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Category Archives: Places

Why I Love Companion Care Vets…

Fletch and I have always had ruff (ha ha) experiences at the vets. He’s a very sociable dog (by sociable, I mean he wants to kiss all people and try to have sex with all other dogs) and so most of our vets trips have been bookmarked by stressful waiting room situations where he pulls and chokes and coughs up bubbly stuff, and I fight against him getting hotter and more embarrassed with each moment that passes.

When I eventually managed to sit down he would cry and try to get under the seats and shed fur like mad…it was very stressful for the both of us. It doesn’t help that most vet’s surgeries are filled with other stressed out animals. Their crying often seemed to make him even more on edge.

We’ve also had some vets be downright mean because of his breed and his talkative nature. I know he’s as soft as whippy ice cream (and SO affectionate), but they don’t, and some of them have said some VERY hurtful things.  So much so that they have had me leaving their practices in tears and refusing to go back.

Now we take Fletch to Companion Care in the Redditch branch of Pets at Home and we couldn’t be happier…

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Firstly, seeing as this is one of the only shops that I’ve taken Fletch into, he was already well used to going in to do fun things like choose toys, try on collars, and buy treats. He’s also met a lot of other dogs in there under non-stressful circumstances and he’s genuinely happy to walk in.

Even when we get up to the back of the shop (where Companion Care is located) he stays calm and interested, rather than pulling around manically…

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Their waiting room is split into two parts around the desk so if there are any stressed animals there we can keep him away from them. Sometimes there’s dogs and cats everywhere in there but because of the fact it’s in a massive pet shop we can always take him for a wander down an aisle if he’s getting worked up.

The vets themselves are fabulous. too. They all say hello to Fletch, pet him LOADS and offer him treats before trying to administer any care so he’s always comfortable and relaxed when the “unfun” things begin. He’s had to stay in for surgery on occasion and every time they’ve reassured us that he’s a lovely natured dog that they’re very happy to have. They’re so much more welcoming of him than the other vets we took him to in Redditch.

Finally, and this only occured to me the other day when we took him in for vaccinations on a Sunday…what other vet surgeries do you know that operate on weekends and bank holidays? Of course, there’s always out of hours and emergency vets, but it’s definitely reassuring to know that we can get hold of people we know and trust pretty much every day of the year.

…above all, it’s lovely that this old boy is happier, more relaxed, and very well cared for…

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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Animals, Life, Places, Reviews

 

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The Constance Wallace Tea Shop…

So, yesterday my sister Steph took me, my Mom and my Great-Aunt out for lunch as a belated Mother’s Day present. I asked if we could go to the Constance Wallace Tea Shop as I was desperate go and sit in and try their food. Luke and I had hired a HUGE amount of vintage china from them for our summer wedding party last August (more about that after the food…) and I’d fallen in love with their cute little shop, but so far I hadn’t had the chance to eat there.

The shop is tucked away in Barnt Green Village amongst the other shops, and looks amazingly inviting from the outside…

The Tea Shop - 91 Hewell Road, Barnt Green, B45 8NL

The Tea Shop – 91 Hewell Road, Barnt Green, B45 8NL

It can be quite difficult to park sometimes, but it’s well worth a short walk from anywhere you can find a parking spot. It’s also very close to Barnt Green train station so is nice and easy to get to by public transport too.

Inside, the shop is even more beautiful, and has been so lovingly decorated with vintage china, bunting, birdcages and the like. They’ve also got lots of lovely, desirable things for sale, as well as china and party decorations for hire. If you can think of it, I’m pretty sure they have it there…

...there's seating by the cosy fireplace...

…there’s seating by the cosy fireplace…

...the lovely ladies who served us working away behind the till...

…the lovely ladies who served us working away behind the till…

...walls of beautiful china...

…walls of beautiful china…

We walked in to find the shop busy and were pretty lucky to find a table for the four of us (I would highly recommend booking a table, especially if you plan to visit at lunchtime), but the ladies in there couldn’t have been more welcoming. We had menus as soon as we sat down and were served in double-quick time.

