The Best Farm Shops: Heckfield Home Farm

In recent years I have shopped less and less in supermarkets. Instead, I choose to seek out the farm shops, genuine produce markets and artisan makers for those authentic food experiences. Not all farm shops are created equal, however, with more and more becoming glorified delicatessens, offering products otherwise available at the supermarket or online. The Heckfield Home Farm, part of the larger Heckfield estate in Hampshire, hosts occasional markets offering seasonal produce grown on the farm, or made by local artisan makers.

This week I dropped in to the August market in my ongoing search for real food. And I wasn’t disappointed.

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Discover a secret garden this summer

This week I’ve been enjoying many horticultural delights courtesy of the National Garden Scheme (NGS). The annual summer event provides the opportunity to mosey around private and public gardens in aid of charity.

The scheme is so quintessentially English, reminiscent of the beloved village fete an atmosphere fostered by the delicious homemade cakes available. Spoilt for choice at one garden, I indulged in a generous portion of walnut cake with a pot of cafetière coffee on a shady patio. Hosts were ultra friendly and there was some lively chat amongst the visitors. I met up with one couple at the next garden too, and we greeted each other like old friends. Gardening tips were swopped and recommendations for further gardens to visit. Aah, an English summer.

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Jubilee: the best royal trees in the south east

In periods of social unrest public statues are often defaced or pulled down. Man-made buildings too are destroyed, as in Henry VIII’s Reformation, as a symbol of protest and change. Trees, on the other hand, planted to commemorate a special date or event, are an entirely different matter. Trees maintain their dignity and longevity. They go about the business of living quietly and conscientiously. They absorb pollutants in the atmosphere, provide us with oxygen, prevent flooding and land erosion, influence wind speed and temper climate. They also provide habitats for wildlife, and being near them improves our health too. Visit these attractions this summer to see some magnificent royal trees.

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A visit to an Extraordinary Doll’s House

Motifs in Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s three-act play, A Doll’s House (premiered 1879), include appearances, the power of money, and women’s place in a patriarchal society. A work of its time, there is a clear divide between those who lived upstairs and the servants living below. Actual doll’s houses, those little microcosms of everyday life, dating back to the 16th century and reflecting similar societal values, were created not as toys but often as a teaching aid, to instruct a future lady of a grand house on the running of the establishment. Think Downton Abbey with its defined rules of behaviour both below and above stairs.

The Uppark doll’s house is one of only a handful that have survived from the 18th-century in amazingly good condition. The little four-poster beds alone are around 300 years old.

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Product review: BOXD nutritional powders

For the past two years, I’ve been optimising my diet. No faddy dieting, but rather good solid nutrition. Like most of us, I’m concerned that the quality of food available generally has deteriorated over the years. Finding an egg or a carrot, for instance, that actually has any flavour is a challenge. I had been cruising along, a happy vegetarian for over 40 years, and feeling pretty smug in all honesty that I had it right. But our bodies and our nutritional needs change throughout our lives. For one thing, we need more (class A) protein as we (ahem) mature. There are only so many times you can eat eggs, cheese or meat in a day, and I’ve been searching for a tasty ready mix to supplement my protein intake.

BOXD ‘natural wellness’ shakes are formulated to specifically meet the nutritional needs of women. I’ve been blending like crazy recently to put these to the test. Read more to find out how I got on in the kitchen.

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New Year’s Resolution: Honesty Group founder, Romilla Arber, says no to dieting!

Romilla Arber began thinking seriously about a bread making business without any experience in food production. Arber began The Honesty Group in 2014 with the aim of producing fresh food ethically and, here’s the thing, while remaining a profitable business. With multiple coffee shops, a farm shop, two country pubs (one with rooms), a bakery and a cookery school, it is certainly a success story. In an unsettled world, does she still hold to her founding principles and what goals has Arber set for 2022?

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Bye Bye 2021 (Waving)

Well, what did you think of 2021? It’s been a mixed bag with a slight improvement on the previous year (it’s all relative) although, generally and personally, not in the top ten.

But as I scroll through my photo archives and clippings’ folder for the past year, transferring key dates to the new year’s diary adding anything new (who am I kidding), I’m surprised at how much I’ve managed to cram in. Despite the restrictions we’ve all been experiencing in the past almost-two-years, as a freelance writer reliant on travel opportunities, I’ve managed to keep busy exploring my little corner of Britain, making new discoveries and sharing them with you. December [ dih-sem-ber ]. Proper Noun: a time to reflect.

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Christmas Around The World: England

With only 12 days to go until the big day, ‘are you all set for Christmas?’ Whether you are planning a family affair, or a day in bed with a cuppa and a tin of Quality Street, in an uncertain world, and despite the marketing hype, remember, there are no rules.

In the last of the series exploring the Festive Holiday around the world, two expat Instagrammers share their Christmas plans. First up, an Italian working and living in London and secondly, a Yorkshireman returning home from Spain for the first time in more than a year of travelling.

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Christmas Around The World: Norway

As we move into December this week, the marketing machine cranks up to yet another level with endless advertising. There’s social media ‘sponsored posts’, texts, leaflets through the letterbox and banners at the supermarket. And, of course, there’s the battle for the ‘best festive TV advert’.

It can be hard to resist feeling like the odd-one-out if you’re not in a frenzy of anxiety yet. And if the only date in your calendar is the holiday bin collection service, it can feel as though everyone else is out partying every night, except you.

But here’s the thing, Christmas is a personal choice. There are no rules. Push the boat out or spend the day in bed, you decide.

This week we visit Bergen for the fifth in the series where I invite Instagram pals from around the globe to share their stories on how they spend Christmas.

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Christmas Around the World: Southern California

There’s a lot of pressure commerically and socially to keep up appearances when it comes to Christmas. But here’s the thing. There are no rules. In this special interview series I ask some favourite Instagrammers around the world how they celebrate the holiday.

Tamera Beardsley, fashion accessory designer, is determined to squeeze every last possible drop of joy from the Festive Season. Come with me to Southern California where Tamera reveals her infectious passion for all things Christmassy.

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