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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!

Light bulb moment

11 Apr 2016
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I’ve had bare bulbs rather than what I’d consider a naff lampshade – it’s not easy to find cool lights in the countryside, and they’re not something I’d buy online (you’ve got to see the light on, haven’t you?). So I was really excited to discover the fabulous Fiat Lux in Frome. Fiat lux is Latin for ‘let there be light’ (but of course you knew that) and at night the shop looks beautiful.

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Muddy Eats: The Water’s Edge, Horsell

7 Apr 2016
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I’ve had my beady eye on The Water’s Edge at Horsell near Woking since it opened early this year. This new café on the site of Heather Farm, a wetlands centre on Horsell Common, is my idea of heaven. Its specialty is gorgeously simple food, made from organic, locally produced ingredients, served in a relaxed environment with a beautiful view right out the window. Yep. This is definitely one to remember folks.

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Muddy Eats: The Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham

5 Apr 2016
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Popped in for lunch with some friends last week to the The Queen’s Arms in Corton Denham, a gastropub with eight en suite rooms, nestled in the hills on the Somerset/Dorset border, just three miles from Sherborne.  It’s won loads of awards for its food, drink and accommodation: 5 star AA inn, 2 AA rosettes, Cider Pub of the Year 2012, Taste of the West Gold 2016 (the list goes on and on).

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Lee Miller: A Woman’s War

5 Apr 2016
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Get on the next train to London and go and see Lee Miller: A Woman’s War  at the Imperial War Museum… OK, I’ll let you wait till the weekend, but do try to catch it before it closes on 24 April.

Even if photography’s not usually your bag, you can’t fail to be impressed by this sometime Sussex-resident’s life story and her sheer audacity. She was a Vogue model-turned-photographer-turned-war correspondent, was mates with Picasso and half-inched stuff from Hitler’s home!

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April’s must-do garden jobs

5 Apr 2016
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April’s list of essential gardening jobs come from Jess Evans, who heads up the team at the small but perfectly formed National Trust’s Tintinhull Garden just outside Yeovil. There’s a beautiful 17th century hamstone manor house (closed to the public except for two small rooms, although you can rent the whole house as a holiday let – swoon) but it’s the five formal courtyard gardens and kitchen garden created by Phyllis Reiss in the 1930s that people come to see.

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Muddy meets: Devine Betty’s & Rockabilly Rose

1 Apr 2016
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The greatest wonder of the them all is that the stars of your dinner party could ever align.  Why would the melee of choosing the right (and impressive) menu, co-ordinating cooking times, giving good front of house, floral arrangements AND keeping certain guests off the cooking sherry before 8pm cause any consternation – after all we are (Northants) British aren’t we? But listen…I’ve got the winning formula!

Step forward, the Ladies at Devine Betty’s and Rockabilly Rose; my new Fairy Godmothers, who together, bring you the dinner party with bells on!

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Stay in actual Night Manager locations

31 Mar 2016
CROP KSARS [2010]

It wasn’t only Tom Hiddleston’s lovely form that caused some wistful sighing from those of us watching the BBC’s The Night Manager; there were also those glorious backdrops.

The good news is that you can sashay in Tom’s footsteps and stay and eat in some of the actual locations from the series.

OK, Roper’s gorgeous Mallorcan pad is private, and when Tom was giving us the Matterhorn in Switzerland <cough> his hotel was faked up.

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Muddy tries: Bedruthan Sensory Spa experience

30 Mar 2016
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The Bedruthan Hotel is a personal Muddy favourite – uber cool and totally family friendly, it’s nestled on a cliff top above the magnificent Mawgan Porth Beach between Padstow and Newquay.

When I heard about the new Sensory Spa Garden, designed to invigorate all your senses in a one-hour experience, I was packing quicker than you can say grab your speedos, we’re off to Mawgan Porth. This was a chance to put the kids in the (free to guests) kids club, and take some time out for ourselves (and each other).

