Friday, 28 October 2011

Olympic sailing in Weymouth…

The beautiful but testing waters of Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour will play host to 10 exhilarating sailing events during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Team GB sailors
Weymouth and Portland provide some of the best natural sailing waters in the UK, so the 14 days of competition from Sunday 29th July to Saturday 11th August should offer plenty of excitement and drama. Three-times Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie will attempt to defend his title, and 10 other sailors from Team GB will be aiming for medals too. We have good form here - Team GB has topped the sailing medals table at the last three Olympic Games…

There are 10 different Olympic sailing events (six for men, four for women) featuring a variety of craft, from dinghies to windsurfing boards. Each event consists of a series of races and points in each race are awarded according to position: the higher the position, the lower the points. The final race is called the medal race (double points at stake here!) after which, the individual or crew with the fewest total points will be declared the winner.

Watch this video to see a profile of Ben Ainslie:

If you’re tempted to head to Weymouth to watch, a ticketed onshore area from which spectators can view the competition is under consideration by the organisers. This area would have the added benefit of a video screen to keep spectators updated on the action.

Fiddlesticks Cottage
We’ve currently eight superb holiday cottages in Dorset, all under an hour’s drive from Weymouth, with availability during the games. For example, how about Fiddlesticks Cottage, a pretty 19th century stone cottage in the thriving town of Beaminster, or Natterjacks, a charming cottage in an idyllic country setting, just a short distance from the coast?  

Feeling inspired to set sail yourself? There are plenty of opportunities to learn or improve your skills at the many sailing clubs and schools along the Dorset coast throughout the year.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Gorgs’ golden ambition…

Moray & Gorgs outside our offices in Chagford
As readers of this blog will know, Helpful Holidays sponsors Georgina (Gorgs) Geikie, British number one ladies pistol shooter. We have sponsored Gorgs for the past three years, and are continuing to help in her bid for Olympic gold next year.

Gorgs has a great chance – she was selected for the recent European Cartridge Championships held in Belgrade, where she achieved third place.

With only 10 months left before London 2012, Gorgs is now pushing her training schedule harder than ever. But last week she managed to take some time out to visit us here at Helpful Holidays to collect a sponsorship cheque from our General Manager Moray Bowater and to meet the team.

As Moray says, as soon as we heard Gorgs was going for Olympic gold, we were right behind her. She’s a great example of someone who is putting everything into reaching her goal and we’re delighted to support her.

A message from Gorgs: “I'm over the moon that Helpful Holidays has agreed to continue supporting me towards the London Olympics! I have a training and competition plan in place for this new 2011-12 season and Helpful Holidays’ sponsorship will make my first international competition this season, in Luxembourg, possible.”

We’d all like to wish Gorgs the very best of luck in her training, and hope to be able to write a future blog post celebrating her gold medal!

You can follow Gorgs on her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Adopt a turtle with MCS...

Looking for a great Christmas gift idea for someone special?

Young green turtle, taken by Dr. Peter Richardson, MCS
The MCS Adopt a Turtle scheme enables you to celebrate Christmas whilst supporting one of the oldest species in the world.

You can choose from seven species including Leatherback, Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles, for just £3 per month. The scheme includes:

  • An adorable fluffy version of your chosen turtle
  • Talk Turtle - the MCS newsletter on its turtle conservation work - delivered twice a year
  • A fact sheet and pictures of your chosen turtle species in the wild
  • A personalised Certificate of Adoption

The HH team adopted its own turtle - we called him Bod - earlier this year.

Alternatively, you could give someone an MCS Membership - with great opportunities to get involved in rewarding activities, plus updates about the charity's conservation work, programmes and campaigns.

You can follow MCS on Facebook and Twitter too.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Nature watch on West Country winter breaks…

Take a break in the West Country over the next few months and you could be taking part in your very own nature watch.

Birdwatchers visiting the Exmouth area are in for an extra special treat - every winter, over 40,000 birds, including hundreds of avocets, black-tailed godwits, Brent geese and red-breasted mergansers, flock to the Exe Estuary from as far afield as Siberia and Greenland. The RSPB offer a number of Avocet Cruises from November through to February, so see if you can spot the distinctive black-and-white plumage, and the slender, curved bills of the many avocets that frequent the area. Preen your feathers at Beach Cottage.

Twitchers visiting Dorset can see birds on the move as swallows and house martins continue to pass through on their way south, and flocks of meadow pipits and skylarks follow suit. Linnets, greenfinches and goldfinches are gathering into larger flocks and the goldfinches in particular are showing up on the birdfeeders. You can get lots more useful birdwatching information from the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Migrate your flock to The Old Manor House.

If you’re quick, you’ll be in with a chance of catching deer rutting season, when male deer stags and bucks full of testosterone show off their strength in a bid to attract the females of the herd. A great place to see this is Powderham Castle, with its own herd of around 600 fallow deer and a Deer Rut Safari & Cream Tea on Thursday 27th October. Rest your antlers at The Manor House.

If watching isn’t enough, you can get actively involved to help protect wildlife by helping out with one of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s initiatives. The Chyenhal moor work party, Penwith, aims to clear willow scrub on this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on 5th November. Take a deserved rest at Mural Cottage.

Browse through our holiday cottages with availability this winter and use our ‘Explore the Area’ map to find places to visit near your favourite holiday cottage.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Winter breaks in the West Country…

Jack Frost’s arrival heralds a period of peace and tranquillity on the moors and coastal paths of the West Country: the perfect time to enjoy a restful break at a cottage in a pretty village, off the beaten track or by the sea.

Wander through crisp woods or along a beach. Spend a lazy afternoon with the papers beside a blazing fire at a country pub or in the comfort of your cottage. Relax and revitalize before or after the Christmas revelry.

Our portfolio remains marvellously varied and widely spread throughout Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.

2, 3 or 4 night short breaks are available at many of our cottages from November through to the week before Easter, excluding school holidays. Don’t forget, you can relax and enjoy a late check-out for 2-night weekend breaks (Friday and Saturday nights) and stay at most properties until 6pm on Sunday.

Whether you’re looking for a cottage for a romantic retreat, a bolt hole for some bracing walking or a big house for a celebration with friends and family, our telephone team can personally recommend hundreds of warm, comfy, reliable properties.

To help you make a good choice, take advantage of our expertise and call us on 01647 433593.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Expect fireworks in the West Country!

Did you know that the World Record for the most firework rockets launched in 30 seconds is an astounding 125,801, in the Philippines, on 8th May 2010?

We don’t expect that record to be broken in the West Country this year (thank goodness!) but you can be sure that there are lots of fabulous events going on throughout the region to mark 5th November. Here are some of the more iconic displays…

Great balls? No, it’s barrels of fire… The famous flaming tar barrels are being warmed in readiness for another night of wild mayhem in the streets and pubs of Ottery St Mary. The tradition of tar barrel rolling is hundreds of years old, but somewhere along the line someone decided rolling was tame and carrying them on your shoulders more fun, and unique to this festival. Roll back to G41.

Young and old from the community in and around the village of Sticklepath, near Okehampton, get together every autumn to create a magnificent, artistic fire show unlike any other. Music is planned, costumes are designed and made and an amazing outdoor stage is lovingly built, only to be burnt on the night after a fabulous fireworks display following the play. This year Sticklepath presents ‘A Frightful Fantasy’. Keep your powder dry at A112.

Take a look at this video on the Bridgwater Carnival – a mesmerising display of colour, sound, movement and overall entertainment. Continue your celebrations at E15.

Visitors to the Porth Beach Bonfire Night in Newquay have the pleasure of watching the fireworks launch from the beach and then light up the cliffs and the sea behind them - a fantastic sight. Enjoy the starlit sky from Q3.

Wherever you are for Bonfire Night this year, have a safe and sparkling evening!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Have a Helpful Halloween...

What will you be doing this Halloween? Will you be trick-or-treating, attending fancy dress parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories or watching horror films?

