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

Monday, 24 June 2013

Exciting News regarding Stonehenge

Now - the A344 running adjacent to Stonehenge, almost touching the Heel Stone and severing the Avenue, the monument’s ancient processional way(c) English Heritage

As part of English Heritage’s project to transform the setting and visitor experience of Stonehenge, a section of the A344 road running right past the monument, almost touching the Heel Stone, will be permanently closed from today (Monday 24 June). The section of the A344 to be closed is between Stonehenge Bottom (junction of A344 and A303) and Byway 12, which is closest to the monument and severs it from the Avenue, its ancient processional approach. The closure will fulfil the commitment given by the UK Government to UNESCO in 1986 to remove the A344 where it crosses the Avenue and will facilitate greater access to the World Heritage Site.

Once the landscaping works are complete in June 2014 visitors will be able to approach and view the monument from the Avenue.  A detailed laser analysis of the Stones' surface by English Heritage has further confirmed that this approach from the north-east was intended byStonehenge’s prehistoric builders. Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director, English Heritage, said: “The Stones have never failed to impress visitors, but for too long their setting has marred people’s appreciation and enjoyment of this special place. At last, this is going to change. For the first time in centuries, when all the works are complete, people will be able to experience this complex and extraordinary monument in a more tranquil, natural setting.”

Jan Tomlin, the National Trust General Manager for Wiltshire Landscape, said: “We welcome the closure of the A344 past Stonehenge – it is an important step towards the vision for the future of the monument. We have worked over the past decade to restore much of the land we own around Stonehenge to grassland and this is an important step in linking Stonehenge to the ancient landscape.”

Future - Stonehenge returned to a more tranquil grass setting with the existing facilties moved out of sight and the A344 closed and grassed over. The monument will also be reunited with the Avenue, its ancient processional way.
(c) English Heritage
Material and images supplied by English Heritage

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

More 'Edible Garden Show' news

Thinking of Spring at The Edible Garden Show

After my post yesterday on chickens , more information has come my way on The Edible Garden Show, the UK’s award-winning national ‘Grow-Your-Own’ event. With a venue that is easy to access from all parts of the UK - Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire - don't miss it!  This Friday: 15th-17th March. bursting with innovative products, top exhibitors, home-grown produce, food, livestock and a new celebrity line-up of experts. There are lots of great stories among the exhibitors – including a number of local ones. (Material and images have been supplied by the organiser's PR agency)

Animals as well as plants
"The show is very topical especially with recent food scare stories such as the horsemeat scandal and the rising costs of food. More and more families are turning to grow-your-own in a bid to know what they are eating, save money and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. According to the latest government figures from DEFRA 5% of everything we now eat comes from a free source – mainly allotments and vegetable patches. There are 300,000 allotment holders around the country with 150,000 on waiting lists. But you don’t even need a garden to grow-your-own and many people in urban areas are growing in window boxes, on  patios and terraces and even their front doorsteps. Our celebrities will be talking about how to grow-your-own fruit and veg even in tight spaces
TV presenter and
chef, James Wong
The show harvests a huge crop of exciting exhibitors and brings inspirational celebrity chefs and gardeners together under one roof with everything needed for a slice of the 'Good Life.' We would like to offer interviews (live or recorded) with our celebrity experts including TV presenter James Wong who has recently published his “Homegrown Revolution” urging British gardeners to be more adventurous; charismatic Gardeners’ Question Time panellist Bob Flowerdew; and Kings Heath based author and TV presenter Alys Fowler. We can also offer popular chef Rachel Green who will get taste buds tingling at the show with her flamboyant cookery demonstrations; poultry vet Victoria Roberts and The Edible Garden Show’s own grow your own guru Paul Peacock.

You're never too young to start gardening
There will be an enormous amount to see and do at the show. Children will love the smallholders marquee where they will see 10 kid goats, born in the past two weeks, as well as a sow and her piglets. We have a lady selling grow your-own-snails kits (for eating and for snail racing), a young businesswoman who swapped her business suits and high heels for jeans and wellies to sell hens and an exhibitor who makes ice cream from water buffalo milk and has created four new flavours especially for The Edible Garden Show including Beetroot and Chocolate and Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese."

