Top 5 Cotswolds villages within 1.5 hours of Winchester

Drink, Food, Shopping, Travel

The picture-perfect Cotswolds is a firm favourite in our household. It’s just close enough for a day trip, or an easy weekend away, and even in bad weather it’s still utterly charming.

Although it feels like a bit of a trek, the nearest stretches of the Cotswolds are just over an hour away from Winchester (and even closer if you’re based in north Hampshire). Pootle up the A34/M4 and you’ll hit Cirencester (the “Capital” of the Cotswolds) in an hour and fifteen.

So if you fancy a beautiful day trip for some stunning scenery and sublime pub lunches, jump in your car and try these villages.

1. Castle Combe

When I think of the Cotswolds, I think of Castle Combe. The beautiful sandstone cottages, sweeping streets, and the tranquil river running by are just exquisite.

Castle Combe is proclaimed as one of England’s prettiest villages, as well as rising to fame through being a film location for some big tv/film hits, most notably Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, Downton Abbey, and Stardust.

The White Hart pub serves a great range of easy pub classics, including jacket potatoes, stews, sandwiches and pies. If you’re after something special, The Manor House Hotel has become a firm Insta-favourite for its sweeping, ivy-covered façade, or otherwise try The Castle Inn (opposite the White Hart) which is the sister Inn to The Manor House Hotel.

And for any Harry Potter fans, nip over to neighbouring village, Lacock, to visit Hogwarts, the home where Professor Slughorn pretends to be an armchair, and one of the Godric’s Hollow filming locations.

2. Bibury

Another contender for “prettiest village in England”, much of Bibury is protected by The National Trust, and for good reason. Arlington Row, which is the most photographed row of cottages in Bibury, dates back to the 1300’s, and you can even stay in one of them.

Grab a bite to eat at The Swan Hotel, which sits on the River Coln and is another Cotswolds Insta-landmark, again for its ivy-covered façade.

3. Poulton & Meysey Hampton

Ok, so whilst these are technically juuust outside of the Cotswolds, they’re both right on the edge and so sweet that they deserve a spot on this list. I’ve grouped them together because they’re a stones throw from each other and an easy walk between. Lunch at the Masons Arms, which sits on Meysey Hampton’s beautiful green, surrounded by Cotswold cottages. The green even has the old horse mount steps from time-gone-by that you can walk up.

4. Biddestone & Slaughterford

Just a 35-minute cross-country walk between each other, Biddestone and Slaughterford sit just across the Cotswolds border, and both are equally charming in aesthetic.

Biddestone’s White Horse pub is well regarded, or why not try The White Hart in Ford, and walk in a loop between Biddestone, Slaughterford and Ford.

5. Burford

Slightly larger than the previous 4 places, Burford boasts a much larger food scene and a small high street to boot. If you like antiques and homeware, Burford is the one for you.

Walk along the River Windrush towards Swinbrook on this scenic 6.5km walk before circling back to Burford for a well-earned pub lunch.

A short break on the Isle of Wight

Travel

Awash with seaside towns, no motorways, and beautiful rolling hills, the Isle of Wight is a wonderful haven from the hustle and bustle of mainland UK. If you’re after an easy, slow-paced break with lots of walks and outdoorsy activities, the Isle of Wight should definitely be considered. Outside of summer, it is also not too busy and you are spoilt by the sunsets.

We stayed for 4 days and 4 nights. Unfortunately 2 of those days were working days for us, but I think if you took that time off, 4 days would give you just about enough time to do the island justice.

Cowes

Not to be confused with East Cowes, Cowes is where we set up our base. Cowes and East Cowes are separated by the Medina River and are both very easy to get to. As a foot passenger you want the RedJet from Southampton, which takes you to Cowes. For car passengers, you want the Red Funnel that takes you to East Cowes, also from Southampton. Cowes is then about a 20 minute drive around the Medina.

Cowes (both East and west) was historically a Viking settlement, who used the Medina River for strategic raids on the mainland coasts. During Henry VIII’s reign, castles were built in both East and west Cowes, as the cities were frequently attacked by the French. In 1815, Cowes became the world’s first yachting centre, after the Royal Yacht Squadron was founded, and it is since then that Cowes’ nautical identity flourished.

