• Visit a winter garden

    by  • 30/12/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Love a National Trust GardenWith all the hustle and bustle of the festive season, it’s time to invigorate mind and body with a country walk. Where better to explore than the magnificent surroundings of a National Trust garden on a crisp winter’s morning to see magical frosty landscapes with splashes of colour and winter wildlife dashing by. Here are our favourites:

    Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
    During the winter months Colby welcomes a surprisingly rosy colour palette. The woodlands are full of holly with bright berries while the edges of the meadow are lined with red dogwood, and in the walled garden you’ll find pink hellebores. White bark birch trees (pictured) sparkle in the winter sun and the aptly named rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is in flower from late January. The paths are dog-friendly too, perfect for getting the whole family out for a winter stroll.

    Mottisfont, Hampshire
    Mottisfont’s winter garden has matured into a beautiful and unique landscape, full of horticultural treasures. Stroll along paths through winter-flowering shrubs and both late- and early-flowering perennials, rich in colour and scent. Brilliantly coloured dogwood bark and silvery ornamental bramble provide splashes of colour alongside berries and fruit even on the shortest days of the year. Gullies of foliage appear to wind through the banks of willow like water and spill into the stream. As winter continues, the garden becomes a refuge for other late flowering shrubs such as mahonia, sweet-smelling winter honeysuckle and daphne.

    Sizergh, Cumbria
    With winter comes the opportunity to discover Sizergh’s newly created stumpery and take in the seasonal planting in the garden, showcasing coloured and textured bark as well as winter berries and bulbs. The twisted trunks of the Acers in the rock garden are laid bare amongst the limestone and iced-over rock pools. After a bracing stroll around the gardens warm up with a hot drink and a tasty treat from the café.

    For more magnificent gardens to visit, see the National Trust’s recommended winter gardens to visit here.

    Do you have a favourite winter garden to visit? We would love to hear more…

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    Celebrate Christmas Carols

    by  • 23/12/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Visit Salisbury cathedral

    With festive shopping complete, it’s time to enjoy family-time with Christmas carols in a beautiful setting. Here are three of our favourite places to visit:

    Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire
    Enjoy Carols by Candlelight in the magnificent setting of Salisbury Cathedral on Friday evening (23rd December) where the story of Christmas is recounted through stories, traditional readings and christmas carols by the choir. See the festive crib and more throughout the full Christmas season. Free admission, no booking needed.

    Watercress Line, Hampshire
    Hop aboard a Santa Special heritage train ride this season to get into festive mood. Santa and his helpers will visit with gifts and there’s wine and mince pies for grown-ups and soft drinks for children, plus Christmas songs and carols to enjoy. Book up to 24 December.

    Sing-a-long, Polesdon Lacey
    Join in Christmas carol singing in the dairy courtyard where Christmas spirits comes to life. Enjoy mulled wine from the Granary and follow in tune with local choirs. Indoors, there’s a 1930’s Christmas party theme with seasonal flowers bloom and scents of nutmeg and cinnamon, plus last minute festive shopping to enjoy.

    Have you enjoyed Christmas carols this season? We would love to hear more…

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    Our favourite place: Farnham

    by  • 16/12/2016 • Country food, Country moment • 0 Comments

    Visit Farnham in SurreySet on the River Wey and among the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this pretty market town is the perfect place to visit this season for food and interiors shops plus plentiful green space in and around the town for country walks. We also love Farnham it for its:

    Historic Castle The former palace of the Bishops of Winchester, 12th Farnham Castle and its Norman Keep preside over the town where visitors can take the lofty walk to enjoy spectacular views over the streets and hills from the Keep.

    Markets Farnham has three! A weekly Friday country market offering arts and crafts, local food produce, cakes and bakes; the Farnham Maltings monthly market for antiques, crafts, jewellery, furniture, cards and local handmade produce,  and Farnham farmer’s market on the fourth Sunday of the month (except December), selling goods direct from the food producer.

