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Tearooms to take your mum to


It’s nearly Mothers’ Day, and what better way to treat your mum than with a sunny spring walk followed by delicious tea and cakes! Here’s our round-up of the tastiest tearooms for walkers in the land!

1. The Coffee Tavern, Pott Shrigley, Cheshire 

Built in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, this quaint corrugated hall started its life as a public reading rooms and library. It was converted to a coffee tavern and tearooms between the World Wars - although, at one point, it was used as a storage depot by the local plumber! After a brisk walk on Bakestonedale Moor or a stroll through the grounds of Lyme Park, it’s just the spot for rhubarb crumble and piping hot custard! 

Read:
 Tea Shop Walks in Cheshire, by Clive Price and Graham Beech 
2. The Flock-In Tearoom, Rosthwaite, Cumbria 

A tearoom for real walkers, where tea is served by the pint or half! Run by Yew Tree Farm, a traditional Lakeland hill farm, the Flock-In provides the perfect resting spot after a hearty hike along the River Derwent and through beautiful woodland onto the fells, where views open up of Derwent Water and the Skiddaw range. Try the ‘Flock-In Gorgeous’ mouthwatering chocolate shortbread, or the Sticky Borrowdale Mint Cake… Mmm! 

Read:
 Lake District Tea Shop Walks, by Catherine Savidge 
3. Orchid House Tearoom, Bedwelly Park, Tredegar 

Tucked away in one of south Wales’ lesser known valleys, the Sirhowy, Bedwellty House and Park is a real find. Bedwellty was the home of 19th century ironmasters and later became the platform for the the career of a certain Tredegar boy called Aneurin Bevan. There’s plenty to see within the park grounds, including a Victorian bandstand, a war memorial and the world’s largest block of coal! Then it’s time for tea in the Orchid House, where Mum (and Dad) can choose from Lord or Lady Tredegar’s Afternoon Tea, adding a cheeky glass of Prosecco for an extra £3.50. There’s also a children’s option, complete with fruit as well as the sugary stuff!

Read:
 Heritage Walks in South East Wales, by Rebecca Lees 
4. Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire 

Home to the infamous Georgiana and still owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire today, Chatsworth is widely regarded as one of the finest houses in England - and we’d say the same of the tearoom! Large and elegant, it’s popular with visitors to the stately home and walkers alike, with a genuine welcome for all. A lovely circular walk from the car park at Calton Lees sweeps around the estate, taking in the Emperor Lake, the Hunting Tower, Swiss Cottage - and a nice cup of tea! 

Read:
 Tea Shop Walks in the Peak District, by Norman & June Buckley 

5. Hyde Park, London 
Mums in the capital this Sunday will be spoilt for choice of lovely tearooms and, with the weather set to cheer up over the weekend, why not take your mum to one of the many cafes in London’s parks? Hyde Park is always a favourite, with the Serpentine Lido cafe and a number of gallery cafes for art lovers, or you could just pop to one of the Royal Parks’ many refreshment kiosks and bag a deckchair! 

Read: 
London Walks in Easy English, by Patrick Gubbins















Created On  23 Mar 2017 11:34  -  Permalink
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After publication - an author's story


What do you do when you love walking and love football? You create a long-distance walking trail dedicated to Sir Brian Clough, of course! Here Sigma author and Sunderland fan Martin Perry describes his joy at seeing The Clough Walk - written with friend and Notts Forest fan Geoff Smith - in print after years in the making.


"Words cannot describe the unbelievable excitement and anticipation when the package arrived. Gingerly I opened it, being careful not to cause any damage, and there they were! Five glossy, gleaming new copies of the book I had cherished and worked at for seven years, The Clough Walk. I lifted the book up, stared at the cover, flicked through the pages, looked at the photographs and just savoured the moment. They say everybody has a book in them and this was mine. Boy did it feel good!

"I very quickly delivered copies of the book to Simon, Nigel and Elizabeth Clough, Brian's children. Simon was delighted and Elizabeth emailed me to say: "It was just a lovely idea from the start and words cannot really express what a touching tribute it is to my dad." Over the next few days I examined the book thoroughly and then started thinking - you only get one chance to make a first impression! This galvanised me into contacting 25 newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations associated with the walk.

"Very soon I found myself giving telephone interviews with the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette, Middlesbrough Gazette, Hartlepool Mail, Nottingham Evening Post, Notts TV and NHS Media, as there was an obvious health angle. This was followed quickly by live interviews on Radio Derby and Radio Nottingham! People asked me if I was nervous but the blunt answer was ‘no’. The interviewers were very professional, put me at my ease and let’s face it, I was talking about something I knew an awful lot about! I was on air for about 20 minutes and was asked all the right questions: What prompted you to write the book? How did you get the support of Brian Clough’s family? Why is the walk from South to North? How do you begin designing a long distance walk?

"Alan Clifford on Radio Nottingham actually suggested that The Clough Walk could become an annual charity walk. This is certainly something I would be interested in. Wouldn’t it be nice to let the Clough family decide the charity? Finally I had the immense pleasure of walking into Waterstones in Nottingham and seeing my book on a display stand. I blinked twice - and it was still there!"

Martin Perry


Martin, from Cheshire, met Geoff, from Nottingham, in 1971, starting an enduring friendship throughout their teaching careers.
In the late 1970s and early '80s they witnessed the success of Forest under the stewardship of Brian Clough and later Martin met Sir Brian when he invited him to preside over his school's annual awards ceremony. On entering their fifties, both became avid long distance walkers and completed together most of the well known walking trails.


Created On  27 Feb 2017 10:51  -  Permalink
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Pint-sized adventures for a happy half term


It’s half term in England and Scotland, and just a week away in Wales. Here’s our round-up of the best mini-adventures over the next fortnight to keep the kids happy and your sanity intact!

1. Get outdoors… indoors!
The Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show returns to Birmingham NEC and it’s just like visiting a huge, under-cover campsite! There’s plenty for children to get stuck into, including a bounce zone, climbing adventures, bushcraft activities and a woodland assault course, as well as an ultra-cool glamping village and all the latest tents, motorhomes and caravans to inspire your (outdoor!) adventures for the year ahead. With free admission for children and a creche, you might just want to roll out your sleeping bag and stay all week!
Feb 21-26, http://www.ccmshow.co.uk/

2. Spend a day at the museum
We’re spoilt for choice in Britain for mind-boggling museums and, with free admission to many, there’s no excuse not to switch off screens and learn some fun facts. The V&A Museum of Childhood in London has been turned into a giant board game for the week ahead, whilst there’s some monkey business going on at National Museum Scotland! St Fagans in Cardiff is a year-round favourite and the fact it’s open-air means lots of fresh air too - perfect!

3. Take a trip to London
Children love London - it’s noisy and full of life, exactly like them! So we say in our London Guide in Easy English, which is crammed with info about attractions, parks, green spaces and restaurants in the capital. Lots of free activities are happening over half term, whilst the Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre includes readings by Sir Chris Hoy and Julian Clary and even a mini family-family rave! And, of course, the best part is often the travelling - either by train to get there or around the city on an open-top bus!

4. Have an indoor adventure

Let’s face it, it’s the UK so it’s going to rain at some point! Cosy up indoors and create your own adventure by making a den from furniture and blankets and settling down inside for a teddy bears’ picnic. Or if you’re feeling particularly creative, set out a treasure trail around the house with clues to decipher along the way; there’ll still be some cleaning up to do at the end of the day but at least it won’t involve muddy footprints!

5. Be a champion puddle jumper!
… but of course, if your idea of half term heaven IS getting muddy and wet, you need to sign up to the Welsh Puddle Jumping Championships! Taking place at the WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre between February 18 and 26, everyone is welcome to pull on their wellies and try to impress the judges! There are even different categories, such as ‘height of splash’ and ‘creativity’, so whatever your puddle-jumping style, you’ll be sure to make a splash!
Created On  13 Feb 2017 12:12 in Children  -  Permalink
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Brighten up winter with a spot of birding!


Whatever the season, whatever the weather, walking in the countryside is a great way of relaxing whilst enjoying gentle - or maybe not so gentle! - exercise. And for many, that enjoyment is greatly enhanced by at least a little appreciation of the wildlife encountered along the way. Guest blogger and Sigma author Andrew Walmsley has the lowdown on the birds to look out for on winter walks:


In the winter months, wildlife is thin on the ground, but birds can usually be relied upon to put in an appearance despite it being a tough time of year for them. Food is likely to be hard to find, hunting for diurnal species is cruelly limited by restricted daylight hours and, of course, long, cold nights do no favours for already weakened creatures.

Migration often provides respite. Our swallows winter in South Africa, whilst many other insect-eaters, such as swifts, the majority of our warblers and flycatchers, also travel mind-boggling distances south. Journeys for some, though, are not always long distance, with curlews, some upland breeders and quite a few kingfishers simply heading to the coast or moving south within the UK.

But perhaps surprisingly, not all travel is outbound, with huge numbers of other species flooding into Britain to escape even harsher climates in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Siberia and elsewhere. Visiting ducks, geese, swans and waders - such as grey plovers, dunlins and turnstones – can often be found on coasts and estuaries. Meanwhile, redwings and fieldfares – autumn and winter-visiting thrushes – roam the countryside, initially feeding upon haws and holly berries, and latterly searching for earthworms and other invertebrates. Bramblings, small chaffinch-like finches, are also regular visitors, whilst great-grey shrikes winter on our heaths and moors, albeit in very small numbers. Even common species with a year-round UK presence – robins and starlings, for example – see their numbers boosted in autumn and winter by the arrival of continental cousins.

Visitor numbers, to some extent, vary depending upon the availability of foodstuffs on, or closer to, the breeding grounds and the success of the preceding breeding season (a successful season results in larger numbers of birds seeking an ever dwindling food supply and in times of hardship, being forced to move elsewhere). Some species, though, are positively irruptive, travelling huge distances in response to the widespread failure of cone or berry crops - crossbills, stocky finches with bills incongruously crossed over at the tip, and extravagantly plumaged waxwings are good examples.

Local weather, too, has a significant influence upon the travel arrangements of many birds. Lapwings and golden plovers, for example, in at least reasonable numbers, remain in flocks on or close to their UK breeding grounds until forced by snow, ice and freezing temperatures to move elsewhere in search of more favourable conditions.

But no matter whether the birds seen during a winter walk are year-round local residents, seasonal visitors from afar, or are just passing through, all are gorgeous creatures doing their best to survive in what for them is a harsh winter world.

Andrew is the author of New Forest Walks - A Time Traveller's Guide and New Forest Walks - A Seasonal Wildlife Guide. He also runs the popular New Forest Explorers Guide website.

Created On  21 Jan 2017 17:56  -  Permalink
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This winter, carry on cycling!


In weather like this, it's tempting to stay indoors, but riding during winter months can bring unexpected pleasure, says Sigma author and guest blogger Dave Hancock.


Dedicated commuters and cycle couriers continue pedalling through all the seasons. For leisure cyclists, it's all too easy to hang up the helmet when the days get shorter and the temperature drops. Think again is my advice. With the correct preparation and precautions, winter cycle rides can be enjoyable. Winter landscapes have a particular beauty and a cup of tea mid-journey is never more refreshing than on a chilly January day!

What to wear:

There's no need to spend a lot of cash on special winter clothing. Essentially, you want extra layers on top of your summer kit. Arm warmers and a warm jacket, leg warmers or tights are the essentials. Then you'll need a pair of gloves, overshoes and a balaclava. An ordinary woollen scarf (not too long) has a variety of uses. Clear or prescription spectacles will help keep cold wind out of your eyes. Buy a cape – water drains off it while air circulates underneath! It packs up small and can also be used to sit on at refreshments stops. To carry this gear, you'll need a decent size saddlebag or bar bag.

Food and drink: Even if you plan to stop at a cafe on route, take food and drink with you. Hunger pangs seem to come earlier in cold weather and there's always a chance you'll have to wait around for a lift if something on your bike breaks.

Emergency kit:
Assuming you carry tyre levers and a spare inner tube anyway, it's as well to pack an additional tube – muddy lanes can disguise hazards such as thorns, flints and broken glass. If you get a puncture, remember you may get cold replacing the inner tube so look for a sheltered spot, a bus shelter or the forecourt of a filling station. So-called 'rigid' tyres can be hard to remove and re-fit with cold fingers compared to 'folding' tyres. You'll need a torch (e.g. a head torch) and don't forget your mobile phone. Carry spare batteries for the lights.

Three wheels better!

After falling off on black ice on one early morning December ride, I invested in a tricycle for use in the winter. The extra stability is reassuring on frosty roads; rear wheel inner tube changes are easier than on a cycle and having three frame-mounted rear lights is good for being visible. In days gone (when winters were probably more severe and cyclists perhaps a little keener) tricycles and tricycle conversion kits were very popular. The Tricycle Association is an excellent source of information and Longstaff Cycles offers both tricycle conversions and complete tricycles. Whether you ride with a group or solo, winter cycling can be fun. Go on, try it!