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Top 10 picture books for children

30 Mar 2016
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So we’re continuing with The Haslemere Bookshop’s selection of the best books for kids. In part 2, Emily Adsett-Raggett has given us her choice of the top 10 picture books. Part 1 gave us the top 10 chapter books. My mudlets are now a little old for these books, but I’ll certainly be buying a couple to share with my nieces and nephews.

And now it’s over to Emily…

What the Ladybird Heard Julia Donaldson (author) and Lydia Monks (illustrator)

A storytime favourite.

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Why I won’t be waiting for The Night Manager season 2

29 Mar 2016
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Did you see it? Will Sunday nights ever be the same? The last episode of John le Carré’s The Night Manager aired last night: thrilling, breathstealing, bum clenchingly tense and emotionally draining. But, I’m going to be everso controversial – don’t shoot me till I’ve explained – I don’t want them to make a season 2. Atleast, not for a long time.

No, I’ve not been at the Easter sherry, but like a great love affair, It should end on a high – and apparently 6 million of us tuned in last night, which is quite a high.

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Hobbledown Farm

28 Mar 2016
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Not so long ago my youngest mudlet wanted to take her friends on one of those Go Ape-style climbing adventures. She’s only nine, but she’s a tall nine, and pretty fearless. Not all nine-year-olds come that way, and I thought it may not endear me to the parents of her friends if – while under my, um, care – they were sent 40-or-so metres up into the treetops, even with a harness!

But then I heard about Hobbledown Farm at Epsom where there’s a high ropes course (but not too high) with a zip wire, and a wonderful timber built village, among other farmy delights.

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Eaton Park Café is now OPEN

28 Mar 2016
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Saturday 26 March may have been an ordinary day for most, but not for the people behind Cellar Boy Ltd, the company that owns The Bicycle Shop on Norwich’s St Benedicts Street.

Last winter, 145 companies and individuals sent in applications in a bid to win the right to run the café in Eaton Park, a beautiful round Grade II listed building that has been empty for what seems like an eternity.

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The Wellington Arms, Baughurst

27 Mar 2016
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If your understanding of ‘destination pub’ is – takes flippin’ ages to find down endless winding country lanes clogged with tractors – then The Wellington Arms on the Berks/Hants border can definitely be awarded the title. But by heck food lovers, it is so worth it.

I took my sister along for the ride and promised her an amazing meal at the end of our pilgrimage. Thank god The ‘Welly’ came up with the goods.

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The most spectacular afternoon tea in Somerset?

25 Mar 2016
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Cross Lane House is a beautifully preserved Medieval house turned boutique hotel  and restaurant on Exmoor, where you can enjoy a luxurious, tranquil weekend away, dinner – and what must be the most spectacular afternoon tea in Somerset. 

The hotel, recently listed in The Telegraph‘s Top 10 Hotels for 2015 as well as winning a host of other accolades, is just off the A39 in the tiny village of Allerford on the National Trust’s 12,000-acre Holnicote Estate.

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Muddy pub walks: Rilla Mill to Stara Bridge (and back)

24 Mar 2016
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I know I’m lucky to live in this part of the world, but when its a toss up between 70 mile an hour winds and driving rain or my delicious sofa, I need a bit of incentivizing to get out and see it. Pub at the end you say? Pass me me boots says I.

The village of Rilla Mill is a popular meet-up for walkers as it sits just on the edge of Bodmin Moor in the Lynher Valley.

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EEK! See the trailer for Bridget Jones 3!

23 Mar 2016
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Who cares if it’s not out until September?! The new trailer for Bridget Jones’s Baby has been squirreled out onto You Tube and people, let me tell you, it’s looking very very funny. I can just about forgive Renee Zellweger for messing around with that lovely face of hers, because thankfully she still does look very ‘Bridget’.

Colin Firth looks a little gaunt in this film in my humble opinion and Hugh Grant is apparently a no-show, but fear not – Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey is on board as new wonder totty, McDreamy.