Osbourne House

DINNER RECOMMENDATIONS The Coast and Gastronomy both blew us away. Both were nearly booked up when we made our reservations over a week beforehand, so a top tip is definitely to book early! The Coast serves a great selection of meats and seafood, pasta and vegetarian dishes. You’d be hard-pressed not to find something you like. Gastronomy serves a smaller fusion menu, all of it absolutely mouth-watering and beautifully served. The other place we had wanted to try, but didn’t get the chance, was Call It What You Want, which serves cajun-inspired food, beers and wines in a super relaxed setting.

COFFEE – By far the best coffee we had in Cowes was from Richmonds Bakery on Bath Street. They also make it incredibly hard to resist their cakes and treats, which are dangerously displayed in their bay windows as you walk past…

DRINKS – If you’re looking for a nice bar to grab a pre-dinner drink, or a sundowner, then check out The Winter Garden (which transforms into the Summer Garden in the summer), Harbour Kitchen, or Compass Bar. Another place that we had wanted to try but was closed is Mojacs, a wine bar tucked away and around the corner from The Coast.

The Needles

THINGS TO DO – English Heritage’s Osbourne House is by far one of the most popular things to do on the island. It’s in East Cowes and there is lots to explore, plenty of green space for picnics, and it really is an interesting piece of the island’s history. Carisbrooke Castle is another English Heritage site that’s quite popular, just outside of East Cowes.

If you’re after some fresh air, then there are a lot of walking options on the island. All very well sign-posted, you can’t turn a corner without seeing navigation route and cycle route markers. The National Trust owns a lot of the island’s green space, so it is definitely worth checking out their guides in advance.

Another iconic landmark to the island (and to GB, I’d argue) are The Needles. This area is also owned by The National Trust, and there is a visitors centre with a chairlift, mini golf, a viewing platform, and a coastal walk. We timed our trip for sunset, driving along Military Road from Ventnor to the Needles for epic cliff and sea views. Be warned, you are well and truly exposed to the elements, so wrap up warm, but the sunset is spectacular and it is totally worth the wind burn!

Other popular activities we found through our research were Blackgang Chime (a theme park), the Garlic Farm, Colebrook Bay, and Robin Hill Country Park.

Yarmouth – Day Trip

Yarmouth Pier

The pretty little town of Yarmouth is a great day trip from Cowes, and also from Lymington in the New Forest. The George, a pub that sits on the seafront and against Yarmouth Castle’s old walls is a great spot for food and drinks (or to stay the night). Lunch from Gossips Cafe is also a great option, or otherwise PO41 does excellent coffee and toasties.

Wander the cute little streets and pop your head into the delis, boutiques and bookshops before walking Yarmouth Pier, the last operational wooden pier in the British Isles, with lovely views over both Lymington and Yarmouth.

Ventnor – Day Trip

If, like me, antiques, coffee and seafront strolls are your cup of tea/(coffee?), then don’t miss Ventnor. It’s directly south of Cowes, and make sure you drive via Godshill, a very sweet and picturesque village en-route.

Ventnor has a lovely long seafront you can walk along, and definitely aim to finish your strolls at the Spyglass, an old pub that sits right on the edge of the cliffs with views out to sea. A very easy menu serving the likes of seafood, jacket potatoes, salads, sandwiches, etc, there’s something for everyone. The Spyglass also has local musicians come and perform on the weekends.

Book Review : Daisy Jones & The Six

Book Reviews, Travel

To put it plainly, I was blown away by this book. Inspired by the formation and rise of Fleetwood Mac, with a real 70’s retro rock flavour, this is the type of book where you mourn finishing it, and absolutely have to pick up another book by that same author (Taylor Jenkins Reid in this case). It had me conducting in-depth research into each Fleetwood Mac member, reading old news stories on them and their tours, and listening to all of their music again with a new appreciation.

What I love about a Taylor Jenkins Reid novel is that there is always a twist or three, and you never know when she will reveal them to you, you just know that they are coming. No spoilers here, but the twists in this storyline are wonderfully delivered and altogether will have you reading this book in every square inch of space in your day.

What I also enjoyed about this book is that it is written as an interview script, giving you the perspective of each band member. It means you get multiple viewpoints, which all match and clash at the same time to really drive home how the eventual fall-out of the band came to be (this is not a spoiler, given that we know that Fleetwood Mac split).

An incredible book I won’t forget. It’s a must-read if you haven’t already.

