Friday, 26 May 2017


It was so lovely to get the chance to catch up with an old friend and spend a few days in the beautiful North Cotswolds exploring some of the most picturesque villages in England. I haven't visited this part of the world for over forty years but was pleased to see that it has changed little from the Cotswolds of my memory.

BLOCKLEY near Moreton-in-Marsh

My friend Lynne and I have known each other since we were at school and it is one of those wonderful friendships where you can pick up as though you just saw each other yesterday.  We stayed in the lovely Alice Cottage, a quaint two bedroom cottage that we rented through Character Cottages. It was the perfect base for two looking to explore the area while staying in a village with its own amenities including a local shop/cafe and a couple of pubs. 

Picture courtesy of Character-Cottages. 

Blockley is a really enchanting village with plenty to explore and some lovely walks right on the doorstep. The colours of the houses in this part of the world are just so pretty - a soft golden hue that seems to glow in the sunlight. We ate at one of the local pubs, the Great Western Arms, twice during our stay and enjoyed pub fare while being served by some incredibly friendly staff.  We also sampled a fabulous breakfast at the local cafe which is attached to the village shop and is an amazing community venture which forms the true heart of the village. 

Blockley Village near Moreton-in-Marsh


On our first day we took a trip to the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter walking between the two, and then onto Bourton-on-the-Water.  

Pretty Lower Slaughter 
We started our journey in the larger of the two villages, Lower Slaughter, which is set on the banks of the tiny River Eye and abounds with wisteria-clad cottages and paid a visit to the Lower Slaughter Mill and Cafe for a browse around.  We had parked across the road from the Slaughters Manor Hotel which although we did not have time to visit looked really lovely.  

The pretty wisteria clad houses in Lower Slaughter 
On our return to the village from Upper Slaughter we stopped for a drink at the Slaughters Country Inn and if time had allowed we were going to go back there for a late afternoon sandwich as the food looked amazing.  Sadly we had underestimated the amount of time it would take and it had closed by the time we returned, but it is definitely on our list to visit again when back in the area.  

Lower Slaughter 

The walk between Lower and Upper Slaughter takes you across fields and is a really pleasant stroll, particularly this time of year when the fields are full of lambs.  There was not as much to see in Upper Slaughter but we did note the rather lovely looking Lords of the Manor Hotel which it turned out my daughter had stayed in on her visit the month before. 

Upper Slaughter 
On our return to Lower Slaughter we then embarked on the walk to Bourton-on-the-Water which a local had told us would take around 20 minutes.  Not so - although an easy walk and very pleasant as much of it is along the river it took nearly twice that time.  Bourton-on-the-Water is much larger with plenty of shops and eateries.  It is known as the 'Little Venice' of the Cotswolds as it straddles the River Windrush and is really picturesque but also frequented by a lot more tourists.  I prefer the quieter villages where you can explore and take pictures in relative tranquility so we didn't linger that long before heading back to Lower Slaughter.
Spring Lambs seen on the walk between Lower and Upper Slaughter 

HIDCOTE MANOR GARDEN near Chipping Campden

Entrance to Hidcote Manor 
Next on our list of must sees was Hidcote, an Arts and Crafts garden created by the American Major Lawrence Johnston in the early 1900s from over 10 acres of what was largely fields.  We visited on our second day and started our exploration entering the house through its wisteria and clematis-clad entrance and walking through Johnston's office with desk overlooking the garden .  
The view from the house. 
Hidcote consists of gardens within a garden as Lawrence Johnston created garden 'rooms" linked by narrow pathways and separated by hedges and walls. 

Renowned for rare species of shrubs and plants it is a horticulturalists dream and sure to give inspiration of any gardener, created so that different plants are in bloom at different times of the year so there is so much to see and take in. 

There are no fewer than thirty areas of the garden to view including the White Garden, The Maple Garden, The Alpine Terrace and Rose Walk, plus the plant house and, of course, a cafe - and a very good cafe it was too.

Some of the vistas he created are amazing and none more so than the Beech Alley shown below. 

CHASTLETON HOUSE near Moreton-in-Marsh

I particularly remembered this house from my visit over 40 years ago when we stumbled upon it and found that it was open to visitors so went to the door to be greeted by the then owner, the artist Alan Clutton-Brock, who personally showed us around.  It was an amazing experience to have such an intimate view of this beautiful house, which although shabby had retained so many of the original Jacobean features, which made it such a rare find.
The view of Chastleton as you walk from the car park

I was really keen to go back and see what had happened to the house in the intervening years, wanting to know if it had passed out of private hands and had it been renovated to such a point that its charm and historic importance had been compromised?  

