The Severn Trow - "Simply the Best Little Bed and Breakfast in the Ironbridge Gorge"

Trow Celebrations

The Trow is a very sociable place. I guess that's one of the reasons we get so many bookings from families looking to share special occasions somewhere the can feel a little cosseted but also have their own space. We recently had a brilliant family from Derbyshire come and stay with us. Well I say Derbyshire but they came from all over the country. Mum and Dad from lovely West Yorkshire, their children and grandchildren coming from Derbyshire and Manchester and a whole family of four (with two lively but very well behaved toddlers) from "down south".

It was Mum and Dad's Diamond Wedding Anniversary. 60 Glorious Years! We were flattered and very pleased they chose to spend it with us at The Trow - and even more pleased when they said how much they enjoyed it.
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As it was a special occasion we worked with the family to make sure everything went right - though the recent flooding of one of our cellars had left us in some disarray - coming as it did at exactly the same time the roof decided to leak (thankyou English summer). There was of course the trademark bubbly with breakfast that we always seem to find for special occasions - and a cake stand full of chocolate cream buns and raspberry almond cakes for teatime. We know they had a grand time in The Gorge - and that young and old enjoyed the museums and walks and relaxing here at The Trow. We believe (though don't shout it too loudly - the sun even came out once or twice while they were here!

Recently we had Phil and Pam come and stay with us - they chose to come to The Gorge for a very special birthday for Pam - her 60th. We were so very pleased they chose to come and stay with us - and absolutely delighted they had a good time. What was really great was breakfast - we brought in Pam's bubbly & there was a full table for her to share it with (bad luck Pam!). Everyone drank a toast to the birthday girl. Everyone was having such a great time - laughing and joking - that we couldn't clear the table until well after half ten! But a late start is worth it to see your guests so happy and relaxed.

But for us the most special thing about both these visits was the warmth and love with which they filled this old house. This is when The Trow is at its very best - and when we feel certain that leaving the rat race behind and running the Trow WAS the right decision for us.

So all we can say is thankyou to all our guests - and particularly those who chose to spend their special occasions here with us. It really is the most enormous compliment.

Pure Lakes at The Severn Trow

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When we started out on this journey, we inherited a lot of small toiletries - the sort of things you get at a lot of B+Bs and hotels. It was very nice quality - and guests liked it. But we always had doubts. Firstly the shower gel or shampoo was difficult to get out of the little bottles - and often too much for a one or two night stay - and so a lot of that would be wasted. Little soaps, however cute, do not get used up by guests and so they get wasted too.

And then there is disposing of the empties. Now we would always try to make sure the little bottle went for recycling - but that meant taking them to the tip because locally our recycling did not take plastics. Even so, guests would often take the toiletries away (oh you would be surprised!) and we could not guarantee that once they emptied the bottles at home that they would recycle them. We reckon that most of those little wasteful bottle end up as landfill. And we think that’s wrong

We had long wanted to try something different - and so for this season we have.
Pure Lakes.

Pure Lakes is an award winning range of natural toiletries, hand made up in Cumbria by Iain and Sandra from natural products and extracts (you can see them here). They come in 330ml bottles which we can refill for our guests. They produce less waste and because they use fewer chemicals (like nasty foaming agents and parabens) they are very good for your skin. They smell fantastic too.

We have their grapefruit and lemon grass handwash, shower gel and body lotion and geranium shampoo. I have to say I am addicted to the scent - its is so fresh and invigorating. And guests are giving us really good feedback too.

We pay a little more for Pure Lakes products, but the environment pays a little less. We do believe that Trow people will understand why we have made this move - and will love the range as much as we do.

Soon we hope to be able to offer our guests the chance to purchase Pure Lakes products from The Trow. Watch this space!

See a video about PureLakes and hotel waste on youtube

No More Bad Hair Days

When I first started to come to the Gorge I use to suffer from what we came to call “Shropshire Hair”. You see I have very thick hair (if hair could be made for digging potatoes on an Irish bogside, it’d be my hair). In other places - like Liverpool and Manchester, where the water is soft it wasn’t a problem. But Shropshire has the hardest water in England - its a fact. No shampoo would lather, my skin itched and my hair turned into straw.

So we started to soften the water in our showers - and it has made an enormous difference. Not just to my hair, but to Ken’s curly mop - and believe it or not, to his eczema as well. Oh and I don’t have to scrub the shower screens quite so hard to get rid of the limescale.

The water softeners we use filter tap water through ceramic beads and attach just under the water inlet on our showers. This softens the water and removes additives like chlorine. We’re hoping (if we win the lottery or Ken ever sells the old land rover - look there’s a flying pig!) to get a whole house system installed. But for now at least we know that people staying here can have lovely rainwater showers, soft and refreshing, after a day exploring The Gorge.

Now we’re happy to claim that we have the softest water in any Ironbridge Gorge B+B - and we promise you no bad hair days at The Trow.

The Best Breakfasts

Those of you who have visited The Trow will know what a pride we take in our food. For summer 2012 we’ve just launched a new breakfast menu - I guess if we were more marketing minded we’d have called it our Olympic or Jubilee menu!

We’ve added some new dishes - things our guests have requested over the past year - and things we particularly like. Our first addition was bacon and eggs. There is nowhere to hide with bacon and eggs. Everything hangs on the quality of the produce. If you take great bacon (like the smoked back or dry cure we get from Simon Gibbons in Broseley just outside the Ironbridge Gorge) and fresh eggs (from our own chickens in the back yard of our bed and breakfast) you can cook them to perfection on the Aga. The simple combination of bacon and eggs is one of the great British dishes of all time - cooked well, the flavours are sublime. Take bad bacon however - over salted, or pumped full of water and battery eggs (which not only are unethical and inhumane but also taste really bad too) - and you have a dish that fails to deliver on any level. Needless to say, we would cut off our own right arm before we started serving food like that at The Trow!

Another addition to our menu are pancakes, maple syrup and bacon - a good old American favourite. I say American, but actually the first time I ate this was at a roadside diner in Toronto - oh about 20 years ago. It also always reminds me of my Dad.

During the last year of the second world war, my father, Ray, was stationed with the Kings Lancashire Regiment in the Alps. The area he was in was occupied by the Allies by this point and he worked as a messenger boy in the intelligence service riding a motorbike between the US and British bases in Yugoslavia and Italy. One day after a ride across the Alps to a US Army Base he found himself unable to travel back because a thick fog had come down over the mountains. He spent the night with the US forces - and apparently it was some night! US soldiers rations were not as restricted as those for the British Army and so my Dad described a “gut-busting” supper in the mess and a great night spent sharing tall tales with his new friends - lads from New York and Texas.

He had high hopes for breakfast, and despite being somewhat worse for wear turned up at the mess next morning on the dot of 7. He described it as a near heaven experience

“ Imagine it, I’ve not seen bacon - proper bacon - for years, since I was a boy and here I was being offered bacon and sausage and eggs sunnyside up not powdered. There’s patties of something that looks delicious - but I don’t know what it is - and hashbrowns and tomatoes and baked beans. In the end I’m just holding out my tray and nodding. Its the best i can manage - hungover and dazed by all this beautiful food. I just start saying yes to everything. Then right at the end as I hold out my tray with this beautiful, sumptuous breakfast on it, a guy takes a jug and pours syrup all over it. I nearly burst into tears - syrup on a breakfast - how could they?”

But then he tasted it - that lovely, smokey, caramel flavour of maple syrup drizzled over crispy bacon and pancakes, and fell in love on the spot. And I have to agree, there is something very very special about the flavour combinations of this classic dish - if you come and stay with us, please do try it.

As well as bacon and eggs and pancakes and syrup, we’ve also added boiled (chuckie) eggs and toast soldiers to our menu. Our eggs are so delicious that just the simplicity of this breakfast is gorgeous. We often find that after a couple of days of our full Shropshire breakfast, boiled eggs and soldiers is a lovely change - and just what the doctor ordered. Similarly our bacon or sausage “sarnies” without or without egg and sauce - are a grand treat - particularly eaten outside on our sunny deck where you can watch sleepy Jackfield wake up.

As well as all this there are our usual options - the full Shropshire with Scrambled or Aga Eggs (eggs cooked on the top of the Aga - lower fat and delicious!) locally cured bacon and Shropshire sausage, mushrooms sautéed in butter, with lemon juice and black pepper, roasted tomatoes or The Shropshire Veggie with 2 Aga or scrambled eggs, mushrooms sauteed in butter with lemon juice and black pepper, roasted home grown tomatoes. If you’re in a more adventurous mood, we also offer smoked mackerel with roasted tomatoes and scrambled eggs. And of course there are cereals and fruit, fresh coffee and tea and toasted or still warm from the oven home made breads.

Both Ken and I both believe that breakfast really is the very best meal of the day and that a great Ironbridge Bed and Breakfast needs to have a great range of fresh food, brilliantly cooked and served in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Smiles at the breakfast table equal smiles all day long!

You can read our new breakfast menu here

Busy Days

Its so great that we’re at the start of the new season - and so exciting. I enjoy spring anyway, but the jobs are coming fast and furious at the moment - and I love to be busy.

Today has been a case in point. Ken is off working in Yorkshire today (he runs a small charity). I am sure when he’s away he thinks I sit around eating chocolates and reading books, but actually its 4pm now and its my first sit down. This morning after breakfast I sorted the rooms out, then went out into the garden to try and begin managing the dog debris (the little **** ate a teddy bear last night and scattered it across the garden!). Then I started to stake out a new space for a rockery (dog proof planting zone!) and plant out, stake and net the flower bed. That done I came in, finished the laundry, checked on bookings and began baking.

Carrot cake with soft cheese and maple syrup icing, victoria sandwich, some queen cakes and 2 loaves. A little sit down and soon I’ll be on a batch of marmalade (oranges are already prepped). We’re checking in two lots of guests today - who hopefully will enjoy the fact that they are arriving on baking day!

Busy like this the days just fly by and I’m so looking forward to the clocks going back again. Light nights spent pottering in the garden listening to radio 4 are my idea of bliss. Now if only I could get that greenhouse I’ve always wanted ...