Second Hand September

Shopping, Style, Sustainable, Uncategorized

Do you buy second hand?

According to Oxfam, around 13 million items of clothing get sent to landfill every week.

Let that sink in. 13. Million. Items.

I am no saint when it comes to my wardrobe, but I have been making a conscious effort in the last few years. If I don’t love it, or it’s short-term fashion, I won’t invest.

This article is going to be an aid-memoir for me, and maybe you too, during Second-Hand September so that I/you know where to go when I/you feel the pull of Fast Fashion…

Some second-hand shops to use

  • Charity shops
  • Vestiaire
  • Depop
  • eBay
  • Vinted
  • Instagram online shops – Second Stories Vintage, Jesse & Iris Vintage, Virtual Vintage Fair, Found & Curated Vintage, a Virtual Vintage Market, Retold Vintage, Darling and Vintage, the Pansy Garden, Peony Vintage, Sisters Love Vintage…

Some of the best items I’ve bought second-hand

  • Michael Kors tote bag
  • Somerset by Alice Temperley dresses x2
  • Mulberry purse
  • Sweaty Betty ski jacket
  • Buberry coat
  • Vintage gold jewellery (for my business, but still)

Wardrobe-rental shops

  • By Rotation
  • Hurr Clothing
  • On Loan
  • Rotaro

Some circular/upcycling/deadstock small clothing businesses to support

  • Made by SJP
  • With Love Evie
  • Grandpa’s Shirts
  • Agnes Ldn
  • Molby the Label
  • Leila Ray Vintage
  • Tula & Tye
  • Joanna Sands
  • Studio Minti
  • Megan Crosby
  • Grey Milk
  • Benjamin Fox
  • Sign of the Times
  • Public Footpath
  • Wild Folk Studio
  • Lola Alba Vintage

Some better larger fashion brands to support

  • Pink City Prints
  • Kitri Studio
  • Dilli Grey
  • Molby the Label
  • Joanna Sands
  • Selkie
  • Aspiga
  • Rae Feather

Mindsets and a mental checklist

  • Does it spark joy, Marie Kondo style?
  • Will I love it in a year’s time?
  • Do I want to invest in this at the expense of something else?
  • Who made it?
  • What is is made of?
  • Do I want to support the company selling it/the manufacturer?
  • Is it quality, or will it shrink/stretch and be unwearable after 1 wash?

Environmental and social facts and figures

If the above lists weren’t helpful enough, here are some shocking facts and figures that should put you off from clicking ‘Place Order’ from a fast-fashion retailer…

  • The fashion industry emits 10% of the entire planet’s carbon emissions (that is far, far more than any airline, for example)
  • The fashion industry is the second largest consumer of the world’s water supplies
  • One garbage truck full of clothing is dumped every second
  • Many clothes that are dumped contain polyester – this is a plastic and does not break down like cotton fibres. Washing polyester produces microplastics, which filter into our water systems and, eventually, our oceans.
  • Microplastic and plastic pollution from the fashion industry forms roughly a 1/3 of ocean plastic pollution
  • Cotton farming uses any incredibly high amount of water – both to grow the plant and to wash it and turn it into textile.
  • The environmental impact of cotton farming is clear to see in the Aral Sea disaster; https://matadornetwork.com/read/aral-sea-ecological-disaster/
  • The fashion industry could supply 110 million people, who are currently without, with water every year
  • Garment workers are often not protected by regulations, meaning there is no minimum wage protection, nor employment protection. When the pandemic first hit, millions of garment workers lost their jobs across the globe without any pay or compensation.

Facts from:

We Forum

Common Objective

Remake

Workers Rights Union

Book Review : Spinning Silver

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

I didn’t know what to expect from Spinning Silver. The story is based on the children’s fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin, part of the Brothers Grimm writings. The original folk tale is not very long, and so I was intrigued to see how Naomi Novik would fill out the plot into a 400-odd page book.

Novik’s imagination starts the book off in the small and humble village of Lithvas, sitting on the outskirts of a larger city, Visnia, and very close to a wintery road that is covered in snow no matter the season. It is said that the road brings brutal, mystical (if not magical) people, known as the Staryk, who search and plunder for gold.

The main protagonist is Miryem, the daughter of the village’s money-lender. Miryem’s father has too kind a heart and a dislike for confrontation, meaning his family live in poverty as he never calls in the villagers’ debts. Miryem begins to take over her father’s business, learning how to trade, and bringing wealth to her family. Their village resents this.

