Thursday, 30 May 2013

Our view of the Fal River Festival

Helen, Moray, Caroline and Jess
Our Website Development Manager Caroline Kershaw and several other HH staff were at the opening day of the Fal River Festival - when a beer fleet gathers to take the festival beer down to Events Square in Falmouth, site for many of the events during the week (we are a sponsor of the 10-day festival which closes this Sunday). Here's Caroline's account of the day:

It was a cheerful, if a little daunting, drive down to Falmouth last Friday for the Fal River Festival as our car was much buffeted by the strong wind blowing that afternoon. The net result was a certain nervous anticipation amidst the crew as we headed to join the beer fleet voyaging down the river Fal to deliver the beer for the festival’s opening ceremony.

However, on arrival our fears were allayed and we found the voyage to be fairly smooth after all as the boat kept quite close inshore, ensuring lovely views of all the creeks, inlets and houses along the shoreline.

Once on board we enjoyed a much needed pasty and some free festival ale. All passengers and crew were thoroughly entertained by the antics of Betty Stoggs (Skinners Brewers ‘Mascot’, pictured right) posing for photographs up on the bow of the neighbouring boat which carried the festival beer.

The views were stunning – we really do live in a lovely part of the world. We were joined by a fleet of small boats, and there was plenty of action to watch. People from each boat waved to one another and there was some very rowdy singing from Betty Stoggs's boat! A boat full of drummers passed us and led the way down the river, while we were escorted by tug boats that sprayed water out in big, sweeping arcs. As we approached Falmouth, fog horns welcomed us into the harbour.

We all followed Betty Stoggs, the beer, the drummers and lots of flag bearers through the town in one long procession, passing under flags and bunting as we went. Finally we arrived at festival square where the Festival was officially opened and we enjoyed some more beer and live samba music. An excellent if chilly day but certainly an experience to remember for many years to come.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Pack Your Bucket and Spade – the West Country’s Blue Flag Beaches are Calling

Beaches in the West Country have stood up to new, tougher blue flag award standards with admirable aplomb so which will you visit first?

In total, 23 beaches in the South West have been granted blue flag status and the new Seaside Award replacing the QualityCoast Award has been handed out to 27 West Country beaches.

There are fewer Blue Flag beaches to choose from nationwide this year as each had to meet new "excellent" standards under the new EU Bathing Waters Directive. The 55-beach UK total is down from 79 in 2012.

Ever popular beach Sandbanks, in Poole, Dorset, will no doubt be full to bursting each time the sun shines this year. The golden sandy beach has held a Blue Flag Award for 26 years.

Gyllyngvase beach in Falmouth, Cornwall, boasts an award-winning café and, as with a good selection of West Country beaches, has an RNLI lifeguard on duty.

Blackpool Sands (pictured above) near Dartmouth is a beautiful beach. Check out the fantastic Venus Cafe if you visit.

Dawlish Warren, South Devon, is part of a National Nature Reserve, with its wildlife making it a unique attraction.

Westward Ho! has won a Blue Flag Award for its 10th year in a row.

Winning West Country Blue Flag beaches include: Sandbanks, Shore Road, Canford Cliffs, Branksome in Poole, Blackpool Sands, Alum Chine, Durley Chine, Fisherman’s Walk in Bournemouth, Southbourne, Carbis Bay, Polzeath, Porthtowan, Gyllyngvase, Porthmeor, Sandy Bay, Salcombe South Sands, Swanage Central, Dawlish Warren, Breakwater, Broadsands, Meadfoot, Oddicombe. 

Use our explore the area map to find a holiday cottage close to the West Country beach of your choice, or call us on 01647 433593 for human help!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Start of Something Beautiful – Emerging Artists Win Bursaries

From watercolourist Samuel Prout and Rococo painter Francis Hayman, Devon has a history of producing great artists. Five emerging Devon-based artists (pictured right with our Adrian) have just been awarded for their talent with bursaries from Helpful Holidays, through a scheme with Devon Artists Network.

The bursaries are aimed at those entering professional arts practice for the first time, returning to creative practice after a career break or change, or currently taking their art in a new direction. This year’s winners represent a range of disciplines.

