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Cycling with kids

Sam Bertram

4 April 2017

It’s the holidays and often the best fun is discovering the countryside on foot or by bike. A family cycle ride gives lasting memories. We’ve asked around and here are some top tips on places to cycle with the kids this holiday. 1. The Learners Some trails are just too bumpy for beginners so an easy cycle path is what you’re after. Lydiard Park in Swindon gives plenty of space to practice with the added bonus of an ice cream at the end.  If ice cream is a good incentive there’s another easy trail from Devizes along the canal to the café at Caen Hill locks. Cycling around Coate Water Park in Swindon is also easy fun. 2. Fun but not too challenging Cycling along the Kennet & Avon Canal is easy, peaceful and beautiful. Start at All Cannings bridge car park and cycle towards Pewsey. Salisbury plain has lots of trails as does Savernake Forest and can provide endless fun for all the family. There are lots of off road quieter paths in the Cotswold Water Park, and being flat it’s a breeze. National cycle route 24 and 25 go through the Longleat Estate so pick it up there for a family bike ride. Brinkworth, near Malmesbury has a market with coffee shop every Wednesday morning so a reward awaits after a cycle on one of the many surrounding rural paths. The Ridgeway is great for cycling with sweeping views but can be bumpy in parts. Pick up the trail at Hackpen hill and cycle towards Avebury or from Bishopstone to the Uffington White Horse. The Marlborough Downs byway to Barbury Castle is also great fun. 3. Keen to stretch your legs a little more? There’s a great cycle trail from Salisbury Cathedral to Stonehenge. Mostly off road along the river and bridleways it skirts around Old Sarum castle remains with the grand finale being the approach to Stonehenge as you cycle up the hill. The North Wiltshire Rivers route is part of National Cycle Route 4 and links Melksham, Lacock, Chippenham, Calne, Cherhill and Avebury. The route is mostly traffic free part of which goes along the River Avon and Wilts & Berks canal as well as taking in lots of sites of historic interest. 4. The experienced who want to take it up a level Mountain biking on the Stourhead Estate – an annual permit will let you cycle at any time of the year. Tidworth free ride bike park has lots of jump and stunts.  It’s got 6 downhill tracks a progressive jump area and BMX dirt trails. No Bikes? Head to the Cotswold Water Park where you can hire bikes for all the family. Pick up a bike in Bradford on Avon and head along the Kennet and Avon Canal towards Bath or Devizes.      

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Christmas recipes with a twist

Sam Bertram

6 October 2016

We spoke to The Wiltshire Liqueur Company’s Tiffinie Pride about her favourite recipes & cocktails using her liqueurs, and why we should be stocking up for Christmas. Why should we be buying your liqueurs? ‘They are incredibly versatile – they are great on their own but also brilliant as a basis for cocktails and in cooking. We have lots of cocktail and recipe ideas on our website - they’re perfect to keep drinks and food interesting through the festive season. My favourite cocktail is one I conceived after a hard day’s slog in the office. It’s still my go to drink after a long day.  ‘Damson in Distress’ has Damson Vodka, Ginger Ale and Ice and if I’m feeling flush I add a mint leaf. My favourite recipe is a bit summery but it’s just so delicious I have to share. At a fair someone once told me they mix Blood Orange with Olive Oil and mustard to make a salad dressing. We’ve eaten it with fresh peas, mozzarella and Parma ham and it is so yummy.  Perfect for dinner parties as a light starter. Craft is a bar in Greenwich in London that stock our liqueurs. They make a delicious cocktail called SE10 made up of our Wild Strawberry, Gin, honey and black pepper. It is amazing!’ What should we be cooking up for Christmas? ‘Christmas cake soaked in Blood Orange rather than brandy is so good. People are starting to make their Christmas cakes at this time of year so if you’re looking to do something different this could be the answer. You just feed your cake with Blood Orange in the same way you would with brandy. We’ve also got a great Nigel Slater recipe on the website.  Pheasant and Sloe Gin – really good and perfect with the shooting season upon us, and lots of winter entertaining to be done. On Christmas day serve any of our liqueurs with Champagne.  We have a name for every combination – Sloepagne, Damshame, Bloodyfizz & Chamberry. And it doesn’t just have to be Christmas day it could be Christmas Eve or Boxing Day or indeed any time you’re drinking during the festive season! Another Christmassy treat is Sloe Gin or Blood Orange chocolate truffles. Really yummy and they make great homemade presents to thank someone for their hospitality or serve with coffee. I’m thinking of having a gift box at fairs which has some small liqueur bottles and truffles. So if you see me at any fairs please do ask about them and tell me what you think.  Everything else is available to buy online so you can get it anytime and even better the price includes postage and packaging. There’s no excuse for not getting creative in the kitchen this season!’ And Christmas Gifts? ‘All our full size bottles can be ordered online and have personalised labels at no extra cost. We’ve had some funny requests for labels. The one that sticks in my mind the most is ‘Kevin loves pink ponies’. I didn’t like to delve too deep about what that was about! Most people put a name and there are lots of puns on the word sloe ‘for your Sloe investment’ or ‘Drink it Sloe-ly’.  Our gift packs of smaller bottles are only available at fairs. We can be found at Marlborough Feast of Food, Beaufort Hunt, Highclere Castle and a couple of school Christmas fairs like Pinewood and St Francis in Pewsey. Check our website to see where else we’ll be. Our liqueurs are also extremely popular for corporate gifts. You could give every employee a bottle with their name on the label – we’ve done that in the past and it went down a storm. Or give them to clients with your company name on the label or a cracking phrase to show your creativity! http://www.wiltshireliqueur.com/  

