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Days Out | Winston Churchill’s Chartwell

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Last year we went on a mini-adventure, with our friends Jamie and Liana, to Chartwell. The house is based in Kent and is best known as the country house of Sir Winston and Lady Clementine Churchill. It opened as a National Trust property in 1966, one year after the death of Sir Winston.

The House

On entering the Victorian red brick estate you start through the entrance lobby and follow your way through the house, almost as Churchill left it, to take in the living room, dining room, and the bedrooms, which have been turned into display rooms for the many honours and awards given to the Churchill’s. The stunning reveal at the end of the tour is Churchill’s study on the first floor.  Despite the fact the house was rarely used during World War II due to its proximity to the coast facing Europe, it was an important room throughout Churchill’s political life.

chartwellThe Gardens

Sir Winston loved the estate and he created many of the features in the estate including the lakes and the kitchen garden. A little-known fact about Churchill is that he was an amateur, but very competent, bricklayer and enjoyed building the Marycot, a playhouse, for his daughter. He was also a very accomplished painter and regularly painted across the estate, with some of his paintings hanging in Parliament.   His workroom is full of some great works of art and the room is regularly used for demonstrations. The estate grounds stretch for some good walking routes through the woodlands and through the immediate grounds giving stunning views of the house. Just be mindful of the swimming pool!


More information

Chartwell was bought by a consortium of businessmen in 1946, who bought the estate when the Churchill’s could not afford to run the property.  The estate was to be given to the National Trust once both Churchill ‘s had died.  They continued to live at the estate paying a nominal rent.  The estate was given to the Trust shortly after Sir Winston had died by his wife Lady Clementine.

The estate is a great location to learn more about the private life of Churchill and a great house and gardens to explore.   You can find out more about Chartwell here.

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28th September 2016

Top Five | Adventuring

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Top Five

Life can get pretty busy, with lots of things competing for time and attention, but sometimes it pays to ignore an ever growing ‘to-do’ list and escape for a little adventure. That is what we did this weekend, and is in our top five, let’s have a look at the rest:



On Sunday we met up with our friends Ben & Lauren, and their son Dexter for a little adventure down to Lymington in the New Forest. Lymington is as lovely harbour town perfect for a little day trip, or perhaps a night away.



We have been trying to hold off but we finally succumbed to getting the pumpkin decorations out, and buying a couple of fresh pumpkins to decorate the cottage. We found these glass pumpkins at Homesense, a great shop for finding autumn decorations.


New Forest Ice Cream

How delicious does this cone from New Forest Ice Cream look?  Answer: scrumptious!  For the record that is one scoop of millionaires shortbread flavour and one of white chocolate and brownie flavour.



Rich’s folks are just back from a holiday in Malta. Obviously, they bought us the obliquity airport chocolates (we got a bar of Toblerone too). Malta sounds a lovely country and it has leapfrogged up our list of future travel destination! Also, they speak English and drive on the left, sounds good to us!


Walkie Talkie

It was Ben’s birthday last week. For his present, we bought him a pair of walkie talkies. We used them on our trip down to Lymington. They are great fun and really add to the adventure, great when travelling in convoy! Over.


26th September 2016

Total Guide to Alderney

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Total Guide to Alderney

Rich’s family have been visiting the channel island of Alderney for decades and have many friends on the island. Rich’s first visit was when he was just six weeks old, returning annually until he was a teenager and sporadically heading back there ever since.  Alderney was Calum & Rich’s first holiday together and we are planning on heading back for our third joint visit to the island soon.  This is our guide to the island we hope you find it helpful!

Total Guide to Alderney | Braye Beach

The Basics

Alderney is the third largest of the Channel Islands. Located a few miles of the French coast the Channel Islands we part of the historic Duchy of Normandy.  The English kings lost control of their French territories in the early  13th Century but the channel islanders chose to declare continued loyalty to the English crown.  Alderney’s strategic location made it an important location for the British military, there are several victorian forts still on the island.  During the second worlds war the channel islands were occupied, Alderney itself was completely evacuated of civilians. After the Nazis moved in they developed the existing forts for their own use and set up a forced labour camp. Read more…

27th July 2016

Day out | Hidcote Manor Garden

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There can’t be a much more quintessentially english garden than Hidcote Manor Garden in the Cotswolds? And is so often the way it took an outsider to distill the essence of English garden design, the garden was created in the early 20th Century by the American Major Lawrence Johnston. Johnston was an anglophile and moved to Britain with his mother around 1900, he took British citizenship and joined the British army, fighting in the Boer war and reaching the rank of Major. Johnston’s mother, Mrs. Winthrop purchased Hidcote Manor in 1907, and so started the process of creating the famous gardens.

Located in the north of the Cotswolds, not far from Chipping Campden, Hidcote Manor Garden is a perfect example of Arts and Crafts garden design. Johnston was inspired by the gardens of Gertrude Jekyll. The garden is designed around a succession of garden rooms, it mixes a formal layout with romantic planting that are characteristic of this of this style of garden (see also Sissinghurst Gardens).  Some of the garden rooms include a white garden, a maple garden, the red borders and the pillar garden. There are plenty more to explore including an excellent kitchen garden, a rose walk and a peaceful wilderness.

Johnston was a keen plant hunter, traversing the world to bring back the perfect plants for Hidcote.  Many plants have been named in Hidcote Manor Garden and Johnston’s honour, the most famous of which probably being Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ and Penstemon ‘Hidcote Pink’.

Although the garden can get very busy the garden room structure means the garden doesn’t feel overwhelmed. As with many National Trust properties they have an excellent cafe and a lovely little shop (we love a little shop!)  Also be sure to visit their plant centre to bring back a piece of Hidcote Manor Garden for your own patch at home.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the garden on a beautiful summer’s day, we love the Cotswolds in general and it is great to visit such an important and inspirational english garden.

Find out more at the National Trust Website.

Hidcote Manor Garden 15Hidcote Manor Garden 14Hidcote Manor Garden 12 Read more…

20th July 2016

12 of the Best Châteaux of the Loire Valley

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Châteaux Loire Valley

We recently spent a week’s holiday in the Loire Valley, it is a beautiful part of France and home to some of the best Châteaux.  They span centuries of French history in a multitude of different architectural styles.  We visited a dozen of the best and here are our thoughts. If you have any questions or suggestions please let us know in the comments.

Château de Villandry

Best for impressive gardens

Château de Villandry

A late renaissance chateau mostly famous for its stunning gardens. The gardens were created in 1906 using 16th century designs. They are by far the most impressive of any of the gardens in the Loire and a must visit of any garden enthusiasts. Discover more…

Château de Azay-le-Rideau

Best for a peaceful retreat

Château de Azay-le-Rideau

Whilst not the grandest or most historical, Château de Azay-le-Rideau wins out with its graceful architecture and peaceful setting on an island in the river Indre. Discover more…

Château d’Ussé

Best for fairytale escapism

Château d'Ussé

If you are looking for a fairy book Château d’Usse is the one for you. The chateau has countless turrets, romantic gardens and is said to have been the inspiration behind Charles Perrault’s version of Sleeping Beauty. The interiors are beautiful if a bit tired around the edges. Discover more…

Forteresse royale de Chinon

Best for military history

Forteresse royale de Chinon

An impressive fortress overlooking the town, now mostly in ruins but was once the home to medieval kings and has links to Joan of Arc. It has a good multimedia exhibition on the history of the kings that built the fortress. Discover more…

Château de Chambord

Best for majestic grandness

Château de Chambord

The largest and grandest of all the Loire chateaux with stunning renaissance architecture and a stately presence.  Built by François I as a royal hunting lodge, albeit one with over 400 rooms. In the centre is the chateau’s famous double helix staircase, reputably designed by Leonardo di Vinci. Discover more…

Château Royal de Blois

Best for gory history     

Château Royal de Blois

In the center of Blois the Château Royal has a bit of a split personality architectural speaking, with medieval, renaissance and classical wings.  It has been the site of some important events in French royal history, including a bloody murder sanctioned by King Henri III whilst he hid behind the tapestries. Discover more…

Château de Cheverny

Best for classical beauty

Château de Cheverny

A practically perfect proportioned chateau. Built in the 1630s in the French classical style, Cheverny is the epitome of elegance. Famously it was also the inspiration for Marlinspike Hall in the Tintin comics, it has an exhibition to this link in the grounds. Make sure you visit the kennels in the grounds, Cheverny hunt’s 70 fox hounds live here and are a joy to behold. Discover More…

