Saturday, 12 August 2017

A weekend pause

A slow moving winding waterway runs through the verdant flat plain of mid-Cheshire, the River Dane, a name derived from Old Welsh dafyn which means trickling stream. Here in Northwich it joins the River Weaver, the confluence being in the centre of town. But before it does, its last meander is through the middle of farmland, past cows who clumsily dip in for a drink or to cool on a summer's day.

As part of a Sunday afternoon drive, the first stop is at a farm that over looks the Dane although it cannot be seen, just picked out by the trees and denser plants that flank the river. A looping greener way into town so sinuous it's as if the river couldn't quite make its mind up until deciding that town life and merging forces with the Weaver was the better option after all. 

Shipbrook Hill where I stand is the site of a Norman Castle and local folk have told me of some ruins of it being within the farm's garden. I found no trace but on this escarpment is the treasure of a view on this fluffy sky day with the steeple of the church in the distance piercing cumulus and equally cotton wooled sheep frolicking in the nearby field. On an ox bow beyond are a herd of cows, tails flicking and swallows squeal above and swoop enjoying the weather. By my feet, pink mallow stretches up and tickles the fence posts, clover flowers like baubles are bobbing about with bees and the rolling carpet of grass from shades of deep green to end of summer yellow stretches on towards the town.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Jacamo clothes for summer

Summer clothes for Little Bird's dad, a treat from Jacamo for adventuring towards autumn, perhaps up spiralling castle stairways and running down hills with much giggling.It's usually LB that has the clothes quota but this time dad could choose some items. 

First up was a chambray shirt, chosen as it is smart casual and can be worn for work which has a relaxed dress code and also for an evening at the pub or taking LB on a trip out on a cooler day, of which we are certainly having plenty of this August! The cuffs are navy on the underside so can be turned over for a different look.
Jacamo shirt

Next were some chino trousers and denim shorts. The chinos are not those ones that I remember half the IT department that I worked in wearing but are surprisingly now on-trend and an essential for any time of the year. These are charcoal ones with a twisted fit to the leg, great for work again and can be dressed up or worn as casual. In fact he will wear them with the shirt and add a smart pair of shoes for when he goes out with friends. 

charcoal chinos
The last item chosen was a pair of jean shorts which will be the best summer item for taking LB to the park and generally messing around on boy's days out with the other two lads in the family. Usually kicking a ball around and fooling about, the shorts will be perfect for that and are machine washable, like the other items. The detail on the short's pockets was particularly nice and the casual look of them will coordinate with t-shirts and shirts, and a pair of retro trainers.
Jacamo clothes Jacamo have a wide range of clothes and footwear, all at reasonable prices and whatever your style is. Sportswear, lots of brands and offers such as 2 x £35 on hoodies and chinos. On your first order there is free next day delivery and after that, it is £3.99 or click and collect for free from a Jacamo store or a MyHermes Parcel Shop (orders over £40), which is good if you are usually out during the day.

Items were gifted for the purpose of the blog post, views are my own honest opinion.

Monday, 31 July 2017

First impressions of a home town and house

The day I first saw the town I live in, Northwich, it was a sunny summer's day and I was on my way to a family wedding. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds and the grand entrance to my future was also bright blue, a bridge over a river where herons stood sentry and bicycles streamed along the river path, happy families and barking dogs pulling on leads. Every so often a canal boat gently chugged past and this low humming was only broken by rowers in unison of intense synchronicity, slicing through glinting water. Once out of sight, only a quack could be heard. Exploring further through the town, noting grand old houses and red brick terraces, black and white timbers by a boat marina where colourful pleasure craft bobbed about, a merry dance of a little market town, I made a collective first impression. One that lingered and several years later when a move was required, fell like a pinball rolling, sending off glowing light bulbs of knowing where I had to look to live. And here I am, nearly 15 years later, it's my home and I consider myself a proper local.
Sunnyside Up Boat Cheshire

First impressions can be everything, whether it is the first time you meet somebody or at the reception desk of a company. In a few snapshots you take in your surroundings and the demeanour of a person and piece it all together. In the first half hour in my town it had had an effect upon me, a positive one of boats and bikes, of slightly alternative people, live music and happiness of ordinary folk. A community feeling that enveloped me and set my mind for what I wanted. 

