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 where I visited Nunnington Hall

Those who follow me on Instagram will already have seen a few photos but I wanted to share them here. Last Friday, I met up with author Eliza J Scott for a wander around Nunnington Hall in North Yorkshire. It’s not too far from the pretty market town of Helmsley and was a good meet-up location for both of us.

Eliza has visited before but I haven’t. It’s owned by the National Trust and you can find more details about it on their website here. The friendly guide in the entrance hall advised us that it is constructed of three different parts added over 450 years and was actually lived in as recently as the 1970s.

I’ve developed a love for visiting grand properties dressed for Christmas. There’s something extra special about seeing them dressed with wreaths and swags and trees, all gently lit by fairy lights.

Nunnington Hall didn’t disappoint with it’s first impressions. Isn’t it lovely? And that entrance is so inviting.

The grand hall had the most amazing fire blazing in it – perfect for a chilly day – but the lovely guide was standing by it so I don’t have a picture of it. I do have a picture of the lovely Christmas tree, though. Look at all those lovely gifts!

The rooms were dressed in different themes. If I’ve remembered this correctly a week on, it was Victorian, Georgian, 1950s and 1980s although I’m not 100% sure which was the Victorian v Georgian (or was it Edwardian). Don’t think I’ll secure a job there as a tour guide!

The low winter sun was streaming through the windows so it was tricky to get pictures but hopefully you’ll be able to get a feel for the feast set up. The costumes were really interesting as I’d always known that people were shorter back then but I stood next to the dress and the mannequin was much shorter than me and I’m only 5′ 2″!

In one of the bedrooms, there was the most delightful scene. The children from a local primary school had made Christmas trees from paper cones and there were fairy lights weaved between them and moving lights projected onto the ceiling. You really can’t get the feel from my photos but, believe me, it was beautiful.

One of the things I really love seeing when I visit stately homes are writing desks and I can never resist taking a photo of one and wondering if I’d have written books at such a desk if I’d lived in that era.

There was a lovely children’s bedroom. Look at those teddy bears. Awww!

I didn’t take photos of the 1980s living room but it was fun seeing the sorts of childhood toys I remembered like Sindys and the various games popular in that era. The Christmas tree was decked out with tinsel and baubles that reminded me of growing up too and there was a buffet table with some 1980s classic foods. Memories!

I enjoyed the 1950s bedroom and all the lovely gifts.

There were some art and craft exhibitions displayed in some rooms and I was in awe of how creative some people are.

When we’d finished our tour round the house, we retired to the tearooms and had the most delicious warm turkey & stuffing bap. It was served with rocket and homemade coleslaw and, tell you what, I’m still craving it a week later. It was absolutely delicious. And I couldn’t resist a hot chocolate and a piece of Victoria sponge too, although I completely forgot to take photos in my eagerness to eat!

We walked off our lunch in the gardens where there was a different view of the house in the late afternoon sunshine.

There were some activities for children set up and I couldn’t resist taking this photo of an adorable hedgehog illustration on one of them. I was also fascinated to spot one of the groundskeepers cutting down mistletoe from one of the trees. I’ve actually never seen mistletoe growing in the wild myself and the trees were covered in it. I took a photo but it hasn’t come out that well. You can just make out the clumps top right, bottom left and in the middle.

All too soon, it was time to leave but, on the way out, we spotted some more activities and couldn’t resist a go on the welly wanging! With a throw of a pair of wellington boots, I managed to knock over all the skittles which was pretty surprising considering I’ve never done that before. Eliza managed all but one so we both uncovered an unexpected ‘talent’. Who knew?!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Wild boys, cream scones and lots of hedgehogs

Happy Monday!

Having spent most of the past 18 months hibernating, I’m recovering this morning from a packed weekend. On Friday night, I went to my first live music gig since the pandemic started. Duran Duran were playing at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre (OAT) and I got hold of tickets to go with my husband’s twin sisters at the back end of last year hoping that everything would have calmed down.

At the start of this year, it was looking less and less likely that we’d get to see the gig or any of the other 4 I had tickets for. Three of them got postponed until 2022 but Duran Duran and Olly Murs were put back to later in the summer season this year. Unfortunately, I had to get my money back on the Olly Murs one as the postponed date clashed with our holiday in the Lake District but I could make the Duran Duran date.

We went out for tea and pink prosecco first and it felt so good to put some make-up on, do my hair and be out out!

