A day out in Dorset: Sculpture by the Lakes…

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A Day out in Dorset: Sculpture by the Lakes

Hidden in the Dorset countryside this is an outdoor art venue with a difference. Sculptures and art installations are dotted amongst the lakes and woodland with nothing but birdsong and the relaxing sounds of the River Frome for company. Set in 26 acres Sculpture by the Lakes is such a peaceful place to escape to for a couple of hours. 

With current lockdown rules now lifting everything is well thought out for easy social distancing. It's the perfect escape from the great indoors! Tickets must be purchased online before arriving and there are anti-bacterial gels by the ticket office. The cafe offers a takeaway service and currently card only to maintain guidelines.

What to expect:

Owned by contemporary sculptor Simon Gudgeon, many of his beautiful pieces can be discovered along with other artists' work. On arrival give your surname to the staff at the ticket office and collect a guide map. This lists the sculptures and outlines a route around the four lakes. Feel free to wander and follow your own path, it's a lovely place to get lost! Allow plenty of time to take it all in, I loved stumbling across the secluded seating areas placed in picturesque spots throughout the walk. Choose to take a pew either facing the river or by one of the lakes. Pack your own picnic and find a secret spot, it was so nice to sit and take it all in.

As well as the lakes there is a kitchen garden with resident chickens and landscaped gardens all found via a tree tunnel walkway.

An image of the sculpture Oberon under trees

Planning for your day out:

Sculpture by the Lakes is currently open Wednesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm, book tickets online before you go. No children under 14 or dogs are allowed due to the deep water of the lakes.

This is a lovely walk with a difference and there is plenty of space to socially distance from others. The sculptures are beautiful and thought provoking. Discovering them in tranquil, natural surroundings rather than in a gallery gives a completely different interpretation of the artwork. Plan to spend at least an hour and a half there. We walked 2.5 miles on our visit and spent around 4 hours admiring the sculptures and lakes. 

Before leaving stop at The Gallery Cafe for a well-earned drink. The cafe is currently operating a takeaway service to allow for social distancing and contactless only payment. There is an outdoor seating area overlooking the lakes, a perfect spot to relax before going home. The cafe is fully licensed, I enjoyed a local cider while taking in the beautiful surroundings. Produce from the garden kitchen are used in the menu and the bread and cakes are all handmade.

Cider, Sculpture by the Lakes, Dorset

Where to stay:

If you want to make more of a trip of it now that lockdown guidelines have lifted, book a stay at one the shepherd's huts at Warmwell House. Not too far from Sculpture by the Lakes they can be found in a lovely, tranquil setting. Read all about my stay here: Glamping in Dorset. This might be useful when planning your stay: What to pack for a glamping trip in the UK

Thank you to Bournemouth Bloggers and Darren Northeast PR for inviting me, I had a great day out!

An image of the River Frome

What to pack for a glamping trip in the UK…

Us Brits are well known for talking a lot about the weather. This is because it can be so unpredictable, March can be good for sunbathing while August might bring torrential rain. We often experience all the seasons in one day too. So when it comes to packing for a glamping trip in the UK it can be tricky to know exactly what type of weather to pack for. Plus this type of adventure means you may need to pack lightly as your chosen accommodation could be tight on space. I've put together a handy list to help you get to grips with what to pack for a glamping trip in the UK.
Glamping:
Glamping is a more luxurious style of camping. I've stayed in some really cool glamping spots, a bus, a Shepherd's hut, a safari tent and campervans. Some have been more luxurious than others but they've all had the same theme: a unique place to stay whilst embracing the beautiful outdoors. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, especially if you aren't used to having to get up in the middle of the night and venture out to the bathroom like the Shepherd's hut I stayed in. But there are so many styles of glamping now from budget to extravagant there's something to suit everyone.
What clothes to pack:
  • Layers: for the ever-changeable weather you'll need t-shirts, long sleeved tops and jumpers for chilly evenings.
  • Leggings: I always pack leggings for relaxing in after a long day out exploring the local area.
  • Footwear: If it's the summer I pack flip flops and converse for the day and Ugg boots/warm shoes for sitting outside at night. If your accommodation is in a field and its been raining you might want to think about packing wellies.
  • Warm jacket: If you have a fire pit then you'll definitely want to be sitting outside under the stars - even in the middle of the summer the evenings can get chilly in the UK so pack a jacket.
  • Big socks: I love being cosy!
  • You might want to pack spare towels for the beach.
Other essentials:
  • Dry shampoo: If there's no electricity your hair dryer and straighteners will need to stay at home. If it's just a few days then I find that dry shampoo is my saviour.
  • Portable charger: Again if there's no electricity take one of these for charging phones and laptops. I just bought this nifty little one for charging phones it has enough juice to do 5 charges: Duracell Portable Power Bank.
  • A small mirror: You may have a bathroom with mirror in your accommodation but if not I always find packing my own mirror is essential for doing hair and make up.
  • Board games: If you can fit it in a game of scrabble is perfect for rainy evenings.
  • Fairy lights: Add a bit of cosy lighting to your setting.
  • Logs: If you have a log burner or fire pit you may need to buy logs. Check with your accommodation as wood may be supplied.
  • Torch: If lighting is limited it's always handy to have your own.
  • Batteries: For the fairy lights and torch.
  • Matches: They may already be provided so double check this.
Food:
Check what kitchen facilities are available before you go and if there is a welcome pack. Depending on your budget most kitchen essentials will be provided which means you can keep your packing list down.
  • Make a chilli before you go - perfect glamping food, easy to re-heat.
  • Buy essentials: Milk, bread, teabags etc.
  • I always take zip lock bags with me, as they are perfect for keeping open food airtight.
  • Marshmallows for the for the fire pit.
I hope this has given a bit of an insight into packing for a glamping trip in the UK. I'd love to hear what glamping adventures you have planned. Let me know in the comments below.
Happy Glamping!

