The one with a lovely walk and all the knitted things

On Saturday, the hubby, munchkin and I took Ella (our 6-year-old sprocker spaniel) for a walk near Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire (near Thirsk) on the way to a visit to my parents. The temperature had dropped and there was quite a breeze on top of the cliff so it was good to be able to take Ella out during the day. Poor pooch had been stuck indoors for most of the week to avoid melting or burning her paws on hot pavements.

There are so many gorgeous walks from Sutton Bank of varying lengths but we just wanted to do a short one so walked to the white horse. This takes us past the gliding centre and it was obviously the perfect conditions for gliding as there were two planes towing them and a queue of gliders waiting to go up.

I don’t have any photos of the white horse as you have to walk down to the car park below it to see it and we didn’t have enough time to do that. And, let’s face it, we didn’t have the inclination either as that would have meant climbing back up again! However, I did get some lovely pics of the beautiful countryside and the gliders. Aren’t those views stunning?

On the way through Thirsk, I spotted the most amazing knitting/crocheting display so we stopped off on the way back home from my parents’ although it started bucketing it down just as we drove into Thirsk so we had to loiter in the car for a bit first!

All the bollards on one side of the main road were dedicated to support for Ukraine which was lovely to see.

On the other side of the road they were all Jubilee-related. A man approached me as I was taking photos and claimed he’d made the coach (several rows down) – first attempt at anything like that but he was retired and thought he’d give it a go and was pretty chuffed with his efforts. I am ridiculously gullible and actually believed him and praised him for his work… until he walked off to the chippy chuckling and admitting he hadn’t made it at all!

Aren’t they absolutely fantastic? It was such a brilliant display. There were so many crowns and they were all a bit different but I decided I was going to have to stop taking photos of all the individual ones or we’d never make it home! With all the flower tubs too, they looked pretty special.

The cobbled area where they all were was in front of a chip shop and I noticed a hanging basket with a difference – knitted chips, ketchup, vinegar etc. Love it!

Round the corner from the main installation was Her Majesty the Queen having afternoon tea with her corgis, although the munchkin pointed out that she did look a little drunk, bless her. Excuse my random bending down on the pic featuring me. The munchkin told me she couldn’t fit us both in the photo and I needed to sit down. The bench was soaked so no way was I wasn’t falling for that!

I loved how all the raised flower beds round the display had knitted/crocheted flowers and bunting and even a horse in them. And check out that fabulous postbox topper!

And speaking of postbox toppers, the hubby and I nipped to Filey for a walk on Friday evening. Warm sugared doughnuts may also have been consumed. We spotted this amazing RNLI themed postbox topper there. The collection box for the RNLI was full to bursting and could only just take our donation.

I really love spotting postbox toppers. They make me so happy and I’m in awe of the imagination and skill of those who make them. I can’t knit to save my life and have never tried crocheting as I suspect I’d be just as bad.

Hope you enjoyed the photos. I’ll say goodbye for now but I’ll be back tomorrow as the hedgehogs return then. Yes, it’s publication day for Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow and I’m my usual mix of nerves and excitement. Eek!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I’ve had a very busy week

You know how you can have weeks with very little in the diary then suddenly you hit a week where everything happens? I had one of those last week…

It started with a talk at Scarborough Soroptimists on Monday. Months back the chairperson, Angela, asked whether I might be interested in joining them. I did a careers talk at my daughter’s school recently but this is the first time I’ve spoken to adults in real life since I was an indie author so it all felt very new.

I confess I wasn’t familiar with the organisation so was surprised to discover that Soroptimists International had celebrated their centenary last year. They’re about ensuring women and girls have a voice and you can read more about their great work here. The Scarborough branch meet at Ganton Village Hall which is a small village between Scarborough and Malton.

The talk seemed to go well and it was great to have questions afterwards. A huge thank you to the group for hosting me.

On Wednesday, I met author Rowan Coleman on Scarborough seafront for a cuppa and a doughnut (nom nom). It was a gorgeous sunny day (sunnier than the photos might look!) with a gentle breeze – lovely.

When I arrived, there were loads of primary school children emerging from ‘Aquarium Top’ to queue for an ice cream. I knew that the area that was formerly an aquarium had been painted so I took a quick look when the space was clear. How pretty is this?

On Friday, we were meant to be going to Castle Howard to see Duran Duran. This was advertised as a picnic-style gig where you take food and drink in and enjoy relaxing in a foldaway chair in front of the beautiful stately home. We’ve been to gigs there before and it’s fabulous. However, the promoters – Senbla – sent everyone an email at the start of the week with some ‘additional information’ which changed everything we’d expected. The gig was being held in a field away from the home so there wouldn’t the stunning backdrop with which we’re familiar, food and drink could not be taken in, chairs weren’t permitted, picnic blankets were an option but you might be asked to stand up when the gig started, and it was £10.20 to book parking (this being at a venue in the middle of nowhere to which you pretty much have to drive) or £15 cash on the night if you didn’t book 24 hours before. Wow! This was NOT what we signed up to!

I contacted Ticketmaster who claimed nothing had changed – it had! – and said it was the promotor’s issue, not theirs. I contacted Castle Howard and Senbla via both Facebook and Twitter to ask for an explanation and a refund and also emailed Senbla. All contact has been ignored. I’m not impressed at all.

This had been a gift for my 50th birthday but we had to give it a miss because I can’t stand for several hours and it would have ruined it attempting to do so. Sitting on a picnic blanket for ages wouldn’t be an option either – I’d struggle to get down and up again!

I’m extremely disappointed at the change to what we booked with no responsibility taken from any of the parties. So we’ve had to walk away from the money. We took a drive up to Whitby instead, got a chippy tea and went for a wander. It was strange seeing Whitby so deserted!