Duran Duran still have it after 40 years in the business. It’s the second time I’ve seen them, the first being about 15 or 16 years ago in Manchester shortly after hubby and I met. They played a great set with one new (but good) track and a couple I wasn’t so familiar with among so many favourites. An encore of Save a Prayer, Wild Boys and Rio was just fabulous.

I was then up early on Saturday to get ready for a trip to York for the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association) York Tea. I’d been to the previous three although the event took a break last year.

I usually go with my bestie, fellow author Sharon Booth, but Sharon was unable to join us this year and it was strange being there without my partner in crime. I usually travel by train and arrange to meet up with another writing friend for tea and cake beforehand but, this time, hubby drove us in so he and the munchkin could have a walk round the city walls. Somehow she turned this into a trip to Primark and various other clothes shops instead!

We had a little wander round York first as traffic had been surprisingly good so we had some spare time. York Minster was looking mighty fine in the sunshine.

The venue is the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in York is a gorgeous venue and it was the third time the York Tea has been held there. Although the event has always been held at the same time of year, the weather has massively varied. That first year it was really cold and the fire was blazing. This year there was bright sunshine and I had to shed my cardigan while wishing I’d brought a fan with me!

To make the event as safe as possible, there were reduced numbers and it was a condition of attendance to have been double-vaccinated, making the decision to attend a little easier.

Three fellow Boldwood authors were there and it was so lovely to meet them face to face: L-R Sheila Riley and Lizzie Lane, both of whom write historicals, me, and Lynda Stacey who writes romantic suspense/psych thrillers.

Lynda and I had been chatting on social media beforehand and were stunned to discover we’ve been to the York Tea at the same time on several occasions (Lynda used to actually organise it!) and another much smaller writing event yet we’ve never actually met so it was fabulous to finally meet in person.

There were eight of us round our table. I sat next to my lovely friend Joy Wood who has written a few different genres but whose latest books are psych thrillers and had the amazing Milly Johnson on the other side! I managed a photo with Joy but stupidly never thought to get a photo with Milly. In fact, I was pretty rubbish at thinking to take photos of people or food. I think I’m out of practice being in a room with people and it just didn’t occur to me until right at the end.

The food, by the way, was delicious although the scones did elicit the usual pronunciation debate, whether jam or cream should go on first, and the merits of adding butter. I am sconn, yes to butter, jam before cream. And I am so right about this!!!!!

Lynda was on my table too with Daisy James (romcoms) who I’ve met at several other events and love to chat to, as well as Chrissie Bradshaw (historicals and romcoms) but I sadly didn’t get an opportunity to properly talk to Chrissie as we were on opposite sides of the table.

I had the pleasure of meeting lovely local author Eliza J Scott, an indie author with gorgeous books set on the North Yorkshire Moors and had some serious outfit envy of this gorgeous skirt worn by Jane Lacey-Crane (women’s fiction)). Check out all these books! Isn’t that just the prettiest skirt ever?

It was great to catch up in person with several members of the Beverley RNA Chapter – L-R Sylvia Broady (historical), Jenni Fletcher (Mills & Boon Historical), Rhoda Baxter/Jeevani Charika (romcom/women’s fiction) and me. Pre-Covid, we used to meet monthly but have been having online meetings instead. Hopefully we’ll return to face to face in the New Year. (Photo credit to John Jackson).

I apologise for not name-checking everyone I spoke to and there were so many more people I’d have loved to chat to including Jenni Keer who I met in the ladies right the start of the event and who was such a delight, but time was not on our side. Hopefully another time!

Hubby and munchkin met me afterwards and we headed home for a takeaway and the start of the new season of Strictly Come Dancing. Fabulous to have that back on our screens again. I think there are going to be some wonderful pairings there and the standard is going to be extremely high.

After an evening and a day off socialising, it was back to my desk yesterday and I am pleased to report that the first round of edits on A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow are now complete and back with my editor. I’m catching up on a day of admin today before diving into Summer Nights at The Starfish Café tomorrow.

Thank you to John Jackson, Jean Fullerton and everyone involved in organising The York Tea. Huge congratulations to all the former NWS members (New Writers’ Scheme) who were nominated for the Joan Hessayon Award which was part of the event. The winner, Caroline Day with Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life was clearly stunned to win which was so touching to see and I wish her – and all the others – every success with their writing careers.

Big hugs
Jessica xx