varieties of goat’s cheese.

Smokewood Shack   Quality Smoking Wood, Charcoal & Grilling Planks for your Barbecue & Smoker.

Team Smoking Penguin  The Smokin’ Penguins are are a BBQ team, competing in the UK

Luke Bawdon Polymath Products Survival and camping equipment

Marcus Bawdon  BBQ guru and a great inspiration.

Alan Low ETI Thermapen thermometers are used worldwide in restaurants, hotels and kitchens – anywhere that perfectly cooked food is served.

As I get more gifts etc i shall add them to the list.

If you are a company that could give a raffle prize or food for the event please get in touch with me.

 

Pulled Beef Brisket

It is not every day that you do food for your step daughters wedding, most people go to weddings to eat food and party.  I spent 16 hrs the day before and a few hours on the actual day of the wedding cooking, not your standard wedding buffet of chicken drumsticks and sausage rolls but 16 hr Pulled Beef Brisket, a four chill mixed bean vegetarian chill along with 13 litres of coleslaw, tomato and basil salad, roast root vegetables and peppers with rosemary then throw in sage and lemon thyme pan-fried chicken and as you see I had my work cut out.

As with 99% of my beef cooking I get it direct from the farm shop in Raglan, 3 large rolled beef brisket weighing in at around 12kg in total was to go in the ProQ otherwise known as old smokey.

Rolled Beef Brisket

Rolled Beef Brisket

 

Rolled Beef Brisket

Rolled Beef Brisket

Four Chillies Chilli

Having a large amount of the shin of beef left from yesterdays Sunday dinner there was an easy decision made for me I adore chilli and chillies in general, it is said that they have an addictive property, chillies are addictive. peppers contain capsaicin, a natural chemical that sends a burning sensation from the nerve endings in the mouth to the brain. the body defends itself against this pain sensation by secreting endorphins, natural painkillers that cause a physical “rush” – a high that keeps us coming back for more. so indulge your pepper cravings, and rest assured that you will soon build a tolerance.

I love to use left over beef in chilli, I also use cuts like shin when I do a slow cooked chilli along with the minced beef.  The difference in textures just adds that something extra.

Four Chilis Chilli
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
My take on chilli
Ingredients
  • 500g minced beef
  • 500g of either left over beef or stewing beef
  • 2 Large onions
  • 1 tbs Olive oil
  • 1 dry ancho chilli
  • 2 dry chipotle
  • 4 Jalapenos
  • 1 tsp smoked hot paprika
  • Beef stock
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper for seasoning
Instructions
  1. Place the dried chillies in hot water to re constitute. finely chop the onions, in a heavy based pan heat the oil and add the onions, saute until soft but not coloured. Chop the chillies including the ones that have been soaking(retain the juice), add to the softened onions. Remove the onions and chillies and place to one side in the same pan brown off the minced beef then remove to one side, if using stewing beef add this to the pan and brown off add the retained mince, onions and chillies.
  2. Add the tin of tomatoes and the smoked hot paprika and stir together, add enough stock to cover, transfer to a casserole and place in the oven at 140c and cook for 3-4 hrs check the level of sauce during cooking though at these low temperatures the sauce should only reduce and thicken slightly.

As I am doing whole 30 and not eating wheat, rice etc this was served with cauliflower rice which is so simple to make and so versatile.

Take 1 cauliflower cut into florets and blitz lightly in a food processor not to fine or you will get a puree you want it to look like grains of rice.

Heat a heavy frying pan and add a glug of olive oil, you can season the oil with garlic or spices and herbs, add the blitzed cauliflower and fry off for 3 minutes it will still have a bite to it and takes on flavours really well, also makes great egg fried “rice”

Slow Cooked Shin of Beef

On the way to collect my little girl from school yesterday I decided to pop into the local farm shop as it is only 2 minutes from the school and I was early for her, I buy my bacon from the shop and generally 99% of my beef, they breed Devon Reds which produce fantastic beef.  I had intended on getting some bacon and a few steaks for tea.  As soon as i looked in the first display cabinet I saw a whole shin of beef reduced from almost £19 down to £9, as often is the case there was nobody in the shop so I went around to the cabinet and picked out the shin of beef a couple of packs of bacon and some sirloin steaks.  The grand total for 4 large sirloin steaks, 2 packs of bacon with 8 rashers in each and these are not skinny shrink in the pan rashers, plus the shin of beef was just over £30, you could easily pay that just for the steaks in a supermarket not that you would get the quality of meat in many supermarkets.

