Probably the best little book shop in the entire world

The Barrister’s wig and gown displayed in the corner of the new floor ‘Murder and the Barrister’

The Barrister’s Book Chamber

I recently had the very good fortune to be invited to a bloggers event at the Barrister’s Book Chamber https://barristersbookchamber.com/ in Retford, North Notts. The book shop has opened a new department ‘Murder and the Barrister’ on the top floor of the listed, Georgian building that it occupies.

An image of books wrapped up in brown paper and string
Books wrapped in brown paper and string – a nice detail

The Barrister in Wonderland

This is the latest, most exciting innovation for the Book Chamber. It follows hot on the heels of the ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ http://savourthemoment.co/literature/the-barrister-in-wonderland-a-childrens-book-shop-with-a-difference/. It is an absolutely delightful children’s book shop and a ‘must visit’ – no matter what your age!

The striking shop from of the new book shop in town, black and gold with an Alice in Wonderland tea party themed window display
The Barrister in Wonderland, a children’s books shop with a difference

Cluedo

The Barrister’s Book Chamber put on a ‘movie night’ for us bloggers in their fiction room. Comfy chairs, bean bags, nibbles, popcorn and drinks and we were set for the film. ‘Clue’ is a 1985 drama/mystery/comedy based on the board game ‘Cluedo’ and was perfect for the occasion.

Wine, popcorn and nibbles and the show begins
Wine, popcorn and nibbles and the show begins

The tour begins

With the film over we were given a tour of the upper rooms. Unique decor of scarlet blood splats against the signature ‘Barrister’s blue’ runs throughout and up the dog-leg staircase. There are street names on the walls of where the Ripper’s victims were found, which are a conversation piece in themselves.

Blood splats and street names related to Jack the Tipper
Blood splats and street names relating to Jack the Ripper
A selection of Jack the Ripper related books
A selection of Jack the Ripper related books in the Barrister’s room

Agatha Christie… of course!

A little nook that has a Georgian window, is currently home to ‘Agatha Christie’. This little area will become home to other famous crime writers over time.

A little nook that is currently the Agatha Christie room
A little nook that is currently the Agatha Christie room

Crime Fiction

The crime fiction room is completely filled with every kind of crime fiction you can imagine. Generally the price rule throughout the shop is paperbacks £2 and hardbacks £3 – which is a steal. If there is a particular book that you are after, they will do their best to get it for you, although it might cost a bit more. As you might expect, so do special editions and some vintage books.

This image is of the Crime Fiction Room. A chandelier grandly illuminating the central criminal display
This image is of the Crime Fiction Room. A chandelier grandly illuminates the central ‘criminal’ display

An all-purpose Workshop Room

Moving on and we are in the ‘Workshop Room’ or meeting room. Tastefully kitted out with tables and chairs to make a welcoming space. The potential uses of this area are endless. It can be a quiet area for yoga, meditation, networking, crafting or IT workshops…

The very useful ‘Workshop Room’
…and a very useful ‘Workshop Room’

A stenotype too!

Finally on the top floor is the Barrister’s room which is small and quirky. It holds a collection of Jack the Ripper books amongst other things. The Barrister’s robe, wig and brief bags are on display in here too. A real-life stenotype is in here too! (Only ever seen in period courtroom dramas before.) And if you are lucky enough and Dave is around, you may get to hear all sorts of fascinating anecdotes and stories which bring this room to life. Dave is the man who physically brought Angela’s dream of the Book Chamber to life. They are a very talented team.

The Barrister’s wig and gown displayed in the corner of the new floor ‘Murder and the Barrister’
The Barrister’s wig and gown displayed in the corner of the new floor ‘Murder and the Barrister’
A vintage stenotype
Delighted to see this vintage stenotype on display

All this and cake too

You don’t have to be on the look out for a book to visit this shop either. A lovely, comfy little tea room is at the back of the ground floor. Incredible homemade cakes are created by Laura, another member of the team, which she brings in fresh every day. Also in here are vinyl records, as well as tea and coffee of course!

A very cosy tea room with a varied selection of homemade cakes and a selection of teas and coffees
The cosy tea room – homemade cakes and a selection of teas and coffee

You never know what you might find in this Aladdin’s cave

Remember those colour-coded Penguin books from the 1930s and 40s? Well there are quite a few of the green ‘murderous’ ones on display… but don’t tell everyone!

The unmistakable, vintage, green and white Penguin crime books
The unmistakable, vintage, green and white Penguin crime books

Extremely innovative

Keep your eye on the Barrister’s Book Chamber, there is always something new happening there. I wonder what’s in store next for this clever little shop?

The Cottage Vegan

Apple crumble cake
A headshot of Rachael Care
Rachael Care – the face behind The Cottage Vegan

A cup of tea and a chat with Rachael Care – The Cottage Vegan

Although we live in the same, small North Notts village, I had never met Rachael – until the village plant sale at the Clayworth Memorial Hall.  A few of us had taken homemade cakes to sell to help boost the proceeds.  Rachael had made a selection of vegan muffins which looked eye-poppingly gorgeous.

Blueberry and lemon Chelsea buns drizzled with glace icing
Sticky blueberry and lemon Chelsea buns drizzled with glace icing

A gap in the market for vegan food locally

She and I chatted and it seemed that she was on the verge of starting up her own business ‘The Cottage Vegan’.  Having done some research locally she discovered that there is a gap in the market for home-prepared, vegan food.  After the plant sale we linked up on Facebook.

Apple crumble cake
Apple crumble cake – looks stunning when baked in a bundt tin

Such glorious cakes

The pictures she was posting of her glorious cakes gave me the idea that someone I know might appreciate one of her creations.  I messaged Rachael and within minutes she responded saying that she was baking at that moment and would have a carrot cake ready for me that very afternoon.  Now that is service!  The cake went down a treat, it tasted divine and it didn’t break the bank!

A very col,our full Hummingbird cake decorated with edible fresh flowers
Hummingbird cake, decorated with edible fresh flowers

Cup of tea and a chat

I asked Rachael if she fancied a chat over a cup of tea and she kindly invited me to her cottage.  And it is is exactly as you would imagine – a typical English cottage in a typical English village!  She has over a hundred cookery books and her kitchen is all neatly laid out ready for the next baking session.  It seems that ‘The Cottage Vegan’ (very aptly named) went ‘live’ on 1st July.  One month in and business is already brisk.  Simple word-of-mouth alongside social media and the orders are rolling in.

All set for afternoon tea with fresh flowers a cup of tea and an apple cram horn
Afternoon tea with apple cream corn

We made a connection

She and I seemed to connect, having much in common: a love of cookery, making things, creativity and ‘flavour’!  I was bowled over by her determination and passion and asked her how she had arrived at this point in her life – on the cusp of a new business.  It seems that she has taken a long and winding route to where she is now. 

Buckwheat pastry with cheese, onion, tomatoes and homemade mango chutney
Buckwheat pastry patties with cheese, onion, tomatoes and homemade mango chutney

Back to school

Rachael has worked with various companies in administration and also at one point as a carer.  But she had always harboured the desire to learn to cook, although she could already cook she wanted to learn to do it professionally.  She was encouraged to follow her dream by her husband so gave up her job and started a vocational college course https://www.don.ac.uk/. 

If you don’t ask you don’t get

With a need to keep some money coming in and also to get a foot into the catering industry, she took a job as a chamber maid at a local hotel with a fine dining restaurant attached http://www.mountpleasant.co.uk/ . One thing led to another and she dared to ask the Head Chef if he would give her a job. To her surprise he said ‘yes’! and he continued to be her mentor and oversee her progress… and her rise to pastry chef.

Satay skewers and rainbow salad
Satay skewers with rainbow salad

Home is where the heart is

Something that has always been on her mind is, like me, she loves to be at home.  All those endless days spent staring out of someone else’s window with a longing just to be at home.  Also like me, she enjoys her own company.  All this points to where she is, developing her own business from where she loves more than anywhere else to be… her own kitchen.

Business is booming

Market research was to supply her husband’s colleagues with her first bakes, actively encouraging their feedback – and ultimately their orders, which began to gather momentum.  She now finds herself very busy.  Because she is flexible and open to suggestions she is constantly adding new lines and experimenting with flavours.  She will even prepare a week’s worth of readymade vegan meals to people who don’t have the time to shop and cook.  It’s a service that is clearly much appreciated.

Get in touch with Rachael at the Cottage Vegan

Have a look at The Cottage Vegan’s Facebook page and if there’s anything thing there that tempts you (believe me there will be whether you are vegan or not!) send her a message. https://m.facebook.com/thecottagevegan/ 

Variety is the spice of life

So, it’s not just cakes… it’s Jamaican patties, vegan lasagne, bean and vegetable casseroles, flatbreads, vegan burgers, the most amazing gâteux, muffins and cakes – and probably anything else you might ask of her.  All her bakes and makes are made to order with top-quality, local produce… and lots of love.

An Afternoon With Elaine Searston – Make Up Artist

Make Up Artist

I won a prize in a raffle held at Butterflies Beauty Retreat https://www.butterfliesbeautyretreat.co.uk/.  The prize was a make up lesson.  I had no idea what to expect.  It turned into the most amazing afternoon with Elaine Searston – Make Up Artist https://en-gb.facebook.com/pg/elainesearstonmua/posts/  It was just, well… wow!

Make up station and mirror
Elaine’s work station

Watching her work

I have always had an interest in make up and being a girl of the 60s I wore it a lot!  Socket lines, white lipstick, eyeliner – you name it!  I so wish that I could create the look I want without looking like ‘mutton dressed as lamb – or worse… a clown!’  The moment I met Elaine I knew she had the skills for the job.   So, with a hand-mirror I watched as she worked her magic.

The corner of Elaine’s studio
An elegant chair sits in the corner of Elaine’s studio

Her very own make up studio

Elaine has her own make up studio at her house near Worksop, North Nottinghamshire.  She welcomed me into her Aladdin’s cave of cosmetics, brushes and mirrors.  It was a jaw-dropping moment – taking a step into another world.  I sat in her client’s chair and as she had asked me to take the make up I use along with me, we looked at each item and talked about how I used it.  I explained that I had got to the age where I felt almost invisible.  Gone are the days when I might turn heads.  I told her that I struggled with eye make up because of my hooded eyelids.  She convinced me that this should not be a problem.

Client chair and framed inspirational quote on the wall
Elaine’s client chair and instructions to ‘eat diamonds for breakfast and sparkle all day!’

Stay ahead of the game

As she got to work, we chatted and she told me that there were tricks that could be used to shape the face and camouflage problem areas.  It soon became clear that Elaine knows what she’s talking about and is also very good at what she does.  She has her favourite products too and although she doesn’t sell cosmetics she will happily recommend – one of her favourite brands is Charlotte Tilbury https://www.charlottetilbury.com/uk .  Elaine likes to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry and visits the trade shows and exhibitions, picking up information and learning about new products in the process. And of course sharing hints and tips with other make up artists along the way.

Charlotte Tilbury display stand
Elaine’s favourite: Charlotte Tilbury

A face map

She explained everything that she did and why she was doing it.  She told me about every brush and why she used it and not only that but she wrote everything down onto a face map for me.  I could take this away with me to follow and (to try) to recreate my new look for myself.  This would be a challenge and it will take practice but I will certainly give it a go.

Face map and Elaine’s make up notes
A face map with Elaine’s notes

The make up bug

Some years ago she worked on the beauty counter at Boots and I think that’s where she originally got the ‘make up bug’.  One thing led to another and before she knew it she was a fully qualified Make Up Artist with a regular gig at the West Retford Best Western Hotel https://www.westretfordhotel.co.uk/.  However, her workload has increased to the point where she can no longer maintain the time spent there.  I get the feeling that she will always have a soft spot for West Retford and their door will always be open to her.  She also lectures on the subject at Retford College and regularly lets students accompany her to appointments for the experience.

A pot of makeup brushes
Just a few of Elaine’s make up brushes
A ‘how to sculpt and contour with make up’ image
How to sculpt and contour with make up, clearly explained

A growing portfolio of delighted brides

She has tended to many nervous brides and bridesmaids on their big days, which is a huge responsibility.  But Elaine is clearly very experienced and passionate about what she does.  And she is very good at putting her clients immediately at their ease, making every one of them instagrammable.

Wallet/roll of make up brushes
Even more make up brushes

Confidence is the key

Despite all the creams, shadows, lipsticks and pencils Elaine firmly believes that the most important element of make up is ‘confidence’ which comes from within  And she is right too but having Elaine to do your make up for you first would give you a head start in that department. She is a little miracle worker!  I left her studio feeling like a million dollars.

Selfie - million dollar feeling
That million dollar feeling!
A selfie image of Elaine Searston MAke Up Artist and Sharon Richardson
Elaine Searston Make Up Artist and me

A session with Elaine costs £40 and gift vouchers are available

An afternoon with Elaine Searston Make Up Artist

Community Spring Clean with Liam Wildish

So many bags of litter!

Liam’s Community Spring Clean

Liam Wildish has recently become a local hero and celebrity with his community-spirited, clean-up of the area.  He runs his own ‘Clean Scene’ window cleaning business and he took it upon himself to clean the odd road sign or two https://www.cleanyx.com/GB/East-Retford/216885679007526/Clean-Scene-Window-Cleaning.  This snowballed and he was soon cleaning nearly all the road signs that were safely accessible for him – in his spare time and at his own expense.  His work was noticed and he found himself in the local paper and then… before he knew it… on BBC Television’s  ‘The One Show’ being interviewed by Matt Baker and Alex Jones. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/  And he went viral too!

Liam Wildish recruits a team of local volunteers for some community action
21 year old Liam Wildish, the organiser of the ‘Big Retford Town Clean-up’

 

 

 

Litter-picking grabbers at the ready

His Facebook following soon grew and he used his newfound celebrity to launch his ‘Clean Up Retford Campaign’.   He jumped through all the hoops to organise a ‘Sunday Morning Clean Up’ and invited all those who could make it, to join him.  Having checked with the local council, he read out the ‘dos and donts’ and made everyone aware of the  ‘risks involved’ and then handed out hi-vis vests and litter-picking-grabbers!

Hi-vis vests, rubbish bags and litter-grabbers are handed out to the team at the start.
Hi-vis vests, rubbish bags and litter-grabbers are handed out to the team

A good crowd for a first community event

I estimate that approximately 20 people turned up, including some members of the local youth club, a dad with a baby strapped to his chest and even a few people from outside the area.

The team gets organised
Liam’s team gets organised with hi-vis vests, bags and grabbers

Many, many, many, cigarette butts

The litter pickers sorted themselves into small groups and broke off in different directions.   We were to return to the start-point in two hours.  Fortunately the day was fine and warm and friendly banter made the two hours fly by.  Many, many, many cigarette butts and at least twenty full bags of rubbish later, Liam’s first community action was complete.

A growing initiative

I am sure that this initiative will grow and that Liam’s next community event will receive even more support.  Credit due to the lad, he gives his time for free and his enthusiasm is infectious.  His intentions are good and he sets a fine example.  We need more Liams!

 

A member of Liam’s team cleaning up the town
Litter-pickers all over town

We shouldn’t have to rely on someone else to clean up our mess

Retford is an historic, Georgian market town in the Bassetlaw area of North Nottinghamshire and like every other small town it  faces struggles.  I think we all know that resources are scant and we can’t always rely on these already overstretched funds to keep our environment immaculately clean.  It is up to us as individuals to take responsibility for our actions.

the litter-pickers return with bags of rubbish
After two hours the litter-pickers return

If everyone did a little – the effect would be huge and we would all benefit

If only everyone would do just a little bit – like tidying up outside their own front door or outside their business – life would be so much sweeter.  It should only take a few minutes, it would be so worth it and the world be a better place… for everyone.