    Nature See conservation in action or join a safari road train at Birdworld. Or head to the RSPB Farnham Heath to enjoy seasonal blooms, purple heather and yellow gorse which attracts a variety of wildlife, butterflies, plus sand lizards!

    Shops Locals and visitors are spoilt for choice between plentiful markets, independent shops and stylish designer brands in this bustling market town. Long-standing Elphicks department store sells everything from beds, linens and furnishings to china, glass and toys. India Jane is the place for gorgeous tableware and stylish lamps.  For modern country style, try Appassionato, and for gifts, head to the Maltings Stores for crafts and bespoke buys. Wrap up warm for a winter ramble with country clothing from Orvis, and get set for the racing season with a winning hat from Beverley Edmondson Millinery. Or cosy up with elegant nightwear from The Prial.

    Love the local food heroes The town markets provide a feast of local produce to source on weekends. You can also try Farnham’s independent shops: For fruit and veg visit G Hone and Sons for a variety of fresh produce on Downing Street. Source fresh meats and meat products from Smallbone and Sons, traditional family butchers, also on Downing Street. Pick up fresh rolls from French bread and rye to spelt and seeded flours at Loaf Bakery.  And party bags can be found at Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe. Take time out from your busy shopping day with a meal at The Wheatsheaf Pub & Grill, which offers tasty winter-warming British food featuring the best of local and seasonal produce.

    Where is your favourite market town to visit? We would love hear more about it…

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    Our favourite place: Witney

    by  • 09/12/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Visit WitneyThis pretty Oxfordshire market town on the River Windrush has prospered and grown from its 300 year history in the blanket industry. We love it for its…

    Wool history Follow the Witney Wool & Blanket Trail and discover the town’s landmarks. Trail leaflets are available online or at the Witney Visitor Information centre on Welch Way.

    Architecture Admire the Georgian buildings along the High Street. There’s also the 17th century Buttercross and 13th century church with a 156-foot spire which can be seen from afar. The Corn Exchange, Blanket Hall and the towns three almshouses also carry a fascinating history.

    Open spaces Witney Lake & Country Park is a haven for wildlife and leads to the Lower Windrush valley walking trails while Standlake Common Nature Reserve (developed in the 1990’s) offers an easy way to watch wildlife with bird hides and leisurely pathways. In the town centre, Church Green is a lovely open space to sit and watch the world go by or to enjoy a good book.

    Museums Explore the town’s history further at The Witney & District Museum in Gloucester Court Mews, or, experience Victorian country life at Cogges Manor Farm Museum,  which may ring a bell as the setting of Yew Tree Farm in TV series Downton Abbey.

    Shops Everyday goods and high street brands can be found at shopping centres Marriotts Walk and Woolgate; or amble the High Street and its smaller side lanes for bespoke gifts and finds. Dove White, on the High Street, has the prettiest accessories to make a house a home while sister shop Decorus  displays room sets and sells larger pieces of furniture plus mirrors in a modern country style. The Old Pill Factory is a treasure trove of decorative antiques, while Wesley Barrell  is the place to source that perfect sofa. Redecorating? Then Relics of Witney is made for grand plans – source paints (Earthborn, Farrow & Ball, Little Greene), bespoke hardware and accessories. Bookworms will love the antiquarian selection at Church Green books, and third generation clock maker Steven Fletcher offers clock restoration and watch repairs at the Clock Workshop.

    Witney Sewing and Knitting Centre is packed with a huge variety of sewing machines plus fabrics, haberdashery, wool and threads and craft ideas.

    If you’re looking for gifts, teddies new and preloved, source Steiff, Merrythought and Dean’s brands at Teddy Bears of Witney. Or step in to the Sota Gallery for contemporary artworks and exhibitions including ceramics, glass, photography and textiles.