...Mom was very happy to be there...

…Mom was very happy to be there…

...Steph enjoying her Earl Grey (and wearing a Gryffindor scarf even though she's a Hufflepuff!)...

…Steph enjoying her Earl Grey (and wearing a Gryffindor scarf even though she’s a Hufflepuff!)…

...me and my sister being dubious of Mom's photography skills...

…me and my sister being dubious of Mom’s photography skills…

It took me a while to decide what I wanted…no, that’s a complete lie. I knew exactly what I wanted before I went in. I wanted afternoon tea (£14.95pp) but I took my time committing to it as everyone else was being “good” and just ordering toasted sandwiches and tea. In the end I gave in to myself, announced that I was eating for two and ordered exactly what I wanted. Huzzah!

I had to smile when the teapot and teacups were brought to the table as I got the teapot – so I could be “Mother” – and a pretty pink patterned teacup because I “might be having a girl”…lending yet more cosmic weight to my feeling that our bubs is a girl

...pretty teacup and cute teaspoon...

…pretty teacup and cute teaspoon…

…and then the food arrived…

…and OH MY GOODNESS was it good…

...my afternoon tea in all its glory...

…my afternoon tea in all its glory…

...and in close up...

…and in close up…

…knowing that I was pregnant, the waitresses did everything they could to make sure my lunch was suitable for me. Normally the selection of sandwiches includes brie (which I can’t have) and smoked salmon (which I wasn’t sure I could have) so they took it away and it came back instead with extras of the things I could eat. I had cheese and cucumber, ham, beef and caramelised onion marmalade, and egg mayonnaise, all of which were delicious, and all accompanied with salad, crisps and a pot of coleslaw. 

A really lovely touch was that I got two plates, so when I’d covered one in coleslaw and mayo I had a clean one hiding underneath for the cakes…

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Moving up a level were two lovely warm scones with mini pots of jam and cream. At first I was convinced that there wouldn’t be enough of either for two scones (greedy cow that I am)…

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…but the portion size was perfect…

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…and finally on the top layer I had a mini éclair (lovely), an orange cupcake (which I gave to Steph as I’m not a fan of orange flavoured things…but she LOVED it), a blueberry and cream meringue (delicious) and fruit kebabs (very refreshing after lots of cake and cream…they were KEBABULOUS!)

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My food was so good that I honestly didn’t care what anyone else was eating, but they all said that their ham, cheese and tomato toasties were fabulous. Made with lovely bread, they came with a huge portion of salad and my Aunt said that it was the best sandwich she’d had in a long time. High praise indeed…

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As a pregnant lady, I obviously have to visit the toilets in EVERY establishment that I visit, and even that was a joy. The washroom was gorgeously decorated, with a beautiful feature wall made of hundreds of pieces of broken crockery, and there were some really thoughtful little touches to make it just a special as the tearoom itself…

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When it came time for us to leave the ladies at the tea shop wished me all the best with my pregnancy and encouraged us to come back soon…and to bring the baby too when he or she arrives. It was lovely to be made to feel so welcome and I absolutely cannot wait to go back again. It’ll be lovely to be able to visit a baby-friendly teashop with my little one, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find a good reason to go back there even sooner than that.

Thank you to the ladies of the teashop for a warm welcome, fabulous service and fantastic food…and thank you to my lovely little sister for a wonderful lunch!


ADDITIONAL – CHINA HIRE

I can HIGHLY recommend not only The Tea Shop, but also their Vintage China Hire. They did us proud last year when we hired enough cups, saucers, teapots, coffee pots, milk jugs and sugar bowls (oh…and sugar tongs, tea spoons, cake stands and vintage picnic blankets!) for sixty people…they did us a fantastic deal at VERY VERY short notice and couldn’t have been more helpful.

