Author

I’m a part-time writer, full-time mother and dog-walker living in a small English village by the sea with my husband, daughter and a dog named Doc.

All posts by Dean B

Autumn Faves: These Boots were made for YOU!

My all time favourite pair of boots is one that I’ve worn since I was in my late teens.  Yes, it’s that old. Yes, it’s that durable and yes, I still have it with me.  It’s a pair of Dr. Martens boots in cherry red.  Back when all their shoes were still made in England and not China.  Back when you didn’t have to pay extra if you wanted a pair that was made in England.  Please don’t ask how long ago that was … because I won’t tell you 😉

I have many memories linked with those boots.  I guess that’s also one of the reasons why little T’s first ever pair of Dr. Martens were also cherry red like mine.  It doesn’t fit her anymore.  But we’ve kept it for sentimental reasons.

Anyway, I’ve had so much fun doing my fave chunky knits post, that I’ve decided to do another (gasp) “fashion” post, but this time it’s all about my favourite pick of boots which I’ve found online.  Here are my faves:

1. Clarks 2. H&M 3. Next 4. Camper

If only they weren’t so expensive, I’d order all of them.  Admittedly, I do have a lot of boots already, I don’t think I’d be able to justify a new buy even to myself.  Then again, I saw this mug online with the words “It’s always shoe o’clock.  Hmmm, perhaps I should buy that mug instead?

And if you’ve read the previous post, I know what you’re thinking, why am I doing another post for someone who claims to not like “fashion”?  I think the difference is that, I do like clothes and my choices are always more on comfort than style than the latest trend.  I wouldn’t even know what the latest trends are if you asked me 🙂

What about you?

Do you like boots too?

Do you go for comfort or style?

Autumn Faves: Chunky Jumpers

Since Autumn seems to have comfortably settled in, I’ve decided to embrace everything about this cozy season.  What do I love about Autumn, let me count the ways:

  • I love winter-warmer recipes, especially homemade soup like my favourite squash soup.
  • I love open and lit fires.
  • I love taking long Autumn walks.
  • I love the changing of the colours of the leaves from green, brown to golden.
  • And lastly, I love wearing chunky jumpers, who doesn’t?

I’ve never been a fashionable person. I’ve always gone for comfort and not style, especially now that I’m a mother.  Who has the energy to think of outfits for the school run?  Do women even do that, I wonder?  If you do, well done to you!  As for me, I usually grab whatever I can get my hands on.  I’m lucky if I remember to even brush my hair.  That’s one of the reasons why I have my hair short now – less hassle.

I do however love Autumn and Winter fashion, though I do use the word “fashion” loosely, as I mentioned, I don’t really care much about it but I love, love, love chunky jumpers.  Who cares if they make you look a bit heavier, as long as they keep you cosy and warm?  Here are four of my faves:

1. Face Face   2. Dorothy Perkins 3. H&M  4. Zara

Come to think of it, I don’t just love chunky jumpers, I guess you could say I love Autumn and Winter clothes.  I know what you’re thinking, “I thought you didn’t care much about fashion?” I guess I do, but only in the cold seasons 🙂 From lovely knits, to fluffy hats with pompoms and thick scarves, and boots!  To quote L.M. Montgomery (author of the classic – Anne of Green Gables)  “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  And I’m adding …chunky jumpers!

What about you?

Do you love chunky knits too?

Autumn Images

The Indian summer I was so hoping for, didn’t happen.  It’s like summer didn’t even try to linger a bit longer.  It just packed its bag and nary a glance, left and shut the door quietly behind it.  Ah well….

Autumn isn’t that bad at all.  In fact, I do love the changing of the colours of the leaves from green, brown to golden.  I love raking them in the garden, dressed in a warm coat and wellies, engrossed in my own thoughts.  I pile all the leaves and scoop them up in our wheelbarrow, then wheel it behind the small barn and unto our compost heap.  I have a feeling a badger or hedgehog family might just decide to move in there soon.  They’ll dig in real deep under that pile of leaves.  Hopefully it will keep them warm.

All the leaves in the trees will soon be gone. I’ll keep raking them as fast as I can but the weather hasn’t been too kind lately.  The leaves have turned mucky.  When it’s better you’ll find me busy raking in the garden, such good exercise too.

And here is Boots on her favourite spot.  I’ve probably photographed her more than a dozen times on this very spot, over the seasons.  I think she likes it there so she can wait and watch before she pounces on her prey.

And you’ll still find the cows grazing in the empty field behind our house.  In the winter, they are all put in the barn.  I guess it’s because there’s not enough nutrients to be found in the grass and so they’ll have to be fed in the barn.

Autumn days are also lovely when you have a fire to light.  When I think of autumn, I also think of delicious home-made soup, thick-chunky jumpers, and lovely autumnal walks.

Yes, it isn’t that bad at all.  While I do miss you summer, I’m cozying up with Autumn now.  See you next year!

National Trust Beaches in North Cornwall: Our latest Fave – Sandymouth Beach

In my attempt to prolong summer (if only that’s possible!) I’ve been delaying this last featured post on National Trust Beaches here in North Cornwall for days now.  Perhaps, it’s because it’s the last and maybe because September is almost over and still no sign of an Indian summer.  And as I type this, the orange pile of leaves in our garden is piling up daily.  Did I mention it’s also gray and dreary outside? …

The first beach we visited was Northcott Mouth, then Duck Pool.  They are both lovely beaches, although Duck Pool isn’t really safe for swimming, but perfect for rock-pooling.  We enjoyed both, but our most favourite one is Sandymouth.  I can’t believe we’ve lived here in Cornwall for almost a decade now and yet have never visited this beach.  It’s just absolutely beautiful!  A perfect combination of vast expanse of beach (especially during low-tide), lots of unusual rock formation, even two waterfalls, and when the tide is low, it leaves big puddles of water, perfect for the little ones to swim in.

We visited late August, so there were still lots of tourists around, probably having their last hurrah for the summer.  We were lucky the weather complied with us.  Lovely blue skies and good enough temperature.

We went with friends and T was with her best-friend F and his little sister M.  It was just the perfect playground for these energetic kids.

Then T and F decided to play tag with the waves.

The kids also spent time splashing about in this big pool of sea water.

As for the grown-ups, we enjoyed looking at the interesting rocks and their formations and other seal life found on the beach.  As mentioned, during the low-tide it exposes a vast area of beach, perfect for long walks.

One of the reasons why my husband wanted to visit this particular beach is that, apparently if you’re lucky and the tide is really low, you might just catch a glimpse of a shipwreck.  Sadly we couldn’t find it that day.  But hey, luckily for us, we just live nearby.

Sandymouth also has a National Trust cafe nearby, but I think it is only seasonal.  The beach also has coast-guards around and is near at least two camp-sites.  Perfect for holiday-makers.

We loved it so much we came back the next day, although admittedly we haven’t been back since then.  Hopefully we’ll manage to do just that when the weather improves.  This is definitely a beach to put on your list the next time you’re in Cornwall.

National Trust Beaches in North Cornwall: Rockpooling and a Walk in Duckpool

Looks like we’re not going to get an Indian summer after all so I’m digging through my collection of sun, beach and sea. Then again, we have a couple of weeks to go, you’ll never know.  After all, this is England known for its volatile weather…

Part II:

It was a rather “Autumny” afternoon when we decided to venture out for our second day adventure in search of the three National Trust beaches near to where we live.  The day started out badly, with heavy rains and the drop in the temperature.  For a while, I did think that we wouldn’t manage to go out and blow the cobwebs.  Thank goodness, by mid afternoon, the weather improved and so we grabbed our wellies, the dog and headed for the second beach.

Our next destination was, Duckpool, another National Trust beach in North Cornwall.

It was a bit blustery when we arrived.  I was glad to be wearing a thick coat, T on the other hand, seemed fine with her wooly jumper, although I put her coat in my bag, just in case, the rain decided to come back.  Luckily it didn’t.

There were a few cars on the parking lot.  I was really pleased to see a toilet block.  When you reach a certain age, these things are important 😉 I saw a path running up to the coastline and thought that it would be nice to go up there and have a little hike.

Duckpool beach is pebbly and wild, although it is beautiful, it isn’t suitable for swimming, especially since there aren’t any lifeguards around.  it is perfect though for rockpooling and just mooching around on the beach.  There were also a few dog walkers around and we also spied some eager hikers on their way down the coastal path.

As soon as we managed to pass through the rocky part of the beach, T and her dad set on trying to find some crab and other fish.

Before long, they caught their first catch of the day:

I like to joke and say that this is always the same crab my husband and T catches every time we go rock-pooling.  The crab always says “Bugger, it’s them again”.

Doc and I left the father-daughter team and decided to go near the water.  We stood by for a while just watching the sky and sea.  The waves weren’t as strong as I thought they would be.  There were other families around and so we didn’t allow Doc off the leash, in case he gets all excited and starts jumping on small people.  He seemed content though, just to sit by my side and watch the waves roll in.

After a while, we decided it was time to leave.  But not before setting off their catch of the day free.

Freedom!  cried the crab.  Hasta mañana!  I’m imagining the crab waves his claws at us, hoping to never see us again.  We replied “See you again soon!

We thought of going up the coastal-path, but as we looked up and realised how hight it was, we decided to look for another much gentler climb.  On our way to the beach, we noticed some signs to public footpaths and decided to explore that bit.  We saw one just as we rounded the corner.

It had an over-grown path and T said that it looked like a secret way to something mysterious. Don’t you just love their imagination?  We knew that the path was going to lead us back to Duckpool beach, but we didn’t know how close it would be.

There were loads of fat, ripe, blackberries everywhere.  We couldn’t resist but have a few of them and it was the sweetest blackberries I’ve ever tasted.

And Doc, well Doc, is happiest when he has a stick in his mouth.

And then we reached the bottom. It led us to the road to Duckpool beach.

We headed back up to the car and drove away.

Doc busy with his thoughts: I wonder where the next beach will be?  

You’re just going to have to wait for the next post!

Click here for directions on how to get to Duckpool beach.

And here for last week’s feature.

National Trust Beaches in North Cornwall: Blue Skies at Northcott Mouth

Part I:

Now that we’re finished with our Norfolk mini series, I’m going to do an even shorter series, this time closer to home.  As mentioned, we are National Trust members, and even though we’ve lived here in Cornwall for almost a decade, there are still places, especially beaches where we haven’t visited yet.  Shameful really.  Like I’ve mentioned in the past, when you live here, there are moments, when you take the place for granted and only remember when we have visitors down and wonder where to take them.

Last summer, gasp, do I really dare speak of it in past tense?  Whatever happened to my hope of an Indian summer?  I think that’s all a dream now especially since the temperature seems to be going nowhere but down.  I digress, last summer indeed.  When a friend visited, we decided to explore three of the National Trust beaches which we haven’t been to, considering they are not a long drive from where we live.

The first is the Nortcott Mouth Beach in Bude, the nearest town to us, about a 30-minute drive from our house.  We went there the last week of August.  Families were getting read to wind down from their summer holidays and go back to the routine of work and doing the school run.  But that day on the beach, no one really thought about it, or maybe, tried not to think about it, especially since it was one of those perfect days on the beach.  The sky was blue and the temperature was just right – a good combination of not too warm and not too cold.

And there she is, T the Cornish mouse, very rare and absolutely local to Cornwall.  You’ll find her mostly on the beach with her orange net, either in her swimsuit or wet-suit with bedraggled hair.  She loves going crab-hunting with her dad.

Catch of the day: a very sad looking crab.  I don’t think it was pleased to be caught by little T.

=

And when she got tired of looking for poor crabs and fish, she decided that the water beckoned her.

Yes, it was indeed one perfect day beach day.

And after a turn on her bodyboard and letting her catch go, it was time to pack up and leave. Click here for directions on how to get to Northcott Mouth Beach.  Parking is free for National Trust members.  This beach has a cafe nearby, and seasonal lifeguards and of course, lovely headland walks too.  This is after all Cornwall 🙂

If you’ve missed our Norfolk Mini-Series, click here for a little read.

Have you ever been to a National Trust beach?

The End of the Norfolk Mini-Series: Back To Hunstanton

This is the seventh and last post of our Norfolk mini-series.  We spent less than a week there but it feels more than that.  I’m feeling a bit nostalgic now.  Perhaps, it’s because the weather is bad and I’m looking at these lovely sunny photos and I’m wishing summer isn’t over yet.  At the moment, it certainly feels that way.

We certainly enjoyed our few days spent in Norfolk.  There were places we wanted to visit like the Nature Reserve and the another seaside town, Wells, which wasn’t that far from Hunstanton. Would definitely want to go back.  But for now, these photographs will have to appease my longing to be back there.

For our last night in Sunny Hunny, we a walked along the promenade and back to the seaside fair. Then we decided to walk all the way to the lighthouse.  It was a lovely walk as we were accompanied by the beautiful setting sun.  Will let these photos speak for itself.

And then just like that, it was over.

Special thanks to B and L.

Much love,

from the three of us.

Norfolk Mini-Series: Castle Acre Priory

This is the 6th instalment of our Norfolk series.  If you’ve missed the last one, click here to read.   FYI.  This post will be heavy with pictures.   

I don’t know about you, but standing in front of a building thousands of years old is mind-boggling to me.  The fact that it still exists.  I keep thinking if I stand just in front of it and by sheer mind-power, could it take me back to the past? Well, that’s exactly what it felt like as we stood in front of Castle Acre Priory, which dates back all the way to 1090.

What happened in the year 1090 across the globe? According to Wikepedia:

In Africa, Béjaïa became the capital of the Hammadid dynasty in Algeria.  Apparently they ruled an area roughly corresponding to north-eastern modern Algeria around that time.

And in Europe, a third expedition of the Almoravid army is launched in al-Andalus designed to subdue the Taifa’s Kingdoms, Códoba, Seville, Grenada, Málaga, Almería and Ronda fall to the troops of Yusuf ibn Tashfin (leader of a Moroccan empire).

It was the Song dynasty then in Asia, where Chinese author writes the Can Shu (book of Sericulture), which describes a silk reeling machine that has the world’s oldest known mechanical belt-drive.

Closer to home, it was King William II who was then the ruler of England (1087-1100) and in 1089, a certain William de Warenne, son of the 1st Earl of Surrey who had founded England’s first Cluniac priory in Lewes in 1077, also founded another priory in the village of Castle Acre, Norfolk.  Apparently the order originated from Burgundy.  The priory was said to have started out as part of the Acre castle but the monks found it too small and that’s when they were moved to its current site.

Fast forward to 2017, a little Cornish Pixie roams the ruins of this majestic priory.

I’m not sure the monks approved, because as we explored further, the clouds became more ominous, as if warning us if we desecrated holy ground, they’d  unleash their fury on us.

She means no harm really.  She’s just a little country mouse who likes to climb and explore old ruins.

We later found out that little T actually just emerged and ran through a medieval toilet block.  This didn’t seem to bother her at all and found it “cool”.

T and I went up these ancient steps which led to the monk’s quarters.  The priory was home to 20-30 monks.

I told her to imagine that the floor was still there but she was more interested in exploring a part of the building that miraculously stood the test of time and was still standing as if the monks has just vacated the building.

T was impressed with the carved human faces found protruding in corners of the room.

The next room was obviously a chapel, and when I sat to have a little rest, I noticed the ceiling and marvelled at how intact they still were.

And as I zoomed in my lense, I discovered this:

There were faded painted red roses on the ceiling.  I called my husband and he was pleasantly surprised too.  Obviously, this was painted on the ceiling later on, during the War of the Roses around 1455-1487.  The House of Lancasters were the red rose and the House of York used the white rose as a symbol.  Does that mean then that the English Cluniacs were supporters of the Lancasters?  I don’t really know, but this little discovery of mine really pleased me.  I was amazed on how clear, although fading, how clear the painted roses were.

We decided to explore the grounds more before the rain fell.

As we walked around, I was pleased to see a small patch of poppies growing by the side of the fence.  I loved the sudden burst of colour amidst all the greyness and concrete.  It was just beautiful, even though it wasn’t a poppy field.

On our way back, I noticed something protruding in front of the building.  Again, I zoomed in and saw this small monk’s head.

This monk’s head I found a bit spooky though.  It just shows that when visiting these historical places, if you don’t look closer, you might just miss all these interesting details.  If you blink, you might just miss them!

Castle Priory is English Heritage.  If you’re in the area, this is definitely a must-see.  I find it really amazing how much of it is still standing.  We went to Tintern Abbey in Wales years ago, which was also magnificent, but I think this is more well-preserved than the Abbey, although I think Tintern is bigger, I could be wrong of course.

What’s the most preserved and oldest priory you’ve visited?

Waiting for the Sunset at Widemouth Bay

T indeed went back to school last Monday.  Went home with a heavy heart after the school-run. The house just felt so empty without the little madam.  While working on my laptop yesterday, I glanced at the clock and it was twelve, my initial reaction was, better save this so I can do T’s lunch.  Then I remembered, she’s in school!  Sigh.  Life in our little household is indeed slowly going back to term-time routine of getting up early, helping the little one get ready for school and  once she’s gone, the house becomes suddenly too silent.  Only the occasional barking of a numpty dog disturbs it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still suffering a very serious summer hang over.  Maybe because the weather has also been really bad lately.  Waking up to grey skies and mist, no wonder, I’m still praying for summer to last just a little bit.