One day Miryem is visited by the king of the Staryk, who has heard of Miryem’s abilities to create gold out of goods and silver (through her business and trading). And so the story really begins (no spoilers here though).

Alongside Miryem’s story is that of two other women. One, Wanda, the daughter of the village’s drunk who goes to work for Miryem, and Irina, the daughter of the Duke of Visnia.

What I loved the most about this book are the three heroines. Each of their characters are strong and brave. There are no damsels in distress here. I also loved the way the book weaves between each of the women’s storylines, slowly building the overall picture. What I struggled with at times were the complexities of the plots and the depth of detail. However, overall I really enjoyed this book and Novik’s style of writing, and will be moving on to her other book, Uprooted, soon.

UK City Break: 3 days in York and beyond

Drink, Food, Shopping, Travel, Uncategorized

As a lover of history, York has always been on my list of UK places I’ve wanted to visit. When the pandemic meant that international holidays were out and UK staycations were in, I decided to jump on the opportunity to get up to York.

Some quick facts about York:

  • Population: around 210,000
  • Founded in: 71 AD by the Romans. After their fall, Anglo-Saxons lived there before being conquered by the Vikings who renamed it “Jorvik”, and so York got its name.
  • Top touristy spots: York Minster, The Shambles, Yorkshire Museum, Betty’s Tearooms, Jorvik Viking Museum, York Railway Museum, York City Walls
  • Excellent food/drink spots (there are so many but these are a few): Pairings Wine Bar, Partisan, Sapori, Brew & Brownie, Wheldrakes, Mannion & Co, The Dark Horse Espresso Bar, The Larder Club, Shambles Market
  • Great day trips: Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay, Malton (food capital of Yorkshire), Harrogate, Yorkshire Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Haworth (birthplace of the Bronte sisters)
  • Tips:
    • Book everything that needs tickets in advance!
    • Check opening times – (e.g. the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth is not open 7 days a week)
    • Get the Ringo app – easiest way to pay for parking
    • Get up early to experience York before the tourists – we arrived for 8am and got to have the Shambles, the Minster, and the City Walls all to ourselves!

Day 0.5: York

Coming from London, the drive to York took us about 5 hours (stops included), and could not have been easier . Just get yourself onto the M1 and drive.

Given how iconic it is to the city, we booked York Minster tickets for the afternoon. It is a beautiful building, and you can see the Doomstone there.

We then pulled up a chair at Sapori, which is a wine bar on the Shambles, and enjoyed wine and nibbles whilst watching the world go by.

Tip: If you get a lovely sunset, definitely go to York Minster. It is simply stunning.

Day 1: Day Trip to Malton, Robin Hood’s Bay & Whitby

I love a road trip. For me, there is nothing worse than coming away from a trip you’ve looked forward to for months, only to discover you missed half the good stuff!

Malton

Yorkshire is filled with gorgeous villages, towns and coastline. So if you don’t drive up, have a look at public transport or hire a car for the day and get out of the city.

We went for a loop from York to Malton to RHB to Whitby and back to York. We also chose the route that took us over the Yorkshire Dales (beautiful).

Malton – the food capital of Yorkshire, with a pretty centre. Lots of boutiques and antique shops, and some incredible food options. We ate at Lutt & Turner (incredible, highly recommend).

Robin Hood’s Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay – a picture-perfect coastal town. Gorgeous side-streets and idyllic houses, plus a long open beach and a coastal path.

Grab a drink from The Bay Hotel and listen to live performers, or go fossil hunting on RHB beach.

Whitby – a larger coastal town, Whitby is famous for its fish & chips and seaside activities and arcades. It is also overlooked by the eerily beautiful Whitby Abbey, an impressive ruin and English Heritage site.

Save your appetite for fish & chips (if only to fuel your Adventure Golf and arcade shenanigans on the pier), and then drive up to Whitby Abbey for views of Whitby and out to sea.

Day 2: York

Day 2 was a day focused on York’s food and history scenes. We got up early doors to see York without the hustle and bustle and tourists, grabbing a coffee and snack from Brew & Brownie to fuel us. It’s well worth it if you want some empty photos and prefer the quiet.

