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Start off your summer with local ice cream

Posted on 01st April 2017

While Italy may be the undisputed home of ice cream, you may be able to scoop some of your own high-end and home-grown frozen joy while staying in a Wiltshire holiday cottage. The local dairy farm of Lacock is part of the Selkley Vale Herd which stretches across Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire and is renowned for producing milk for Cadburys.  Ice Cream Cone against sunset

The long-founded belief that dairy farms of this area produce the sweetest milk will soon be put to the test in their newest endeavour. It is thought that the unique soil and grass of the area contributes to the pure taste of the produce and this is what makes the ice cream so special.

Jane Lear, Tony Doel and Graeme McFaull are the three friends responsible for this enterprise and are excited for what the summer will bring, but they will concentrate on their pure brand ethos. According to Mrs Lear: “We put as little in terms of additives in and we like to think we are at the top end.” The Lacock Dairy Farm has been farmed by four generations of the Doel family and the latest successor is pleased to see it branching out.

When ice cream first made its way to the England it was the privilege of royalty and the very wealthy, while it was only the latter half of the 19th century that saw ice cream available to the wider public. Since then however, it has gained nothing but popularity and become one of the traditions of the British summer.

Though Lacock Ice cream will be a far cry from Mr Whippy, it has had a positive reception thus far from the neighbouring business that are stocking it. With nine flavours to start the summer it is sure to be the perfect way to taste the heart of Wiltshire’s Dairy Community.

Image Credit: Unsplash

Looking back to the Big Freeze as snow falls across Wiltshire

Posted on 18th January 2017

Snow at Liddington, Wiltshire

The UK has been hit with some particularly wintery weather this week, as forecasts for towns across the country predict snow. Reports have cited everything from flurries to ‘thundersnow’, and in the past couple of days Wiltshire itself has become covered in a blanket of white. But, far from despairing, Wiltshire residents have been making the most of the seasonal turn by getting out into the countryside.

Some areas saw overnight snowfall on the 12th, with the Swindon Advertiser describing “a sprinkling in Swindon, Devizes and Trowbridge with Corsham and Chippenham missing out almost entirely.” The snowfall is being caused by a polar air mass that originated over northern Canada, which is spreading south across the UK creating everything from a flutter of non-settling sleet in the South West to heavy showers Scotland and Ireland. The Met Office described the weather as a “real taste of winter”, which is set only to increase in the coming days.

Although the smattering is small, residents across the county are making the most of the unusual weather. In fact, presenters Ben and Mel from Heart Radio even went out in Wiltshire on Friday morning to participate in that age-old activity of making snow angels, as can be seen in this video.

Whether the snow will become heavy enough to cause disruption is yet to be seen, but for now locals are enjoying the weather by getting out for winter walks and having miniature snowball fights outdoors. 

In the past, Wiltshire has seen significant periods of weather that would more typically be expected in a more Alpine environment. The year of 1963 is dubbed as ‘Wiltshire’s Big Freeze’, and although the blizzards occurred over fifty years ago, older residents still tell stories of their memories today. Just after Christmas, on the 29th and 30th of December, six inches of snow fell. Families had to dig themselves in and out of their homes, yet in the streets snowmen were built, snowballs were thrown and many more snow angels were born on the whitewashed pavements.

The freeze lasted through January, with some snow still on the ground in March. Several areas reported amazing levels of snowfall, with 16 inches cited in Trowbridge. As the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre explains:

“Some people in villages dug out sleds and skis from their attics and brought food and fuel into their villages; it was estimated that millions of small birds only survived because of food put out in gardens. Foxes, squirrels, and other wild animals apparently became ‘tame’, appearing in gardens in search of food”.

Whilst it is highly unlikely that we will see anything close to the conditions on 1963 in the near future, this story is a testament to the spirit of the Wiltshire community. With a reasonable and charming scattering of snow set to cover Wiltshire in the coming days, now is the perfect time to enjoy wintery jaunts and warming log fires on a Wiltshire cottage holiday!

Image Credit: Brian Robert Marshall (Wikimedia Commons)

Wiltshire adventurer awarded a Knighthood by the Queen

Posted on 09th January 2017

Wiltshire adventurer David Hempleman-Adams has recently been endowed with national prestige after he was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. Having been made a Night Commander of the Victorian Order, Sir David was recognised by the Queen for his services to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, which he has been a trustee of for 10 years.