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Wedding Glamour

Sam Bertram

7 April 2016

Summer is approaching & it’s a popular time for weddings, so it seemed right to chat with Pewsey’s Rubi Locke Jewellery about weddings, jewellery & the trends for 2016. Firstly tell us a bit about what you do ‘My passion is making jewellery for weddings or special occasions. I absolutely love it. Using a combination of sterling silver, freshwater pearls, Swarovski, antique and glass crystals, I create bespoke items perfect for your special event. It can be anything from headdresses and hair vines to necklaces, tiaras, bracelets and earrings in any combination of colours for not only the bride but anyone else in the wedding party. And it’s not just limited to weddings – I can create jewellery to match an outfit for someone who has a special evening out or hair slides for little party girls. Recently I’ve been making personalised necklaces with silver initials for bridesmaids to wear on the day and as a keepsake. They also make great birthday presents. A mother and daughter wanted matching ankle bracelets with their initials which I thought was a fun idea. I’ve been thinking about creating jewelled head pieces for guests. As trends have taken us away from hats to more simple headpieces I think they’d go down well. As a creative person I couldn’t think of a better job to have.’ So where do you get your inspiration? ‘I mainly get inspiration from everything that’s around me – I love observing nature, I adore flowers, clusters of blossom, trees, shapes and textures. I often make notes and sketches as I work during the day.  I buy lots of wedding magazines and look at the internet to stay up to date with seasonal colours and styles and think about how I could enhance and adapt them to my jewellery. Today I saw a bridal hairstyle that sparked some ideas. It’s a big bun that rolls up and it got me thinking about making a big headpiece that would look like a flower and cover the bun.’ What seem to be the main trends for brides in 2016? I’ve been looking at the colours and there are lots of pastel, ice creamy pinks, yellows and blues. I’ve seen some nice bridesmaid dresses in a delicate light blue with hints of green.   I look at general wedding products too.  I recently saw some cream laced wellington boots for brides which I loved – perfect for the unpredictable British weather on a country estate! I also saw some lovely huge illuminated letters that you could hire to spell out words like ‘love’ as decoration in your venue. I see a lot of vintage props about as well. How did you get into jewellery making?  I’ve worked in graphic design since graduating in Fashion Design and have always been good at working with colour. I always notice colours – when I’m driving round I look at the colours all around and if I like what I see I remember them and think how I can use them in my designs.  So when I met Gillian Million at a toddler group and she offered me the opportunity to come and work with her and learn how to make tiaras I jumped at it. It was there I learnt how to make wired wedding jewellery and accessories. Alongside that I taught myself how to make beaded 'day-to -day' jewellery. It was fantastic grounding for me as Gillian Million now makes bespoke jewellery for celebrities and royalty. I’m really focused on getting the textures and colours right, as well as making sure I make each piece to the highest quality possible. What is it you love most about what you do?  I really enjoy it when people come along for a one to one and we can explore what they want. Brides to be bring along their wedding dresses and shoes and we discuss styles and options. They often come with their mothers and we have a fun time brainstorming different ideas. Sometimes brides have a colour they love which features in their bouquets, so we might add a bit of that colour into the hairpins for either the bride or bridesmaid or both. Often brides have an idea of what they want but they don’t know how to execute it. I love helping them with that. www.rubilocke.com  