As we climbed back up to the car on the north side, there was the most beautiful light with the approaching sunset.

On Saturday night, I was invited over to see my friends at Wolds Hedgehog Rescue – the ‘real’ Hedgehog Hollow – for a catch-up. Nanny Angela needed to bring three hoglets over to be fed during the meeting and I had the honour of having a go at feeding one of them – first time I’ve ever done this. Awww!

Then on Sunday, I topped the week off with a visit into Scarborough. Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow went into The Works a few weeks back but I missed the Scarborough ones as they arrived and sold out really quickly. I was delighted to see they’d had another delivery so had a chance to sign them. As always, the staff in there were so lovely.

I actually hadn’t expected to see the book in there so I’d thrown on the same clothes from the night before (as I’d only worn them for 3 hours) and hadn’t put any make-up on or brushed my hair. So this is the natural look 🙂

I’ve just been on to the website at The Works but Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow appears to have sold through but you will probably still find copies in your local branch.

So overall a very busy week and I’ll finish it with a photo of a garden ornament I spotted in the window of The Gift Company which I absolutely neeeeeeed, and a photo of my gorgeous Eleanor Tomlinson print of Her Majesty the Queen with Paddington Bear. I’m cheating a bit as that actually arrived yesterday – not last week – but I thought I’d sneak it in here. My Steiff Paddington (a gift from my husband on our wedding day) couldn’t resist posing with it. The print went viral after the Jubilee and the signed edition sold out really quickly but Eleanor has printed an open edition (which is how I got mine) and you can get that and check out her other gorgeous artwork here.

This week is shaping up to be really busy too – hair appointment, dentist for a filling (argh!) and also a Facebook Live at lunchtime today. So if you read this post this morning and you’re free at 12noon, you might like to join us on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page. The Live will be Jo Bartlett, Helen Rolfe and me chatting about building our communities.

Have a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I went to Boldwood’s fabulous summer party

Boldwood Books opened for submissions at the start of February 2019, announced their first twenty authors in mid-June and the first books were published in August of the same year. By the time we’d grown sufficiently to justify trying to get everyone together for a party, a certain pandemic had taken hold and we were all plunged into lockdown.

Over the past couple of years, Boldwood have hosted several Zoom parties for their authors but Monday night was the very first opportunity for us all to meet in person and what a fabulous evening it was. More on that in a bit.

As Scarborough to London is a bit of a trek for a three-hour party, I always try to tag on something extra when I make the journey. Two of my Write Romantic buddies, Jo Bartlett and Helen Rolfe, are part of Team Boldwood too. With so many people to meet on the evening, I suggested we meet for lunch and a catch-up. Trains were fortunately running on time so we had plenty of time for lunch and a cuppa afterwards… although we all forgot to take any photos!

I’d ordered a couple of new dresses, one to wear at the party and the other to wear at the gala dinner at the RNA’s conference in July, so I had the choice between orange and pink. I went for the orange one for Boldwood’s party and wish I could claim I’d done it because orange is Boldwood’s brand but I hadn’t been that clever! Although maybe subconsciously I chose orange over pink for that reason. Yes. that sounds good. That’s my story!

The party was being held at Fulham Palace and many of the #TeamBoldwood authors were staying in the nearby Putney Bridge Premier Inn so we’d arranged to meet in the bar there at 5.30pm to have a quick drink and wander along to the venue for a 6pm start. It was a really pleasant walk through the park although we were a bit late leaving the bar so there was no opportunity to stop for photos.

Fulham Palace was a lovely venue although I was too busy chatting to explore properly. It was a chance to meet the full team from Boldwood although I didn’t get a chance to meet a couple of the editors so must rectify that next time.

I met some of the team from ISIS Audio and Ulverscroft who create and distribute our audiobooks, our main contact at Kobo, and Boldwood’s web designer. I also had the chance to meet Sue Lamprell who has been the proofreader on every single one of my books so far. What an absolute delight it was to meet Sue after working on so many books together and only ‘speaking’ by email. Wish I’d taken a photo! Do you sense a theme building here? I used to be brilliant at taking photos at events but after a couple of years of barely going anywhere, I seem to have got out of the habit! Anyone else finding that?

The party was a great opportunity to catch-up with authors I’d met before, those who I’ve known for a couple of years via Facebook and also some of the newest whose addition to Team Boldwood was only announced that morning!

The three hours passed too soon and it was time to say goodbye. There were so many other people I’d have loved to speak to so hopefully next time. There were lots of authors who couldn’t make it due to holidays, distance or illness so I’m looking forward to meeting them at another point too.

A huge thank you to Amanda Ridout, our CEO, and the rest of Team Boldwood for hosting such a lovely, warm, welcoming event. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

I accosted a security guard and asked if he could take a photo of a group of us leaving. It was very tempting to jump into the fountain and recreate a Friends moment. We managed to restrain ourselves!

L-R Jenna Houston (BW Marketing Exec), Gemma Rogers, Nia Beynon, Debbie Young, Jessica Redland, Helen Rolfe, Jo Bartlett, Laura Kingston (BW Sales Assistant)

We received a gorgeous notebook on the way out, celebrating Boldwood’s recent amazing award, and a pen, earphones, bag and thank you card from Ulverscroft. Love a bit of stationery and a goodie bag!

My journey home on Tuesday was a little challenging. I received an email before I boarded my train in Kings Cross to say the train for the York to Scarborough stretch had been cancelled. The trains only run hourly so my hubby checked online that it was definitely cancelled (it was) and offered to come through and pick me up. I got off the train at York, checked the departures board, and it turned out my connection wasn’t cancelled after all! We then got massively held up on the way home to detour round an accident on the A64 which had closed the road so I didn’t get home much before I would have done if I’d stayed at York and waited for the next train (not that I’d have needed to wait when my original one ran after all!)

