Author Archives: Sarah Banks

The Art of Writing

How often do you put pen to paper nowadays? What was the last thing you actually wrote? The shopping list; a date on the calendar; a note on a Post-it? So, what about the last time you typed something with fingers or thumbs? I’m guessing just before you read this. It’s the way most of us communicate now.

I enjoy writing. I write for work and I write for pleasure. I like writing cards to friends and family and I love receiving a handwritten card or letter myself. So, not surprisingly when I started noticing more and more beautiful writing around – on Instagram, in books, on labels and on chalkboards in shops and cafés, I wanted to have a go.

 

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I am referring to Modern Calligraphy – a current and popular art form that is much looser, bouncier and fun than the traditional calligraphy you find in more formal documents – or those old Medieval scripts.

One inspiring Instagram site that I follow is Quill London, who style themselves as the home of modern calligraphy, stylish stationery and correspondence. I bought their book, written by calligrapher Lucy Edmonds, who heads up their modern calligraphy studio, and I haven’t looked back since.

 

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If you have distant memories of those laborious handwriting classes at school, then you’ll know what I mean when I say I have followed lots of drills, starting off with practising the type of strokes you can see here – the idea behind modern calligraphy is that there is a thick downstroke and a thin upstroke.

 

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I then moved on to learning how to write the upper and lower case alphabet; writing words, joining up letters and experimenting with different styles of writing including spacing and embellishments…

 

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So when it came to Christmas, I was keen to put my new skill into practice. Believe me, this hobby is very therapeutic – and extremely addictive, although I am not at the point where my shopping lists are written in calligraphy just yet. Anyway, back to Christmas where I wrote place names for the table..

 

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And much as I would have loved to make all my own Christmas cards, I’d left it far too late for that. However, I did create a special card for Mr B, who was full of cold, so I suggested he might wait before acting upon the instructions on the card.

 

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The next stage I’m looking forward to is experimenting with some colour so I’ve just ordered some gorgeous Finetec Watercolour Pearl Colours, which you brush onto your nib. You can use any liquid in calligraphy, even tea, which I’ve very nearly done by accident! Also winging its way to me is a Tombow Brush Pen as I want to have a go at learning some brush lettering too. I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on. So, until next time…..

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A Winter Beach Café

As far as bracing winter walks go, striding out along the vast sandy beach at Hunmanby Gap on a bitterly cold January morning probably comes high up on the list.

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After the excesses of the festive season – cheese, chocolate, Christmas cake, cheese, chocolate, Christmas cake, cheese….coupled with us all having this nasty flu virus that’s been doing the rounds (clearly not affecting our appetites…) we were ready for a trip to the beach with the boys and the pup.

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As the rollers surged onto the beach with the boys trying to dodge them, my cries of “Don’t get too wet, I haven’t packed any spare clothes…”, went unheeded and needless to say, trousers got soaked and wellies were sloshing with water within minutes. Our labradoodle Lola was more intent on chasing the tiny bubbles of froth that were getting blown across the sand – oh, and admiring her reflection!

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Hunmanby Gap, a couple of miles south of Filey on the North Yorkshire coast, ticks several of my perfect beach boxes. When the tide’s out, the sands are huge and you can walk for miles; it’s dog-friendly all year round; it’s less than a thirty minute drive from our house; has easy parking; is rarely crowded – and perhaps the biggest tick of all, it has a lovely, welcoming beach café.

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The Beach Café is perched above the bay with indoor and outdoor seating. It’s a snug fit inside but we managed to pile in and pull up a seat on the quirky coffee sack-upholstered chairs. There’s a good variety of food here from full English breakfast, burgers and toasties to scones, cakes and ice creams.

It was mugs of tea and teacakes for us while the kids tucked into bowls of chips and an impressive hot chocolate. For some reason I must have been too engrossed in my tea and teacakes as I forgot to take a photo of the interior and more importantly of the hot chocolate – chunky glass tankards filled with milky hot chocolate, a swirl of thick cream and dotted with pastel-hued mini marshmallows.

There’s always a warm welcome from the ladies behind the counter here. The views are fabulous from both inside the café and outside. In summer we have had lunch out on the huge decking area which is lovely when the sun is out and the weather is good.

 

Through winter the café is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm. If you’re looking for a beach walk to blow the cobwebs away then this is your place with the bonus of coffee and cake at end, not to mention the panoramic views.

Christmas at Burton Agnes

One of my favourite stately homes to visit at any time of year is Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire. This lovely Elizabethan manor house has been described as ‘the perfect English house’ and as one of England’s twenty finest houses alongside Chatsworth House, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. Despite these illustrious comparisons, to me Burton Agnes Hall always feels like a real lived-in family home with a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

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And at Christmas time, it looks stunning with hundreds of original and creative decorations – both traditional and contemporary in style. Many of them are natural, using flowers, foliage and branches from the hall’s extensive gardens as well as handmade pieces crafted in a massive joint effort by the Cunliffe-Lister family and their staff.