Every little helps, as some big supermarket once said.

The Barrister in Wonderland

A large red ‘pocket’ watch draped in ivy is set at a jaunty angle from the top shelf

A new member of the Barrister family

The new ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is the latest arrival to the Barrister’s Book Chamber family https://barristersbookchamber.com.  It is entirely dedicated to children’s books all stocked in the new, cosy premises.  You will find it in rural North Notts https://www.northnotts.co.uk/.  But this is not your average high street shop. This member of the family-run business only sells books for kids -in a very imaginative way. ‘The Barrister in Wonderland’ sits on a busy thoroughfare.  It is bright, fun and instantly welcoming.  The perfect place to get lost with a new find.

The striking shop from of the new book shop in town, black and gold with an Alice in Wonderland tea party themed window display
The Barrister in Wonderland, a children’s books shop with a difference

So many children’s books

The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is at 66 Carol Gate in the heart of the historic market town of Retford.  As you might guess from its name, it reflects the classic story.  It is an adventure inside and out. This is an independent bookshop that specialises in only children’s books.  It aims to appeal to inquisitive minds.

Rows and rows of story books completely cover one wall
Story books galore

My own secret hiding place

The ‘Barrister’s Book Chamber’ itself arrived on the Retford high street eighteen months ago.  However, since then I have taken many friends and family to visit this ‘book shop with a tea shop’.  It is my ‘meeting place’ of choice.  There are nooks and crannies in which to get cosy with a cup of tea and a piece of cake… the cakes, well that’s a whole blog on its own!  So, I was very eager to meet the newest addition to the Barrister family.

Pink flamingos and strategically placed books making a striking display
The Alice in Wonderland tea party themed window

A real delight

This little gem is full of fun artwork, it covers every available surface.  A tea party is the centre of the window display… and also on the ceiling inside!  It is a sight to behold.  Children of all ages will be completely entranced.  There is even a ‘grassy’ area for kids to sit and sample new stories.  See if you can find the White Rabbit disappearing into a hole with his pocket watch.  I promise he is there but not quite where you might expect to find him.

A blue chair and a red table set for tea are secured upside down to the ceiling
A tea party on the ceiling!

 

Story book wall

An entire wall is filled with story books, both new and second-hand.  There is a ‘Young Reader’ section too with easy to find books all sorted alphabetically by author.  Board books for tinies for as little as £1.  Arranged around the counter are vintage and classic story books and annuals.  Then there is a reference or non-fiction section with history, science, maths, cookery, crafts… and of course, a teen fiction section.

An elaborate mirror, decorated with blue butterflies adds a very ‘Wonderland’ dimension to the shop
An elaborate mirror decorated with butterflies adds a different dimension to the shop

Souvenirs of the visit

Unique book-marks, page markers, story blocks and lots more can be purchased at pocket-money prices.  A nice reminder of a visit to a very special little book shop.

A tiny fairy door behind which is another fairy door - lit and decorated. It’s low down near the floor, easily accessible for little fingers
A tiny fairy door behind which is another fairy door – lit and decorated. It’s low down near the floor, easily accessible for little fingers

Open to suggestions

The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is a children’s bookshop with a difference.  The staff loves kids and kids’ books.  The manager, Laura, is keen to form relationships with local schools.  She would like to hear what her visitors want and will be led by them.  Events will be very much driven by what her customers want.

Shelves of books for Young Readers
The Young Readers section

Inspiration for young minds

This bookshop is completely child-friendly and is bound to inspire and entertain young readers.  It is jam-packed with brilliant characters, tall tales and wonderful stories.  The perfect place to get lost together in a book.

A full size chair and small chair with a table by the fire on a grassy patch
Take a seat by the fire to settle down with a good book

Something for every child

There are bright displays to entice young readers to choose their next read, from board books for babies, to thrillers for teens.  As a result there’s an eclectic collection with something for every child.

A large red ‘pocket’ watch draped in ivy is set at a jaunty angle from the top shelf
A very Wonderland clock

Bookish décor

The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is home to some of the cleverest, bookish decor you’ve ever seen.  It is easy to navigate and there’s plenty of space to browse.  Kids will love to explore the shelves and hand-pick their new favourite character.

A six foot high, higgledy-piggledy, stack of books are formed into in archway at the entrance of the shop
A higgledy-piggledy stack of books makes the perfect entrance into the shop

A comprehensive selection

This is a treasure trove of children’s books.  A boutique that has almost every genre of book to inspire young ones to dive into a story.  The in-the-know booksellers are eager to recommend the perfect story, which is sure to encourage a love of reading – in even the most reluctant of readers.

A box contains brown-paper wrapped books a cryptic message on the front, a pot luck blind date with a book
A unique idea – blind date with a book

A veritable treasure trove

This magical emporium is full of second-hand and new wares.  Vintage finds and treasures just waiting to be discovered.  It is exactly what it says above the door – a wonderland of books just for kids.  Perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in some classic and well-loved tales – at a pocket-money price!

