The Urban Guide to the Countryside

Welcome to Muddy Stilettos
The urban guide to the countryside

Now select your county and find your fun!

Float your stress away

27 Jun 2016

Are you a floater? I am now! Floating in a sound-proofed, darkened tank of water relaxes the body but more importantly, it’s said to help clear and relax the mind. Don’t know about you but my mind is in urgent need of relaxation. I decided to take the long soak in a warm bath up to the next level and try out the floatation tank at the Buff Urban Day Spa in Taunton, finalist in the Best Day Spa in the Muddy Awards.

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All hail The Crown inn, Woodstock

25 Jun 2016

Cool place to stay alert! Muddy Stilettos recently had the rather preeny pleasure of being the first journo to try out bedrooms in the 18th century former coaching inn of  The Crown in Woodstock (I know, where’s my trophy?). The Crown has given the other pubs and inns in the town a bit of a shake up since it launched in 2015, but the rooms have seen months of delay and were only completed in March.

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Muddy stops rushing at Rushton Hall

23 Jun 2016

I had mixed reactions when I said I was staying at Rushton Hall. Exclamations ranging from ‘ooooooh, it’s dead posh out there, it’ll be lovely’ to ‘really? Isn’t it a bit corporate for a night with him indoors?’. Well, as with most things in life, I find the experience is what you make it, and if you have to try and make it somewhere, there aren’t many backdrops I’d pick over Rushton Hall.

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Six Surrey pubs with brilliant gardens

23 Jun 2016

The weather is going to be gorgeous (once these storms pass), the weekend is coming and unless you’re planning to hotfoot it down to the coast, you’ll want to find a watering hole with a wonderful garden to boot your kids into, while you chill out with some awesome food and a triple gin and tonic. Oh come on, it can’t just be me again!

I’ve been checking out dozens of pubs in Surrey on *cough* Muddy duty and have drawn together this scratch list, admittedly half cut late in the evening, but hopefully with a degree of knowledge and insight.

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Black Dove, Kemptown: cocktails & DJs meet Victoriana

21 Jun 2016

When a few Saturdays back my husband said he wanted to take a dusk picture of the Brighton Wheel before it was dismantled, I made preparations. I knew from experience this would be no selfie with a smart phone but at least an hour of experimenting with different tripod positions and shutter speeds. So, I brought along some reading matter and planned a nearby bar for my pay-off after.

The bar in question was The Black Dove in Kemptown.

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Antiques Roadshow is coming to Caversham Park!

21 Jun 2016
Fiona 1 copy

Quick! Get up your loft and start rummaging – BBC One’s Antiques Roadshow is coming to Caversham Park this Sunday 26 June! Yes indeedy, foxy Fiona Bruce and the team will be filming the next episode in the 39th (wowzers) series of the show at BBC Radio Berkshire’s HQ, Caversham Park. Apparently, the show was last in Berkshire about 8 years ago when they filmed in Ascot, so we’re well and truly due a revisit.

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Muddy eats: The Poet, Matfield

21 Jun 2016

Having driven past The Poet numerous times and telling myself I really needed to try out the food there, Mr Muddy Kent and I finally got round to booking a table a couple of weeks ago. Word had reached my shell-like that exciting new changes were taking place at this country pub and that it was starting to make its mark on the foodie map – so slave to the job that I am, in I swooped, napkin tucked in at the ready.

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The Barber of …. er… Salisbury?

20 Jun 2016
barber of seville 3

Next week, Hertford Theatre is staging its first live opera — Rossini’s Barber of Seville. No, no, don’t stop reading… I know opera sometimes isn’t for everyone — but this one really, really is. It’s up close, it’s personal, it’s in English and (get this) it’s properly funny. And it’s a perfect way in if you’ve thought opera wasn’t for you…

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5 Quirky Places to get Hitched

20 Jun 2016

With more and more couples shunning the traditional church wedding – and laws on where you can wed being relaxed – there are more reasons than ever to choose somewhere unusual for your big day. From cinemas to windmills, we round up the most unusual five venues for getting hitched Norfolk-style.

In a Windmill:
Getting married in a windmill – now wouldn’t that make a great story to tell the grandchildren?