York City Walls

We grabbed an incredible breakfast at Partisan (book ahead, you won’t regret it), before walking the city walls and along the river, and just generally wandering and doing a bit of shopping.

Next food-stop was Betty’s Tea Room. Every time we had walked past Bettys, the queue was round the corner, so you definitely, definitely, definitely want to book this one in advance! Bettys is famous for afternoon tea, and has become an unconditional requirement of a trip to York.

The Shambles

Because we hadn’t booked ahead, we weren’t able to get tickets to Jorvik or the Yorkshire Museum on the day, but, keen to learn some of York’s history, we were able to buy tickets to the York Dungeons on the day. Fun and scary at the same time, it’s a lighter way to absorb the history of York.

We rounded off our foodie day with an evening at Pairings. We had intended to only be there for one quick glass, but ended up staying for 4 hours! If you love wine and charcuterie, then do not miss this one.

Day 3: Harrogate & Haworth

Valley Gardens, Harrogate

We planned our route home to go via Harrogate and Haworth.

Harrogate also has a Betty’s Tea Room, excellent shopping, and the gorgeous Valley Gardens.

Haworth

Haworth is just lovely. A long cobbled high street with views across the valley and a fabulous mix of shops, Haworth shouldn’t be missed. If you are also a a literature-lover, then definitely visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and walk up to the Bronte Waterfall.

4 days in Hay-on-Wye

Drink, Food, Shopping, Travel, Uncategorized

I was recently spoilt with a very special trip to Hay-on-Wye, a town that sits on the Welsh border, just west of Hereford. It reminded me a lot of a Cotswold town, with pretty stone buildings and narrow streets.

We spent 4 days there, arriving via Cardiff and driving through the Brecon Beacons (which were incredibly beautiful), but you can also drive via the Cotswolds so if you had longer, I think the perfect trip would be a few days in both areas.

Hay-on-Wye is known as “the town of books” and if/when you go, you will see why. Every other shop is a bookshop, or sells books (new and second-hand). It’s magical. There is also a plethora of homeware and antiques shops, and the food and drink scene is excellent too.

Day 1: Cardiff and Hay-on-Wye

If you’ve not explored Cardiff before, then I would highly recommend driving through this way on your way to Hay. Cardiff is a fantastic city, with excellent shopping, history, and things to do. It also has oodles of old arcades which are filled with independent eateries and shops.

I recommend these food places especially:

  1. Wallys Deli in the Royal Arcade
  2. Coffee Barker in the Castle Arcade
  3. New York Deli in the High Street Arcade
  4. Madame Fromage, also in the Castle Arcade

Cardiff is also not that far, taking around 2.5 hours from Hampshire, so you could just about make it a day trip.

If you have longer, I would also explore the Cardiff Central Market, and Cardiff Castle (free entry to the grounds only). The Cardiff Bay area is also excellent, and an easy train ride from Cardiff Central.

Our drive from Cardiff to our accommodation, Cynefin Retreats, took us around 1.5 hours, with wonderful scenery to admire along the way.

Day 2: The Brecon Beacons & Pen Y Fan

Pen Y Fan is the highest point in the Brecon Beacons, and much of the surrounding area is owned by the National Trust. The car park for the trek is back towards Cardiff, and it fills up very quickly, so definitely get there early. The walk is circular and well sign-posted, but the best tip is to start from the car park (the one with the toilets, not the other one), and go straight up anti-clockwise, rather than clockwise (the clockwise route is a much, much steeper climb!).

The loop took us about 2.5 hours (including stops for photos, naturally), so all-in from Hay, it’ll take around 6 hours, leaving you the afternoon to explore Hay some more (or recover!).

Day 3: Hay-on-Wye

You really are spoilt for choice in this wonderful town. For the vintage and book lovers, you can get lost for hours in the high street shops and arcades. My favourite was the Hay Antique Market on Market Street, which I spent a lot of time in (much to my non-vintage loving fiancé’s delight!).

Even if antiques are not your thing, there are a lot of other shops to dip in and out of (like Goosey Gander), as well as lots of food spots.

Our favourites were The Old Electric Shop, Eves, and The Granary but we felt like we barely scratched the surface of Hay’s food scene!

As it was our final night, for dinner we booked Chapters, which is a small and intimidate restaurant serving only local and seasonal foods, most of which is grown by the owners.

Chapters is inside an old chapel on Lion Street and serves a tasting menu of about 7 courses. It’s a fab way to taste local and fresh food, and I would definitely recommend it.

Day 4: Hay-on-Wye and Home

I always find that the places I love the most are the ones that leave you wanting more, where you feel as though you have only just begun to get to know them as you have to leave. Hay is definitely one of those places, and I have no doubt that we will return soon.

Unmissable upcoming markets

Drink, Food, Shopping, Style, Travel

We visited Alresford last weekend, and had the luck of stumbling upon their bi-annual brocante and antiques market, hosted by ACVR events. Although we (and they) were nearly blown away in these uncustomary gale-force winds we’ve been having, there were some beautiful pieces and/or bargains (the joy of an antiques market is that the two are never mutually exclusive) for sale there.

I love having a mooch around a market, particularly when having a lazy weekend, so I thought I would make a list of some of the upcoming ones over the next few months.

Winchester

On the first Sunday of every month is the Antiques Market (it’s brilliant. You could spend a lot of time there).

On the second and fourth Sunday of every month is the Hampshire Farmer’s Market.

On the third Sunday of every month is the Art & Design Market.

I am biased, but Winchester is one of my favourite places. We are spoilt with inescapable history on every corner, independent shops and fantastic food options.

Southsea

Love Southsea Market hosts a fantastic market every two or so weeks. Stalls include street food, flowers, clothes and fashion, homewares and accessories, and jewellery.

You need to book tickets at the moment, due to Covid : About — Love Southsea Markets

Separately, there is also a farmers market on the third Sunday of every month.

Southsea is a lovely coastal town, east of Portsmouth (a little like Brighton & Hove twin together, so does Portsmouth & Southsea). It is full of cool eateries, coffee spots, and independent shops (and very lovely 4-storey townhouses looking out to sea).

Alresford/Alton/Petersfield

Alresford – Every Thursday, Alresford hosts their weekly market of local foods, ceramics and homewares. There’s lots to also explore around Alresford, including shops and walks, so it’s definitely worth a day-trip.

Alresford’s bi-annual vintage and brocante market that we stumbled upon last weekend is separately hosted by ACVR events. The next is on the 26 September. If you want to catch it sooner, head to Ringwood, Romsey or Bishops Waltham, or otherwise have a look here: Calendar of Events – Speciality Markets & Events (acvrevents.co.uk)

Alton – The pretty little market town of Alton hosts a weekly market on a Tuesday. The farmers’ market is also on, on 12 June, 17 July and 14 August, and the Hampshire farmers market on the second Saturday of each month. Alton is also a stone’s throw away from Chawton House, Jane Austen’s family home.

Petersfield – On every Wednesday and Saturday, the Petersfield market has a variety of stalls and is on between 8:30 and 3pm. The Hampshire farmer’s market is on there on the first Sunday of every month.

Ringwood

The Hampshire farmer’s market is held on the last Saturday of each month. There is also a weekly market every Wednesday selling local produce, crafts, clothes and plants.

On 3 July, 4 September, 6 November, and 4 December the ACVR vintage and antiques market we had the pleasure of visiting in Alresford today, will be at Ringwood.

Ringwood is another lovely Hampshire market town, close to beaches and the New Forest, with excellent eateries and independent shops.

Romsey

Romsey’s market is hosted every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday morning in The Cornmarket. Romsey has hosted a market for over 400 years, so although I have not visited this one, I imagine it would be a nice one to stroll through. Romsey is another town with some nice independent shops and cafes.

The Hampshire farmers market is also on, on the first Sunday of every month.

The ACVR brocante market is also here on 25 July, 17 October, and 28 November.

Bishops Waltham

The ACVR brocante market is also here on 18 July and 10 October. Bishops Waltham’s markets are sadly on hold at the moment, but is usually on Fridays.

I have not been to Bishops Waltham in a long time, but it’s on my list now that things are opening up. I have, however, heard that there is a Josie’s there and therefore I am convinced it will be a nice day trip. Bishops Waltham is nestled on the edge of the South Downs, en route to other towns and villages worth a visit, such as Wickham.

Day Trip/Weekend Break : Lyme Regis, Dorset

Drink, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

We recently did a day trip to Lyme Regis in Dorset, and really loved it! It is a something-for-everyone small seaside town two hours from Winchester.

