Tag Archives: North Devon

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

On our recent holiday to North Devon, we spent a rainy morning at the Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and we also did the factory tour. My son had been learning about how glass was made at school, so seeing it happen before his very eyes was high on his list of things he wanted to do on holiday.

We set the satnav for the Dartington Crystal factory in Torrington and arrived early in the day. Glass production starts very early in the morning, so early that the glass blowers break for their lunch mid morning, which closes down the factory tour. Nevertheless there’s plenty to do at Dartington Crystal besides the factory tour.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

We arrived to find a large car park with plenty of parking. We walked around the building to the visitor centre and paid for our tickets. You can buy them online before your visit and save a few pounds if you want. I paid £9 per adult ticket (£7 in advance) and children under 16 go free.

We were warned the factory workers would be breaking for lunch in half an hour, so we began the factory tour. You can linger as long as you want in the factory, it’s very informative with the whole process from the glass making process to blowing and finishing the glass all explained in simple terms.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

It’s very warm in the factory and all the glass workers wear shorts and t-shirts. Each has his own job to do; a small part of the process and it’s really interesting (and almost relaxing) to watch. They take a molten lump of glass out of the furnace and slowly transform it into something beautiful.

The tour took us around half an hour, mostly because the boy was getting too hot and wanted to get outside. I could have stayed for longer watching these skilled craftsmen at work.

The factory tour ends with you back in the visitors centre. There we decided we wanted to try our hands at some glass painting, which cost us just £6. We also spent some time reading about the history of the Dartington Crystal factory and watching a film. There are lots of things of interest if you want to know more about glass making.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

Once we’d enjoyed all that the visitor centre had to offer, there is a large outlet where you can find some lovely glassware to take home. There are a few other outlet stores to explore too. I did end up spending an absolute fortune on really gorgeous things. I have no regrets.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

If you are planning on visiting, you can save a few pounds by booking your tickets in advance online. You can also book in for creative sessions; like glass hand casting for kids (which was fully booked when we visited which was a shame). You can also try your hand at glass blowing or jewellery making. There are lots to see and do if you plan ahead and book the things you’d like to try, otherwise you might be disappointed.

I really liked that children go free. I feel my son learned quite a few things about glass making and blowing that he didn’t know before. It’s always good to see how things actually work rather than just reading about it and imagining the process. He really enjoyed the glass painting, we both did. There were a few other activities for creative kids too. I’d say it’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area. This was my second visit and I’d happily go back again.

For more information about visiting Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre visit their website.

We paid for our visit in full.

Recipe: My Prize Winning Victoria Sponge Cake

Summer is the season of horticultural and agricultural shows. Up and down the country, towns, villages and counties have fairs, fates and big shows and often there’s a competition where crafters, growers and bakers enter their produce to be judged against the best.

We were on holiday in the North Devon village of Welcombe during the preparations for their 60th Welcombe Horticultural Show. We have friends and family in the village, and they suggested I enter some of my baking. So that’s what I did. I entered two classes in the cookery section – Victoria Sponge and Homemade biscuits.

A Victoria Sponge should be a fairly straight forward thing to bake. It’s considered my many to be entry-level baking; but with a Victoria Sponge there is nowhere to hide. It’s so simple but quite easy to get a little bit wrong. Before I became more interested in baking I used to make very mediocre Victoria Sponge cakes, but in recent years I’ve perfected my recipe and technique and now my Victoria Sponge is as good as any.

Recipe: My Prize Winning Victoria Sponge

We were staying in a converted barn which had a very well equipped kitchen, so I only needed to buy some new cake tins and some weighing scales, plus the ingredients I needed. I made everything the night before the competition and made sure I read the WI rules for the perfect Victoria Sponge which you can find below.

Guidelines for making the Victoria Sponge sandwich for competition are set out in the NFWI Education Committee’s handbook On with the Show:
  • May be baked in one or two tins
  • No cooling rack marks on top or bottom surface
  • Traditional filling of raspberry jam, sufficient and evenly spread
  • Light sprinkling of caster sugar on top
  • Pale golden colour, evenly baked
  • Texture fine, even
  • Flavour delicate, characteristic, with no strong favour predominating

I followed these instructions almost to the letter, almost because I used icing sugar rather than caster sugar sprinkled over the top. I’ll know better next time.

