The Kent High Weald highweald.org
So close to London, Kent is a county with many aspects, from the flatlands of East Kent to the woods and hills of West Kent. I live in the High Weald which is bristling with apple orchards and lovely old villages. It is only 30 miles from East London, yet it feels like a world away and the air is fresh, fresh, fresh, blowing up from the south coast. Read all about the Weald’s fascinating history – iron smelting, pig farming, hop and fruit growing – and discover country walks, including the High Weald Landscape Trail, and cycle routes on this useful website. If you’re hunting for a map to put in your rucksack, the Explorer series is the most detailed. For foragers, late summer/early autumn is sloe, wild damson and blackberry time.
If you like period architecture, plan a trip to The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, a pedestrian-only oasis of Georgian architecture. There are art galleries, fashion boutiques, interiors shops and a great kitchenware shop, Mottram’s, to explore. Rest up and revive at Rosemary Schrager’s cafe and other nice watering holes in this, the oldest and most characterful part of town.
Let your imagination drift back to Roman Britain when you visit the excavated Roman palace in Fishbourne, just outside Chichester. A small but fascinating museum tells the story of the Palace and prepares you for the stars of the show – the original mosaic floors that were unearthed in the 1960s and that are nearly 2,000 years old! Depicted are dolphins and a Cupid, sea horses and sea-pumas, twirling vines and wine cups and many other beautiful patterns, finely preserved. When the grand Palace was constructed, from 75AD, it must have seemed as if the aliens had landed to the local people who lived in round huts with thatched roofs. And to think these floors lay forgotten and secret for so many centuries until a local farmer decided to lay a drain… Several nearby houses are lucky enough to have the remains of various Roman baths in their back gardens. NB: I’ve recently visited Verona and enjoyed an evening at the opera in the 3rd oldest Roman amphitheatre in the world – there’s history pulsating through those stone walls.
Lana MacKinnon Designs classictextiles.com
There’s a buzz about a new selection of vintage designs by Scottish artist, Lana MacKinnon, hand drawn in the 1940s and ’50s, which are folksy and colourful, and capture the optimism of the post-war era. Recently revived by her son Nick Gilmour, who spent several years researching his late mother’s achievements in textile design, the precious cache of designs lay hidden in a dusty loft for many years. A variety of them, printed onto top quality linen union, are available from Classic Textiles, part of the Glasgow School of Art’s Centre for Advanced Textiles, where you can buy as little as one metre (£75) at a time. At Surface View (surfaceview.co.uk), MacKinnon designs can be made up into wall canvases, murals, blinds, lamp shades and more. In addition, her fabrics are currently on sale at the shop, Concrete Wardrobe in Edinburgh.
Cornish Choughs Update cornishchoughs.org
These beautiful black birds, with scarlet beaks and legs, have recently made a comeback in Cornwall, much to the delight of local communities who monitor and protect the new colony. A branch of the highly intelligent corvid family of birds, choughs feature in the Cornish coat of arms, but disappeared from the region in 1973. The arrival of a trio of wandering choughs in 2001 on the Lizard Peninsula changed all that and this summer the small but growing flock raised 18 chicks. The nests are guarded 24/7, as the Cornish Chough enjoys Schedule 1 protection according to the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Harveys Furniture blog.harveysfurniture.co.uk
I’m delighted to be contributing to the new blog by Harveys Furniture, rounding up ideas about how to reinvent your living space and find a style that reflects your taste. To get going, compile your own ‘style file’ of favourite ideas for living room furniture, dining room furniture and bedroom furniture – tear pictures from magazines, or make a digital file with bookmarks. Look for inspiring decorating schemes and accessories such as lighting, wall art, cushions, curtains and throws. Once you’ve narrowed down options, compare ranges, check prices, and look for special offers that give you more for less. Sleep on it before you buy.
The National Gardens Scheme ngs.org.uk
The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) organises the opening of private gardens to the public in aid of charity. The NGS raises a phenomenal amount of money – £26 million in the last 10 years – for charities such as Macmillan, Marie Curie and Help the Hospices. The scheme features thousands of gardens all over England and Wales that open specially to visitors for a day or two every year. I love the idea that while I get to visit a beautiful garden, my entrance fee and money spent on homemade tea and cakes goes towards helping familes who are having a very rough time.
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings spab.org.uk
If you live in an old house or are about to invest in one, check out the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, better known as the SPAB. Founded by the Arts & Crafts designer, William Morris in the late 19th century, the SPAB is a charity and provides definitive advice on building conservation, restoration and authentic period detail. They run a technical helpline open to all, Mon to Thurs, 9.30am to 12.30pm, and publish lots of booklets too.
Tuppence & Crumble tuppenceandcrumble.co.uk
Baby blankets and wraps don’t come any cuter than the traditional Breton stripe and Fairisle lambswool covers created by my friends at Tuppence & Crumble, purveyors of rather trendy cot and buggy blankets, baby shawls and hats. Also perfect for pampered moggies, doggies and house rabbits.
Margate Gallery margategallery.co.uk
In Margate’s tiny Old Town, the Margate Gallery is in a very pretty building and just a few minutes walk from the new Turner Contemporary. There is lots of good stuff to truffle through, from paintings and prints to funky furniture, jewellery and objects, such as Jeff Soan’s Wobbly Wood creatures – beautifully made and fun! The gallery has a rolling programme of shows, so there’s always something new to see and prices are affordable.
Beside the Wave beside-the-wave.co.uk
This is another lovely gallery to visit in Falmouth, Cornwall for paintings of the sea and coastal landscape. The artists Richard Tuff and Alasdair Lindsay are two of my favourite artists represented here – both creating paintings that are colourful, a little abstract. Their artworks would give you an instant shot of happiness every time you looked at them.