Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Places to visit by the sea in Kent

Living in Canterbury means that we're only 20 minutes drive from the Kent coast. In the 1960s, British holidaymakers used to flood to Kent's main seaside towns, but since it became much easier and cheaper to travel abroad for holidays, these places are no longer in their heyday. Over the past few weeks quite a few of our friends have come to Canterbury to visit us and in addition to taking them around our city, we've been showing them places on the Kent coast. From the nostalgic seaside towns to bustling tourist spots which have colourful beach huts and cute restaurants on the seafront, we really have a wide variety of coastal towns in Kent.

Seagulls & Flamingos shop, Whitstable


Painted houses on Whitstable seafront

Whitstable is by far my favourite coastal town in Kent and fortunately for us, it's practically our next door neighbour. Whitstable has it all: a harbour market, a row of fantastic beach huts and a beautiful high street with shops that all follow the seaside theme. Whitstable is an extremely popular place to visit and on a Summer's day, you can grab a seat at one of the seafront bars and just soak up the atmosphere.

Having a San Pellegrino fizzy orange drink at the Whitstable Oyster Co. bar in Whitstable

Herne Bay

Herne Bay Pier, Kent

Herne Bay is another place which is only a short drive from Canterbury. There's a bustling pier where you can go on some rides or go crabbing, as well as a Seaside Museum and Mini Golf. For lunch I'd recommend you heading to the high street and having afternoon tea at Alice and the Hatter Herne Bay: the sister restaurant to my current favourite tearoom in Canterbury. It's definitely not a typical seaside food spot, but it's got fab theming.

Alice and the Hatter tearoom at Herne Bay


Margate beach, Kent

Margate is no longer as vibrant as it was in the 1960s and the town has a lot of derelict buildings, but if you want to see where your Grandparents went on holiday when they were little, I recommend a visit to Margate. You can find popular tourist attractions just footsteps from the beach such as Dreamland: the UK's oldest theme park and the Turner Contemporary gallery. Grab some chips for lunch on a nice day and try to imagine how bustling the place must have been 50 years ago.

Dreamland theme park, Margate

Kent is full of lots of interesting places to visit and with it being the gateway to France, we are fortunate enough to have lots of seaside towns. Why not book a weekend away to Canterbury and then drive to one of these places for an afternoon? You'll certainly get to experience what Kent has to offer.

Are you a fan of the British seaside?

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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Strawberry picking in Essex

When I was in The Range a while ago, I found a book of fruit-themed craft paper. I didn't initially have any use for the paper, but as soon as I scanned through the book, I saw a sheet of strawberry paper. I immediately said to Stuart "Strawberries... why don't we go strawberry picking this Summer?" and a few weeks after that conversation, I ended up at Cammas Hall Fruit Farm with my family picking strawberries on a Saturday afternoon.

Strawberry picking at Cammas Hall Fruit Farm in Essex

The strawberry picking season starts in June and we were at the fruit farm on it's opening weekend. Picking your own strawberries is not cheap compared to buying the fruit at a supermarket, but it's a novelty experience and fun for the whole family, so you quickly forget about the cost of the fruit.

When we arrived at the farm, we saw a big 'STRAWBERRY FIELDS' sign at the side of the car park. I jumped out of the car and ran straight to get a photo, as it's not often that you get to see such an instagrammable sign in the Essex countryside.

'STRAWBERRY FIELDS' sign at Cammas Hall Fruit Farm in Essex

My Mum picked up a basket at the entrance whilst we were distracted by the sign and started picking the fruit. She managed to pick quite a lot of strawberries before I caught up with her, so when I joined her it wasn't long until our basket was full.

Strawberry plants at Cammas Hall Fruit Farm in Essex

As we were visiting the farm so early in the strawberry season, there weren't many rows of strawberry plants ready for picking. Of the couple of rows that were open, you had to rummage amongst the plants to find edible fruit, but that's what makes the strawberry picking experience so enjoyable! Whilst we were choosing fruit to pick, we found such a wide variety of different shaped strawberries, that would never make it to the supermarket shelves.

My family at Cammas Hall Fruit Farm in Essex

Once we'd finished, we paid for our strawberries at the tills in the shop, which had lots of fruit-themed merchandise as well as cream and ice cream that you could purchase to go with your strawberries. We didn't buy any of the extras as we had yoghurt back at my parents' house, but the ice cream looked delicious!

The shop and tills at Cammas Hall Fruit Farm in Essex

We had a lovely time fruit picking and after our afternoon at Cammas Hall, I actually had an excuse to get the fruit-themed craft paper. If you're looking for something different to do this Summer, I'd highly recommend visiting a fruit farm.

Have you ever been strawberry picking?

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Thursday, 5 July 2018

Things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon

If you like theatre and Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon should be high up your UK travel bucket list. The whole town is themed around the great playwright and if you visit, you’ll be spoilt for choice as there are so many Shakespeare attractions to see. From his birthplace to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, there really is something for all ages. We went to Warwickshire for the weekend in May and we spent 4 hours in Stratford-upon-Avon, taking in the Shakespeare sights. For today's post I thought I'd talk about some of the many attractions on offer in Shakespeare's hometown which make the town such a great place to visit.