I had a bit of a disaster with my lemon shortbread biscuits, the mix wouldn’t firm up enough for me to roll out, so I baked it in a traditional round and sliced it into six wedges. I knew that presentation would mark me down, and I was right; but the judges did comment on the lovely flavour and texture. So I just need to figure out what went wrong for next time.

We dropped my entries off on the morning of the show and then had a nervous wait while the judges deliberated. I was delighted when the show opened that afternoon to find that my lemon shortbread had won 3rd prize in its class and my Victoria Sponge was joint 1st.

Recipe: My Prize Winning Victoria Sponge

I genuinely did not think my baking stood a chance against the talented local bakers. The competition was very stiff and I was so pleased with myself for doing so well.

The recipe I used for my Victoria Sponge was based on my fail-safe sponge cake recipe which has done me proud over the years. It never fails, never.

Prize Winning Victoria Sponge cake Recipe

Ingredients:
200 g caster sugar
200 g softened butter or margarine (I use Stork)
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tbsp milk
200 g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

To finish
1/3 of a jar of good quality raspberry jam
Caster sugar for dusting

Method:
Heat your fan oven to 190c. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, I also lined the bottom of each tin with a circle of baking parchment. In a large bowl, beat your butter and sugar together until fluffy (I used a hand mixer). Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and combine, then add the flour and baking powder and mix together until you have a smooth batter.

Divide the mixture equally between the two tins. You can weigh them to make sure they’re fairly equal if you’d like. Bake in your pre-heated oven for around 20 mins until golden and they’re cooked. Remove from the tins and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

If you’re baking to WI standard and want to avoid making cooling rack marks, then turn your cakes out onto a cooling rack; but make sure there is a piece of baking parchment between the cake and the rack.

Leave your cakes to cool, preferably overnight before thickly spreading good quality raspberry jam between them and sandwiching them together. Dust with a little caster sugar and serve.

It’s really important to make sure your cakes are cool before you put your jam layer in. I thought mine were cool enough, but they weren’t and my jam seeped into the layers and I got marked down for that.

My Victoria Sponge was victorious! I’m planning to go back again next year and defend my title, enter a few more things into the show and do better with my lemon shortbread.

If you live somewhere where there is a village show, or some kind of Bake Off competition, please do consider entering. It’s really great fun. I entered thinking I didn’t have much hope of even placing, let alone winning anything. I was delighted to have done so well. Good luck, and happy baking!

Recipe: My Prize Winning Victoria Sponge Cake

What’s on our Summer Bucket List for 2018?

I am more happy than you can imagine that the summer holidays are here. Sure, it means more work for me, juggling my job and child care, but it’s so nice to be able to just hang out with my boy for the summer and just do nice things. I’ve been thinking about some things we can do together and as a family over the summer. This blog post will serve as an informal plan for us and a summer bucket list of suggestions we can pick and choose from. Having a list of options is always a useful thing, especially when you’re stuck for inspiration or ideas.

What's on our Summer Bucket List for 2018?

We’ve got some day trips planned; a holiday to Devon and our annual jaunt to Just So Festival to look forward to, so here is our summer bucket list for 2018.

summer bucket list for 2018

⇒ Visit Manchester Museum and look at the frogs
⇒ Visit and explore Ordsall Hall in Salford
⇒ Go crabbing and have fish and chips in Appledore in Devon
⇒ Visit Tintagel Castle and find out more about King Arthur
⇒ Fill the paddling pool with gelli baff and have a paddling pool party
⇒ Visit Launceston Castle in Cornwall
⇒ Visit Tamar Otter and Wildlife Centre in Devon
⇒ Go back to Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall in Lancashire
⇒ Go glamping in a yurt in the Lake District
⇒ Take part in the dog show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show
⇒ Go to the playground in the park and have a picnic
⇒ Visit Westward Ho! and see if the shipwrecks are still visible
⇒ Sing around the Just So Campfire
⇒ Visit the Gweek Seal Sanctury in Cornwall
⇒ Go on some treasure hunts using a Treasure Trail maps
⇒ Visit the castle fort in the park in Bideford in Devon
⇒ Count the stars at night, when camping at The Just So Festival
⇒ Rest, read and reconnect
⇒ Visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester for family fun
⇒ Bake and decorate cakes for our nice neighbours
⇒ Join the Tribal Tournament at The Just So Festival (we are buzzing!)

What are you going to get up to this summer? What’s on your summer bucket list?

What's on our Summer Bucket List for 2018?