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Furnishing your home

Sam Bertram

9 March 2016

We dropped in at Digger & Mojo, a vintage furniture emporium in Pewsey, to talk to Clarissa Reilly about how it’s all been going since they opened in November 2014.   So how is it going? ‘It’s great – We’ve got people coming to see us from Wiltshire and beyond.  Sometimes people come down from London and combine it with lunch at one of our lovely local country pubs - The Red Lion, East Chisenbury or The Three Tuns, Great Bedwyn. Next week we’ve got a client from the United States coming by. Some people are moving to the area and looking for furniture for their new property.  Others are just looking for unique items to complete a room.  We’re especially chuffed this week as we’re quoted in an article in April’s Homes & Antiques.  It’s all about Kate Watson-Smyth and her brand new book Shades of Grey which (surprise!) is about using shades of grey in the home. I’m in the article talking about how to make antiques work in a contemporary space & the fact they are offset especially well with grey. Beige is out and grey is in! We’re also taking our stock beyond our showroom in Pewsey in April and have a pop-up at the Tedworth Hunt point to point at Barbary Castle.  We’re really looking forward to that as it’s a great opportunity to meet new people.’   What inspired you to set-up Digger & Mojo? ‘We’ve travelled a lot in our married life – living in Papua New Guinea and Africa and both places have provided a lot of inspiration for us with some of the tribal/fertility artefacts we stock.  Yosh has always had a passion for mending and being really good with his hands.  I have a background in interior design so when we moved to Wiltshire we realised this was something we could do together and build on both our passions.  We love building relationships with locals and finding local custom, but selling nationally online is obviously good for us too. We live in such a throwaway society and we love the fact that antiques are green.  Why throw it away when you can pass it on and it can be just as useful to the next owner as to those who have gone before?  It saddens us when beautiful pieces of furniture go to the dump because they have nowhere else to go.  If we can take them we will, and can transform them into a beautiful piece of furniture.’   So if someone was going to visit you what would they find? 'Our showroom has hundreds more pieces than are on our website. There’s aren’t enough hours in the day to photo and upload all pieces and many fly out the door before we’ve had a chance. We’re into antiques & painted furniture and just anything that’s generally attractive & decorative.  We have all sizes of tables, chairs, chest of drawers, desks, sideboards & wardrobes. We also have some lovely and unique lamps, vases, bowls and quirky items. We do stock some retro pieces are more focused on restoring older pieces some of which we make more contemporary and modern using traditional methods. As well as selling stock we’ve sourced, we can update or re-upholster people’s existing items. We have lots of fabrics in stock. We always have an antique of the week.  So one table we have dates from the time of Charles II – it’s made in Walnut with rope twist legs but you can see where the stretcher has been flattened by 350 years of boots! We’ve had silhouettes in stock – some we’ve shown to the kids who visit, as they were done by the same man who designed the costumes for Star Wars. We’ve got some lovely botanical prints which can look fabulous in a home when hung correctly. We also have antiquarian and vintage books both for readers and those who just want something decorative.  They look great in a shelf space in the home. If someone isn’t sure of the style and mood they want to create I always recommend they go to the library, read all the home & interior magazines and then come back when they’ve formed a firmer view.  Then when they return it will be more obvious which items are right for them.  For clients that don’t find what they want we keep a Hunting book of items they’re seeking, together with measurements, approximate budget and their contact details. We’ll track down whatever they’re looking for.'   How do you source antiques? 'I travel to fairs and buy from auctions all over the country  I find social media a great way of meeting new dealers and twitter has been especially effective. As we’ve become more well-known we’ve started to get a lot of people coming directly to us with furniture from their private homes. Beautiful antique pieces just get a little tlc and a wax to bring out the grain of their lovely wood, but some items arrive as a lump of brown. However, we paint it in neutral colours and suddenly voilà – there stands a completely different piece.'    What would be your advice when furnishing a home? 'These days styles are so eclectic but it’s important to get to know your home first before rushing into anything. Really stylish homes have some antiques positioned for great effect, a pop of bright colour, neutral walls with some funky wallpaper, sculptural shapes and some modern, industrial piece thrown in. Lighting is one of the most important things to consider – we’re about to start making lamp bases out of decanters which should be popular.'   Any new plans afoot? 'We’re looking at starting a website for all antique dealers.  It’ll cater for people who are looking for something specific or already have a piece and want to know more about it.  So watch this space. We’re also restoring Prince of Wales Investiture Chairs : The Red Chairs – a design icon of the 20th century. We repair them and replace the old degraded (and illegal) foam. Then we clean and replace the original upholstery or we replace them with seats made in the original fabric, which it’s taken me 3 years of research to source. These chairs are going up in value and a great addition to any home.  We love welcoming people to our showroom to browse as well as buy and are keen to help so please pop in..'   www.diggerandmojo.com   

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