Before the summer holidays are out, get the family into their walking shoes and try these two pop-up walks (free cake included…)
Two guided walks, one in the south of England, one in the north, led by local experts promise a great and free opportunity for families and other small groups to get outside in the open air, enjoy beautiful scenery, and treat themselves to some (also free) homemade cake!
On Saturday 27th August, you can join a tour of the dramatic landscape of Exmoor. Meet at Holnicote House, located near the village of Selworthy in the heart of Exmoor National Park, at 10am for a 6 mile (10km) walk to the summit of Selworthy Beacon, which offers stunning views over the Bristol Channel and Porlock Bay.
If you’re in the north of England, head to the Peak District National Park on Saturday 3 September for a guided walk over hill and dale. Meet at country house, The Peveril of the Peak, at 10am for the start of a 5.5 mile (9km) walk across the limestone plateau, past the rocky outcrops of the Nabs to Dove Holes and along the river to the famous stepping stones at Dovedale Gorge.
To ensure that there is enough cake and local leaders on hand for each event, walkers are encouraged to register their attendance:
There’s a real buzz (ahem…) around King’s Cross right now – take this new tech-enhanced walk around the city’s regenerated area to find out why…
On a sunny Sunday in King’s Cross last week, we tried out the BeeTrail app, created by social enterprise The Honey Club. With a mission to create the largest bee-friendly network in the world, The Honey Club encourages people to get involved with helping vulnerable bee communities in our cities and beyond. This new app, free for iPhone or Android, is part of that mission.
The Bee Trail app takes you on a 45min walk around some of the ‘buzziest’ spots in King’s Cross. Starting at restaurant The German Gymnasium, into Granary Square, down to the canalside, up to the community gardens, past the outdoor swimming pond and ending at the fantastic Skip Garden – the walk takes in eight stops. Turn on your Bluetooth and at each stop the app will automatically ‘unlock’ the next stage (or you can manually type in a code found at each check-in point).
Each stop unlocks a few pages of fascinating bee facts and more about how London’s biodiversity supports the bee population. We learnt a few new things including the stunning fact that there are around 250 different species of bee in the UK!
Several of the stops prompt a ‘bee count’ task – start the app timer and count how many honeybees, solitary bees and two types of bumblebee you can spot within 30 seconds (a pictorial ID guide is provided if your bee knowledge is a bit rusty). On our sunny afternoon, some of these spots were surprisingly light on bees, except for two hotspots literally humming with activity. All counts are recorded as part of a wider survey on bee populations, so your ‘game’ is also a very useful bit of research.
As a thank you, each completed count unlocks rewards in the form of vouchers for discounts or freebies from some of our favourite places in the area including Dishoom, Caravan, The Grain Store, The Skip Garden, German Gymnasium, The Greek Larder, Rotunda and The Lighterman. We recommend ‘eating and drinking’ your way along the trail as you win your reward vouchers (not filling up on lunch beforehand like us – although vouchers are valid until 4th September). As an aside, do make sure you take your time at The Skip Garden – this excellent community garden has been made almost entirely with reclaimed, salvaged and recycled materials. They grow their own produce and have a cute little cafe serving great coffee and cake (and they have a covetable outdoor pizza oven!).
Exploring the redevelopment of King’s Cross, with its influx of new restaurants, bars and event spaces, you can’t help but be impressed with the fact that nature has not been forgotten in this part of the capital. Flowerbeds and window boxes full of bee-friendly plants are found all over the place – along lavender-scented pathways, within playgrounds, and lining the outdoor dining areas of restaurants. It’s a buzzy slice of nature in the city.
The Bee Trail runs until 4th September 2016 – download the app for free at www.beetrail.co.uk.