Monday, 11 March 2013

THIS WEEK: the good life at The Edible Garden Show

Jenna Jack 
of The Warwickshire Chicken Coop
(image copyright JJ) 

There's a new pecking order for a business woman who gave up her job to become a “country bumpkin”, say the organisers of the 2013 Edible Garden Show, which returns for three days this week to Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire from  Friday 15th March to Sunday 17th. The venue - formerly home to The National Agricultural Society - is situated just north of Royal Leamington Spa. (Text that follows is reproduced from a press-release supplied by the organiser's PR agency.)

"Jenna Jack swapped her high heels for wellies and ditched the office for the open air when she launched a new venture selling everything you need to keep chickens in your back garden or allotment.

One year on she couldn’t be happier with her transformation from high-powered business professional to 'country bumpkin' and is celebrating the first anniversary of her company, ‘The Warwickshire Chicken Coop’, at The Edible Garden Show, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire from 15-17 March. Jenna, who sells around 200 hens a month to members of the public from her base in Ettington near Stratford-Upon-Avon, will be taking dozens of her pure breed and hybrid hens along to the show – the only national event dedicated to ‘grow-your-own’.

Jenna says: “We sell our hens to people from all walks of life throughout Warwickshire and the surrounding counties. Sometimes they are in their early 30s like me and they want to keep a few chickens as pets, and for the eggs of course, others are families or grandparents who buy for themselves or for their grandchildren. There is a real mixture of people.”

For Jenna, her new life couldn’t be further from her busy marketing career but she has no regrets about swapping the business suits for jeans and working outside. She says: “I’m very happy living as a country bumpkin. I wanted to step out of my busy marketing career and into a profession which explores ‘the good life’ and self-sufficiency."

“I sometimes miss human company and having a conversation about TV by the coffee machine but I love the outdoor life. My partner Jonathan is a farm manager and much more interested in cows and sheep but he is very supportive of my business. I have always been an animal person and have kept chickens for a number of years now and find them so easy to keep and look after. They are a fantastic source of amusement – and, of course, fresh eggs! I wanted to combine my business knowledge with doing something I loved and Warwickshire Chicken Coop was born.”

The trend for keeping chickens has grown over 800% in the past few years and continues to grow. The desire for self sufficiency and the ease of looking after chickens has contributed to the boom. Warwickshire Chicken Coop sells ‘everything you need to be friends with your hens’ including health, husbandry and hygiene products as well as a range of feed, treats and accessories and the popular Omlet housing. The business is the only operation of its kind in Warwickshire that offers a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about keeping chickens.

Jenna is devoted to the welfare and happiness of her hens and says: “All our chickens go through a thorough vaccination programme before they are sold on. We are so confident in the health of our hens that every bird comes with a guarantee and a lifetime of advice. There is nothing more important to us than the health and happiness of our chickens”

Jenna will be selling her hens in the Smallholder Marquee at The Edible Garden Show. The event is bursting with fabulous exhibitors, innovative products, chickens, goats and pigs, tasty cookery demonstrations and dynamic talks from a panel of celebrity experts including award winning TV presenter James Wong, Gardeners’ Question Time panellist Bob Flowerdew and author and TV presenter Alys Fowler. Tickets are £12 in advance (£15 on the door) with concessions for seniors and children. Call the ticket hotline on 0844 338 8001 or visit www.theediblegardenshow.co.uk

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Mother's Day with the National Trust

I'm a mother (and grandmother) and am fortunate to enjoy a happy relationship with my three children. And I was thinking - apart from the fact that it is Mother's Day in a couple of days time (10th April), just how much I would love to visit a National Trust property this Sunday. They always inspire me, and feature in some of my sketchbooks and textile journals. And then, some days ago, this press release arrived in my 'inbox' and has me hoping that maybe I can. I reproduce it on their behalf, exactly as it was sent; no editing - a selection of treats; or visit the NT website for information on all the properties in their care.

