Category Archives: Outdoors

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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….

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!

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.