That same warm fuzziness grabbed me the moment I stepped into my current house. A cold February afternoon, snow was gently falling and as soon as I saw the front with its Victorian features I knew it had to be mine. Within ten minutes I had told the estate agent that I would have it. The power of those first impressions. Of course all was not completely rosy (like the cat mess in the bedroom!) but how we can be guided by our first thoughts and feelings on something or someone. 
Northwich marina sunset

Perhaps I am rather impulsive but I find my first impressions are often the right ones, a gut instinct. Often I know when I meet somebody that we will be friends or if we will be avoiding each other. For my home town, I still have that glow about the place and a sense of pride when I show people where I live. The boats still often warrant a detour on my way home to take a few photos of the marina as dusk falls and when I see my blue bridge I know that I am back where I belong, by the river and its swans by the rowing club. The friendly people that say hello, the homely market and its curious mix of industrial history and havens for wildlife in the nature reserves that skirt the town.

Likewise with my home, the stairs to the loft room still give the pleasure of looking out across town, over rooftops and seeing the river in the distance as I first discovered on that very first impression I had. The garden which although at that time was sparse of plants, had the potential for being my piece of heaven and the little side passageway onto a row of cottages felt like a link to a tucked away backwater of people that would grow sweetpeas in summer and fetch your bin in for you. 

Even some imperfections can add to a first impression still remaining positive, they keep it real and I suppose I'm like that with people, too perfect and I'm suspicious but both good and bad feel like the real thing. So I'm glad that I rely on my first impressions and if you have a bad one, it can be so hard to change and remove those thoughts from your head. Something to remember as we go about our day-to-day business but back to my home and hence why you'll always find flowers adorning the front door and a dragon guarding the entrance :)

Weaver Navigation

*Collaborative post

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

North Wales #Cultural Drives

I'm history mad, mostly churches and the weekend is when I jump into the car and go on a church crawling trip, dragging my son along who generally enjoys it too, the anticipation of not knowing exactly what we will discover . Chill Car Insurance are putting together a book of Creative Drives and this got me thinking about a drive that I would recommend. 
Map North Wales

For me it would be a history drive along the North Wales coast along the Express Way taking in the scenery of the seaside towns and headlands from Flintshire through to Anglesey.  Although in parts industrial, along the Dee Estuary with ports and remains of coal mining, the coast here is a wonderful blend of past centuries with castles and churches aplenty and wind farms and collieries. A short journey off the Expressway and you are immersed in history and reminders of the Welsh fortitude and resilience in this rugged and beautiful landscape.

First stop is the enigmatic shrine of St Winefride. With vaulted ceilings above the reputedly healing waters you can follow in the footsteps of pilgrims like so many have done for hundreds of years. Less than £2 for a family ticket that incorporates the small museum and access to the chapel above the shrine. Look for stone carvings, graffiti of people seeking cures and remembering their spiritual experience. There are tours and you can of course at certain times have a dip into the spring waters. One of the Seven Wonders of Wales
Holywell Shrine
Not far off the Expressway is  the village of Talacre with its sandy beaches and broad dunes popular with families and great for waking dogs. Part of this area is Point of Ayr,which is the most northern point of the Welsh mainland and the 18th century lighthouse on the beach is the oldest in Wales. No longer an operational lighthouse but reportedly haunted by one of the previous lighthouse keepers. Stop here for salt water paddling, sandy adventures and a bag of chips afterwards.
Point of Ayr lighthouse

A familiar sight along the Wales Expressway, the Marble Church due to the fourteen different types of marble used within. 
The towering spire rising to 202ft is visible from afar, a Gothicly wonderful church to stop off and have a look at inside and out. Built as a memorial commissioned from a wife, Lady Margaret to her husband Henry Peyto-Verney and completed in 1860. The graveyard has more than 80 war graves of Canadian soldiers who were based at the nearby Kimnel Park army camp where they sadly died in the Spanish Flu epidemic after the end of World War 1.
The Marble Church, Wales

A small coastal village with a puppet theatre that is a permanent fixture and shows are at 3pm. Founded in the 1950's the small theatre has over 1000 marionettes. The current show is Hansel and Gretel.  
The smallest chapel in Wales is on the promenade by the beach with amazing views across Colwyn Bay. St Trillo's chapel founded by the 6th century Celtic saint is a rough stone structure, enough room for only a few people and the altar has a holy well underneath. Nearby are the remains of a weir built by Cistercian monks to catch fish which you can see at low tide. 
Also for children, there is an outdoor paddling pool and crazy golf, a quieter resort stop off to entertain little ones. 
Rhos on Sea