Stratford-upon-Avon Saturday market

Boat trip on the River Avon

Jetty on the River Avon

For as little as 50p, you can take a trip out onto the River Avon. You can find boat tours by the canal running through the Bancroft Gardens, which is also a fantastic lunch spot if you fancy having a picnic outside. We found it really relaxing watching the boats pass by.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a Shakespearian landmark in Stratford-upon-Avon, where you can see some of the original plays and contemporary theatre in action. It's a tremendous building which overlooks the Bancroft Gardens and it's definitely somewhere that you should visit if you're hunting down the Shakespeare sights in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust

Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon

For £15.75 per adult, you can go inside Shakespeare's childhood home. We thought that the entry fees to his birthplace were quite expensive so we didn't go inside the Trust, but something we learnt is that you can still see the outside of the house from Henley Street: a popular shopping street in Stratford-upon-Avon. We stopped for photos on Henley Street and went in the birthplace shop which was full of Shakespeare-themed souvenirs.

Hathaway Tea Rooms

Hathaway Tea Rooms, Stratford-upon-Avon

Sharing it's name with Shakespeare's wife, Hathaway Tea Rooms is a tea room with old English character. The building itself is very old and the interior of the café has been kept very simple, to highlight how historic the building is. Cups of tea are relatively affordable at the tearoom and I'd definitely recommend stopping here for your drink instead of going to chain cafés such as Costa or Starbucks whilst you're in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare's Memorial in Bancroft Gardens

Shakespeare's Memorial in Bancroft Gardens, Stratford-upon-Avon

In Bancroft Gardens you will find Shakespeare's Memorial, which features statues of some of Shakespeare's iconic characters. The Memorial stands out across the park and lots of tourists stop to take pictures. Given that Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, it's rather fitting to see such a spectacular memorial in the city.

There are lots of Shakespeare things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon, which draw in tourists from all over the UK and further afield. The attractions listed above are a few suggestions, but there is certainly plenty more to see in Stratford-upon-Avon, if you're prepared to pay to go inside the houses of his family members. Stratford-upon-Avon is a lovely town, with such interesting history just waiting to be explored.

Are you a fan of Shakespeare? Have you ever visited Stratford-upon-Avon?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Thursday, 28 June 2018

A historic day out to Bletchley Park

After watching The Imitation Game a couple of years ago, I became fascinated with the story of Alan Turing and the World War 2 codebreakers at Bletchley Park. Bletchley Park is located in Buckinghamshire, only a short drive away from Milton Keynes and during the Second World War it was home to codebreakers, mathematicians and translators who were trying to decrypt messages which were sent via German communication systems. The work that was carried out at Bletchley Park was top secret and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the employees at Bletchley got the public recognition they deserved. Today, you can visit the original research site and tour some of the huts where the secret war heroes worked. We bought Virgin Experience Days tickets for Bletchley Park a little while ago and visited in mid May.

Bletchley Park leaflet

We arrived at Bletchley when it opened, which turned out to be a good idea as the park gets very busy on Saturdays. We picked up our tickets and walked straight through to the introductory exhibition, which provided you with some background knowledge about the facility and startling statistics about the number of people that worked tirelessly at Bletchley to help the war effort. There were lots of interactive screens and activities which you could mess about with, in order to gain a better understanding of how the code breaking process worked and how difficult Enigma (the communication encryption process that the Germans used) was to break.

Secrets Revealed: introductory exhibition at Bletchley Park

Once we’d covered this section of the museum, it was time to head out the back and actually follow in the footsteps of the codebreakers. Bletchley Park feels very much like a University campus, with lots of different buildings, a lake and sports facilities. Translation, problem solving and being able to work with numbers were some of the skills required at Bletchley Park. Employees were distributed across the huts and buildings depending on their skill set. We were able to walk into most of the buildings and learn about the specific work that was carried out.

Hut 8

Alan Turing's Hut 8 at Bletchley Park

Alan Turing was the team leader in Hut 8 and when you visit Bletchley you can walk into the hut and see his office, which has been restored to how it was during wartime. I found this absolutely fascinating as Alan Turing was responsible for creating technology which would break Enigma and also building the first computer. In addition to seeing his office, we also learnt about his life at a special dedicated Turing exhibition in Block B.

The Bombe Breakthrough in Hut 11A

The Bombe Breakthrough exhibition in Hut 11A at Bletchley Park

Turing created the ‘Bombe’ machine which would loop through different sequences and iterations to find out the ciphers which were used to encrypt Enigma each day. There is now an specific exhibition about the Bombe in Hut 11A and we learnt so much about this machine after reading the information boards and watching the video about how the different elements of the machine work together.

The Mansion

The Mansion at Bletchley Park

This was the grandest building that we visited at Bletchley and it’s where you can find the Head of the Government Code and Cypher School’s office. The office was at the front of The Mansion, with a big window that provides a clear view of the park. You could definitely tell that this had been the office of an important government official, as it was in such a prime location.

The Head of the Government Code and Cypher School’s office at Bletchley Park

We also visited the Library inside The Mansion, which has been restored to its WWII state.

The grounds

The grounds at Bletchley Park

After visiting the Mansion, we wandered around the grounds, which were very green. There were deck chairs by the lake which would be ideal seats for a picnic lunch whilst you’re taking in the sites of the park.

Deckchairs at Bletchley Park

The gift shop

Before we left the park around lunchtime we stopped at the gift shop, which had some fab war-themed souvenirs. I picked up a couple of postcards for my scrapbook.

We spent 3 and a half hours at Bletchley and this was an ample amount of time to see the park’s important historic sights. When you buy Bletchley Park tickets, they are valid for re-entry over the next 12 months, so I’m definitely hoping to make the most of this in the near future. Our tickets were discounted as it is because there was a Virgin Experience Days voucher code available when we booked them, and if we could go back again within the next year we’d definitely have got our money’s worth! Bletchley Park is a fantastic day out that I’d recommend to anyone who is interested in WWII history.

Have you ever been to Bletchley Park?

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