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This year, my mum and I tied in a visit with taking my youngest son to see Father Christmas. After being met by Mrs Claus in the Great Hall, we went on a tour of the house to meet Jingles the Magic Elf for some festive fun. We found Jingles in a room off the Long Gallery which looked wonderful with young walnut trees festooned with tissue paper pom poms made by the guides and pearlised card decorations, and of course, a letter box for those important letters to Santa…

After some magic tricks, stories and songs it was time to meet the man in red. Watching the look on the children’s faces always reminds me what a special and magical time of year this is for little ones.

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The really nice thing about Burton Agnes is that you never feel rushed by staff or crowded out as you wander from room to room. There was plenty of time to enjoy all the creativity that has gone into making the decorations which are all personal to the house rather than mass-produced and shipped in for the season.

In the Chinese Room there was a colourful tribute to this year’s 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK – a willow branch with rainbow coloured origami butterflies and sprayed hydrangea heads.

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In the White Drawing Room the pale colour-scheme is echoed with a papercut village and huge pearlised paper flowers on the floor. I loved the book balls and paper snowflakes and the paperback book Christmas trees. All these decorations are so inspiring and the sort of thing you could try out at home – although I think I would still be folding paper on Christmas Day for some of the origami projects as they must have been such a labour of love.

Other rooms, like the King’s Bedroom are decorated in a more opulent style with an oak tree adorned with crowns, birds and baubles and golden gourds from the Walled Garden.

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No Christmas would be complete without the nativity, or in this case, the knitivity scene with charming hand-knitted characters.

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One of the activities my son really enjoyed was the spot the snowman trail throughout the house where children have to find all the snowmen (made from merino wool by one of the young daughters and wearing hats and scarves made from the family’s recycled jumpers) hiding in each room. I admit it took some searching by the adults to spot some of them!

I hope you enjoy your visit if you get time to go along. It really is a favourite place of mine and will definitely get you into the festive spirit – Oh, and don’t forget to keep a look out for those elusive little snowmen!

A Christmas Wreath

How many lists have you got lying around the house/in your bag/on your phone at the moment? One for the presents; one for the food; another one because you’ve run out of space on the first ones? Not to mention what’s going on in the diary…

There’s so much going on in the run up to Christmas alongside keeping everything else ticking over. So in between the endless lists; shopping expeditions and Google searches for the best deals, it is a real tonic to have a breather and step away from the commercial side of the festive season and get creative.

I always enjoy making a Christmas wreath to put on our front door – it’s the original door from when the house was a school and it lends itself to some kind of decoration. In the past I’ve used dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks and pine cones for my wreaths, but this year I wanted to see if I could make the wreath entirely from foraged finds from my garden or on walks. And here’s what I came up with…feathers included!

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Last Sunday was a bright, crisp winter’s day so I got wrapped up and headed out into the garden with a steaming mug of tea. First up was gathering the moss to wrap around the copper wreath base (apologies to any worms or bugs who have ended up as part of my Christmas decorations – I think I managed to remove you all).

 

Next is the fun bit – deciding on the look you want and finding the decorations. I must say that my wreaths always seem to evolve and end up looking completely different from the design I had in my head – but not in a bad way. This is the lovely thing about making your own wreath as each year it will look different according to what you have found on your foraging forays.

 

After attaching various pine and conifer foliage to the moss wreath for my backdrop, I got stuck into the finer details. I love the idea of using hydrangea heads but as I didn’t have any in my garden I used these gorgeous pink sedum heads as my main flower instead.

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Then I added sprigs of Viburnum Tinus which has such glossy, green leaves. For a bit of extra detail I slotted in some rose hips and tiny larch cones. I scooped up the pheasant feathers on a walk a couple of months ago knowing they would come in handy for some creative project. In the end I didn’t feel the wreath needed a ribbon as the feathers kind of do the job, looking like ribbon ends. I also made an extra wreath for my parents as an early Christmas offering.

The wreath is such a Christmas tradition, originally created from fresh evergreens symbolising strength as evergreens survive the harshest of winters. In Christianity the circular shape with no beginning or end was supposed to symbolise eternity or life never ending.

Two years ago we went to a wonderful celebration for Sankta Lucia, an atmospheric, candlelit Swedish carol service, held at York Minster where a girl dressed as St Lucy wears a wreath of candles on her head. This beautiful event takes place this Friday, December 8th at York Minster.

You can read more about it on my post here. Until next time…

A Ramble on the Moors

As I picked my way across the heather-clad moorland following a rocky peat-stained rivulet, I realised I was out with a couple of hardened ramblers – my parents.

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When I’d suggested to them that we do a walk together in the North York Moors, I had in mind a gentle stroll through the patchwork fields of the undulating dales – and maybe – here’s hoping – a teashop at the end to reward us for our efforts.

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My Dad is never without a map on his rambles – an item that I am discovering is definitely more of a necessity than something you might need just in case. Incidentally, if you don’t know how to read grid references have a look here on the Ramblers’ website for how to do it. Basically, to read or take a six-figure grid reference, you start with the eastings, the first three figures along the top, then move onto the northings, the first three figures up – an easy way to remember this is along the corridor and up the stairs.

