Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Spice up your life at Powderham Food Festival

Our Helen (right) with some of the Powderham crew
If your holidays are generally planned around satisfying your tastebuds, we recommend you take a trip to 600-year-old Powderham Castle on Saturday 5th October.

There, beside the castle and overlooking the Exe Estuary, you'll find Powderham Food Festival - complete with stalls, food demonstrations and tastings by artisan makers, small producers, growers, local community groups, wineries and more.

We sponsor the festival, and can heartily recommend it as a great day out for all the family. 

This year sees an appearance by ‘The Incredible Spice Men’ recently seen in their own six-part BBC2 series. They'll be joined by television gardening broadcaster, Toby Buckland, who will be giving a talk on 'How to grow your garden and eat it'.

You can also enjoy other cooking demonstrations and talks with experts in their field from smoking, potting, preserving in every way - charcutiers, cheesemakers, growers, game merchants, fish smokers, jam and chutney makers.  

There'll be over 100 food stalls, a 'Preserves Competition', children's gardening activities, apple pressings, workshops with the castle's 'Victorian Cook' and live music to keep you entertained.

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Our quarterly catch up with Gorgs Geikie

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 four years, and are continuing to help in her bid for Commonwealth gold next year.

In amongst all that training and competing, Gorgs is busy building her own business. We spoke to Gorgs to find out more…

Since the Olympics I’ve enjoyed a bit of downtime, so have taken the opportunity to rejig a few things so I can focus on fundraising and earning some money to support me through my ongoing training. I set up my own business offering support and mentoring to schools and young people, to help them achieve more and reach their potential.

I give talks and presentations focusing on the psychology behind peak performance and how to handle pressure – a lot of schoolchildren are under pressure to achieve high grades and exam results, so it’s really relevant.

I also talk to them about achieving a good life balance, how to goal-set, how to solve a problem. I do my best to show what has helped me over the years and pass on what I have learned.

I’ve had a really positive reaction to my talks, and the kids have seemed to enjoy hearing my stories of hard work and achievement.  Teachers have commented that my talks have given added meaning to their lesson content, as I’m a real-life example.

I enjoy speaking to young people, and I find the work of teachers especially inspiring, so it’s something I’m really pleased to be doing. Growing up I was always inspired by my teachers, so I have an appreciation for the pressure children are under, and understand where they are at and where they want to be.

I'm very grateful to all at Helpful Holidays for your continued support as I follow my dream to compete at the highest level. I look forward to speaking with you again soon!

To find out more about Gorgs’ company G4G Pursuits Ltd, visit Gorgs’ website or follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Our 2014 brochure is winging its way to thousands of letterboxes across the country as we speak.

You'll find it packed full of carefully inspected holiday homes for enjoyable holidays or short breaks in the West Country.

Cottage availability for 2014 is live on our website now, so you can already look and book online.

With over 570 wonderful places to choose from throughout the West Country, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect spot: a family holiday near a fine sandy beach; a relaxing break exploring stunning coastal scenery or rugged moorland; an indulgent stay in a luxurious 5 star house; a grand gathering in a large farmhouse or historic country house; or perhaps just a quick retreat to blow away the cobwebs. And don’t forget, dogs can come too, with many of our holiday homes making your ‘best friend’ more than welcome.

We're delighted to bring you more new holiday homes, all, we believe, great places for happy holidays. Here are a few to whet your appetite. 

The Tallet House (A201), a gorgeous, detached, Grade II listed, thatched cottage for four in Lustleigh, is a truly magical place in a beautiful part of the moor. Standing right on the beach in Shaldon, with terrific panoramic views across the water to Teignmouth, is The Dolphins (B26), a fabulous, toes-in-the-water house accommodating six. Right on the sea front in Combe Martin you'll find Rock House (F70), a recently refurbished, Victorian house sleeping eight with big bay windows from which to enjoy the terrific sea views.

Two hundred yards up from the huge sandy beach at Bigbury-on-Sea is Curlew (L188 - pictured above), a brand new, contemporary coastal home sleeping eight with sensational panoramic views over the bay to Burgh Island and the coastline beyond. Also in Bigbury-on-Sea, opposite the beach and perched high up from the coastal road with the same spectacular views, is Southway (L190), an imposing detached house comfortably accommodating 12 people in five-star luxury. Alston Hall (L194), a little further west along the coast near Battisborough Cross, is a big, detached country residence, perfect for large family gatherings with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, croquet lawn and children's play area.

In Port Isaac, with 'to-die-for' views out to sea and along the coastline, is Castle View (P72), a recently refurbished and thoroughly impressive detached house for eight; and, unusual for this pretty fishing village, it has plenty of private parking. The indoor swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, pool table, tennis courts, 30 acres of landscaped gardens and the other facilities of the Maenporth Estate are yours to enjoy at 8 The Ridges (S56), a split-level apartment for four with great beach views. It's a veritable haven of peace and tranquillity at The Birch Studio (Z49), a detached little cottage for three 200 yards from the cove in Lamorna, once the studio of 'Lamorna' Birch, a prolific artist who featured the cove in many of his paintings.

