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Pizza Night

20 Feb

Hi, I’m Vicki and I write a blog called ‘Normal for Glastonbury’ all about living in Glastonbury. Jill, your host at Middlewick, has kindly commissioned me to write some posts about the town on Middlewick’s blog. She invited me along to one of their popular and regular pizza nights, where locals and visitors are invited to meet and mingle while eating heaps of delicious pizza.

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To offset the calories I made the short and almost flat journey from town to Middlewick by bicycle, arriving just after 5.30 for the first part of the evening. I arrived to find a number of families assembling their own pizzas from dough (prepared by friendly chef Keren) and numerous toppings, which they then took outside to the wood fired oven where they were expertly cooked by Jill’s friendly team.

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Waiting for my own creation to be ready at the pizza oven and sitting around the big tables in the function room gave me an excuse to talk to everyone and ask them what brought them to Middlewick, while they tried to answer with a mouthful of hot dough and stringy cheese.

I met a Japanese lady with her husband who had been living in Brighton, but had enjoyed their many stays at Middlewick so much that they had moved to Glastonbury six months ago. She commented that she went out more in Glastonbury than Brighton because there was more going on in, which both surprised and pleased me. Her pizzas were delightfully symmetrical.

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One of Jill’s visitors was Justin, a Chinese Canadian boy who goes to school in Taunton, and particularly impressed me by turning the ‘make a funny face pizza’ concept into an art form, complete with sweetcorn beard. Someone commented it looked like Jesus, but I thought it was more like Cheesus.

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If there had been a prize for best pizza it would have gone to Justin. However, this nutella and marshmallow creation, constructed by a small child who couldn’t understand why we were all laughing, would have to be awarded the boobie prize….

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A family from London were talking about their visit to Glastonbury Lake Village Museum above the Tourist Information Centre in the Tribunal. The TIC staff had seemed surprised that anyone should want to go upstairs to the museum and pointed out that they would have to turn the lights on especially for them. They then found a couple of the lightbulbs had blown making the museum gloomy and some of the exhibits were hard to see. It seems a shame that when Glastonbury has such a fascinating history the museum is hidden away and under visited.

The kids were clearly enjoying making their own pizzas. Some had perhaps not realised they were welcome to make as many pizzas as they liked, and appeared to be working on the ‘eat as much as you can pile on a plate’ principle, with multiple toppings stacked four inches high and in danger of melting into a huge puddle on the stone of the oven. At a previous pizza night someone came up with a pepperoni and marshmallow combination, strangely this doesn’t appear to be a popular choice. Here is my nutella and marshmallow creation.

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I was fascinated to meet Soso, a Glastonbury artist originally from Norway, who makes beautiful, detailed fantasy characters, and fantasy and historical costumes. You can see some of her work here on her Alderworlds website.

I also chatted to a visiting family from Newcastle, a reflexologist from Frome with her very entertaining son (who talked me through his choice of toppings with Jamie Oliver like enthusiasm) and a local organic fruit and veg seller.

I really enjoyed my evening, the people, the pizza and the Orchard Pig cider from the well stocked bar. Jill is a very funny, friendly and accommodating host and clearly loves bringing locals and visitors to the town together. She told me that local farmers often along in Summer, so I look forward to more pizza nights where I can hopefully indulge my enthusiasm for talking about tractors, and Glastonbury.

To read more about life in Glastonbury, England’s oddest town, please check out my blog at Normal for Glastonbury.

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Treasure Hunting in Somerset. My favourite places to shop for unique finds.

6 Jul

I am not a fan of shopping, well not ordinary shopping.  Going into a High Street Chain store and seeing foreign made goods stacked up and sold cheap has never appealed to me. I do however, like Treasure Hunting.  Treasure Hunting is how I describe my secret shopping trips off to hideaway shops in Somerset.   I can disappear for hours without warning and then come back to Middlewick with a car full of exciting finds.

Now I guess I shouldn’t be revealing my secret shops but as my cottages are getting pretty full now with all the bits I have picked up, I am happy to share.

On our doorstep here in Glastonbury are my 2 favourites.  Glastonbury Reclamation and Wells Reclamation are a few minutes drive from us here at Middlewick.  Both are bursting at the seams with interesting finds.  I spend a lot of time shopping here and you will find many of my purchases in our cottages.

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Myakka FairTrade Furniture is a company based down the road in Wincanton.  They have a shop attached to their head office where you can pick up slightly damaged pieces.  There are some that have slight scratches or bumps and some do need repair work. One of my cottages, TorView has been decorated entirely with repaired Myakka furniture.