 

My favourite UK Glamping spots:
Warmwell House Huts
Big Green Bus
Shaldon Beach Hut No. 1
For more on my Glamping adventures in the UK head here:
Glamping in Dorset
All Aboard the Big Green Bus
Beach Hut Living
Unique Places to stay in the UK
For Glamping further afield: The Ultimate Glamping Retreat in Bali

 

 

 

Travel Hammock Review…

Relaxing with a book in my travel hammock
When Cool Hammocks asked me to review their *travel hammock I racked my brains for a good spot to do this. Then I realised that as I live in the New Forest the answer was literally on my doorstep. So with a book and my hammock packed in my rucksack I went in search of a good spot to relax in. I chose Wilverley Inclosure as it’s always a nice place for a walk and a peaceful place for chilling in a hammock….

 

About the hammock:
The travel hammock comes in a variety of colours, blue, camouflage, lime and pink. I chose the blue. It rolls up to a really small size, great if you are packing light for a camping trip and to save on space when travelling. If it gets dirty it can be hand washed and is super lightweight.

 

How it works:
Having not put up a hammock before I was a little concerned as to how I would get on with it. But once I found some trees to attach it to it was really simple. Unroll it and then fasten it with the integrated ropes and hooks. The ropes are fully adjustable so wind them around a tree a few times and then fix with the hooks. That is literally it, fast and simple to use.

 

What I thought:
Having not owned my own hammock before I was really impressed. It was easy to put up and comfortable for relaxing in. I love how small it folds down and will definitely take it on my next camping trip.  It’s the perfect accessory for adventurers, even if you don’t plan to go any further than your back garden! To purchase your own travel hammock head to Cool Hammocks.

 

How to find my perfect hammock spot:
If you are planning a weekend in the New Forest and want to re-create your own chilled hammock vibes then stop at Wilverley Inclosure to find your spot. It’s a ten-minute drive from Brockenhurst and Burley. The Inclosure itself has a nice 2-mile round walk through ancient woodland. When you want to stop, find some trees and hang the hammock at a distance of roughly two thirds the length of the hammock. A hanging height of 6-8ft should do nicely. Finally, pick up your book and don’t forget the beer! Hammocks are permitted for use in the forest as long as they don’t damage the trees or endanger livestock.
To spend more time and explore this beautiful area why not stay over night at a campsite. There are ten in total in the New Forest, the nearest one to Wilverley is Setthorns. In the heart of the forest it’s in a gorgeous, secluded location just right for pitching up a tent and daydreaming in a hammock. Head to Camping in the Forest for more information.

 

*I was gifted my travel hammock in exchange for this review. As ever all opinions are my own.*

 

 

 

Walking with alpacas in the Hamsphire countryside…

Who knew you could do such a thing as walk with alpacas in England? When I opened up a gold shiny envelope from my brother and his girlfriend on Christmas Day I didn't know such a thing existed! So on a typically overcast for Britain type of day in April, Matt and I set off in search of Hensting Alpacas in Otterbourne. Found in a gorgeous spot in Hampshire by the chalk streams of the River Itchen the alpacas have 12 acres to roam freely on. We had tickets for a two hour morning walk and couldn't wait to try out this very different adventure!

Hensting are a family run business with 40 alpacas, one llama, a New Forest Pony and some sheep. The morning began with an interesting talk all about the alpacas. I loved hearing about their quirky habits and learnt some facts that I didn't know. We were also given instructions on how to safely walk with the alpacas.

Next it was time to meet them, there must have been about 15 alpacas all together on our walk. The first alpaca Matt and I got to walk was Walter, white and fluffy he was a picture perfect alpaca. Strolling along the riverbank with him was a very relaxing experience. He was best buddies with the alpaca in front of him so spent a lot of time keeping close to his back legs! There is apparently always one or two alpacas who are happy to go in front of the others and lead the way while the rest feel more comfortable following on behind. Half way through we all switched up and had the opportunity to walk with another alpaca. Our next noble steed was Whiskey Joe. He wasn't particularly photogenic, bless him, but he was a very friendly chap. Further into the stroll we discovered if one poos then they all tend to poo, which turned into an amusingly lengthy poo stop! Alpacas do this in the wild so their eating and toilet areas are kept separate and explains why they all go at the same time.

If you like being outdoors and are looking for something completely different or a unique gift for someone then this is it. Morning walks start at 10am, plan to be there at 9.30am to park, you don't want to be late as the walk takes places a long way across the meadow from the parking area. I'd recommend walking boots or wellies if the weather isn't so great. Anyone from the age of 8 and above can participate making it the perfect thing to do for a family day out. If like Matt and I you want an escape from the kids it's good for that too! It was the perfect opportunity to take a quiet few minutes away from our hectic lifestyle!