All our holiday cottages come with our wholehearted recommendation as great places to stay; we’ve star rated and inspected them all. If you’d like more information about any of them, please call 01647 433593 and chat with a member of our team who has visited; they’ll be delighted to help you with the finer details and find just the right place for a memorable West Country holiday.

Wherever you decide to go over the coming year, we hope you have a wonderful time.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Q&A with Devon Air Ambulance Trust

The Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) is our main charity for 2013, and we've been raising funds to help keep its two helicopters flying and support the critical work of its dedicated team.

We spoke to HelĂ©na HoltChief Executive of the Trust to see how this year has gone for them so far...

What have been the main highlights of the past year? Give us a brief run-down of how many call-outs, rescues and training missions you undertook.
Over the last year we have flown in the region of a thousand missions.  Around 50% of these are medical and 50% trauma, which covers everything from road traffic collisions to falls, burns, industrial accidents and sporting injuries.

HH has raised over £13,000 to date this year - how will this money be spent?
With the changeover of operator for the North Devon airbase from Bond Air Services to the police, we have had to invest in some new tools, equipment and bespoke panel holding racks for planned maintenance and engineering on site.  This sum of money will go a long way to meeting all of these one off costs.

We hear you’ve recently (31st July) taken delivery of a new helicopter which started full operational flying on 1st September – what impact has this made to date and you expect to see over the coming months? 
The new aircraft has just gone into service so it is too soon to say what impact it has had.  However, what we expect is to at least double the savings on operational costs we have seen from owning our first aircraft, in the region of £14,000 per month.  With economies of scale from owning the second, we should be able to realise even more savings, which we have earmarked for funding extended clinical skills training for the crew and future night operations.  These plans will increase our availability significantly, particularly during the winter months when the nights draw in but people are still of course liable to accidents and illness.

Operationally, although both of our EC135 helicopters look the same, the new GDAAN does in fact have several enhanced customised features.  In our strategic plan, we aim to be flying into the night in 2016/17.  The new helicopter is compatible with this.  The aircraft interior has been painted with special non reflecting paint and all instruments and lights produce light at a waveform that will not interfere with the use of night vision goggles (NVG) – meaning it can operate more safely at night.

There are also illuminated steps, which enable the crew to exit and eneter the aircraft safely when operating in the dark, as well as on the ground cabin lighting.  Traditionally helicopters generate electrical power when the engines are running.  On the ground lighting runs by rechargeable batteries meaning the paramedic cs will have sufficient light to treat patients at night even when the aircraft engines aren’t running.

The electrical system on the Air Ambulance has also been enhanced so that it has the ability to not only power the medical equipment we carry, but by introducing 230v AC sockets we can also power hospital equipment when undertaking transfers of seriously ill patients to another  hospital.  We have also design ed the system to charge our Mobimed patient monitor when the aircraft is on the ground.

We hear that before the new helicopter went operational, it embarked on a tour across the county giving the public the chance to meet the pilots, paramedics and hear about the plans for the future. How successful was the tour?
The tour was a huge success.  It was so important to us to be able to say thank you to the whole community who have helped to make the purchase possible and

You’re celebrating your 21st birthday this year, what celebrations do you have planned? (21st birthday events at Darts Farm on 7/8th September)
We are all really excited about the birthday weekender at Darts Farm on 7th and 8th September.  This year we have a family fun day from 10am to 4pm, which will include emergency services demonstrations, lots of fantastic local food and drink, activities for children, #devonhour #tweetup from 1pm to 3pm and live blacksmith demonstrations, plus our aircraft will be dropping in between missions.  In addition, there are three ticketed events this year:  BBC Radio Devon’s John Govier will be broadcasting live from our marquee from 10am to 1pm; The Cannon Ball is from 7.30pm on the Saturday night and Show of Hands have a family concert at 5.30pm on Sunday. 

What other key events do you have organised for the rest of the year?  How can our readers and members of the public support the work of the DAAT?
After an exceptionally busy summer, there is no let up this autumn.  We are looking forward to the Agatha Christie Sea Swim on Sunday 15th September, a one mile swim in the sheltered waters of Torbay off Broadsands.  After this, we have our Annual Golf Day at Bovey Castle.  This is a fantastic course, with excellent hospitality, and the event is a great opportunity to cement business relationships for companies putting in teams or sponsoring one of the holes.  Then National Air Ambulance Week is from 23rd to 29th, when we are encouraging local businesses, associations, schools and individuals to Be A Hero for a day to raise money and awareness.  In October we will be very busy with the Commando Challenge.  Details of all these events, and how to take part can be found on our website at

Of course people can always support us through membership of our lottery, volunteering in, donating to and shopping in our charity shops, through regular giving or leaving a gift in their will at

What key plans and expectations do you have for 2014?
We are very excited about working with local communities across Devon to identify and support development of local community helipads, to facilitate our objective of introducing night operations.  This will make a huge difference to the number of patients we will be able to assist in future.  In addition, we are working with the local ambulance service to provide extended clinical skills training for the aircrew.  To support the additional cost, as well as utilising savings realised by owning our own aircraft, we will be expanding our network of shops, particularly looking to find outlets in the North, West and Mid Devon where we are less well represented.

If you’d like to make a donation, visit at any time or you can also make a contribution when you book a holiday through Helpful Holidays.