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Now the person who usually helps me with all my furniture projects is John Tucker Carpentry who also has a few treasures hanging around his workshop.  Quite a few of his upcycled and new creations you can see dotted around our cottages.  The headboard in the Cabin from some old shutters and a coffee table made from a wardrobe door from Russet are two of his.  For Glastonbury Festival we borrowed a few bits and pieces from him to decorate including a pop-up bar, some wooden stags heads and the coolest comic book table.  The table and the stags heads he has for sale if you fancy a little bit of quirky Glastonbury to take home.

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Owen Barry are a family owned leather and sheepskin factory based in Street.  The factory has been manufacturing there since 1948.  Attached to the factory is an outlet where you can buy samples and slight seconds.  Here you will find some amazing interior furnishings at really reasonable prices.  For Glastonbury Festival they decorate our function room with gorgeous beanbags, cushions and rugs.   They also make the leather cow doorstops  which we are always a topic of conversation here at Middlewick.

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The Green House in Ilminster is a bit of drive from us here in Glastonbury but well worth it.  Here you will find some gorgeous upcycled furniture made by the talented Georgina Spencer.  You will find her lights on many of my bedside tables and my favourite piece of hers is the fossil table in Bramley Cottage.

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Emporium in Yeovil is a treasure trove of goodies.  With an array of individual traders including OohLaLa Lampshades there is always something interesting.  Add to this a fantastic cafe upstairs you can spend many hours browsing.

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Bath & West Giant Flea Market and Antiques Markets.  My idea of heaven.  Dozens of stallholders selling the weird and wonderful.  I have picked up so many interesting pieces at these shows.  The bed in Blenheim, tables in Russet and Appletree as well as quite a few of the paintings that you find on the cottage walls.

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Happy Treasure Hunting.  Let me know what you find on your adventures.

Be British and Eat Cake – 7 places for Cake around Glastonbury.

28 Mar

 

The actress Emma Thompson recently described Britain as ‘a tiny little cloud-bolted, rainy corner of sort-of Europe, a cake-filled misery-laden grey old island’.

Needless to say she was in a lot of trouble over her words and she did backtrack a lot.  It may be a bit rainy and grey sometimes but how can a nation that eats so much cake ever be called misery-laden?

Cake makes you happy, especially on cold rainy days.  Luckily around us here in Glastonbury we are spoiled with places to eat cake.

Here are my favourite cake stops, and not just for rainy days as many of them have lovely gardens to sit out in and enjoy the sunshine as well.

Eco-Friendly Bites.  This little café is based at the Avalon Marshes Centre which is also home to the Somerset Craft Centre.  It sits at the end of the Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve so perfect base to explore the extensive walking and cycling trails in the area.  They do delicious brownies. It is open Tuesday- Sunday 10am – 4.30pm

Double Gate Farm.  Located on the main road in Godney, this lovely little tea room is part of a Farmstay B&B.  As well as gorgeous cakes they have a spectacular looking afternoon tea. Open Wednesday- Sunday 10.30am – 5pm

The Lemon Tree Café, based at the Willows and Wetland Centre.  A definite visit, for the exhibit and the cake.  There is also a nice little wetland walk from the café if you need to burn off some calories. Open every day except Sunday 10am-4.30pm

Sweets Tea Rooms is set at the Peat and Science Museum on the road from Glastonbury to Wedmore.  ‘Merv’ Sweet has gathered together some very unique artifacts including parts from a crashed WW1 bomber, retro radio’s and items that have revealed themselves from the peat works over the years.  Open Wednesday – Sundays 10am – 4pm

 

Strangers with Coffee in Wells.  Not only the best coffee in the area but delicious cakes. Across from St. Cuthberts church which is the largest church in Somerset. Open every day except Sunday 8am- 5pm

 

Abbey Tea Rooms, overlooking Glastonbury Abbey offer a traditional afternoon tea experience.  Open daily 10am – 5pm

 

Glastonbury Assembly Rooms, which you will find down a little alleyway off of Glastonbury High Street.   Go up the stairs to find a little café selling delicious vegan and vegetarian cakes and biscuits. They also have 2 computers in there as well for anyone needing to use the internet. Open Tuesday – Saturday 12- 6pm

 

 

Bird Watching in Somerset

2 Feb

I wrote this back in January but thought I would repost it today as I say goodbye to a lovely group of Bird Watchers that have been staying here with us in Glastonbury.

They were with us all week exploring the wonderful Nature Reserves in our area and they were so pleased to have spotted 99 different species of birds while they were here(to be honest I didn’t know there were that many here in Somerset- but what do I know)

They even managed to see 2 of the Great Cranes that are now found in the wild here in Somerset after an absence of over 400 years. For more information on this project you can visit this site Great Crane Project

The group also heard the most booming bitterns they have ever heard.  If you have never heard them before – click on this link and it will take you to  what they sound like. Listen to the Booming of a Bittern

If you want to learn more about the birds of Somerset there are some great Bird Watching events, for both beginners and regular birdwatchers. If you follow the link below you will see some of the courses offered at the Avalon Marshes Centre on the Somerset Levels.  Avalon Marshes Centre

Here is my ramblings on  from January 2016

Just a few miles from us here at Middlewick lies the Avalon Marshes where you will find RSPB Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath Nature Reserves.   On a cold weekend in January I had the pleasure of taking part in an organised bird watching walk with a couple of the RSPB volunteer guides.

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View of Glastonbury Tor from Ham Wall Nature Reserve

I regularly use the Nature Reserve for my marathon training runs.  I get dropped off at the end of the reserve and run back to Glastonbury along the disused railway line that runs through the lakes and rivers of the marshes. Today though instead of running through I took the time to explore the area properly and learn about the many birds that make the area their home.

6000 years ago most of what is now Somerset’s Levels and Moors was open water and reedbed.  Over time the reedbed was replaced by wet woodland and then by a raised bog. This formed layers of peat. In the late 20th century the demand for horticultural peat was high and the local peat industry expanded rapidly. Huge quantities of peat were removed from the area leaving behind a scarred landscape.

These stripped areas of land were passed on the RSPB in the mid 1990s to re-create vital reedbeds for struggling bird populations in the UK.  The land was dug out and shaped with machines and then thousands of reeds were planted by hand.

The main focus for the RSPB was to help with the threatened Bittern population in the UK.  Prized as a medieval banquet dish and hit by hunting and the loss of its reedbed habitat, the Bittern became extinct in the UK in 1886.  The bird returned to Norfolk in 1900 and by the 1950s there were 80 booming males again.  The population of the Bittern then declined again and was down to only 11 booming males when the Ham Wall Nature Reserve was established.

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Bittern

 

In 2008 all the hard work of the volunteers paid off and the first pair of Bitterns returned to the Somerset Levels.  The population has grown every year and according to this year’s figures the UK’s top county for Bitterns is Somerset, with over 40 booming males. 20 of these were in the Ham Wall Nature Reserve.

Other birds that have benefitted from the work on the nature reserve have been The Great White Egret.  I was fortunate to see one while we were on our walk and with only 35 of them in the whole of the UK that was an unexpected treat.

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Great White Egret

 

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Great White Egret

 

We spotted Teal, Gadwell, Shovellers, and Wigeons which are all on the RSPB Amber list as the population is in decline.

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The guides who took us on our walk were so full of amazing knowledge of the birds and the area. So much work has gone into creating this natural paradise for wetland wildlife.  There is so much to see and do on the Nature Reserves and the best way to find out the latest events is to go on the Avalon Marshes or the RSPB websites. http://www.avalonmarshes.org/

http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/h/hamwall/

I like the sounds of the Mr Boombastic walk to visit the Bitterns. They take place in April and booking is essential as I know they fill up quickly.

http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-412661

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Climb mountains, not so the world can see you but so you can see the world you want to see.

30 Nov

A few months ago I entered Middlewick into the SW Tourism Awards for Sustainability.  I received the notification yesterday that we didn’t get shortlisted which is probably ok with me, but what has knocked me back is that we only scored 70 out of a possible 150 points on our entry.  So lots of huffing and puffing around  the office afterwards but then it hit me.  I didn’t make all these green improvements here to win awards, I did it for me and my guests who stay with us here in Glastonbury.

I have been fighting the green cause for the past few years.  My son Thomas is 17 now and when he was born I started a company called Green Baby.  So 17 years on I am still trying my hardest to do my bit for the planet. My retail days are gone but now trying hard to promote Sustainable living through our holiday cottages here in Glastonbury.

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Now my little problem with not winning an award is nothing to worry about really compared to all that is going on in the world.

Today, November 30th, as I write this rant there are 40,000 people in Paris- actually 40,000 plus 150 world leaders- trying to make decisions on climate change.   Having that many people trying to come up with a co-ordinated plan sounds like an impossible task, destined to fail. Oh yes, that is what usually happens with these agreements. Well the good news is they are finally looking at a bottom-up approach.  Setting a policy to allow countries to do what is economically and politically feasible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Do 40,150 people really need to come together to spend lots of money on security and expenses to state the ‘blimmin’ obvious.

