Thursday, 25 August 2011

West Country art appreciation…

Many visitors to the West Country love to visit the countless art galleries in the area – full of the work of artists inspired by rugged landscapes, crashing waves and quaint fishing villages.

Artists have long been infatuated with the West Country. From the 1880s onwards, Newlyn, St Ives and the west Cornwall hinterland were firmly on the map as destinations for artists producing realistically observed marine and landscape paintings. The artists were collectively known as the Newlyn School.

Tate St Ives
It’s no wonder the West Country continues to inspire artists and art lovers. Tate St Ives is perhaps the most famous gallery, a treasure trove of modern and contemporary art, including the work of the St Ives Modernists. You can also visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden.

The Newlyn Gallery re-opened in 2007, alongside major new art space The Exchange, in the heart of Penzance. The gallery is home to a lively collective of over one hundred professional artists who either live in the South West or have strong connections with the area. 

Falmouth Art Gallery
Falmouth Art Gallery has one of the leading art collections in Cornwall and features work by old masters, major Victorian artists, British Impressionists, leading maritime artists and contemporary painters and printmakers.

Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery is notable for the Cottonian Collection, an outstanding art collection comprising oil paintings, Old Master and English drawings and watercolours, sculpture, furniture and ceramics, a library, Reynolds material and a collection of seven thousand or so fine prints.

Torre Abbey in Torquay collects 18th, 19th and 20th century landscape, marine and genre paintings by British artists, concentrating in particular on views of south Devon and its coastal waters, and works by local artists. 

If you’re a collector or looking for a memento, you can buy original paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, pottery and ceramics from one of the many smaller galleries such as the Lemon Street Gallery in Truro, Beside The Wave in Falmouth, the Marine House in Beer, D’Art Gallery in Dartmouth or The Appledore Crafts Company in Appledore.

There are also exhibition centres such as the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey on Dartmoor and the Craft Gallery at Dartington near Totnes where you can see, buy and learn about contemporary craft and design.

The Cot, St Just-in-Penwith
You can even admire original works of art without leaving the confines of your holiday home! The Byre in Roborough, is full of the artist owner’s work (some items for sale) and The Cot in St Just-in-Penwith also has the artist owner’s paintings adorning the walls. Magnificent Parnacott in Holsworthy is decorated with striking family portraits giving clues to its heritage, while Trolver Barn in Feock and Goose Cottage in Dunsford are both homes to some interesting contemporary pieces.

Even better, if you’re feeling inspired by your surroundings, why not grab a sketch pad and some watercolours or pencils and have a dabble yourself?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Countdown to Devon Open Studios 2011…

As part of our sponsorship of Devon Open Studios we’re supporting five impressive artists as part of their Emerging Artist Bursary Scheme. We’ve already profiled Kirstie Benbow, Melanie Beer and Amy McCarthy – here we take a look at Nigel Waters and Francesca Dawson.

Nigel Waters is a painter working within the mediums of painting and photography. Interested in modern British and American culture from 1950 to the present, he describes his sculptural paintings as “a creative response to a setting using partly observed and partly automatic mark making.”

Nigel works with people with disabilities and his work reflects his interest in the tactile nature of art as a multi-dimensional impression rather than the conventional visual format.

“These visual perceptions include light, colour, overlayed forms and peripheral reflections which altogether create a complex multi-layered image.”

The bursary will enable Nigel to put on an exhibition to generate sales and this in turn will fund his next body of work. He would also like to further develop his skills by taking an MA at art college. See Nigel talking about his work and winning the bursary on YouTube.

Nigel’s work can be seen at Exeter Northcott Theatre, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QB.

Francesca Dawson (L) with Helen Hayes from Helpful Holidays
Francesca Dawson graduated with a first class BA (Hons) Fine Art in 2007 and currently manages an art gallery (Gloss) in Exeter and creates her work in her spare time. Her passion is for drawing, and she is currently producing a series of pieces influenced by a selection of the Grimm’s fairytales including The Seven Ravens and The Fox and the Wolf.

She explains: “I have used the traditional characters as inspiration and have adapted them to suit a contemporary audience as I believe their stories have a universal appeal.”

Francesca is also greatly inspired by fashion photography and illustration which is evident in the female characters she portrays. Her work conveys a juxtaposition between beauty and subtle macabre, through visual narratives using various drawing and mixed media.

The critical feedback that she hopes to receive from the visitors to her show will help her develop as an exhibiting artist and the bursary will be a great help towards the cost of hosting her exhibition. See Francesca talking about her work and winning the bursary on YouTube.