Château d’Angers

Best for medieval history

Château d'Angers

A foreboding city center fortress was once home to the powerful Dukes of Anjou. Built overlooking the river Maine the chateaux was strategically very important in the early medieval period. It is also home to the awe inspiring Apocalypse Tapestries house in purpose built galleries added in the 1950s. Discover more…

Château de Chenonceau

Best for feminine elegance

Château de Chenonceau

Known as the Ladies’ Château due to the prominent women that built and looked after the place.  It is an extremely elegant Château that gracefully spans over the river Cher.  It has a fascinating history from medieval kings’ mistresses right up to WWII, the château spanned the border between occupied and free France. Surrounded by beautiful gardens make this one of the most enjoyable in all of the Loire valley to visit. Discover more…

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Best for inspiring gardens

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Seemingly a perfect medieval château, Chaumont-sur-Loire was built as a defensive fortress in the 14th Century, although it was quickly developed into the renaissance style and was significantly renovated in the 19th Century. It has gorgeous views over the Loire, and wonderful gardens that are well worth exploring.  Each summer the International Garden Festival is held in the grounds, worth a visit.  The château and grounds also houses some excellent contemporary art. Discover more…

Château Royal d’Amboise

Best for impressive views

Château Royal d'Amboise

Majestically located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the charming town of Amboise.  Not much is left of the once impressive château but in the remaining rooms you still get a sense of the royal splendour from the 15th and 16th centuries. Make sure to visit the chapel of Saint-Hubert where Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the nearby Clos Lucé, is buried. Discover more…

Château de Saumur

Best for storybook silhouette 

Château de Saumur

Situated high above the genteel town is the fairytale Château de Saumur, mostly built in the 13th century on the site of an earlier fortification it has a graceful silhouette with plenty of towers, pinnacles and chimney stacks. Discover more…

We've been discovering the best Châteaux of the Loire Valley.
22nd June 2016

Top Five | June’s arrival

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Top Five

So June is here, and despite the cold weather during the week the weekend turned out rather pleasant.  Let’s see what is in this weeks top five:


Top Five | Peonies

June means it is Peony season! Peonies are probably both of our favourite flowers, so having a bunch around the place makes us very happy. And despite its short season it is probably also one of our favourite garden plants. There is something about their big blouse blooms that make us very happy!


Top five | Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants

We went out house hunting on Saturday, as I am sure most of you know finding the perfect new home can be very stressful. Whilst we were out an about we popped into Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants near Whitchurch, Hampshire. What a great little nursery, full to the brim of lots of interesting and unusual varieties. Well worth a visit!


Top five | GoPro

After pondering it for a while we finally bit the bullet and bought a GoPro. We have been thinking about getting one for a while and ahead of our holiday to France next week we thought now would be a great opportunity. So far it has mainly been used for a couple of selfies (see below) and many many pictures of the pets.


Top five | Alice Holt

Sunday was glorious weather so we decided to go for a picnic with our good friends Ben & Lauren, and their son (and our godson) Dexter. We headed off to Alice Holt Forest and did their Gruffolo trail. It is great outdoors adventure for little people!


Top Five | GoPro

It is our five year anniversary on 6th June. Doesn’t time fly? Back in 2011 we met for a beer in a central London pub and instantly hit it off. Rich had written a spoof job advert about what he was looking for in a boyfriend and had shared it via twitter, one of the ‘job requirements’ was to be over 6″1, Calum responded that at 6″6 he qualified. The rest, as they say, is history!

6th June 2016

Orchard Escapes | Exploring the Yorkshire Coast

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We have recently returned from a few days visiting Calum’s goddaughter and her family up in North Yorkshire. They live just outside Scarborough, and it makes a great base for exploring the Stunning Yorkshire Coast.  This is what we got up to.


Yorkshire Coast | Whitby

Whitby is a lovely old fishing town, famous for its black jet, it’s ruined abbey and it’s goth scene. The town is split in two by the river Esk, the older town being on the east bank and the new part on the west bank. Both sides are full of independents shops, cafes and pubs making the town a perfect place to while away a couple of hours.