Wanda Gardner, a printmaker from Crediton, had been an art teacher for thirty six years. The bursary will enable her to focus on her return to her art. She said: “I loved teaching and had a long and useful career working, mostly with Deaf children and young adults,” explained Wanda, “However, I feel truly fortunate and excited about receiving the bursary as I see it as a launching pad for a second career that I always yearned for when I trained as an art teacher many years ago.”

Mixed media artist Suzie Waldron, from Totnes, graduated from University College Falmouth in 2012 and has been Artist-in-Residence at Totnes Art and Design Foundation Course. She said: “I was determined that during this year I would push myself out of my comfort zone, and not just treat the residency as an extension of my degree. Though my current paintings are very much informed by my previous work, I feel that I have entered new territory and become more confident in my practice.” Her exhibition for Devon Open Studios 2013 will be the culmination of her year-long residency in Totnes.

Bovey Tracey-based painter Jane Hodgson focuses on landscape. Her travels as well as her time in Devon have shaped her work, concentrating as she does on Antipodes - two points on the globe that if one passes a needle through the middle of the earth, would be linked.

Ama Menec, from Totnes, falls into the ‘new direction’ category of the bursary awards. She has recently begun a new direction in her work by casting her sculpture in bronze and experimenting with new materials after working as a ceramicist.

Mixed media artist Naomi Hart is currently working on a participatory artwork and installation on the theme of 'Migration'. She plans to send out 10,000 bird-shaped postcards all over the world and people will colour them in or write a message and post them back to me, completing their 'migration'. Each postcard will be tracked and participants can view the progress and exhibition online via a dedicated website and social media. The installation will be hung to coincide with Devon Open Studios 2013 and will be free to visit.

Devon Open Studios is the largest annual art event in the county attracting more than 20,000 visits to around 175 artists’ studios each year. The 2013 event takes place 7-22 September 2013.

To find yourself a holiday cottage base ahead of the event, go to

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Calling All Cream Tea Connoisseurs: Devon Scone Off to be Held in May and June

Do you say ‘scon’ or scone’? Jam first or cream first? Sweet or savoury? Whichever your preference, there’s a new question to answer when it comes to the scone: who makes the best in Devon?

Cream teas are part of the county’s culture so it’s great news that a group of businesspeople has invented the Devon Scone Off: a competition to find the best scone maker and raise money for charity at the same time.

Independent coffee shops, cafes, bakeries and tearooms are invited to pay a minimum £5 entry fee to BBC Radio Devon’s Give a Gift Appeal, in conjunction with Devon Community Foundation, for their chance to be named Devon’s best scone maker.

Each entrant must submit four plain scones for tasting and these must be made from scratch on the premises. Regional heats take place throughout May. The Exeter heat is on May 25th at the Guildhall Shopping Centre; North Devon is on May 29th at the Station Masters Cafe in Barnstaple, South Devon and Torbay heat yet to be finalised.

The winner of each heat will then be invited to take part in a final in June, with the winner awarded a trophy donated by the DCF, as well as the prestigious title of Best Devon Scone Maker. It is hoped that there will be a Devon Cream Tea Trail identified at the end of the event, with independent coffee shops, cafes, bakeries and tearooms happy to recommend each other to visitors in a county-wide effort to keep local economies strong.

Devon Community Foundation awards grants to voluntary community groups and charities tackling deprivation. The DCF is BBC Radio Devon’s charity of the year. For details of how to enter, contact the DCF on 01884 235887.

Entrants are already building momentum on Twitter – see the hashtag #sconeoff2013 to follow the conversation.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Exe Cycle Path

After a busy day helping customers book fantastic holidays in the West Country, our Deputy Sales Office Manager James Webb likes to dust off his cycle helmet, oil up his bike and head out for a trip to the coast along the Exe Estuary Cycle Path. Over to James for more:

For those of you who may not know, this is a fairly gentle route, which when completed will link Exmouth, Exeter and Dawlish as part of the “National Cycle Network Route 2”.

