The Urban Guide to the Countryside

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The urban guide to the countryside

Now select your county and find your fun!

Add a little Hygge (n.) to your life

13 Oct 2016

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today so am posting this from my cosy bed (don’t worry, I’m wearing PJs) and – while typing – am reminded of a word that I have been hearing a lot recently: hygge.

Pronounced hoo-ga, the Danish word hygge roughly translates to ‘cosiness’ and is a concept that the Danes embrace (with gusto) to get them through the long, dark months (of which there are six in Scandinavia – can you imagine?!).

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Let’s visit… Wells-next-the-Sea

2 Sep 2016
hero shot

The low down:
Unlike many British seaside resorts, Wells-next-the-Sea (I don’t know why the ‘to’ is missing) has charm in spades with three things to keep you coming back for more: a beautiful beach, a pretty quay peppered with boats and a pleasant town. Voted Best UK Beach by The Telegraph this year – beating Holkham for the first time – it really is a beauty, with miles and miles of soft, creamy sand and pastel-coloured beach huts hoisted up on wooden stilts .

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Muddy eats: The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe

22 Aug 2016

From the outside, The White Horse in Brancaster Staithe looks like an ordinary pub and restaurant, but then you come face-to-face with *these* view from *this* floor-to-ceiling beauty and all pre-conceptions literally go out the window:

A pub and fine dining restaurant with 15 rooms, The White Horse unsurprisingly won the Best Destination Pub category in this year’s Muddy Stilettos Awards but – even with this insider knowledge tucked away in my hot pink stiletto – I was still unprepared for the lunch I was about to encounter.

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Let’s visit… Swaffham

17 Aug 2016
Strattons Hotel & Restaurant

The low down:
The more time I spend in the lovely market town of Swaffham the more it becomes apparent that people here do not sit on their laurels  – the fruit and veg shop creates Luxury Fruit Baskets that get delivered all over the UK, the small hair salon down the alley near Iceland specialises in discreet hair replacement for cancer patients and the cutesy sewing shop will teach you how to sew. 

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Muddy eats: The Wildebeest, Stoke Holy Cross

12 Aug 2016
2016-08-11 14.05.59

If you tune into BBC2’s The Great British Menu  later this year and spot Chef extraordinaire Daniel Smith on the screen representing The Ingham Swan, marvel at this fact: Daniel is also head honcho at The Wildebeest in Stoke Holy Cross, bringing true the metaphor of wearing two hats (unless he transports his white chef’s hat between the two establishments, that is). As job shares go: not too shabby.

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Tried & Tested: Matthew Clulee hair salon, Oxford

11 Aug 2016

Given the amount I have my hair bouffed and coiffed, it’s bizarre that I’ve tried out so few hairdressers in central Oxford, so it’s been with much pleasure and curiosity that my latest hair review is Matthew Clulee, who actually has two salons, a New York loft-style one in Ship Street, the other across the way in St Michael’s St.

My appointment was in Ship St, and shall we start by saying, nice use of the neon?

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Try this: Longridge Activity Days for kids

10 Aug 2016
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 18_Fotor

I wrote this last July, but I’m running it again to give you a good flavour of what these Longridge Activity Days are about because my kids aren’t booked on until next week and you’ll want to know about it before they get booked out!


Why didn’t I do this before? Last week I sent my son on a Activity Day to Longridge, 5 minutes from the centre of Marlow, and he had the time of his life.

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Let’s visit… Wymondham

10 Aug 2016
2016-08-09 09.53.43

The low down:
I have to admit to having quite low expectations of Wymondham, not least because of the way the locals pronounce it (‘Windham’ – I ask you, have they not been to school?). But Wymondham is a town that keeps on giving – the longer you stay, the more you find and the more you love it. And, ironically, the schools really are a selling point with Wymondham College simply exemplary.

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Are they off to university? 5 student survival cookery courses

10 Aug 2016
Stressed cook

My nephew’s been staying with us for a few days, and as he’s off to university in September we were chatting about how he’s going to survive on the cooking front. It occurred to me that it’s probably a subject cropping up in households across the county as young adults fly the nest *sob*. What will you do when they leave, taking their big clompy feet and wet towels with them? Uhh, turn their bedroom into a gym, reclaim my laptop charger and rejoice in not being Mum-Le-Taxi for a change? 

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Recipe: Crayfish salad

9 Aug 2016
Crayfish salad

I’m just back from my summer holibobs where I was totally shamed – shamed I tell you! – by my French friend Pauline who cooked with both eyes closed, an arm behind her back, two kids hanging off her apron (no, she wasn’t really wearing one, it’s artistic licence) and no cookbook to take the tiniest credit for her awesome gastronomic creations.

Well a big *thwuuuuup* raspberry to Pauline (in the nicest way, I do really love her) –  I for one am incapable of doing any cooking without a recipe-for-idiots to follow, so praise be to The Quince Tree at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley, creators of this delicious crayfish and cous cous salad, who have kindly donated it to the Muddy cause.

