Spring at Wimpole Estate – Cambridgeshire

Spring at Wimpole Estate – Cambridgeshire

This blog post is a combination of two recent trips to Wimpole Estate, near Royston in Cambridgeshire. The first was in mid-April where myself, Aidan and 3 friends went there for the day for my birthday! Having arrived in overcast conditions and got sorted with tickets etc, we decided to take our picnic up to the folly on the top of the hill. This meant walking through the parkland where the herds of White Park and Longhorn cattle were grazing, making a pretty picture in the Capability Brown landscape.

Having crossed the edge of the lake, we made our way to the folly just as a rain shower passed over. Taking shelter in the small amount of ruined walls, it passed over within minutes and we were able to enjoy our picnic with commanding views over the parkland back towards the house, and also with an aerial display from a fighter jet from one of the nearby air bases.

After lunch we headed back down towards the house seeing the ominous looking black cloud following behind us. We decided now would be the best time to head to the tea rooms. Three of us made it there in time to beat the almighty hailstorm that followed but unfortunately, the two who opted to take the picnic bags back to the car weren’t so lucky and had to shelter in the car park until it passed! Much like other National Trust ones, the tea rooms were nice although busy and loud but the drinks were ok.

Our next stop was the main reason for visiting Wimpole, the farm. The working farm is still run in a fairly traditional style and has a range of rare breed animals including the White Park cattle and an array of rare breed sheep and pigs. There were also donkeys, shire horses, miniature Shetland ponies, rabbits and chickens to see.

Overall, the farm space is well organised and thought out, although there isn’t as much signage as I would have hoped, especially for saying how much they could highlight about their work to preserve rare breeds. We enjoyed watching the sheep and especially meeting the gentle giants that were the shire horses. We then had the pleasure of seeing some very teeny-tiny baby Bagot goats before heading round to the piggery.

There were quite a few sows with piglets from as young as a few days old up to a couple of months and some sows that were still expecting. As well as these pens, there were a range of pens with piglets old enough to have been weaned, separated into relevant boy and girl age groups. As feeding time approached, the noise level in the piggery rose and in the end it was just a cacophony as the staff came in and started dishing out food.

Although I understand the noise would make it difficult and the pigs needed to be fed, I felt it was a shame that there was no interaction between the staff and the public. A short, informative talk about pigs and what they eat etc, would have made the experience more worthwhile, especially in the age where people now more than ever have a huge disconnect between the land and their lives and more children than ever are clueless as to how their food goes from field to fork.

Having enjoyed our visit, we headed back to the complex that houses the shop, ticket office etc. There are in fact a range of shops here including a bookshop, a garden shop, a toy and fudge shop and the main shop and between us we picked up some new books, some fudge and my friend Becca bought both of us a gorgeous new beanie hat each. As well as the main shops, there were also some stalls selling a range of produce from the farm including a lady who was spinning the wool from the farm’s sheep and knitting them into a range of beautiful products!

Photo: Becca Smith

On our way out, we saw a banner about the upcoming lambing season and it was this that brought my friend Becca and I back again a couple of weeks later. Again, the weather wasn’t the best so we headed straight to the farm.

The lambing set up was great for the space they had and there was lots of opportunities to get close to see the ewes and their new lambs. There were a few great staff and volunteers on hand to answer questions and they were really knowledgeable about the different breeds of sheep. Again, there could have been a bit more static information about the rare breeds but overall we were really happy to see what we did.

Becca and I were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time as two Oxford Down lambs, having been born about 10 minutes before, got to their feet for the first time. All legs and lack of co-ordination, it was beautiful to see a new life finding it’s way in the big wide world, one teetering step at a time!

We rounded off this visit once again with a stop at the tea rooms and having missed the last entry to the house by 5 minutes, cut our losses with another peek in the shops before heading home. It’s really nice to have a property with the range of things to do as Wimpole close to home and I’ll definitely be going back again in the future. Hopefully this time I’ll be able to make it into the house!

