Winnie the Pooh Day – a short walk in the woods

Ashdown forest Sussex

There are few better forests to enjoy a walk in than Ashdown Forest in Sussex. After all, it was in this very location that Alan Alexander Milne and his son, Christopher Robin, found inspiration for the beloved adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Many of the locations of Pooh’s adventures are lifted directly from real-life locations in the forest, such as Five Hundred Acre Wood (five times bigger than its fictional counterpart?). Other familiar locations include Gills Lap (Galleon’s Lap in the books) where you will find the Enchanted Place and Wren’s Warren valley, which houses the less jovial Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place.

To repay the favour Pooh’s adventures have had on the area, the Poohsticks Bridge was renamed and renovated to look more like its fictional counterpart. Make sure you bring your own twigs!

For Winnie the Pooh Day we thought we’d share Ashdown Forest walking instructions, starting from Gill’s Lap…

Set atop the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Ashdown offers nearly 10 square miles of common land; in fact it’s supposed to be the largest public-access area in southeast England.

Gills Lap itself offers two walks: an adventurous 3 mile trek past Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place and a half mile walk past the Enchanted Place, Heffalump Trap, Roo’s Sandy Pit and more.

From the Gills Lap car park a short 200 metre walk (which can seem a little longer with easily distracted youngsters and plenty of puddles!) leads you to the Enchanted Place on the right.

From there a left turn takes you a few metres down to the Heffalump Trap: a lovely little hollow where a lone pine grows.

Walk back up the path and turn left, after about 10 metres and you arrive at the tribute to Milne and EH Shepard, the illustrator of Pooh’s adventures. The views here are stunning, so it’s no surprise to find the author was so keen on dreaming up Pooh’s idyllic escapades there.

Turn right from the memorial and you soon arrive at the site of Roo’s Sandy Pit (the bank can little slippy, so be careful if you try to walk down it).

Follow the path round from the ‘Sandy Pit’ and you arrive back at the car park. It’s a short and sweet stroll through some of Sussex’s finest scenery. If you fancy rounding up your adventure with a little refreshment you might also want to pay a visit to the nearby village of Hartfield. There you’ll find Pooh Corner, a lovely little tearoom that contains plenty of refreshment and lots of Winnie the Pooh souvenirs.

Beat the Blues: Win a Hamper of Happiness!

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Win a Hamper of Happiness, filled with feelgood treats! To enter just click the image below and tell us your favourite feelgood song and your happiest UK destination .

Get some inspiration with our Beat the Blues playlist on Spotify, made with a selection of the most popular entries so far!

5 Fun New Year’s Resolutions – and how to keep them!

Why are New Year’s resolutions so difficult to keep? Every year we start off with such good intentions, but, according to research, only around 1 in 10 of us stick to our resolutions.

This is because most of us set unrealistic goals at the start of the year that we can’t possibly keep…and that makes us reluctant to set any more.

The key to keeping your New Year’s resolutions is to make them small, easy to maintain and fun! So here we’re taking five common New Year’s resolutions and recommending a fun way to make your aspirations a reality.

1. Travel more

mountain path leading to lake at Cwm Idwal, Devils Kitchen

First off, forget expensive, faraway destinations and those stressful hours trapped in the departures lounge. There are plenty of unexplored gems right here in the UK, just waiting to be discovered.

In fact, for breathtaking mountain scenery, an intriguing local language and and even a dormant volcano, you need only go as far as north Wales and the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. If you want to avoid the crowds of Snowdon itself, explore the rich natural and cultural treats of the rest of the park, including the ancient castles and events celebrating Wales’ ‘Year of Legends’.

2. Get fit

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The bad news is that spending money on a gym membership you’ll hardly ever use will not get you fit. Amazingly, millions of pounds are still wasted in this way every year in the UK. The good news, however, is that a sure-fire way of making exercise work is to make sure you enjoy it. Instead of a sweaty, crowded gym, get yourself fit out amongst some of the outstanding natural beauty that Britain has to offer.

The Forest of Dean, just north of the River Severn and close to the Welsh border, is the perfect location for a fitness break. There’s a simply incredible number of activities available in this spectacular location, including cycling, caving, climbing and canoeing. There’s even diving at one of the UK’s newest inland dive sites. Plus, of course, there’s the simple pleasure of walking and hiking around one of England’s surviving ancient woodlands. You’ll be so captivated by the amazing scenery, you won’t even realise how fit you’re getting!