The street art scene is alive and kicking in London’s Shoreditch – join a tour with a local social enterprise to discover the alternative side of the city…
Meeting under the ‘goat’ sculpture at Spitalfields, we meet Keir and begin our discovery of Shoreditch and Spitalfields’ street art scene. Keir, an artist himself, is a guide with social enterprise Alternative London – a tour operator that supports artists and other young creatives. They may be small but they’ve been number one on TripAdvisor’s London tours list and featured in the Guardian’s top 10 tours in the world!
Our two hour walking tour took a loop through Spitalfields, Brick Lane and Shoreditch, taking in some of the area’s most creative ‘street canvas’ but also disovering some fascinating insights into how this multicultural area of the city has changed over the past 350 years. It was an eye-opener to hear that the building which is currently Brick Lane was once a Jewish synagogue and a Catholic church!
Getting under the skin of the street art scene
Being part of the scene himself, and close friends with many of the artists whose work we viewed, Keir was able to give some insider knowledge (did you know that street artist Stik made £50K from a limited edition print and gave it all away to charity?). Keir also knows that every tour will be different as the landscape is changing daily – new works pop up, literally, overnight.
What a walking tour also teaches you is that you should always look up, and look down. We spotted the small bronze sculptures of Jonesy on top of sign-posts. We saw tree roots transformed into snakes. We saw ‘No Entry’ signs comically ‘defaced’. We saw Invader’s famous mosaics on street corners. We didn’t just see ROA’s awe-inspiring bird and other huge murals but also found out more about how the area, and spots such as Hanbury Street in particular, are magnets for street artists.
Such is the sheer volume of artworks in this area, your guide can’t stop and talk about each and every one. This leaves plenty of opportunities for rewalking the route (backwards?) or taking another tour on another day. This is simply a two-hour snapshot of the scene on that one day.
Walking, cycling, drinking, eating, art(ing?)
Alternative London now run a whole wealth of tours so you can discover the many layers of this neighbourhood. Try a street art bike tour, a pub and craft beer tour, or an East London food tour. They also run street art workshops (which can also be combined with a walking tour) so you can learn how to create your own spray paint masterpiece.
As a social enterprise, Alternative London directs a portion of its profits into youth art workshops, free to budding street artists, and helps fund some of the largest street murals in London’s East End.
When/How to book
The Alternative London Walking Tour lasts 1.5-2hrs and runs Mon-Sat with multiple departure times on some days. For full dates/times and booking, plus more details of all of the tours and workshops on offer, visit www.alternativeldn.co.uk.
There may be a rather large RHS flower show taking place in the neighbourhood this May, but this year’s Chelsea Fringe is coming up roses…
The 2016 Chelsea Fringe, the alternative garden festival, has plenty of quirky delights of the floral variety to keep gardeners (and non-gardeners) alike in the pink. Art, design, poetry, music, science and food with a horticultural focus will come together for three weeks of events from 21 May – 12 June across London, the UK and four international locations.
The festival expands beyond SW3 to every London quarter, the far corners of the UK including the Isle of Mull in Scotland, Monmouth in Wales, Margate, Leeds, Bristol and Henley-on-Thames in England, and internationally to Sweden, Poland, Italy and Australia.
Emerging themes for the 2016 Fringe include: health and well-being – the essential benefits of medicinal plants and gardening in battling depression and other health issues; wild food is the new street food – urban food foraging and how to spot edible plants and flowers in a city’s green spaces; a history of guerilla gardening – the importance of green spaces in urban planning and public spaces; domestic farming – how to use your garden space for small-scale food production; and the more decorative art of flower arranging – from how to make posies & table centerpieces to a floating flotilla on the Thames.
A few highlights from the festival include:
Heywood and Condie’s Greenhouse – horticultural installation artists Heywood & Condie have created a piece of sculptural architecture on the forecourt of Royal British Society of Sculptors consisting of a greenhouse constructed from discarded 18th and 19th stained glass. The Christian imagery has been dismantled and reused to present a world of chimeras, mythical creatures and folkloric hybrids. 25 May until September. FREE.
