Category Archives: Days Out

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.

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England’s Big Picture

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I was thrilled to receive an email today telling me one of my photos had been chosen by BBC News for their England’s Big Picture gallery. You can check out the page here  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-41227408

The photo was one I included in my blog post yesterday about the pleasures of Autumn days. This suspension footbridge holds many memories for me – I’ve wheeled three young babies and toddlers across this in pushchairs over the years to paddle in the beck or to play pooh sticks in the little hamlet of Menethorpe. More recently it’s me and the pooch using it for one of our walks.

The bridge itself is a beautiful and eye-catching piece of Victorian ironwork. It was constructed in 1885 and links the North Riding of Yorkshire to the East Riding of Menethorpe. It also takes you onto the Centenary Way which runs across the Howardian Hills and Yorkshire Wolds via Castle Howard and Wharram Percy.

If you enjoy photography why not submit a photo to the England’s Big Picture gallery by emailing england@bbc.co.uk or posting it on Facebook or Twitter @BBCEngland. I use Instagram with the hashtag #englandsbigpicture. Happy snapping!

 

Autumn Days

Much as I love summer, there is something to welcome about the shift in seasons as we head towards Autumn; russet, red and gold leaves; pinecones, conkers and acorns to collect; low sun filtering through the trees and long country walks on crisp, bright days.

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We’re lucky to have some beautiful walks on our doorstep and since getting a dog we’ve certainly got out more than ever. I’m rarely without my camera on my wanderings – and because I’ve become a fan of Instagram, I’m always on the look out for the perfect composition. If you use IG you’ll know that as well as the perfect composition you’re also looking for the perfect square shot to fit into IG’s little boxes.

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For a small village ours has an impressive number of bridges – three in total. There are two railway bridges and one footbridge built in 1885 which links the North Riding of Yorkshire to the East Riding. This ‘bouncy’ bridge as we’ve always called it always slightly terrified me with toddlers in tow – and more recently with the dog as I really don’t fancy diving into the murky waters of the Derwent to fish her out. I’m presuming all dogs can swim so hopefully it wouldn’t come to this.

Back home, I’m planning to tidy it up for winter. Some plants are still looking vibrant even if the rest are in their twilight days. I’ve been snipping away at some of the flowers to display in jugs and vases – Japanese anemones, crocosmia and sweet peas which are still producing plenty of blooms.

Autumn is such a lovely time of year for getting outdoors; wrapping up warm; misty mornings; dazzling copper shades; beautiful sunsets and fruits to harvest. Having said all this, the skies can sometimes look like this…so remember to take your coat!

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I hope you enjoy your own Autumn ramblings…

Helmsley Walled Garden

A walled garden must be every gardener’s dream – sheltered from the elements that often take their toll on our own patches – especially after a heavy downfall – whose delphiniums aren’t looking a little sorry for themselves after the recent soaking?

A couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine, who happens to be a professional gardener, suggested a trip to Helmsley Walled Garden. We often meet up and do a walk together but it was looking like quite a hot day so a lovely garden with some shade – and nice café beckoned.

This idyllic five-acre site sits beneath the ruins of Helmsley Castle and is just a stone’s throw away from the pretty market town of Helmsley.

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The garden originally provided fruit and vegetables for the Feversham household at Duncombe Park until just after World War One when it got leased out as a market garden. Sadly, it fell derelict over the years and it wasn’t until 1994 that its restoration started thanks to the vision and sheer hard work of a local lady, Alison Ticehurst. Alison wanted the garden not only to be a beautiful site once again but also to be a place for horticultural therapy. Today supported volunteers learn horticultural skills here whilst at the same time benefiting from new skills and gaining confidence.

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The garden now contains a spectacular long double herbaceous border planted with vibrant reds, yellow and oranges; a white garden; a clematis garden and orchards. Wherever you are the castle is always a looming presence – whether behind formal layouts….

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…or as a backdrop to pretty wildflower meadows. Doesn’t this look quintessentially English with its daisies and bright red poppies peering out from the long grass?

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Even the cow parsley looks gorgeous rather than unruly especially when it’s set off with a mowed path down the centre with an orchard either side.

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The bright yellow laburnum arch and purple alliums dancing at either side look stunning at this time of year…it was an irresistible photograph to take.

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Did you ever read The Secret Garden as a child? Well, this door really reminded me of this book. Wouldn’t you have loved to find a hidden garden like Mary Lennox did in the story? I wonder what is behind this lovely old door.