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Muddy Reviews: Present Laughter, Theatre Royal, Brighton

9 Aug 2016
Theatre Royal Bath June  2016 Dress Rehearsal
Present Laughter by Noel Coward Directed by Stephen Unwin
Designer Simon Higlett   Lighting Designer Paul Pyant
Samuel West/Garry Essendine   Phyllis Logan/Monica Reed
Daisy Boulton/Daphne Stillington   Martin Hancock/Fred
Rebecca Johnson/Liz Essedine  Sally Tatum/Miss Erikson
Toby Longworth/Henry Lyppiatt   Zoe Boyle/Joanne Lyppiatt
Jason Morell/Morris Dixon  Elizabeth Holland/Lady Saltbury
Patrick Walshe McBride/Ronald Maule

I wasn’t expecting to get belly laughs from a play written in the late 1930s, even one by Noel Coward, but I did. Present Laughter, on at Brighton’s Theatre Royal until Saturday, and starring Downton’s Phyllis Logan (aka Mrs Hughes), is a comedy that, in the right hands ages very well.

The story concerns famous actor Garry Essendine. Everyone wants piece of Garry, be that romantic admirers, obsessed fans or a series of correspondents seeking charity appearances or introductions to the world of theatre.

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Afternoon tea at the Cole Manor Tea Rooms, nr Bruton

7 Aug 2016

Do your bit to support National Afternoon Tea Week by stuffing yourself silly with tea and cake as often as possible from now until next Sunday.  I started supporting our Great British institution early by taking the Muddy Ma for afternoon tea in the stunning gardens of the Cole Manor Tea Rooms at the weekend. It was one of those gloriously sunny days when there is no better place to live than Somerset.

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Stay here: The Castle Hotel, Windsor

7 Aug 2016

And so it came to pass that the mudlets were gently but firmly pushed into the loving arms of their doting Auntie while Mr Muddy B and I hopped into the car and floored it. Yes, we had escaped to Windsor for 24 hours… no kids to harrass us, nothing to do but browse in shops (yes, browse!! Remember that?), knock back a few drinky-poos at 4pm just because we could, and read the papers – all of them, at leisure – in bed at The Castle Hotel where we stayed.

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Birthday at the Bistro: Hotel du Vin

6 Aug 2016

It’s my birthday this weekend and as all grown-up little girls know, ‘No fuss’ means, ‘Just a little bit of fuss. Nothing too demanding. A bunch of flowers. A bottle or two of fizz. A dressing gown made entirely of peacock feathers. Or, at the very least, a cake containing a Chippendale, or baby panda.’

So it’s testament to how well they know me that when I popped into Tunbridge Wells on Friday with a good friend and my sister-in-law to ‘grab a few bits’ they insisted on marking the occasion with a girlie lunch in town.

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Muddy review: Children of Eden at the Harlequin Theatre, Redhill

5 Aug 2016

Ok, so whenever I see a stage production that involves kids – whether it’s in the West End or at my kids’ school – I cry. Most of the time I don’t even know the kids on the stage, so imagine how I might be if my own kids were up there.

Last night it was no different at the opening night of Children of Eden, a production by YESOS, the youth musical theatre group of Redhill and Reigate.

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Let’s visit… King’s Lynn

4 Aug 2016

In the first of a new series of Let’s Visit… articles, I will head to most of Norfolk’s major towns (gulp) and spend the day looking around for hidden treasures to write and tell you about.

First up, the port town of King’s Lynn in North Norfolk, which I visited on a rather grey and gloomy summer’s day.

The low down:
A mish-mash of downbeat 1960s retail outlets and quaint cobbled streets with warehouses sitting proudly on the waterfront, King’s Lynn is a mixed bag of trash and treasure.

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Beauty spot gets bigger in Guildford

3 Aug 2016

Interesting happenings in Guildford – *collective gasp* ooooooooh!

Nothing as scandalous as a burgeoning husband-swapping scene (to my knowledge!) but some beauty moves and changes on the high street. Truth be told, I’m actually a little behind the eight-ball on this, as the launch was a couple of weeks ago. But I figured if I was, maybe you were too.

You’ll know already about Mary Ann Weeks at Aveda, the hair and beauty salon, but you might not know that now it’s expanded and opened an Aveda spa and wellness studio on the same premises.

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Muddy stays: The New Inn, Tresco

3 Aug 2016

Its all about location location location, and here’s a location you’ll be hard pushed to beat. Muddy Cornwall recently had the pleasure of staying at The New Inn, a restaurant with rooms on Tresco. If you don’t have a few hundred thou sloshing around for a timeshare, this is the place to stay on Tresco Island. Unpretentious, good value and in the most stupendously beautiful position, a sneeze from the beach at New Grimsby.

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside