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Feast in the Woods May 29 2014

In a secret location somewhere in the middle of nowhere, a group of friends and I went back to basics with Pop-up Camping over the Bank Holiday weekend.  "Now what's this?" I hear you cry...  I'll tell you what it is, it was an incredible weekend called, "Feast in the Woods".

"Feast in the Woods" is a bespoke and rather intimate mini-festival for one weekend.  It's all about being at one with nature and mingling with like-minded strangers.

If you can't do without modern day technology, then this isn't for you because it's all about good old fashioned human interaction...

This brilliant idea was inspired by Rebecca Cork of HoneyWoods Camping.  I asked Bec how did she came by the idea and she said that she wanted to do something that she would enjoy going to and with her knowledge of event organising with a charity and her love of outdoors, Pop-up Camping was born.

Here, you can relax in a small community of 100 people and let your children run where wild things are.  You can even bring your dog (although spaces for poochies are limited).  It's a simple life of good food, fine drink, good food and more good food!  You can sit around the camp fire, chatting and sharing experiences with whoever you happen to be sitting next to or you can join in with the outdoor activities be it a dog competition, coffee tasting or playing Chinese Whispers... For which I confess...  It was me who changed it half way through and probably why I was picked to do a forfeit when someone else lost another game we played!  I think it's called Karma folks, ha ha!


Digby won 1st Prize in the Dog Competition - *And me having to do a forfeit! (*Courtesy of Amanada Thompkins)

And if you fancy a drink, you can stomp down to the Cider Barn and get some award winning cider down your neck by Virtual Orchard or for those of you who don't drink, some freshly pressed apple juice that is so pure and crisp, I can still taste it now.

The Cider Man

You can hire bell tents (sleeps 4 adults) or you can bring your own tent.  Space is limited so it's advisable that you don't bring a big tent.  You can set up your abode around the camp fire or in the wood itself.  You can also bring a camper van if you dare and park up next to the campsite.  There were three pristine VW Camper Vans all in pretty ice cream colours.

The first night was spent in a wonderful Indian marquee with a variety of curries bubbling away made by the fair hands of Indiana Joe Baba after an eclectic day of rain, thunder and outbursts of sunshine.  I was worried the food was going to be too hot and spicy for my pallet but it wasn't, it had a slight kick but it was all very delicious.

Having curry banquet fit for a King - And Indiana Joe "Chai Wallah, Chai Wallah" Baba

After, there was a short talk by Guyrope Gourmet on the history of food riots in England during the 18th Century.  I didn't even know there were any food riots in England, I'd only heard of one and that was in France where Marie Antoinette supposedly said, "Let them eat cake" and as a result, lost her head!

Even though I had a good sleeping bag and was sleeping on a camper bed, the night air was bitter and I was cold...  Even worse, I had to get up in the night and traipse across the campsite to go "The Bogs", shining a torch dressed in pyjamas, bed socks and Birkenstock sandals (mmm sexy) without tripping over tent pegs and string! As I found out the next morning, I wasn't the only one who had to get up and tackle the obstacle course in the night, my friend Zoe did too!

The Bogs! (Courtesy of Dave Brothers)

The next morning, the sun was shining and breakfast was being cooked for me by my besty Emma.  Eggs, bacon and fresh bread.  I had the idea of toasting the bread on the camp fire which was a bit difficult if you didn't like burnt toast.  After the washing and drying up, a few of us went to the marquee tent for a spot of Sunday morning coffee tasting with Arabicca and Robusta beans.

Breakfast Time

As lunchtime turned into afternoon, the sun was still on its best behaviour and stayed out to join us for a BBQ by a small lake nearby.  It was a beautiful sight to see, the BBQ sizzling away, a hill full of daisies and a lake with kayaks, children and adults laughing and swimming.  It was a beautiful day, spent with wonderful people.  My friend Dave said he wouldn't have missed it for the world and I think that just summed up the day.

Steak Kebabs with Halloumi made by Emma and me...