Francesca’s work can be seen at The Granary, Oxton, Kenton, Exeter, EX6 8EX.

If you’re in Exeter on 1st September, it’s well worth attending the launch of Devon Open Studios 2011 at Exeter Northcott Theatre. See details below:

Running from 3rd to 18th September, Devon Open Studios is a great opportunity to meet and chat with artists and see the creative process first hand.

A free event guide is available by post or online showing all the artists and venues, colour coded by area, so you can plan a tour of the studios that interest you. And if you need a place to stay, take a look at our holiday cottages in Devon available during the event.

You can also link up with Devon Open Studios on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Dog-friendly holiday cottages for August Bank Holiday…

If you read our last blog post and have since interpreted the signals that yes, your dog does indeed need a holiday, here are four canine-friendly holiday cottages with availability over the August Bank Holiday week:

Wheal Betsy, Mary Tavy
Kent’s Barn in Mary Tavy, Dartmoor, is a bright, comfortable, 'upside down' cottage neatly converted from a stable block. It’s beautifully located on the side of a hill and looks across a peaceful wooded valley to nearby Cholwell Brook. This is a great place to come back to after a day exploring the wilds of Dartmoor or further afield – Pooch can enjoy a well-deserved gnaw on a bone (while you enjoy an evening drink) as you both sit out in the a suntrap cobbled courtyard and admire the views across the valley.

Nellie's, a cottage converted from an old stone barn, is situated a mile from Moreleigh, a tiny village with a pleasant pub in lovely, wooded farming country in the heart of the South Hams. You’re welcome to walk the long countryside trails (fields, woods, streams) over the owners’ 200 acres – you need never take your dog on the same walk twice! The cottage is around 20 minutes from Slapton Sands, a fantastic long beach, allowing dogs throughout the year.
Perranporth Beach
Beech, another barn conversion cottage, is situated in Goonhavern, two miles inland from Perranporth’s fine sandy beach (dogs on the busiest parts of the beach have to be kept on leads between 1000 and 1700 during August). The cottage, which boasts great views across the meadows to the sea, is well suited for dogs, and you can take Pooch off the lead in a dog exercise field (shared with three other cottages). For the rest of the family, there’s a games barn with pool tables, table-top football, table tennis and badminton. A great spot for beach or touring with no passing traffic.

Bosoljack, a former boathouse in the beautiful creek-side hamlet of Port Navas, offers sensational views down the creek and of 'messing about in boats'. The fantastic Trebah Gardens are nearby, with dogs welcome all year round (on a lead at all times). Grab a sandwich and enjoy Trebah’s very own secluded, private beach on the Helford River, with views that stretch out to the open sea. 

Don’t forget, if you can’t get away for a whole week, three and four night short breaks are now available at many of our holiday cottages over the August Bank Holiday week.

Take a look at all our dog friendly holiday cottages available during August Bank holiday week – and don’t forget to ask Pooch for his opinion!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Is your dog telling you he needs a holiday?

Lots of our customers are dog lovers and enjoy bringing their pet to the many dog-friendly holiday cottages we have throughout Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.

We’re dog lovers too and enjoyed listening to this Guardian Science Weekly podcast investigating the relationship between humans and dogs. The podcast interviews John Bradshaw, a fellow at the University of Bristol specialising in anthrozoology: the science of human-animal interactions. He’s also one of the world's leading experts on dog psychology and the author of In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding. Perhaps you could download it and listen to it on your iPod whilst giving pooch a walk? The website Paws for a Walk has some useful guidelines to follow when taking your dog out trekking. For instance, check if dogs are allowed where you plan to walk, and carry water for both you and your pet.

Photos courtesy of
Our stunning West Country beaches are great places for your dog to cavort on the sand and play in the surf and this website has a useful map of beaches that welcome dogs in Cornwall. You can also find dog-friendly beaches in Devon, Dorset and Somerset.

Further inland, you’ll find perfect dog walking country - spectacular moors (Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin), wooded river valleys and beautiful rolling farmland.

At the end of any good walk you’ll both need some sustenance. As an example, The Loft at St Ives has a dog friendly owner, always happy to supply a bowl of water and a stroke of the ears! For more ideas, you’ll find a guide on the Doggie Pubs website which lists 132 dog-friendly pubs in Cornwall, 181 in Devon, 115 in Dorset and 102 in Somerset. Spoiled for choice!