     Food Delicious local produce is easy to source in this ancient market town’s shops with additional variety to source at regular markets. Family business and traditional Densham’s butchers sells locally farmed meats and game from Cornbury Park estate in nearby Charlbury, weekend roasting joints and award-wining British pork and green goblin cider sausages – all prepared in the shop. For hampers or picnics, pick up a Best of British basket at The Solan Goose sandwich deli, which includes everything from carved Wiltshire ham, tangy Stilton and handmade piccalilli to summer berry trifle and gingerbeer. And visit the twice weekly charter market on Thursdays and Saturdays (the Thursday market dates to the Middle Ages)  Or try the monthly farmers market.

    Do you have a favourite market town to visit? We would love to hear more about it…

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    The Place to Eat…

    by  • 02/12/2016 • Country food, Country moment • 0 Comments

    The Place to EatIt’s time to visit a stylish and cosy winter pub… We love The Plough at Kelmscott which has been beautifully refurbished by owners Sebastian and Lana Snow – it’s the perfect place for friends and foodies to enjoy delicious food and fireside drinks this season.

    Location The Plough is set in a Grade II listed Cotswold stone house in the pretty village of Kelmscott in West Oxfordshire.

    Style It’s cool and rustic. Enjoy drinks at The Hideaway Bar, housed in a refurbished stable block, overlooking the beer garden. Love the quirky, vintage and antique finds which harmonise beautifully with recycled timbers, muted paint shades of sage, olive, grey and white, and original period features, to give a relaxed style and character.

    Rooms Stay over in one of 7 individually-styled rooms with king size beds from £90 a night B&B.

    Food Savour the delicious daily changing à la carte menu of modern British comfort cooking showcasing the best locally sourced Cotswolds produce available, including pork from Kelmscott, vegetables from Evesham and game from local estates. Seasonal dishes range from starters of crayfish, avocado and cucumber cocktail with melba toast, to ham hock and artichoke terrine with piccalilli and mains include leg of lamb hotpot, a mixed grill, skillet roast whole plaice, with desserts such as steamed marmalade pudding and custard. There’s an all-day bar menu too featuring hog’s pudding scotch egg, devilled whitebait, potted crab, buck rarebit, scampi in a basket and spam fritters with pineapple relish,

    Drinks There’s a selection of craft ales, lagers, ciders and juices, plus a wine list with French classics and the best of the New World.

    Nearby Enjoy easy walks from the doorstep as Kelmscott is along a stretch of the Thames path with countryside views all around. Or  take the short stroll to Kelmscott Manor, the former home of designer, William Morris.

    Where is your favourite foodie inn? We would love to hear more about it…

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    Follow a Christmas light trail…

    by  • 25/11/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    follow a christmas light trail

    Enjoy the magic of the festive season with a magical light trail. We’ve found three of the best illuminations to get that festive feeling in the most picturesque settings…

    Christmas at Kew, Surrey
    From 23 November to 2 January, Kew Gardens emerges into a magical trail of colour and light for the festive season. Walk a mile-long illuminated trail inspired by the gardens and see a breathtaking display of lights along this botanical wonderland, including a choir of trees, a Victorian carousel for younger visitors to enjoy, a reflective light and music on the Palm House Pond, plus Wolfgang Buttress’ spectacular Hive installation which glows in to the night. At the end of the trail, enjoy toasted marshmallows, hot chocolate and festive shopping. Book tickets here.

    Music & Lights, Yorkshire
    Head to Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water for that festive feeling on a cold winter’s afternoon. Enjoy mulled wine and savoury treats at the visitor centre, then wander through the magnificent estate and deer park where trees are all aglow and the Cistercian abbey is lit up with every colour in the rainbow! Be sure to visit the cellarium to join the harmony of a live music performance… Estate admission fee only, Music & Lights takes place on selected dates from 26 November to 31 December, no need to book.

    Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
    Amble into the stunning forest and follow the accessible trail which highlights the striking natural structures of Westonbirt’s trees as they’re beautifully illuminated against the dark night sky. Visit on Friday, Saturday or Sunday evenings from 25 November to 18 December. Advance booking essential with timed entries. Book tickets here.

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    Our favourite place: Bradford-on-Avon

    by  • 18/11/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Visit WiltshireSet in an idyllic riverside location in the Wiltshire Cotswolds, this pretty market town is poised over the river Avon with a relaxed feel and picture perfect views to enjoy. It’s also the gateway towards the Kennet & Avon canal and the magnificent city of Bath. We also love it for its…

    Markets Head to Westbury Gardens on Thursday mornings to source freshly picked veg, smoked fish, cheese and meats plus seasonal plants. Or opt for the monthly farmers’ market featuring artisan crafts plus locally produced food and drink (including organic veg, raw milk, meats, breads, preserves, ciders, plus deli treats) in Lambs Yard.

    Architecture From the main town bridge with its 13th century arches and historic lock up to the medieval tithe barn with its cruck roof and fine Anglo-Saxon church of St Laurence, there’s much to explore of the town’s past which also claims Roman, Norman and Tudor heritage. Visit the helpful Tourist Information Office on St Margaret’s Street.

    Stop for… Tuck in to British dishes with a Mediterranean influence in the cosy surroundings of The Three Gables restaurant.

    Head for the shops This Fairtrade town offers plenty of independent shops and homegrown buys. Community spirit is strong here which makes this the perfect place to source original gifts. Step in to Cloudberry Interiors on St Margaret’s street for modern country style furniture and home accessories. Find washroom and shower advice at Bathrooms at No.5 shop. And love the the magnificent shop front of J Alex Brown hardware on Silver Street. Tillions offers a treasure trove of kitchen ideas, baking accessories, glass, cutlery, and ceramics from brands such as Emma Bridgewater, Portmeirion, Cornishware and Sophie Conran. A wonderful selection of mirrors can be found at Hand Crafted Mirrors. See true community spirit come to life through arts and crafts exhibitions at The Vaults where Made in Bradford On Avon showcase local talents.

    Love the local food heroes Bradford-on-Avon is surrounded by countryside and locals who passionately care about providing the best local and seasonal ingredients. Try Christine’s Sustainable Supermarket for health foods and homemade treats from breads, flans and quiches to cereals and environmentally friendly toiletries on Silver Street. Head to greengrocer Bloomfield’s for the freshest produce along The Shambles. Ruby Red Wine Cellar stock local beers, ales, organic wines and ciders. And source all manner of cheeses, olives, pâtés, pasta, drinks and marvellous tiered cheese cakes at The Cheese Shop…

    Do you have a favourite market town? We would love hear more about it…

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    Our favourite shop: Tinsmiths

    by  • 11/11/2016 • Country moment, Country style • 0 Comments

    Visit Tinsmiths in LedburyThis week we’ve been inspired by Tinsmiths in Herefordshire where owners Alex and Phoebe Clive sell beautiful fabrics, lighting, art prints and gifts in a spectacularly quirky shop building.

    What inspired you to open your shop Tinsmiths?
    Our shop was inspired by a passion for good designs with a long ‘shelf life’, both practically and stylistically. Here, all our staff are makers or designers who understand materials and processes. Our focus is centred on textiles – fabrics for curtains, blinds and upholstery.
    How would you describe the shop’s style?
    Our two showrooms, architecturally speaking, are characteristic of Tinsmiths style. On the one hand, a surprisingly bold and daring shopfront (pictured) designed and built by Alex, and, on the other, an ancient timber-framed workshop made user-friendly by modern interventions. We really enjoy the challenge of mixing old and new, industrial and domestic to achieve timeless interiors.
    What makes your shop so special?
    The people. We think hard about what we are offering and take this responsibility seriously, in terms of what we display in our shop and when we set about making curtains or blinds for a client. We like to source fabrics, lighting and homewares close to home, where possible, such as fabrics woven in the north of England, pots thrown in the surrounding area, and kitchen utensils, hooks and ironwork from local makers.