It had real Cornwall-y vibes, and the drive itself is super pretty given that it crosses the New Forest, and the rolling hills of the Wiltshire and Dorset countryside (depending on your route).

Things To Do

Beach

Obviously there’s the sea! The beach has a sandy side and a shingle side, so it’s a win-win really. There were lots of cafes and stalls along the front for refreshments, and some watersports and equipment-for-hire places too.

Mini Golf & The Town Mill

There’s a great outdoor mini golf course set up the hillside that overlooks the harbour and sea.

The Town Mill is a converted mill turned art gallery and space for local artisans. There’s a pretty courtyard and a cafe selling locally sourced food.

High Street

The high street, is very small and there are not a lot of shops, but it’s definitely worth a mooch. There are some lovely (and fancy) homeware shops, and lots of vintage and antique stores too. We didn’t get to try it, but there was a queue out the door and down the street for Mulberry Manor bakery, so I can’t vouch for it, but it’s probably worth a try.

Walks & Heritage

The Jurassic Coast has many walking options, and also a lot of National Trust and English Heritage sites nearby.

Lewesdon Hill (National Trust) is the highest point in Dorset, providing views across Devon, Somerset and out to sea.

The East Devon and Dorset hills (both AONBs) and the Blackdown Hills are also in close proximity.

Food & Drink

Town Mill Bakery – situated down Coombe Street, and named after the Town Mill itself, Town Mill Bakery offers great breakfast and brunch options.

The Oyster & Fish House – if you love seafood, this place should not be missed. Lovely views over the sea, friendly staff, and excellent seafood and cocktails.

Swim – a good brunch and lunch spot, selling burgers, salad, as well as steak, fish and vegetarian options. It has a great cocktail menu too, with views over the beach.

Dottie Kitchen – another good lunch spot selling wraps, smoothies, salads and sandwiches.

Kiosk – right on the seafront, selling excellent ice cream and fair-trade coffee.

Book Review : The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

[If you haven’t read this book, there are some spoilers in this post!]

The Midnight Library – Waterstones

The Midnight Library has been such a joyful and warming read for me. If you are looking for a beautifully written story full of reassurances and hope then you should add this to your list.

For those who have not read The Midnight Library, the book is about a young woman, Nora, who is struggling and unhappy with her life. Her career, her finances, her relationships (in terms of friends, family and partners) are all not progressing as she had hoped and, ultimately, her life is lacking in love and fulfilment. Sadly, she decides that suicide is her only option left and so she enters The Midnight Library, a sort of halfway-house/’room’ filled with all of the possibilities that her life could have been, or evolved to be, together with The Book of Regrets (fairly self-explanatory). The story explores some of the main choices that Nora regrets throughout her life, taking Nora to those lives that she would be living had she chosen differently. Ultimately, Nora learns that her current life is actually the one that will make her most happy, with the resounding messages behind the book being that you have all the tools in place at any time to live the life you want, and that the grass is not always greener.

We live in an increasingly fast-paced, immediate, and accessible world. It is difficult not to compare your own life to the idyllic little Instagram squares of nomadic travellers island-hopping around Australasia, or the perfectly dressed women brunching on a Tuesday in Mayfair. On the other hand, we live in a world filled with so many opportunities and options that we are also overwhelmed with choice, and it can be hard to make decisions without thinking ‘what if’. This is why the book resonated so much with me. It is a gentle reminder that you and your life are enough, and what is important is having things in it that you love. It is also a message of perseverance and bravery, of not giving up when things feel too much and to embrace opportunities and challenges as they come rather than dwelling on regrets.

What also made me love the book so much is that it touches on so many complex topics in such a direct but gentle way that I think everyone can learn from. The catalyst of the story is suicide. In some of her lives, Nora’s brother struggles with alcoholism, and, in one life, Nora’s best friend dies suddenly and tragically. Some lives include deep family rifts, others leave Nora feeling like a failure. Nora suffers imposter syndrome in some of her lives, and depression and anxiety in others. Many of these topics are difficult to do justice to, given their complexity, and some can find them difficult to fully understand unless they struggle too. And yet, the way in which Haig delivers each of these topics is both educating and eye-opening for his reader.

The Midnight Library is an important book that leaves you feeling happy and lifted, all whilst discussing some very difficult issues. It reassures you that you are not alone in the struggles you face, and to embrace life no matter how scary it can be at times. It is well worth a read.