Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Reach for those crayons

Win a holiday worth £400 in the Helpful Holidays painting competition. All you have to do is send us your drawing, sketch or painting, lovingly created whilst holidaying in one of our West Country holiday cottages. Just make sure your entries reach us here at Chagford by the end of September 2009. Winners will be announced shortly afterwards.

The Competition is open to all ages, young and young at heart, so do have a go, we’re not expecting Constables - you never know, your next visit to the West Country may just bring out the creative genius within you and earn you another break courtesy of Helpful Holidays!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Oh boy, what a view!

This has to be one of the best spots I’ve seen for relaxing in the sunshine with a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc or G & T – whatever your poison – and drinking in the view (pun seriously intended).

I’m already (mentally that is) packing my bags and heading off to this newly renovated home, just a short stroll from the centre of St Mawes, with panoramic views to Place Manor, St Anthony’s Head and out to sea. The living room, dining room and most of the bedrooms also enjoy this great view.

St Mawes is a cracking spot for a break, one of the most beautifully sited seaside spots in Cornwall (on the Roseland Peninsula) with masses to keep you busy all day long. St Mawes boasts its very own Tudor Castle, built in 1538 after a spat with the French and Spanish fleets. Open all year round, St Mawes Castle has always been an important gun emplacement right up to the end of the Second World War.

And there’s a network of local pedestrian and car ferries, including the famous King Harry Ferry Bridge across the River Fal, to help you get around the area, with links to Falmouth and St Anthony. Discover the world of shipwrecks and ancient smugglers tales, whilst spotting dolphins, basking sharks and seals regularly seen around the local coastline - on an Orca Sea Safari, run most days from the historic port of Falmouth – only minutes away by ferry.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

West Country gets ever closer…

Put all those fears of lengthy hold ups on the motorway behind you, the West Country has just got that bit closer to London! Air Southwest has just announced a new, twice daily service from London City Airport, in the heart of the capital, to both Plymouth and Newquay airports. The flights will operate twice daily, Monday to Friday, with one flight on a Sunday. The new flights complement Air Southwest's four times daily London Gatwick service, which operates seven days a week from Plymouth and Newquay.

Flying time to Plymouth from London City will be just over an hour, shaving hours off the same journey by rail or road. And fares have been set to make the new service better value than either rail or road travel - seats start from £29 each way including taxes, charges and baggage.

This is great news for all our visitors from the south east of England with lots of Helpful Holiday cottages within easy reach of either airport. It makes the prospect of a holiday or short break to the West Country even more attractive…you can get down here refreshed, relaxed and ready to take in all the delights of the glorious West Country

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Spring is in the air

Well we thought ‘Spring had sprung’ but up on the moor this afternoon the snow flurries are swirling, reminding us that it’s still only March. Despite that, there’s a distinct whiff of the changing season in the air. And it’s not just my imagination. ‘Geosmin’ is the name of the odour in question and it’s produced by billions of tiny microbes waking up after their winter sleep.

The scent of a spring wood was pretty glorious as we walked beside the River Dart in the sunshine at the weekend. Warm, bright. We’d had no rain for a couple of weeks so the river was babbling away with absolutely crystal clear water – as good as anywhere in the world. The cottages round the pub would make great walking bolt holes in the charming village of Holne and the The Church House Inn did us a really splendid and good value RB&YP lunch with properly and deliciously rare beef. Their team were admirably relaxed, smiling and easy going even whilst startlingly busy (first warm and sunny Sunday for months) and by the time we were the last to leave they were enjoying a well earned pint and on the right side of the bar. No fussiness or pretention.

The pub’s on the Two Moors Way (lucky walkers) and close to the recently re-opened Tradesman’s Arms at Scoriton which will be another day out. We’ll certainly return. Holne would be a good holiday destination ‘OBTB’(oh-bee-tee-bee)(off-the-beaten … yes you get it) and if you need a place to stay nearby you could try this holiday cottage. It’s a good looking house in a great location near Ashburton – so easy access to both Dartmoor and South Hams.

Time for tea…

It looks like afternoon tea is back on the menu as people are cheering themselves up with tea and cake, instead of an expensive dinner, in response to the current financial ‘doom and gloom’. A recent survey revealed that searches on the web for ‘afternoon tea’ have increased by 67 per cent in recent months. We love our tucker down here in the West Country and have some great places to taste the ‘best of the west’ when it comes to afternoon tea.

The Dartmoor Tearooms and Café in Moretonhampstead is the place to go for an afternoon tea fix – everything is homemade at this Tea Guild award winning café. Full afternoon teas kick off in earnest from Easter - homemade scones, cakes such as lemon and blueberry drizzle, and chocolate brownies with clotted cream, apple and blackcurrant tartlets are just some of the tempting offers. Rest it all off at this farmhouse in Moretonhampstead with glorious long views over Dartmoor.

Or try the Whitehouse at Chillington, a funky country hotel in the heart of the South Hams. You can pick your spot in the garden or if it’s chilly, by the fire, for homemade scones, cakes and a selection of cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches. Work off the calories by strolling back afterwards to this peaceful detached, 16th century house not far from the centre of the village.