WHAT THIS BLOG IS ALL ABOUT: a journal and compendium of where to go and what to do for those who love to travel ...

Friday, 18 May 2012

Olympic Torch Route shines a light

THE Olympic torch is set to shine a light on the 15 members of the UK National Parks family as it makes its way through some of the most stunning countryside in Britain in May. The Olympic Torch’s journey, which kicks off this week at Land’s End on May 19 and finishes at the Olympic stadium in London on July 27, will pass through or near all of our UK National Parks ‘winning landscapes’ – showcasing some of our natural national treasures along the way.

The Olympic torchbearers’ route will include a journey to the peak of Snowdon, in Snowdonia National Park, a trip across the beautiful North York Moors National Park by steam train and an open-top bus ride in the Lake District National Park. Kathryn Cook, of the UK Association of National Park Authorities, said: “The National Parks are looking forward to playing their part in celebrating this special year and hope that visitors who are here for the London 2012 Games will be able to take the time to come and enjoy our winning landscapes where they will receive a warm welcome.”

Although the torch-bearers will have to speed through each of the Parks – all members of our UK National Parks family – we think they’re worth a longer visit. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting one to watch the Olympic flame pass by, here are 
15 ideas to help you make the most of your National Park day… (click on any of the National Parks for more details)

May 21Dartmoor National Park
Take a trip to… an ancient stone circle – bronze age circle, stones, menhirs and burial chambers, for the inner archaeologist in you ...

May 22 Exmoor National Park

Celebrate International Day of Biodiversity by Exploring Exmoor’s Restored Mires ...

Mess about in a boat… along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, which is celebrating its 200 anniversary this year (boat hire & trips in Brecon)

Step back in time… at an Iron Age fort, Castell Henllys in Pembrokeshire. There are regular fun interactive tours for kids – wode face-painting optional!

Get out and about… on an accessible walk (tramper hire/mobility hire optional) along the beautiful Mawddach Trail near Dolgellau.

Become an ‘island detective’…take the boat to Inchcailloch on Loch Lomond to uncover the story the people who once lived on this beautiful island (NB not just for kids!)

June 11Cairngorms National Park
Go nature-spotting in the Highlands… on a moderate low-level walk around Grantown-on-Spey (various waymarked trails) – look out for red squirrels and capercaillie on walk no. 5 of our top 15 UK National Parks walks.

Think horrible histories…and rotten Romans, visiting Hadrian’s Wall, one of the UK’s most important Roman monuments. Need we say more?

Follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook… with a walk along part of the Cleveland Way that takes in his old school at Great Ayton (walk no. 9 of our top 15 UK National Park walks).

Ride the rails…on the Settle-Carlisle railway which passes over the spectacular 24-arch Ribblehead Viaduct. A trip to thrill kids big and small.

Be inspired by romantic poetry…of William Wordsworth, visiting the Jerwood Centre in Grassmere which houses collection of his books and memorabilia.

Get stately…with a visit to Chatsworth House, one of the best-loved stately homes in Britain – don’t forget its gardens, designed by Capability Brown.

July 4The Broads
Go boating…in the Broads, discovering Barton Broad either by accessible solar-powered boat or on foot along a boardwalk. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife.

July 14New Forest National Park
Go down to the woods…for an easy walk, and a sensory trail among exotic trees on the Blackwater Arboretum Trail in the New Forest (no. 2 of our top 15 UK National Park walks).

Think long and hard…about the Long Man of Wilmington, the mysterious 235ft long chalk figure on the slopes of Windover Hill. No one really knows why it’s there or how old it is - it’s a mystifying and mystic place!

Material kindly supplied by 

Clare O’Connor, UK Association of National Park Authorities

Monday, 14 May 2012

Touring Tales: Journaling on the Move

On the move (and thus taken through the windscreen - and no, I wasn't driving!)
Well not literally 'on the move' - though if my husband is driving, I do scribble words in my notebook, and have taken lately to snapping images through the cab windscreen (usually all blurred, but fine for shape and colour of landscape when I come to create my mixed-media journals.

Layout for two pages in my Malvern Travel 'Altered Pages'
(created one evening in the motorhome, which I sometimes use as a studio)
Which I started whilst we were staying on the Showground over the four days we were working at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show. I always begin with some sort of pre-conceived idea of what I want to create - this time, it was to use as a background some pages cut from a 1927 gardening directory, which seemed appropriate, given the venue and subject. The old pages had a hint of nostalgia, and by the time they have added sketches and embellishments, will convey (to me at least) my feelings for the time away,  the people I met, and the many aspects of the Show that captured my imagination.

Part of the 'best in show' children's garden designed and created
by 8- and 9-year old pupils (image copyright Ray Quinton)
For me this year particularly it was the Children's Show Gardens. They had a freshness about them that is so often lacking in the manicured world of the national circuit. There were fourteen gardens in all, each telling a story, quirky and loveable, and making extensive use of recycled materials. The work involved was far more than that which you saw within these imaginary worlds: all aspects of the curriculum, plus determination to produce something under exceptionally difficult condition (the weather had been terrible) and of course, the dedication of teaching staff and parents.

These children were bubbling over with enthusiasm for the garden they had created
(see above)
(image copyright Ray Quinton)
This is something that so many visitors to any show or exhibition so often forget: months of preparation to bring pleasure to visitors. The children who talked to me about their winning school garden were brimming over with enthusiasm and confidence. Not only about their garden, but the amazing scrapbook they had also created which explained to visitors - very visually - exactly what 'George's Marvellous Garden' was all about (based on Roald Dahl's book 'George's Marvellous Medicine'. Entrepreneurs as well, were these children - they recycled seed packets into little pin-on lapel badges which they were busily selling to visitors. (The School: Burlish Park Primary School.)

This photographic 'installation' was quite amazing (one of a number at the Show)
Soon I will be on the open road once more, relishing open spaces, the scenery, and discovering what make a place alive, what makes it 'tick'. Is it landscape or people? Or the way people shape (or destroy!) their environment. My other abiding memory that dances in my mind as I write these touring were the ethereal photographic banners that drew you towards, and into, the 'Plants & People Theatre'. Described by their creator, artist Helen Burgess, as "exploring the paradoxical relationship between time and the photographic process", I was continually drawn towards these gigantic suspended hangings; they seemed to resonate with my own 'passion for place'. I felt privileged to be able to discuss them with Helen and learn that she is "concerned with an experience of place and how it can be translated through a visual arts practice.

This, too, was mind-blowing - sinuous metal curved with text cut-outs in
'Florilegium' - a gathering of flowers: the upper part of the show garden
designed and created by Kasia Howard and based upon the relationships
that have evolved between people and plants over the centuries.
There was so much else that inspired me - but then how do you encapsulate into a few words and images all that is offered at any Showground? Malvern: June 15th-17th - Three Counties Agricultural Show' - and if Malvern inspires you, why not join the Three Counties Showground Membership Scheme which gives you three days free entry to main events, and other beneficial facilities.

The motorhome my husband and I use on our travels (which doubles as
a working studio when we are away - Raymond with his photography,
and me with writing and my mixed-media journals.
P.S. For more on what you missed if you couldn't visit, click on 'Random Jottings' (top bar) and my other blogs (see left). More shows and exhibitions are listed right - click on them for details. Indeed, click on any topic that takes your fancy, for this is on ongoing enterprise (my labour of love, and in no way sponsored or paid for) to bring to you items that will interest and appeal, alongside my own 'touring tales'. (And if you are a 'provider' please get in touch so that I can include you as soon as I have a spare moment; either as listings or a preview post. My contact details can be found under 'About Me'.)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Garden Designers of the Future

Raising plants at school for their display garden
at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show

Latest preview news from the Malvern Spring Gardening Show: Fourteen schools from across Worcestershire and the West Midlands, are battling the elements to design and build display gardens for this week’s Malvern Spring Gardening Show (Thursday 10th – Sunday 13th May). In spite of inclement weather, pupils and their teachers have remained in good spirits during the build at Malvern’s lovely Three Counties Showground, and are now putting the finishing touches to the gardens, ready for scrutiny by a discerning panel of judges on Gold Day (10th).