Basildon Park ©National Trust Images Raymond Lea
Basildon ParkBerkshire    
Basildon Park is an impressive Georgian mansion, surrounded by glorious parkland, which was lovingly rescued from ruin by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. The house you see today is a re-creation and restoration of the 18th-century mansion. They restored the elegant interior and scoured the country salvaging 18th-century architectural fixtures and fittings. Mums will love the cream teas and the nostalgia of the 1950s kitchen. For outdoor mums, enjoy the lawn games, the hazel hideout or a walk on one of the waymarked trails through the 400 acres of historic parkland.
Mothers’ Day, 10 March, 11am-4pm
Visit Basildon Park this Mother’s day and let the children join in with "Pottering About’ and make their mums a special plate personalised with their handprint.
Normal admission charges apply; item charge will vary, prices start from £10.
Booking is not required for this event. For more information, please call 0118 984 3040.   
Mothers’ Day tea, 10 March, 3-4:30pm
Why not also treat mu to something special this Mother’s Day by inviting her to enjoy delicious afternoon tea which includes a glass of sparkling wine, a selection of homemade sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and some of Basildon’s delicious cake.
£25 per person.
Booking is essential for this event, please call 0844 249 1895.

Blickling Estate ©National Trust Images John Millar
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
Blickling Hall is a quirky-looking building and has a sumptuous collection of Dutch gables and turrets, striking brick chimneys and huge yew hedges. Embark on a voyage of discovery and follow four centuries of history, from the Boleyn family to the RAF and Second World War. Learn what life was like as a servant and hear the voices of the people who kept Blickling in ship-shape. For outdoor mums, the gardens at Blickling look beautiful in spring. Discover the secret garden with the sundial or find the hidden pyramid, a tomb built for one of Blickling’s owners. Spot local wildlife, including woodpeckers, herons and owls and really make a day of it and hire a bike.
Mothers’ Day tea, 10 March, 3pm-4.30pm
Gather the family and come to Blickling Estate for a delicious afternoon tea served in the beautiful surroundings of Lord Lothian's Study.
£17.95 per person.
Booking is essential for this event, please call 0844 249 1895 (booking fee applies)

Brownsea IslandDorset

Take the ferry across to this adventure island in Poole Harbour, famous for being an unspoilt, natural haven with a colourful history. Brownsea was the perfect haunt for smugglers, who used to hide their booty of silks and spices in the castle there. From towering trees and shell shores, to the smugglers’ tales and scenes right out of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels, the whole family will feel like they are on quest of discovery. The island is one of the last places to have red squirrels as well as many different kinds of seabirds, which can be spotted on the lagoon from the hideaway. There are many walks, some suitable for even the youngest would-be smuggler, and the island is car free so every inch of it can be explored without mum having to worry on her special day.
Say thank you on Mothers’ Day, 10 March, 10am-4pm

Visit the events marquee and join in with children's crafts, before heading to the Villano cafe and treating mum to a delicious cream tea.   
Normal admission charges apply; there are no additional event charges.
Booking is not required for this event. 
For more information, please call 01202 707744.     
Make a weekend of it: Stay on the island in Agent’s House, a beautiful waterside house just 3m from the water’s edge. Sleeping six and overlooking the lagoon with stunning sea views it’s perfect for family get-togethers.

Castle Ward ©National Trust Images John Millar
Castle Ward, Co. Down
Castle Ward demesne with its panoramic views over Strangford Lough is the National Trust’s best kept secret. With miles of walking and cycling trails, Castle Ward will take you on a journey of discovery through the 820 acre demesne.  
Mothers’ Day spring stroll and musical melodies, 10 March
Walks: 11am-12.15pm and 3pm-4.15pm. Music: 1pm-3.30pm
Enjoy a stroll around Castle Ward led by a knowledgeable guide through the exotic Victorian sunken garden and around this stunning demesne. Then relax in the stableyard to the sounds of Vivaldi and other classical works.
Normal admission charges to the gardens apply.     
Booking is not required for this event.
Afternoon tea in Lord Bangor’s sitting room, 10 March, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm
Treat mum and friends to a delightful cream tea in Lord Bangor’s private quarters within Castle Ward mansion and then enjoy a guided tour.
Adult £9. plus normal admission charges to the grounds.
Booking is essential for this event, please call 028 4488 1204