A lady offered me some Kangaroo meat that she'd just cooked on the BBQ...  I'd never had Kangaroo before so I was intrigued as to what it tasted like, it tasted just like beef.  Then a young lad offered me some Ginger Biscuit Tiramisu that his mum had made in their tent that morning and Chocolate Brownies that had gone gooey in the sun, all washed down with a cup of Indian Chai.  I don’t normally like Chocolate cake etc but by golly, these tentmade Brownies just tempted me onto the dark side and they were yummy, scrummy in my tummy!  Now that's generosity and getting into the community spirit!!

Seed Balls - And Kayaking in the lake

A tray of seed balls containing wildflower seeds were being handed out.  They were made up of wildflower seeds, clay and compost all rolled up into one.  You take a seed ball, make a wish, then throw it into the wilderness so it scatters and wherever it lands, wildflowers will grow.  What a lovely simple idea to naturally brighten up the countryside.

The last night saw us all sitting around the now roaring camp fire.  I think I was sitting a bit too close as my face felt like the top layer of the skin had peeled off!  I shared Emma's homemade flapjacks with Britain's Fittest Fireman (he came 20th out of 6000!!!  Or so I was told, unless it was another Chinese Whisper!) and the very charming George from Bristol.

The evening ended giggling in the Cider Barn sitting on haystacks with Emma, Lou, Dave, Susan and Susan's son Ben.  Feeling rather weathered and very tired I think we must have all hit the sack before midnight!

Susan and Andy's tent could be seen from Space!

With a better night's rest, the last morning saw us all up bright and breezy packing up to go home before the threat of rain came.  Any rubbish consumed by campers had to be taken home and disposed of to ensure we kept Britain Tidy!  As we said our goodbyes to friends and strangers, friends Andy and Susan (Sandy) found they couldn’t move their car.  They had parked up on the grass when it was raining and consequently their car had got stuck in the mud!  No burley men were able to shift it but luckily Emma’s Freelander did.

From the moment of arrival, everyone's kids went feral and never seemed bored.  They climbed trees, threw sticks for dogs and searched for Fairies in the woods.  It was truly a magical time for them.

The Kids Play Area - *And the walk back to the Bell Tent Village (*Courtesy of Louise Barnett)

As much as I was looking forward to having a nice hot bath, I was going to miss the little Bell Tent Village that had become our home for the weekend.  Not only did I get to spend an incredible weekend with my lovely friends but I got to mingle with like-minded strangers who I didn't even know the name of and they didn't know mine...

There's a quote... "The older I get, the more I realise how rare it is to meet a kindred spirit."  Well, if you were there this particular weekend, you would've realised that this quote isn't quite true.  My friends and I are already eager to book next year so if this is for you, maybe our paths will cross and I’ll see you next year…

The lovely Bec of HoneyWoods Camping


Last day of the Summer Holiday September 05 2013

 

Today was the last day of the school summer holidays.  My niece Olivia called to ask if I wanted to spend the day, I mean, hang out with her (teenage speak!) just chilling, busy doing nothing.  So I made a picnic of ham sandwiches and egg mayonnaise, juice, water, pop chips, left over pizza, homemade chocolate and courgette muffin (courtesy of my friend Emma!) and a big flask of tea.  And me, Livvy and her two dogs Millie, a very old King Charles Cavalier and Coco, a bonkers Shihtzu in tow, all mosied down in my car to the small village of Tilford in Surrey.

The River Wey and the 800 year old Tilford Oak

Tilford is a picturesque village just 2 miles from Farnham, Surrey and lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It had has chocolate box cottages, a pub called the Barley Mow facing the cricket green and a freshwater riverside that you can sit and have a picnic and paddle if you wish.

"Did you bring a water bowl for the dogs?" Livvy asked, "I think they're thirsty..."

"No, why did you?" I replied.  (Her dogs and she was asking me if I brought a bowl!!)

"No, I forgot." Livvy said grinning.

"So what are the dogs going to drink out of?" I quizzed, the cogs going around in my genius brain.  "I know..." I exclaimed, "I'll make a bowl from tin foil!"  And from the tin foil that the sandwiches and pizza were wrapped in, hey presto! I made a bowl, hopefully one that didn't leak.  Livvy poured the water in my masterpiece and it worked, no leaking, A water bowl for the dogs...!  We were happy, the dogs were happy, everyone was happy in the muggy heat.