While admittedly, we didn’t really do anything exciting like go abroad this summer, we did however see family and managed to spend some time with them, not to mention close friends, which is really nice.  In fact the weekend of little T’s birthday, we had a close friend visit.  And on a Sunday, after mass, we headed off to the beach to for a bbq and to wait for the sunset.  That’s one of the perks of living by the coast – spontaneous trips like this one:

It was probably after seven pm when we got to the beach, but as you can see there were still a lot of people there and we weren’t the only one having a bbq too.

You’ll notice when the tourist season is almost over here in Cornwall.  Dogs and other animals are not allowed on some of the beaches here during the summer for obvious reasons.  But in the late summer, they are slowly allowed back in, which is lovely to see like this horse and it’s owner just enjoying the sea and sun.

While waiting for the bbq to get ready, T, the historian and our friend were brave enough to go into the water for a little dip and some fun with the board.  I wasn’t surprised to see them back even before the food was ready – the water was getting too cold.

After our meal of chicken skewers, Chinese flavoured steak, potato salad and gritty sand, we all just sat down and watched the sky do its magic.

And then after a while, the beautiful orange ball was gone and out came the most beautiful pinkish and blueish sky.  We stayed sitting there just watching this glorious scene unfold before us.  Others didn’t seem bothered much and went on surfing.  They were probably trying to enjoy as much as they can while on the beach.  I don’t blame them, especially if they were just down here for a few days.

Reluctantly, we gathered all our stuff while there was still enough light and as we loaded up our car, within minutes it was dark, except for the headlights coming for the cars and a few night lamps. We came away with our hearts full.  Years from now, I’m hoping little T will remember this day with fondness and we can say to her “Remember when we stayed on the beach till sun down?”  And she’ll smile and say Yes!

No, I’m definitely not ready for summer to end just yet.  Here’s hoping for an Indian summer!

Norfolk Mini-Series: Visiting Oxburgh Hall

This is the 5th post of our mini series during our visit to Norfolk in early August.  Today is little T’s first day back in school.  I can’t believe the holidays are over, it’s certainly the shortest she’s ever had.  Let me take you back a few weeks earlier, when the sun was bright and the days were warm and long … 

The next day, we had two destinations in mind.  The first was a visit to Oxburgh Hall (you’ll hear about the second one in the next post), a late medieval country home in Oxborough.  It was built during the War of the Roses, not as a castle really, but more as a family home for Sir Edmund Bedingfield.  This magnificent house is a must-visit for all, you don’t even have to be a lover of history to appreciate this grand country home. You’ll be amazed to see how well-preserved, not just the house, but as well as what you can see inside the house.

Can you imagine this as your family home?

And yes, it has a beautiful moat surrounding this grand country home.

This moat is home to a family of pike and dragonflies.  Little T and my husband crouched down to try to see as many pikes and dragonflies as they can before entering the house, although I’ve only managed to take a couple of photos, there were actually loads of them!

Front of the house is certainly one grand entrance. I can’t believe that this was actually a family home and not a castle.  It has the opulence of one!  Don’t you agree?

Little T trying to take a photo of the sundial (photo above).  As you can see, at the time we visited, the place was going through some minor renovations.

Inside one of the many grand rooms in the house.

Everything about the house was grand, even this old chess-set.  If these pieces could speak, what would they say?  Do you think they’ll tell us stories about who played with them, what the conversations were said during the game?  Any secrets?

One of the most interesting facts about Oxburgh hall is that the Bedingfields were Catholics during the time Elizabeth I first became Queen in 1558.  She was a staunch Protestant who was determined to continue with her father’s reformation of the Church of England and because of their faith, the Bedingfield family was ostracised and also suffered sanctions.  It was also around this time when they decided to have a priest hole built beneath a  bricked-top door in the garderobe (a storeroom for valuables).

As you can see, it is a tiny space,my husband could barely fit in it as he tried to slide into the priest’s hole.

And this is how small it was inside that little hole.  Can you imagine being stuck in here for days with no window and fresh air?

We were only in that hole for a few minutes since there was a long queue to get in. I was certainly glad to be out in the open once again, definitely not one for the claustrophobic!

Visiting places like these, teeming with history and magnificence, makes me and my husband happy to be members of both the National Trust and English Heritage.  It’s nice to know that our membership fees helps in restoring and taking care of all these important historical places.  If not for them, I honestly doubt these places would be well taken care of, or may not even be standing here today.  I’ve mentioned this in past posts, being members is so worth it, especially when you have kids – you’ll always find something to do especially when the weather cooperates.

What’s your favourite historical place to visit?

Click here if you’re interested in visiting and want to know exactly how to get there.