I wonder if I can plan a walk with an alpaca on my next trip to Peru?!

Unique places to stay in the UK….

Shaldon Beach Hut No.1 - one of my favourite unique places to stay in the UK

Unique places to stay in the UK

I love exploring my home country and seeking out unique and unusual accommodation is top of my list when I’m researching a trip. Although small the UK has some awesome places to stay. I’m a huge fan of camping and glamping but I also love staying in a classy hotel.  So I thought I would list down my favourite places to stay in the UK and explain what makes them unique. Read on for some inspiration on a staycation with a difference…

 

The Big Green Bus, East Sussex

This awesome bus needs no introduction on what makes it unique.  Matt and I stayed on the bus for my 30th birthday with friends, we had the best time!  Parked up in the Sussex countryside the Big Green Bus has been converted into a cosy retreat.  It sleeps six, with two double beds and bunk beds upstairs, has a fully-fitted kitchen, bathroom, lounge area and an outdoor heated shower (there’s also a shower inside.) The lounge has a log burner and there are all sorts of original bus fittings. Upstairs the front area is decked out with original seats and a collection of books; it was the perfect place to chill out with a glass of prosecco or two.  Outside there is a campfire and a wood fired hot tub for hire. This has to be one of the most unique places to stay in the UK!  Read more on my glamping trip on the bus here: All aboard the Big Green Bus: glamping in East Sussex.

 

 

Shaldon Beach Hut No. 1

I loved staying in this dreamy little beach hut.  Nestled on the shoreline of the Teign Estuary in Shaldon with direct access to the beach it is the prefect retreat from the world.  The beach hut is compact as you would expect but it is perfectly formed.  Inside is a galley kitchen, bathroom, lounge with a sofa bed, under floor heating and a lovely mezzanine level with a comfy mattress.  Bi-folding doors open out onto a private terrace overlooking the beach and steps leading onto the sand.  On a sunny day it’s a beautiful spot to sit, read and watch the world go by.  Shaldon is a tiny village in Devon full of west country charm.  There’s plenty to explore and gorgeous beaches too.  I wrote a post all about it: Beach Hut Living…

 

 

Hollies Cottage, Cheddar

This cottage in Somerset has to be one of the cosiest places I’ve stayed in on my list of unique places to stay in the UK. Matt, Emily and I had a lovely long weekend in Cheddar, Somerset for New Years Eve in 2016.  This quaint cottage had an open fire in the lounge and a spiral staircase leading up to the bedroom.  Drinking champagne by the fire on New Years Eve while watching fireworks out of the window at midnight was a lovely way to see in the New Year.  The cottage location is fantastic, it was very quiet but just what we wanted.  Along the road from the cottage sits The Cider Barn, full of west country cider and lovely locals.  Cheddar Gorge and caves is a 10 minute drive along the road and the gorgeous beaches of Weston-super-Mare only a 40 minute drive.

 

 

White House Cottage, Port Isaac

I have never stayed anywhere like Port Isaac, the picture perfect Cornish village is like no other.  Made famous by the popular TV series Doc Martin, it can get very busy during the summer months.  But during the winter months it’s a quiet and tranquil place to stay.  There is no parking in Port Isaac itself so you have to park on the outskirts and take a short walk down into the village.  We stayed in White House Cottage a few steps away from ‘Doc Martin’s House’ on Roscarrock Hill.  There is no parking with the house so it was a bit of trek to the car park but when you have views as lovely as in Port Isaac it really doesn’t matter.  White House Cottage had beautiful views of the harbour and Port Isaac itself from its elevated position on the hill. Turn left out of the house and follow the narrow road up onto the South West Coast Path, beautiful views and stunning walks are literally on the doorstep.  Port Isaac itself has some gorgeous shops, cosy pubs and cafes to buy an obligatory Cornish pasty or cream tea.  Tiny alleyways and quaint fishing houses all add to the charm of this stunning Cornish retreat.  For more on what to do in and around Port Isaac click here: Port Isaac, the ultimate Cornish Retreat…

 

 

Hotel du Vin, Poole

Boutique hotels with unique rooms are what a stay at Hotel du Vin are all about.  Matt and I stayed in the Poole hotel for his birthday, it was a gorgeous mini-break.  Our room was so stylish and featured a roll top bath in the centre of the room.  I loved the attention to detail and the way the room was in keeping with the building which dates back to 1776.  On the quayside in Poole Harbour it’s in a fantastic location for exploring this lovely area of the south coast.  Hop on a ferry to Brownsea Island or visit the upmarket area of Sandbanks. Hotel du Vin often have some great deals, we reserved a room which included dinner and breakfast.  The evening meal was so delicious and a sommelier to help pair our wine with our meal was a very nice touch.  A weekend in Poole, Dorset has all the details of our dreamy weekend escape.

 

 

A campervan

If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know I love a road trip, especially if it’s in a campervan.  Matt and I used to own a Mazda Bongo campervan and had some awesome adventures.  We went to Scotland, Wales, Dorset and spent a lot of time in Devon and Cornwall camping in some beautiful places.  We also camped closer to home on the beach on Hayling Island once and drank rum and coke until the early hours!  I loved having a campervan, having the freedom to go where you want, park up in a beach car park and have a cuppa while doing a surf check and having a few beers in the evening by a fire pit…there’s nothing better!  One of my all time favourites to camp at is Incledon Farm.  Being a working farm you often find a chicken or farm cat strolling by your van or tent.  Incledon Farm is in a tiny place called Georgham, just along the road from Croyde in Devon.  It’s a short drive to all the nearby surfing spots and a lovely spot for camping. As far as unique places to stay in the UK goes a campervan is at the top of my list. It is perfect for a staycation with a difference, choose where and when you stop and explore the open road.  If you are planning a road trip in the south west  The Cornwall Camper Company have some awesome vintage VW campers available to hire.