Sirloin Steak

Sirloin Steak

 

Shin of Beef

Shin of Beef

 

I never mess around with good steaks and simply season with salt as I find if you add pepper before frying it burns in the heat of the smoking hot skillet.  

The shin is a cut of meat that is often forgot and requires slow cooking, to me the easiest form of cooking as you can put it on and carry on with your day, this joint will get about 8 hours cooking in its marinade.  This can either be cooked stove top on a heat that just lets the liquid create bubbles that just break the surface, in a slow cooker on low for 8-10 hrs or in a crock pot in the oven at 130c for 8-10 hours.  The marinade is a bottle of red wine, black and white peppercorns, cinnamon stick and star anise, when it comes to cooking time i will add salt and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, this gives the final sauce something extra.  Once the meat is cooked and resting the liquid it has been cooking in along with juices from the meat will be reduced to make a sauce, serve with seasonal roasted root vegetables.

Shin of beef marinading

Shin of beef marinading

What is the Paleo Diet

When i post pictures to Facebook or twitter friends often say how the hell is what you are eating a diet, first I tell them it is not a diet.  Diets do not and never will work they are in general short-term with short results, how many know people who have been on weightwatcher’s etc for years on end or go back every year, the methods the diets use are simply not sustainable.  Our Grandmothers never followed fad diets, then again they were not bombarded by food advertising and huge supermarkets with aisle upon aisle of packaged, tinned and processed food’s, if you walk around the perimeter of your local supermarket you will generally find the vegetable aisle, the butchery department, the fish monger this is due to it being easier to get the power to these areas and to chill and keep “natural” foods.  As you delve deeper into the store you get to all the processed foods, the foods created in factories and laboratories.  Growing up I remember my mother cooking fresh food every day, making a trip to the local shops to buy produce, the same at my grandparents with the addition that my uncle grew veg year round in the garden so that was merely a walk into the garden and collecting that days veg.

Our generation has been told by various “health” and government agencies what is and what’s not healthy.  Our hunter gatherer ancestors were not told what was and what was not healthy, they ate what they hunted, picked and foraged, this is the simplest way to explain it if you can not pick it, kill it or gather it then it is not a whole food, anything that has changed from its original appearance to be packaged into a box, a packet or a tin is not how nature intended us to eat it.  This sadly now includes the way meat is “grown” the methods being used by the multinationals to grow our animals for meat is nothing short of Frankenstein methods, how many knew that the largest buyer of antibiotics from the major pharmaceutical corporations were the farming industry, the US figure is over 80% of all antibiotics produced go to agriculture then we wonder why the prevalence of superbugs and strains immune to antibiotics is on the increase, when our food is fed on mass with them to promote growth, to limit fat production and to retain fluid within the growing animal along with hiding all the nasty illness that prevails in these huge animal factories I will not call them farms as they are far from being a farm in any sense of the word.  For more on the “factory farming” I can not recommend Pig Business video on this highly enough.

There are far better resources online than my brief explanation of what paleo is.  The people I have learnt from include Robb Wolf , Chris Kresser, Mark Sisson’s there are many more online and as with everything else google is your friend.

In a nutshell 

paleo diet

Paleo diet

 

 

 

Slow Roast Breast of Lamb

The humble breast of lamb another of the forgotten cuts of meat that we ate as children cooked by our parents and grandparents but then fell out of fashion with the “health” advice and the myth that fatty meat was bad for us, the fat in grass-fed, pasture raised free range animals is far better for us than any concoction manufactured in a lab.  The cheaper cuts of meat that we enjoyed all those years ago as we know are often the most flavour full cuts of meat.  They all lend themselves to slow cooking be it stews and casseroles or very slow roasts, the fat content keeps them juicy and succulent the juices released during cooking making the most amazing gravy, they are very difficult to over cook unlike the more expensive cuts that require care and some expertise to get them perfect, how many times have you had a dry overcooked steak or joint of beef so dry it has no taste let alone texture.

