Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Two Bank Holiday Outings - Chatsworth and Locko

A sunny Bank Holiday means you have to go out somewhere. Right? Well, to be honest, I'm often tempted to stay home for fear of everywhere being over-crowded, but here I am out and about, risking the crowds and finding peace and quiet at Chatsworth.

We went on Saturday, which turned out to be the best day of the weekend, though there was a minute or two when we thought we felt rain.

Dylan the dog came along too and tried to get in the mood by copying this statue's stance.

Some of the grassed areas still looked a little dry from the heatwave, but the dahlias in the kitchen garden were flowering abundantly.

You'd expect after so many years of visiting there'd be nothing new to see, but this area has been newly planted this year. Previously it was mainly grass, now it's a riot of purples and pinks, dotted with ornamental grasses and bamboo.

Later in the day, we headed out again - this time nearer to home, to Locko Park for a quiet walk beside the lake.

A re-enactment event was taking place elsewhere in the grounds, hundreds of tents were pitched and we saw a few people walking about dressed in costume, but it seemed to be a private affair, not open to the public. A shame really as it might have been fun.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Darley Park Hydrangeas and Route 66

Darley Park is a huge open space not far from Derby city centre (in fact if you look carefully in this photo, you can see the high rise Intu shopping mall just beyond the trees).

There's lots of room for children and dogs to play, a cafe, a small playground, pleasant walks beside the river, but hidden away in a former walled garden is something rather special - a vast collection of hydrangeas.

In previous years this enclosed garden has looked stunning, with huge flower-heads almost too heavy for their stalks to hold up but the heat and lack of rain this summer haven't been good for such water-guzzling plants. Volunteers have done their best trying to keep things watered but it must have seemed like a hopeless task as the heatwave went on and on.

The larger, longer established plants looked okay but if you compare these photos to those I took last year, and you can see the significant difference made by the weather.

It's an odd thing to say, but I hope next summer will be wetter.

After lunch at the cafe, we walked down to the river, following it up-stream through the village of Darley Abbey to Darley Mills, and Route 66 - of the National Cycle Network - which crosses the Derwent here at the toll bridge.

The toll booth is still manned, as cars are charged to cross the bridge.

The weirs which once powered several mills are now just a pretty addition to the riverside, and the old buildings have been re-purposed as various other businesses.

The actual 'abbey' of Darley Abbey is long gone, but one of its buildings remains as a pub, though the houses surrounding it are more recent, built as accommodation for mill workers.

 I must have been here before - I remember cycling to Darley Park at least once - but to be honest was a little surprised to find such an enjoyable walk almost on my doorstep. One of those days which prove you don't have to travel miles to get outside :)

Friday, 17 August 2018

Making plans for late summer/autumn - dog-friendly festivals (2018)

Dylan the dog at Curious Arts Festival
I've already written about local, day-out, festivals taking place in the coming month or so, but having come late in life to the excitement of a proper weekender festival - staying in the tent, being entertained all day and late into the evening, not having to cook for the whole weekend - I'm now eager to get 'out there' and discover more. For a weekend away though, I need to take Dylan the dog along. I wouldn't want to take him somewhere over-crowded where sheer numbers of people might upset him, but there are festivals out there that welcome dogs, and he's tested a couple. We've taken him to Curious Arts Festival twice, and I think he enjoyed it - mainly sleeping throughout the literary and comedy events, and 'watching' the music from the safety of the back of the marquee, but paying very little interest in the other dogs there. This summer we took him along to a local one-day festival, and he snoozed through most of that, so I think it's fair to say dogs and festivals can mix!

So with Dylan, and any other dogs who feel they'd like to try festivalling with their owners, in mind, I've been checking out where they could go this Autumn ... we may not get to any of them this year, but if not, we'll try next autumn.

First up - for the Bank Holiday, a real historical treat, England's Medieval Festival  held 24th-27th August at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. I'm a great fan of 'living history' events, and went to a lot when my children were young, but they were small affairs with maybe half a dozen 'knights' and their households. This event looks huge!

There'll be a siege camp (and daily siege), a living history village, falconry, jousting, archery, gunnery, and sword-fighting demonstrations, medieval minstrels shows with music and dance. There'll be medieval themed food (or something more familiar) The children's area, Kids Kingdom, will have activities specially for younger ones - jesters and wizards, have-a-go archery, and story-telling. For those staying on site overnight, entertainment continues with a torch lit parade, folk music, and a fire pit to gather round.