 

 

Beach Retreat, Milford on Sea

Owned by my parents the Beach Retreat started life as a garage, my Mum and Dad have turned it into a stunning one bedroom apartment.  Light, airy and full of seaside charm they have done a wonderful job and created a perfect little place for two to relax by the sea.  It has its own private entrance and parking and comes with a lovely little welcome pack of coffee,tea, milk, scones and jam.  Located a short walk from the seafront in Milford on Sea and a 10 minute walk to the village centre it’s a fantastic place for a break on the outskirts of the New Forest.

 

 

The Snug, Lymington

The Snug can be found in the old market town of Lymington on the edge of the New Forest. It is a cosy, boutique townhouse which has been lovingly restored and really lives up to its name. Full of character from the Belfast sink in the kitchen to the fireplace in the lounge, it’s a luxurious little bolthole for up to four people. The bathroom is an Instagrammers dream with a roll top bath and metro tiles, it has been finished to perfection.  All the small details have been thought of too, the gorgeous New Forest Aromatics products all produced locally add the finishing touch to the bathroom and the welcome pack full of local goodies is such a treat! A stones throw from the High Street, the cobbles and the quay the location couldn’t be better.

 

 

Have you stayed anywhere unusual in the UK? If so, let me know in the comments below. I’m always looking for somewhere unique to stay….

Glamping in Dorset…

Our stay in a Shepherd’s Hut near the Jurassic Coast:

I love a spot of glamping so when Matt surprised me with a birthday trip to Dorset I was so excited.  Even as we pulled up to the very grand Warmwell House I had no idea where we were going to be staying. Serena greeted us, we grabbed our bags and followed her through the beautiful grounds to our home for the next two nights.  A clearing in the woodland revealed ‘Sika’ the shepherds hut. Serena was so welcoming, she gave us a tour and invited us to explore the gardens and maze. She also suggested a visit to the kitchen garden where we could help ourselves to vegetables. Such a lovely little touch.  Glamping in Dorset was going to be a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday.

 

 

The Shepherd’s Hut:

Our two night stay did not disappoint. The hut came with everything we needed and every little detail had been taken care of.  At one end was the cosy double bed with plenty of storage underneath and a very neat table with built-in bench seats. At the other end was the kitchen with everything you could need for a glamping escape. This included a sink, hob, crockery, cutlery, biscuits and some Dorset tea. The log burner completed the coziness of the hut and we loved cooking dinner on the fire pit under the stars.  Behind the hut was a large cool box, logs and bins. Sika has a separate bathroom hut with a huge shower and one of the best composting toilets I have ever used. Matt said his main concern when booking somewhere was the toilet. He knows I’m a little bit fussy with these things after some of the horrendous long drop toilets we experienced when camping in Australia! But I was pleasantly surprised with this luxurious little bathroom and its cleanliness. If this is something that worries you, don’t be put off as Warmwell House has got it covered in a very clean and hygienic way! The setting is beautiful and although very close to all of Dorset’s main attractions it felt secluded from the world, very private and peaceful.

Things to do in Dorset:

Warmwell is a short drive from the beautiful Jurassic coast so over the two days we explored Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. We walked along the steep coastal path in-between the two, taking in the beautiful views and stopping for a much earned pub lunch and cider at the Lulworth Cove Inn.  In the afternoons we indulged in the art of doing nothing and relaxed at the hut. Reading and soaking up the afternoon sun with a celebratory glass of champagne and two gorgeous evenings by the fire pit. It was the perfect birthday treat.

Dorset is fantastic for walking and hiking and my favourite thing to do is to combine this with pub stops! The walk from the picturesque village of Worth Matravers to Winspit Quarry on the coast is a fun one. The disused quarry is right on the cliff and the views out to see are gorgeous. Don’t miss the Square and Compass pub, apart from alcohol the only food on the menu is pies and pasties. There’s a quirky fossil museum inside too. It’s a great stop after a long walk. Komoot has a list of their top 10 best walks around Worth Matravers, worth checking out for planning adventures.

Durdle Door is another famous beauty spot on the Jurassic Coast, it’s a steep walk down to the beach but the views are beautiful.

For something a little different, head to Sculpture by the Lakes an outdoor art venue set in 26 acres of Dorset countrside.

‘Sika’ is charming, cosy, shabby chic and luxurious all at the same time.  If you are looking for a glamping retreat in Dorset that ticks all the boxes then this is it and having the Jurassic Coast on the doorstep is simply wonderful.

For more glamping inspiration take a look at my other posts on unique places to stay: 

All aboard the Big Green Bus: The Ultimate Glamping Retreat

Beach Hut Living

Unique Places to stay in the UK

What are your favourite glamping spots? Do you have any recommendations for glamping spots in Dorset? I’m always looking for recommendations on unusual places to stay so let me know in the comments below.

 

 

A Log Cabin Break in the Forest of Dean…

A luxurious log cabin in the woods:

I’ve just got home from a four night break with Forest Holidays in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.  We stayed in a luxurious log cabin with its own private hot tub nestled amongst woodland.  The weather was perfect for cabin living, bright crisp, chilly mornings and some snow which made a dip in the hot tub even more fun.  There was nothing but the rustling of leaves, birds tweeting and squirrels foraging in the undergrowth.  It was so peaceful.  Matt, Emily and I stayed with our friends Sam and Graham and Emily’s best baby buddy Heidi.  Set over two floors our log cabin had four rooms, two doubles, one with an en suite and two twin rooms.  We packed our own travel cots for the girls who had a room each.  The cabin also had two family sized bathrooms, this meant there was ample room for us all to spread out.  A spacious lounge with log burner and a floor to ceiling window overlooking the hot tub was a gorgeous place to relax.  Plus a kitchen kitted out with everything imaginable for self catering made our stay a very comfortable one.  Our log cabin also had an outdoor decked area with table, chairs and barbecue.  We spent our days exploring the local area, followed by a soak in the hot tub and cosy evenings playing scrabble in front of the fire.  The Forest Retreat, a café/bar area, reception and a small shop was a short stroll through the woods and across the meadow.

 

 

What I liked about Forest Holidays:

  • Someone checked the water quality and cleaned our hot tub everyday.  A rubber duck was placed on top of the cover to let us know it was ready to use.
  • The hot tub water is changed before each new arrival.
  • The Forest Retreat was perfect for buying take away drinks, fresh bread and supplies.  We also bought wood here for the log burner.
  • We loved ordering ‘room service’ to our cabin through the menu on the tv.
  • A small kitchen starter pack containing bin bags, a sponge and enough dishwasher tablets for the duration of our stay was a nice touch.
  • Ample towels were provided along with some for the hot tub.
  • We had stair gates for our little ones.
  • I loved the underfloor heating!
  • Choosing dates in between school holidays and being low season meant we got a great deal.  Check out Forest Holidays for prices and locations.

 

What I didn’t like:

  • The table in the kitchen was too large, it was a struggle to move around if more than one person was in the kitchen at same time.
  • The stair gate wasn’t great.  Although it was fixed in place for us, it ended up coming loose and unsafe so we took in down.  This is probably something we should have mentioned at check out.
  • Check-in is at 4pm, for an early check-in from 2pm we had to pay £35.  I thought this was a little on the steep side.
  • There was no ice-cube tray…sounds like a minor issue but ice is very important for a G&T!  We got creative and filled egg cups with water.  But for such a well equipped kitchen it is something I would have expected to find.

 

Things to do in the area:

This was my first visit to the Forest of Dean, I hadn’t realised there was so much see and do.  From caves to waterfalls and hundreds of hiking trails I definitely need to go back to explore more.  Beechenhurst has a café, children’s play area, a sculpture trail, climbing tower and Tree Top Junior.  The café does a delicious sausage baguette and cup of tea too.  Symonds Yat Rock is a must visit, the viewpoint is set high up above the River Wye and has gorgeous views.  Biblins Bridge is fun to cross, the rope style suspension bridge is set over the River Wye.  Only 6 people are allowed to cross over on it at once.  I must admit I wasn’t overly sure about crossing over, but it turned out to be fun!  It’s an adventure in itself getting to the bridge, start at Symonds Yat Rock viewpoint and walk down into the valley.  The walk is sign posted and is around 2.8 miles.  Jump on the little ferry by the Saracens Head, but double-check it’s running before commencing the walk as I don’t think it operates all year round.  Once the other side of the river head for Biblins campsite.  For more detail on this walk click here: Symonds Yat Rock to Biblins.  We were unable to do the walk as we hadn’t bought our rucksack carrier for Emily, but we had a lot of fun trying to find it in the car.  Unable to pinpoint an exact location on google map, I did some research and discovered we could get to the bridge through Biblins Campsite.  We drove for a few miles along some very tiny lanes and eventually picked up signs for the campsite.  We parked up and walked down a very steep track in the woods for around a mile until reaching the bottom of the valley and the bridge.  Matt and I underestimated how steep the walk back up would be, a screaming, over tired Emily and two very sweaty parents pushing a buggy for a mile uphill was not a pretty sight! I found a great blog post from Family Days Tried and Tested about their Biblins Bridge adventure, they have some great images of their day out. If you have time it is worth driving over the border into Wales.  We visited Brecon and absolutely loved the views of snowy mountainsides and driving on roads with not a soul around.  If you are looking for a good soft play by the way there’s a fab one just before Brecon called The Play Barn.

 

Bali, Cornwall & California, my 2017 travel roundup…

I’m writing this from a campervan in California overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I’m working with the lovely folks at Jucy campers and spending some time with Matt and Emily exploring a small part of the west coast of America.  2017 has been an exciting year for me in terms of blogging and travel.  I’ve collaborated with some awesome travel brands and taken on some new freelance clients.  I have also returned to my day job as a flight attendant after being on maternity leave.  Emily was born in 2016 and has become our mini travel buddy, she’s been away with Matt and I on a few trips and has already racked up quite a lot of airmiles in her 20 months of being on this planet.  From Cornwall to Bali she is lucky to have experienced some beautiful parts of the world so far.  Read on for my round-up of 2017 and travel plans for 2018….