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As well as the gardens, the glasshouses have all been restored and house a fantastic array of plants including succulents and this impressive display of gourds.

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Alongside the floral attractions and not forgetting some rather cute looking resident hens, there is also a wonderful cafe here. The Vine House Café is in a restored Victorian vinery where you can eat beneath the vines or in the courtyard.

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The café serves mouth-watering cakes and gorgeous lunches including delicious salads. Mine contained strawberries and blueberries which I wouldn’t have thought of adding. I did try this at home afterwards, serving up a mixed salad with grapes and blueberries – it took a bit of convincing my brood that the fruit hadn’t got in there by accident – I have now moved over to the ‘anything goes’ mindset when putting together a salad thanks to my fruity salad encounter.

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If you get a chance to visit, the garden is looking stunning at the moment with a blaze of colour in the borders; lovely wildflower meadows sprawling out beneath orchards of apple and pear trees as well as a plant centre offering plenty of inspiration to take home with you.

 

 

 

 

 

Colours of Portugal

Whitewashed houses, pantile roofs and wooden shutters. Is this the image that springs to mind when you think of Portuguese towns and villages? This was the picture I had in my head before our recent holiday there.

Sure, the coastal resorts are pretty much a collection of whitewashed buildings, hotels and apartments but head inland and you’ll come across pops of colour and decorative details.

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I have to say that grey and yellow is one of my favourite colour combinations. There is something about the contrast of such a sunny vibrant shade against a muted one.

At first glance the lovely hill village of Alte in the Serra do Caldeirão area of the Algarve appears to be all whitewashed houses – and it’s true, many of the buildings are. But if you venture into its narrow streets you’ll come across a dash of colour, beautiful tilework and intricate decorative details.

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And even buildings with crumbling paintwork and in need of a bit of tlc seem to get away with being charming in a rustic type of way….For Sale too!

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I liked the geometric decoration on the café below. Agua Mel in the heart of Alte is reputed to be one of the Algarve’s best cafés. It didn’t disappoint – we tucked into the best Portuguese tarts, chocolate cake, coffees and freshly squeezed orange juice we’ve tasted. It’s a really friendly, welcoming place (the boys were all given a whopping orange each to take home and squeeze) and has lovely views across the valley.

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As well as shades of ochre, this terracotta colour features on many buildings. I loved this flick of colour and design on one of the houses in Alte. There’s a definite Moorish influence in the patterns you see – not surprisingly as the Moors once controlled what is now Portugal, Spain and the Pyrenees.

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Portugal is famous for its tilework, particularly the blue and white ceramic tiles called azulejos which are found on the interior and exterior of many buildings from churches to palaces. The word azulejos comes from the Arabic – the tiles often contain traditional Moorish patterns.

IMG_3277 2We visited the Church of São Lourenço de Matos near Loulé which has the most wonderful tiled interior of wall-to-wall azulejos depicting the life of St Lourenço. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the interior so I will have to leave it up to your imagination to picture this masterpiece of tilework. Amazingly, in the devastating Portuguese earthquake of 1755 the church lost just five tiles, so it’s still as in tact as it was when it was created.

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I know Scandi-style minimalism is very much in vogue at the moment but I can’t help returning from holiday wanting to embrace the colours and patterns of the architecture and design of this beautiful part of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Is this the best beach in Europe?

A few weeks before our Easter holiday in Portugal, I read an article in The Times Travel section about the Best Beach in Europe – and guess what? It happened to be in Portugal.

So of course, we had to check it out during our stay. And despite a drive to get there, and growing expectations, I can see why it has been given this accolade.

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Praia Da Amoreira on Portugal’s west coast ticks all the boxes when it comes to beach perfection. It’s a huge curve of flat white sand enclosed on either side by the headland, with rolling waves and sand dunes to play in. Not only this, but the gently flowing River Aljezur runs into the sea at the far end adding an extra dimension to this beautiful beach.

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Now what you can’t quite get from the photos is the mini sand storm we were caught up in on the day we visited. This is, after all, the Atlantic coast which means for surf lovers it’s even more of a paradise. You can actually do stand up paddle boarding in the calmer water that runs into the sea. There is beach restaurant here, Paraiso do Mar, which sadly was closed on the day we were here, so we made do with munching on the remains of our picnic on its balcony watching surfers catch some waves.