Of course you’re not limited to the great outdoors – many family attractions, gardens and stately homes welcome well behaved dogs and their owners too. English Heritage has a guide to which of its properties are suitable. Dogs on leads are usually welcome but restrictions may apply to certain areas. The website Dog People has a list of some other attractions suitable for dogs.

So – give your dog a break! Why not browse our selection of dog-friendly holiday cottages? Pooch will love you for it!

Friday, 12 August 2011

What do you like to discover on holiday?

Whether you’re holidaying on the moor, by the sea or in river country, there’s so much history and nature to discover on your doorstep in Devon.

If you stay at The Hayloft in Lower Cator, a hamlet in a hill-farmed valley in the heart of southern Dartmoor, you’ll find miles of lovely moorland and riverside walks amidst spectacular scenery. One of the holidaymakers who stayed here described the “riot of colour and wildlife” and there’s a wealth of archaeological sites to visit too.

It can be great fun to plot your walking route to call in at country pubs – try The Rugglestone Inn in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, a popular, ‘real Dartmoor’ village world-famous for its fair. The Hayloft is an excellent, upside down cottage (one of two converted from a big barn) in a truly beautiful location; a peaceful retreat after busy days out.

In the heart of Axminster, you’ll find lovely Coombe House, big, semi-detached and Grade II listed, originally built for the local abbot in the 16th century. There’s history all around you here. Axminster is a bustling little town with 300BC Celtic origins and nearby is the imposing Jurassic Coast – miles of stunning coastline and ancient geology recording 185 million years of the Earth's evolution.

After hunting for fossils and exploring rockpools, relax in the property’s big enclosed, walled garden shaded by a lovely mature beech tree – and you’re welcome to roam the friendly owner’s garden and help yourself to seasonal fruit and veg.

In the heart of the historic fishing village of Appledore, quirky Peelers Cottage has 1732 origins and once served the village as a police station and gaol. The picturesque village is well placed at the mouth of the Taw and Torridge estuary.

Make a hearty packed lunch and head off on your bikes to explore the famous Tarka Trail (you can hire cycles in Bideford, just 2 miles away) – you’ll find an abundance of wildlife. A good route is Bideford to Torrington which takes you up the Torridge Estuary on the old railway bed. Or how about a boat trip from Bideford to breathtaking Lundy Island to see its rich and diverse flora and fauna?

For more holiday ideas, browse through the rest of our holiday cottages in Devon.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Meet the artists during Devon Open Studios…

Painting by Melanie Beer
Any art lovers amongst you will recall our post back in June on our sponsorship of Devon Open Studios again this year. In this post, we’re delighted to introduce two more of the five impressive artists we’re supporting as part of their Emerging Artist Bursary Scheme.

Kirstie Benbow is a recently self-employed artist who is a part-time Fine Art student at Plymouth College of Art. Since starting the course, her inspiration has changed from design-led, designer/maker crafts, to emotionally-fed conceptual art. Her range is wide – there are few visual art forms not now represented in her work: wire and shredded paper forms, sculpted female figures, horses, humorous three-dimensional birds….

Kirstie says “It has been a fascinating process, to move from printmaking and textiles to painting, a new discipline for me, focusing on the use of colour (mainly oils) in abstract garden themes. I hope to take painting forward into my professional practice, backed up by my history of printmaking, textiles and sculpture.”

Printmaking remains Kirstie’s ‘lead’ discipline. Again, she is inspired by gardens and hedgerows, using recycled materials, dried plant stems and seed heads, dead insects and other finds from her garden. The delicate monotype images she creates are strongly evocative of seasons and emotions past.

You can see Kirstie’s work at Heathfield Farm, Heathfield Road, Denbury, Newton Abbot TQ12 6ES.

Melanie Beer paints with acrylics using loose brush strokes to capture her local land and seascape in a painterly, impressionistic style. She has also recently begun to work with fused glass to create the movement, colour and flow of the ocean and has several commissions.
Melanie says “The challenge for me is to capture nature’s tranquillity with light colour and texture. This bursary from Devon Open Studios has given me a great opportunity to reach a wider audience and get my career off to a head start.”

You can see Melanie’s work at Sunnybank, Cudhill Road, Brixham, TQ5 9JQ.

Running from 3rd to 18th September, Devon Open Studios is a great opportunity to meet and chat with artists and see the creative process first hand.

A free event guide is available by post or online showing all the artists and venues, colour coded by area, so you can plan a tour of the studios that interest you. And if you need a place to stay, take a look at our holiday cottages in Devon available during the event.