Breast of Lamb

Breast of Lamb

 

This recipe is a little different from the way I was always given breast of lamb it would be slow roasted then served with a plate of roast potatoes.

Take one boned and trimmed breast of lamb, get your butcher to do this for you if you do not feel you can do it.  The stuffing that I used in this recipe consisted of the sausage meat from 2 free range gluten-free sausages, a good handful of apricots that you chop coarsely, the herb mix is 1 tsp dried sage, 1 tsp fennel seeds crushed, 1 tsp coarse sea salt, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder and half a tsp of white pepper.  Mix the herb mix sausage meat and chopped apricots to make your stuffing mix.

Stuffed breast of lamb

Stuffed breast of lamb

Once the stuffing mix is rubbed all over the breast of lamb you need to roll it and tie it with butchers string to hold it during the slow roast.  Do not worry about it looking like a pretty tied butchers display the purpose of the string is to hold in the stuffing during the roast.

Rolled and tied breast of lamb

Rolled and tied breast of lamb

The finished roast slow cooked for 7hrs at 130c the root veg in with it came out almost confit, the meat was still juicy and tender and the stuffing worked really well with the lamb.

Slow roast breast of lamb

Slow roast breast of lamb

 

Pizzas, Bread and Lamb

This weekend the wood oven has been busy, Saturday saw it have its third light like most men when fire is involved it brings out some primal instinct that we all hold some deeper than others, each time I light the oven there is something comforting and enchanting watching the flames catch the wood and to see the shapes and colours move and change is somewhat hypnotic.

After a few issues with dough last week I have deployed a new method, I bought some plastic containers of 10 oz size as my theory that after proving and knocking back each 5 oz ball of dough would have enough room for its slow ferment in the fridge, the result was a success with the containers lightly oiled the dough for each pizza just filled the tubs.  The base sauce I am trying to keep simple,  Two jars of cirio rustic passata, one tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 6 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon basil and one tablespoon oregano.  I do not cook the sauce as the tomatoes are already cooked and the heat of the wood oven soon cooks the thin layer of sauce on the base, the secret is thin and well spread out so you can still see the white of the base through it.

pizza dough

pizza dough

Toppings for the pizzas consisted of various salamis, my spiced mince, peppers and jalapenos and a selection of cheeses.

trealy farm charcuterie

trealy farm charcuterie


trealy farm charcuterie

trealy farm charcuterie


Chorizo

Chorizo


Pizza cooking in wood oven

Pizza cooking in wood oven


Wood oven pizza with charcuterie, jalapenos, spicy mince and cheese

Wood oven pizza with charcuterie, jalapenos, spicy mince and cheese

In the words of my mate when he had one of these “forget Jamie you got the pizzas going on”

I kept the oven up to heat through the evening adding wood and then spreading it over the base to get it back up to Pizza heat, it was -1 and we sat in the garden around my large fire pit eating pizzas listening to music and enjoying a few drinks.  I have no doubt I will be cooking out doors right through the winter.

After everyone had their fill of pizza I had shaped four loaves in various bannetons and left it for 30 minutes as i let the oven cool slightly to get it down to bread baking heat rather than its ferocious pizza cooking heat.  I am still at the beginners stage with wood ovens and have a lot to learn but early results are very pleasing.

Wood oven cooked bread

Wood oven cooked bread


wood oven cooked bread

wood oven cooked bread

The night had been long and after a few more drinks and some more logs burnt in the fire pit we called it a day.

Sunday was to be a roast for 9 and the meat t have its baptism of wood fire was a whole leg of lamb from Trealy farm.  The oven was fired as per firing for pizza cooking a jenga tower built of kiln dried ash and lit with natural firelighters.  Within 40 minutes the oven was up to cooking temperature I let it burn to build up residule heat ready for the lamb.

While the oven was heating the lamb was marinading in a rub of olive oil, garlic and fresh rosemary from the garden.  The lamb was placed in a tray on a trivet of carrot, onions, courgettes and garlic, a large glass of wine and a cup of stock was added.

Whole leg of lamb.