Nostell Priory ©National Trust Images John Millar
Nostell Priory and Parkland, West Yorkshire
Nostell Priory has been the home of the Winn family for more than 300 years, making it a perfect place for a family day out on Mothers’ Day. Explore 300 acres of parkland with a range of walks, beautiful gardens, a newly planted orchard and an adventure playground to keep the kids entertained. Inside the house, see a collection of Chippendale furniture made especially for Nostell, as well as paintings by Brueghel, Hogarth and Kauffmann. The restored butler's pantry is also now open and children can look out for the mouse in the 18th-century dolls’ house. To round off the day, visit the new stables area, with its new shop and plant sales area as well as the courtyard café for seasonal treats.

Plas Newydd, Anglesey
The stunning ivy-clad house has it all: breathtaking views stretch across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia on the mainland; the military museum contains exhibits from the battle of Waterloo in 1815, and many paintings by the world-famous Rex Whistler hang here, including his renowned largest painting. Mums will lovely the spring gardens, especially the catkin gardens, and the treehouse, newly built to remember Lady Amelia's 1960s treehouse, will keep the children entertained. The charming tea room cooks up tasty treats.

Sizergh Castle ©NTPL  Val Corbett
Sizergh Castle & GardenCumbria
Still lived in by the Strickland family, Sizergh has many tales to tell and certainly feels lived in, with centuries-old portraits and fine furniture sitting alongside modern family photographs. Outside, explore the rock garden and then head out across the estate on a walk with fabulous views to the Lakeland fells and Morecambe Bay. For adventurous mums, try looking for geocaches on the estate or the whole family can have a go at den building in the wooded knoll.

Tyntestfield ©National Trust Images John Millar
Tyntesfield, Somerset

Lived in by four generations of the Gibbs family, this beautiful Victorian estate still has a family feel and is just a stone’s throw away from Bristol. Spiralling turrets and pinnacles adorn the roof, ornate stone carvings and church-like windows complete the Gothic look, giving the feel of a mysterious, fairytale mansion full of family treasures. Families can find the 'discovery tables' and handle real objects from the Tyntesfield collection or rummage through family explorer boxes and learn more about life at Tyntesfield. Outside, terraced lawns give way to spacious parkland filled with hundreds of trees collected by the family, and a beautiful walled kitchen garden beyond. Pick up a copy of the play trail leaflet and follow in the footsteps of the estate’s children – discovering the dens in the plantation wood
Music for mum, 9-10 March, 11.30am-3.30pm
Tyntesfield will be host to strolling musicians in the formal gardens for Mothering Sunday weekend. Bring the family and a picnic or just sit and enjoy the music together.
Normal admission charges to the gardens apply.     
Booking is not required for this event. For more information, please call 01275 461 900.               
Make a weekend of it: Stay at the heart of Tyntesfield in the former Chaplain’s House, built in the 1840s it’s crammed with original features and Victorian touches. Perfect for larger families there’s an interconnecting door between the House and the Lodge next door allowing up to eleven people to stay.

Upton House ©National Trust Images John Millar
Upton House and Gardens, Warwickshire
Surrounded by internationally important art and porcelain collections, hear and discover more about family life and soak up the atmosphere of the 1930s. Pick up family activity packs and enjoy dressing up and the play spaces this Mothers’ Day.
The stunning gardens – being returned to their 1930s heyday – have a sweeping lawn that gives way to a series of terraces and herbaceous borders leading to a kitchen garden, tranquil water garden and spring bulb displays.
Don't miss
1930s beauty parlour, 9-10 March, 1pm – 4pm
Take mum to Upton this Mother’s day, for special 1930s beauty, fashion, make-up, hair tips and demonstrations. Join the crafts table and create mum a gift she can wear on her days out to Upton.
Normal admission charges apply.
Booking is not required for this event. For more information, please call 01295 670266.
Make a weekend of it: Keep things strictly in the jazz-age at 1 Home Farm Drive, with art deco features throughout this spacious cottage is the perfect getaway for a vintage loving mum and her family, sleeps five.

