The Bluewater Nature Trail

Today we visited the Bluewater Nature Trail in Kent. We are always on the lookout for new places, to offer interesting experiences to the children we care for. If it’s outdoors it’s even better.

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The nature trail is in the grounds of the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, near London. You can find more information on their website  but I want to share our experience and some of the pictures we took as the Autumn scenery is so beautiful.

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The shopping centre is built inside a quarry so it’s surrounded by white cliffs all around. There are lakes, bike paths, walkways and playgrounds.

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The Nature Trail is highlighted by animal paws on the ground and signs, accompanied by Sidney the Squirrel who shows the way and gives detailed information about the flora and fauna around the area.

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The children loved the walk as much as we did, stopping very often to admire the view, the lakes, the ducks, swans, to look for minibeasts under the logs, to look at the map and finally to play.

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The playground we stopped in is very challenging so maybe children aged over 5 would appreciate it more, but our little ones gave it a try nonetheless. They are fearless and willing to tackle any new challenges that come their way.

They were also responsible to lead the way, so they looked for the paw prints on the path and consulted the maps on the way. We also came across Sidney, the squirrel who pointed arrows towards the way so we couldn’t stray from the path.

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The wildlife is rich, we saw lots of ducks, swans, black headed gulls, minibeasts but the information on the plaques advised to look out for bats, herons, lizards and even grass snakes.

Flora was as amazing as the wildlife. The path is surrounded by trees and being Autumn, the colours offer an amazing view, backed by the white cliffs.

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There is a picnic area in the playground but today was too cold to have lunch outside so we headed to the food court inside the shopping centre.

We promised the children a return visit, maybe in Spring and then in Summer so that we can compare it to the Autumn experience and hopefully see more of the animals that reside there.

The Nature Trail is surreal…a lovely place to visit, nature at its best especially after the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre.

 

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Green tomato chutney

Green tomatoes? Chutney? I know! Exactly my thoughts. But after two years of growing tomatoes at the allotment and ending up with a big batch of green tomatoes, you have to become creative, so why not green tomato chutney? It’s delicious with some cheese crackers and perfect to eat this time of the year.

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The recipe I used was a mix of other recipes I found online and after reading so many I kind of followed a bit of all of them. If anything, my recipe will give you tips about what works or doesn’t.

Ingredients

2 kg green tomatoes

450gr onions

450gr sultana

450gr apples(We had loads of apples from the allotment and had chopped and froze previously)

450gr muscovado sugar( I used a mix of muscovado and brown sugar)

1 l malt vinegar

salt

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I made the chutney twice. First time I had 2 kg of tomatoes  but the second time I only had  1 1/2 kg of tomatoes so I  adjusted the quantities of all the other ingredients accordingly.

How to make it

Chop the tomatoes and apples in small cubes, then slice the onions finely. Mix the tomatoes and onions, add the salt and leave either overnight or about two hours- I tried both and they worked fine. This step is for draining the excess water from the tomatoes.

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Next step is to put the vinegar and sugar in a big pan and slowly bring to boil, stirring the sugar to dissolve it. Add the apples and sultanas, stir for 10 minutes. Strain but do not rinse the tomatoes and onions and add to the pan. Bring to boil and then let it simmer, stirring occasionally. I can’t give you a precise time, I knew it was ready when the mixture thickened, I would say about two hours.

How to preserve

Wash and heat the jars and the lids in the oven for 40 minutes on low heat.

Once cooled, fill them with the chutney and make them look pretty.

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It’s quite easy to make, you really can’t go wrong with it, just be prepared for the strong smell of the vinegar. It’s worth it in the end. The taste is a delicious mix of sweet and tangy and the personal satisfaction of eating a homemade chutney  with organic vegetables that we grew made it even tastier.

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Last year we gifted a jar of chutney at Christmas to all of our families, this year we have a different surprise. Just wait for it!