Adventures with barn owls

England is many things — it is green, it is pleasant, it is disarmingly pretty in places and breathtakingly grand in others. One thing it is not, though, is exotic. This is a fact best supported by the obvious lack of venomous, virulent and predatory fauna we have to fear. But even if British wildlife is on the mellow side, there are still plenty of reasons to appreciate the creatures that make their homes in England’s hedgerows, waterways and woodlands. There is the feeling of victory when you spot a harvest mouse the size of your thumb in the undergrowth.…

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The Bells of Hemscott: Glamping in Northumberland

There are a handful of places in the UK that make me feel nostalgic and that I could revisit time and time again. These are they; the places that are woven deep within my ongoing travel story: Cartmel and Coniston in the Lake District; the New Forest; Abersoch and Portmeirion in Wales and the Northumberland Coastline. I returned to the latter this weekend — to Druridge Bay — after Alison from the Bells of Hemscott saw me raving about it on Twitter. I’ve written about this part of the world before and praised its beaches to high heaven, but I’m always…

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Why glamping at a festival isn’t just a cushy copout

I was put off camping in the UK at quite an early age by attending a festival many British school teachers like to refer to as the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. Oh sure, it was fun enough the first time — we walked a bit, set up our tents, lay out on the grass in the summer sunshine eating our supernoodles and marshmallows listening to Glastonbury on a portable radio. One boy even brought a guitar and as darkness fell we all sat around the fire solemnly singing Karma Police and mulling over whether to quit school and set…

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Instagrammed: The Isle of Wight Festival

If there’s one thing Instagram feels as though it was designed for, it’s festivals. My somewhat cynical theory behind this is that festivals tend to be a pseudo-nostalgic experience for most people — especially the young. They’re a way of temporarily appropriating a hedonism that’s really the property of a different era and projecting it onto our lives. It means we can pretend to ourselves that if we’d been born earlier, we all totally would have been hippies, no question. This explains the flower garlands perching on every other teenage festivalgoer’s head. The morning before I went to the Isle…

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Pigging out at the Pig in the Wall

I really do hate to squeal, but I just can’t keep a secret like this to myself. I went to the Isle of Wight Festival last weekend, and I did it the grown-up way (by ‘glamping’ — more to come on that soon). I was determined for the whole trip to be the relaxed break I really needed, and so before I took to the high seas, a civilised lunch was in order. I’m a northerner through and through, but Hampshire is by far my favourite southern county and I spent several happy summers in the New Forest when I…

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