Hedgehog Hollow 6 had a deadline of Tuesday night so the lost time was a bit stressful and I ended up working a really late one trying to finish the book. I didn’t quite make it – ran out of brain power – so I submitted it without the last chapter complete then rose at 6am to finish the rest. Edits will be back to me for next week. I can’t quite believe I’ve finished the series although I don’t think it will feel like I’ve properly finished it until I’ve completed the edits phase. It’ll definitely hit me then!

Wishing you a fabulous end of week/weekend.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I turned fifty

It was my birthday yesterday (1st May) and I hit the half-century which doesn’t feel real because I still don’t feel any older than I did at thirty, although my body would beg to differ. I try to avoid sitting on the floor these days as it’s touch and go as to whether I can get up again!

I don’t normally go big for birthdays and I’m not one for big nights out drinking but specifically wanted to celebrate turning fifty, especially when so many people I know (my husband and older brother included) were unable to celebrate big occasions during lockdown.

With going away to the Lake District for a fortnight over Easter, we didn’t want to venture very far. We have two Forest Holidays sites near us called Cropton and Keldy – both just 45 minutes drive away – and we’ve been to them both in the past when our daughter was young and we could stay out of season (cheaper!) Even though a bank holiday weekend was going to be pricey, we decided to go for it with it being a special occasion.

Look what I found in the gift shop in the reception! I had to have him! His name’s Bramble and he is soooo adorable.

The great thing about going on holiday somewhere so local is getting there quickly and being able to enjoy your evening rather than spending it travelling. We were there as soon as check-in started and we had a little wander round the site before having a relaxing evening in our log cabin with food delivered from the on-site restaurant.

Saturday morning – the day before my birthday – dawned with beautiful blue skies and sunshine. We decided to go for a walk round nearby village Thornton-le-Dale then visit Pickering, get some lunch, and take it up to the castle.

I’ll admit it does feel a little weird being on ‘holiday’ and visiting places that we regularly visit anyway but the point was to get away and have a relaxing time. If we’d stayed at home, I might have taken my birthday off but I’d have worked for the rest of the weekend.

Thornton-le-Dale is such a picturesque village and it was gorgeous to see ducklings on the river and the pond. So cute. There are some stunning houses and I always joke they’d be where an author would live as the views are inspiring. I doubt they come on the market very often and, if they did, they’d be way out of our price bracket but it’s nice to have dreams.

We’ve not visited Pickering Castle as a family before so it was great to explore the ruins and the grounds and generally enjoy the sunshine. Pickering Castle is an English Heritage site and you can find out more about it here. It’s a lovely place to visit and the views are fabulous.

We returned to the cabin with time for a Cornish cream tea which my fabulous friend and super talented author, Sharon Booth, sent me, followed by a sneaky glass of wine in the hot tub before getting ready to go out for a birthday tea.

On the evening, we met my parents at a nearby pub. They’d brought their caravan to a site in the area so they could see me for my birthday. The person who’d taken the booking over Facebook Messenger hadn’t written it down which was a bit fraught as they were full but they made space for us, thank goodness.

I won’t name the pub as these things happen and so much of the hospitality industry is struggling with lack of staff but it was a lesson learned for me never to make a booking for any pub via Messenger in future. I only did it that way because it was out of hours but I’ll wait and do it via the phone when the pub is open going forwards!

The following day – my actual birthday – it was pouring when we woke up and it put a real dampener on things (literally). It had been such a gorgeous day before and the thought of traipsing through the forest in the rain didn’t appeal.

We decided to take a trip to the market town of Malton but hadn’t paused to think about whether the shops would be open on a Sunday. Most weren’t. So we had a walk round (mainly closed) Malton although the good news was it had stopped raining and I gazed longingly in the gift shop windows.

I wanted some cakey loveliness and had been hoping to find some in a nice independent bakery but there were none open. We nipped into a farm shop and a garden centre on the way back to the cabin but it was mission unsuccessful. Hubby, bless him, did a detour via the high street in Pickering so we could nip into the cafe/bakery where we’d bought lunch the day before – Russell’s Cafe & Traditional Bakery. They had a window full of the most delicious-looking slices of cake. They were on a deal where it was cheaper to buy three but the munchkin wanted something not in the offer so, after asking for hubby’s, I had to pick two for me. It would have been very wrong not to! And, oh my goodness, they were delicious. If you go to Pickering, definitely visit Russell’s. The sandwiches for lunchtime the day before were delicious too.

We returned to the cabin and decided that, as it was dull, we’d relax and watch a film but we couldn’t find anything we particularly fancied. We went for the recent re-make of The Secret Garden starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters but it’s a slow story and I was getting fidgety. I will watch the end but we put it off and went for a walk along one of the forest trails instead although I was a bit full after my double-cake indulgence and could probably have been rolled round the trail.

The munchkin and I had time for another dip in the hot tub, this time with some champagne (for me) before Mum and Dad came over to the cabin on the evening to look around and join us for a birthday tea. They brought a balloon and cake with them which was lovely.

We had planned to do something today (bank holiday Monday) but it was another dull day and we decided that, as we still hadn’t settled back in after our Easter trip, it would make more sense to get back home and get organised. I only have a couple of weeks left to write my final Hedgehog Hollow book and I’m only a fifth of the way through it so I have a lot to do. Catching up today (or trying to) means I can be head down from tomorrow. Or at least that’s the plan!