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Muddy Eats: The Crab & Lobster, Sidlesham

15 Jun 2016

The term ‘destination pub’ is made for the Crab and Lobster at Sidlesham and it’s no wonder it was one of our Muddy Awards finalists for that very category. It’s near Pagham Harbour and right beside the pub is wide open marshland with paths around…

…yet it’s within easy reach of Petworth and Chichester and well worth making a day out for from further afield.

The food is locally sourced where possible, particularly from the Selsey fishing fleet and dairy farmers.

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Eat here: Caldesi in Campagna, Bray

15 Jun 2016
Caldesi featured image

I’ve been waiting to write about Caldesi in Campagna restaurant for the last week, but the weather has been so horrific that I decided to hold back. Now I’m looking at (sort of) blue skies so I’m taking my chance.

You’ll probably know the Caldesi name already – their elegant Italian restaurant in Bray is really well-regarded, they’ve brought out several books, plus Katie and Giancarlo have their own cookery schools in Gerrard’s Cross and Marylebone.

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WATCH THIS: Hilarious vid of Euro 2016!

13 Jun 2016

When a video makes me weep with laughter, I figure it’s worth sharing.

This classic from comedian Aldrig Kede Sig reached Mr Muddy’s Facebook feed last night, made it across the sofa to me, and I’m still finding it funny today. It features DJ David Guetta at the opening ceremony of the Euros 2016 and is incredibly silly and puerile – just the way I like it!

Finding it hard to embed this vid for some reason so we’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way with this link.

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Muddy tries David Williams local asparagus dish

13 Jun 2016

When I was in Waitrose this week (borrowing flutes for the Muddy Awards, note) I noticed the packs and packs of supermodel flawless  (Wiltshire) Asparagus – which I’m sure was very good, but it reminded me I hadn’t posted about something alot more special – really local asparagus from right here in Cornwall.

In the middle of the Muddy finals I was treated to Nat Burch’s unique wibbly wobbly wonky but super sweet asparagus – same day picked fresh – at the newly refurbed Sea Side restaurant at the St Moritz Hotel & spa.

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Muddy Eats: Curry Rivel’s *NEW* The Firehouse

10 Jun 2016

Just checked out the new kid on the rural block: the newly opened The Firehouse, a pub and restaurant in the village of Curry Rivel, just a few miles to the west of Langport. Located off the main drag, in what was previously the Old Forge Inn, the old village pub has had a complete makeover in every sense. Come on in and see what’s inside…

When you go through into the reception area and wait to be seated, take note of the sleek, stone-fired pizza and the pizza chefs doing their stuff – you might be having one later.

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Gill Hornby: My favourite places

2 Jun 2016

Gill Hornby lives in Kintbury with her husband, the author Robert Harris, with whom she has four children. Sister to Nick Hornby, her first book The Hive, a sharply observed novel focusing on playground politics, was a top 10 Sunday Times bestseller. She has also enjoyed critical success with her second book, All Together Now, a hilarious and heart-warming story of a small-town community choir, released in paperback today (2 June). 

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Muddy kids visit: Tamar Otter Sanctuary

1 Jun 2016

One of the good things about 16 people camping in your garden over half term, is that they can take the mudlets off your hands while you are waist high in Muddy Awards votes.

The clans pitched up early and headed to The Tamar Otter Sanctuary, just outside of Launceston. ‘Follow the brown signs’ I said, ‘and let me know if its Muddy – they’ve been nominated for an award!’

My spies report very good things; this is one for every animal crazy kid.

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The Muddies get behind the wheel…ooh-er

31 May 2016

Would you let your 12-year-old behind the wheel?  I did, *gulp*.  Too young to take conventional driving lessons but raring to go, the Muddies’ 15-year-old cousin has been learning to drive through the Young Driver training programme – and loving every minute.  My two (a few years younger) have been green with envy, until I realised that kids can have lessons from as young as 11 years old – so long as their feet can reach the pedals.

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New opening: Warwick Street Social, Norwich

30 May 2016
2016-05-30 12.59.37 HDR

The Mad Moose in Norwich’s popular Golden Triangle has always been a handsome thing – perched on the top of a hill in the centre of two rows of red brick Victorian houses, it’s front lawn could almost double as a small village green.

With its yellow rendering, round bar and upstairs restaurant, this huge, detached gastropub has been a weekly institution for locals of all walks of life – students, doctors, young families, creative types – for over a decade.