This year’s theme is ‘Sustainability For All’, and garden seeds have been donated by Dobies and Suttons Seeds. Malvern’s School Garden Project Challenge, supported by BAM Construct Ltd, was introduced seven years ago, as part of the Three Counties Agricultural Society’s commitment to work with education partners to deliver curriculum-based activities.

Building a garden is a tough, but extremely rewarding experience which enables youngsters to learn and practice a wide range of skills (designing, planning, communicating and working as a team).The gardens will be judged for certificate of commendation by a panel of Royal Horticultural Society and Three Counties Agricultural Society judges. CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) is making special awards for the first time this year, and the winning schools will receive their accolades from celebrity garden designer, Chris Beardshaw, in the new Plants & People Arena Theatre. Phil Eves, Education Co-ordinator for BAM Construct Ltd, said he was delighted with the quality of the school gardens this year: “The weather conditions have certainly presented us with a challenge”, he said, “but the quirkiness of the designs have really put a smile back on my face.

This school group was doing a good job at last year's show:
talking to visitors about their garden
Come and see what the youngsters have been up to – there are some really innovative design ideas from schools and colleges: Meadows First School, Bromsgrove – ‘Aliens at Meadows Love Underpants’; Parkside Middle School, Bromsgrove – ‘Closing the Loop’; Bromsgrove School – ‘Bee Happy’; St. John’s Middle School, Bromsgrove – ‘Knot Modern’; Tiverton Special School, Coventry, with Year 10 Construction students, North Bromsgrove, High School – ‘Tiverton by the Sea’; Birchensale Middle School, Redditch – ‘Yesterday’s Garden’; Stafford College – ‘Nature Reclaims’; Parkhall Academy, Castle Bromwich – ‘One Extreme to Another’;  Burlish Park Primary School, Stourport-on-Severn – ‘George’s Marvellous Garden’; Castlemorton Primary School, Malvern – ‘The Magical Tump Garden’; Pitmaston Primary School, Worcester – ‘Pitmaston Past & Present’; Pershore College – ‘Plan for the Future’; Tudor Grange – ‘The Good Life’; Bridge Training & Development – ‘Sustainability Celebration’


Three Counties Showground, Welland, Malvern, Worcs, WR13 6SP
For more information about the Show, please visit the web site
or telephone the Showground on 01684 584924. 

 Top image and text for this post copyright Three Counties Agricultural Society
(Lower image copyright Ray Quinton)

Blog Author's note: I'll be posting descriptions and images of the show, and of the children's gardens with more details during the actual event (WiFi and weather permitting). Do visit if you can, otherwise follow online.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Showtime in the Malvern Hills

What more could one ask for? Plants galore, in such a beautiful setting
In this, the first of many posts previewing forthcoming activities and events, I introduce you to the 2012 'Malvern Spring Gardening Show' which takes place from Thursday 10th-Sunday 13th May. If you have never been before, you are in for a real treat. Visitors travel  to the beautiful show ground in the lee of the spectacular Malvern Hills from far afield, year after year. This is what the organisers (The Three Counties Agricultural Society) tell us you can expect this year:

Press & PR Officer, Sharon Gilbert says “There’s no better place to gain inspiration for your garden with fantastic features, sights, smells and colours greeting you on every corner.”