If you’re looking for something slightly different, the West Country never disappoints – for instance, why not dress up in a Halloween outfit and ride the Frights Ghost Train at Pecorama in Beer? You could meet Dan the Hat and Ben the Juggler and win a free spooky treat! Over half-term you’ll also encounter ghost trains and tombstones, cobwebs and bats and witches on broomsticks in tall pointy hats! Park your broomstick at G36.

There’s plenty of Halloween fun to be had at The Big Sheep - during half-term week there’s masses of traditional Halloween fun to keep the kids amused during the day and ‘Scary by Night’ parties in the evenings. For those of you feeling especially brave, on 22nd October try a sponsored walk with a difference – across a 20-foot bed of fire! It’s all for a good cause - the Caroline Thorpe children’s ward at the North Devon District Hospital. There’s a foot-bowl of ice cubes waiting at K14.

Devon's Crealy will be putting on lots of spooky autumn fun with pumpkin carving, exciting games, thrilling rides, fancy dress competitions, live entertainment and a new haunted ghost train appearing especially for October half-term. Jump on board and get into the spirit! Ride the ghost train back to G31.

If you're a fan of the Eden Project, you'll want to celebrate Halloweden this October half-term, with attractions such as the beautifully-decorated Wishcraft Tent where you'll find lots of magical things to make and do, including pumpkin carving demonstrations, wand-making and potion mixing. Or, there's the Little Monsters' Ball Halloween disco, where you can get your fancy dress on and bring the whole family for an evening of 'fang-tastic' fun, with spooky activities and a bone-shaking disco. Kick off your dancing shoes at S8.

And finally, Somerset’s Dunster Castle has a series of events including a spooky pumpkin trail, ghostly story telling and ghost tours of the Castle’s attic and basement. Brush off the cobwebs at F59.

Check our special offers page for last minute deals on places to stay or give us a call on 01647 433593.

Friday, 7 October 2011

What’s on your Christmas and New Year checklist?

Are you one of those people who likes to rigorously plan their Christmas & New Year? Do you have a long to-do list of present-buying, food-shopping and card-writing? Sometimes it can seem too much like hard work!

For a truly magical Christmas and New Year, why not get away to a cottage in the wonderful West Country? Whether you’re looking to escape or entertain, you can be sure of making it memorable with a change of scene.

If you’re the type who likes to escape, we’ll help you find hideaways. Once there, grab scarves and hats for a blustery moorland walk and a pint at a fire-warmed pub. Try this for a more enjoyable checklist: stroll coast-path; ice-skate at Eden; grab your wetsuit and brave the Christmas Day surf, or just toast your toes beside the fire, put on the TV and relax.

We have lots of properties ideal for entertainers too - If you’re a crowd, book with us to enjoy some additional elbow room. Here your checklist is slightly different but just as much fun: set the table, cook the goose, fluff the potatoes, mash the swede (plenty of black pepper and butter) and light the candles.

So if either of those checklists sound appealing, do browse our cottages with availability at Christmas and New Year.

Our big houses are popular for family gatherings and get booked up fast so it’s also worth taking a look at our holiday homes sleeping 12 or more available for Christmas and New Year.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Fal River Autumn Walking Festival

We are proud to be one of the sponsors of the Fal River Autumn Walking Festival, which kicks off on Friday 21st October and runs (or perhaps we should say ‘walks’!) until Sunday 6th November.

St Mawes
Encompassing the very best of the Fal River, the wide range of walks takes in various historical points of interest as they meander along coast paths and pass through areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites.

The walks are either guided or self-guided and pass through some of the most stunning scenery Cornwall has to offer, taking in areas from Falmouth to Truro, the Roseland to the Helford Passage. They are graded for all the family (and the dog!) in order to suit all abilities.

We’re sponsoring a self-guided walk – St Mawes, round the headland, which is approx 3-½ miles and should take about two hours at a gentle pace.

This video gives a great overview of what to expect from the Festival:

Details of the festival and all the walks are included in the festival programme (you can look at an interactive copy on their website). You can also find the Festival on Facebook and Twitter.