©National Trust Images John Millar
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
Bursting with colour and life, Winkworth is perfect for a Mothers’ day walk. Spring is one of the best times to visit this beautiful hillside arboretum, with early signs of magnolias and azaleas, not to mention more than 1,000 different types of shrubs and trees. For peace and tranquillity, visit the beautiful lake and boathouse, with stunning views and lots of wildlife-spotting opportunities. After all that fresh air and exercise, treat mum to the wholesome range of home-baked food in the tea-room, including delicious cakes.
Mothering Sunday at Winkworth, 10 March, 10am-5.30pm
Visit Winkworth for Mothering Sunday and treat Mum to a delightful horse and carriage ride or a simple stroll through the arboretum and see the early spring flowers in bloom. The tea room will then be open for light lunches and afternoon teas.  Normal admission charges apply; mothers get in free to the arboretum when accompanied by their children.
Please note carriage rides will be available from mid day.                           
Booking is not required for this event. For more information, please call 01483 208936.
Make a weekend of it: Emley Farmhouse has is a large Grade II listed building in an idyllic rural setting, perfect for those looking for a spacious getaway in a traditional house.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

What to do when you get there ...

The road out of the village (taken through the car windscreen)
Travel isn't just about the journey, it's about what you do when you arrive! Travelling is always special to me, no matter how mundane the reason, to the shops or the post-office, doctor or dentist, or farther afield in the caravan or motorhome. I always notice the detail in the landscape, the nature of the sky, the relevance of place. Words usually spill onto the page unless I am driving, and I really should find my mini recorder for those occasions when I am on my own. 

In the distance: the Malvern Hills (also through the windscreen)
But today as we left home - before 8.00am - I wrote in my head, "Mist in the trees along the road from the village; a faint sun (sun! after all these grey days) infuses the eastern sky over the banked wood. And we took the left fork today, towards Tewkesbury, and Malvern." Why in my head? Because I had left my usual notebook at home! So careless.

Not taken today, but at the Malvern Spring Show in 2011
Malvern, to which I can find almost any excuse to return; not only the amazingly beautiful hills, but the Three Counties Showground and the many Shows and Exhibitions that I have visited over the last six years. Today, we arrived in bright sunlight; crisp and cold but beautiful. First a meeting regarding 'Ann's Malvern Jotter' - a Blog I have been engaged to write for the forthcoming Spring Gardening Show. I discuss content and tactics over coffee and realise how privileged I am to be working on the inside, when previously I have written about some of the Shows just from a visitor's point of view.

Bustling with activity
Then across a paved courtyard to the refurbished Severn Hall and one of the regional Creative Craft Shows, staged by Trident Exhibitions not just at Malvern, but also at Belfast, Shepton Mallet, Manchester, Maidstone and Esher. But here at Malvern, as last year when I visited, I was able to enjoy the friendly atmosphere, and exhibitors who no matter how busy their stall, all seemed to have time to talk about their own particular craft passion. With around 70 stalls, there is ample time to wander and shop, and to enjoy one or more of the many mini-workshops on offer where you can try your hand at a number of crafts. CCS continues tomorrow and Saturday (1st and 2nd March), 10.00am - 5.00pm.

A 'Fused Fabric' workshop with Margaret Beal
Last year, I enjoyed learning how to create shimmering images using a fine tipped soldering iron with which I cut and fused images (so no sewing is involved. I already had Margaret Beal's book on the subject, and now I also have the materials and equipment to progress what I began twelve months ago. 

Amazing work with fabric, yarn and a sewing machine
I had to stop for a chat with Richard Box who has developed his own amazing technique for creating textile pictures using fabric collage with machine embroidery. I had been on one of his workshops before and seeing him at work as well as lecturing was quite amazing.