3. Learn a language

Le Mont Saint Michel
They say the best way to learn a new language is not in the classroom, but to immerse yourself in the culture. With a self catering break in the gorgeous countryside of France or Italy, you can escape the stifling cocoon of hotels, cities and resorts, and mingle with the locals. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can pick up the basics in a supermarket or cafe. Plus, by visiting a stunningly beautiful location, you’ll give yourself even more motivation to persevere with the language.

An ideal place to start your learning is the stunning Armorica Regional Natural Park in Brittany. From the mountains to the sea, you’ll discover some incredible wildlife and breathtaking views. Here, you can forget the old French stereotypes: the local Bretons are very friendly, and fortunately they’re rather used to helping Brits struggling with the language!

4. Relax more

Bamburgh Castle and seat

To truly achieve relaxation, you need to give your body the most peaceful stimuli: creature comforts, natural beauty, and calm, quiet surroundings. Likewise, there are a few things you need to avoid at all costs, such as long-haul flights, stressful airports and lost luggage.

How about a holiday let with a hot tub, surrounded by the rugged beauty of Northumberland? In this most northerly part of England, you can really get away from the crowds, with miles of stunning coastline and woodland to enjoy.

5. Spend more time with the family

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Spending more time with the family does not mean staying at home in front of the telly! Jobs, housework and the distractions of normal life mean that getting away is the best option for renewing those family bonds. Getting everyone from the kids to the grandparents in one place is a great idea, and there’s no easier way to do so than by renting a large holiday cottage.

There’s no better choice than the Peak District, Britain’s first national park. If you’ve got family members spread far and wide, its location right in the heart of Britain, nestled just between Manchester and Sheffield, will ensure it’s easy to get to for everyone. With so much to see and do throughout its 500 square miles, there’ll be something to keep the whole family entertained, before you all come together for some real family bonding.

We hope this has given you some inspiration for how you can keep your New Year’s resolutions this year, whilst at the same time exploring some of the wonderful countryside right on your doorstep.

Dates for your Diary: The Best 2017 Events, Anniversaries & Activities in the UK

Summer walks

The United Kingdom is arguably the cultural and sporting capital of the world – after all, it is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the Glastonbury Festival, and tennis!

Every year, thousands of festivals and sporting events all across the country celebrate this rich history, but 2017 offers a host of one-of-a-kind celebrations too. So rediscover your love of the arts and your passion for sports at these unforgettable events and activities, which showcase the very best of the UK’s past, present and future.

Jane Austen 200 – A life in Hampshire

2017 marks 200 years since Austen passed away, and there are plenty of events scheduled in 2017 to celebrate one of Britain’s most beloved writers. Since Austen spent most of her years in Hampshire that is where you will find the lion’s share of the celebrations. Winchester offers exhibitions, a unique walking trail; the Austen House and Museum will be open and offering exclusive events; there are open gardens in the village of Chawton and much more! http://janeausten200.co.uk/

Year of Legends – Snowdonia, Wales 

Snowdonia

Wales is celebrating a ‘Year of Legends’ in 2017, and perhaps the best time to visit is early spring when the new film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is releasedMuch of the film was captured in the Snowdonia National Park, whilst the region plays into the legend itself. It is rumoured that Arthur defeated the giant Rhitta atop Snowdon, whilst his sword Excalibur is said to have been thrown into the waters of Llyn Llydaw by Sir Bedivere upon the king’s death. https://www.visitsnowdonia.info/.

North Wales – Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ 2017 

A well-deserved win for the gorgeous region of North Wales. Enjoy a host of unique activities, including the longest man-made waves,  the world’s fastest zip line and huge subterranean trampolines in the caverns beneath Blaenau Ffestiniog. It’s a bold reinvention and perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, so perfect for a 2017 break. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel/regions

Cavern Club, Liverpool – 60th anniversary – Liverpool

Once an unassuming live Jazz venue, this bar on Liverpool’s waterfront became a cultural mecca due to early skiffle performances by the Quarrymen in the late 1950s – eventually becoming The Beatles and performing under that name at the Cavern in 1961. Though closed and rebuilt in the interim, the Cavern is still a live music venue and a mainstay for Beatles fans visiting their hometown. https://www.cavernclub.org

Sherlock Holmes’ 125th Birthday – Various Locations 

Stonyhurst college

A Study in Scarlet the debut case of Sherlock Holmes was published in 1887. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous creation is commemorated with a statue opposite the author’s birthplace in Picardy Place Edinburgh. In the south you could visit Baker Street or Upper Wimpole Street in London – Holmes and Doyle’s respective dwellings. Bristol is where much of the recent BBC TV series was filmed, or there’s Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, where Doyle attended school in the company of a classmate known as Moriarty (we suspect they didn’t get along!). Incidentally, another visitor to the college was J.R.R. Tolkien, so it’s a one stop shop for classic literature.

