Thursday, 11 April 2019

Visiting Liverpool this spring #DinosaursUnleashed

It's nearly the school Easter holidays and I am thinking of places to take Little Bird to so he has a varied two weeks, one where he is occupied and has new and exiting experiences. A favourite city trip is top of the list and where better than the place I went to university.....Liverpool. 

Ever year we go to this fab city and find something to explore, we find Liverpool so vibrant and always offering new events so it's always interesting. This year, Liverpool ONE have a fantastic augmented reality event called Dinosaurs Unleashed which incorporates technology and dinosaurs for a super prehistoric adventure with the family. There is an app that you download and when you visit the shopping area Liverpool ONE there are dino activities for you to take part in - collecting points when you find giant dinosaur eggs to hatch, then go to feed them at 'Chavassic Park', then once fed they are ready for the Battle Arena. The event has been put together with National Museums Liverpool to provide an informative event that is fun whilst learning fascinating facts about dinosaurs. Little Bird would love this and the benefit is that I can do some shopping and we can go for a bite (!!) to eat too.  I think he will especially love petting the dinosaurs that we find and having pictures taken with them. Special park rangers will be on hand to assist with the app, offer dino facts and to help you have a great time. 
Liverpool ONE Dinosaurs Unleashed


After this I think a trip to the World Museum would complement our shopping and dino experience. I used to help out at this museum when I was a student so this is a particular favourite place of mine and I love to take Little Bird there. The dinosaur gallery is excellent with life size casts of dino skeletons and footprints. The rest of the museum is equally brilliant, especially the bug house and the aquarium. My area was in the natural world galleries, helping with the bird specimens and learning museum curation techniques. There is so much to see here and I recommend combining the museum with some retail therapy so the dinosaur themed day will work very well for us and keep everyone happy. And if the weather is hopefully sunny like the lovely spell we have been having, then a skip through the Liverpool ONE fountains will be fun.

Every time we visit Liverpool we like to have a walk around Albert Docks with its maritime history and cultural feel. The duck boat always makes Little Bird laugh and it's pleasant to sit and both people and boat watch. If you're feeling arty then the Tate is a must and is free entry (as are most of Liverpool's galleries and museums). Over Easter there is a colourful bunny trail at the Docks, collect stickers for the trail booklet to keep your children entertained. Also there will be an Easter themed selfie station and crafting activities.
Albert Dock













Liverpool always puts on such a good show and is a city to be relied upon for events on school holidays to entertain as a bonus to its attractions. We could spend a few days there so our one day will be absolutely jam packed full. Finally I will take us to the cathedral preferably when I know the bells will be ringing as I've been lucky enough to see them being rung up in the tower. Some time to gaze at the gothic architecture is always a favourite of mine and luckily Little Bird also likes to explore and do the mouse trail around the building. 
Anglican Cathedral Liverpool


Have you visited Liverpool and what did you like to do? Have you any family recommendations?  We can't wait to see the dinosaurs and see if we can remember their names.

*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Road tripping Shropshire #StoppingDistance

Now the spring is here there is nothing that we love more than getting out onto the road and exploring. A whole new county to look around and discover the history of, from the start of the Industrial Revolution at Ironbridge to the cairns and Iron Age hill forts atop some of the majestic hill ranges in Shropshire. At any available opportunity, we love to go on road trips, sometimes with nowhere in particular to go to, we head out in a direction and just come across interesting places.

Wenlock vintage road sign


It is however clear to me that driving around Shropshire is a lot harder than it was back in Cheshire and this is for several reasons, mostly the hills and narrow lanes. Therefore, it is very important that our car is safe on the roads by having regular services and checks. The main aspect of living here in Shropshire is the high terrain, my village is the gateway to the Shropshire Hills so many times we are off over a hill or down into a valley and with the UK weather being so changeable the road surfaces can quickly change and affect driving.

Kwik Fit have been running a Stopping Distance campaign to raise awareness of altering your stopping distances in different weather conditions; twice as long to stop in wet weather and a whopping ten times as long to stop in icy and snowy weather. Certainly, driving around my new area which is incredibly rural and remote has had its difficulties over the winter, some of my routes being up in the hills had a decent amount of snow and some areas receive a lot of rainfall and run off from the top.
Above Church Stetton


So for example crossing the Long Mynd and its very steep drops, which we drove over at the weekend is very nerve wracking at times and close attention needs to be paid to the weather and road conditions, also ensuring that the car isn’t going to break down!! Making sure the car is roadworthy is something that can be checked with an MOT test at Kwik Fit and they are able to provide checks to brakes, batteries and of course tyres.  