After stuffing our faces, feeling satisfied and the dogs treading on everyone else's picnic blankets but our own, we decided to go for a little wonder around the village.  We admired the little church just off set from the village green and were amazed by the pre-historic looking plants by the wooden bridge on the River Wey.  Livvy and I thought we would go for a little paddle in the river to wash our dusty feet.  Coco was straight in the river but Millie was rather reluctant.  Livvy picked Millie up to help her cool in the water but she really didn't want to go in and I didn't blame her because as soon as I stepped in, oh my, the water was so-ooo cold!  I couldn't believe there were people in there up to their waists in water let alone their feet!

I asked a young girl who was wading through the water giggling at me, how she could stand it and she told me matter of fact, "Oh once you get in, the numbness just kills the pain."  And she was right, I couldn't feel my feet, not to mention the water was turning them fifty shades of Blue!

At this point, we had all had enough of sitting in the sun and it was time to slowly head home but not before trying to get Coco out the water and going to Waverley Abbey, a monastery ruin surrounded on three sides by a bend of the River Wey.

Waverley Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey in England and was founded by William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester in 1128.  All that is left are fragments of the church and monastic buildings.  The abbey was closed in 1536 as part of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries and as a subsequence, was largely demolished, its stone reused for local building work.  The site is now looked after by English Heritage and is open to the public.

The Church ruins

While we were there, there was a film set in the making for a Disney film called, "Into the Woods".  It's about a baker, his wife and a witch...  Sorry folks, that's all I can tell you because I can't remember what else the plaque said but it did say that they promised to leave the area as they found it.  They were building a tower where a girl with long hair lives.  Sounds like Rapunzel to me!  I believe, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep are in it so maybe Tinsel Town is coming to Farnham town!

Coco loves water and just as we had got her dry, she was running back into the water again, darting up dusty pathway to the car soaking wet!!!  EEK!  Thank God for the old sheet I had in the boot of my car because Livvy the Divvy (I love her really) as well as forgetting the water bowl, she also forgot to bring a towel for the dogs.  I think she just plain forgot her brain that day and left it at home having a lie in bed!

We finished off the glorious day at a watering hole called The Mill in Elstead.  The original mill burnt down in 1647 and was occupied by solider Cromwell's Roundhead's.  The new mill was rebuilt in 1648 and it still stands.  It was thought the mill was originally a corn mill, then used to make braids for military uniforms in the 19th Century.

The mill still has a working water wheel which can be seen as you enter the pub.  It is surrounded by natural beauty, ducks, swans and the the River Wey.  It's truly a beautiful setting.

 

 

As the day was coming to a close, we finally decide to drive home in the warm Indian Summer breeze, windows down, music blaring and smiling.  As I dropped Livvy off she gave me big hug and thanked me for such a lovely day, she had thoroughly enjoyed it.  At that moment, I felt warm and happy because a lovely last day of the Summer holiday it was...

 


Black Rock Sands August 27 2013

 

It was August Bank Holiday and I was invited by one of my oldest friends Emma for a mini break up in North Wales to stay with her mum who lives in a cottage up in the mountains by Mount Snowdon.  Wales is renowned for its interchangeable weather and on this particular weekend, Wales was HOT, no RAIN!  I kid you not it was so hot we slipped on our swimming costumes and hit the beach.

Black Rock Sands is a 2 mile long sandy beach situated at Morfa Bychan, 2 miles from Porthmadog in North Wales.  It is one of the few locations where you can take your car on to the beach.  There is a small charge to enter the beach and the charge is per car.

The sea along Black Rock Sands is shallow, with a gentle gradient making it ideal for swimming and bathing.  Black Rock Sands has become a well known beach for activities and is popular with windsurfers and kite-flyers.  It has designated bathing and boat-launching areas.