Whole leg of lamb.

The meat went in the oven with the temperature reading 280c this gave it that first burst of heat to get the outside browned the oven door was left open for this first cooking time after about 30 minutes the door was put in place the oven was reading just under 200c.  Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the joint and your ovens ability to keep heat, after 2 hours cooking the lamb was done to perfection being pink and moist, if you like it cooked more simply put back in the oven, it was still reading 160c when i took it out so could have easily carried on cooking for a more well done joint.

Roast leg of Lamb

Roast leg of Lamb


The remains of a wood oven roast leg of lamb

The remains of a wood oven roast leg of lamb

With a smaller joint in a somewhat smaller tray i would have done the roast veg in the wood oven as well but with a whole leg of lamb in my largest roasting tray there was no room, the next roast will definitely have the veg in with it.

The result was a stunningly cooked roast of local organic rare breed lamb.  Served with all the seasonal veg and washed down with a good rioja.   A great end to a great weekend of wood oven cooking.

The outdoor cooking area

The outdoor cooking area

Wood fired pizza oven

So it is finally in after about three years of umming and arghing over building or buying a wood oven I have bit the bullet and bought one, the main reason I decided to buy a prebuilt over actually building one was the fact I could move the oven if and when I moved.

Lots of research was put into the decision of which one to go for and the one I went for was The Stone Bake Oven Company Primo 60.

Primo 60 wood fired oven

Primo 60 wood fired oven


Oven being fired

Oven being fired

 

The oven arrived on Friday afternoon and was in place and fired up that evening to do a trial run prior to its official christening on Saturday night.  I had ordered for delivery the same day a large builders bag of kiln dried Ash they were the perfect length for the oven so only needed splitting down to wrist sized pieces ready for the first lighting.  After around 35-40 minutes the oven thermometer was reading just under 400c at the base and the top was clear of all soot so i knew it was at a temperature to start cooking.  That morning I had made up over 7kg of dough ready for Saturday and this was in the fridge slowly fermenting to improve the crust flavour I had learnt this from my making of normal doughs in the past for standard oven cooking.  My basic dough for pizza is this and it has never let me down.

500g Strong white bread flour

320g room temp water

15g fresh yeast

10g salt

50g olive oil

This weight of dough would make 6 5oz pizza base of 12″ that resulted in a thin base and a bubbly light crust when cooked.

For the first attempt we decided to keep it simple and as during my research had read over and over less is more and the crust is the star of the show not the toppings these are just guests to the party, we went for cheese and tomato a plain old Neapolitan, i made up the sauce with fresh organic cherry tomato, diced tinned plum, shallot, garlic and fresh oregano this was made in the front of the oven as it had got up to heat so it had taking on a lovely smoked aroma, the sauce was blitzed down to a smooth consistency.

The sauce was spread thinly over the base leaving around an inch of base clear around the edges then topped with torn mozzarella, cheddar and a fine grating of parmesan.

The first wood fired pizza

The first wood fired pizza

While I was cooking more pizzas the first comment I had was Oh my god I am never going to Dominos again, this from an 18 yr old pizza lover who had said they would have to be good as he loved dominos.

Wood fired oven and kotlich

Wood fired oven and kotlich

I am glad we had that little trial run before cooking over 40 on Saturday night for friends and family as it was a good lesson on amounts of topping and using the peel, how they make it look so easy is a mystery to me and I know I have a lot to learn in the art of cooking in the heat of a wood fired oven.

The pizza prep and cooking

The pizza prep and cooking

As per usual i went a bit OTT in the prep and had enough various toppings for more like 150 than 50 pizzas varying from ham to chorizo, spiced minced beef, award-winning charcuterie from Trealy Farm cheeses of around a dozen varieties along with peppers, balsamic caramelised red onion, the addictive candied jalapenos from The Preservation Society, veg of varying kinds and 8 litres of the base sauce I had made.  Add to this chicken wings and pieces that had been marinaded and coated in a spicy seasoned flour and 1.5kg of mussels to cook in the kotlich, nobody was going to go without.  

Once we started we were doing the rolling adding the toppings and cooking the pizzas in under 4 minutes now that is fast food but not junk fast food good honest home cooked food.  One of my pleasures in cooking is seeing people enjoy what I make every comment was along the lines of they were the best pizza they had ever had.