I couldn’t really think of anything I wanted for my birthday but my Kindle is on the way out so I got a new Paperwhite and hubby and daughter surprised me with a lovely new watch. From my parents and brothers, I got some money to buy a teddy bear but instead treated myself to a limited edition Herdy while I was in the Lakes. It’s made by Merrythought who are a longstanding UK-based teddy bear manufacturer (so nearly a bear!) and I’m completely in love with him.

A huge thank you to everyone who sent cards, gifts, flowers and best wishes, helping to make my fiftieth a special day.

Hope you’ve had a lovely bank holiday weekend and, if you’ve worked it, hope you get a break soon.

On a final note, even though it’s my birthday, I’m giving away some gifts. The wonderful The Friendly Book Community over on Facebook have been celebrating their first birthday with some amazing giveaways across the week donated by the lovely Admin team and some of the authors. If you haven’t already joined this group and you love books, you might want to do so, as it’s a warm and friendly space to be. And then you can be in with a chance to win one of my bundles. There are 4 for UK-based readers and 1 for overseas readers. You can find the group here and you have until Friday to be in for a chance of winning on my giveaways.

Big birthday hugs
Jessica xx

The one where we had a gorgeous Easter in the Lake District Part 2

At the start of the week, I posted about our first week away in the Lake District over Easter and promised the second part would follow. Here it is!

Although we enjoyed our first week, our second was extra special. But we always knew it would be because we were spending it in our absolute favourite place: Keswick. Keswick has everything – a beautiful lake which you can walk right round, dramatic mountains and fells surrounding it on all sides, a couple of beautiful parks, stunning countryside, and a pretty market town full of lovely shops.

The cottage we were staying in was called Pippin Cottage and it was on the main road into Keswick so there was some traffic noise but that didn’t really bother us as it was so ideally located for walking everywhere. Once we’d arrived, we didn’t use the car again until the day we left!

Despite visiting Keswick on many occasions, we’d never actually been to Fitz Park which was opposite. Can’t believe we’ve missed out on it as it’s lovely!

We wanted to attempt a couple of the climbs but decided to start easy by climbing a hill called Castlehead with some lovely views across Derwent Water although do excuse the weird extra half-dog situation in the panoramic pic in the middle. Ella decided to move while I was taking the pano!

Opposite the holiday cottage is a bus stop inside of which is the most wonderful painting of Goldilocks and the three bears along with an explanation of why it’s there. Apparently the story started off with three bears and a grumpy elderly woman but it evolved into the story with the young girl we’re more familiar with these days.

On Easter Sunday, I met the amazing artist Lucy Pittaway for breakfast. I love her paintings (and have several prints) and she loves my books and it’s so fascinating to talk to another creative who does something slightly different to me. She’s become a friend over the past year and happened to be visiting Keswick over the bank holiday, where she has one of her galleries, so it was wonderful being able to have a catch-up.

Before I met her, I’d noticed there were a stack of dog walkers milling around all wearing orange clothes and I wondered if there was a special event on. When I pointed this out to Lucy, she observed that a huge number of the dogs were spaniels. At lunchtime, when I went for a family walk round Derwent Water, I found out what was going on. There was the most amazing spaniel known as ‘Miracle Max’ who was awarded the equivalent of an OBE for animals in 2021 for his services to others. It’s quite a lovely story and you can find out about about Max, his owner Kerry, and why he was awarded this in a BBC article here.

Sadly, Max passed away this month, aged 14, so the walk was in remembrance of him. His collar had been orange so those doing the walk were asked if they’d wear orange. What a happy and hopeful colour to see everywhere.

One of Max’s many amazing achievements had been during the pandemic where videos and photos of him, his owner, and two other spaniels called Paddy and Harry provided comfort around the world to those who were able to get out and about vicariously through them. You can find out more on the Max out in the Lake District website and there’s also a book about Miracle Max by owner Kerry Irving whose life Max saved.

Here’s the hubby and our (sprocker) spaniel Ella on Max’s statue in Hope Park near the water’s edge.

The clockwise walk round Derwent Water is one we did in August last year but we went a little further this time. The weather had picked up from the week before but it wasn’t quite bright blue skies, but was still nice for pics.

I’d have happily walked even further but, for some random reason, the munchkin hadn’t put on her proper walking boots and we hadn’t noticed she was only wearing trainers so she moaned about going further. She and I caught the small ferry back and hubby walked back the way we’d come with Ella.

On the Tuesday, we decided to take a walk anti-clockwise round Derwent Water and see how far we could get. We set off on foot from the holiday cottage and this meant a walk through town, along farm tracks, by the river and through a village called Portinscale before getting to the water’s edge. It was a beautiful walk and, as you can see, the sun had properly come out and brought some bright blue skies.

Isn’t that shoreline beautiful? We wandered a little further and came across a most enticing-looking place called the Lingholm Estate where Beatrix Potter used to holiday with her family so we decided to explore and partake in some refreshments. What a lovely place!

A woodland walk took us to the foot of Catbells. We want to get fitter and be able to tick off the 214 Wainwrights – the hills/mountains/fells documented by Alfred Wainwright – over many visits to the Lakes and we’d hoped to tackle a couple of smaller ones while away. Catbells isn’t one of the smaller ones but we hadn’t appreciated our walk round the lake was going to take us to the foot of it. It seemed a shame not to give it a try while we were there. The munchkin was not impressed but we set off anyway.

The sign says 1 mile, 1 hour but that’s probably for experienced walkers and not for overweight unfit authors! At 451m (1,480ft) it’s quite a climb and very steep in parts. It was too much for the munchkin and she dipped out at a large grassy area partway up the first incline to be collected again on our descent. Hubby, Ella and I continued our climb.

It was hard work – more on the muscles than the stamina – but the views were absolutely incredible… and also a good reason to keep stopping! The view below is looking down on the Lingholm Estate where we’d stopped earlier.