Playing cards play an important role in the quirky decor
Quirky, Wonderland themed artwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to see the look on the faces of my little ones when I take them to visit.  This is definitely something to do with the grandkids  https://thegrandparenthub.com/ when you visit North Notts https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/

Coastal Walk from Flamborough to Bempton

A newly arrived Puffin with bright plumage looking for his burrow in the cliff face

Coastal Walk from Flamborough to Bempton

This stunning coastal walk explores some of Britain’s highest chalk cliffs from Flamborough Head https://www.yorkshire.com/places/yorkshire-coast/flamborough to Bempton.  What better way to welcome the Spring than with this moderately challenging walk.  At a distance of 6 miles in the sunshine along the East Yorkshire coast, there are wonderful views… and the arrival of some our Summer sea bird visitors for company.

An image of Flamborough Head Lighthouse against a blue sky
Flamborough Head Lighthouse

Best Foot Forward

Start from Flamborough Head Lighthouse, a well-maintained and imposing beacon with a lot of history.  The original lighthouse was first built in 1669   https://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/lighthouse-visitor-centres/flamborough-lighthouse-visitor-centre This is an opportunity for refreshment and toilets at the Lighthouse Cafe, before starting out.  Take a walking-pole, you may need it and, depending on the weather, sturdy walking boots.  The walk starts off with some fairly narrow, steep, steps.  Look out for skylarks, corn buntings, stone chats, wheat ears and of course, many butterflies and an abundance of wildflowers.

Rugged cliffs, giving way to the crashing sea below
Stunning views of cliffs, sea and sky

Bright Yellow Gorse in Full Bloom

Skirt the Flamborough golf course, edged with vibrant, yellow gorse in full bloom at this time of year.  The only problem with this walk is the many stops that need to be taken in order to drink in the views and take photographs.  The North Sea is at its best along this stretch of coast.  It is surprisingly blue.  There are lots of places to just sit and stare.

Bright yellow gorse, blue sea and blue sky with whisky white clouds at Flamborough Head
Yellow gorse on the edge of Flamborough Golf Course

Follow Your Nose

It is difficult to go wrong, just follow the coast path up through Thornwick, leaving the bay down below.  There are not many opportunities for paddling.  The cliffs are steep drops to the sea below.  Sadly, there is some coastal erosion in parts.  Great care must be taken.

Dramatic and steep the cliffs are home to thousands of seabirds
A first sighting of Puffins returning to their burrows in the steep, chalk cliffs

Breathtaking

The walk ends at the visitor centre of the RSPB’s https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/bempton-cliffs Bempton Cliffs nature reserve.  Here are viewing platforms to get better sightings of the nesting birds.  And there possibility of seeing a Puffin.  Refreshments are available here too.  The cliffs are a temporary home to razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, fulmars and puffins – a cacophony of screeching seabirds.  This is one of Europe’s busiest seabird colonies.  Be prepared though, the smell of the guano can take your breath away.

The sun highlights the whiteness of the chalk cliffs tumbling down to the sea below
Another breath-taking view of the East Yorkshire coast

The Stunning East Yorkshire Coast

This has to be one of the most stunning coastal walks in Britain, it’s certainly one of my favourites.  This particular route was voted 50th in an ITV poll to find Britian’s favourite walk. If you’re even mildly interested in wildlife, Bempton Cliffs is the place to be.

The steep white cliffs of the Yorkshire coast reflect the the sunlight in contrast against the North Sea
A view of some of Britain’s steepest chalk cliffs along the East Yorkshire coast

Coffee and Cake with Tracey Whitefoot, Photographer

A lavender field in France, row upon row of lavender plants in flower. The composition is symmetrical, with a lone tree on the mid-point of the horizon of the field. Taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

A stunning image

On my morning scroll-through Linkedin, a contact of mine, Susan Hallam of Hallam Internet, https://www.hallaminternet.com/ had posted an image that stopped me in my tracks.  It was a simple image taken in my home town, Nottingham.  It was predominantly the ‘Council House’, only slightly obscured by some Fothergill Watson architecture, which I visualised to be at the bottom of King Street.  

This is the image that stopped me in my tracks. My home city as I have never seen it before. Nottingham in all its glory, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
This is the image that stopped me in my tracks, beautiful Nottingham, taken by Tracey Whitefoot

My home town

I could almost be on a vantage point looking down into the city-centre, perhaps on the roof of the Royal Concert Hall? At least that’s how it made me feel.  This image could have been taken anywhere in the world:  Istanbul, Prague, Bruges but no, it was Nottingham.  And how stunningly beautiful it looked too.

A popular post

I don’t usually share images, or any old article about marketing that I come across but this was different; this shouted ‘share me!’  It wasn’t long before my screen lit up with notifications.  Almost 40 likes and over 1000 views in a very short space of time.

I commented on the post and within minutes the photographer, Tracey Whitefoot, had responded to thank me.  I also noticed that she had replied to every single comment both previously and since.  

This is Tracey Whitefoot. she is wearing a pink coat and is holding her camera. It is taken at the Victoria Embankment, Nottingham by Joseph Raynor.
Tracey Whitefoot, photographer.
Taken by Joseph Raynor.

I went to Tracey’s website http://tracey-whitefoot.squarespace.com  and was blown away with her architecture and landscape images.  I wondered if she would agree to a chat over coffee and cake, which I could feature on my blog.  She didn’t hesitate, need any persuasion or even baulk at the 60 mile round trip either. Coffee and cake then at the Barrister’s Book Chamber https://barristersbookchamber.com/ in Retford, north Nottinghamshire.