Once I had fed everyone pizza some of the guests seeing off 2 or 3 large pizzas I placed a large oven tray with the marinaded chicken pieces.  I had brought the oven temp down and cooked the chicken for around 15 minutes then finished it off on the grill pan that goes with the tripod and firepit  from The Outdoor Kitchen that sits next to the oven this added a delicious smoked aroma to the chicken, these were served with a rather spicy dipping sauce made from the base sauce and the a little kick added with jalapenos and some sauce from Diggidy Dog, this led to one of the younger guests making a boast that he could eat hotter so two pieces of the chicken that had already had some sauce on going to the kitchen and getting a liberal dousing in limed hot sauce, after eating his comment was “my actual face is burning” .

All guest fed and on the journeys home I finally sat down next to the fire pit and had a glass of wine.  I had about a kilo of dough left in the fridge so at around 11.30 I shaped into two boules and left for 30 minutes.  The oven was still reading at 250c this around 7hrs after first lighting it.  So it had gone from raging hot pizza cooking at around 450-500c to roasting chicken and onto bread oven.

wood fired oven bread

wood fired oven bread


Light airy awesome crust wood oven bread

Light airy awesome crust wood oven bread

 

This was my first foray into cooking using a wood fired oven my only regret is that I should have done this years before, I have a feeling the main oven in the house will now be used a lot less.

Keep checking back for further exploits in my journey of wood oven and outdoor cooking.

Coasteering Wales and Kayaking

Coasteering Wales and Kayaking in Pembrokeshire National Park

 

This post is a bit of a break from my normal posts but something I will be doing more of showing a bit of the other side of me away from my passion of cooking.  I love to be in or around the water and swim in the sea around West Wales and the local rivers year round generally in just shorts whatever the time of year or water temp the feeling is so exhilarating after a swim in water between 7 and 12c most people give you strange looks when you are walking towards the sea in December in just shorts as they are wrapped up in all the winter gear drinking hot chocolate from the beach side cafe.

When I opened my birthday cards this year the one from my girlfriend and daughter had a message “enjoy your coasteering Wales and kayaking in St David’s”, coasteering is something i have wanted to do for quite a while now but have never managed to get around to it, I have done kayaking in the past and really enjoy the views it gives you as you explore areas of the coast seldom seen.

Pembrokeshire national park coastline

Pembrokeshire national park coastline

 

The backdrop to the days activities, the company that I was entrusting life and limb with to guide me along cliff faces and jumping from varying heights of cliffs was TYF Adventure, they were the innovators of coasteering and have an amazing ethos they are members of  1% For The Planet last year donating over 12k to rainforest protection saving an area the size of Wales this year the funds are going to EDUcat, Helping to transform young people into sustainable innovation change-makers. The challenges that eduCAT presents to pupils are real issues that organisations are experiencing in adapting to the immediate and long term impacts of sustainability, climate change, resource availability and food security.

They are also carbon neutral the first outdoor adventure company in the world to do this, all this shows that they not only take people on life changing, adrenalin filled adventures but they care for and protect the environment in which they do it, making sure that the generations to follow can enjoy these activities in the real world rather than via a video game console.

My guide for the days activities was John Byrom, after the formalities of form filling for emergency contacts etc John talked us through the morning plan and got us kitted out for the coasteering, wetsuit, buoyancy aid, helmets after all some of the jumps were around the 7m mark so safety is of paramount importance.  After getting ready there was a 15 minute walk to where we would enter the water for the fun to begin, on the walk to St Nons we were told of the history of the area, St Nons is the birth place of St David the patron saint of Wales it is said that Non took shelter in a chapel during a particularly violent storm and gave birth to Dewi later to become Dewi Sant patron saint of Wales.

Our group for the day was 5 plus John, after the short walk along the coastal path we came to a grassy area and were informed this would be our entrance to the start point for the coasteering, to me and the group it looked like a rather large cliff face without John’s knowledge we would not have even known that you could reach the sea there, following his lead we made our way down to the waters edge well i say edge it was a couple of meters above the water and we were informed this would be a good start point, after my telling the group i generally swam in the sea year round san wetsuit it seemed I was to be the first in so in I went, what many people do not realise is that the sea temperature around this time of year is at its peak not the summer months that many think, the water was around 15c and with a wetsuit and wetsuit socks under my trainers the water was in my view perfect.