You can also link up with Devon Open Studios on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Get ready for an eventful August…

If you like your August holidays jam-packed, you're in for a treat in the West Country this year. Here are some of our favourite events, with some suggestions for places to stay nearby...

You'll find Red Arrows and pasties - and lots more - at the Fowey Royal Regatta which runs from 14th to 20th August. Fowey week includes some really competitive racing, the Carnival, a pasty eating competition (when you can meet the Red Arrows team), a fireworks display and gig racing too! The Red Arrows display will take place on 18th August at 6:30pm. Stay at: Penpol.

If you're in the Dartmoor area, why not pop along and see us - yes, us! – at the Chagford Show on 18th August. You’ll find our stand beside the main ring so do drop by at Pimms O'Clock as you wander round this varied collection of traditional country activities, all in stark contrast to the freestyle mountain bike stunt team performing in the display ring! Stay at: Rookwood Cottage.

For those of you who find it really hard to wait until 5th November each year, the British Fireworks Championships runs from 16th to 17th August in Plymouth. This most anticipated event will see thousands of spectators heading up to the Hoe for two evenings of entertainment culminating in spectacular fireworks displays from six companies seeking the coveted title of British Firework Champions. Stay at Apartment 19.

Music lovers will love the Bude Jazz Festival, well known for its sense of joy and fun! It opens on 27th August and proceeds to enjoy itself immensely all week, including many a late night jamming session. Bring your trumpet and join in! Stay at: Highdown Cottage.

Top chefs cooking in a Fish Market, a big-fish filleting challenge, displays of locally caught fish and seafood, live music and lots of other entertainment on land and water - this is the Newlyn Fish Festival from 28th to 29th August. Dont miss the hilarious raft race, which raises funds for the town’s Christmas lights. Stay at: Bethany.

The Great Dorset Steam Fair, from 31st August to 4th September at Tarrant Hinton near Blandford Forum, has grown from humble origins to covering an enormous showground. It’s a great opportunity to see how people lived, worked and played in bygone years, with steam tractors, horse drawn ploughs, vintage cars and motor bikes. Stay at Poppy Cottage.

And finally, let off some hot air at the Westcountry Balloon Fiesta from 3rd to 4th September. Keep your fingers crossed for some good weather as up to 30 balloons are expected to fly across the Tamar from Tavistock, with all proceeds going to local and regional charities. Stay at Hayloft.

It’s not too late to book a holiday this August and enjoy some of these fabulous events. Take a look at the cottages still available this month in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.

You can check our ‘Explore the Area’ map on each property details page for more event ideas near your cottage too.

Have lots of fun, whatever you do!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

August Bank Holiday breaks…

Are you planning an August Bank Holiday break with the family this year?

Equally situated between Falmouth and Truro in the heart of the pretty village of Perranwell, Ancarva, an unspoilt, cosy little semi-detached cottage, is a great base for a family of four. There's plenty to do, with the coast-to-coast cycle path, sailing and good golf nearby, as well as sandy beaches within 5 miles. The kids will love taking the King Harry Ferry to the Roseland Peninsula, just three miles away. And at the end of a busy day, with its own ‘secret’ garden by a stream, the cottage is a perfect retreat for a relaxing evening drink. Sleeps 4.

Glenbar, a cosy, 'upside down' cottage in Lympstone, overlooks the Exe estuary with wonderful views to Powderham Castle and Starcross. The area is a spotters paradise for sailing boats and windsurfers, plus nature lovers old and new are bound to appreciate an enviable range of wildlife. It's also convenient for those who want to leave the car at home, as there's lots of good walking nearby – take the pretty and gentle South West Coast Path down to Exmouth where a long sandy beach awaits. Sleeps 4.

If you have a large family, or are keen to partake in the current trend of 'gramping', you'll be on the lookout for a more sizeable holiday home. In the pretty hamlet of Molland, on the southern edge of Exmoor, The Manor House is a big detached Victorian property facing out over its extensive gardens and surrounding farmland. You can enjoy country living during your summer holidays at this comfortable home with private fishing. There's room for the whole brood at the dining table or you can wander along to the local pub, only 400 yards away. With easy access to lovely walks and the open moor, there’s plenty to explore on your doorstep. Sleeps 18.

If you can’t get away for a whole week, you’ll be glad to hear that three and four night short breaks are now available at many of our holiday cottages over the August Bank Holiday weekend.