Were you aware of the recommended stopping distances? Take a look at this video.



Added to the rainfall making the roads wet is the land drain run off from fields and the streams so even in the summer, most of the narrow lanes seem to have trickles of water running to torrents after a downpour. Stopping distances on the narrow single lanes need to be adhered to as you never know when you will meet a car coming from the opposite direction and the brakes need to be swiftly applied. There are a lot of tractors thundering around the countryside and it’s common to find yourself reversing back down a single track lane to a passing point when finding yourself face to face with a large tractor or milk tanker (I dread this!). With the hedges being high in places, you really have to gingerly drive down some lanes in case other road users are not as careful as you.
Driving in Shropshire






Then add lots of animals into the mix, cows crossing the road, lone sheep on a hill road, horse riders.

Mud on the roads from farm traffic is another to be careful of for making the road slippy .....did I mention pot holes too!! 
Cows going to be milked



PotholesRural driving, especially in Shropshire has encouraged me to take better care of my car for if I'm driving around with Little Bird I want us to be very safe and definitely not break down or come back to my car and the battery is flat. Also to drive much slower on these narrow roads, taking greater care and regularly looking at the tyres. I didn't do this and learnt the hard way with a flat tyre on a busy road near Shrewsbury.

Collaborative post

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Adding curb appeal to your home

As I walk down any street, I'm always looking at houses and their gardens for ideas, looking in admiration of their curb appeal or sometimes thinking to myself, what would I do to make it look better. How a property looks from the front is of course incredibly important when selling up but also for that feeling of pride that we all have for our homes. With all the houses I have lived in, how it looks to passers-by has been very much an area I have put much thought into. I think the Scandinavian concept of hygge has had a great influence on me and I very much want my home to look cosy and inviting. Having people comment on the home makes me very happy and seeing people looking as they walk down the road.
Rectory
A pretty home I walk past


In my last house I tried to add greenery to the front although there was just a small drive, in my attempt to make it more cottagey. I planted up pots of flowers, sprinkled wild flower seeds into the gravel and added hanging baskets and window boxes of seasonal interest. Lovely exterior doors are key and this was on my list of things to change, something striking to bring out the best to the house frontage and improve the overall look of my property.

Now I’m in another house and I’m starting the same thought process all over again, plenty of flowers and a new door are required. This house is very different in that the front is away from the road and actually the whole side of the house faces the road and there is no pavement. But I have an area that I want to make pretty to give that welcome feel as people pass on their way to the church or the village shop.


So, how can you improve curb appeal?

A striking front door that creates a fab first impression.



House front doors


I think the first thing I notice are house front doors and how they set a property off. It’s the central point or where the eye is drawn initially and everything else just frames it. From old wooden country cottage to modern town and city living, investing in a classy front door will create that key first impression. The world of doors have moved on with innovative doors offered by Pirnar, a family grown business with a whole host of technology for the sophisticated home. Theatrica is a super modern door as it is an entrance that is contactless with no door handle, it slides away, pretty neat hey! But how does it do this……well it opens by touch or face recognition and for this the company has received several awards. Pirnar also offer a large range of doors that will suit any property with a number of designs and finishes – classic looks with stained glass and contemporary sleekness. The options of wood, glass or aluminium mean that you can find a door to suit your property and with the designs being so unique it will be an exciting addition to your home. Door designs such as the Premium with rectangular window lights cast interesting light effects into the hallway and LED illumination to the door brings night time security and a glamorous feel. Fingertip recognition sounds amazing, no more scrabbling around for keys - this always happens to me. Certainly a lot of thought and craftsmanship has gone into these doors. 
Increase home value with front doors
Image from Pirnar


For me, a coat of grey paint on our wooden door will be in order to freshen it up (the dogs have scratched it so much) to tie in with the grey garden gate which is the imposing factor of our ‘front’ yard or as I’m calling it, our 'yarden'. I usually add a seasonal floral door wreath to keep things up to date and have allowed some self seed hollyhocks to stay by the gate post.

Greenery to soften the edges

My house needs double curb appeal as the outside gate presents to the road and then the main door to the home is for those invited further and those that don’t mind doggy paws jumping up at them. Outside by the self seeded hollyhocks, Sweep has created a brick raised bed where I add perennials and spring bulbs. Inside the yard by the door, I have framed it with scented climbing roses and pots filled with colour in the spring and summer. Over winter we move two standard holly trees here for evergreen fairy light hung loveliness.
Front yard curb appeal


It's good to think of the journey that is taken by a visitor to get to the front door. Planting lavender perhaps either side of a path gives a pleasant scent and adds a frothiness to the look. Box balls and standard trees such as bay gives structure and a combination of these provides impact and rhythm within a design. I do love curb appeal that shows the character of those that live there and an element of quirkyness shown by the door furniture, perhaps a fox door knocker (I want a bumble bee one) or a house number sign that reflects the interior style of the house. Being in the country, my style is very different to those houses I see in our nearest town of Shrewsbury, where a more contemporary and classic look of sleek sophistication works better - simple topiary balls and cones, evergreen shrubs and balanced planting....less is more. 