Two hours just flew by

I had no idea what to expect – neither of us knew the other!  I need not have worried.  Tracey was easy to talk to and to listen to… she was relaxed and generously shared her story and her time with me.  She has achieved so much – and she is on the cusp of more adventures and even greater things.  It was clear that this was going to be no ordinary chat but a fascinating, rollercoaster ride!  

This is an image of Newstead Abbey, bathed in early, frosty, morning light. Evocative and moody taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, the ancestral home of Lord Byron, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

It started as just a hobby

Tracey is a Nottingham lass, born and brought up in Chilwell and currently living and working out of Carlton.  Most of her work – the bread and butter – is marketing and PR photography, quite a bit of it for both the city and county councils and community-based stuff with colleges, theatres and the local press.  It had always been Tracey’s hobby and she had already made the decision to take up photography professionally but an opportunity came through a colleague .  She was pushed to get out and take some pictures for someone that her friend thought would be a good contact.  It worked and she began to get paid photography work.

Anything that came in after that, if she didn’t have the skill level required, she would do lots of prep and dummy runs the day before!

An image of white tulips taken from an unusual angle. Looking into the sky from the base of the flowers. The light plays an import part in this picture taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
Tulips and light by Tracey Whitefoot’s

Around the world

Tracey went to Australia for the first time in 1998 and worked as a ‘Jillaroo’ on a cattle station.  After which, much of her early career was spent in sales and then after selling the house she returned to Australia in 2004/2005.  She has been all over the world with her camera.  She has no formal training although she did think about it briefly but she was doing quite well enough without it.

I had questions prepared that I thought I should ask but they somehow seemed to be irrelevant.  Like, ‘which photographers does she admire?’  She says that she has great respect for her peers and other female photographers making a living as a professional – like Birmingham-based Verity Milligan and Lincolnshire-born, wildlife photographer Chris Weston, who was a great help when Tracey started out, his books helped her with a lot of the technical aspects of photography. 

The million dollar question

And then, ‘what makes a good picture?’  Her answer, I now see, is staggeringly obvious; ‘the light’ was her response.  This is what makes her get up so early in the morning, this is what motivates her.  It is clear in all her compositions and landscapes that this is the most important thing to her – the light!  Sunrises, shadows, sunsets and shafts of light.  She will go to any lengths for the right light to get the shot that she wants… and it shows.  Visit her website and see for yourself!  ‘The light’ is her motivation.  It doesn’t really matter where, as long as the light is right.

Prolific and vibrant images

If today is stressful then treat yourself to a few moments of calm… look at Tracey’s images on http://Www.alamy.com search for lavender and you will be immediately transported to the lavender fields in France.  You can almost smell the perfume!

A lavender field in France, row upon row of lavender plants in flower. The image is symmetrical, with a lone tree on the mid-point of the horizon of the field and of course, the light. Taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
French lavender and of course, the light, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

Tracey’s enthusiasm and love of light and life are contagious, she has a real energy.  She says she’s ‘bonkers’, I say she’s a genius!

The next big thing

Her next adventure in search of light will take her to Everest basecamp in 2020.  I for one, can’t wait to see the what she captures there. But then I hope she soon returns to Nottinghamshire’s best kept secret that is Pilgrim Country, perhaps she will find light here too.

If it’s enthusiasm, energy… and light you want, talk to Tracey.

You can buy Tracey’s work to hang on your wall too, it will inspire you.  Please visit her website, you will not be disappointed http://tracey-whitefoot.squarespace.com

I have news for you… Bolton Abbey is nowhere near Bolton

A black and white image of the ruins and grounds of Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey is nowhere near Bolton

I was recently taken on a surprise trip to a lovely little B&B, Throstlenest Farm, https://www.throstlenestfarmbandb.co.uk/ just outside Skipton in the the Yorkshire Dales.  A good base to stay when you want to visit Bolton Abbey.

A black and white image of the ruins and grounds of Bolton Abbey
The stark ruins of Bolton Abbey

The market town of Skipton

On a gorgeous summer’s afternoon in February (yes really!) we arrived in the lovely market town of Skipton.  Busy market stalls, independent gift and craft shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes with a canal-side walk not too far away from the town centre adds up to make a very nice place to visit.  http://welcometoskipton.com/ There’s a castle, museum, historic church and a vibrant high street.

 

As I said, Bolton Abbey really is nowhere near Bolton

Bolton Abbey is about 6 miles from Skipton in Wharfedale, North Yorkshire.  As you might expect there is an abbey in the grounds although the 12th century Augustinian monastery is now in ruins.  It fell victim to King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.  It is actually about 60 miles from Bolton in Lancashire.

A black and white dramatic image of the ruins of Bolton Abbey
Dramatic view of the ruins of Bolton Abbey

Open all day

As a rule of thumb the grounds are open from 9am to 6pm – longer in the summer.  We arrived at the Strid car park at around 10am and left at about 3.30pm.  It is dog-friendly although they must be kept on leads. https://boltonabbey.com/your-visit/admission/

An image of a view through trees from a high point along the river Wharfe
A view along the river Wharfe from a vantage point

You will need £10 to park

The park is open to visitors for most of the year and there are miles of walking routes.   We chose one that included Strid Wood.  This stretch has one of the largest remains of sessile oak trees in the Yorkshire Dales.  The cost to park is pretty steep – £10 per car which can be used at other areas in the park – but then the area is immaculately maintained with excellent paths. A lot of it is pushchair- friendly.  An easy-to-use map with discounts for the various tea rooms makes the parking fee a bit more acceptable.