Highlights include:
Show garden from last year

Glorious Show Gardens: Always inspirational, show gardens this year include an interactive water garden, a peaceful public space and a wildlife haven. Graduate Gardeners, winners of the Best in Show in 2011 will also be returning with their garden, ‘A Place to Reflect’. There’s an Eco Art & Garden area which will feature its own garden, ‘The Creative Hand’, inspired by sculpture in the landscape; plus plenty of demonstrations with numerous experts offering advice on all aspects of eco-friendly gardening.

A new feature at the Show is the ‘Painting with Plants Gallery’ encouraging amateur gardeners to try their hand at putting on a decorative display. Groups taking part will produce a plant display based on their favourite piece of art. The top three gallery pieces, as voted by show visitors, will win £1,000 towards a good cause of their choice.

a happy and attentive audience at the 2011 Malvern Spring Gardening Show
Also new for 2012 is the ‘Plants & People Theatre’ – a highly visual take on the Show’s traditional theatre with spectacular artwork themed around the Living Landscape and designed by the innovative Paul Hervey-Brookes. 

Joe Swift (left) and James Alexander-Sinclair 
participating at  one of the 2011 Q&A sessions
Hosting activities in The Theatre will be writer, broadcaster and compere, Katie Johnson who is particularly skilled at drawing together the various 'on-stage' activities. It is just the place to pick up hot tips and new ideas, with Q&A sessions and talks from some of the UK’s leading nurserymen and gardening experts including Carol Klein (11th-12th), Jekka McVicar, Chris Beardshaw (10th-11th), Terry Walton and Joe Swift (12th). There’s also an Allotment Theatre featuring allotmenteer Terry Walton and Reg Moule,  both well-respected radio presenters. With a ‘Grow Your Own’ theme, this will be an alternative venue to head for talks and Q+A sessions on allotments, keeping chickens, compost, planting and much more.

There are shopping opportunities galore all around the Showground, with hundreds of quality gardening and lifestyle stands, including the Country Living Pavilion. Not to be missed are the Art and Food Markets with delicious home produce from local small producers, and quality ceramics, pictures and accessories from skilled artisans. Additionally, the ‘Best of the Best Gardening Gadgets’ takes place in the Gardeners’ Shopping Pavilion - a competition featuring some of the best products from our wide array of tradestands at the Show. 

Landscaping Live will inform and entertain. It comprises two identical gardens, one completed and one under construction. Professional experts and presenters will introduce a range of landscaping projects throughout the Show transforming the plot into an attractive and practical garden space.  This year’s garden is designed by Paul Cantello, runner up in the Chris Beardshaw Scholarship in 2011.

Richard Fishbourne with a young
wildlife enthusiast
Children from toddlers to teenagers are a vital link in the future of gardening; and much in evidence. Fourteen delightful school gardens based on the theme ‘ Sustainability for All’ are a key educational feature of the Show. Designs include a Tudor-inspired knot garden, one with a working water wheel, and others inspired by children’s school books. There is plenty else to keep youngsters happy – Richard Fishbourne of Bugs and Beasties will have the little ones making all manner of eco-friendly artefacts from simple-to-collect garden debris which children can easily emulate at home.

Last in this preview, but definitely not least, is the 1.7 acre RHS Malvern Floral Marquee. More than 100 Nurseries from around the country and abroad, will be showcasing and selling the finest plants and flowers; you’ll need a collapsible trolley to wheel home all your purchases, and maybe a tame porter or two!

Plantaholics are never happier than when purchasing 'must-have' plants
And the weather? Rain or shine, you’ll go away from Malvern feeling refreshed and inspired. If you haven’t been before, wear sensible shoes and take a lightweight plastic mac, just in case. But as Sharon Gilbert concluded, “The good thing about the Spring Gardening Show is that so much of it is under cover, and the Showground has plenty of hard-standing, with good solid roadways, walkways and car parks. Visitors can be assured of a great day out, whatever the weather.”


Three Counties Showground, Welland, Malvern, Worcs, WR13 6SP
Find out more here and book tickets here, or phone the ticket hotline on 01684 584924.

All images in this post copyright Three Counties Agricultural Society