David Hempleman Adams

Image Credit: Stuart V Conway(BBC)

Born in Moredon, Swindon, Hempleman-Adams forged his adventurous career at just 14 years old, completing the bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Since, he has summited Mount Everest twice, led over 30 expeditions to the Arctic and completed a historic solo balloon flight to the North Pole.

Although he has achieved so much in his 60 years, local figure Sir David cites his initial trip to the Brecon Beacons with the Duke of Edinburgh award as being his “lightbulb moment”. It was this experience that fostered his passion for exploration that would lead him to this position. Not only has Sir David travelled to some of the most challenging environments in the world, he also became the first person to complete the “adventurer’s grand slam” of climbing every continent’s highest mountain, a feat reserved for only the finest expeditioners.

Currently residing in Box, Wiltshire, Sir David told reporters that he was “astonished” to have been given a knighthood, and suggests that igniting the interest in discovering the world is a feat achieved by the local groups involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. He said:

“When I climbed Everest I was skilled and experienced, and the same with the Poles – it was just another day in the office – whereas that first time I went down across the Brecon Beacons I was very scared.”

“It is an extraordinary scheme and I owe my life to it, really.”

Hempelman-Adams has long been a person of note in the Wiltshire areas, having maintained close ties to the county throughout his career. In fact, during his 1993 ascent of Everest, Sir David wrote, “I would kill for fish and chips and a pint of (local ale) Arkell’s”. It is quite extraordinary that his incredible journey began in Wiltshire, and that it holds such fondness in the life of someone who has experienced some of the most fascinating countries in the world. So, next time you’re relaxing on a Wiltshire cottage holiday, remember to get outside and experience the fantastic local landscapes that led Sir David to where he is now.

Guide to shopping local for Christmas in Wiltshire

Posted on 13th December 2016

In recent years, many people have recognised the significant value of shopping local. Whether to support local businesses, boycott large corporations or simply fund more ethical, sustainable products, buying from independent shops has many benefits. If you live in the area or are planning a Wiltshire cottage holiday and fancy fitting a bit of Christmas shopping into your schedule, here are some of the best independent shops in Wiltshire to find unique, thoughtful gifts for all of your friends and family.

Stocking fillers

Jacks of Bath

If you’re looking to share some of the magic from your recent cottage holiday in Wiltshire with friends and family, why not consider giving them a Christmas stocking filler that reflects the county’s rich heritage? The Henge Shop in Avebury is situated at Stonehenge itself, and is the only independent shop to operate at the site. They offer jewellery, books and gifts ranging from beautifully-painted instruments to souvenir maps, local honey and ornaments. If you’re looking for slightly more playful additions to a Christmas stocking, c’s snow globes feature the landscapes of Bath and Stonehenge for a unique twist.

Image credit: Diego Delso (Wikimedia Commons)

Food and drink

Food and Drink Hamper

A delicious hamper of food and drink is a failsafe Christmas present for parents, siblings and friends alike. Luckily, there are an endless array of local home-grown produce shops and artisan food outlets in Wiltshire to choose from. Lick the Spoon Chocolate Factory in Corsham sells delectable boxes of chocolates, Christmas specials and even ‘chocolate salami’ in flavours such as fruit and nut and peanut caramel. For something more savoury, Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham offers over three generations of award-winning recipes such as pies, cheeses and hampers. Edington Farm Shop is not only full of fresh fruit and vegetables seasonally grown on their own farm, but is also a delightful place to spend an afternoon. To finish it all off, why not add some hand-selected loose-leaf tea from the Tea House Emporium in Bath, or a bottle of fine wine from Great Western Wine, which for thirty years has provided customers with distinctive, independent wines. For more local food stores in Wiltshire, search this local food map by Big Barn.

Image credit: Poppet with a Camera (Flickr) 

Kids’ presents

Wooden Childrens Toys

With so much of the Christmas hype aimed towards the latest big kids’ toy franchises, much of the classic charm of children’s presents has been lost. If you’re looking for a gift for a son, daughter or grandchild that avoids the mass-produced fanfare and will provide endless hours of fun, along with a keepsake to cherish, why not head to one of Wiltshire’s many independent toyshops? My Small World in Bath sells a huge range of handcrafted wooden toys, from outdoor activities to dolls houses, train sets and even musical instruments. Ducklings Toy Shop in Marlborough is another traditional toy shop that specialises in “quality toys with excellent play and educational value from birth to adult”.