A view through the leafless trees
A view through the leafless trees

 

Take your binoculars, you’ll need them

The walk follows the banks of the river Wharfe with some inclines that give way to magnificent views.   There was evidence of acres of faded snowdrops, plus the green tips of imminent bluebells and the faint aroma of new, wild garlic.  Spring must be truly stunning in these parts.  Dippers, woodpeckers, grey-wagtails and more were spotted and it seems there are kingfishers and even otters to be seen too.

An image of one of the vantage points seats
One of the vantage point seats

Part of the Cavendish Family

If you have ever visited Chatsworth House in Derbyshire you will see that Bolton Abbey clearly belongs to the Devonshire family.  There is the same immaculate attention to signage and customer service.  And the name Cavendish pops up everywhere.  The 6th Duke of Devonshire and the Rev William Carr created the walks in the early 1800s with strategically placed seats to drink in the views.

 

The Strid

The Strid, a natural wonder, where the river suddenly narrows forcing the water through at great pressure. It was formed by the wearing away of softer rock by the circular motion of small stones in hollows. Clever eh?

Big rocks worn away and shaped by smaller rocks making the unique shaping of the Strid
The unique rock formation of the Strid

A clear blue sky with an amazing view from the road at Barden
This is the magnificent view from the road at Barden in the Yorkshire Dales

A seven mile circular walk

Our walk along the riverside took us to Barden Bridge, over it and along the opposite bank.  We crossed the river Wharfe at one point to visit the Pavilion for coffee to cross back again and on to the stepping stones.  I preferred to take the bridge, only having little legs, to the abbey ruins and back along to the river bank to complete the circuit at the Strid.

An image of stepping stones spaced across the River Wharfe
The stepping stones across the river Wharfe at Bolton Abbey

A good 7 mile walk.

 

 

Take the grandchildren to London!

The highlight of our visit - meeting Bill, the Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London

It started small

Wouldn’t it be great if we could visit London with the grandchildren.  A day trip? But there’s too much to see in a day! Too much to plan! A lot could go wrong!

Retford Station canopy detail over Platform 1
Retford Station canopy detail over Platform 1

This will take some careful planning

A small package of ‘clues’: an ‘I Spy London’ book; a children’s map of London; a London sticker book; a Union Flag wallet, pen and notebook – plus a ‘golden ticket’ – all parcelled up to make a unique and memorable Christmas gift which caused huge excitement.

Save the date

As soon as we decided with our daughter that we could go on the ‘Inset Day’ before the February half-term holiday, we looked for appropriate travel, visit and stay deals.

Travel

The first great deal was with LNER https://www.lner.co.uk/.  Booked in advance, seats reserved and for just a little extra First Class wahay! So that’s brunch sorted!

So excited. We’re going to London
So excited. We’re going to London

Easy to get around

Transport for London TFL https://tfl.gov.uk/make it easy to get around London with an Oyster card, or even more easily, cost-effectively and efficiently with just a debit card.  It can be tapped at the entrance and exit of every underground station – no faffing about with ‘real money’.

And now we’re on the Underground
And now we’re on the Underground

So excited!

Evie eight-and-a-half, and Jack 6 (and their Mum and Dad too) were beside themselves with excitement.  We arrived at Retford Railway Station in time to pick up a Costa  https://www.costa.co.uk/ and see some high-speed trains flash through the station.  And then it was our turn.  It was a special treat and worth the extra to have a late breakfast and unlimited tea and coffee served to us on the train.  Wow!  Did we feel posh!

The Tower of London and the moat in glorious sunshine
The Tower of London and the moat in glorious sunshine

The devil is in the detail

To plan an epic trip like this takes a lot of forethought, time and research. National Rail  http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ have a 2-4-1 scheme on many London attractions – that saves a huge amount of money and made it possible for the six of us to visit our first port of call, the Tower of London https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/#gs.YIrn5iaH.

The Union Flag in the clear blue sky, flies over the White Tower at the Tower of London
The Union Flag in the clear blue sky, flies over the White Tower at the Tower of London

Worth every penny

A call at the visitor centre to pick up an activity pack for the children which included a free badge and pencil and we’re in.  We managed to get onto the 1.30pm guided tour… and met Bill, the Yeoman Warder.  This man imparted so much in a very entertaining and engaging manner – if not a bit scary, he is not a man to be messed with.  The children warmed to him and were thrilled to have their picture taken with him.

The highlight of our visit - meeting Bill, the Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London
The highlight of our visit – meeting Bill, the Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London

The icing on the cake

Earlier planning had bagged us a couple of rooms at a very good rate at the Premier Inn https://www.premierinn.com in Greenwich – if you book breakfast and why wouldn’t you eat-as-much-as-you-want-buffet-style – the kids eat free.  Yes, Greenwich is a bit far out but there’s much to see there.  The Cutty Sark https://www.rmg.co.uk/cutty-sark, the maritime museum, the naval college, the market AND best of all… for a modest fee you can get there via the Emirates Airline cable car https://www.emiratesairline.co.uk/.  Truly amazing views and we were blessed with a glorious sunset too.