I was not paid/asked by National Trust to write about them. I just had a nice day…

A Day Out in Northamptonshire

A Day Out in Northamptonshire

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Back in April, myself, Aidan and my parents decided to spend a day in Northamptonshire. It’s the next county west of where we live in Cambridgeshire and also not too far for my parents to get to from their home in Staffordshire. Although I have been through the county many times, it’s not somewhere that I’ve explored all that much. Back in 2013 I had a few days of holiday to use up from my job so I decided to take myself off camping for a few days and stayed in Northamptonshire. It was then that I first discovered Kirby Hall.

Nestled in the East Midlands, the county itself contains the county town of Northampton and the towns of Kettering, Corby, Market Harborough, Wellingborough, Rushden and Daventry. It’s rolling farmland and woodland make for pretty views as you drive through it.

We were originally planning to visit Apethorpe Palace. This relatively recent acquisition to the English Heritage remit was the childhood home of Charles I and is somewhere I’d really like to visit at some point. We didn’t check the opening times until the day before though and it turns out it’s by guided tour only in July and August. Since we were trying to visit in April, it was time to find a plan B.

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Plan B was Kirby Hall. I had actually visited here on my trip in 2013 but remembered how good it was and since it was Elizabethan, it’s time-frame was the one that my parents, Aidan and I are particularly interested in.

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We arrived bright and early for when it opened at 10am on a gloriously sunny day. The property was set against a bright blue sky and it was gorgeous. Unfortunately, as with many stately homes, the access by public transport is probably limited but don’t let that put you off, I’m sure there’s a way somehow (best place for info will be the English Heritage website).

We were able to pick up free audio guides in the entrance and these are a brilliant way to find out more about the house and it’s grounds. The guide is engaging and informative, with the option to press for further information on things that may be of interest.

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The house was built in the Elizabethan era by and up-and-coming noble family, the Staffords. There are crests and the family symbol of the loosely tied knot all over the house, carved into the stone work. The Stafford’s knot symbol is still the county symbol of Staffordshire to this day.

The house is partially ruined, so some of the house is open to the elements while the rest is still fully intact. There have even been some restorations in some rooms including the recreation of this beautiful wallpaper! (When I win the lottery I’ll be contacting the makers and commissioning some more…)

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The tour of the house and it’s incredible Elizabethan gardens takes 1-1.5 hours and covers the whole property.

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Once we had completed the tour we found a spot for a picnic in the sunshine. Just a word of warning, the property has a collection (flock?!) of peacocks and they are convinced you are going to share your lunch!

After a quick look in the small but functional English Heritage shop, we decided to head to the town of Oundle for the rest of our day.

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Oundle is quite frankly beautiful. Built with the honey coloured stone that runs on a seam through the Midlands and is most famous in the Cotswolds, this small but pretty market town is a must visit in the area.

The centre of the town is partially dominated by the private Oundle School, the third largest boarding school in England, who’s famous alumni include George Blagden (actor playing Louis XIV in Versailles and Athlestan in Vikings), Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden singer), Sir Peter Scott (who started the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and co-founded the WWF) and Richard Dawkins amongst others.

We started our time in Oundle by wandering down the pretty high street in a search for drinks and maybe a cake. We glanced down a pretty side alley and saw the courtyard of Dexter’s Bar and Kitchen bathed in sunshine and decided to head down to it. Although this is more of a restaurant than the café we were intending to find, the courtyard in the sunshine won us over and we sat sipping wine and beer and asked for the dessert menu. Dad had a lemon roulade, Aidan chose the cheesecake and Mum and I both chose the ice cream, all of which were delicious.

We took a look at the main menu as well and decided it sounded wonderful and we’ll be making a trip back there at some point this summer to give it a whirl (I’ll report back, gang!).

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Hi Dad!

After finishing up at Dexter’s, we continued down the high street, exploring some of the lovely independent shops including the wonderful Oundle Bookshop (I’ve since found out this is not totally independent but the group is fairly small, I think) where I managed to pick up an excellent book for a friend’s birthday. We also headed past some of the beautiful school buildings and took some time to look around St. Peter’s church, set just back from the high street.

As the sun continued to shine we headed to The Ship Inn for a quick drink and to wait for our friends who were joining us for dinner in the evening.