Hull, City of Culture – 2017

A 365-day cultural celebration of Hull broadcast to the world. 2017 promises a host of unique events with Opera North transforming the Humber Bridge into a piece of music, the 2017 Turner Prize being hosted at the city’s Ferens art gallery (following a £4.5m revamp), world premieres, exclusive festivals and much more. https://www.hull2017.co.uk/

Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7 – 50 Year Anniversary – Coniston, Lake District

Coniston

Campbell died in January 1967 while trying to break his own speed record on Coniston Water in the Lake District. Engineer Bill Smith is working to restore Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ vehicle with the aim of bringing it back to the water. In the meantime, the Ruskin Museum is the perfect place to experience Campbell’s story and see the restored K7. http://www.ruskinmuseum.com.

Brecon Beacons National Park – 60th Birthday

A beautiful tapestry of grassy moorland, forests and pastures, the Brecon Beacons is one of the jewels in Wales’ crown of wonderful natural expanses. 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Brecon Beacons National Park, so this year is the perfect time to visit! Enjoy exploring stunning vistas in the day and the gazing at the glorious clear heavens at night (the park received International Dark Sky accreditation in 2013). http://www.cottages.com/wales/brecon-beacons

Enid Blyton’s Famous Five – 75th Birthday – RHS Gardens nationwide May & August

Blyton’s intrepid adventurers will be celebrating 2017 in style with reprints of their classic adventures and activities taking place in the Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship gardens: Yorkshire, Essex, Greater Manchester, Devon and Surrey. Expect adventure trails, storytelling workshops and lashings of ginger beer, culminating in a big celebration on 11 August – Blyton’s 120th birthday! https://www.rhs.org.uk

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 20th Anniversary of Publication – June

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Amazingly it was 20 years ago that Harry Potter was introduced to the world. In the years since we’ve had 8 films, about as many books and countless other ways to enjoy J.K. Rowling’s tales. Take a look at the cottages.com guide to Harry Potter filming locations in the UK, visit the incredibly popular Harry Potter attraction at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour In London or just pop past your local bookshop, curl up by the fire and lose yourself in the enchanting literary world of the boy wizard. https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk

Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race – between Bishop’s Park and Furnivall Gardens – first Sunday in April

The rivalry between Oxford University and Cambridge University goes back hundreds of years, and each year it comes to a playful head at this famous boat race. Find a comfy spot on the banks of the River Thames, pack a traditional lunch of lemonade and cucumber sandwiches, and cheer on the rowers on their way past. http://theboatraces.org/

If boats aren’t really your thing, there is also the Oxford v Cambridge Goat Race, which is held concurrently in Spitalfields City Farm http://www.thegoatrace.org.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – Strathspey – end of April

The Speyside area in north-east Scotland has the highest concentration of malt whisky distilleries in the world, with more than 50 at last count. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival brings whisky devotees together to sample the local produce and visit some stunning rural locations where you can watch the whisky-making process in person. https://www.spiritofspeyside.com/

Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations – Stratford-upon-Avon – 23rd April

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William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and the picturesque town has been synonymous with the Bard ever since. Each year, processions and public events are held to mark Shakespeare’s birthday, while his plays are performed by local theatre troupes and the Royal Shakespeare Company. https://www.shakespearescelebrations.com/

The London Marathon – across London – end of April

As one of the world’s most popular marathons, entry is strictly by ballot only, but anyone can watch the brave runners making their way through the city of London. The 26-mile route takes in landmarks such as Big Ben, London Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, before finishing in front of Buckingham Palace. https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/

Hay Festival – Hay-on-Wye – late May

Britain’s biggest literary festival has a habit of attracting some really big names. Think Bill Clinton, David Frost and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Dozens of authors, poets and philosophers host talks in tiny venues, making it one of the most intellectual (and influential) festivals in the world. https://www.hayfestival.com/

Solstice at Stonehenge – 21st June – Stonehenge

No one knows what the stones of Stonehenge are meant to represent, or how they got there more than 5,000 years ago, but that doesn’t stop people from speculating. Many people believe that the stones have a deep spiritual significance, largely due to the position of the ‘rising stone’, which falls perfectly in line with the sun during the summer solstice. Hundreds of people gather here on 21st June to see this for themselves, and a four-day long Stonehenge Solstice Festival has even sprung up for super-fans. http://www.stonehengecampsite.co.uk/solstice_festival

Wimbledon, The Championships – South London – starts on the last Monday in June.