    Do you have a favourite interiors shop to visit? We would love to hear more about it…

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    Celebrate Bonfire Night!

    by  • 04/11/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Toasty marshmallows Remember, remember the 5th of November! It’s time to hunt out those woolly scarves and mitts, and get some toasty marshmallows to enjoy at his year’s fabulous firework festivals. We’ve rounded up three of the best places to enjoy them (in Kent, Buckinghamshire and Staffordshire), where you can join in a lively evening with spectacular skies, and local entertainment…

    Edenbridge, Kent (5 November)
    A spectacular torchlit bonfire pocession and fireworks display takes place this Saturday, marking the foiled 1605 Gunpowder Plot. There’s a party atmosphere throughout the day as local inns, shops and restaurants followed by a torchlit procession at 6.30pm as around 500 people in colourful costumes march through the town led by the Bishop of the Bonfire, choirboys, visiting bonfire societies,and effigies of Guy Fawkes, General Wolfe and Anne Boleyn. At the recreation ground, a fairground with stalls and music awaits, plus a firework display and lighting of the Guys.

    Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire (5 November)
    And head for the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire to visit the pretty village of Chalfont St Giles this Saturday where Magic in the Sky features bonfire lighting and fireworks accompanied by music at Stone Meadow field. Mulled wine and Bucks bangers optional!

    Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire (4 & 5 November)
    Delve in to the past at Tutbury Castle where this weekend’s Vikings & Fireworks extravaganza takes place, featuring a lively combat by moonlight, a re-enactment of a Viking funeral and spectacular light displays on Friday and Saturday. There’s also a living history camp for families.

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    Our favourite place: Bridport

    by  • 04/11/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Take a trip to beautiful Bridport in DorsetWith its beautiful architecture, heritage and great selection of artisan shops, this market town is well worth a visit. We love it for its…

    Location A stone’s throw from West Bay on The Jurassic Coast and among rolling countryside with views of the town from the Allington Hill and Coopers Wood.

    Markets Twice weekly markets take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays; don’t miss the farmers’ market on the second Saturday of the month.

    Rope making The town’s history lies in the rope making and net industry, evident in the town’s wide streets – find out more at Bridport Museum, which also hosts exhibitions and leads guided walks.

    Brewery Try Golden Cap whisky on a tour of Palmers Brewery which has been brewing since 1794 and still operates from The Old Brewery on West Bay Road.

    Shops East and West Street offer practical items for country homes, while South Street offers independent shopping, artisan crafts and collectables. For interiors, head to Lilliputs, which sells bedding, linens, soft furnishings, cookware and home accessories. Nearby, family business Carpetworld, sells all types of flooring including English wool, wood and rugs. The Yarn Shop, 35 South Street, aims to build a community of happy knitters with knitting and crochet workshops in a colourful store of wool and accessories. If you love antiques, head to The Alleyways for Bridport Antiques Centre, while South Street Antiques sells collectables and furniture. Or take time out in the relaxed ambience of Bridport Old Books on South Street.

    Food heroes There’s no shortage of great food in this region with farms and bountiful coast nearby… Leakers Bakery, sells hand baked breads, cakes and savouries including Jurassic Foot Loaf and wheat-free varieties. Bridport is home to the oldest butchers in England, Balson & Son (founded in 1515); or step in to Frampton’s with its pretty shop front for quality meats, pastys and deli goods. Pick up local and seasonal produce at Nina’s on South Street, or at Fruits of the Earth on Victoria Grove, who also sell wholefoods, herbs, spice and nuts. Outside town, visit Modbury Farm in Burton Bradstock.

    Where is your favourite market town? We would love to hear more about it…

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