Borough Market: Find and Feast – Join urban forager, Ceri Buckmaster, on a wild food walk around Southwark and discover how to identify seasonal plants and flowers in some unexpected locations, then finish the morning at the demonstration kitchen in Borough Market and learn how to cook delicious recipes using them with chef and food blogger Celia Brooks. 27 May, 11am-2.30pm. FREE.
Perfume in Georgian London – east London Antique emporium, Townhouse, present a series of talks by renowned horticulturist, Stephen Nelson, focusing on the English garden and its direct link to perfume over the past four centuries. 31 May, 3-4pm. FREE.
Prescribing gardens and gardening for mental health and well-being – the British Medical Association Mind Garden presents a lecture series on medicinal plants and their health benefits. 26 May, 2 June, 9 June, 4.30 – 6.30pm. FREE.
Behind the Wall – New Covent Garden Flower Market are offering free tours behind the scenes of the UK’s largest flower market. Visitors will get to see what inspires London’s florists and learn about the market’s history. 21 May, 7 – 8.30pm, FREE.
Floral Flotilla – A fabulous show of a range of river craft covered in variety of floral displays will moor up adjacent to Mill House in Henley-on Thames. Visitors on foot can enjoy a picnic on the bank accompanied by live music by local musicians. 21 May, 11am-3pm. FREE.
Fancy a trip to The Humps, a visit to Herm or a jaunt on Jethou?
Herm, Jethou and The Humps (a collection of sandbanks off the north-east corner of Herm), part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey in the English Channel, have, this month, been formally designated as a Ramsar site under The Convention on Wetlands. This puts them on the map as a great destination for nature tourists.
The new site joins the Bailiwick’s three existing Ramsar sites in Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The status gives international recognition of the special environmental, cultural and heritage characteristics of wetlands to ensure the conservation of key species and habitats.
The various marine and land habitats on and around Herm support a rich diversity of flora and fauna including important breeding areas for sea bird species such as the Lesser black backed gull, Puffin and Shag. In addition, Herm Common has an excellent cultural heritage, with numerous archaeological remains.
Visiting Herm – how to get there and where to stay
Herm Island lies three miles off the east coast of Guernsey and is reached by catamaran from St Peter Port, Guernsey with Trident Ferries (www.traveltrident.com). The trip takes 20 minutes. Timetables vary depending on time of year with eight departures a day in peak season in July and August. Standard return fare is £12.50 per adult, £6.50 per child and £1.50 per infant. Tickets are purchased at the wooden kiosk in St Peter Port harbour.
The four star White House Hotel is Herm’s only hotel which is renowned for good food and wine in a beautiful setting (also worth noting is that the hotel boasts no clocks or televisions so you can really escape!). Room rates start at £128.00 per adult per night, including breakfast and dinner.
For further information on Guernsey including accommodation and things to do, visit www.visitguernsey.com
To celebrate the new Chinese Year of the Monkey, we visited the UK’s first Magical Lantern Festival…
Don’t let the typical February weather put you off visiting this spectacular outdoor show (wind and rain made an unwelcome appearance the evening we visited – just wrap up warm and take waterproofs!). The Magical Lantern Festival, making its UK debut at Chiswick House in west London, is a sight to behold, offering enough ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ moments to warm the most jaded of hearts.
The festival is essentially a 1hr+ trail around the grand Chiswick House gardens to view around 50 amazing and beautiful lantern displays. Don’t just think pretty lights – these are intricate and often HUGE sculptures of flowers, animals, birds and temples.
Highlights included the cute pandas, sparkling jellyfish, giant flowers, flocks of flamingoes, a life-sized African safari, and a 60m long Chinese dragon! There are super-sized light sculptures of giraffes, zebra, monkeys and antelope; giant goldfish, Oriental ducks and frogs on lily pads; decorated swans, peacocks and elephants; cute renderings of the Chinese zodiac characters; a ‘terracotta army’; even a marching band of ants.