Not just for knitting - I use yarn to crochet page edgings for journals
Time for some retail therapy! Every stall was busy, buyers carting away bags full of precious supplies. From card-making materials, to yarns; beads to fabrics. I was looking for specifics for the small textile travel journals I create, and was not disappointed. What I bought, and what I will do with them (and some of the results) will appear in due course on another of my blogs: Journalling the Journal - take a look through many of the ideas and techniques that are on there already.

Seating area in one of the Severn Hall cafes - you can see
the Malvern Hills through the light and airy 
Whilst I was ferreting around, my husband was capturing the Show on camera, as a reminder for me and useful when it comes to writing magazine or on-line features. Plenty of pit-stops in the hall foyer or in the excellent cafe. Normally, I dislike 'exhibition' food, but we enjoyed really soft baps filled with roast pork, freshly made hot tea, and fresh milk from a dispenser; none of those horrid plastic miniatures of long-life liquid that seems as if it never came from a cow. And then the unmentionable: the loos! These are spotlessly clean and with fitting that would grace any swish hotel. 

Paying for my outfit (under wraps until the Spring Show!)
So, travelling is definitely not all about the journey. What a blissful day. And had we been in the motorhome or caravan, we would only have had to drive a couple of miles to the nearest campsite - and if we had done so, could have returned tomorrow for more workshops. Instead, my final purchase of the day was to fall in love with an outfit which I will wear to the Malvern Spring Flower Show on 9th May. If the weather plays its part, I may be seen in it on all four days; but in any event I will be blogging between now and then, and blogging live from the Show. But before then, I will be back for other Shows. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

So much to see at the Show

I am here at the NEC at the Spring Caravan & Camping Show, staying on the temporary Caravan Club campsite - a much easier and more relaxed way of seeing and doing as much as possible. My first port of call was to collect a copy of 'Discover Touring' magazine (of which I was formerly their freelance travel editor) - for in the latest Spring/Summer issue I have a feature on touring in Cornwall. Writing that, and sourcing photos, was nostalgic and took me back to to the many times I had visited Cornwall as a child, and then with husband and children. 

Cornwall's Finest Parks were also offering Padstow Cornish Pasties
to visitors around lunch time (delicious)
We did not have a caravan then, and campsites were few and far between (though we did once camp under the wing of our aircraft at Land's End!), but now there is a marvellous network of independently owned sites: 'Cornwall's Finest Parks'. The 23 parks offer quality family-holiday touring pitches with top star grading and each with a huge range of modern facilities.

Nora and I set to work
On to help my friend Nora of the Irish Caravan & Camping Council set up the stand for their display - for her colleague's flight from Dublin had been delayed by fog, and she wear on her own struggling with banners and bales of campsite guides. No matter, for it gave Nora and I an opportunity to reminisce about the touring holidays I have enjoyed with my photographer husband at some of the lovely parks - again independently owned. 

All set up, and Nora's colleague has arrived and is kept busy talking to visitors  to the stand, as well as to me.
Actually, looking back through earlier posts on the Blog has me wanting to be back in Ireland, enjoying the quiet roads and the fabulous scenery. There are many parts of Ireland we have not explored and each area is so very different; and full of history.

Plenty to discuss with 'the friendly club', and where I will tour next
Now for some networking, always essential for a writer, to meet some of the people who keep one fed with information; they feed, I digest and weave words and images into a storyline intended to inspire readers and my blog followers. Inform them of events and places to visit and encourage them to try some of the other activities I suggest, from keeping a travel journal to tips for photography. Both of the groups to whom I chatted are vital to those holidaying in caravan, tent or motorhome, for they provide the largest network of campsites in the UK - large affairs with masses of facilities and smaller away-from-it-all farmers' fields. Something for everyone. It's worth joining both clubs: the Caravan Club and the Caravan & Camping Club; each with a different ethos and each offering a range of opportunities for members.

A brand new concept in motorhome design
That was yesterday: and now I am checking the latest motorhomes, caravans, and technological advances which the many manufacturers are displaying and exhibiting, all to add to the pleasure of holidaying on the open road, away from the stress and strain of everyday living. The Show, organised by The National Caravan Council, runs until Sunday.