This Victorian resort has a beautiful pier to walk along and is overlooked by limestone headlands on either side of the famous Great Orme and Little Orme - Orm means serpent's head and was named by the Vikings in the 9th century. Famous for this being the place  where Lewis Carroll met the little girl that inspired Alice in Wonderland so there is a trail of white rabbits, Mad Hatters and caterpillars on mushrooms that you can do. The pier is full of the usual amusements and small shops, Punch and Judy by the beach and go on a boat trip on the Sea-Jay. It's a fun filled stop on this cultural drive through North Wales and well worth staying over to experience a full day here. The cable car up the Great Orme will offer superb views and then you can catch the tram back down. Llandudno beach is part sandy and also pebbly with a  huge ridged sea break, this is a great spot for practising skimming pebbles across the sea. There are plenty of places to eat and then it's back into the car to head further around the coast.
Llandudno Pier

A bustling university town with a very interesting pier, quiet and nostalgic. Through iron gates are many memorials which are fun to read as you walk along. The beach here is muddy and a great place for watching birds such as oystercatchers and comorants. We have watched mottled brown turnstones on the iron steps underneath the pier, chattering away.
Bangor Pier

Deserving a whole post of its own is Anglesey but I couldn't not mention it on this road trip for the grand finale is the awesome sight of the Menai Bridge. We often just drive over so we can stop off and see this view from the other side. On Anglesey there is a lot to see, beaches, the colourful village of Beaumaris or the spectacular kite surfers of Rhosneigr.

I hope this brief guide has shown you some of the interesting things to see along the north Wales coast, there are many more and the castles of Conwy and Penrhyn are also notable. The gateway to my road trip starts once we have passed though Chester and it's always exciting to see the first Welsh road sign. 
Menai Bridge

*Collaborative post

Friday, 14 July 2017

Handcrafted gifts for the home: UncommonGoods

It's a cloudy afternoon and after a little tidying I am sitting down with a cup of tea and having a look at some homeware products from UncommonGoods who with being based in Brooklyn, New York know a thing or two about design. 

Their latest collection has items that make me swoon with great ideas for home accessories such as these stained glass feathers that would look wonderful hanging in a sun streamed window. UncommonGoods support artists and designers, with half of the items sold being made by hand. 
stained glass feathers
I also love the colourful look of the Fabric of our Family Blanket which is a homely way to put a personal note into your home. It's a perfect keepsake and the squares can be customised with your own special dates and icons to show hobbies or traits  - there is a large selection from sports, animals, zodiac signs and games. It's woven and a great size for snuggling on the sofa under.
Fabric blanket

Also for comfort I really like the Vintage Camera Pillows since photography, ie. my surgical attachment to my iPhone for taking snaps with, or my other camera, feature prominently in my life. I like my home to be quite personalised so these would love brilliant on a chair or on my bed. These are hand-made artist prints onto cotton sateen that are then sewn onto cotton twill. Once I get a study area sorted, they would look great on a reading chair. Have a look at these great items for a home office too from paper weights that would make great gifts to fun bookends and stationery.
Vintage camera pillows

A third of the UncommonGoods collection is made from recycled/upcycled materials such as these lovely Craft Wax Beer Candles made from amber beer bottles - scents of 'hard cider' and 'blood orange' are my kind of homely fragrances. I love my candles, a treat at the end of the day to relax to and these give 60 hours burn time - perfect.
craft beer candles

For nighttime I also really love this blackbird night light that is absolutely adorable! It's a mother bird (appropriate for a happy homebird) and is made from recycled glass. A pretty glow for atmospheric evening chilling out.
Bird night light
Of course , there are also handcrafted gifts for the garden and these bat sculptures caught my eye and the hanging yoga poses. I think they'd look really quirky hanging from one of my small trees in the back garden. Both are made from copper by an artist and what a lovely present they would make......although I would want to keep for myself. The sun has come out again and I think a copper bat roosting in the rose bush would make a sweet feature to look at whilst I sit my with cuppa.
decorative bats

yoga decorations

*Collaborative post