At the end of the day we may not be as important as all those folk setting policy, but we all have a role to play and we have to do what we can.  Climate Change can not be ignored anymore and we need a commitment by all to reduce our Carbon Footprint.

Maybe after spending 2 weeks together and deciding that the new strategy is bottom -up, they may go home and each do something amazing for the planet. 40,150 people making a difference.

They will find that it isn’t always easy, it is rarely cheap and definitely can’t be done overnight but it is what has to be done.

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It has taken us here at Middlewick almost 5 years to get to where we are.  We have turned our cottages into something we can be proud of and continue to make improvements to be as green as we can be.  So far we have installed bio-mass boilers to provide our heating,  put solar panels on our roof  to provide us with electricity, attached water butts to our drainpipes to provide us with garden water, changed all our lighting to LED, alongside all the other easy things like recycling and composting.

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So there are still 2 weeks of negotiations left in Paris.  Imagine sitting through that, way more painful than the few hours it took me to fill in my entry for my sustainable tourism award.  Hopefully the world summit will set some targets that are attainable for countries so that they don’t bother to do anything at all.

Although this year Middlewick  weren’t winners at the awards,  entering has helped highlight what we have managed to do and to realise that you can only work with what you have and do your best.  (Double glazed windows are never going to happen on our 17th century farmhouse.)

So it is the bottom up approach that we all have to take. Do what you can with what you have, but do remember this – When you climb mountains, it is not so the world can see you but so you can see the world you want to see.

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Christmas Shopping in Glastonbury

27 Nov

In November and December we are often busy with Christmas Shoppers.  With Clark’s Village on our doorstep we are an ideal one stop shop for many.  But it is not only Clark’s that we have to offer here.  We have Owen Barry Factory shop in Street. Owen Barry have been producing leather products here in the Glastonbury area for over 50 years.  Their factory is still based in Street and they manufacture for brands all around the world. Their factory shop is located alongside of their factory and is full of samples and seconds of handbags and accessories.   Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet is owned by Somerset based company Mulberry and alongside of their factory outlet you will find a designer clothing outlet with some great brands on offer.

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Nearby the city of Wells is full of quaint little gift shops and the shop at the Bishops Palace has some lovely gifts, with a great selection for gardens and gardeners

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BUT my favourite place to Christmas shop has got to be Glastonbury High Street.  For the past couple of years I have vowed to only buy my gifts at the local shops.  It means that my friends and family end up with very unique gifts.  Chrystal balls, magic books, incense,  jewellery, hemp clothing, all available on Glastonbury High Street.   There is not an empty shop on the High Street here and it is like no other shopping area you will ever see.

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I had a stroll around yesterday checking out what was going on in the windows and what the top Christmas gifts were.  Here is a little selection of my favourites.

Glastonbury Mini Binz.  These are painted by a local artist who works at the Glastonbury Festival Site painting the famous rubbish bins.  Now as you can imagine there ends up being lots of empty paint pots, actually there are always lots of empty paint pots everywhere, so she cleans them up and paints them to sell as great pots for plants, small bins or storage tubs.  I love them and there is a selection for sale at Glastonbury Galleries.

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Also at Glastonbury Galleries I found these fab Justice Reusable Bags.   I think everyone needs at least one of these.

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Another favourite shop of mine is Dicketts Stationary.  Probably the only stationary shop you can pick up a Witches diary.  Besides the strange and wonderful, it has a fantastic selection of reference books, cards and gifts.

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Sew over the Moon.  A name says so much about a business so what more can I say.  The place to go to buy gfor all your crafty friends.   The ladies who own and run it also have a series of workshops and courses throughout the year so I figure that would make a lovely Christmas present.

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Imaginarium is just that – a shop full of things that you would never imagine were available.  Definatley the place to find the gift for that someone who has everything.

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My final High Street favourite is Happy Glastonbury.  Although their Christmas selection is special, all year round they have lovely gifts.  Everytime I walk by their window I can’t help but smile.

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Wander off the High Street and you will find the Glastonbury Abbey gift shop and the Chalice Well Gardens gift shop.  Both of these are jam packed with stunning unique gifts for Christmas.

I find myself finishing this article on Black Friday, the day the world spends a stupid amount of money buying things they don’t really need from huge companies who have the buying power to squeeze suppliers to reduce prices.  Buying Online from large internet sites is what I believe to be destroying most High Streets around the UK.

Here in Glastonbury we are fortunate to still have this fantastic collection of independent shops.  But…Independent High Street shops everywhere need you the shoppers to spend money in them to keep them going.  So do what I do and boycott the large companies and choose to shop locally this Christmas.  If not here in Glastonbury, then in your home town.