It is now with the National Trust, having passed to them on the death of Barbara Clutton-Brock whose wry comment that 'poverty is a great preserver' explains why the house had remained unchanged for the best part of 400 years.  It would appear that none of the descendants of the original owner Walter Jones, who had the house built in the 1600s, could afford its upkeep so although much ravaged by time, it was not tampered with.  The National Trust has taken a deliberate decision to preserve this state of affairs and not embark on an extensive renovation, instead ensuring the fabric of the house is conserved while maintaining the interiors pretty much as I had seen it in the 1970s, peeling plasterwork and all. I can't recommend visiting this beautiful house enough - seeing the long gallery and its barrel vaulted ceiling alone makes the trip worthwhile.  No other gallery of similar length or date survives, and this is just one of its many treasures.  It will particularly resonate with lovers of Wolf Hall as it was one of the locations used for the TV adaptation.  


Of the towns we visited I think Chipping Campden was my favourite, it was so pretty, with beautiful medieval houses dotted amongst the shops and cafes and the ancient market hall built in the 1600s standing at its heart.  The long, broad high street consists on each side of what is essentially an unbroken terrace with buildings of various ages and styles, but all blending perfectly to make a picture perfect view. 

We stopped for tea at The Bantam Tea Rooms and sat out in their courtyard garden.  Highly recommended and we noted that they did accommodation as well. 

It was a really lovely, but all too short, break and although we were there for three nights we could have seen so much more as we only toured the Gloucestershire portion of the 800 square miles of the Cotswolds which spreads into Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.  But then that is the perfect excuse to visit again!


Friday, 19 May 2017


We've had a slew of Ladies Days at racecourses up and down the country - as well as abroad with the Kentucky Derby in the US in early May - all sporting gorgeous hats and wonderful outfits. Since we are already very good friends with Liz Wright, owner of the Simply Devine Hatshop in Tadcaster, we asked her if we could do a photoshoot at her shop. With Royal Ascot looming in June, we put on our gladrags to see how we would style a day at the races.

We totally loved the blue WOW hatinator, which Anne C. is wearing with a Zoe swing dress from Phase 8 in their current collection. The shoes, surprisingly, are from George at Asda and match perfectly, while the rose gold earrings and blue clutch are also from Simply Devine, which also sells special occasion bags, pashminas and jewellery.

Anne H is wearing a gorgeous white poppy hat, and eagle-eyed regulars may spot that Anne C modelled the same design last year in red.  Either colour is absolutely stunning, and Anne created a mono look with dress bought last season from Mint Velvet. Her shoes are LK Bennett but purchased at the McArthur Glen outlet in York and handbag is from Coast which also has a fabulous collection of bags for special occasions.  

Anne C is sporting a cute raspberry pink crin hatinator which shimmers in the sunlight, and is light and easy to wear. She is wearing it with a black James Lakeland sleeveless chiffon dress - still available on their website here (although Simply Devine is expecting a consignment of this design in summer colours (oh dear!!), and she has accessorised with pearl and diamante earrings and a long bead necklace from Simply Devine.

This black creation is one gorgeously outrageous hatinator and just perfect for Royal Ascot, with a profusion of silk flowers and shimmering crin, this is guaranteed to turn heads!

Anne C's colourful rainbow hatinator (these are like hats but sit on a band for comfort, and also avoids hat hair!) The orange/red base is trimmed with yellow and lilac so can be worn with several colour outfits for a completely different look.  Anne's dress is several seasons old and is from Monsoon, but a similar one is available here.

Back to the WOW hat again (as in the blue one), but this time in black, and another favourite for race days. Simply Devine also has this hatinator in a tomato red, silver, or pale pink. Anne's dress is from Chesca and is still in their collection, although bought last year. They also have similar dresses in silver grey, black and navy.

Now this wasn't one of Anne's favourite looks, but is funky and lots of fun - but maybe for someone a little braver... The orange feathers sit on a black band, giving off a slightly 1920s vibe.  It is a couture piece and is also available in black, red or purple.

Another one of those hats if you're feeling brave.  This is a striking cream and black pill box hat complete with elastic which goes under the hair to keep it in place. The lavish cream crin is topped with a black flower with a diamante centre.

And finally, a profusion of feathers on this spectacular light burnt orange hatinator, which would be fabulous for a winter event too, and would be striking with a black coat and orange accessories. We will be showcasing hats over the coming weeks for a mother of the bride or groom, and fascinators for wedding guests or race days, so watch this space...

Friday, 12 May 2017


We had the first hint of summer over the Bank Holiday weekend and now it looks like we're set for a heatwave.... so we thought we would showcase our new Spring buys - Anne H showed off her new threads last week and now it's the turn of Anne C. Unfortunately we did have to dodge a few showers while we were taking the photos - but the rain was good for the plants, which are already quite vibrant!

As always, because she is so short, the sleeves are always too long!

Anne C is wearing her bargain basement buy - a baby pale blue sweater from Primark - a steal at just £5 in the sales. She has teamed with Marks & Spencer skinny jeans from a couple of years ago, (similar ones here) and high heeled studded boots from Office which were also from a couple of years ago (similar ones here).

Her accessories are a pearl and silver plated necklace and pearl earrings, both from Simply Devine, while the watch is from Monsoon, also from a couple of years ago. (We didn't actually know they did watches until we saw this!)

In the second set of pictures (incidentally shot in Anne H's beautiful garden), Anne is wearing a long cream sleeveless chiffon top, and a cotton cardigan with silk waterfall front in taupe from TKMaxx. The matching cord skinnies are from Florence & Fred a couple of years ago too. Similar ones here.

She has accessorised with a rose gold necklace from Phase Eight, and finished off the outfit with nude mules from Primark - another bargain at just £8! These are apparently a copy of Prada shoes and are flying off the shelves - and even turning up on eBay at several times more than the original price.  Maybe she should have bought them in black too...

Her final outfit features the same jeans as before, but this time, teamed with a white silk blouse from TKMaxx.  Regular readers may well recognise the style of this top which is a favourite - and she now has something very similar in pink, blue and a grey/pink floral design.  Well if you like something, why not get it in every colour????


Friday, 5 May 2017


We don't need too much encouragement here in the UK to believe that summer is on its way, just two consecutive days of sunshine is enough to set us scouring through our wardrobes for the summer clothes that we have stored away, followed by a quick trip to the shops either online or on the High Street to add some more things to that stash.  One of the big problems with our weather is that there are so many clothes that we only wear on holiday in warmer countries so they never seem to wear out.  We get sick of the sight of them way before they really need sending for recycling, but no matter we still keep adding to the haul.  

It is most unlike me to add quite such a colourful item to my wardrobe but I just loved the raspberry pink of this top from OSKA , it has a lovely flared shape that is truly flattering and the dividing seams at the front and back are really attractive.  A perfect top to team with summer whites or denim so I think this will be a very versatile addition to my wardrobe and at £69 not bank busting either.

I purchased the white jeans last year from 7 for All Mankind who do the perfect length for my height, being 5ft 8 it is really easy to land up with trousers that are neither capri or full length.  The sandals are also from last year and were purchased from Dune.  

When I was working, a long line blazer was a staple element in my workwear wardrobe, but since retiring I have struggled to find one that is casual yet still smart.  But not any longer,  I came across this blazer in the Madeleine catalogue and was thrilled that it was in the sale.

Very on-trend, being double breasted with deep lapels and patch pockets, this Madeleine  jacket is 86% cotton and 13% polyester so the perfect weight for early summer 

The deep wash jeans are from Ted Baker and purchased at their outlet store at Cheshire Oaks,  boots are from Russell and Bromley and are their Crystabel design with trapezoid block heel with statement silver back and hardware.  They are a perfect height for walking city streets but the black suede and extra design features make them ideal for day or evening wear. 

Another piece I really value this time of year is a lightweight knit with short sleeves which can be worn under a jacket or on its own.

I couldn't resist this top from Mint Velvet at £59. It is their Ink knotted Tee, a linen blend ribbed tee with knot detailing to add a point of interest to a classic design and flattering sleeve length, also available in Ivory and Bluebell.  

Last up is a shirt that my daughter passed onto me which came from Warehouse.  I love this length of shirt as I think it is perfect for day and evening wear and the fabulous tie sleeve detailing of this one just added to its appeal.  Sadly it is no longer available online but there are plenty of alternatives out there particularly with the tie sleeves, which would appear to be a a key feature this season - it remains to be seen how much I manage to get in my food!

The spectacles were purchased in New York this time last year and are the  Miu Miu Rasoir frame available from Frames Direct and Smart Buy Glasses at just under £120 albeit in  a different colour way. The necklace was a gift a number of years ago from a dear friend.

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