Category Archives: Family

Puppy Love

Ten days ago a small, furry bundle of exuberance entered our family life in the form of Lola, our miniature labradoodle.

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Three months ago we had no plans on getting a dog. I happily went on walks with friends and their pooches but each time my middle son lobbied for a dog, I gave the usual responses of commitment, responsibility, thinking of all the things you couldn’t do when you’ve got a dog.

So, how did I get to the point of thinking about all the things you could do with a dog?

I think it was a drip feed process. The lobbying was fairly persistent from son number two and one particular line tugged at my heart strings: “So, does that mean I’ll have to be a grown man before I get my own dog?” Eek, the process of my doggy re-education begun.

After all, I grew up with a menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, ponies, sheep, geese, ducks, hens and goats. Mine was a 70s childhood (The Good Life) where my mum let the ducks swim in our bath and we nursed poorly hens in our kitchen. So, I had this gnawing feeling I was denying my own children experiences I’d been given. Our own menagerie up to now consisted of a cat and three bantam hens.

Then on a winter’s weekend in January The Times (The Paper for Pets stamped across its cover) dedicated its Saturday newspaper supplement to DOGS…..The Top Dog Guide: What breed is best for you?

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It had photos of loads of different breeds: Easiest to train; Most intelligent; Best for a quiet life; Most misunderstood; Best for the city;  Most loving; Best with cats; Best for children. The list went on. There really was a dog for everyone. How could I refuse?

By the end of the weekend, we were seriously considering getting a dog. The Cockapoo seemed a good all-rounder. From Cockapoos to Maltipoos, these poodle crosses are currently very popular. A friend with a Cockapoo recommended a breeder in East Yorkshire so we gave Claire at Northcroft Doodles a call. Timing-wise there wasn’t a litter of Cockapoos due but her labrador Ruby was due to give birth in March. Woody, a charming miniature poodle, was the other half – creating labradoodle puppies.

We read up about labradoodles and they sounded wonderful family pets; excellent with kids; intelligent; eager to please; popular as therapy dogs and good for first-time owners.

I then started embarrassing the kids by stopping anyone with a dog I liked the look of and asking what breed it was. And as the boys buried their heads further into their hands, I found myself getting into long conversations about the joy of having a dog with their owners. I told the boys that nobody thought I was mad because everyone loved talking about their dogs – and they did!

Added to this, the world really does seem a dog-friendly place these days. Cafés have ‘We are Dog-Friendly’ stickers on their doors; there are programmes on TV about people and their dogs – I loved the Channel 4 Walks with my Dog as much for the dogs as the country walks the celebrities were going on. There were podcasts too like Walking The Dog. And there were books.

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I came across  Labrador by Ben Fogle in our local phone box library – not my usual reading material but I found myself hooked on the stories of dogs through history. I also bought a copy of The Goodness of Dogs by India Knight, a sort of practical guide to choosing a dog mixed with an overall appreciation of dogs.

Fast forward to a week or so ago and we went to collect Lola.

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She is a wonderful addition to our family, making us all laugh, smile, coo and yell – yes, puppies do things they are not meant to do….but who doesn’t love a puppy, whatever mischief they get up to?

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Although not everyone in the house has fallen in love with her. Our cat, Daisy, is on alert and has given out a hiss and a bat when junior has got too OTT. There’s an uneasy truce between the two at present.

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We can’t take Lola on walks yet until she’s had her vaccinations so we’ve spent a lot of time playing in the garden with her or carrying her on walks round the village. For her first outing into town, we took her to Roost, a lovely café in Malton’s Talbot Yard, which I knew would be dog-friendly as they have a goldendoodle I’ve always admired.

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And I’m pleased to say she’s a puppy after my own heart. Like any true cafe afficionado she sat quietly engrossed in people-watching, just as I enjoy doing with my cappuccino and cake. It’s not a bad life….

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

A café in the woods at Falling Foss

A few years back whilst on a walk with Mr B and our eldest son, who must have been about three at the time, we came across a tiny cottage in the woods. I clocked the FOR SALE sign and once back home, couldn’t resist checking out the estate agents’ details. I was soon swept away into a fantasy future of us running a café there.

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Fast forward almost ten years and as you’ve guessed, we didn’t sell up and re-locate to the cottage at Falling Foss. However, husband and wife team, Jack and Steph Newman, did take on the challenge and in that time they have transformed it into the idyllic and popular Falling Foss Tea Garden.

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The tea garden’s setting in the grounds of Midge Hall (once an 18th century gamekeeper’s cottage and also a tearoom in the 1900s) is magical. It’s situated deep in the woods, right at the top of the 30-foot Falling Foss waterfall…

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alongside plenty of other spots where there’s fun to be had paddling and splashing about in the water…

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To get to the Falling Foss Tea Garden, park in the car park at the top and follow the woodland path down until you see the café. There’s also a pleasant circular woodland walk if you want to build up an appetite. If you’ve got kids with you, you might like to let them lead the way with the help of these illustrated Making Tracks In the North York Moors walking packs for kids.

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The walk, which is a couple of miles long, takes you past and behind the tea garden (don’t worry you’ll be back this way for that promised tea and cake)

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You then re-enter the woods and past the Hermitage, a cave carved out of a huge stone – always a favourite for a bit of climbing…

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(Psst, did you spot Mr B peering out from the cave?)

The walk eventually brings you back to the footpath you started out on and to the tea garden where a rustic wooden hut displays an array of tempting treats.

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There’s plenty of seating to choose from…

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When we visited there were lots of vases of flowers decorating the garden – maybe left over from a wedding?

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There are plenty of places for kids to play and entertain themselves from clambering across logs  over the river to having fun in little havens like this…

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Well, you can’t really leave without a game of Pooh sticks on the wooden bridge can you? Oh, and by the way, Pooh sticks are provided. Have fun!

The mystery of Lake Gormire

Even just looking down at Lake Gormire from the top of Sutton Bank, you get a sense of why myths have grown up around it over time.

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Beneath its inky depths lurks a hidden city, the devil or perhaps most chillingly – a bottomless pit. All according to local legend, of course.

Even its name, Lake Gormire, has a mythical, magical ring to it, conjuring up images of the future past scenery of Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit.

Its real life mystery is that it’s one of only two natural lakes in Yorkshire, created by meltwater at the end of the last ice age. Added to this curiosity is that no water flows into or from it so it remains incredibly still. The theory is that it’s fed by an underground spring and drained through a channel below.

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If you fancy exploring Lake Gormire for yourself, park up at Sutton Bank Visitor Car Park. You head out on the Cleveland Way, past the signpost directing you to the best view in England…

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It was vet-turned-author James Herriot who declared the view as the finest in the country.

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The viewing platform points out various landmarks – the spectacular views across the Vale of Mowbray, gliders from the Yorkshire Gliding Club, Roulston Scar, Hood Hill, Menwith Hill, Blubberhouses, Garbutt Wood and Lake Gormire below.

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Further along the Cleveland Way, you take a left turn down a very, and I mean, very steep footpath that cuts through the woodland. On our recent visit it was just Mr B and myself navigating our way down the slope – kids will need a helping hand and it’s a no-go for pushchairs.

However, it’s well worth the hike – the lakeside is one of the most tranquil places I have ever been to with a fantasy fairytale atmosphere.

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Somebody had already been busy here as there were a couple of rope swings hanging from the trees, ready for some fun in the lake for the next young visitors.

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Through the trees we spotted a swan and its cygnets gliding across the water.

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After walking round the lake we braced ourselves for the steep climb back to Sutton Bank and as it was our anniversary, Mr B and I headed for lunch at the very nice Carpenters Arms in Felixkirk, just down the road.

This whole area is steeped in history and folklore. I first read about Lake Gormire, amongst other local places, in a fascinating book called The Plot by journalist Madeleine Bunting. It’s a layered history of one acre of land near the North York Moors. But I think you could discover the same histories on any other acre of land in the UK and beyond.

Have fun if you do decide to visit!

Quarmby’s café and a walk round the castle

I am a real café aficionado – of all the places to go and socialise, a gorgeous café where you can sip tea and eat cake over a good chat is the one I’ll always opt for.

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And for me, Quarmby’s Delicatessen & Café in Sheriff Hutton ticks all the boxes. I had driven past it a few times always intending to stop by – and once I did I’ve become a devotee.

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It’s not only the fantastic selection of cakes they serve…

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…the chocolate chia muffins are a particular favourite of mine…

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It’s also the genuinely warm welcome you receive as soon as you walk through the doors thanks to husband and wife team, Emma and Will Quarmby, who opened Quarmby’s a couple of years ago. Emma, who is an interior designer, has worked her magic on the decor which is stylish and tasteful yet with a laid back feel.

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There are lots of lovely details to gaze at over your latté or matcha tea (Yes, you’re going to be introduced to a whole range of wonderful, new ingredients and flavours here).

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Emma and Will are clearly passionate about food and if you are too, I would really recommend that you take time to chat to Emma. She is extremely knowledgable about food, diet and health. She can recommend cookery books and recipes as well as an eclectic range of ingredients.

The deli part of the café is brimming with interesting foodstuffs and there’s an emphasis on local specialist producers whether it’s bread, vegetables, pies or preserves. Not surprisingly Quarmby’s are collaborating on a new Yorkshire cookbook so watch this space.

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While you’re in Sheriff Hutton you can’t fail to miss the castle ruins looming in the distance.

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There’s an easy perimeter walk around them which is as close as you’ll get.

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The 14th century castle, built by the powerful Neville family, has got an impressive history. It was once owned by Richard III as a core powerbase in the north of England and home to the council of the north. If you fancy reading a bit about it check out this site.

So, if you do need an excuse for a visit to Quarmby’s you can always say it’s part of a historical fact-finding trip. Enjoy!

I am sailing…I am sailing…

….Home again, ‘Cross the sea, I am sailing, stormy waters….

Oops, sorry – I can’t resist a sing-along to Rod Stewart given half the chance. Anyway, getting back to the point of this post. Fortunately, it was neither stormy waters nor an ocean for our sailing lesson at Allerthorpe Lakeland Park near Pocklington…

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My eldest son has been keen on doing a sailing course for a while. So after asking around, I came across the watersports centre at Allerthorpe Lakeland Park which offers a two-hour taster sailing session. I have always quite fancied a go at sailing myself – and so did Mr B, so we both decided to get in on the action and booked onto the course too.

It was either this or perhaps at the back of our mind was the thought that we weren’t quite ready to hand over the controls to a 12-year-old if we found ourselves in a boat together – so best that we all do a crash course.

The boats that we took out were these catamarans with their eye-catching candy-coloured sails…

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Once we were kitted out with spray tops and buoyancy jackets (helmets for the juniors) and having gone through some basics, we headed along the jetty and onto our boats….

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The great thing about Allerthorpe Lakeland Park is that there are plenty of other things to do there which you don’t need to book ahead for. You can just turn up and take out kayaks, canoes and pedalos…

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Or you can just enjoy the peaceful location. We were lucky enough to have grandparents with us to keep an eye on our younger two who had fun in the play park, visiting the pet corner and following the footpaths round the lake…

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The taster session is a great way to find out if you like sailing without forking out a huge amount of cash (you can go on to do a RYA – Royal Yachting Association – certificate here).

Our instructor, Ryan, was great, full of encouragement, teaching us the theory and giving us the chance to put this into practice.

Joseph (our eldest son) took to it very quickly and was soon steering himself across the lake.

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Mr B and I were in a boat together….a good test of our team building skills…

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Along with learning to tack and gybe, Ryan taught us some crucial skills like how to upturn a capsized catamaran. Admittedly these twin hull boats are pretty stable on the water, especially at Allerthorpe with just a gentle breeze blowing across the lake, but I am guessing that on choppier waters your boat might tip over…

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The fun thing about sailing is that the boat is totally reliant on the wind, so you have to be aware of the wind direction and also its strength. It was actually quite a calm day which I quite appreciated given as it was our first lesson.

And after all that activity on the lake, and a quick change of clothes, we were ready for a cuppa and cake in the café….

cafe and boats Whether you just want to have fun on one of the pedalos, take out a kayak or try a sailing or windsurfing lesson, Allerthorpe is a great place to spend an afternoon.

To get there, head along the A1079 from York towards Hull and it’s close to Pocklington. Allerthorpe itself is a pretty little village and the pub there, The Plough Inn, looks very nice too.

A beach hut in Brid

What springs to mind when you think of Bridlington?

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A full-on seaside experience with gaudy fairground rides, fish and chips, a bit faded round the edges maybe?

Bridlington is certainly one of the Yorkshire coast’s most popular and busy summer holiday resorts. You can’t miss the carousel rides, helter skelters and dodgems as you walk along the North Bay promenade.

But continue past the harbour (more of which later)….

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…..past the wonderful Art Deco Spa Theatre…

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…..and you’ll get to the most glorious stretch of sandy beach.

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Perfect for playing ball games on and riding bicycles….

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And with the added bonus of some great beach chalets. My favourites are those along Princess Mary Promenade…

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So with the sun shining we rang the Foreshores office and made a last minute booking to hire one for the day. We managed to park along South Marine Drive which runs parallel to the beach huts.

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The beach chalet comes with two chairs, two deckchairs, a sink and an electricity which means you can set up camp and have a base for the whole day – and evening.

The little water channel (which leads to a paddling pool further along) in front of the chalets provided hours of fun for the boys. Don’t forget to pack the water pistols which we did, so we ended up buying some cheap ones from the nearby very well-stocked beach shop.

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As we had a ‘kitchen’ we decided to have a BBQ in the afternoon…

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…and enjoyed great views out to sea with a few more boats bobbing about as the afternoon went on.

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Early evening is when the harbour comes to life. We strolled along the pier where dozens of fishermen were casting out their rods.

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You can see the white cliffs of nearby Sewerby in the distance.

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Bridlington Harbour is magnificent. It’s well worth a wander around to admire the vast array of colourful fishing boats and to watch the fishermen bring in their evening catch.

This harbour is actually the largest lobster landing port in Europe. We watched fishermen haul in crates of lobsters and crabs. We were told by one of the fishermen that ninety per cent of this shellfish is shipped abroad: “We don’t eat shellfish in this country,” the chap explained.

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We weren’t the only ones watching what was going on. Somebody else obviously knew when it was supper time!

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There’s a lot of fun to be had in this great Yorkshire seaside resort. I will be revealing a few more hidden gems of Bridlington over the next few weeks.

See you next time!