Image credit: Pintoy WeLove (Flickr)

Pampering

Pampering

One thing that many of us wish for at Christmas is the chance to relax, and you can give a loved one just that with the many beauty shops in Wiltshire. No 8. Shop in Bath takes the exclusive experience of Thermae Bath Spa into the home, with bath and massage oils from their own range. For ethical indulgence, Goodfayre in Salisbury hosts a wide range of ethically-sourced pampering treats such as bathtub tea and bath bombs to unwind with, plus cruelty-free skincare and makeup products for the full luxury experience. Hive Originals is one of Wiltshire’s most famous independent skincare brands, offering creams, essential oils and many more natural and organic products, all using raw honey and beeswax harvested from their own hives. Who could say no to their key lime pie lip balm?

Fashion

Fashion Boutique

Wiltshire is home to many stylish boutiques, Chas H Baker in Salisbury has provided evening wear since 1902, whereas Spirit Fashion is one of the best independent designer boutiques in the country, featuring contemporary fashion, footwear and accessories brands from across the UK and Europe. If you’re looking for something extra special for a loved one this Christmas, the Gold & Platinum Studio in Bath is the perfect place to find a precious piece. Founded in 1970, this independent jeweller offers a fine range of exquisite jewellery designed and handmade on the premises. In Salisbury, HR Tribbeck and Son offers unusual, bold rings, whereas in Devizes you can find Tundra Jewellers, which create unique pieces such as an acorn necklace with squirrels on the chain.

Art

Ceramics Potter

For many, there is no greater gift than art. Unique, expressive and thoughtful, this is the perfect gift for someone special, and in Wiltshire there is a plethora of talented artists who are sure to speak to your creative side. One Two Five Gallery in central Bath sells the exclusive painted clothing of Carole Walker’s No Walking Canvas line, and stunning stoneware by Cary Wood, alongside various pieces of jewellery by Annie Beardsley. The striking shapes and textures of their products is sure to inspire. Alternatively, for the interior designer in your life, Verve, also in Bath, sells thought-provoking sculptures, unusual repurposed blow torch lamps, stylish ceramics and luxurious homewares. Stuart Wiltshire Glass provides a unique collection of handmade above glassware, from bespoke lighting to their sentimental baby hand casts, which are the perfect gift for a grandparent.

Books

Book Shop

Books are a classic choice for Christmas presents, but you don’t have to buy the latest bestseller to give the gift of a world of words. Bookbarn in Bath is one of the largest sellers of used books in the UK, with academic monographs, fiction, coffee-table books and more, all with a recycled twist. The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough opened in 1943, and offers over 25,000 titles in-store and a further 200,000 on their independent online store. Offering all the biggest titles, small-publisher novels and rare and collectable volumes, all at discounted prices.

Image credit: Gpoo (Visualhunt) 

Crafts

Crafts

For the creative souls in your life, why not give them a gift that they can enjoy for years to come, perhaps even gaining or developing a skill? The Makery in Bath is the perfect alternative to chain supplies stores, and offers everything from crafty stocking fillers to beads, fabrics and patterns. For knitting buffs, Born to Knit in Fisherton Mill offers yarns in every colour, style and texture to spark the imagination of a loved one who is a whizz with the needles, as well as kits for beginners.

 

Penguins bring Christmas cheer to the elderly in Wiltshire

Posted on 07th December 2016

Some feathered friends are bringing early Christmas cheer to elderly people in a Wiltshire care home this month. To lift the spirits of residents before the festive season, Avonbourne Care Centre in Old Sarum, invited two penguins from a breeding colony to greet the residents in the home.

Humboldt Penguins

This comes after the news that a large proportion of older people in the UK consider themselves lonely, with 3.9 million agreeing that the television is their ‘main form of company’.

The penguins, named Charlie and Pringle, were brought it from a breeding colony at Heythrop Zoological Gardens in Oxfordshire, and were accompanied by children from a local nursery who visited the centre’s residents in an attempt to build bridges between generations and inspire the older residents to get active and interact with others this Christmas.

In a video by the BBC, a lady told reporters, “I love it. I love it. I wish I was one!” The centre manager, Esther Thomas, told the Salisbury Journal:

“I had arranged for reindeer to visit the last home I worked at in Melksham, so I decided to do the same when I came here, but with penguins.”

South American Humboldt penguins Charlie and Pringle are said to be used to human company, having been introduced to crowds as chicks and grown up with lots of attention. On their holiday to Wiltshire, the penguins seem to enjoy receiving the residents’ affection as much as Avonbourne occupants loved giving it. The visit was a roaring success, and the centre is soon set to be honoured by the presence of a reindeer on December 23rd to continue the festivities.

Image Credit: Belgian Chocolate (Visualhunt)