I think this looks fantastic - and of course, dogs are welcome, though there's a warning on the website about gunfire, and advising care near horses and birds of prey. I just wish it was better located from my point of view; north of London, rather than south.

photo credit -Nenad Obradovic
There's a complete change of pace for my next find. The Good Life Experience, taking place 14-16th September, at Hawarden, Flintshire, was set up by four friends - musician and broadcaster Cerys Matthews, record industry and arts consultant Steve Abbott, and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, farmers, authors, and the folk behind 'Peddlars' brand - in search of something which epitomised their ideas of The Good Life, as a sort of antidote to fast-paced commercial consumerism.

photo credit - Jonathan Cherry

So, expect music, books, talks, crafts, poetry, campfire cooking sessions, wild swimming, great food, yoga, tai chi, stargazing, a vintage fairground, an adventure playground (might just be for children that one ) and "axe throwing for everyone". 

photo credit - Rachel Kay

The whole vibe is one of family-friendly outdoorsy fun and relaxation.

photo credit - Jonathan Cherry

photo credit - Charlie Budd

Dogs are definitely welcome (apart from in the main music tent), after all part of the 'good life' concept is spending quality time with family and friends, and your dog definitely counts as one of them. There's even an opportunity for your best friend to learn a few new tricks with The Incredibly Clever Canine Circus. How cute is that? Dylan (and my husband) may think 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks', but I'm a firm believer in 'you're never too old to learn' so it's worth a try.

Next we're heading east, to the wide open skies and marches stretching as far as the eye can see of North Norfolk. Burnham Deepdale is a small place on the road between Brancaster and Wells next the Sea, which you could easily speed past, but don't, because it has lovely walks along the edge of the marshes, an interesting round towered church, and Deepdale Backpackers and Camping which is home to Deepdale Festival 

Taking place on 28- 30th September (and nearly sold out for on-site camping, though it is possible to buy a day-ticket and stay elsewhere) it has a little bit of everything for almost every musical taste - rock, blues, country, folk - spread over three stages.

In addition there'll be street performers, poets, star gazing, fire pits, drum workshops, street food, real ales and gins, the usual array of small shops of Burnham Market plus pop-up shops and stalls.
This caught my attention in the first place because it's a part of Norfolk that I love and I'd vaguely thought that Deepdale might be a place to experiment with taking our tent (so far it's only been to a couple of festivals). A festival just gives me another excuse to go :)

photo credit NT/Eric McDonald

Heading down to Devon now, for the National Trust's SouthWest Outdoor Festival . Taking place over 5-7th October near Salcombe, this is a rather more serious outdoors festival with canoeing, coasteering, stand-up-paddleboarding, trail running, and mountain bike challenges. Fortunately for lazier outdoors folk (me) there are also more sedate activities - including guided walks, yoga, foraging, bushcraft and star-gazing.

Conrad Humphreys
photo credit NT/Lloyd Russell
And if even that sounds energetic, there are lots of free talks so you can listen to others tell of their intrepid adventures. Conrad Humphreys's journey re-creating Cptn Bligh's open-boat voyage after the Mutiny on the Bounty sounds fascinating, but I wouldn't want to do it myself! There are activities specially for younger family members, including the National Trust's  '50 things before you're 11 ¾' challenge, and campfire story-telling in the evenings. Although not primarily a music festival, there will be live music ranging from folk to indie-rock via 'Americano didgry blues'. Well-behaved dogs are welcome (though I suspect that if you want to take part in some activities you're going to need a friend or partner to look after your dog)

If that sounds too strenuous, head further south and west, to Cornwall's rugged Atlantic coast for North Cornwall Book Festival , taking place on the same weekend, 4-7th October, at St Endellion, not far from Doc Martin's Port Isaac. This is a rarity in being a book festival that dogs can attend. I love Edinburgh and Hay book festivals, but only guide dogs are allowed in to the actual festival sites. Admittedly, even here, dogs aren't allowed into ALL events - as a rule of thumb, they're fine under canvas, but not in buildings - but there's more than enough where they could happily come along (just check which before driving to Cornwall)

Joanna Trollope

The emphasis is obviously on the written word, with both author events (Joanna Trollope, Patrick Gale, Wyl Menmuir, Jill Murphy, to just name a few) and writing workshops, but there's also an exhibition of lino prints and wood engravings, a bookbinding workshop, and music and 'unbridled cabaret' in the evenings. It all sounds rather fun!

Unlike the other festivals I've covered, this isn't an all-inclusive camping experience. It's held in and around St Endellion church and accommodation needs to be found elsewhere, but this is a popular tourist area, and October is a little out of season so there should be lots of choice if you're travelling from outside the area. Tickets are for individual events rather than for the whole festival, so I'd be tempted to add a little holiday as well - drop in on an author talk or two, join in with the evening fun, and take some time to re-visit the fishing villages and beaches of this part of Cornwall - and in early October it might just still be warm enough for swimming ...