Our last stop of the day was Salerno’s, the Italian restaurant on the high street. I had first gone there last Summer for a meal organised by the friends who’d come to join us and had found it a brilliant place. On both occasions the food was extremely tasty, the service was excellent and we had a great time. Italian is probably my favourite cuisine so I do like finding good Italian restaurants! I would highly recommend Salerno’s if you’re in the area.

Overall, we had a brilliant day out, Kirby Hall and Oundle were both wonderful and I can’t wait to go back to both again in the future. I’m very grateful that Oundle is nice and close to the place we now call home!

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None of the brands/companies mentioned in this blog paid/asked me to write about them. I just had a nice day and wanted to recommend.

Doing more of what you love

Doing more of what you love

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Hello again, it’s been a while (again…). I am hopefully back for a little while at least with this blog.

For those that are new here, hello, welcome! It’s nice to have you here. I say that I’m going to get back into writing repeatedly, but never do, so we’ll see how long this lasts! I’ll let you into a secret though, I have actually got a lot more posts lined up already! So that’s all very exciting.

A bit about me, I’m in my late 20s, like gin, country music, rubber ducks, knitting, NFL, history, writing, photography, day trips and being outside. I don’t like octopus, people who are overly pretentious, tea, coffee, overly enthusiastic speed bumps and middle lane drivers. I think that covers the basics.

Anyway, over the past few months I’ve been doing a bit of unintentional soul searching. I needed to make some changes and therefore some things that have been a big part of my life are now taking more of a back seat to make way for other things.

One of those things being given more time is writing. I always say I miss it, but then I always drop it straight off my list of things to do in life, therefore it’s an endless cycle. I’ve decided I need to spend more time doing what I love and therefore writing is going to be higher on my priority list (top things currently: being a brownie leader, writing, eating cake, drinking gin and trying to grow my own veg. Bottom things currently: housework…). This time I have a bit of a longer term goal too. I’d like to work on my writing with the end game of actually doing it professionally. Maybe not as my full time work, but bits and bobs every now and then. I have long term dreams of eventually being a content writer for something like BBC’s Countryfile Magazine or maybe writing for one of the County Rural Life magazines etc. Somewhere where I can combine my love of Day Trips in the UK with writing. Who knows, but one thing’s for sure, I won’t know until I try.

I have to admit it’s thanks to my wonderful husband really that I’m back writing. He has now started his own travel blog. Aidan LOVES planes and trains, so he decided he also needed to spend more time doing what he loved and therefore he too has joined the online writing world, which is his excuse for more flights and train journeys! It was because of this that I’m back; he asked me to help with setting up and writing posts for his social media etc. I realised that I’d missed it far more than I’d let myself believe and after a bit of time, I wrote my first blog post in months (it was about our holiday last year, you can read it herepart 2 is here). You can find Aidan’s blog here, it’s called Flights & Times and is a mix of content, including reviews of train and plane journeys, write ups of previous adventures, destination reports of places we’ve visited etc.

I’m really proud of him because, he will admit it too, he’s not really had a hobby (apart from re-enactment, but that’s not really something to do at home of an evening) since leaving Uni and he’s been really consumed by work. I’m proud of how much he’s got to grips with his site, created his content and how much time and effort he’s putting into it. Overall though, I’m so glad to see him finding such enjoyment in it.

Anyway, thanks to helping him out, it sparked something in me to get this back up and running and really make an effort to keep it up this time. It’s something we can do together too! We try and travel by train on days out where we can, so this will provide content for both of us and although blogging takes a lot of time and effort (often more than people realise!), we’re writing about things that truly make us happy and therefore it feels like a joy and not a job.

I’m actually writing this post wayyyyy in advance of when you’re reading it, but we’ve got a lot coming up (that’s already happened?! I don’t know…) in May that we’ll both be able to write about. We’re off to Devon and Cornwall for 10 days and have an action-packed itinerary. We’re really lucky that we’ve got 10 whole days of things we’ll love to do, and so much of it will relate to content for both of us. I genuinely cannot wait!

So what’s coming up on here? Honestly, whatever I fancy, but I think it will be mostly trips out and about, it’s what I most love to write about and I also feel like I’m writing authentically, about stuff I really love, without just writing about the mundane adventures of my day-to-day, or forcing myself to write about things I’m not really that into.

I guess we’ll just see where the future takes us…