 

The sand dunes forming the backbone of the beach are a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Dogs are allowed on the Eastern and Western sections of the beach but are banned from the central section.  If you go walking up the sand dunes, be careful of the grass, the long blades are quite hard and spikey and you can't avoid them sometimes pricking you.

If nature calls, don't worry, there are public toilets you can use just before the entrance to the beach.  There is no charge to use the toilets but just take tissue with you just in case the toilet rolls provided run out (which inevitably they do.)

We had a lovely day, soaking up the suns rays, forgetting all our troubles, building sun castles and chilling with a picnic made by Emma's mum.  A word of warning, Black Rock Sands can be really windy, don't be fooled by the sea breeze in thinking that it's not that hot and not wear sun cream because if you don't wear any sun protection, you will end up leaving the beach looking like a Belisha beacon!

We finished off the day with an ice cream from Mr Softee (not a name I personally would have chosen but there you go!) the Ice Cream Man and headed home back into the mountains for a much needed rest and roast dinner.. Well it was exhausting sitting in the sun all day!


I want to break free...! July 27 2013

July has been a busy, busy month and I have been rather slack in my blogging but before the month is entirely out, I wanted to tell you about the wonderful Picnic in the Park I went to a couple of weekends ago...

Every other year, a picnic in the park is held at the King George Playing Fields near where I live. It's where you can bring your own picnics and listen to tribute bands playing through the night with friends and family. But every time it's been on, for some reason, I've not been able to go until this year...

My friend Rachel and her family have been going since the year dot and Rachel's mum Pat said, "Linda have you ever been to Picnic in the Park?" "No, never." I replied. "Well why don't you come along?" she said, "The tribute bands playing will be Killer Queen and Counterfeit Quo, even if it's not your type of music, I think you'll enjoy it. Come along..." One of the bands I cannot stand, is infact Status Quo! But you can never say you don't like something unless you have tried it so that what's that, I was going!

Picnic in the Park

It had been a really hot day and we were in for a really hot and sticky night. As we approached the field, we could see the turn out was already massive. For such a small area, there must have been at least 5000 people all with picnics! There were posh picnics with tables and chairs. There were not so posh picnics with just a blanket. But everyone had a picnic, soaking up the last of summer sun as it was getting ready for bed.

We found a spot and set up our chairs and laid out our blankets. Rachel's mum Pat had very kindly supplied the whole picnic, insisting that she wanted no contribution. But I couldn't not bring anything, so I bought a few bottles of fizzy pop for us to down.

The Counterfeit Quo were the first to play with a small crowd congerating at the front of the stage. As I expected, all the songs sounded the same. Status Quo aren't known for their stylistic diversity and the strumming of the infamous 3 chords was somehow getting my foot tapping! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my foot was a tappin' to the old boogie blues of the Counterfeit Quo! But just because they had my foot tapping, I wasn't going to be converted into a die hard Quo fan, no way, I just appreciated that the band could play!

It wasn't long after the Quo were off, Killer Queen were on. I was told this band is the best tribute band in the country. Not only did Brian May have hair like Brian May but Freddie Mercury had teeth like Freddie Mercury! And they sounded just like the real thing. Although I seem to know a lot of words to Queen songs, I am not a fan. It's their songs were really catchy and words were easy to remember. My oldest brother was fan and I always remember him playing their music from the record player in his bedroom.

Killer Queen had everyone up and dancing it was like being at a mini festival just 5 minutes walk from where I lived, it was quite surreal. For an hour or so they belted out the classics and said they weren't even going to pretend to go off stage and do an encore, they were just going to play until they had had enough! Brian May did a guitar solo as did Roger Taylor did a drum solo. Freddie Mercury sang and played the piano to Bohemian Rhapsody. They finished their set with "We are the Champions" leaving everyone singing and on a high. Killer Queen were simply brilliant!

As the band left the stage, fireworks were let off and we stood for a further 15 minutes "ooing" and "arrhing" staring into the still of the night at the display put on before us. As the show came to a close, the grande finale was a beautiful spray fountain firework which left the crowd with undoubtedly a smile and a high as a good night was had by all.

 

 The Grand Finale