At our entry point is a very famous coasteering point known as the toilet, no not due to it being full of nasty things but due to the action the water takes it rises up a small gully then flushes back down, you are carried up by the surf then pulled back down my coming down was rather undignified I was thrown upside down and came down face first, this was a hell of a baptism to coasteering but an amazing adrenalin rush.  We swam a short distance from this toilet and climbed along the cliff face coming to a jump of around 3m to cross to a small island with what we would discover was a jump that in fact was to be a belly flop to avoid shallow rocks to get back across to the main cliff face, the lower cliffs are covered in barnacles that make for amazing foot grips but not the kindest to hands.  A few more jumps and we came to a cove that was called the under water challenge, the challenge being to dive and swim under water to the opposite side, swimming under water in just a wetsuit is a challenge itself due to buoyancy add in a buoyancy aid and it gets very difficult other than John the guide who I know believe is part fish due to him swimming there and part way back only 2 others made it all the way me not being one of them.  Along the way John pointed out various wildlife including a number of sea anemone, birds and shellfish all adding to the experience.

We came to what was to be the pinnacle of the morning activity a cove with a cliff face that to all intents and purpose could have been carved out for coasteering jumps starting at around 4m it looked as if there were actual steps leading up to the highest jump we would do which was around 7m.  After doing several jumps building up to the final jump I stood on the edge looking down, I am not afraid of heights but standing on a cliff edge 7m above the water was still a bit daunting but I took the plunge and threw myself off the cliff into the amazingly clear blue water, the adrenalin was running and the feeling was amazing, this is something people should add to there bucket lists of things to do.

CNV00006

CNV00003

CNV00001

jump jump1

jump

After a swim back across the cove we climbed the rocks back to the coastal path John pointing out Samphire and sorrel along the way of course this was of interest to me being so much of a foodie.  A walk back to the centre changing facilities before a break for lunch and then just myself and John doing an afternoon of kayaking.

sea kayaking

Kayaking start point

 

 

 

 

sea kayaking

Harbour entrance for kayaking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The afternoons activity was sea kayaking I was the only person doing this so after a short drive to the harbour at Porth Clais  on the River Allun and a short walk along the coastal path to the harbour wall and the racks of TYF Adventure  kayaks it was time to start exploring the stunning coastal national park from a view point many people never see, I was on a sit on kayak and john a traditional sit in, the weather had taken a turn for the worse from the morning sun and had started to rain this failed to put a damper on things and we set off.

Sea Kayaking

Sea Kayaking

 

We stayed close to the coast and explored a number of small channels some I had doubts the kayak would go through but with the surf it carried you through, being this close to the cliffs you see far more that you ever would whilst walking the coastal path or even on a tour boat as you could never get as close or access the places you can on a kayak.  After a while we came to a channel that lead to Cathedral cave this was awe-inspiring and something very few people actually get to see the only way being by kayak.

Cathedral cave entrance

Cathedral cave entrance

 

Cathedral cave

Cathedral cave

 

Despite the rain this was an amazing journey along our only coastal national park seeing wildlife up so close is always a pleasure being so in touch with their environment added to this. 

Sea Kayaking

Sea Kayaking

 

After around two and a half hours and only due to my hips aching we made our way back to the harbour where we had started our journey.

This was without doubt one of the best days I have had in many a year and was an amazing birthday present.

I would like to thank John Byrom and all the staff at TYF Adventure for an adrenalin filled fantastic day, I can not think of many better ways to spend a day than exploring what is a national treasure in the coastal national park with people who care for it and enjoy showing others what it truly holds for us all to enjoy, if you get the chance do the coasteering it is a definite to add to any bucket list and will excite even the hardened adrenalin junkies out there.

I will be adding further pictures of the coasteering once the film is developed, yes film.  So check back for them and without doubt further exploits of this nature, I fancy a bit of winter coasteering the chill adding to the rush.