Sometimes the easiest thing to do for quick and easy curb appeal is simply tidying up and repairing any elements; boundary fences a fresh coat of preservative, mending broken panels, clearing away broken pots or removing dead hanging basket contents. I get really mad (inside in my head) when I see dead plants. Or the worse one is broken toys and garden furniture in front gardens. 
Flowers in pots by the front door

Whatever your budget, a weekend spent beautifying the front of the house is well spent - with bedding plants from the plant nursery, new pots, tidying up, mowing grass and repainting. The front door will always be the best element to provide picture perfect curb appeal but if like me, on a real shoestring budget at the moment, paint brushes and faux door wreaths are your friend.

This summer I shall be rearranging the pots in the front yard for a more pleasing look and adding some trellis for a gorgeous passion flower to climb up. I'm looking out for an outside door mat with some foxes on as there is a bit of a fox theme throughout the house.  We are also adding to the country village look with more cottage annuals at the front and an honesty stall at some point for our home grown plants. We purchased an old milk churn at an auction in the village hall last year and I shall be filling this with gorgeous flowers this summer. 

What curb appeal tips do you have? I'd love to hear how you add that wow factor to the front of your home. 
Old church hall


*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Surprising ways to combat loneliness


Many of us experience periods of loneliness in our lives, these times can be caused by life changes such as relationship breakdown, bereavement, changing or losing jobs, moving areas or during times we generally feel disconnected from other people. During my nearly 41 years I have gone through times where I have felt stuck in a rut of loneliness, one of them being when I was in a job that I hated, I was living in an area away from my family and was living on my own after a relationship ended. I felt no desire to do anything and when I got home on a Friday evening after a horrendous working week in an office (where I was surrounded by people!), I would turn the key in the door and not step foot out until Monday morning. Overall feeling terribly lonely but locked in a cycle where I wasn’t really helping my own plight.
Lonely girl


Age can affect loneliness, I have less friends the older I get, drifting away from people I grew up with as the years go on and experiencing changes within family structure that mean I have fewer people to talk to and rely on. The elderly in particular can have their health impacted by chronic loneliness and an excellent article by mobility bathing experts Premier Care in Bathing, considers ways in which we can help the elderly fight loneliness from encouraging exercise to promoting self care. They are the UK market leader for walk-in showers and baths that are perfect for the elderly to bathe safely and easily, and as a result feel better about themselves and much more likely to want to go out and meet up with people. Feeling confident is key to being social and enabling interaction with others on a daily basis.


I have touched on feeling lonely although being surrounded by people, such as I was in the corporate environment I was working in,busy and hundreds of people yet feeling so lonely and without friends. We can also feel lonely within a relationship and I have experienced this too. Loneliness to me can often be a state of mind and I have drawn together some surprising ways to combat feeling this way. I hope that they may be helpful if these feelings resonate with you.

Find what you’re interested in

Find the joy that is brought by a subject that interests you. Look to discover a hobby or interest that gives you a buzz and take small steps to find like minded people. If you love watching history programmes or reading about a certain time period, find some local history talks and take it from there. Or maybe you love wildlife, discover local activities from guided walks and events to helping out on a nature reserve. At a low point I had watched a programme on medieval history and decided completely on a whim to find a local group and go to some talks. I met a great group of people from all sorts of backgrounds and life was not the same after that, my social life expanded quickly and my self esteem soared. It’s hard to go out when you feel lonely, the first step is to just turn up, even if you go and don’t talk to anybody at first. 