We had a summer wedding party so that our friends and family could celebrate our marriage in the sunshine. Constance Wallace helped to make our party really special and all our guests commented on how wonderfully the afternoon tea we served was presented. I would definitely hire china and party supplies from them again, and after eating there I would also be VERY keen to use their catering and party planning services too!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Days Out, Food, Places, Reviews

 

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Our First Seaside Adventure…

Once we had overcome the trauma of a broken gear stick, Luke, Old Red and I were off to Kings Lynn (or there abouts) to seek out the sea. That was all the plan we had. We were back on the road again and we weren’t being towed home! Hurrah!

Aaaand, we're back on the road!

Aaaand, we’re back on the road!

When we arrived in the town centre we were met with a load of depressing buildings and roads and not much else. We gave up on winging it and asked Google maps to find us a site by a beach. We had looked at a map when trying to decide which way to head, but I had (unfortunately) failed to notice how in-land Kings Lynn (the town) is…

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Whoops!

Once again, we set our sights on the sea and headed for Diglea Caravan and Campsite in Snettisham. When we got there we found that it wasn’t exactly beach-adjacent (it was a good ten minutes walk) and that the reception had closed hours ago. We could still check in (at the amusingly named ‘Beavers Munchbox’) but the debit card machine was locked away in reception and we had no cash. Great. So we got back in the van and began our quest for a cashpoint. We found one in a garage a few miles along the road, and on the way we also spotted signs for other beachside campsites. It was just our luck to find one ‘randomly’, like we’d wanted to, after we’d half-booked into one that Google had found. We were tempted to pretend that we’d never given up on finding a site by chance and follow a brown sign, but n the end we drove back along the road and completed our check-in with the nice people at Diglea. It really is a lovely, friendly site…we highly recommend it if you’re in the Kings Lynn area and need a spot to camp for the night.

We settled for a pitch without electric hook-ups (they’re not much use when you’ve left your power cable at home), paid £18 for the night, and set off towards the Touring/Camping field (where we could barbecue our dinner) and the promise of free hot showers!

The facilities at Diglea are great and they give you a very comprehensive little map of the site so that you don’t get lost searching for toilets/water/fire fighting equipment.

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Map (not to scale) of Diglea…

The massive wash rooms were really clean and inviting, and the showers were lovely and hot. Unfortunately for me, they were those stupid push-button affairs, and I seemed to have picked a lazy one. It wanted reminding that I needed water once every ten seconds, which *almost* annoyed me, but by this point I felt so stressed and grubby that I could forget the button and imagine it was a luxury power shower.

It was probably about 10.30pm by the time we pulled the table down out of the roof and sat down to eat. I had a few sips of beer and closed my eyes for a minute, and when I opened them the sun was shining again. A cup of tea was the first order of the day but the milk had gone bad overnight, so we decided to drive to the nearby shop and have breakfast on the beach.

At the bottom of a long winding road we found the beach car park. It was £5 to park for the day, but the attendant was kind enough to let us have an hour on there for just a pound. After racing up the dunes to get a view of the sea we found a lovely pebbly beach and stood and breathed it all in for a while…

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It was pretty windy…

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…so we took full advantage of our new kite and, after tea and two MASSIVE bacon sandwiches, we spent a good while trying to pull some stunts (which resulted in a LOT of kite smackdowns)…

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Luke…

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Luke…

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Luke again…

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Me…

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Me again!

Eventually we got bored of putting the kite back together after each nose-dive into the pebbles. We said a last goodbye to the horizon and climbed back over the dunes the the van. It was Tuesday and it was time to admit that the weekend had ended…and time to head home…

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Back on the long (an traffic-jammy) road home…

The sky over Norfolk...

The sky over Norfolk…

More sky...

More sky…

Yet more beautiful sky...