 

January:  Cheddar, Somerset
Matt surprised me on Christmas day with a trip to Cheddar in Somerset for New Years Eve.  We stayed in a tiny chocolate box cottage with an open fire and lots of old worldy character.  Three days of exploring Cheddar including a trip to the famous gorge and caves, long scenic walks and a cosy evening in by fire the with a bottle of Champagne on New Years Eve made it the perfect way to see in 2017.  Read more on my Cheddar adventure here: A lovely long weekend in Cheddar, Somerset.

 

March: France
In March, Matt, Emily and I went to France with our lovely friends Sam and Graham and Emily’s bestest baby buddy Heidi.  We travelled by ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, I loved the ferry it made a nice change to flying.  Once in France we made our way to the gorgeous harbour town of Port en Bessin and stayed in a three-storey cottage right on the harbour front.  The 5 days saw us going on sunny strolls around the harbour and cliff tops and learning about the D-Day landings the beaches in this area are so famous for.  Eating fresh seafood from the local fish market, enjoying typical French breakfasts in traditional cafes and of course enjoying plenty of bread, wine and cheese; a must do when in this part of the world!  This trip was quite different as working around Emily and Heidi’s nap times often saw us spending time apart from Sam and Graham as the girls’ snoozing patterns didn’t always happen at the same time…but we would always come together in the evenings for a gin and tonic just outside on the harbour wall with the baby monitor by our side and dinner and wine while watching the tide come in from the lounge window.  I loved waking up in the morning to the sounds of the sea, you could view it from pretty much all the rooms in the house.

 

May: London and Menorca
A trip to London for two nights for the Traverse travel blogging conference was awesome.  I was a little nervous about attending by myself, although I needn’t have worried as I met some lovely people and had an amazing two days at the event.  I learnt so much and even got some work from it.  After pitching an idea to the Spanish tourist board I also got invited on a week-long press trip to Menorca, pretty exciting stuff!

A couple of weeks after Traverse, I attended a seven-day press trip in Menorca with a group of bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers.  It was organised by Traverse Events, the Spanish tourist board and Jet2 Holidays, I had the best week.  There was a one day conference with some really interesting sessions and workshops focussing on a whole range of skills from SEO to using a drone.  There were activities and evening events running all week with the opportunity to explore the island.  One of my favourites was a kayaking trip, we paddled along picture perfect coastline and explored caves, which was pretty cool.  The evening events were wonderful too, from tapas at a vineyard to drinks in a cave at sunset overlooking the ocean.  I had such a blast and met so many interesting people, some of which I’m still in contact with, it’s so nice to have friends in the blogging world!

 

June: Beach time and returning to work
June involved lots of sunny beach time and my maternity leave coming to an end.  I really loved being on maternity leave, getting to spend so much time with Emily and Matt and being able to go on some fantastic trips.  I was petrified of returning to my day job as a flight attendant but knowing I was going back on a part-time basis made it feel a little bit easier to handle and by the end of the 8 day training course I was ready to return to the skies!

 

July: Jersey, New York and Cornwall
My first flying roster consisted of a New York and a Jersey nightstop along with some other shorthaul flights.  In New York I explored the West side of Manhattan, took a stroll along the High Line and visited Chelsea Market.  In Jersey there was just enough time for a walk along the seafront and dinner with the crew.

Matt, Emily and I also went on a mini road trip down to Cornwall for a few nights as Matt had some work in Newquay.  We enjoyed a couple of pub lunches, breakfast at Fistral Beach, a walk at Watergate Bay, a bit of shopping in the town and I got to surf at Fistral too.

 

August: New York and Midhurst, West Sussex
I went back to New York twice again in August, which was definitely not a hardship!  On one of the trips I went to see the views from Top of the Rock, the viewing platforms on top of the Rockefeller Center.  I went up years ago but couldn’t resist another visit.  I love the views of the Manhattan skyline and from the Rockefeller Center you can see Central Park, the Empire State Building and pretty much all of Manhattan including the One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty.  It’s such a breathtaking view.  I also explored Central Park with a lovely crew and visited Times Square.  It’s been hard getting used to leaving Emily when I go away, some days I feel really emotional about it.  It’s so nice to be able to see her on FaceTime, it makes me feel not so far away.  Its been great working with other parents too, to know I’m not the only one who struggles with my emotions sometimes!

It was my birthday in August and to celebrate Matt surprised me with a night away while Emily spent the night with hr grandparents.  We stayed at the Spread Eagle Hotel in Midhurst, it has the most gorgeous spa and pool area which we loved relaxing in.  We also enjoyed a G & T or two in the cosy bar area and dinner was just divine.  We finished off our very relaxing 24 hours with a crab salad and a glass of rose at Seven Fish, just so tasty.