This view looks out over Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance…

Catbells is a bit of a deceptive walk for those who aren’t familiar with the shape of it as you make your way towards what looks to be a summit and there’s quite a scramble to get up to it. However, once you’re there, you can see you’re not really there. The actual summit is some way further on, down a dip, then up again with an even steeper incline and summit.

We made it to the top of that 1st summit and I was so proud of myself as I’ve been in a home-based sedentary job for seven years, I barely left the house during the first 18 months of the pandemic, even when we were allowed, I am twice the body weight I should be for my height, and I’m not very fit anymore. So to climb up that far was a pretty amazing achievement for me and I felt quite emotional at the top.

We could have gone on but we had concerns. The weather was coming in and rain was expected. You can see the dark clouds in that last photo above. Hubby had left his coat with the munchkin to ensure she didn’t get cold while waiting for us but the weather had changed and it was cold up there. I’d given him my waterproof to keep the wind off him but that meant I’d have no waterproof when the rain started. We were conscious of the munchkin waiting for us in the rain and that we’d probably be another hour to get to the proper summit on top of the time we’d already been, plus the descent time. And I had no walking poles with me because this had been a spontaneous climb. I wasn’t sure my knees would cope with another scramble and the descent down both without the support of the poles so we gave up and said we’d return and conquer it again on another visit. And, yes, it did start raining as we descended.

We returned to the holiday cottage the way we’d come and, as this meant passing the Lingholm Estate, we popped in for more sustenance! They run alpaca walks and the alpacas were being fed as we passed. Aww! Next time, I neeeeeed to walk by the lake with an alpaca.

Walking back across the farm tracks, there were the most gorgeous Herdwick sheep watching us. I love them so much. Even though we hadn’t conquered Catbells, we’d done a pretty impressive walk because setting off from the holiday cottage meant a round trip of roughly ten miles. Well done us!

The following day was the penultimate full day of our holiday and, after aching from our walk, we had a more leisurely day visiting the Pencil Museum which is fascinating and the Keswick Local Museum in Fitz Park as well as a wander round some gift shops.

On our final day, we were determined to conquer our first Wainwright and set off for one of the smaller ones at the other side of Fitz Park – Latrigg. This is 368m (1,207ft) but also a gentler climb. In the first photo below, you can see it peaking behind Fitz Park.

It was another gorgeous day and it turned out that the first part of the walk up through the forest was actually the steepest. After that, the path zig-zagged quite a bit. We could see people taking steeper shortcuts but the proper pathway was good for us!

As anticipated, the views from the summit were absolutely stunning but it was certainly chilly up there despite the blue sky!

So that’s our very first Wainwright ticked off and logged in the book. 213 to go!

What an amazing second week and overall a brilliant fortnight away. Hubby and I both needed to work so we weren’t out and about all the time but we certainly managed to fit a lot in. And I got my inspiration for my Lakes series of books. I’m not going to say what it is yet as I’m waiting for my proposal to be approved by my editor but if she does give it the green light, I absolutely can’t wait to write it.

Already planning our return trip to this beautiful part of the world.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where we had a gorgeous Easter in the Lake District – Part 1

I’m writing my seventeenth novel at the moment (eek! how did that happen?!) and all the books I’ve written so far are set in one of two places: the fictional North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay or Hedgehog Hollow, a fictional hedgehog rescue centre in the Yorkshire Wolds countryside.

Last year, conscious that the Hedgehog Hollow series would reach a natural end point, I spoke to my publisher about adding a third location to my repertoire. I have the coast and the countryside already and I wanted to add lakes and mountains by setting a series in the stunning Lake District National Park. I was delighted when they said yes.

I love the Lakes and have been a regular visitor since childhood. My parents have been longstanding caravaners and would often take the caravan across to the Lakes – usually the southern ones. In my teens, they bought into a timeshare on the shores of Lake Windermere for a week in early February and, when education then work allowed, I sometimes stayed there. In the August before going away to university, my best friend, older brother and some of his friends went camping there and it holds so many fond memories. We won’t talk about the disastrous camping trip with an ex-boyfriend where it rained constantly, we piled the soggy tent into the back of the car and left early, our relationship ending not long afterwards. Not such fond memories!

Anyway, having secured the Lakes as a future setting for my books, I needed to do some research and we booked a week’s holiday near Thirlmere last August which was amazing. You can read about it and see the photos here.

I also booked for us to have a working/research holiday over this Easter. We spent the first week staying in Bowness by Lake Windermere and the second week in our absolute favourite place: Keswick.

As I have lots of photos, I’m going to divide them across two blog posts and this post is therefore all about our first week in Bowness.

We wanted to be central so that, if hubby and I were working, our daughter (15 and a half) could wander into town on her own from the cottage to explore her favourite store, Neon Sheep. Sadly, Neon Sheep – a gifting store set up by the owners of Mountain Warehouse – has ceased trading so that fettled that!

I found a holiday cottage called ‘Jessica’s Cottage’ so absolutely had to book it. A sign! It felt like it was calling to me. I had hoped to get a photo of me pointing to the cottage name but it only appeared on the gate and was very worn which was disappointing.

The cottage itself had the potential to be lovely but was a bit dated and unloved inside and we had a few problems with a blocked sink, toilet cistern not working consistently and a leaking boiler which put a bit of a dampener on things (literally). The sink and toilet did get sorted fairly quickly but the boiler needed a part and we had to put up with the leak all holiday which wasn’t ideal and I’m waiting to hear back about a partial refund. But this isn’t a moaning post so let’s move onto some photos…

At the end of a row of cottages at the top of a very steep hill, Jessica’s Cottage didn’t have a lake view but we could see Windermere at the other end of the row where it joined the road and I was excited to see a hedgehog crossing area sign on the way down the hill although I didn’t see any hedgehogs while we were there.

