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The Urban Guide to the Countryside

Welcome to Muddy Stilettos
The urban guide to the countryside

Now select your county and find your fun!

Adventurous new flights from Gatwick

7 Feb 2016
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From most places in the county a Gatwick flight is going to be a holiday clincher. But while flying from right here in Sussex is  handier than Heathrow, if you’re after something a bit more adventurous than a fly-and-flop in the sun, your choice is pretty limited.

So, much excitement at Chez Muddy when we heard that British Airways is introducing direct flights from Gatwick to both Peru and Costa Rica from May 4.

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Trebarwith Strand beach eats recipe

7 Feb 2016
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There’s something for everyone at Trebarwith Strand on Cornwall’s north coast – sand, sea, rocks, caves – CAVES! and nature’s bounty by the bucket load. Well know by dog walkers, kite runners, cave dweller and mussel hunters, we were in for a treat – though the approach to the beach is not for the faint-hearted (or those with dodgy ankles).

We weren’t expecting anything to be open (what with it being February), so stalwart beach gypsies that we are dragged along our trusty portable butane cooker and the basics to make a delish moules snack.

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Muddy meets: The Bohwne

7 Feb 2016
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Hannah Whale is an awe inspiring an artist with an impressive CV – graduating from Falmouth College of Art in 2004, the same year she was chosen as one of Donna Karen’s 20 New Designers. 120 pieces of her work showcased in Donna Karen’s flagship store in Bond Street, London. Subsequent shows at the Craft’s Council and in galleries from London to St Ives followed. She’s also an author, with two books under her belt – a gothic novel The Return of the Fair  and the deeply personal A Sharp Scratch, One woman’s journey with Breast Cancer a collaborative project between herself, her cancer and photographer Eileen Long.

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got time for a quick read?

7 Feb 2016
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While I was staying with my sister, I raided her ‘poolside literary collection’ and came upon a well-thumbed copy of Lucy Diamond’s The Beach Café. Something of a departure for me, on account of the (spoiler alert) lack of death and misery, my interest was piqued nonetheless by a spark of homesickness and realization that the book was based in both Oxford (my old life) and Cornwall (my new). I was surprised how much this resonated and gobbled it while I was there, relating to the flaky heroine and her goody two shoes sister.

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Last chance to catch Pierdom photo exhibition

7 Feb 2016
Worthing Pier, West Sussex, January 2013

Now that Brighton Museum charges for non residents, if you’re not part of the BN1-3 /41 massive you can’t just stroll in to drool over the gorgeous Art Nouveau furniture and you’ll be wanting an exhibition to stretch your fiver.

Pierdom, which is on for a couple more weeks, is the result of a labour of love from Brighton-based photographer Simon Roberts, who has documented Britain’s 58 remaining piers.

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Make it a Landmark holiday

6 Feb 2016
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Did you catch the Channel Four series Restoring Britain’s Landmarks before Christmas? It followed the work of the Landmark Trust, a charity that for the last 50 years has saved historic, often unusual buildings and turned them into gorgeous places to stay.

I’ve been a fan for years, have stayed in a couple of Landmarks and have pored over the brochure so often the rest feel like old friends.

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Gardening tips for February

4 Feb 2016
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Booooiiiiinngg! Spring is here (well nearly). But it really does arrive in Cornwall first – weeks earlier than our upcountry cousins. One of the most stunning gardens in Cornwall, The Lost Gardens of Heligan near St Austell, already have their first born Devon and Cornwall longwools born of the year (*awww*).

But officially, it only happens once all seven Magnolia campbellii trees in the seven gardens of cornwall (Caerhays, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trebah, Tregothnan, Trengwainton, Trewidden and Trewithen) are in bloom.

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The Muddy Guide: What’s On, Thurs 4 – Weds 10 Feb ’16

4 Feb 2016
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Ready to head out and have some fun this week? Then I’ll begin!

Andy Warhol: Works from the Hall Collection, Ashmolean, Thurs 4 Feb – 15 May
Your two week window at The Ashmolean Museum to catch at a never-before-seen collection of Andy Warhol’s work from a private collection. The exhibition features over a hundred works from the Hall Collection (USA), plus loans of artist films from the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh including iconic pieces from the Sixxties to the experimental works of Warhol’s last decade…

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Property Flirt – and I’m in *totally* gagging for this one!

3 Feb 2016
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Oh. My. God. This jaw-dropper of a house is only about 5 miles from Muddy HQ – kind of like gawping at Buckingham Palace from a Hackney bedsit. This place is the real deal, an award winning, contemporary home sitting in 9½ acres of woodland. Designed by architect Niall McLaughlin, it was built in 2000/2001 and in the following year was winner of a coveted Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) award.

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GET VINTAGE

3 Feb 2016
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Not so long ago, I had a little fantasy about running my own vintage store. It really was little more than a fantasy, though it didn’t stop me buying bucket-loads of Annie Sloan paint and sloshing it all over everything in sight.

You may feel less inclined than I to get messy with the paint, but that’s okay because there are some corkers of vintage stores tucked away in Surrey stocking all manner of vintage beauties. 

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Michelin pop-up supper club alert!