There is something quintessentially British about watching a tennis match in Wimbledon on a warm (ok, grey and drizzly) summer’s day while you sip a glass of Pimms and eat strawberries and cream. The world’s most famous tennis courts have played host to countless sporting legends over the years, while A-list celebrities and members of the royal family are frequently spotted watching from the Royal Box. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a VIP invite, you can apply for tickets through the Wimbledon ballot, or queue for returns a day in advance. http://www.wimbledon.com/index.html

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 70th Anniversary – Edinburgh – month of August

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Somehow a month isn’t long enough to experience all the culture that Edinburgh has to offer. This massive arts festival boasts some of the biggest and brightest names in comedy, theatre, literature and drama, all held against the backdrop of beautiful Edinburgh city. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten track – there are some hidden gems to be found away from the main venues. With the Edinburgh festivals celebrating their 70th anniversary, there’s going to be plenty to enjoy! https://tickets.edfringe.com/

Bog Snorkelling Championships – end of August – Llanwrtyd Wells

It started as a joke, but has now become one of Wales’ most popular sporting events – bog snorkelling. Each summer, contestants from all over the world line up to swim through the peat bogs of Waen Rhydd in Llanwrtyd Wells, while hundreds gather to watch from the safety of the banks, with a pint of ale at close range. http://www.green-events.co.uk/events.html?id=57

Eden Sessions – the Eden Project – Cornwall, all summer

Cornwall’s innovative Eden Project is worth a visit any time of the year, but it is particularly special during the Eden Sessions – a series of musical events which take place in the Biomes (domes and botanical gardens). Past performers include Elton John and Motorhead, and tickets are – understandably – in very high demand. http://www.edensessions.com/

Heritage Open Days – early September – across England

Many of England’s most historic buildings are not open to the public. Unless you visit on a Heritage Open Day. Each year, for a few days, 5000 castles, windmills, bunkers and other quirky homes open their doors to curious visitors, who can explore them free of charge. Plan well in advance so you get to see as many places as possible! https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/

Notting Hill Carnival – West London – second bank holiday in August

The Notting Hill Carnival started out as a tribute to West London’s Caribbean population, and it is still a joyous riot of music, dancing, singing and eating – complete with colourful sequined costumes! Saturday is the best day for families. http://thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com/

Cowes Week – Isle of Wight – start of August

The UK’s best-known regatta attracts sailors from around the world to the sleepy harbour town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. More than 40 boat races take place over the course of the week, and the Solent is speckled with white sails as far as the eye can see. https://www.sunsail.co.uk/events/cowes-week

Scottish Highland Games – across Scotland – all summer

Highland Games

In the Highlands of Scotland, old traditions are proudly maintained, and the Highland Games is one of the best-loved traditions of all. Where else could you watch men in kilts take part in ancient sports such as the caber toss and the tug o’ war, while bagpipers play along in the background? Compete if you dare, but this is one event which is probably more fun for the spectators than the participants. http://www.shga.co.uk/events.php

Bonfire Night – Lewes – 5th November

Bonfire night is a peculiarly British tradition – commemorating Guy Fawkes’ failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament way back in the 16th century. Across the country, bonfires are lit and effigies of Fawkes are burned, but Lewes in Sussex takes things to a whole other level. Costumed locals march through the town holding burning torches and fiery symbols, before a giant bonfire is lit on the outskirts of town. http://www.lewesbonfirecelebrations.com/

Lord Mayor’s Show – across London – every November

The Lord Mayor’s Show is a great family day out, and the perfect introduction to London life. Cheer on the Lord Mayor’s flotilla on the Thames, follow the extravagant cross-London procession, then watch an epic fireworks display light up the sky after dark. https://lordmayorsshow.london/

Fantastic Harry Potter Filming Locations & Where to Find Them

From Philosopher’s Stones to Fantastic Beasts, the UK has a history of enchanting cinema-goers through J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter film series. And with the latest addition in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them adding a couple of stunning locations, there’s no better time to fall under the saga’s glorious spell.