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Four flamingos and a new garden nursery

23 Mar 2016
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I’ve just had a sneak preview of the new garden nursery at the Kilver Court Designer Village in Shepton Mallet. The nursery – and the newly restored and replanted ‘secret gardens’ – are opening this Easter weekend. Put together by designer, Mulberry founder and keen plantsman Roger Saul and his wife Monty,  you won’t find any garden gnomes or wobbling meerkats here. There are some swanky new residents in the secret gardens too.

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Muddy eats: The Abinger Hatch, near Dorking

23 Mar 2016
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I’m a bit excited about The Abinger Hatch. This pub, taken over and spruced up two years ago by the lovely couple Andy and Sarah, manages to tame a tricky beast – to be both an approachable local and a destination pub. And oh what a destination.

Let me tell you about it. It’s in Abinger Common, a few miles out of Dorking, and if this ain’t one of the prettiest spots in the whole of Surrey, then I don’t know what is (answers on a postcard please!).

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Muddy eats: The Royal Oak, Bovingdon Green

22 Mar 2016
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I’ve meant to tell you about this pub for about two years (oops), so I’m excited to finally get around to it. Like many of the best pubs I come across, the Royal Oak in Bovingdon Green is a little off the beaten track – in this case a mile or two outside Marlow and up a steep hill, so not a place you’re going to stumble over. It has some serious credentials – winner of Buckinghamshire Dining Pub of the Year in the Good Pub Guide for five years running (2011 – 2015) which isn’t too shabby, plus one of The Sunday Times 25 Best Places for Sunday Lunch in 2014.

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Minimalist interiors shop. Not.

20 Mar 2016
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When someone recommended a visit to a shop that was ‘the Liberty (as in the famous Regent’s Street store) of Wiveliscombe’,  I smiled, nodded and thought ‘yeah, right…’ So I headed out there, and this is what I found…

Yep, the splendiferous Courthouse Interiors, in the small town of Wiveliscombe about nine miles northwest of Taunton, could be the London store’s country cousin. It not only has a similar interior, with a series of rooms built around a light well and with dark wood stairs and banisters, it sells a similarly eclectic (and exotic) range of goods.

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The Muddy house updated

14 Mar 2016
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I am usually the great proscrastinator when it comes to interiors. Sometimes the indecision is related to the cost – sofas, for example, are a nightmare and can only be attempted as new purchases once every ten years for fear of totally doing my head in – but other times it can just be the feeling that my potential purchase has such longevity that I must research all possible angles. Like, forever.

Last weekend I bucked that trend, due mainly to everything being rather conveniently in one place at Vinegar Hill in Henley (or online if you’re not nearby).

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Listen: Jack Garratt will put some poke in your playlist

12 Mar 2016
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As a child of the 80s my musical tastes were definitely shaped by keyboards – Depeche Mode, Howard Jones, Erasure, in fact practically every band I can think of back then had someone bashing away on a keyboard at some point in the music vid (usually wearing eye-liner that looked like it had been applied by a toddler).

So it’s not surprising that I had an immediate soft spot for Jack Garratt when I heard his stuff on R1 (Mudlets often take control of the car radio and we occasionally find a tuneful nugget).

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Architecture: Watt’s Chapel

8 Mar 2016
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I fancied writing a post on Surrey’s hidden churches. There are a couple of cute little chapels I vaguely know about, hiding down local country lanes.

But then, I thought, no, not hidden churches, but hidden “treasures”. Because Watts Chapel, in the small village of Compton, near Guildford, is quite the hidden treasure, not known to as many as it should be.

The tiny chapel has been hailed an Arts & Crafts masterpiece of national significance.

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Muddy meets: Dapper Chaps

8 Mar 2016
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I’m a woman of many words (I’m a writer after all), but for this review, I’m resorting to pictures, because dear reader, in terms of this fine establishment, the look does all the talking. Case in point, Raunchy Rosie! If you ever frequent Northampton town, and more recently, The Cultural Quarter, you’ll have spied Rosie – the tattoo pin-up girl – who lures you into the basement of Dapper Chaps…and what a treasure trove down those stairs into the basement below (more of that later)!

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Muddy Eats: Mu Mu More

5 Mar 2016
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The gourmet burger trend shows no sign of abating, especially at Mu Mu Restaurants in Kettering and Northampton. We were very lucky to get in on the Saturday evening in question; and watched the lovely manager, Chantelle, turn away tens of people. And you couldn’t blame them for trying on a very dark and rainy night in February (I think a few poor souls even pressed their nose up to the steamy glass, hoping for a Bisto sniff of one of their delicious burgers).

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Muddy review: Gangsta Granny – last few seats left!

4 Mar 2016
Birmingham Stage Company presents Gangsta Granny by David Walliams.  

CAST

Gilly Tompkins - Granny

Ashley Cousins - Ben

Laura Girling - Mum

Ben Martin - Dad

Umar Malik - Raj

Alison Fitzjohn - Matron

Richard James - Doctor

Louise Bailey - Queen & Female Undestudy

Aaron Thiara - Male Understudy

 

CREATIVE TEAM

Adapter and Director - Neal Foster

Designer - Jackie Trousdale

Lighting Designer - Jason Taylor

Composer - Jak Poore

Sound Designer - Nick Sagar

Choreographers - Paul Chantry & Rae Piper of Chantry Dance Company

Production Manager - Adrian Littlejohns

“Will she fart?” That was the main preoccupation of my excited nephews when I took them to see Gangsta Granny at Brighton’s Theatre Royal last night.

Having not read the book myself, Granny’s propensity to tuck into cabbage and fart like a quacking duck was the key thing I knew about the story before I went, these plot points being important to young readers.

The David Walliams story has been recreated by the Birmingham Stage Company and is in Brighton prior to its West End run.

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Muddy Eats: The Red Lion – Great Bowden (near Market Harborough)

4 Mar 2016
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In putting together a hit list of foodie pubs to visit for the launch of Muddy, there were SIX Red Lions! And as much as I like a pub (and dear reader, I do), even I have to make time for other stuff like making sure the kids get to school! So, it was The Red Lion in Great Bowden that made the cut (even though strictly speaking it’s just over the border, but that’s allowed, this isn’t Running Man).

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Getting Hygge with it: Muddy Drinks

1 Mar 2016
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Look guys, it doesn’t matter how you choose to phrase the word Hygge, do what it takes to beat a path to a cosy candlelit table at Northampton’s smart new Scandinavian bar. And when there, treat yourself to an ice cold glass of wine, or challenge yourself (as Mr. Muddy has) to working through a constantly refreshed menu of draft and bottled craft beers. 

 You like potato and I like potahto

You like tomato and I like tomahto

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto…

Actually Hygge, pronounced ‘Hooga’ is a Danish word with no exact translation into English (think cosiness), but know this my dear friends, in Northampton it translates into ‘great place to duck into with the family, to break up Shopping Saturday’ or ‘perfectly sophisticated date night haunt, especially handy before a trip to the Royal Derngate Theatre or Errol Flynn Cinema’.  

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Muddy guide to the best schools: St Joseph’s, Launceston

29 Feb 2016
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Here it is!  the first of the Muddy Cornwall best school reviews.

As an out of county family, we were totally clueless about the education provisions available in Cornwall. So I did what we all do – googled the school websites (mostly biased), looked to official sources (mostly subscription only) and trawled message boards (mostly arguing and snobbery). If I’d blindly followed their comments, I’d probably be home-schooling the mudlets. Believe me – with the patience of Lord Sugar and zero trigonometry skills that would be a super bad thing. 

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The 20 books we can’t wait to read (part 2)

28 Feb 2016
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So we’re picking up where we left off with Hungerford Bookshop owner Emma Milne-White’s 20 ‘can’t wait to read’ books of the year. This is Part 2 of her list with her final choices from 11 to 20. In case you missed it, Part 1 was published last week. So, kick back and enjoy (I’m afraid I can’t transport you to a sun lounger in the South of France just yet) and don’t forget to bookmark the list and share it with your book club – they’ll love you for it!