Yet more beautiful sky…

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Camping, Days Out, Places, Travel

 

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That Really Grinds My Gears…

We left Barefoot on Monday, July 29th, heading for the sea with another day of holiday ahead of us. As I said before, we hadn’t wanted the festival to end, and so we’d set off for the east coast with Kings Lynn and the seaside in our sights.

We didn’t have a campsite booked (or even planned) and we weren’t even sure of where we were going, and so when we spotted a sign for a farm shop we turned off the beaten track and onto a country road. The fabled ‘shop’ was a van on the side of the road that sold a few rotten looking vegetables, so we kept on going to civilisation and eventually found ourselves pulling into an Aldi store in Wisbech.

We pulled into the car park with no problem and headed inside to buy all the essentials that we needed for the night and morning ahead (bacon, sausuages, a kite and a diabolo…as you do) and prepared to get back on the road.

…and that’s when we hit our first problem…

I’ve moaned about my clunky 5-speed gearbox and difficult gear-stick before. I always have trouble getting it into first and reverse is almost impossible…but this time it was a million times worse. Instead of plain old refusing the slide up into reverse, the stick was kind of twisting and bending in a very worrying manner. It felt like it was broken. After pulling up the collar and giving it some closer inspection, we found out that is WAS indeed broken…

The weld that connected the stick to the linkage was not only very badly done, but was also cracking and letting the stick turn around on it’s thread. Oh dear,…

Rather than try and force it into reverse and break it completely, Luke pushed us out of the space and I got the van into first, planning on limping it to a nearby garage.

…and that’s when we hit our second problem…

Just as we were pulling away the gear stick went SPLAT on the floor of the van and we were stuck in first. Oh deary dear…

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And so, at 5.15pm, just 15 minutes before most garages close, over 100 miles from home, we pulled into another parking space and began ringing around to find someone who could help us…to no avail. Eventually we called the RAC thinking that our adventure was over before it had begun.

The RAC man arrived incredibly quickly, and was a lot more helpful than we’d imagined he’d be. He told us that he couldn’t tow us (they’d done their usual trick and sent an entirely unsuitable response vehicle out), but he was more than willing to get us into second gear and limp us along to a garage. Not only that, but he knew a garage nearby that might still be open, which was on the same estate as his mate’s welding company. Result. If the garage was closed then we’d have to camp there overnight and his friend would be more than happy to weld us back together in the morning.

It was a great plan, until he realised how difficult it was going to be to get the van into second gear, and so he asked me to start the engine to see if that made it easier…

…and that’s when we hit our third problem…

Old Red wouldn’t start.

Nothing.

The hazard lights wouldn’t even come on anymore. The battery was dead, maybe from the fridge being set to 12V throughout the journey, or the fact we didn’t have an earthing strap attached to the bodywork. The helpful RAC man started us up by connecting jump leads to the battery and the bodywork…

…and that’s when we hit our FOURTH problem…

He didn’t connect the bulldog clip to just the bodywork. No. He connected it to the bodywork via one of our fuel pipes. It was only when Luke asked why there was diesel spilling everywhere that he even noticed he’d done it. Needless to say, I was not overly impressed with him at this point and time was marching on.

Before too long the pipe was trimmed and reconnected, we were in second gear, and we were following silly Mr RAC man out of the car park and along the four miles of road to the garage. At 10 miles an hour. It was 6.20pm by this point and I was already looking at nearby hotels and trying to work out if we could afford to sleep somewhere that had a toilet, rather than in a car park. There was no way we were going to get to the seaside that night…

And then we pulled up here…

Cannot recommend these dudes enough

Cannot recommend these dudes enough

Michael Motors, Unit 1, 62 Weasenham Road, Wisbech PE13 2RU…if you are ever in Wisbech and in need of the help of a mechanic, these are the guys to turn to! Admittedly, the first guy Luke spoke to said ‘tomorrow’ in a very gruff voice, but his colleague very helpfully pointed out that they were there, and we were there, and they might as well do it right then so that we could get on our way and not have to camp on their forecourt overnight. 

And into the garage we went…

Back in a garage...again...

Back in a garage…again…

One earthing strap, a bit of expert welding, and £50 later, and we were ready to roll again. I was beside myself with joy (and, honestly, disbelief) and thanked Michael and Thomas for their kind help. Luke tried to give them extra money for a drink but they refused on the grounds that if they drank they wouldn’t be around to do late-night fixes. They’d be at the pub.

I called them angels but they refused that too and said that they like to help wherever they can. Michael told me that he’d once leant his car to a woman for three days because she’d broken down with her kids in the car and he didn’t have time to fix it for her then and there. Once again, I told them they were angels.

Back in one piece again!...for the time being

Back in one piece again!…for the time being

…and so our mini seaside adventure began…

 

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Places to Visit: Huettenpalast…

So…first an admission. I read the Daily Mail. There, I said it…it’s done with. Can we move on now?

No?…but I swear I only read it ironically. And because I’m bored. And I quite like it.

ANYWAY!

Today I read (in the Daily Fail) about a hotel in Berlin called Huettenpalast where they’ve created a campsite indoors! From the looks of the photo the caravans and cabins all share the same massive room, and the holiday-makers all have to share the same ‘on-site’ men’s and women’s facilities, but what an amazing idea?!

and I thought you couldn't get any better than Glamping...

and I thought you couldn’t get any better than Glamping…

an indoor cabin...

an indoor cabin…

...and cosy looking beds!

…and cosy looking beds!

 

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Places, Travel

 

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France Pt.4 – Fougères…

We may have decided to forego Paris and Versailles during our recent trip to France, but that didn’t mean that we were going to spend the whole time sitting round in the sunshine, drinking coffee or wine, and stuffing our faces with croque-monsiuer. We wanted to do that most of the time…but not all of the time. In a bid to experience some local culture, we spent a lovely Monday afternoon exploring the castle at Fougères with our cousins Rhiannon and Genevieve.

Genevieve, Rhiannon and Steph

After a quick mooch around the ville, we collected our tickets and a little map, and made our way inside the castle walls. They had some handy little audio guides that we could borrow to take around with us, but they started failing after a certain point and so weren’t anywhere near as helpful as they first appeared. The narrator’s voice was incredibly dull too, so most of the time I got rather fed up of waiting for him to say something vaguely interesting. The idea was nice though…you follow the map and when you get to certain points you type a number into your audio-guide, which then starts telling you what you’re looking at…or translating a video…or similar. It was just a shame that it seemed to lose signal to the main server as we ventured further around the walk.

The castle has some incredibly tall towers, and although Steph is pretty fearless, I’m a serious sissy when it comes to heights and spiral staircases. Luckily, Gen is as fearless and Steph, and Rhi was more than happy to keep me company, so we skulked around on the lower battlements (avoiding the murder holes) and waited to see them appear at the top of the tallest tower.

Steph and Gen at the top of the tallest tower (I think you can just make them out)…

The fearless two in close-up! (Gen is taking a picture of me taking a picture of her…)

Eventually, after Rhi’s endless pleading that she “needed a crepe” (it just gets funnier every time I say it), we decided it was time to head back into the ville for a bite to eat and a spot of touristy shopping.

Fougères is well worth a visit if you happen to be passing nearby (and it’s even worth a detour if you’re not). It’s a beautiful town and the castle is reasonably priced considering that you get a (semi-working) audio guide as well as lots of interesting displays about the history of the castle and the battles between the French and the Bretons (which was quite a poignant part of our trip). The town has a few nice places to eat and drink (especially if all you want is a pancake smothered in chocolate sauce and ice cream!), and it’s very pretty if you have the time to wander round and enjoy the scenery.

I took LOADS of photographs of our day trip, which is why Fougères gets a write-up all of it’s very own. Enjoy!

Steph, Gen and Rhi outside the castle walls

Posing outside my favourite little tower!

The moat and some pretty pretty bee-attracting flowers

Going in!!!

Saint-Léonard church (I think!) as seen from Fougères (and as overlooked by pigeons!)

Inside the castle walls

The tumble-down croft (and Saint-Léonard church in the background)

Venturing up onto the battlements…

Tallest tower (again) and the Goblin tower (wonderful name!)…

…my memory fails me for this little church…

Steph proving her fearlessness once again, while we all elected to stay safely on the battlements!

Moody tower…taken while we waited for Steph to stop dangling out of windows!

A wonderful way to end a wonderful afternoon! Orangina (in a glass bottle) and a delightfully decadent dessert! Poached pears, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and LOTS of whipped cream!

COMING SOON: France – Looking Back

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Days Out, Food, Places, Travel

 

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Fun and Falconry!…

Yesterday Mom and I went (in a car, sadly) to Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre in Staffordshire for an afternoon of fun and falconry.

As well as getting to meet and hold some of the owls and falcons…

Victor the White Faced Owl (I love him!)…he let us stroke him while we sat round holding the birds and talking about their training and care.

Victor again…he has wicked moustachios

Mom with Treacle the Tawny Owl…he liked some fuss as well.

Bailey the Falcon…she was really badly treated before she came to Gentleshaw, and once a year she’s a feather puller so she can’t fly at the moment until her tail grows back. She’s also a bit nippy if you try and stroke her apparently…I didn’t put it to the test!

Mom and Victor…the poser…

…we also got to act as leather-gauntleted perches for them too!…

Moss the Barn Owl coming in to land…she was my favourite of all the birds we got to fly…

Elsie the Eagle Owl landing…

Elsie felt that running around on the ground and across benches was more amusing than food and flying…

Kyla the Red Tailed Hawk landing…

Nom nom nom…the birds got tasty chicken feet as a reward for swooping onto our gloves.

Mom was clearly enjoying the day 🙂

Jill the Harris Hawk landing…

They weren’t THAT heavy…poor Mom!

Saying goodbye to Jill at the end of the day…she was lovely. She flew like a dream and let us stroke her mail (her feathery chest) before we had to say goodbye.

The staff were all brilliant and the centre is doing really good work. They only take on sick, injured or homeless birds (and monkeys, wildcats, terapins, raccoons, snakes et al.) and it was lovely to see how well-loved all the birds were. We were made to feel really welcome and there were only two other people in our group so we weren’t queuing to hold the birds or fly them and we got to ask loads of questions. We were there on a Groupon voucher so I expected the group to be bigger but they told us that, even though they had loads of people to fit in, they didn’t want to pack out the days and ruin the experience.

Fletcher’s Garden Centre, where Gentleshaw is based, was great too. It had a lovely teashop that did really good food in a hurry (which was good seeing as I’d made us late…as usual…), made awesome coffee, and had tables outside in the sunshine. I’d totally forgotten to put sunscreen on, and I was going red during the short wait for the jacket potatoes (the massive and delicious jacket potatoes)…it didn’t bode well for an afternoon of outdoorsy-ness. Unfortunately, the garden centre didn’t sell any (I didn’t think they would but I had to ask), but one of the staff was nice enough to offer me some of theirs!  I owe my merely semi-burnt arms to his kindness.

The deli there was fab too, and I ended up coming home with my favourite cheese (Y Fenni…I find it on sale somewhere once in a blue moon. Once I have Red my first trip might be to Abergavenny just to get it from the source…), chutney, fruit punch and Bundaberg ginger beer (my all-time favourite ginger beer…they also make my favourite root beer too, but that’s like unicorn poops).

All in all it was a rather splendid day! I know it bucketed down with rain all over Redditch and Birmingham but we only saw a few spots all day long – and even then we were safely under a gazebo with owls on our gloves. I can’t wait to go back and do it all again!

(all photos taken on my HTC Desire that has a scratched lens…I’m fairly impressed with the results!)

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Days Out, Food, Places, Reviews

 

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