Behind the cottages were steep fields and we were able to join a walk up to Brant Fell where there are stunning views over the lake and surrounding countryside. This is the field behind us although our holiday cottage is hidden behind the right one of the pair of trees in the middle of the pic.

Hubby and I had a weekend in the Lakes on our 10th wedding anniversary seven years ago and we discovered Brant Fell then via a slightly different route so it was lovely to go up and see those views again. Shame the weather wasn’t better. As you can see from all my photos from week one, it was very, very dull and grey so the pictures don’t show the Lakes at their absolute best. When there’s a bit of sun and blue sky, they are breathtaking.

The following day I’d arranged to meet up with my fabulous author friend Helen Phifer (do check out her amazing crime books set in the Lake District here). She lives in Cumbria so drove across to Bowness for a scone and coffee. We’d also met up when I was in the area last August and we forgot to take a photo. Guess what? We forgot to take one again this time! Too busy chatting. It was lovely to catch up with her, though, although we couldn’t have done without the torrential downpour that started while we were out and didn’t let up for the rest of the day.

I booked the family in for a visit to Hill Top on the Monday which was one of Beatrix Potter’s farms and is run by the National Trust who have kept the house very much as Potter had it. We’ve visited before but I hadn’t imagined Hedgehog Hollow back then so was keen to return and couldn’t resist wearing my latest Popsy Clothing Helena hedgehog dress and taking my daughter’s childhood Mrs Tiggywinkle with me (much to her mortification) to get some hedgehog-themed pics.

That day we also visited Tarn Hows which is one of my favourite places for a short circular walk round the water. Last time we visited, the munchkin was only little – maybe five or so – and it was a sweltering hot day. It was a slight contrast this time although at least it didn’t rain.

The absolute highlight of our walk was a little incident with a Belted Galloway. There were several notices explaining that this breed of cow was grazing, like this one. Another larger sign had said they were very docile.

We hadn’t made it very far round the tarn when we came across several of the cows munching on the grass and a couple of them on the path. Ella, our sprocker spaniel, was on her lead and we gave them a wide birth and took a couple of photos.

But one of the cows which had been on the path – this one right here…

… clearly didn’t like posing for photos. As the hubby crouched down to get his camera out his backpack, the cow got closer and closer. ‘Cow!’ the daughter and I repeatedly said, perhaps a little unhelpfully. Next moment, the cow gave hubby an almighty shove on the elbow. He dropped his (expensive) camera, whacked himself in the jaw with his shoulder, and nearly toppled over. We shouldn’t laugh, but….!

The daughter moved well away with Ella and that seemed to placate the cow who left the hubby alone and joined its mates for a munch. No cows were hurt in this incident and thankfully no cameras were either although hubby’s jaw was painful for a couple of days afterwards!

We moved on to Hawkshead next where we had the most enormous ice creams. Mmm. Or rather the daughter and I did as hubby wasn’t too fussed. It was only a two-scooper but it was actually a bit too much for me. Definitely not a ‘little’ ice cream! Nice, though.

The day finished with a wander along the Lake Windermere in Bowness where I found ‘my’ boat.

Our destination for later in the week was Ambleside. We caught the ferry from Bowness and, once again, it was a cool and dull day. I had to take the photo that everyone who visits Ambleside takes of the little house on the bridge. If you’d like to know about the history of Bridge House, you can read about it here.

Our week in Bowness was rounded off with a trip to Brockhole which is just outside Windermere. We’ve visited several times and it’s a great place for families as there are stacks of activities but do book online in advance or you may be disappointed. We’d pre-booked for the daughter to go go-carting and decided to add her into archery on arrival but the only slots available were the very end of the day when we’d have been long-gone. The high ropes course is very popular but it’s huge so can take a lot of visitors at once although, again, I’d still book ahead.

If you don’t want to pay for activities (although you will need to pay to park), there’s a huge playground and the grounds are lovely for walking around.

Ooh, and they do the most amazing hot chocolates in the cafe! Nom nom nom. I will point out that they weren’t both for me!

We were ready to move onto Keswick, especially after the boiler problems, but couldn’t get into our second holiday cottage until teatime so we took a trip via Kendal on Good Friday which was fairly deserted, and then stopped at Thirlmere for a walk down to the water’s edge. The sun even made a very brief appearance, although the sky remained grey.

Did I end the week with some inspiration for my Lakes series? Sadly, no, but that – like the weather – was all about to change when we moved to Keswick. I’ll be back before the end of the week with my second post.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I visited Helmsley Castle

I had a lovely trip out on Friday. I’d arranged to meet my author friend Eliza J Scott but I’d just bought a new (to me) car after being a one-car-family for about seventeen years.

I picked her up on Thursday so this was her first proper run-out and what perfect whether I had for our outing. Music up, sunglasses on, absolutely fabulous. Officially, it wasn’t spring when I visited, but it certainly felt like it.

Eliza and I met in Helmsley and our first stop was for a drink and scone at a cafe Eliza recommended called Mannion & Co. I didn’t even bother to peruse the menu, going straight for the scones. However, after we’d been there a while, brunches and lunches began appearing for other customers and they looked divine. Must go back and sample something different.

Eliza went for a fruit scone with jam and cream and I chose a cheese scone with chutney and herb mascarpone cheese as that sounded a little unusual. It was delicious but those scones were enormous! Eliza’s was like a scone on top of a scone!

The cafe was very close to Helmsley Castle so we decided to go inside. As you can see from the pics, the sky was blue and the sun was bright and we ended up plonking ourselves on a bench and chatting.

It’s always good to catch up with author friends as there’s so much to talk about and the hours tend to whizz by. We had a quick shoot round the castle at the end to grab some pics before heading home.