 

August & September: Bali
At the end of September we flew out to Bali, via Kuala Lumpur, Matt and I were pretty apprehensive about flying with Emily.  Although we had already done a fair few flights with her, this was the first one with her as a toddler who loves nothing more than running around and exploring!  The flights were full of ups and downs but in general she was such a good girl, after a traumatic beginning to our flight home we did decide we wouldn’t be flying again with her until she was about ten!  Having reflected on it we made a pact that we would only do night flights in the hope that she would sleep for some of it!  Anyway, Bali was just beautiful, we stayed in a private villa with Matt’s parents In Sanur where we enjoyed leisurely mornings by the pool, afternoon strolls along the beach and cocktails while Emily snoozed or played in the sand.  We had a night glamping in Ubud at Sandat Glamping Resort and then a few nights in Canggu.  Seeing the rice terraces and temples was a great experience but I was surprised at just how touristy some of these sights were.  Bali is such a family friendly place so if you are thinking about an adventurous family trip away, I would definitely recommend Indonesia.  For more check out my blog post: Bali with a Baby.

 

October: MSC Cruises and Mallorca
I got an invite to attend #BlogCampOnBoard in October, a blogging event onboard a cruise ship, I of course accepted the invite and found myself climbing aboard the very impressive MSC Preziosa.  The day consisted of a tour of the ship, some interesting blogging sessions, lunch and a Q and A with the MD of MSC UK and Ireland and the marketing team.  I throughly enjoyed exploring the ship and made some lovely new blogging friends, everyone was so friendly and it was great to meet others from different blogging niches from cruising to food and parent bloggers onboard.

 

November: Mallorca and London
I jetted of to Mallorca for some winter sun in November as part of the Spanish and Balearic tourist boards #betterinwinter campaign.  The Balearic Islands are well-known to the British as summer holiday destinations but they are just as lovely in the winter.  There was sunshine everyday in Mallorca while I was there, it was definitely warm enough to sit on the beach.  I spent four days exploring this gorgeous island with four lovely Instagrammers.  We enjoyed tapas in some delightful locations, visited some stunning hotels, strolled around Mallorca’s capital Palma and took in glorious views of the city from the top of Palma Cathedral.  One of my favourite things was a trip to Flor de Sal where salt is produced.  It was such a different thing to do and standing next to 10ft salt mountains was a unique experience.  I loved strolling around the market in Santanyi, it was hard to believe it was November with all the sunshine we had.

I landed from Mallorca and headed straight to London for a few days of sightseeing and shopping with my Mum.  We checked in to the Premier Inn Hub Hotel on Brick Lane in East London.  Our cosy and compact room was perfect for our two night stay and I loved exploring this very cool part of London.  We had breakfast at Spitalfields market, shopped on Oxford Street and took in the views of the city from the Shard.  Earlier on in the year I won tickets at Traverse to visit the Shard, so Mum and I made the most of it by going up at sunset and enjoying the views with a few glasses of champagne.  We also had the best curry back on Brick Lane, if you find yourself in that part of London head to The Monsoon for Thali, so, so good.

 

December: California
As I mentioned in the first few lines, Matt, Emily and I are currently in America.  We are here to spend Christmas with family, it’s so strange to celebrate Christmas in the sunshine compared to the cold, frosty December days in the UK.  I’m not complaining though it’s a very nice change and I also love seeing how Americans embrace Christmas, people definitely decorate the outside of their houses in a much more exciting way than in the UK!  We have also spent ten days roadtripping along the west coast of California within a very cool Jucy campervan.  Its been slightly different to normal as it’s the first road trip we’ve done with Emily.  Picking up our van in San Francisco we travelled up to Point Reyes National Sea Shore, followed by a few nights in Monterey, Morro Bay, Carpinteria and now Carlsbad near San Diego.  More blog posts to come on our adventures soon…It’s safe to say 2017 has been an awesome year and finishing up with Christmas in California is a wonderful way to round it all up.
Travel plans for 2018 so far include a break away with friends to The forest of Dean in February and a family holiday with my parents in Menorca in June.  Matt and I are hoping to explore somewhere far-flung at some point in the year while Emily holidays with her Grandparents…thanks in advance Nana, Grandad, Nanny and Pops!

 

Traverse 17 Travel Blogging Conference…

Last weekend I attended the Traverse travel blogging conference in London, held in a fantastic location at Ravensbourne next door to the O2 and sponsored by some big travel brands, Jet2holidays, Cheapflights and Cathay Pacific to name just a few.  The two-day event consisted of sessions, workshops and pro bars with an opportunity to book a one on one appointment with the speakers, plus plenty of networking with other bloggers and travel brands.  In between chatting to the various travel brands and tourist boards I also picked up some great freebies, who doesn’t love a freebie?!  I attended the first Traverse event back in 2013 and although I’d been before I was a little apprehensive about going alone.  I needn’t have been though, I Tweeted a few days before to find out who else was attending and got a ton of responses from others going alone.  From that Tweet I met and bumped into pretty much all the people I spoke to, it just goes to show the power of social media.  If you are going alone don’t be nervous get chatting to people online, you will meet plenty of new bloggers and everyone is so friendly.
There were so many interesting sessions and workshops I struggled to choose which ones to attend.  I finally settled on the ones below, click on the links to see the slides and presentation notes.  For the talks you can’t make, a good plan is to swap notes with other bloggers who attended different sessions.  The speakers will often provide their notes afterwards on their blog as well or keep an eye out on Twitter or Traverse Events.  This year the #Traverse17 hashtag has been used for all things Traverse related, so take a look for information and updates from the weekend and from those who attended.  It was also used to order booze during the closing panel, a genius tradition that has been going since the first conference!

Sessions I attended:
PR yourself and your blog – How to stand out through content and connections – Susan Schwartz and Alexandra Delf
How to gain followers on Instagram without loosing yourself – Nicola Easterby
Work with Spain – Brand session
Money making game changers – Monica Stott
SEO – what you need to know in an increasingly visual world – Adrian Land
How to successfully pitch to editors – Lauretta Wright and Tania O’Donnell
How to work with brands and negotiate – Kylie Bawden
How to create successful professional partnerships based on the written word – Abi King
How to be prepared when pitching to an airline – Kerwin McKenzie
The other thing I should mention is that Traverse isn’t just about sessions and workshops, the social side is absolutely awesome!  The opening party was held at Altitude London’s Skyloft bar in partnership with Jet2holidays, stunning views of the city accompanied by complimentary alcohol and canapés made for a fantastic first evening.  Saturday night was hosted by City Cruises and sponsored by Cheapflights.  We boarded our boat for the evening at Greenwich Pier and cruised all the way along the Thames passing plenty of famous landmarks such as the Tower of London, London Eye and the highlight was passing under London Bridge.  The sparkling wine was flowing and the evening was a pretty magical one!  Finishing off at Westminster it was time for one last sneaky drink at St Stephen’s Tavern opposite the Houses of Parliament before bed.  Sunday’s conference was rounded off with a closing panel and party at Iberica in Canary Wharf for more drinks and food.  Lunch was also provided over the two days, so you definitely won’t go hungry!

What to wear:
This was a big question mark for me, I couldn’t decide between smart or casual, boots or flip-flops, I’m so indecisive! I struggled with my packing especially as the Saturday conference was followed by the boat trip, what would I wear?!  I eventually settled on a smart casual look and definitely packed more than I needed for the weekend!  From trainers to heels and dresses to jeans, the answer is dress how you feel comfortable as everyone certainly did at the event.
What to take:
I wasn’t sure if I should take my laptop to make notes on, in the end I opted for good old-fashioned pen and paper, which gave me the perfect excuse to buy a new notebook.  Take business cards with you and hand them out at every opportunity, especially when chatting to the travel brands, you never know where it could lead.  I took a copy of the timetable with the weekends talks on too so I could keep an eye on the different sessions going on and work out what to attend.
What I’ve learnt:
I learnt so much from the weekend but the main things I have taken away with me include the fact that your blog needs to have a niche.  It’s not enough to simply say you are a travel and lifestyle blogger you need to delve further! So my niche is: I’m travel and lifestyle blogger with a passion for road trips, surfing and outdoor adventures; as a first time Mum family travel is a focus too. There we go, I now have a niche…or a few!  Being yourself goes along way too and putting personality into your blog will make it a more interesting and personal read.  Less is more: this is definitely something I am taking on board when writing, don’t ramble just get to the point!
I met so many lovely people, it was great to talk travel with fellow travel bloggers and brands.  Shout out to Kerry from 9 – 5 Girl Escapes for the selfies and to Nicole from Lost In This Whole World, Claire from Saltwater, Gemma fromLittle Miss Gem Travels and Neil the Barefoot Backpacker. #Traverse18 is being held in Rotterdam and I’m looking forward to it already!  Huge thanks to Paul and Michael from Traverse Events for putting together another awesome conference!
If you are new to blogging and attending travel events for the first time fight those nerves and just go for it.  Learn, network, but most of all don’t forget to have fun, I certainly did!

 

A lovely long weekend in Cheddar, Somerset….

Hollies Cottage, Somerset
There’s nothing better than sitting by an open fire in a cosy cottage while the weather outside is cold and grey, that was made even better with a glass of champagne on New Years Eve! Matt, Emily and I spent a long weekend in Cheddar over the New Year, Hollies Cottage; our very cosy cottage was our bolthole for a lovely mini break.  Located in the village of Draycott five minutes drive from Cheddar it was in a perfect spot for exploring the area and was well equipped with everything we needed including a travel cot and high chair. Cheddar is famous for Cheddar Cheese and also Cheddar Gorge, the UK’s largest gorge, the chocolate box town is nestled in between a steep valley. The gorge itself is very impressive to drive through, the huge imposing rocky cliffs looked even more impressive on a grey day. The village has some nice coffee shops, cafes and restaurants along with shops selling as you can probably guess, cheese and a handful of touristy type shops. There are also two caves in Cheddar which are open to the public, both are really interesting. For £19 you get entry into Gough’s Cave and Cox’s Cave, The Museum of Prehistory, The Lookout Tower, The Cliff Top Gorge Walk and an open top bus tour during the summer.  If you buy tickets online prior to the day you are going you can get a 15% discount. Gough’s Cave is the larger and my favourite of the two, learn all about the history of the cave with a personal audio guide and see cheese maturing inside. We loved the cliff top gorge walk; the three-mile loop has stunning views of the Mendips and goats grazing on the cliff edges, we bumped into friends here too! After our day in Cheddar we headed back to Draycott and stopped off at the Cider Barn. This quirky ‘pub’ is a must visit, local ciders, homemade pork pies on the bar, a simple menu and log burner made it our venue of choice most afternoons on the way back to our cottage. Not one to be landlocked we also explored the coast; Weston-super-Mare was a 25 minute drive. Huge stretches of sand you can drive on and neat beach huts all lined up in a row was a lovely surprise, it was just a shame about the weather!
I loved Cheddar, the perfect place for a cosy winter getaway and a nice way to see in 2017.