Dave Hancock is a keen cyclist and author of Cycle Rides in Shropshire and More Cycle Rides in Shropshire, both available from Sigma Press.
Created On  9 Jan 2017 11:34 in CyclingJanuary 2017Outdoors  -  Permalink
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5 walks in winter wonderlands


We love December, with its crisp mornings, low afternoon sunshine and excuses to sip hot chocolate amidst beautiful scenery! So get your woollies on, get outdoors and get going on some of the loveliest winter walks the UK has to offer!

1. Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England
Work on Hadrian’s Wall - now a UNESCO World Heritage Site - began nearly 2,000 years ago, with modifications added until the early 5th century. Running virtually from the east coast to the west, the Wall was intended as a barrier to separate the civilised Romans from the ‘Barbarians’ in the north and, although it’s commonly thought to mark the divide between England and Scotland, in fact Northumberland lies largely north of it. Ambitious walkers can tackle the entire Hadrian’s Wall Path, an 84-mile National Trail, whilst others might prefer to focus their efforts along the breathtaking central section, from Sewingshields to Walltown. Linear walks along the remains of the Wall are easy to follow, whilst a host of circular routes are available to add variety to a day’s adventure.

Start from: Sewingshields, 1km north-east of Housesteads Roman fort, grid ref. NY799700


Photo: Andrew Walmsley

2. Kilmar Tor, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
Kilmar Tor is on Bodmin Moor, made famous by Jamaica Inn, Daphne du Maurier’s novel of smugglers and pirates. Kilmar Tor marks the birthplace of the Jamaica Inn landlord and his two brothers, one of whom died in a nearby bog. To the north of the tor is Twelve Men’s Moor, whilst there’s a trig point to bag on the summit. Geocachers love the long granite ridge, whilst circular walks to the peak and back are perfect for a bracing weekend ramble.

Start from: Road layby, grid ref. SW258759


Photo: Sue Kittow

3. Garwnant, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
There’s so much more to Merthyr than meets the eye, and this forestry winter wonderland is fast becoming one of the area’s hiking hotspots… which is bad news for those who liked it being a hidden secret! Garwnant is part of the Fforest Fawr Geopark, one of eight geoparks in the UK and which rolls out over the stunning Brecon Beacons all the way from Merthyr to Carmarthenshire. A number of trails start near the visitor centre, one being the two-mile Wern Walk, on which tired walkers can stop for a break on the Giant’s Chair!

Start from: Garwnant Visitor Centre, OS ref. SO003131


Photo: Rebecca Lees


4. Fritham, New Forest, Hampshire

This eight-miler through woodland, wetland and heathland is perfect in the deep mid-winter, particularly for nature lovers on the lookout for signs of wildlife. Although badgers rarely emerge from their setts before dusk, their nocturnal trails are most prominent in winter as vegetation dies back and reveals telltales signs for the eager-eyed. Hen harriers can be spotted in the New Forest throughout the colder months, whilst mandarin ducks can often be seen at Eyeworth Pond, the cinnamon, orange, black and white plumage of the males making a striking sight on the water. Largely along visible paths but a little off the beaten track in sections, this strenuous walk is sure to get the blood flowing and handily passes the High Corner Inn halfway around - perfect for a warming beverage or two!


Start from: Eyeworth Pond, grid ref. SU228146


Photo: Andrew Walmsley

5. Coniston, Lake District National Park, Cumbria

If there’s one thing we love more than a nice brisk walk, it’s a nice brisk walk with cakes at the end! This stunning walk alongside Coniston Water enjoys wonderful views of the ‘Old Man’ and ends up at the Bluebird Cafe - does life get much better?! At five miles long and the third largest of the Lakes, Coniston was once an essential fish source for medieval monks. In the 19th century, the philosopher John Ruskin bought Brantwood House, overlooking its shores, whilst Arthur Ransome based Swallows and Amazons on the lake too. Perhaps most famously, land and water speed record holder Donald Campbell died on the water in 1967 whilst successfully attempting to achieve a speed of more than 300mph in Bluebird. The cafe, named in honour of Donald’s jet-powered boat, serves up a delicious selection of tiffin, cupcakes, sticky ginger loaf and apricot brownies - and a great view back across your route, of course!

Start from: Bluebird Cafe, Coniston, grid ref. SD308970


Photo: Catherine Savidge
Created On  7 Dec 2016 15:45 in Walking  -  Permalink
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