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Best breakfast *ever* at The Old Post Office, Wargrave

27 Feb 2016
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So it was yet another grim ‘n’ grey rainy weekend back in January, but refusing to be defeated by the British weather I chucked the Muddy family in their wellies, lobbed them in the car, and before any of them realised the X-Box controller was no longer in their sticky little mitts, we were heading to Wargrave on a recce.

We lived in Wargrave for a couple of years but it’s been a while since I’ve re-visited and every time I drive through something new and groovy has popped up.

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Read me: The Top 10 Young Adult Reads

22 Feb 2016
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Lovely Books and Ink in Banbury. Such a great local bookshop and I felt bad because illness befell the owner Sam in December and she couldn’t get her picks of Top 10 Young Adult Reads to me before Christmas for me to run as a feature.

But – hey – a book is for life, not just the holidays, so if you’re despairing of young fingers prodding phones and want to redirect their energies, have a gander at these books and fire up their imaginations.

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Quirky, romantic bolthole – The Bell Inn, Ticehurst

22 Feb 2016
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At the start of November I spent a week living in a shoebox of a hotel room with a plastic shower ‘pod’ in London’s Docklands while I, somewhat ironically, reported on a travel show.

After days living out of a suitcase I decided it’d be great to do it all again… well, for one more night and somewhere a lot less functional, so I pounced on a deal I saw for the Bell Inn in Ticehurst.

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Day tripper: Chobham

22 Feb 2016
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Do you know your Chobham from your Cobham? Be honest. I know I’m not the only one. I confess that until recently, I thought they were one and the same. But then they’re not a million miles apart (12 actually), both demographically and geographically.

But while Cobham has been nicknamed the Beverley Hills of Britain (with more wags, Jags and, er, designer handbags than any other town or village in these Isles), Chobham is, perhaps, her more reserved little sister.

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Muddy stays: The Elms hotel, Worcester

18 Feb 2016
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I used to go on sooooo many short UK breaks when I lived in London – like most city-dwellers I was desperate to escape the smoke and see some sheep. But somehow with kids and school and, er, lack of funds, it’s much more of an occasional treat these days. I took the kids and my mum off to The Elms hotel in Abberley, near Worcester a few weeks back, one of the small group of Luxury Family Hotels that are frankly a godsend to anyone with children under the age of 12.

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Fancy yourself a bit of a Masterchef…?

15 Feb 2016
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Were you glued to MasterChef: The Professionals? Marcus and Monica putting the contestants through their culinary paces, watching as they produced spectacular dishes that were more like works of art than things you could actually eat – then Gregg making those mmm… and ooo…. noises that he does so well, especially when it comes to pud….

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Popcorn at the Roxy

15 Feb 2016
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The tiny 36-seater, vintage-styled Roxy cinema in the north Somerset town of Axbridge in the Cheddar Valley, is one of the smallest cinemas in the UK.  A non-profit community cinema, The Roxy puts on an eclectic mix of films as well as live music and stand-up but I think it’s worth a visit just to bask in its art deco/art nouveau/mid-century modern inspired glory.

When Juliet and David Maclay moved to Axbridge 18 years ago and started renovating a derelict Georgian coaching house, they discovered that the former coaching entrance sloped upwards (the rear is actually underground) making it the perfect shape for a cinema.

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My favourite places: author Lucy Diamond

12 Feb 2016
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Romance novelist Lucy Diamond’s name isn’t really Lucy Diamond at all, it’s Sue Mongredien. Because she’s written lots of children’s books too and wanted to keep the genres separate, Lucy Diamond is her nom de plume. There is actually another Lucy Diamond who writes religious children’s books. That isn’t her, though.

This Lucy (Sue) has written bucket loads of women’s fiction. I didn’t know this, because I usually leave the chick-lit to my sister Lucy (not Sue).

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Muddy stays: Cley Windmill

11 Feb 2016
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One of the best things about writing Muddy is the hotel stays – and boy are there some amazing places to bed down for the night in Norfolk, so many that it would be prudent to keep an overnight bag continually packed and by my front door (it’s a tough job…).

But it’s admittedly hard to prepare you for an overnight stay in a windmill. Will it be cold, dark… noisy? Will I see Windy Miller, be able buy flour or get vertigo?

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Muddy stays: The Boathouse

11 Feb 2016
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When it comes to places to stay for the night, a watery setting is hard to beat – ever wondered why Venice is so popular?

But you don’t need to get on a plane to get your dose of watery wonderland – Britain’s largest protected wetland is right here in Norfolk. Ta-dah! The third largest inland waterway in Britain, The Norfolk Broads is home to a quarter of the UK’s rarest plants and animals, and is a veritable playground for kayaking, canoeing and boating – many forming unique places to bed down for the night.

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ARTS: WATTS STUDIO OPENING, COMPTON

9 Feb 2016
WATTS 1 Alexander Creswell

It’s true I’m not much of a connoisseur of art. I barely know my Rubens from my Rembrandts, my Van Dycks from my Van Goghs.

I do own some lovely original paintings, although I have no idea if they’re any good. One was given to me and Mr Muds by a close friend after she heard we’d eloped. (That’s a whole other story…) She was volunteering in Africa at the time, and it’s by a local artist.

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Gardening tips February

9 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 six gardens of cornwall (Caerhays Castle Gardens, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trebah, Tregothnan, Trewidden and Trewithen) are in bloom.

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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 will have direct flights from Gatwick to both Peru and Costa Rica from early May.

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Flamingo Trends flies into Mayfield

7 Feb 2016
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If you live near the Kent border and shop in Tunbridge Wells you might already be familiar with Flamingo Trends. This fab fashion boutique has just moved to East Sussex, transferring from the Royal Victoria Shopping Centre to the rather quainter and quieter Mayfield High Street.

One of the owners, Lou, used to work with Amy Winehouse, so frankly I’d want to go in just to touch the hem of her garment but it’s probably best to contain yourself and stick to the garments on her rails instead.

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Beach foodie: Trebarwith Strand

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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Review: Bill Bailey, Limboland

7 Feb 2016
Bill Bailey copy

 

Once, while we were being shown round a posh hotel for work, a friend made me lose all decorum and laugh until wine came down my nose by whispering, “I live in your eyes,” as we walked past the lounge pianist.

He knew that as a fellow Bill Bailey fan I would remember this was the menacing subliminal message the comedian claimed he used to slip in to relieve the boredom when he had a job playing the piano in a hotel lounge.

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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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Muddy eats: The Garibaldi – Northampton

6 Feb 2016
Garibaldi press bar

In the Garibaldi blurb it says where the pub stands (on the corner of Ash Street and Bailiff Street) was a renowned meeting point for women of the night, blaggards and general wrongdoers of all persuasions. It seemed appropriate then, to find me and my partner in crime (on this occasion, my mate Stephanie), one cold and dark Wednesday evening, standing on the street corner wondering how to get in.

I’d heard it was a little craft beer pub, so I wasn’t expecting the impressive Victorian exterior, reminiscent of many of the pubs (since knocked down) in my old stomping ground of Middlesbrough.

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Make it a Landmark holiday

6 Feb 2016
Laughton Place-23

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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Family mountain bike trail, Bracknell

5 Feb 2016
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Well hellooo there bum cheeks! You’re making yourselves known after our mountain bike trail in Swinley Forest. Someone get me a bag of frozen peas! As you can probably guess, I am most definitely *not* a natural mountain biker. In fact, the last time I rode a bike, I think it was a Chopper (and I don’t mean in a retro way, I mean in 1978).

So it was with more than a little trepidation that I rocked up to Swinley Bike Hub in Swinley Forest, Bracknell with the Muddy Family in tow.

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GET VINTAGE

3 Feb 2016
Packhouse original crop

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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Muddy Eats: Botley Hill Farmhouse, nr Warlingham

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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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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The Urban Guide to the Countryside