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

Earlier this week my husband and son went rockpooling in North Devon with the National Trust. They returned rosy-cheeked and brimming with enthusiasm for what they’d found and experienced. In a rare guest post, my husband shares their wonderful morning in Woolacombe. Over to Matthew…

A few weeks before we came down to Devon on holiday, I was beginning to keep an eye out for things to do. I saw a link somebody had shared on Facebook about guided rockpooling with the National Trust in Woolacombe. The “Rockpool Rambles” looked quite interesting and I thought that both me and the lad could learn something.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

We holiday in Devon quite a lot and we tend to plan ahead a little bit, but also take each day as it comes especially with the weather. On one of the days the rockpooling was scheduled it was going to be mixed weather, so we decided to hop in the car, head to Woolacombe and take our chances.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

When we arrived, the heavens opened. Undeterred, the lad and I put on our waterproofs and sandals and headed down to the Combesgate part of the beach. Here, our guides, Ed and Dave met us and our fellow rockpoolers and gave us our nets and buckets and a short briefing about what to look for and a couple of things not to do such as climbing on the rocks covered with barnacles as they’re very rough and feel like a cheese grater if you happen to slip on them.

Off exploring we went and we quickly came across some sea lettuce, followed by our first starfish of the day. Ed and Dave pointed out that the barnacles make a snap, crackle and pop noise, so we listened out for that too. Around the corner there were starfish aplenty; along with beadlet anemones and small hermit crabs, as well as limpets and mussels.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

There were excited cries from the group as small fish were seen darting for cover in the pools. Rockpool prawns were seen, captured and temporarily put in buckets while we examined them. The lad did very well to find a secluded rockpool and a snakelocks anemone in the water. We lifted a stone and out popped a five bearded rockling. By the end of the session, the clouds parted and the sun came out. The best was saved till last when a little red octopus was spotted swimming across one of the larger pools. It was a wonderful sight and one we will remember for a long time.

The guided rock pooling is a fantastic way to spend an hour and half. It costs just £1 per person, and it probably can’t be bettered.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

The little red thing you can see in the photo above is a little octopus. What a find!

For more information about Rockpooling in North Devon and the Rockpool Rambles run by the National Trust, visit the NT website.

What’s on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

I was speaking to a teacher this morning who excitedly told me there were “seven more sleeps” until the school holidays begin, this is a number which fills me with terror and excitement in equal measure. It may seem like a long time to fill with activities, but I think those six weeks will go in the blink of an eye. I asked him last night what he wanted to do over the holidays and together we came up with a summer bucket list of sorts.

We have some sketchy plans for the six weeks our six year old son will be off school and out of routine. I want him to relax, have fun and enjoy being six. We also want to really work hard on getting him ready for the big leap into Year 2, so lots of reading, some work books and lots of counting in twos, fives and tens. 

During the school holidays we are going on holiday in North Devon (right on the Cornish border) and there’s lots to do there. We will be going to the Just So Festival in August and Ben and I will be leaving Daddy and the dog at home and going to Ribby Hall for five days. In between we have trips out and fun things planned, plus plenty of rest days at home so we can chill out and get bored.

What’s on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

⇒ Build sandcastles on the beach in Devon
⇒ Sleep lots (Ben’s suggestion)
⇒ Visit Ben’s cousins in Devon
⇒ Go to the playground in the park
⇒ Visit Westward Ho! and see if the shipwrecks are still visible
⇒ Go crabbing and have fish and chips in Appledore
⇒ Visit the Sealife Centre at Weymouth
⇒ Have lunch at the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster
⇒ Go on some treasure hunts using Treasure Trails maps
⇒ Visit the castle fort in the park in Bideford
⇒ Go fossil hunting in Lyme Regis
⇒ Count the stars at night, when camping at The Just So Festival
⇒ Go for a dip in the Bude Pool
⇒ Sing around the Just So Campfire
⇒ Visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester
⇒ Feed the animals at Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall 
⇒ Bake and decorate cakes for our nice neighbours
⇒ Build a bug hotel for our garden
⇒ Have a Cornish pasty picnic on the beach
⇒ Join the Tribal Tournament at The Just So Festival (we are buzzing!)

What's on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

Check back at the end of the summer to see how we got on!

What’s on your summer bucket list?

Perfect Postal Presents from Devon Heaven Hampers

Every year we go for at least one holiday in Devon. To us Devon is a heaven on earth. With breathtaking scenery, gorgeous beaches, excellent country pubs, lovely walks and much, much more to be had, we struggle to find anywhere else to compare.

Two things have to happen when we visit Devon, firstly we have to have a cream tea (himself has it the Devonshire way, cream first, then jam. I have it Cornish style, jam first, then cream), and secondly we do a big Devon food shop, filling our car with local treats we can’t get at home.

When we first started visiting Devon 15 years ago, that would mainly be clotted cream, but that’s more available now. Hubs stocks up on local beers he can’t find in Manchester and top of my list is the best chilli jam in the world which you can only get in one tiny shop in Devon. Also on our list is fudge from Ilfracombe, Devonshire tea, homemade flapjacks, hard to find local cheeses and huge homemade scones. 

I’ve often lamented during the lean months in between our visits to Devon that it would be good to have some kind of food parcel service for people who yearn for some Westcountry fayre. I was thrilled to discover Devon Heaven Hampers who have a huge range of hampers filled with Devonshire goodies, many of which have won Taste of the West Great Taste awards for quality and general deliciousness! 

I’ve picked out three of my favourites from Devon Heaven Hampers

Devon Heaven Hampers

Classic Devon Food Basket

The Classic Devon Food Basket from Devon Heaven Hampers would make a fabulous Christmas gift. It’s a basket full gourmet food all locally sourced in Devon. The basket contains Georgie Porgie’s Puddings – Westcountry Cider and Apple Pudding and an Orange & Cointreau Pudding. Bags of Portlebay Popcorn and Burts Crisps, a bottle of Luscombe Organic Hot Ginger Beer, a jar of Onion & Pineapple flavour Devon Chutney from Otter Vale Products, Devonshire Clotted Cream Vanilla Fudge and some Willie’s Cacao – Milk of the Gods, all presented in a wicker basket. Priced at just £25 this would make an excellent present for someone.

Devon Heaven Hampers

Devon Cider Selection

For cider and scrumpy lovers, the Devon Cider Selection would be a treat. It costs just £28 and comes with free delivery. Cider lovers can enjoy a bottle of Jack Ratt Scrumpy in a traditional style flagon, a lovely bottle of Luscombe Organic Devon Cider, some Lyme Bay Sparkling Cider, and both Sandford Orchard Devon Red and Sandford Orchard Devon Mist. Cheers!

Devon Heaven Hampers

Devon vs Cornish Cream Tea by Post

Last, but by absolutely no means least – the Devon vs Cornish Cream Tea by Post. Decide for yourself and settle the long standing debate between Devon and Cornwall – are cream teas better with jam or cream on top? Not only can you decide which is best, but you can also taste the difference between Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream and Langage Farm Devonshire clotted cream!

This fantastic hamper contains 4 Devon scones, Langage Farm Devonshire clotted cream, Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream, a jar of strawberry jam and Devonshire Tea and Cornish Tea Sachets, all presented in a wicker gift basket and delivered free of charge. The Devon vs Cornish Cream Tea by Post hamper is £23 and is the perfect gift for those who can’t resist a cream tea or three!

I know what I’ll be asking Santa for this year!

For more information and to see their range of gift hampers, visit the Devon Heaven Hampers website.

Holiday Snaps – from Devon 2016

I’ve got this fancy newish camera which I’ve been trying to use and get used to. I had planned on taking it on holiday to Devon for a week to try and spend some time getting to know it a bit better, but I ended up with a fairly epic chest infection a couple of days before we went and I wasn’t really in the mood.

I decided instead to take my “old” camera, a Nikon Coolpix L820. It’s a bridge camera and whilst it really struggles indoors, outdoors it comes into its own.

Before we headed down the M6 towards the South West one of my friends challenged me to take 5 decent photos of Devon. I don’t think I’ve managed that, but I have chosen some pictures which will make me smile.

It wasn’t a particularly great holiday, we’d booked an especially skanky cottage and ended up having to leave after three days and go and stay elsewhere. It was a shame, after everything we’ve been through these past few months I just really needed a rest, a break from the norm and some time to reflect and recover. But maybe that’s something for another blog post. Back to the photos….

Day one of our holiday we got in the car and went for a drive to get our bearings. I’ve no idea where this place is, it’s somewhere in Exmoor, somewhere where we stopped for some air. There was purple heather everywhere, gorse in flower and the air was as clear as a bell. I love the colour and texture in this picture.

Devon

The first cottage we stayed in didn’t have much to recommend it, but it did have a huge buddleia outside the front door. It was teeming with butterflies and bees, so I snapped this little fella. Isn’t he lovely?

Devon

Day two, in an attempt to cheer ourselves up we headed to the familiar territory of Westward Ho! It was worth the drive of nearly an hour for the fresh air and the lift in our spirits. 

Devon

Although he will kill me for sharing this, I adore this photo of my boy running towards his Dad who had just been for a swim in the sea. Again this is Westward Ho!

Devon

It’s not an especially lovely photo, but this is the view from the cottage we stay at in Welcombe in North Devon. Waking up to see the church, the sky and a tiny handkerchief of the sea always makes me happy, rain or shine.

Devon

On our last night we drove to Bude and had dinner at Life’s a Beach, which by day is a beach cafe and by night a popular bistro. We had a delicious meal and then walked some of it off on the beach afterwards. Here’s the small boy at his cheeky best.

Devon

The last night again, this time the beach at Bude, a harbour of sorts. It’s not a great photo, but it is a photo of one of my happy places.

Devon

And lastly, on our way home we stopped at Westward Ho! (are you sensing a theme here?) and had fish and chips on the beach for tea. Whilst we waited for dad to come back I took this panorama and the boy played with his new sword and shield. The result is this rather moody shot of a knight which will probably always make me smile. 

Devon

A mixed holiday for us, some lovely moments, some disappointment, but lots of lovely cuddles with the boys. Looking back I didn’t take any or many decent photos, it’s probably reflective of our mood at the time. We did have fun, we did stick brave smiley faces on for the boy and we did our best to make the best of our holiday. I think he had a good time and that’s all that matters right now.

My Sunday Photo 17.4.16

image

I promise hand on heart that this photo hasn’t been edited or messed about with in any way. We’ve been on holiday in North Devon all week and this was taken on Westward Ho! beach. The tide was just going out and the spring sunshine was dancing on the wet sand and creating a beautiful sky-sand mirror. This photo was taken with my Nokia Lumia phone and I think it’s rather beautiful and a little like a watercolour painting. 

The photo shows a silhouette of my husband as he approached an ancient shipwreck sticking out from the sand. We’d visited last year and had a good look at the wrecks and I was keen to see if they were still visible, which they are. You can read more about the history of the wrecks and see close up photos in this blog post from last year.

Why being disabled on holiday can be a real pain

As a slightly less able person (spinal injury, nerve damage, chronic pain), I need to pace myself and rest more often than I would normally. I have adapted my day to day life so that I’m able to manage myself properly, take my medication when I need to, rest and exercise appropriately and generally maximise my wellness. But holidays throw that tried and tested routine out of the window leaving me in more pain, more tired and out of my medication routine.

We are on holiday in North Devon. It’s one of our favourite places to visit and we come back year after year. But from Manchester it’s a minimum 5 hour journey. This time it took 6 hours, but it has taken 8 hours in bad traffic. Sitting in one position for 6-8 hours is bad for anyone, but with my ruined spine it gets very uncomfortable, then very painful and it takes days to recover from.

Once we get there, put me in an unfamiliar bed and I’m gobbling painkillers like they’re smarties. Combine that with a lack of routine, longer than usual walks which are usually on the beach on sand, shale or pebbles which are hard to walk on its all a bit ouchy. At home I can plan my week, if I’ve got an active day then I’ll make sure I’ve got a rest day after it. On holiday every day is an active day.

So what do my holidays look like? My holidays look like car parks. I often have to just sit in the car and rest while my painkillers kick in and the boys race off to do their thing. It makes me a bit sad that I can’t fully participate in holiday activities, but then I can’t always participate in normal life activities either. Stop moaning kid, these are the cards you’ve been dealt. Live with it.

Reading this back it makes me wonder why I bother going on a UK holiday at all. But it’s beautiful here and although I’m half cut on prescription painkillers most of the time, it’s nice to spend time with the boys, to get some sunshine and sea air and to take the boys out of their routine for a while. It’s hard enough being me and living with my limitations, it must be equally hard for them, so they deserve a holiday and a chance to relax and be free from my routine for a week or two.

Disabled on holiday

North Devon: so beautiful, but you can only access this beach via a cliff path.

My Sunday Photo 10.4.16

A last minute break in what we think is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Smack bang on the North Devon and Cornwall border this is Welcombe Mouth, with gorse and heather covered cliffs, it’s own waterfall, jagged rocks and great surfing. What’s not to love?

It is cold though. So very cold. Brrrrr.

Disabled on holiday