From the old town you can climb the 199 steps to St. Mary’s Church (Calum counted them to be sure they got it right!) and the atmospheric ruins of Whitby Abbey. This offers amazing views over the town. The Abbey was inspiration for Bram Stoker’s gothic novel ‘Dracula’

Historically, the town is proud of being the birth place of Captain Cook.  You can visit the memorial, go to the Captain Cook Museum or go on a boat trip around the harbour and along the coast on the Bark Endeavour, a replica of the HMS Endeavour at 40% Size.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway starts in Whitby.  The Steam trains take you on an 18-mile heritage route that goes into the Yorkshire Moors National Park ending at Pickering.

More recently, and given that Whitby is a harbour town, it is also famous for its fish and Chips. Our recommendation was for Magpies Cafe although we didn’t get to try it this trip, we will be shore the go next time, by all accounts it is a Whitby institution!

Before we left we bought some local food and drink from Whitby Deli.  We picked up some great Whitby Brewery beers, our favourite being the Abbey Blonde.

Robin Hood Bay

Yorkshire Coast | Robin Hood Bay

One of the most picturesque places on the Yorkshire Coast is Robin Hood Bay, an historic fishing (and smuggling) village located five miles south of Whitby. Robin Hood Bay’s main attraction it is large beach which is perfect for fossil hunting.  You need to park at the top of the town and wander down the steep lane to get there. On the way down you pass charming shops, cafes and pubs.  At the bottom you will find the Old Coastguard Station, a National Trust visitors centre to help you get a sense of the natural history of the area.

There are a couple of welcoming looking pubs near the beach but we decided to have fish and chips form Mariondale Fisheries and sat overlooking the bay to enjoy them.


Yorkshire Coast | Ravenscar

Ravenscar is a tiny village between Whitby and Scarborough has an interesting history dating back to Roman times. After popping into the National Trust visitor centre we headed on one of the self-guided walks. The views are stunning looking north back to Robin Hood Bay but you’ll need to have had your Weetabix as the route is pretty steep!

The Walk takes in the ruins of the Alum works.  Alum was an important chemical in the production in of textiles, used for fixing dyes.  Between the 16th and the 19th centuries the Yorkshire Coast was key to the Alum industry. The ruined works at Ravenscar are well preserved and allows you to get a good idea how the process operated. Should you fancy you can actually rent a holiday cottage here, perfect if you are looking for a remote get away with spectacular coastal views.

In the late 19th Century plans were drawn up to turn Ravenscar into a rival holiday resort to Scarborough. Roads and sewers were put in place in preparation of the growth of the town, but the developers went bust before the scheme could get off the ground.

Ravenscar is also the the highest point on The Cinder Track, a cycle path between Scarborough and Whitby which sits on the route of a disuse railway.


Yorkshire Coast | Scarborough

If you are looking for the quintessential seaside town Scarborough is the place to visit. Claiming to be the country’s first seaside resort, Scarborough boasts everything you’d expect; arcades, donkey rides, fish & chips, plenty of places to eat and drink, and an relaxed seaside vibe.

There are two main beaches in town: South Bay Beach is a sandy beach near the town centre and shelter by the headland. North Bay is quieter but it is also a blue flag beach, meaning it is one of the cleanest in Europe.  We were lucky enough to have the use of one of the North Bay’s beach huts so we spent most of our time up here.

At the end of the North Bay is the Sea Life Centre & Marine Sanctuary in addition to their selection of marine life on show they have the only Seal Hospital on the Yorkshire Coast. You can get to the Sea Life Centre along the minature North Bay Railway. They also have a pirate themed adventure golf course (We are MASSIVE adventure golf fans!)

On the headland between the beaches is Scarborough Castle. This medieval keep is in a commanding location, it would have been a spectacle to behold and easy to defend. The castle is mostly ruined now, but it is great to walk around and learn about the 3000 year history of the site.