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Top 5 books to get lost in nature

29 May 2016
reading a book

I recently met lovely Laura Willan, one half of the couple behind Kent’s first Wealden Literary Festival. Laura’s passion for the environment and husband Andrew’s love of books led them to mastermind this festival which is a celebration of both those things – and taking place this 18 & 19 June at beautiful Boldshaves Garden, Woodchuch. There was much discussion on the countryside, landscape and our relationship with the natural world.

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Smart new visitor facilities at Bolney Vineyard

26 May 2016
Bolney 4DSC_0759 copy

Time was when English wine was a bit of a joke. Now, French vineyards are buying up plots of our land as global warming looks set to push the South of France beyond optimum wine producing conditions while improving ours.

Among the early pioneers of English wine production were Janet and Rodney Pratt who founded the Bolney estate near Haywards Heath backd in 1972. Their daughter Sam Linter is now Bolney’s winemaker.

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Five cocktails for bank holiday BBQs

25 May 2016

I’ve got the gang descending on us in the next few weeks – and despite the on-again-off again weather we shall be partying like its summer no matter what. Time to dust off my little pink book of cocktails and pinch some ravishing recipes from some of my favourite mixologists. Happy to share the love here. Just keep the coyote ugly down a bit though – we’re far too old to be dancing on the bar.

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185 Watling St…

23 May 2016

There’s been quite the brouhaha about 185 Watling St. Pub & Kitchen since it opened, and until Muddy Northants launched, I have to say, I only ever saw signs to Towcester, rather than Towcester itself (which is a shame really, as this little historic market town has a lot to offer). The pub is in the heart of Towcester’s busy high-street, but I had no bother getting a parking space, AND it was free for two hours!

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Muddy Eats: Jack’s Kitchen, Kingston

23 May 2016

Recently, I was invited to the opening of a new restaurant in Kingston called Jack’s Kitchen. I was a little hesitant about it, if I’m honest. Not because the menu didn’t look great, or the location – it overlooks the Thames – but because it’s in *whisper it* a Holiday Inn.

I know – I’m being desperately snobby about my hotel choices here. And truth be told, I’ve stayed in many a nice Holiday Inn, and never had cause for complaint.

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Top 10 things to do in Dorset

23 May 2016

I’m starting to do more travel on Muddy, figuring that though you love Oxon and Bucks you like to escape sometimes too (quick, dig the tunnels). I mentioned Perfect Stays a few days ago, a luxury self-catering company in Cornwall and Devon that looks *awesome* and is on my radar to try out over the summer, but if you’re into shorter traveling times and have your sights set on Dorset, I reckon Deans Court in Wimborne (above) will tick your boxes too.

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Muddy Best Schools Guide: Dulwich Prep, Cranbrook

29 Apr 2016
Cranbrook Prep - 1b

Welcome to the Muddy Best School Guide, the massively popular review section, which is now launching in Kent.

When a school goes under the Muddy microscope I spend a day there nosing around, meeting staff, chatting to the kids and generally doing a bit of Muddy journo ‘digging’. So class, listen up, and no talking at the back please!


What? Where?

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Visit the house where Jungle Book was born

12 Apr 2016
study DSC_0600

The new live action version of Jungle Book is out in cinemas this week  – see the trailer here. Whether it will be anywhere near as heart-warming with CGI remains to be seen but it’s bound to rekindle a love affair with the story, and here in Sussex we have the very place where it was written – Rudyard Kipling’s former home, Bateman’s at Burwash.

I must admit my Kipling literary knowledge mainly dates back to the Just So stories and parts of Jungle Book like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi that I was read at school, though this is on its way to being rectified by some purchases in the Bateman’s gift shop.

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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

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

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
CROP web Lee Miller in Hitler's bath, Hitler's apartment, Munich copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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
Dapper chaps collage 2

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

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.  


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



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

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

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

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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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

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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Fancy yourself a bit of a Masterchef…?

15 Feb 2016

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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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

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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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


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 was introducing direct flights from Gatwick to both Peru and Costa Rica from May.

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Beach foodie: Trebarwith Strand

7 Feb 2016

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 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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My Favourite Places: Daphne Selfe

9 Nov 2015

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

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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The Urban Guide to the Countryside