A ride in a cable car over the Thames
A ride in a cable car over the Thames

Let’s tick some more boxes

After a comfortable night and a good breakfast we hit the road again.  I had no idea that there is a tunnel under the Thames for walkers from Greenwich to Canning.  This was a novelty.

The Household Cavalry ride by Buckingham Palace
The Household Cavalry ride by Buckingham Palace

The Docklands Light Railway

The DLR took us to ‘Bank’ then the tube to Westminster.  Eyes popped at the sight of Westminster Bridge, Big Ben (clad in scaffolding unfortunately) the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.  A fifteen minute walk to see Buckingham Palace was rewarded with the sight of the Household Cavalry riding by.  Another fifteen minute walk (those poor little legs) to Trafalgar Square to see Nelson and the lions… then China Town still decked out for Chinese New Year and finally Covent Garden which did not disappoint.

Say hello to the lions in Trafalgar Square
Say hello to the lions in Trafalgar Square

Always something to see at Covent Garden
Always something to see at Covent Garden

Covent Garden

This is the place to go if you are on a very limited budget – it just keeps on giving.  We saw performances by a West End dancer, a juggler and his bed of nails, street artists, musicians, a string quartet, an acrobat and a man with a Diablo.  Crikey.

Two new recruits on duty
Two new recruits on duty

Memories that will last forever

Exhausted but we still managed to visit Hamleys at St Pancras and of course the Harry Potter Shop at Kings Cross.  A monumental trip but so worth it!

...and of course, ice cream
…and of course, ice cream

If you can, don’t hesitate, JUST DO IT!

The Tradition of the Clayworth Plough Plays

An image of three of the main protagonists, the Clown, the Sergeant and Eezum-Squeezum

Plough Monday

Plough Monday can be traced right back to medieval times.  It traditionally saw the return to work after the break for Christmas, especially in northern and eastern England.  The traditions for Plough Monday varied from village to village.  Plough Monday was originally the first Monday after the twelfth day of Christmas, 6 January.  Epiphany.

An image of the Clown
The Clown

A unique tradition

The tradition very nearly disappeared during World War 1 and then again in the Second World War.  Credit is due to the players and the landlords of both village pubs for upholding this unique tradition.

The Sergeant in his bright red coat
Enter the Sergeant

Plough Sunday

Naturally, the day before Plough Monday is not surprisingly known as Plough Sunday.  This tradition more often than not, now takes place in Clayworth, North Nottinghamshire, on the third Sunday of January.   

An image of three of the main protagonists, the Clown, the Sergeant and Eezum-Squeezum
The Clown, the Sergeant and Old Eezum-Squeezum

The death of the earth

In medieval times and in the dead of winter it was thought that the earth ‘died’ and there was a possibility that nothing would ever grow again. It was difficult to believe that the earth would ever wake up and again provide food.. 

A battle between Light and Dark, Good and Evil, Life and Death

I am lucky enough to live in the village of Clayworth in north Nottinghamshire, England where the most well-known of these plays still takes place.  The ‘script’ is usually a bit of nonsense but has a hidden, topical message somewhere within.   A pretend battle is fought between Light and Darkness.  Darkness is killed and then brought back to life by some miracle. The death of the Old Year and the arrival of the New Year is symbolised in this tableau.

The village pubs

This year the play was performed as usual in the surrounding villages on the Friday before Plough Sunday. 

The Blacksmith’s Arms in Clayworth     https://www.blacksmithsclayworth.com/ and the Brewers Arms, also in Clayworth,  http://www.brewersarmsclayworth.co.uk/  both play host to the Plough Play on Plough Sunday.

An image of The Blacksmith’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs to host the Plough Play
The Blacksmith’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs which hosts the Plough Play

 

An image of the Brewer’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs to host the Plough Play
The Brewer’s Arms at Clayworth who also play Bost to the Plough Play

It gets very busy

The bar at the Brewers’ begins to fill from 12.15pm and by 12.45pm when the players arrive, it is absolutely heaving. Get there early, get a drink and a seat… and if you think ahead book for Sunday lunch, you won’t be disappointed.

Old Eezum-Squeezum

A fiddler and an accordionist enter the pub, followed at different times by the players: the Clown, the Plough ‘boy’, the ‘Horse’, the Soldier, Old Eezum-Squeezum (sometimes known as Beelzebub), and the Doctor.  Sounds bizarre and yes it is, but highly entertaining and amusing with rhymes and short songs which have been  passed down through the years.  There is even a sword dance! 

It was once common for those who took part in these plays to blacken their faces as a disguise.  They might also include something to associate with nature in their costumes such as a flower or feathers.

A Morris-cum-Sword dance takes place in a very confined space
A Morris/Sword dance in a confined space

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Click here for a taster

Eezum-Squeezum lies dead on the floor surrounded by all the other Plough Players
Eezum-Squeezum – dead on the floor!

It’s a miracle!

The climax of the play is the fight between Light and Dark,  Good and Evil, Life and Death.  It culminates in the slaying of Darkness (Old Eezum-Squeezum) – who is usually brought back to life by ‘the Doctor’ – and everyone lives happily ever after – with a pint in hand!

An image of Bessie singing her lament
Bessie… or Bill Oddie!

Good luck, fertility and wealth

The play brings together farmers and villagers.  The purpose of the play is to bring luck, fertility and wealth.  You need to be there in order to get your share, so put the date in your diary for 2020!