Yorkshire Coast | Scarborough Castle

We hope you have found our little guide helpful, if you have any extra tips please let us know in the comments section. For more information of visiting the Yorkshire coast take a look at the office tourist guide website

Exploring the North Yorkshire Coast. Such a beautiful part of the world.
1st June 2016

Top Five | A busy weekend

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Top Five

We had a very busy weekend, time up in London and getting on with chores out at the cottage. Busy but happy, let’s see what this weeks top five includes:


Sutton House

On Saturday we were busy in London. Whilst we were on our travels we stopped to have a look round The National Trust’s property Sutton House. It is an interesting Tudor house with a long and varied history. Worth exploring if you ever find yourself in the area.


West Elm Plates

When we were out and about on Saturday we popped into West Elm This one of our favourite shops and we always make a point of having a look round whenever we are in town. We picked up a couple of cool plates for a display using some new and vintage pieces we’re planning. We will share more on that at a later date.


Annie the Cat

Although we are busy with the veg patch there is not much specific to report. We have planted most things out and everything seems to be coming along well. Like most gardeners we have an ongoing battle with slugs! Annie, the cat, has taken a fancy to sleeping on the straw we have put out to protect the strawberries. We’d get angry with her, but she is just so cute!


Candle by the fire

Life can get pretty busy sometimes, this weekend seemed to be particularly actioned packed. So come Sunday night we put on some candles, snuggled up on the sofa and watched Countryfile followed by Star Wars. Sunday nights don’t come much better!


Top 23053

Wild flowers are particularly lovely at this time of year. Cow Parsley (sometimes called Queen Anne’s Lace) is an absolute favourites of ours. It is brightening up the place no end.

23rd May 2016

Top Five | Birthday Week

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Top Five

It’s was Richard’s Birthday this week, any excuse for a some celebrations is good with us!  Let’s see what this week’s top five includes:


Top Five 16051

On Tuesday it was Richard’s 34th Birthday. Where does the time go to? To celebrate we went out for a meal at The Sun Inn, Chobham with Richard’s folks.  An excellent meal and really good value!


Top Five 16052

Carrying on the celebration on Wednesday we both took the day off work and headed to Bristol Zoo. For the passed three years we have gone to a zoo as a birthday day out for Richard, so this year we carried on the tradition. It is a lovely little zoo, and well worth a visit if you are in the area.


Top Five 16055

It was also our good friend Lauren’s Birthday last week so on Saturday we had Lauren, Ben and our Godson Dexter round for a drinks and nibbles in the sunshine.  All very civilised!


Top Five 16054

Looking for something to do on Sunday we decided to head to Winchester, it is not far from us but we had never visited so we thought it would be good to explore. It is a gorgeous, historic city with plenty of attractions and shopping to keep us entertained.  We also headed to Molly’s Den, a vintage and antiques warehouse on the edge of the city, just our sort of place!


Top Five 16053

Whilst we’re staying at Richard’s folks we get the pleasure of living with Hettie, their one-eyed rescue dog. She is the most gentle and charming dog we’ve ever met. When Richard works from home she keeps him company!

16th May 2016

Days Out | Petworth House

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The weather was so lovely on Sunday we decided to head out for the day.  Making the most of our National Trust membership we fired up their rather useful app and started browsing where to go.  We settled on Petworth House, it had been on out ‘to visit’ list and was only about 45 minutes away. So off we set!

Petworth House is a rather grand seventeenth century mansion set in the beautiful South Downs. The house was built in 1688 by Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. It contains some amazing works of art, including works by JMW Turner who was a frequent visitor to the house. There are many highlights to a tour around the house, but our favourites were The Marble Hall, The North Gallery and The Chapel, which is a remnant of the previous house on the site.

The parkland was created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in his typical English Landscape style. As it is the 300th anniversary of Brown’s birth Petworth has a series of events and exhibitions to celebrate. There are mapped walks around the park, and plenty of picturesque places to stop and have a picnic. We did just that, sat in the Pleasure Gardens near the Doric Temple, amongst a carpet of bluebells.

After the house and gardens we had a look around the servants quarters, housed in a separate block. It is fascinating to see the scale of the ‘downstairs’ that was required to keep a house such as Petworth functioning. In the servants quarters is the ‘back door’ of the house into Petworth Town. Well worth a little wander around.  There are plenty of cafes and antiques shops to keep us happy!

Find out more on the National Trust website

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Day out | Petworth House
10th May 2016