Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas from Gorgs Geikie

It's been a hectic close to the year! December started on a high as the final of Shooting4England climaxed on Sunday 1st. This, a competition I've been organising throughout the year across the South West, inspiring young people into the sport of shooting after London 2012.

Those who qualified from Dorset, Somerset, Cornwall and Devon were invited back to the central location of Okehampton Smallbore Rifle Club. It was great to see both young ladies and gentleman from a Pony Club background handling their competition nerves to steal the show! Just the root to shooting success that I took!

The competition was originally open to all and involved me going into schools in each of the areas, delivering an assembly and inspiring young people to come and have a go at a sport they perhaps had never tried before. It took place in Dorset, South Devon and North Devon and concluded at Okehampton for the last qualification day and then Regional Final on Sunday 1st December. It was therefore open to all, but as the year evolved, it was evident that a great majority of young people interested in the shooting competition were from pony club backgrounds. In 2014 I see the competition developing if there is still an interested audience.

December also took me to my first international competition of the 2013/14 season, in Luxembourg, with three match opportunities and therefore three opportunities to expose myself to international match pressure. Then home for Christmas and to see the new year in with friends and family.

When it comes to my own competition preparations in 2014, I'm attempting to qualify for the English Team at the Commonwealth Game in July. In the spring I plan to compete in Germany predominantly, at minor Internationals. There I hope to not only gain invaluable match pressure practice, but also to gain the necessary scores for English and GBR selection. Next year I hope to continue in sports development, through shooting and Modern Pentathlon, as well as the Support and mentoring Programme in Schools.

Many thanks to everyone at Helpful Holidays - staff and customers - for continuing to follow my progress. Merry Christmas and a happy, successful new year.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Everyone loves the sea – it is invigorating, refreshing and beautiful, and we want to keep it that way! Helpful Holidays has chosen to help protect the UK coastline by supporting the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) throughout 2014. We recently caught up with our friends at MCS to learn more about their plans for 2014 and any key achievements since we supported them in 2011.

MCS is the UK charity that cares for our seas, shores and wildlife. By raising awareness and funds, MCS is able to help tackle important issues like marine protection, sustainable fisheries and ensuring our beaches and seawater become cleaner.

In the last year, Helpful Holidays’ support has helped The Marine Conservation Society to get 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) designated - a major milestone in the journey to help our depleted seas recover. If you’ve watched the TV series Fish Fight, you’ll have seen the TV presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the MCS march on parliament to help make this happen!

They also managed (finally!) to persuade the UK government to introduce a plastic bag levy in England, (following introductions in Wales, N. Ireland and Scotland), which will be coming in to force in future years.

And they involved well over 10,000 people in beach cleans and surveys around the coast, at two events in Spring and Autumn. It's always great to get more along – if you would like to join in, do get in touch!

Looking ahead, there is still so much more to do, and 2014 is going to be a big year. MCS will be fighting for a full network of MCZs, to add to the 27 this year, and will not stop until this is achieved.

They will be looking to make sure that the seafood we buy in supermarkets, restaurants and shops is carefully chosen for sustainability reasons. This year, they’re trying especially hard to protect deep sea fish stocks and habitats, making sure that our most vulnerable deep water stocks are protected from over-fishing.

MCS will continue to tackle marine litter from source to sea – working with manufacturers, fishing companies and government to reduce the supply of marine litter as well as inspiring thousands of volunteers to help clear unsightly litter from UK’s beaches.

So, while you’re on holiday, please enjoy spending time building sandcastles, exploring rockpools and spotting amazing wildlife. We hope you’ll help support MCS to help them keep things clean and beautiful. Your support makes a real difference, specifically:

  • £5 helps survey turtles in UK waters, most of which are critically endangered due to human activities
  • £10 could mean 10 more people choosing fish from sustainable sources
  • £30 could help clear a local beach of dangerous fishing litter
  • £100 could mean another fisherman using wildlife friendly fishing gear

If you’d like to donate, please include a sum of your choice with your booking or visit where you can donate online.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

It’s Panto season. Oh NO it isn’t! Oh YES it is!

Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, pantomimes are guaranteed to rouse the emotions and  warm the cockles of your heart. Panto season is about to get into full swing with a host of old traditional favourites and contemporary adaptations on offer across the West Country. So don’t be a humbug, gather your children and/or grandchildren and head off to your local theatre and let your hair down and join in all that boisterous fun. Here’s a taster of what’s on offer over the coming weeks.

If you’re holidaying in Dorset, jump on your magic carpet and head for Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre for Aladdin. Scott Maslen, better known as Jack Branning in Eastenders, is stepping out of the square and onto the Pavilion stage as the evil but sexy Abanazar.

There’s a host of TV, film and stage stars, including Nigel Havers, appearing in the Theatre Royal, Plymouth’s stunning production of Robin Hood (above). Get ready for a sheriff-busting, arrow-shooting, tights-wearing extravaganza!

Another star-studded cast will be treading  the boards at the Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple where the classic panto Sleeping Beauty will be packed with all the usual gallant goodies and beastly baddies... and of course there’ll be loads of chances to join in!

Heading further west, Cornwall refuses to be overshadowed with a fabulous production of the Cinderella at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro. This magical tale of love and adventure will have your children captivated from the start.

Hi Ho Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go… Yes, you’ve guessed it, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Bashful and Doc will be working overtime to keep the kids amused at the Redruth’s Regal Theatre production of Snow White and the Seven DwarfsCheck your mirror to see if this is the fairest panto of them all.

Wherever you decide to go, have fun this Christmas.

Our Jackie in the run up to Christmas…

Quite literally, as she joined the Okehampton Running Club Santa Run on Thursday evening (5th December). To celebrate Okehampton’s Edwardian evening, 20 runners from Okehampton Running Club dressed up as Father Christmas and ran the streets of Okehampton waving at the shoppers and children enjoying the festivities including Christmas Carols, fairground rides, mulled wine and mince pies in the local shops and businesses. 

Jackie is the second from the right on the middle row in the picture sporting the rather cute pigtails.

Jackie is the Senior Marketing Manager at Helpful Holidays and only took up running earlier this year. She will take part in her first competitive event in the New Year, the First Chance 10k run held along the paths and cycleways by the Exeter Canal and the River Exe on 5th January. We’ll let you know how she gets on.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

An award-winning sketch of Noss Mayo

Noss Mayo by Maurice Dyson
As followers of this blog will know, we run a different competition every year for our holidaymakers - photography, poetry and art are the usual themes – and this year it was the turn of our art competition. All we ask is holidaymakers send us their favourite sketch, drawing or painting lovingly created whilst holidaying in one of our cottages. Each year we are amazed at the standard of the entries and this year was no exception.

This year’s winner is Maurice Dyson, who holidayed with us at Bows (L128) in September (a lovely cottage on the hillside overlooking Dittisham).

Maurice sent in 3 pencil drawings he created whilst staying in the South Hams area, one of Noss Mayo (pictured above), the others of the River Avon at Bantham and one of Stoke Gabriel. It was however, the Noss Mayo scene that caught the judges’ eyes and was a clear winner. We hope you'll agree the technique and composition are exemplary.

There were many other excellent entries, too many to mention but also outstanding were a painting of Saunton Sands by Laura Cooper and a rural view by Jackie Day - both pictured here.

View from Whitehall Farm by Jackie Day
Saunton Sands by Laura Cooper

Next year’s competition is poetry, therefore the chance to shine for all budding Poet Laureates! Wax lyrical about your stay in the West Country in a poem and you can win a Helpful Holidays voucher worth £400. Entries need to be with us by the end of September 2014 to have a chance of winning that holiday - good luck!