Expand your knowledge through online courses such as free ones from FutureLearn as they really give you a boost and help you feel like you have something to belong to. Online forums on subjects are a platform to start talking with people on subjects that you are enthusiastic about which leads me to my next point......
Church visit
A church history group visit, one of the subjects that helped me out of loneliness

Online socialising is a useful first step to get out of loneliness

Social media can be a useful first step to fight loneliness and is super if like me you are an introvert. There are elements of each platform that are useful for those baby steps out of feeling lonely. Granted too much can be a bad thing but if online chats progress to the confidence for talking to people face to face then I totally recommend it. Blogging has opened up my life and the opportunities for making friends, as has Twitter where I have a great network of acquaintances that love to look around churches like me. Being involved in Twitter hashtags for weekly discussions led to me making friends and joining real life groups. I met my fiancé through Twitter too. My local area of Shrewsbury has tweet ups that are organised events, very safe as obviously that is a concern so make sure meets are official and in a public place. Likewise with Instagram, opportunities for creative and informative exchanges lead to lifestyle changes. I found that the desire to join in and share pretty pictures on Instagram got me out of the house each day and led to me feeling better about myself and more confident to engage in real life social events.

 Ultimately to break the loneliness,just find one thing that you like and try to find something in you local area that will put you with like minded people whether that is baking cakes, reading books, yoga or knitting.  Find happiness from within yourself, being alone is not the same as being lonely.

 Ideas for breaking the lonely spells:


Pets are amazing to help with feeling lonely. A constant companion on good and bad days. A dog encourages you to get out of the house and people always chat to you as you're out walking. Lots of dog breeds have clubs such as the fun organised sausage dog walks and maybe a doggy training class would create opportunities to make friends. 
dog walk
My dog Boo is a loyal friend

Gardening is a hobby that is good for the mind and has openings for meeting new people. I watched a progamme recently where a man who was feeling alone had rented an allotment and this had brought him out of his shell. I have had an allotment and people there are mostly very chatty and helpful, there are social events such as barbeques, annual shows and it is generally just a place to go, be in the outdoors, enjoy growing your own food and a natter over a cuppa and a packet of seeds with plot neighbours.
Allotment sunflowers and shed
A cup of tea at the plot is a perfect antidote to feeling lonely, always somebody to have a chat with over the brassicas!

Volunteering opens up chances to get out of the house and meet new people. There are hundreds of things to be involved in whether it's a certain area of interest such as with animals or something to just see new folk like working in a charity shop. Look at a volunteer database and be inspired to try something new whilst helping others. I have found a gardening opportunity in my village for a retirement living community that would be just my thing. 

Get out every day and see people, even if it's the local shop or the library. Familiar places will bring familiar people and a little interaction will help a lot. When you feel lonely, just a simple hello and a smile from a passer by helps so much. It's great to go walking and see new things and not stay cooped up at home. When I was feeling lonely a while back,getting out into the countryside helped the oppressive feeling of solitude go away and instead I felt happy with myself and at ease. Of course the ultimate aim I wanted was to make new friends but my inner happiness was the first rung. 

I hope some of these ideas may help you if you are not sure what to do, I speak from a very personal place when I say that the loneliness will not be forever and you are the best person to help yourself through but also do not be afraid to ask for help.
English countryside walks



*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

A walk around Bury Ditches - an Iron Age Hill Fort in Shropshire

The sun shone hazily and the clouds drifted by the hand gliders on the distant crag of a Shropshire hill and the wings of patrolling buzzards were tickled by the thermals. Time to get out again with Little Bird, Sweep and the dogs. Time to explore this new home of mine in rural Shropshire in our first spring here.

A sign I had seen on winter journeys across the county was for Bury Ditches, tucked away between Bishop's Castle and Clun in south Shropshire. Sweep despite living nearby had never been so it was good to tread new territory together in his homelands. The Ditches are an Iron Age hill fort dating back to 500BC and a superb example of a multivallate fort which is one with two or more ramparts as defence.
South Shropshire landscape

The fort was once all pine plantation until a great storm in the 1970's blew down many trees revealing the details of the ditches and ramparts and so the Forestry Commission now manage as a historic site.
carved boy tree trunk


We walked down a woodland path past carved tree folk and information to guide us as to how the fort would have looked. The dogs pulled eagerly and Little Bird tromped through heather lined paths to the summit of Sunnyhill where the oval lines of the fort can clearly be seen and walked along. Views all around were amazing, across to the Long Mynd, the Clee Hills and across to the Stiperstones back home.
Yellow gorse Shropshire



walking on heather ramparts
The place has an ethereal feel to it, treading on a landscape shaped so long ago, what lies beneath these folds in the land. Folklore says that gold is buried here by fairies and  the lucky finder will discover one day as there is gold wire attached to the bounty.

But for us the treasure will be found here in late summer, plentiful purple winberries for gorgeous pies and the reward of fantastic views each season.
Bury Ditches Shropshire


Bury Ditches Shropshire

Bury Ditches Map
Forestry Commision Bury Ditches

Joining in with Country Kids to share my tales from a new life in rural Shropshire.

Country Kids linky