Helmsley Castle is owned by English Heritage. I’ve only been once before and we’re talking many years ago when I was in my late teens. My best friend from school had a summer job cleaning in a hotel in Rosedale and she was staying in a static caravan on site. I borrowed my mum’s car one day to visit her and we had a little tour around including Helmsley Castle.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my sunny tour round Helmsley Castle. Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one with the Whitsborough Bay tour round Scarborough’s North Bay

We made a decision to aim for one family day out each weekend but couldn’t go very far this weekend just gone. The munchkin was on a Duke of Edinburgh practise walk from one end to the other of Scarborough’s sea front (about 4 miles) on Saturday afternoon and we were expecting a plumber to quote for some work on Sunday.

As we needed to pick the munchkin up at the end of her walk, we decided to go early and have a wander round North Bay. It was a very cold and windy day – preparing for Storm Malik – and I took quite a few pics to show different parts of North Bay from my books.

STANLEY MOFFATT

Freddie Gilroy is an oversized statue of a former soldier who sits on his giant bench overlooking the sea at South Bay. You can read more about who he is and the story of the statue on this Wiki page.

He’s so iconic that he had to feature in my Whitsborough Bay stories but, as Whitsborough Bay is fictional, I needed to change his identity.

In my stories, he’s Stanley Moffatt, a fisherman who was saved by the RNLI. He’s first mentioned in The Secret to Happiness and features in Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café and the forthcoming Spring Tides at The Starfish Café.

As you can see, Freddie’s (or Stanley’s) bench looks a bit wet. It hadn’t been raining. This was from the earlier overtopping caused by the high tide and the wind so I took these photos very quickly while keeping an eye on the sea just in case.

You see the buildings on the top of the cliff? That’s where Danniella rents her flat from Aidan in The Secret to Happiness, although her flat would be a smidge further round off camera.

THE SEA

The dangers of dodging waves is one of the themes I explore in The Starfish Café series. In Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, I talk about bollards being put up on the slipway after several tragedies. Although the details have been changed slightly on one of these, it is based on a true story from 2005 which resulted in the slipway near Freddie being permanently closed. Signs remind the public of the dangers of the sea yet people still take chances.

When we were down on the seafront on Saturday, it was a couple of hours after high tide. There were a few high waves and some spray but we stayed well back because we’re not daft.

The photo above shows the slipway that is permanently closed. Without giving spoilers, this is where an incident in Jake’s childhood occurs in Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café.

THE BEACH HUTS

Scarborough’s North Bay beach huts are gorgeous. Painted lime green, sky blue, red, orange and yellow, I decided not to change any aspect of them and they appear in my books exactly as they appear on North Bay.

They feature in loads of my books. In The Secret to Happiness, Karen’s bootcamp often takes place on the promenade in front of the huts which was inspired by my own experiences of doing two different bootcamps at 6am three mornings a week for a few years. Couldn’t do that now!

Clare walks along here on a visit to Whitsborough Bay in Coming Home to Seashell Cottage and they feature a few times in All You Need Is Love. And I’m sure you can see why.

SEA RESCUE SANCTUARY

Although I haven’t set a story there (yet), I do mention the Sea Rescue Sanctuary in several books, especially The Starfish Café series. In Scarborough, it’s really the Sealife Centre and it’s the pyramid shaped building in the background here (which I’ve changed to domes in my books).

HEARNSHAW PARK

Near Scarborough’s North Bay is the fabulous Peasholm Park, re-named as Hearnshaw Park in my books. Again, it features in several stories, perhaps most notably in Making Wishes at Bay View when Callie walks round the lake with Ruby and discovers the secrets from Ruby’s past.

Dusk was approaching so the pics aren’t the best as it wasn’t quite bright enough to pick out the colour but not quite dark enough to pick out the illuminations. But here you go…

Hope you enjoyed your little tour round Whitsborough Bay.

It’s February tomorrow – how did that happen?! Wishing you an amazing second month of the year.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where we travelled up the coast to Redcar and Saltburn

I’m a bit of a workaholic and, as my job is also my hobby, I do have a tendency to work 7 days a week including evenings although, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this time at my desk isn’t always spent productively. I’ve pretty much perfected the art of procrastination!

Anyway, in an effort to break the constantly working thing, we’re trying to have one day each weekend where we go out as a family. A week ago we had a lovely visit to Sandsend and Whitby and on Sunday we decided to venture a little further up the coast to Saltburn.

Saltburn – or to give it its full name Saltburn-by-the-sea – is fifty miles from Scarborough but we’re talking slow coastal roads to get there so over an hour’s drive. It’s still in North Yorkshire but within the borough of Redcar and Cleveland and it’s very close to where I was raised. I was born in Middlesbrough but lived in the market town of Guisborough from when I was was three until I officially left home for my first job after graduating university. None of my family live in Guisborough anymore so it’s not an area we usually visit.

Guisborough is only five miles from Saltburn so we’d sometimes visit the beach there when I was younger and, when I was at college, I occasionally frequented a club there called Philmores which was the place to go if you wanted to get in under-age! It closed in the 1990s and is now a hotel.

As we neared Saltburn, I mentioned that I was curious to visit Redcar which is another six miles or so further up the coast. A similar distance from Guisborough as Saltburn, Redcar was where I went to college. I didn’t fancy doing A levels at the local sixth form, choosing instead to study a BTEC in Business & Finance at Redcar’s technical college (Cleveland Tech). I left college in 1990 and visited a few times in the years that followed as I had a couple of friends who lived there but it has to be at least twenty-five years since I last went and quite possibly more.

It was a particularly cold and grey morning when we arrived in Redcar and we parked at the far end in Coatham where the natural beauty of the beach and sand dunes sit alongside the man-made – Teesside Wind Farm with container ships passing by, and British Steel. The munchkin was not impressed with the industrial setting but hubby and I find the views quite fascinating, especially when the sun made an appearance on our return walk.

While we differed in opinion on whether the view was horrendous or interesting, we were all in agreement that one addition since I last visited Redcar wasn’t the prettiest. My photos really don’t do it justice because they’re too dark but if you click on the Redcar link earlier, you can see the ‘Redcar Beacon’ in glorious purple and golden-yellow colour.

At seven floors and 80ft high, this attraction was built in 2013 and provides panoramic views of Redcar. It looks like a helter-skelter wrapped round an old tower block. To me, it was reminiscent of a mini version of the 1960s built round tower block I lived in at Loughborough University! I wasn’t aware of its existence until Sunday but hubby seemed to think it had come under tremendous criticism.

I’ve just had a quick look on TripAdvisor and didn’t need to scroll through the reviews as the low-rating conveyed the strong opinion, as did this 1-star rating: “This structure is an abomination, a giant carbuncle on a seafront that has enough already. Whoever approved it’s construction was either insane or the recipient of a bung”. Hmm! I’m sure the views are fabulous.

When I was at college in Redcar, there were four of us who’d hang around together. At dinner time, we wandered into town and ate our packed lunches in some old wooden shelters on the seafront, regardless of the weather. Brr! Sometimes we’d grab a drink or snack in Woolworths or M&S as we cut through them to get to the front. Woolworths has long gone and M&S is also no more. It was weird seeing the back of the buildings as one of the buildings hadn’t changed at all since my college days of 1986-88, but I couldn’t decide if it had been Woolworths or M&S. I can barely remember what I did from day to day so thinking back thirty-four years is a stretch too far!

The seafront has changed with fresh paving, new shelters and some artwork. I didn’t think to take any photos although I don’t have any from my college days to compare them to as those were the days before mobile phones so we didn’t tend to take snaps.

Redcar town centre was pretty much unrecognisable. Like most town centres these days, there were lots of empty shops, but there were quite a few people around. I nipped into The Works. My brother had posted a photo a couple of weeks earlier of the shelves in the Redcar branch after my nieces rearranged them but there was only one copy of New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow left which was lovely to see.

We walked back along the beach and took a drive via Markse-by-the-sea and onto our original destination of Saltburn. The sun which had made a brief appearance in Redcar had gone so I’m afraid the photos are a bit dull and grey. It was late afternoon so it was only a brief visit and wander along the cliff top.

Whenever I think of Saltburn from childhood, I think of the extremely windy road to get down to the beach and the pier. I love piers. Opened in 1869, it’s 450m long and is the most northerly pier still in Britain today, which I hadn’t realised.

The funicular wasn’t in operation, being out of season, so we didn’t get a chance to ride on that. We decided not to wander down to the pier as we needed to get something for tea before the shops closed, but hopefully we’ll go back another day to have more of a wander.

I tried to get a selfie of me with the funicular and pier behind me but I still haven’t perfected the art of the selfie. My head just doesn’t work with the angle and I always look cross-eyed but here you go…

The munchkin is brilliant at doing selfies but I think that’s a generational thing. It’s like they were born instinctively knowing how to do it!

Hope you enjoyed my pics from a little further up the coast. It was good to visit Redcar again after all these years but strange to see how much had changed/how little I recognised. Hopefully we’ll have another trip out this coming weekend – destination as yet undecided – so watch this space!

Hope the last week in January treats you well.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where we escaped the fog to visit Sandsend and Whitby

I learned a new phrase about the weather on Saturday from watching Celebrity Catchphrase of all things and it was spookily appropriate to describe the weather in Scarborough that day – a ‘pea-souper’. I am familiar with the phrase ‘the fog’s as thick as pea soup’ to describe particularly thick fog, but I’ve never heard of the shorter version ‘pea-souper’.

The munchkin had planned a day out with her friends so hubby and I had decided to take a trip up the coast to Whitby. We were a little apprehensive looking at the thick fog but hoped it would clear by the time we got to Whitby. It actually cleared as soon as we were out of Scarborough and what a contrast just a short distance up the coast with blue skies and sunshine!

We started with a trip to Sandsend just north of Whitby. I thought I was familiar with Sandsend but it appears I’m not as there’s a whole section of village I’ve never explored before as I usually park on the south side and explore the area round the beach there.

Transected by a river, half of this unfamiliar part of the village was bathed in bright sunshine but the other half was still covered in frost so it’s amazing to think that these photos were taken minutes apart of houses on the opposite side of the river!

From what we could tell, this part of the village mainly seemed to be holiday cottages owned by an estate but they were some sympathetically-build new builds nestling among very pretty old period cottages and a church.

We moved onto Whitby for a chippy lunch (rude not to) and caught the swing bridge opening for a couple of yachts to come through. Although the geography of Whitsborough Bay is predominantly modelled on Scarborough, I do have a river with a swing bridge which brings in this aspect of Whitby.

Whitby has always been one of my favourite places and I love being there on days like Saturday where it’s cold and crisp and there’s a buzz but it’s not heaving with people.

We spotted the most fabulous aeroplane trail which looked like it was coming straight out of the 199 steps up to St Mary’s Church!

I wish I’d thought to take a photo of Scarborough as, when we got back, it was still a pea-souper and it would have been great to compare the two. But I didn’t so here’s a few more pictures of Whitby looking fabulous…

It’s Blue Monday today – allegedly the most ‘depressing’ day of the year because of the combination of post-Christmas, cold days/dark nights and time since last payday – so I hope these help bring a smile to your face instead.

Big hugs
Jessica xx