Good use is made of the grand setting with illuminations floating on the lake, dotted around the trees and set against the Palladian architecture of Chiswick House. (click on our galleries for more pictures from the festival)
Food & Drink
There are a smattering of street food stalls selling warming churros, toast-your-own marshmallows, satay, African curries and venison burgers. All good stuff but not a cornucopia of food and drink that you’d expect at a festival (or an abundance of Chinese goodies we were craving!) – it’s good enough for grabbing a bite to eat at the beginning or end of the trail.
All-in-all, this inaugural festival has enough surprising and intriguing sights to make it a very en-light-ening experience (sorry…).
Visitor info: The Magical Lantern Festival runs until Sunday 6th March 2016, starting at 5pm each day. Tickets are around £16 per person (click here to purchase). Find the festival at Chiswick House and Gardens, London W4 2RP.
The magnificent Lake District has been linked to some of the world’s best loved writers. Now you too can find inspiration among the Lakes on this creative writing holiday…
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birthday, Linthwaite, a luxury country hotel in the Lake District, is launching a new Creative Writing Break this February.
The spectacular landscape of the Lake District has been a huge influence on some of England’s best-known writers including William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter, who lived most of her adult life there as she wrote her classic tales of Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher and Jemima Puddle-Duck. After her death in 1943, she left her 14 farms and 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust, which to date is one of the largest and most important legacies in the Lake District.
Creative writing for beginners to published authors
Designed to unlock your creativity, the residential course at Linthwaite is suitable for everyone, from beginners to published authors. It takes place on 29th February – 3rd March 2016, just before the region’s annual literary festival ‘Words by the Water’ in Keswick on 4th -13th March.
The 3-day Creative Writing Course will be run by Angela Locke, author of six internationally published novels and non-fiction/travel books and a prize-winning poet with five published collections. The course will help participants to find their creative voice, expand their minds and encourage them to write poetry, stories and prose in a supportive environment.
Country house accommodation with stunning views
Award-winning Linthwaite, situated only a few minutes from the famous Bowness-on-Windermere and originally built as a country house in 1901, has been independently owned for 25 years. Sitting in 14 acres of landscaped gardens, the hotel offers complete privacy and spectacular panoramic views across Lake Windermere and the surrounding fells. Its picturesque location should get the creative juices flowing!
Linthwaite boasts 30 individually designed bedrooms, some of which feature hot tubs and free standing baths. Guests are encouraged to get out and explore the fantastic walking routes in the area (and Hunter wellies are available for all guests to borrow if you’ve come unprepared!).
The Creative Writing Break includes:
3 day Creative Writing Course based on site at Linthwaite
3 nights’ accommodation at Linthwaite (29th February to 3rd March)
Dinner on 2 of the nights in Linthwaite’s award-winning restaurant with 3 AA rosettes
Private viewing and recital at Wordworth’s home, Rydal Mount
Dinner at Wordworth’s home
Rydal Mount was Wordsworth’s best loved family home for the greater part of his life from 1813 to his death in 1850 at the age of 80. It was here that he wrote many of his poems, revised and improved much of his earlier works, and published the final version of his most famous poem ‘Daffodils’.
Prices for the Creative Writing Break start at £462 per person based on double occupancy (one course participant) and £750 per person for sole occupancy and course participation. To book the ‘Creative Writing Break’ visit www.linthwaite.com or call 015394 88600
Fancy some star-spotting this February half-term? Thanks to low light pollution you could be seeing up to 2,000 stars in one of Yorkshire’s National Parks!
The week-long Dark Skies Festival, taking place from 15th to 21st February 2016, invites visitors to eye the skies and discover the wonder of stargazing in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks.
The low light pollution in both Parks makes them an ideal location for spotting constellations, shooting stars and other cosmic happenings. Together with sky-at-night events, visitors will also be able to discover more of the nocturnal world within the National Parks with guided torchlight walks highlighting the wildlife activity at night.
The programme of activities includes a host of other events such as a dark sky trail run, evening caving, storytelling, glow-in-the-dark writing, poetry readings, solar system scavenger hunt, telescope-making and craft activities throughout the week.
The main events will be held in and around the National Park Centres in Reeth, Aysgarth Falls and Danby, and Sutton Bank and Hawes, both of which are also designated Dark Sky Discovery sites, with skies that have been found to be sufficiently dark that the Milky Way can be seen to the naked eye.
Dalby Forest, another Milky Way class Dark Sky Discovery site in the North York Moors, will also be involved as well as events held in conjunction with Hidden Horizons on the coast.
Both National Parks are working with groups such as the Reeth Informal Astronomy Group and Whitby & District Astronomical Society to stage the Festival. Businesses and attractions throughout the National Parks are also being encouraged to participate by organising their own dark skies event, making it a celestial celebration right across the Dales and North York Moors from the Pennines to the coast.
Richard Darn, astronomer and dark skies hunter, commented: “Yorkshire is fortunate to have some very special spots in both National Parks which are a stargazer’s paradise. In an urban area you will be lucky to see 20 stars on a clear night whereas in an area of low light pollution such as the National Parks you could see as many as 2,000.
“We will glimpse the great winter constellations of Orion and Gemini as they give way to the sparkling spring stars of Leo. We’ll also have a stunning view of Jupiter and a waxing moon. It’s a fabulous time to celebrate this amazing Universe and our wonderful dark parks.”
It’s time to go slow this autumn and winter… From cooking ‘slow’ brunches to making your own leather tea tray, the new SLOWmotion workshops are here to teach us all the joys of slow living.
Organised by food magazine and event company TOAST, this new series of foodie and lifestyle workshops and events is all about celebrating the ‘slow life’. Mass production and instant gratification, step aside!
Taking place at the beautiful Rosewood hotel in London’s Bloomsbury, expect tasty brunches full of plenty of sharing plates featuring slow food ingredients from the regular Sunday Slow Food & Living Market in the hotel’s courtyard.
As well as eating brunch with foodies including Rosie Birkett and Jackson & Levine, you could even make your own tray, table runner and spoon! Join one of several workshops which each focus on a different craft, and explore mindfulness and slow living by traditional techniques. Each workshop host will teach guests how to make an item to take home (ideal for Christmas gifts) as well as discussing their story and lifestyle.
See the full schedule of events and workshops below.
Location: The Living Room, Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN
SLOWmotion Autumn/Winter 2015 Schedule
12-2:30pm, September 27th – Slow Food Brunch with Signe Johansen
A Slow Food brunch with Signe Johansen, Norwegian-American cook, writer and food anthropologist, and author of best-selling cookbooks Scandilicious and Scandilicious Baking; expect such delights as the Scandi Bloody Mary with tomato juice from the market, 58 Gin, Halen Mon smoked water, dill, horseradish and cucumber and Crispy Cod Cheeks with Nordic Dill Salsa, plus, to take home, Skoleboller or “school buns” – Norwegian vanilla custard filled buns with coconut www.twitter.com/SigneSJohansen
11am-1pm, October 11th – Slow Living Workshop with Grain & Knot
A Slow Living workshop with woodworker Sophie Sellu of Grain & Knot. Learn the art of crafting a spoon from reclaimed timber. During the workshop guests will learn the safest way to use wood carving knives and leave with their very own spoon. A kit of sandpaper and a homemade wood balm will be given to each attendee to continue to care for their spoons at home www.grainandknot.com
11am-1pm, October 18th – Slow Living Workshop with Waffle Design and Curate & Display
A Slow Living and interior design workshop with Waffle Design in collaboration with Curate & Display, a lifestyle and design blog. WAFFLE is a fresh range of home interior accessories made using organic cotton and a tactile waffle weave. The creative lead and founder Ciara McGarrity will share Waffle Design craft secrets, and teach guests how to create bespoke table runners. Tiffany Grant-Riley, the founder or Curate & Display, will talk about her thought process with creative, modern, clean interiors. www.waffledesign.co.uk // www.curateanddisplay.co.uk
12-2:30pm, November 1st – Slow Food Brunch with Rosie Birkett
A Slow Food brunch with Rosie Birkett, food writer, stylist, presenter and author of the bestselling cookbook A Lot on Her Plate, a collection of imaginative, delicious and approachable recipes that draw on the culinary vibrancy of seasonal, fresh produce and simple, store-cupboard ingredients www.rosiebirkett.com
12-2:30pm, November 8th – Slow Food Brunch with Jackson & Levine aka Laura Jackson & Alice Levine
A Slow Food brunch from London’s coolest supperclub hosts Jackson & Levine. With Laura Jackson and Alice Levine both working in TV and radio, they set up their supperclub as a passion project to create an interesting and fun environment for like-minded food folk to sit round a table and enjoy a home cooked meal and a glass (or three) of wine www.jacksonandlevine.co.uk
12-2:30pm, November 15th – Slow Food Brunch with Claire Ptak of Violet Bakery
A Slow Food brunch with Claire Ptak, food stylist, food writer and owner of Violet Bakery in East London. Hailing from California, Claire trained in the pastry department at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters, who subsequently wrote a moving foreword to her recent book The Violet Bakery Cookbook. Claire focuses on seasonal ingredients, natural flavourings, wholegrains and unrefined sugars when baking. Bringing a Californian sensibility to everything she does, she has also worked with Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi. www.violetcakes.com
11am-1pm, November 22nd – Slow Living Workshop with Doe Leather
A Slow Living and leather workshop with Doe Leather, one of the last remaining Black Country leather goods workshops. Using natural vegetable-tanned leather, Deborah Thomas will teach guests how to create a beautiful leather tray. Attendees will learn the basics of leather sewing with different coloured harness threads, burnishing (on the edges of the leather with special gum and linen cloths) and then hand-stamp their initials into the final piece www.doeleather.co.uk
12-2:30pm, November 29th – Slow Food Brunch with Meera Sodha
A Slow Food brunch with Meera Sodha, cook, food writer and author of the bestselling cookbook Made in India: Cooked in Britain, a collection or recipes focusing on Gujarati cuisine written as she hovered over her mother’s shoulder at the stove www.meerasodha.com
More events, including Christmas specials, to be announced!
There’s nothing bitter about the coffee at this new social enterprise cafe…
Opened just over six months ago in Peckham, south London, the Old Spike Roastery is a little different to all the other indie coffee shops opening in gentrified corners of London. This cafe employs homeless and former homeless people. Its mission is to get them get back on their feet by providing them with training, paid employment, and other support such as housing and language lessons.
Excellent coffee roasted on the premises
The coffee is excellent – single origin, speciality beans, hand-roasted on the premises. Also on sale is bread from Breaking Bread in Nunhead (a social enterprise that employs ex-offenders), plus Crosstown doughnuts and brownies.
You don’t have to go to Peckham to drink their coffee. Their hand-roast is available to buy online – if you subscribe you get a fresh bag sent out every Thursday tailored to how you make your coffee at home. Every bag sold goes some way to helping a homeless person get back on their feet.
Founded by childhood friends Cemal Ezel and Richard Robinson, both local to the Peckham area, the inspiration for the social aspect of the enterprise came from Cemal visiting the Reaching Out teahouse in Hoi An which employs waitresses with hearing loss. Richard was inspired to roast coffee in-house after spending three years in the caffeine-fueled city of New York.
So next time you’re in Peckham, drop in for a coffee and say hello. You may meet Lucy, their first trainee barista who is now working at Old Spike after the founders saw her selling the Big Issue outside London Bridge station.
Old Spike Roastery is open Mon-Fri 7.30am to 3pm, and Sat-Sun 9.30am to 5pm. Find them at 54 Peckham Rye, London SE15 4JR.