We drove up from Cabo Sao Vicente along the winding, shaded coast road where every little track off it seemed to lead to a sweep of golden sand. The Cabo Sao Vicente is the equivalent of our Lands End, albeit without the tacky Wallace and Gromit theme park element (what’s that all about?)

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This end of the world location is Europe’s most southwesterly point where you don’t really do anything apart from stand and gaze out in awe across the wild Atlantic Ocean and imagine what lies beyond – it’s actually East Virginia, USA.

On the same day we also visited Praia do Martinhal near Sagres, mainly to find something to eat. We struck lucky with my favourite type of restaurant, beach-side, shack-style with a boardwalk to the sand, serving fantastic food. There are not many places like Nortada where the fish is actually brought to you to inspect before it is cooked, very simply with boiled potatoes and broccoli.

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We were actually staying on the south coast of Portugal, not far from Faro, a very nice town, and probably often overlooked as there’s a tendency to make a swift exit from the city you fly into.

The south coast beaches are longer stretches of sand backed by red and ochre cliffs. At this time of year they were almost deserted so we often found ourselves the only ones there.

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Further East along the coast from Faro lies the lovely town of Tavira. We took a trip there and hopped on one of the ferries to the Ilha de Tavira, one of a group of barrier islands in the protected national park of the Ria de Formosa estuary area.

I was struck by how similar Portuguese beaches were to our own, especially on the west coast. Chatting to a couple we met at Praia Da Amoreira who were touring in their camper van, we both observed this similarity, especially to the Cornish and Welsh coastlines.

Praia Da Amoreira made me think of Porthor or Whistling Sands Beach on the Welsh Llyn Peninsula. I also remember searching out another best beach on another trip to Wales, worth the half mile walk to Barafundle Beach in Pembrokeshire, likened to beaches in Australia (temperature aside). Having visited Cornwall a couple of times last year, lovely beaches like the one at Porthcurno with its turquoise water and pale, golden sand, aren’t dissimilar to those in Portugal.

I guess when it comes down to it, the title Best Beach in Europe is subjective – and perhaps raises expectations when sometimes it’s nice to stumble across our own hidden gem.

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We all have different things we like in a beach. For some of us it might be the solitude you feel on a deserted stretch of sand looking out to sea and for others it might be the whole seaside experience of candy floss, fish and chips and sticks of rock. I actually like a bit of both, depending on how I am feeling. So what’s your favourite beach?

For more info about the best beaches on the Yorkshire Coast click on my Out and About: Coast page here

An Alpine Experience

Doesn’t this time of year make you think of snowy destinations; log cabins with pine-clad walls; a glass of something cheering in your hand and heartwarming food to bring a little comfort on these long, cold winter evenings?

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If so, you’re in luck and you will need neither an airplane, train nor skis to get there. Le Chalet in Malton opened a few months ago at the back of what was Dickens of a Deli – it’s now called The Deli of Malton. The Delicatessen set-up is still pretty much as it used to be, overlooking the Market Place – and you can still get great salads and sandwiches. We get a bumper order of salad or soup as a treat at work on Fridays so I can vouch for their quality.

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Meanwhile the back of the Deli is now Le Chalet with the pine-clad walls, booth-style tables and eye-catching red Gingham tablecloths you might expect if you were dining in The Alps.

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I’d heard good things about Le Chalet from friends and colleagues who have eaten here in the evening. But on this occasion, Mr B and myself had some time to ourselves for brunch together. And whenever these child-free occasions arise, we do try to make the most of them, as pleasing two people is always easier than pleasing three extra, discerning (my kids? Fussy? Mais non!) appetites.

So, to Le Chalet on a Sunday morning in December.

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The breakfast menu includes something to suit most people – I have to confess that neither of us went for anything typically Alpine, although I’ve heard that the Rosti is fabulous. So while Mr B tucked into a Full English, I had scrambled eggs with bacon on American pancakes with Maple syrup – a great combination of sweet, salty and savoury.

Check out the board for the type of hot and cold sandwiches they do if you are eating later in the day…

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And if you do decide to book yourself in for an evening Alpine experience, there is Raclette, Fondue and Tartiflette on the menu as well as favourites such as Boeuf Bourguignon and Ragout of wild mushrooms, which is served on a savoury millefeuille.

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This is hearty Swiss food from the mountains and one thing’s for sure, you won’t go home hungry. And when it’s dark outside and the fairy lights are twinkling in Le Chalet, you could easily mistake your surroundings for that real Alpine log cabin.