On Sunday, with the forecast good, it was time to set off on the first cycle trip of the year. Starting out from Exeter Quayside we headed off down the path on the Southern edge of the River Exe heading toward Dawlish Warren. This is an amazingly pretty route following the canal and you’re treated to some superb views as the canal filters into the Exe Estuary. 

There are several popular places to stop for refreshments along the way, including The Double Locks and Turf Locks, today though there was no time for stopping as a last minute decision left us racing to meet the ferry at Starcross. This ferry operates from Starcross to Exmouth taking about 20 minutes – and they’re happy to carry your bikes as well.

After a speedy crossing, and taking in some more splendid views we then decided to continue along a part of the path we hadn’t followed before and carried on to Budleigh Salterton. There’s a huge pebble beach here with a quiet town in behind. We definitely weren’t motivated to travel the extra distance by there being an excellent ice cream shop in the centre!

All in all, an excellent day was had … the only trouble being the effort required to cycle back after the ice creams! Still, as mentioned earlier, there are a couple of good pubs to help break the journey up…

Thanks James! Let us know if you'd like to hear more in the same vein from the HH team!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

South West Coast Path Anniversary Fundraising Doubles Target

Helpful Holidays has helped give the West Country’s top tourist attraction an amazing 40th birthday present by aiding it in DOUBLING its target of £250,000 to reach £500,000 in fundraising.

The South West Coast Path Association organised 56 sponsored walks along the 630 mile long path to mark its 40th anniversary and fund 50 improvement projects. We sponsored four days of the event. 

Our marketing manager Adrian Innocent said: “We are thrilled the South West Coast Path absolutely shattered its target and managed to raise £500,000. This is a fantastic achievement and one we are proud to have supported.”

Gill, one of our property managers, recently walked the route from Tintagel to Trebarwith Strand - here are her recollections:

Bank Holiday Monday was SUNNY, so put on walking boots, gathered camera, binoculars and various pocket books on flora/fauna and set off along the coastal path with geologist chum, Jane. The moment we got out of the car we could hear sky-larks – fantastic. Carpets of dog-violets and squill peppered the grassy cliffs like little blue gems. 

I just love looking out along the coast and wonder at the toughness of previous generations who hacked a hard living from the now abandoned slate quarries – a massive stack of unwanted inferior slate stands like a sentinel to their industry. The hardest thing we had to do was scramble down into Trebarwith village and enjoy a good coffee!

The South West Coast Path generates over £300 million for the regional economy, taking people on scenic routes along breath-taking coastline. It stretches between Minehead in Somerset and Poole Harbour in Dorset, via Land’s End. 

To find out more, go to The website includes a suggested itinerary to cover the entire path in eight weeks but fear not, it is regularly enjoyed for a short stretch of the legs and to walk off holiday cream teas. It even has a timing reckoner to help you get to the next stage in time for dinner.

To plan your next visit to the West Country and to find a holiday home to help you make the most of your walking boots and the beautiful views on offer, go to

Friday, 3 May 2013

It's Showtime in the West Country

There's no business like Showbusiness, right? Well, we actually meant something slightly different Showbiz to what you may have been imagining!

Rather than acting and performing, show business in the West Country often means cows, sheep, horses and other four-legged competitors, as well as the finest local food and drink. Devon County Show runs from16th to 18th May at Westpoint, just outside Exeter, and in addition to the livestock, spectacles will be provided by the JCB Diggerland Stunt Team and Savage Skills, a harem scarem display by mountain bikers and BMX riders.

Later in the month, the Royal Bath and West Show near Shepton Mallet opens its gates from 29th May to 1st June for three days of competition. Don’t miss the Feast of Bakery with produce and displays by top bakers, the Celebration of Cider, and, of course, the famous National Cheese Awards.

The Royal Cornwall Show is held onthe 6th, 7th & 8th June, and is the county’s biggest annual event. As well as being a top agricultural show which attracts increasing numbers of animals, entered into hundreds of classes, the Show also features displays from the RAF Falcons parachute display team and Gulliver’s Carnival, a brand new show from the Stampede Stunt Company.

Give our knowledgeable telephone team a call on 01647 433593 and they’ll help you find the right base for a West Country Showbiz holiday.