Cunard building

The Cunard Building, Liverpool. The interior of Liverpool’s stunning Cunard Building stood in for Macy’s department store in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. One of Liverpool’s beautiful ‘Three Graces’, it stands between the Liver Building and the Port of Liverpool building on The Pier Head waterfront.

St. George's Hall Liverpool

St George’s Hall, Liverpool. Both the interior and exterior of the grand St George’s Hall on Lime Street were featured in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The stunning Neoclassical columns and steps stood out in several scenes, including the thunderbird soaring past as it made its way through New York.

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Glenfinnan Viaduct AKA: The train line to Hogwarts. The stunning Glenfinnan Viaduct stands 100ft above the River Finnan, on top of 21 enormous arches, and carries trains from Glasgow Queen Street Station to Mallaig several times a day.

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Alnwick Castle, Northumberland AKA: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s no surprise that this has become one of the most visited castles in England. Not only did it have a starring role as Hogwarts in two of the franchise’s films (Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), it also appeared in Downton Abbey.

Gloucester cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral AKA: Inside Hogwarts. The ancient stonework and shadowy cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral are Hogwarts through and through. The cathedral itself is more than 1300 years old, and over the years it has hosted kings, queens, archbishops and, of course, wizards…

Glencoe

Glencoe, Scotland AKA: Hagrid’s ‘hood. Hagrid’s hut was a treasure trove of unusual items and rare animals. This is where he raised Fang, his enormous boarhound, and this is where Norbert (the Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon) hatched from his shell.

Freshwater West

Pembrokeshire Beach, Wales AKA: Shell Cottage. Freshwater West Beach is one of the prettiest beaches in Pembrokeshire. The sands are golden, the dunes are sprinkled with flowers, and the rough waters are suitably dramatic. This is where Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour chose to live after their marriage, and Harry, Ron and Hermione were frequent visitors.

Goathland

Goathland Train Station, Yorkshire AKA: Hogsmeade Station. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway stop in Goathland is often described as a ‘celebrity station’, due to its role as Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films, and as Aidensfield in the long-running ITV show Heartbeat.

Kings Cross

King’s Cross Station, London AKA: The first stop on the Hogwarts Express. If you don’t mind queues you can pose for pictures and pretend you are on your way to Hogwarts – the perfect end to your tour of Harry Potter film locations in the UK.

The Best December Events in the UK, 2016

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  • Burning the Clocks Festival, Brighton. 21 December. The shortest day and the end of the year are celebrated with a huge lantern parade through Brighton’s streets, culminating in a huge bonfire on the beach!  http://www.samesky.co.uk/events/burning-the-clocks
  • Grassington Dickensian Festival, Yorkshire Dales. 3-11 December. One of our favourite ways to get in the Christmas spirit, this fantastic festival offers plenty of yuletide cheer on the gorgeous cobbled streets of Grassington with bands, buskers, Victorian street entertainers and Santa! http://grassingtondickensian.co.uk/
  • Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. 30 December – 1 January. A world-famous way to welcome in the New Year, alongside the party to see in 2017, there’s the Torchlight Procession winding through town on 30 December and the Loony Dook river dip for the hardy and hungover on New Year’s Day! https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/.
  • Christmas in Shakespeare’s England, Warwickshire. Various dates in December. Enjoy the RSC’s production of The Tempest (until 21 January), visit Stratford’s Christmas market and enjoy a guided walk of the Bard’s Stratford between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. http://shakespeares-england.co.uk/christmas-shakespeares-england.
  • Christmas at Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean. 3-25 December. Enjoy the other-worldly ambience of this magical location. Kids get to dress up as Red Riding Hood or the Woodcutter and take a woodland walk to meet a very special visitor! http://www.puzzlewood.net/index.php.
  • Enchanted Christmas, Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire.  Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening to 18 December. See the majestic trees of Westonbirt in a whole new light as the 1,000s of the are bathed in a fantastically festive glow. http://www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-christmas.
  • Illumination Festival of Light, Irvine, North Ayrshire, Scotland 30 November-3 December. Starting on St Andrew’s Day with a firework display, enjoy a weekend of wonder on Irvine’s historic waterfront. Light displays, art, fireworks, workshops, whisky tastings and much more! http://illuminationfestival.co.uk/
  • The Alnwick Garden Christmas Grand Lantern Parade, Northumberland. 18 December. A magical live music, light and movement spectacular winding through the gorgeous gardens of Alnwick Castle. Enjoy Christmas trails, Xmas markets and more to get you into the festive spirit! https://alnwickgarden.com/.