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So, my Dad had chosen a walk starting out at Hartoft Rigg, a patch of open heather moorland between two forests in the Western part of the North York Moors. You are actually on the other side of Rosedale Abbey here and the walk takes you across moorland, through pastures and the occasional farm, giving you the most fantastic views back across the valleys. The thing I always notice with walks on the Moors is the almost palpable silence – no birdsong even, except the occasional ear-piercing squawk and flapping wings of a pheasant taking flight. Otherwise, absolute stillness.

 

The leaves are looking stunning at the moment. I couldn’t help getting my camera out to capture the coppery, auburn tones especially the beech trees which are looking incredibly vibrant against the dark green of the conifers.

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After a pitstop for a snack, we continued on our way – and into the forest of conifers before reaching a wide track, which was not only a public footpath, but also part of the Moor to Sea Cycle Network, a great cycle route that connects moorland, forests and coastal loops.

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Emerging from the forest we began hunting for a lunch spot – with a view, which we found, just as the drizzling rain started picking up pace, turning into a proper shower. It was over and done with by the time we set off again.

We passed a vast stone merchant yard which we’d actually spotted from across the valley earlier on in the walk. I couldn’t help noticing an old stone propped up by the yard…

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10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

— Ecclesiastes 9:10-12King James Version (KJV)

Sobering stuff eh? Still, the mood didn’t seem too laden here as the diggers moved around, the lads in the yard chatted and pop music drifted out from the radio – the only sounds to break the tranquility of the area.

It had been one of those days where the sky stays a washed-out, pale grey colour – quite appropriate for a moody moorland scene. The sun finally came out, highlighting the gorgeous amber shades of the dale opposite.

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A steep climb through some thick, dense woods took us back onto the road we had parked on…my Mum did mention Hansel and Gretel at this point and asked my Dad if he’d laid down any crumbs of bread to help us find our way home!

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We didn’t quite make it for tea and cake this time – that will have to wait for my next ramble in the moors. Well done Dad on a great walk – I certainly know the difference between a ramble and a walk now.

If you’d like to explore this area yourself, get your walking boots on, grab yourself an OS map and do have a wonderful time in the great outdoors.

Style and Story is on the move

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Hi there. I am on the move – well Style and Story is – and I would love you to come with me. I’ve been busy over the past few weeks creating a new website which you can find here at www.styleandstory.me.

So if you previously subscribed to Style and Story you can click onto the new site and do the same. This means you’ll get new posts directly into your inbox.

If you don’t subscribe but like to have an occasional dip into Style and Story, that’s no problem. My posts will still be linked to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so you’ll be able to follow them there.

Style and Story is the place where I share lovely places, special finds and family adventures. I hope you find somewhere that inspires you on the site whether it’s a fantastic walk, a beautiful garden or a lovely café.

I would like to thank everyone who has read and commented on the original site over the past two years and I really look forward to keeping in touch over on the new website.

Sarah x

Cloudbusting

Do you know your cumulus from your altostratus or your cirrus from your nimbostratus? IMG_4739

Sort of? Not sure? Those geography lessons ringing a bell now? They did for us on a recent trip to the Lincolnshire coast where we got a crash course in cloud formations and their meanings.

The Cloud Bar at Anderby Creek is the UK’s first permanent cloud watching outpost. It’s situated at the entrance to the beach where you can read fascinating facts about clouds (like the fact that some clouds weigh as much as 200 tonnes – as my youngest son asked “why don’t they drop out of the sky then if they are so heavy?”) You can lie back on the stone seats and gaze up at the sky or swivel the cloud mirrors around to take a closer look at those big fluffy cotton wool balls in the sky…

The skies in this part of the world are huge with beaches to match. The Lincolnshire coast stretches for miles and miles with wide, sandy beaches…

… which are great for dog walking. We spent the best part of a day walking from Anderby Creek, past some pretty beach huts, to Sutton on Sea to have lunch at a lovely café and bistro called The Fat Seagull.

At the risk of being a beach-bore, here’s a photo of the place we stayed in – a little cabin set around a lake just behind the dunes. From the decking at the front of the cabin, as well as through the huge picture window, you get quite absorbed in the antics of the migrating birds that inhabit the middle of the lake.

Twenty Six is featured on the Sawday’s website, one of my favourite places to look when I am searching for somewhere unique to stay. This small village of cabins are Modernist classics built in the 1950s. Although bijou in size, Twenty Six, is actually quite tardis-like inside, with an open plan living area and kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms including a bunk room sleeping three for our trio of boys.

The decor is 50s-inspired with pieces of mid-century furniture and accessories adding character to the place which is decorated in a subtle palette of greys, aqua and yellow.

As a child of the 70s Anderby Creek felt like a step back in time – to bucket and spade holidays, sandcastle building, hiding in the dunes and collecting sea shells. The bright lights of Skegness are about eight miles south of here and the family seaside resort of Mablethorpe a few miles north. Anderby is definitely the hidden gem in the middle.

If you’re in search of an antidote to the fast pace of modern life you’ll love this place (there is WiFi by the way, which my own kids of the millennium managed to hook up to pretty soon after crossing the threshold!) Meanwhile I was quite content with the magazines, books, CDs and best of all, the view.