1 Feb 2016
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Native Feast, how many years I’ve longed for you to appear? And now – *sigh*  here you are, rippling your gastromomic muscles and promising evenings of 4-course ravishment. I feel like stripping down to my control pants and flashing my spare tyre.

Those of you who, like me, habitually hanker after something unique, urbane and glamorous in the region, will love the fact that the fantastic LASSCO architectural salvage treasure house, placed conveniently if not very sexily on the M40 J6 at Milton Common, is starting a series of pop up supper clubs on Fridays and Saturdays throughout March and April.

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Your Sunday lunch sorted

31 Jan 2016
Botley Hill Farmhouse with sign reduced for email

For years Botley Hill Farmhouse in Warlingham has been known more for its live cover bands than the food it served. And while I have been known to have enjoyed the occasional night out shimmying to some boy band (er, it may have been Fake That), I am very happy this 500-year-old pub is starting a new chapter and now focusing on the food.

If you don’t know Botley Hill, it sits on the Titsey Estate a few miles outside Warlingham village in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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The perfect work space: Of Woodstock

29 Jan 2016
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Have you ever met someone and basically just wished you were her? A terrible thing, envy, but kind of understandable when you meet Louisa, the co-owner of Of Woodstock soaps and lotions based in – nope, not Woodstock! – actually North Leigh, near Witney. Here she is, rocking a pair of very funky dungarees. If I wore them I would like like a Seventies children’s TV presenter, but Louisa has the whole look nailed (grrrrrr).

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The Muddy Guide: What’s On Thurs 21 – Weds 27 Jan

21 Jan 2016
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Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, New Theatre Oxford, Tues 26 – Sat 30 Jan

Hello The Hoff! This cheesy musical could have disaster written all over it, but if you can take the kitsch it might yet be OK. It’s pitched as Friends Meets Ibiza uncovered – yeah go on, imagine that one – and stars Hasselhoff as Ross, Ibiza’s top 80s DJ who doesn’t realize that disco is out and clubbing is in.

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Riverside delights in Bourne End

19 Jan 2016
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Riverlight in Bourne End is a restaurant I’ve been trying to make it into for quite some time. Partly because I’m a big fan of its owner James, the brains behinds the very cool Coopers café in the Marlow backstreets and a guy who is throwing his energies into something new and funky and getting great results.

Reason 2 is the location – right on Bourne End marina, with a balcony running the length of the  building, looking out on the lazy launchers and boaters who cruise past or pull up for a spot of lunch.

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In it for the long haul

6 Jan 2016
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Feel like booking a holiday to some sun? Er, YEAH, me too. Are you thinking about long haul? Possibly not. There’s a bit of a mental block on it isn’t there? With four years living in Sydney and Australia in my twenties, I know all about the perils of long haul. Mr Muddy (an all-out jandal-wearing kiwi) and I lived in NZ for several years in the halycon days of youth and no kids, but it’s taken eight years to get us back Down Under – prior to this year, the thought of traveling all that way with toddlers and young children has filled us with doom.

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My Favourite Places: Daphne Selfe

9 Nov 2015
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The utterly gorgeous Daphne Selfe, Herts’ own supermodel, will be taking to the local catwalk this weekend at Hitchin’s Festiwool. She’s also been busy out and about talking about her new book – a fab memoir of her lifelong love of clothes and fashion, The Way We Wore. (Don’t you just love that title?)

In between all that busy-ness, I managed to catch a few minutes with Daphne to ask her about her favourite places….

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My Favourite Places: Charlie Hussey

1 Sep 2015
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Charlie Hussey has spent most of his adult life in Berkhamsted, doing the all-too-familiar commute into London every day. Lucky for local music lovers, his mid-life… er… hiatus (don’t call it a crisis… it wasn’t a crisis) turned into BerkoFest – a music festival that brings some big names, and some smaller ones to the town….

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Fussy eaters? Here’s just the thing…

27 Aug 2015
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Despite the best efforts of me and Mr C – well, mostly me – our two aren’t the most adventurous of gourmets. In fact, one could quite happily live on pasta and variations on the theme of cheese-with-bread; the other would be happy with sausages and icing licked off the top of cupcakes (“do you want the rest, Mummy?”)

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My Favourite Places: Kay Burley

15 Jun 2015
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I recently met Kay Burley when she was compèring a charity lunch for the Pink Ribbon Foundation – a charity supporting research to combat breast cancer – at Champneys Tring. As a news reporter and presenter, Kay has travelled all over the world, and I was curious to hear which places she remembered and loved from all those she’s visited. I don’t know how she managed to narrow it down, but she’s chosen a handful of places that she loves and that are important to her – particularly when she’s trying to relax and get away from it all….

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Indonesian Ginger at Nutmeg Spa

6 Jun 2015
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Nutmeg Spa has been tempting me over to Hemel Hempstead recently with their gorgeous oases of calm and pampering. They have two salons in Hemel Hempstead – one up at Bridens Camp, (more Gaddesden than Hemel to be honest) and one on the Old High Street…

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My Fave Places: Freya North

3 Jun 2015
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Today — publication day for her 14th novel! — Freya North is sharing her favourite places with us here at Muddy Herts. Most of them are in Herts, too, where she lives out in the countryside with her two children, two dogs, and a horse…

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside