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Mothers Day

Mum’s the Word!

 

They protect us, care for us and love us unconditionally. They are also quite capable of embarrassing us in public, accosting us with unsolicited advice and coming at us with spitty tissues (even now!) but we love them with all our hearts, says Gill Chetcuti 

 

constance penswick smith

 

‘Oh, that’s just another American import,’ is often the sneering reaction to any mention of Mother’s Day … but are we right? Well, sort of. 

Many people think that Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday are the same thing when, in fact, they are not. Mother's Day (which is completely unrelated to the Christian celebration known as Mothering Sunday) began in 1908 with an American woman named Anna Jarvis. Anna’s mother was a peace activist and staunch campaigner for the improvement of women’s health and equality. When she died, her daughter wanted to commemorate her life so requested that a service be held to honour all mothers.  Thus, the first official Mother's Day celebration was observed at St Andrew's Methodist Church on May 10th, 1908, with 407 people in attendance. 

 

eddie ab fab

Before long, several states adopted ‘Mother's Day’ as an official event. The first was West Virginia, Jarvis’s home state. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day – the second Sunday in May – as a national holiday. However, far from being thrilled at this turn of events, Anna was mortified that a celebration of love had quickly evolved into a commercial enterprise. In fact, at a subsequent Mother's Day festival, she was arrested for disturbing the peace after attempting to stop women from selling flowers. Tearfully she told the police, ‘I just wanted it to be a day of sentiment not profit.’

Maria von Trapp

By the early 1920s, Hallmark had started selling Mother's Day cards. Jarvis was so incensed by what she saw as exploitation that she tried to abolish Mother’s Day altogether. In her view, the celebration she created – a day she’d hoped would be reverential and contemplative – had been cheapened beyond repair. In her words: ‘A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother and then eat most of it yourself!’ She even called florists and the makers of greeting cards ‘charlatans, bandits, pirates and termites’! Jarvis's fervent attempts to reform Mother's Day continued, largely unsuccessfully, until the early 1940s.

 

gertrude glenn close

Perhaps inspired by Anna's effort in the US, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement in the UK in 1914. Like Anna, Constance was disillusioned with the way in which the celebration was heading. Centuries ago, it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church on the fourth day of Lent. This was known as going ‘a-mothering’ and worshippers would pick wildflower posies en route to give to their mothers. However, now the religious celebration was becoming blurred by commercialism, its true meaning lost in greed, just like its American counterpart. Constance and her friend Ellen Porter were also unsuccessful in their campaign to make Mothering Sunday more reverent, as by the 1930s, the custom of celebrating the event began to disappear. 

However, this changed in December 1941 when the United States entered the war and thousands of American servicemen began to arrive in England. They were surprised to find that the English did not have a day to celebrate their mothers so, on the second Sunday in May, they presented their hosts with presents and cards to thank them for their kindness, just as they would have done at home for their own mums. When the war ended and the young men returned to their country, Mothering Sunday (albeit with new, American influences) became popular again, reverting to its original date – the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Today, the original meaning of Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day is still somewhat lost but it remains an occasion to show mum just how much she is valued, appreciated and loved. As James Joyce said: ‘Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother's love is not.’ And we agree. Happy Mother's Day to you all!

 

julia roberts 2

 

Mother used to say...

We asked some readers for their favourite words of wisdom from dear old ma. Here’s what they told us…

‘Love many, trust few, learn to paddle your own canoe!’ Natasha Wait, Mold

‘Don’t bother lying because mums always find out!’ And they do! Charlotte  Morris, Wrexham

‘You can buy jam!’ Actually, this was my midwife in response to me trying to be superwoman and doing everything myself! Julie-Ann Robinson, Chester

‘A tidy house is a wasted life!’ Jane Taylor, Birkenhead

‘You’re not crazy or mad, you just think differently from everybody else.’  Jessie Rudd, on holiday from Cape Town

‘If a problem can be fixed then don’t worry about it. If a problem can’t be fixed then why worry about it?’  Carol Burke, Liverpool

‘Don’t judge people until you know their story.’ Trudy Bircham, Connah’s Quay

‘Learn a little about a lot so you can speak to anyone on any level.’  Samantha Jones, Oswestry

‘Never marry a person until you’ve been on holiday with them!’ Dean Ashton, on holiday from London

‘Do all your drinking before the age of 60 as after that, two glasses and you’re done!’ Sam Wellings, Barmouth

 

Did you know...?

Six Mothering Sunday facts

Mothering Sunday was also known as Refreshment Sunday because the fasting rules for Lent were relaxed that day.

The UK's flower sales increase by an average of 40 per cent during the run-up to Mother’s Day.

The ancient Greeks celebrated Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, every year.

In the UK, more than 30 million cards are sent on Mother’s Day.

In most countries and languages, the word for mother begins with the letter ‘M'.

More than 50 countries observe an official day dedicated solely to mothers.

elastigirl 1

 

Five of the Best Mums…

Molly Weasley 

Nurturing, supportive and with buckets of charm, the Weasley matriarch and Order of the Phoenix member will fight off even the darkest of wizards to protect her children – and Harry Potter!

Elastigirl 

The true ‘super-mum’, as one of The Increidbles, she balances motherly duties with crime-fighting and capturing criminals – plus she hassuperhuman stretching powers!

Marge Simpson

Outspoken Marge is the happy homemaker of the Simpson family, endlessly tolerant of her husband Homer’s lsacker ways, and supportive mum to Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

Violet Crawley 

The sharpest, quickest tongue of the 20th century, the dowager of Downton Abbey tells her son Robert exactly what she thinks, and won’t shy away from mothering her granddaughters either!

Maria von Trapp

The all-singing, all-dancing governess-turned-mum uses her imagination to nurture the Von Trapp children. ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria?’ Well, there’s no need! In the words of another of Andrews’ famous roles, Maria is ‘practically perfect in every way!’

 

Marge Simpson

…And Five of the Worst!

Snow White’s stepmum 

She may think she’s ‘the fairest of them all,’ but the Evil Queen (especially as played by Julia Roberts in Mirror Mirror) certainly won’t win any awards for Mother of the Year!

Mrs Bennet

Overbearing, embarrassing and inappropriate, Mrs Bennett (as played by Brenda Blethyn in the 2005 film) nearly scuppers Lizzie’s chances with Darcy. But there’s no doubt she loves her five daughters – marrying them off to the richest men possible is a sign of affection, right?

Gertrude, Queen of Denmark

Whether she helped to murder Hamlet’s father or not, marrying her brother-in-law immediately after her husband’s somewhat suspicious demise obviously didn’t help Gertrude’s poor son’s mental state!

Edina Monsoon 

Jennifer Saunders’ Absolutely Fabulous heavy-drinking, fad-chasing mum to Saffie spends more time trying to stay ‘young and hip’ than caring for her daughter.

Mrs Wormwood

Though she has a soft spot for her daughter, Roald Dahl’s creation is self-obsessed and more concerned with her next hairstyle or bingo night than nurturing Matilda. 

[Pull Quote]

‘Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother's love is not.’ James Joyce

 
 

Behind Closed Doors

 

Behind closed doors

 

The magnificent stately homes, manor houses, castles and abbeys scattered across our region are places of grandeur and sophistication – surely not scandal, intrigue and drama? Gill Chetcuti discovers that some of the goings on behind in high places were far more unseemly than any Downton Abbey plot lines...

 

shrigley hall

 

The heiress abduction

When Cheshire’s Shrigley Hall Hotel was a family home, it was at the centre of a scandal that sent shockwaves through Britain’s society. Built by William Turner, a prosperous cotton magnate, in 1825, the hall was opulent and elegant, and Turner’s daughter, Ellen, was the sole heiress to a vast fortune. 

Ellen was a pupil at the prestigious Ladies Seminary boarding school in Warrington. Clever and dedicated to her studies, she was a popular student. It came as a shock to all when a well-dressed stranger arrived explaining that Ellen’s mother was seriously ill and that she must return home immediately.

Fifteen-year-old Ellen was taken to the Albion Hotel in Manchester where she was introduced to a charismatic man named Captain Wilson. Ellen was bewildered but Wilson immediately put her mind at rest, assuring her that he was a family friend. The captain’s brother, William, then joined them. At this point, Ellen felt there was no reason to be alarmed. Her companions were charming and attentive, the atmosphere light and convivial. 

The mood changed shortly after when Wilson revealed that he was actually Edward Gibbons Wakefield and that her mother was not ill, but instead there was a problem with her father’s business. He explained that he and her father had reached an agreement with his creditors, but, to ensure that Shrigley Hall stayed in the family, Ellen must first marry a well-connected gent... like himself.

Shocked and confused, Ellen asked to see her father before agreeing to Wakefield’s proposal. Wakefield assured her that her father was anxious to be reunited with her too but his situation had worsened and now his life was in danger. He explained that to ensure his safety, she must marry at once. They were married at Gretna Green just three days after her abduction. The deceit continued until the couple reached Calais and Ellen’s uncles and attorney arrived to confront Edward.

The marriage was annulled by Parliament, and both Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his brother William were convicted at trial and sentenced to three years hard labour.

Visit shrigleyhall-pottshrigley.h-rez.com

 

7th-Earl-of-Stamford

The Earl and the showgirl

George Harry Grey, 7th Earl of Stamford, broke conventional barriers and scandalised polite society when in 1855 he married Catherine ‘Kitty’ Cocks – a bareback horse rider who used to thrill audiences at the circus with her equestrian skills. Cheshire’s aristocracy was less than enamoured by the union and the couple received a cold welcome when they arrived at Dunham Massey – the Earl’s family home. 

By all accounts, Kitty was intelligent, friendly and pretty but that did little to placate the locals. Their mistrust of her worsened when it was discovered that both her mother and brother had spent time in prison and that her sister had a daughter who was born in the workhouse. They snubbed Kitty at every opportunity, turning their backs on her at the Knutsford Races and using their parasols as shields to block her from their vision. The final straw came, for George at least, when the minister and the churchwarden refused to ring the church bells to announce their arrival. 

Reportedly furious, the couple packed their bags and left Cheshire, preferring to live at George’s second home in Staffordshire where society was more tolerant of their unorthodox union. (This was not the first time that the Earl had married ‘beneath him’ – as a student at Cambridge University he married Elizabeth Billage, the daughter of his boot maker.) George died in 1883 and the snobbery they had endured during their married life carried on after his death, with the council refusing to pass on a message of condolence to his grieving widow.

Pay a visit to Dunham Massey today and you can see Kitty’s beautiful Green Silk Room.

Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunham-massey

 

gawsworth

 

The disgraced maid of honour

Built between 1480 and 1600, Cheshire’s Gawsworth Hall was originally home to the Fitton family, the most famous being Mary, considered by many to be the ‘dark lady’ of William Shakespeare’s sonnets. Mary’s life was interspersed with romance and disgrace. In the late 1500s, she found employment as a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I. This highly sought-after, prestigious role required her to be respectable and beyond reproach and, for a while, that’s exactly what she was.

However, Mary Fitton’s blameless career came to an abrupt end in 1601, shortly after she met William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. Their friendship quickly turned into an affair and Mary fell pregnant. Although William admitted paternity, he refused to marry her and was sent to Fleet prison. Their child, a son, died soon after birth, but the court was scandalised and Mary dismissed. The disgraced Earl was eventually released, though he and Mary remained barred from court.

Scandal associated with Gawsworth Hall did not end with Mary’s fall from grace. In 1712, the estate was bequeathed to a niece, Lady Mohun and contested by another, the Duchess of Hamilton. The dispute culminated in a duel in Hyde Park where both Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton lost their lives.

Gawsworth Hall is still a family home and is open to the public from May to September. Visit www.gawsworthhall.com

 

evan-tredegar2

 

The hedonist

Tredegar House in Newport has an extremely colourful history. One of the finest Restoration period buildings in Wales it was home to the wealthy and influential Morgan Family, who later became Lords Tredegar. The family lived there for more than 500 years but Evan, a hedonistic eccentric, was the last member of the line to call it home.

Evan’s weekend house parties at Tredegar in the 1930s and 40s gained local notoriety from a largely disapproving society. These events attracted eminent artistic, literary and society figures including Aldous Huxley, Herbert George Wells and the ‘Great Beast’ himself, the occultist Aleister Crowley. As the friendship between Evan and Crowley deepened, so too did Evan’s obsession with the occult. Crowley himself took part in many dark rituals at Tredegar Park and christened Evan ‘adept of adepts’. However, Evan’s devil worshipping was put on hold when he converted to Catholicism and became chamberlain to Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI!

Paul Busby, local historian and former tour guide at Tredegar House, says: ‘The flamboyant and extravagant Evan was a fantastical figure whose eccentricities were allowed full rein thanks to his electric personality and enormous wealth. Life was often alarming in his company but things were never dull. I still get a chuckle at the fact that he was a gay, black magic-practising chamberlain to the pope. He didn’t see the contradiction!’

Despite his openly acknowledged homosexuality, Evan married twice. Understandably, neither marriage was a success. Evan was not the only family member to cause a stir in the community, however. His mother is rumoured to have built bird’s nests big enough to sit in, and in 1925 his sister, Gwyneth, was found dead aged 29 in the River Thames after succumbing to drug abuse.

Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/tredegar-house

 

 

 

The ladies of Llangollen

It is hard to imagine today how scandalous it was in the 18th century for unmarried women to live together, but in 1778, two friends – Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler – did just that. Both women had had unhappy family lives: Eleanor, the youngest daughter of the de jure Earl of Ormonde, of Kilkenny Castle, was considered, at 39, too old to marry and her family were pressurising her to join a nunnery. Her orphaned 23-year-old friend, Sarah Ponsonby, was suffering the unwanted attentions of her middle-aged guardian, Sir William Fownes. 

Both women felt trapped, frightened and angry so decided to escape their unbearable situations and flee. However, their families discovered the women’s plans and the pair were caught on board a merchant vessel ship about to set sail. Like naughty schoolchildren, they were scolded and separated.

When Sarah fell seriously ill, Eleanor ran away to join her and hid in Sarah's bedroom. This time, her parents, perhaps bored with their daughter’s behaviour, declined to collect her – Sarah and Eleanor were free to do as they pleased. Joyfully, they sailed from Ireland to Milford Haven and then journeyed north, until they found themselves in the Vale of Llangollen. Falling in love with the area, they bought an unassuming two-storey cottage known as Pen y Maes, which they refurbished and extended before renaming it Plas Newydd. 

The nature of Sarah and Eleanor's friendship has excited much curiosity over the years. Certainly, they were devoted to each other – they slept in the same bed (common behaviour between friends and sisters), wore men’s clothes and hats (warm and practical) and didn’t concern themselves with ‘ladies’ pursuits’.  They themselves remained seemingly untroubled by the controversy their lifestyle caused and remained together for 50 years.

Plas Newydd is open to the public from April to September. Visit www.denbighshire.gov.uk

 

henry paget

The extrovert

Another Plas Newydd but, this time, on the beautiful island of Anglesey. Eccentricities have traditionally been an accepted, even expected, feature of the aristocracy, and Henry Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey, does not disappoint. Known as the ‘Dancing Marquess’ because he liked to perform in his own theatre, festooned in extravagant silks and jewels, Henry inherited his title and a vast fortune following the death of his father in 1898. He loved the finer things in life and squandered a huge amount of money on parties, outlandish clothes, entertaining friends and attending the theatrical performances.

Henry was briefly married to his cousin, but she disapproved of his extravagant lifestyle and complete disregard for money. Their marriage was struggling in other ways too – it was never consummated – and eventually Lillian filed for divorce.

Before long, the Marquess had accumulated massive debts and bankrupted the family. In order to try to recoup some of his losses he held ‘the Great Anglesey Sales’ – which was 40 days of sales with more than 40,000 lots including his beloved pet chows, pugs, collies and terriers – to appease his creditors. Left with a paltry £3,000 a year, he moved to Monaco, where he died aged 30 after a long illness.

Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/plas-newydd-house-and-gardens

 

john mytton

 

The madman

Halston Hall in Whittington, near Oswestry, was the family seat for the Myttons from the mid 1500s. The family were influential landowners, well known throughout the county, but it was John, born in 1796, who is the best remembered. Appropriately nicknamed ‘Mad Jack’, as a young boy he was expelled from the prestigious Westminster School for fighting with a teacher before tormenting a series of private tutors with practical jokes and pranks. One of them awoke to find himself in bed with a horse! After a stint in the army, John Mytton returned to Halston Hall and took up his duties as a squire in preparation for coming into his vast inheritance when he turned 21.

However, if John’s friends and family were expecting him to become more adult in his outlook and forsake his immature ways, they were to be sadly disappointed. If anything, the money and freedom (as well as six bottles of port a day) made Mad Jack even more wayward and unpredictable. After a particularly raucous night, he sent an inebriated friend to bed with two bulldogs and a bear. On another occasion he decided to go duck shooting by moonlight on Halston's frozen lake, dressed in only his nightshirt. One of his favourite pranks was to dress as a highwayman, complete with pistols, and ambush unsuspecting guests as they went home along the Oswestry road. 

Perhaps in an attempt to change his ways and appear more respectable, John decided to stand for Parliament. If the story is to be believed, he secured his seat by ‘encouraging’ the constituents of Shrewsbury to vote for him by offering them huge amounts of money. Unsurprisingly he was elected but found politics stifling and boring, attending the House of Commons only once and leaving after half an hour.

Halston Hall is still a privately owned family house, available to hire for weddings and functions. Visit www.halstonestate.co.uk

 

The royal refuge

The historic timber-framed building of Boscobel House in Shropshire, built in the early 1600s, was home to the Giffard family, staunch Catholics at a time when the religion was coming under heavy persecution. Some historians argue that it was designed with the sole purpose of protecting Catholics, and if that’s true, it certainly did its job in 1651 when Charles, Prince of Wales, sought refuge there after the Battle of Worcester.

The future king and a few trusted companions fled after suffering a defeat at the hands of Cromwell’s New Model Army. With a reward of £1000 on Charles’s head, the group were in grave danger and found their escape route into Wales blocked by Parliamentary troops. Their situation looked bleak but the resourceful Charles had a plan. Making contact with the Penderel family, who were tenants and servants of the Giffards, he arranged shelter at the great house. However, as Boscobel was at risk from intensive searches, it was considered safest for Charles to hide in a large oak tree in the nearby forest. After spending the entire day in the tree, Charles moved to the house and hid in a priest-hole in the attic until managing to escape to France, and safety.

A descendant of the ‘Royal Oak’ still stans: 18th-century souvenir hunters ravaged the original tree in order to make snuff boxes from its boughs. 

Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk

 

buildwas abbey 2

 

The murderous monk

Shropshire’s Buildwas Abbey was founded originally in 1135 by Roger De Clinton, Bishop of Coventry, as a Savignac monastery, and was inhabited by a small community of about a dozen monks. This enterprising brotherhood made their living by charging travellers a toll for crossing the stone bridge over the river Severn.

The abbey was in a precarious position, located as it was near the border of Wales, and came under regular attack from marauding Welsh princes and their followers. The monks became used to raids; on one occasion in 1350, raiders from Powys even kidnapped and imprisoned the abbot. 

In 1406, the abbey’s estates were laid waste by the followers of Owain Glyndwr but it was one of the brotherhood’s own who really shocked the order. Thomas Tonge murdered the abbot in 1342, somehow managed to evade arrest and then audaciously petitioned for re-instatement into the Cistercian order.

The abbey closed in 1536 by the order of Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries, when the estate was transferred to Edward Grey, 3rd Baron Grey of Powis.

Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk

 

 
 

Weddings

Proposals
Venues
Dresses
Jewellery
Cakes
Photographer
Transport
Furry Friends
A Little Music

 

Proposals

Propose like Gatsby

Ring- propose like Gatsby

The Chester Grosvenor Hotel and vintage and fine jewellery specialist Kayes have got together to offer romantic young men with marriage in mind the chance to make their proposal as magical as a scene from The Great Gatsby, with an exquisite vintage Some do not use the diapers at all, for arousal, or bladder and bowel movements. The phrase buttered bun is sometimes used to refer to the owner of the orifice in question. Many men who like trans partners of any variety, known as tranny chasers, do not necessarily identify as gay themselves. Adult animation is genre of animation geared towards adults and sometimes teens. Bestiality is illegal in many countries. The Silent Duck, also called Duck-Billing, is the technique often used in which the person engaging in hand insertion shapes the hand to resemble indian celebrity porn a duck beak. Mammary intercourse is said by Alex Comfort to produce mutual orgasm in women with sensitive breasts , and it was one of the nine substitute exercises for penetrative sexual activities, as detailed in the Paradis Charnels of 1903. Lucky Pierre is slang for a person performing both receptive and insertive anal and/or vaginal sex simultaneously during a threesome, being positioned between the two partners. On May 27, 2010 the television program The Doctors discussed the topic with dozens of teens, parents, and professionals. The original definition of dogging and which is still a closely related activity is spying on couples having sex in a car or other public place. This may relate to fetishes such as voyeurism or cuckolding. Sexual relations between women have been illustrated as well as narrated, but much of the written material from the early modern period has been destroyed. Most soft crush fetishists avoid being placed under the same label as hard crush fetishists, believing that crush films with larger animals give the entire group a bad label. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photographs, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, and video games. As a result, little in history was documented to give an accurate description of how female homosexuality is expressed. The wife who enjoys cuckolding her husband is frequently called a hotwife, or a cuckoldress if the man is more submissive. ring served in a champagne cocktail.

Imagine the scene: a Rolls Royce Phantom drops you off at The Chester Grosvenor, where you check into your Master Suite to find waiting a beautiful hand tied posy, a box of handmade chocolates and a bottle of cold Champagne.

While you distract your fiancée to be with a manicure at the award-winning Grosvenor Spa (making her hands worthy of the ring you’ll be giving her), you take a short walk through Chester’s rows to Kayes, in whose elegant surroundings you'll find a wealth of original vintage diamond engagement rings. Once you've chosen, Kayes will aim to have the ring tailored to fit and delivered in time to The Chester Grosvenor for the ultimate proposal.

As evening approaches, you’ll escort your fiancée to be to the Arkle Bar, where a champagne cocktail will appear for her served from a silver tray. When your loved one looks down on to the tray, she’ll find the stunning engagement ring and your perfect proposal will be complete.

Afterwards you will celebrate in style at Michelin star restaurant Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor, enjoying a three course meal from the a la carte menu.

Price £960 per couple, subject to availability, ring not included. For more information visit www.chestergrosvenor.com or call 01244 324024

Venues

Best in-tent

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You don't want to be accused of being a Bridezilla, but you do know exactly how you want every last detail of your wedding to be... in which case, Brookhouse Mill is the venue for you.

'Our marquees are a blank canvas,' says proprietor Karen Hall, 'so the bride and groom can put their own, totally personal stamp on it. There's a definite trend for creativity in weddings these days, with brides wanting to make their day completely unique and individual, and we have no stipulations on what can and can't be done in one of our marquees.'

The other advantage of a marquee from Brookhouse is the space. 'You can get all your guests under one roof together which is great, especially if you're planning a big wedding,' says Karen.

But even though with a Brookhouse marquee you'll have carte blanche to decorate it and do with it you want, you'll have plenty of support to help you do it. Karen and her team will be there to help and organise everything to make sure your day goes smoothly.

'I can be as involved as the couple would like,' says Karen. 'For instance, perhaps the mother of the bride is an expert at floral art and is going to organise all the flowers - then we will assist her in every way we can. It's your wedding the way you want it, and we're here to help you from our first meeting to the first dance.'

For more information visit www.brookhousemill.co.uk or call 01745 813377

Push the boat out

chester boat hen party

If the idea of celebrating your marriage while cruising along the lovely River Dee really floats your boat, why not charter a trip with Chester Boat for your wedding reception. Luxury showboats Lady Diana and Mark Twain can accommodate between 40 and 120 guests, with catering provided, whether you want simple canapes or a full formal dinner for all.

The boat and landing stage can be decorated to fit in with your wedding theme, and will certainly provide a pretty and interesting setting for your wedding photos. The boats are available for day or night hire, for between two and four hours.

Chester Boat also cater for hen parties, offering a three-hour cruise on the theme of Mamma Mia or a 60s, 70s and 80s retro disco night, with a barbecue, live DJ and well-stocked bar.

For more information visit chesterboat.co.uk or call 01244 325394

 

Wedding train

Wedding Belle at Berwyn 1

Get your marriage off to a moving start at Llangollen! The Steam Railway is licensed for weddings and civil ceremonies, offering a unique venue for couples who are looking for a small, intimate ceremony and a relaxing experience for their guests.

Your wedding ceremony will take place in the Henry Robertson Suite, which seats up to 64 people, and you'll also have exclusive use of the footbridge above the railway for the duration of your ceremony until you board your train.

You then start your married life sitting back and relaxing with your guests in your exclusive carriage, decorated for the occasion with white linen tablecloths, where you'll enjoy your chosen wedding breakfast. During your journey all your needs will be taken care of by the railway's onboard staff.

The railway has a choice of two menus or will try to accommodate requests where possible. Bespoke packages can be arranged subject to availability

For a Wedding Brochure for 2014 visit www.llangollen-railway.co.uk or call 01978 860979

 

Llyndir Hall

photo

Let somebody else deal with all the stresses and strains of organising your wedding, leaving you free to enjoy your engagement. The team at Llyndir Hall Hotel and Spa at Rossett near Chester have an unrivalled reputation for providing the very best wedding celebrations, including fabulous photo opportunities, exquisite food and a beautifully designed wedding suite.

There are a number of wedding packages to choose from, including Classic, Executive and Superior. All include exclusive use of the Llyndir Suite and Conservatory, and use of the beautiful landscaped gardens and Italian terrace. You'll receive a red carpet welcome, with champagne for the bride and groom, and the hotel's event manager will act as your dedicated toastmaster.

With beautifully laid and decorated tables underneath elevated candelabras, Llyndir Hall's reception room is perfect for your reception. The resident DJ will entertain guests and at the end of the evening the happy couple can retire to their complimentary four-poster suite.

The packages also include complimentary upgrades to executive bedrooms for parents, and discounted accommodation rates for friends and family.

To find out more about Llyndir Hall's wedding services, visit www.bestwestern.co.uk or call 01244 571648

 

In the lap of luxury

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For a truly special wedding, why not rent your own country house, set in its own landscaped gardens within the Snowdonia National Park? Plas Gwynfryn is a stunning, privately owned five-bedroom Welsh mansion near Harlech in north Wales – and it is licensed to hold civil ceremonies or partnerships.

Plas Gwynfryn is hired on an exclusive-use basis, and there's a choice of three beautiful rooms or an open air veranda for your ceremony, so you can choose the location that best suits your requirements and set the theme you want.

The house can sleep up to 14 guests, with five beautifully designed bedrooms, so it's perfect for a wedding party, and offers complete privacy for your group. For your wedding breakfast Plas Gwynfryn can accommodate up to 40 guests for a formal seated meal, or up to 100 guests for informal dining or an evening reception. With prior permission it is possible to  erect a marquee on the lawn to accommodate a formal meal for more than 40 guests.

For more information visit www.plasgwynfryn.co.uk or call 01341 241 363

 

Rossett Hall 

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Rossett Hall Hotel is a Grade II listed Georgian manor house in the village of Rossett, near Wrexham, north Wales. The hotel offers an idyllic setting for your wedding day, combining Georgian grandeur and charm with all the amenities and comforts you would expect from a modern hotel.

With a wedding co-ordinator and a team of wedding specialists on hand, the hotel is dedicated to ensuring that your special day fulfils all your dreams and aspirations. The team will help you through all the stages of planning your wedding and can offer a number of wedding packages to suit your needs.

Business development manager Tracy Elliott says: 'This is your special day and you must have the wedding of your dreams. We listen to you, take your ideas and aspirations and create your perfect day. It's our privilege to help you celebrate with the personal service we pride ourselves on.'

The hotel sits in its own quiet grounds, offering a secluded and tranquil location, and has its own private bar and lounge, an elegant reception room with sun terrace and a grand stone staircase leading to the opulent bridal suite which has its own private lounge and a luxurious master bedroom. There is also accommodation for your guests.

For more information visit www.rossetthallhotel.co.uk or call 01244 571000.

 

Regency luxury

shooters

Shooters Hill Hall is a gracious and elegant Regency house built in 1822 and set in beautiful Shropshire parkland and woods near Shrewsbury.

Designed intentionally as an exclusive venue for weddings and events, the Hall sleeps 10, with the luxurious accommodation including a bridal suite with dressing room and spa bath. The Hall is owned by Richard and Ishbel MacInnes-Manby and their sons Kit and Guy - and the whole family has a background in hospitality and interior design. Richard and Ishbel live in a separate wing of the hall, so there is always someone discreetly in the background to make sure everything runs smoothly on your day.

The Hall is licensed for civil ceremonies, so you can have your wedding and reception at one venue, and the grounds can accommodate marquees for from 40 to 200 guests.

Richard and Ishbel will help you to organise and plan your perfect wedding at Shooters Hill Hall, so you can relax and enjoy your special day without a care in the world.

For more information visit www.shooterhshillhall.co.uk or call 07917 445560.

 

 

Dresses

Feels like heaven

Mia

Proprietor of Heavenly Brides and Belles Suzanne Heavens loves her job. 'I set up this shop for the love of the industry - I'm very passionate about it, I think it's a fun industry to be in,' she says. 'And I love hearing about brides' wedding plans!'

Since opening the shop in the Pride Hill Shopping Centre in Shrewsbury 18 months ago, where she started out selling ex-display/discontinued wedding dresses, bridesmaids and evening wear, Suzanne has progressed into selling more bridal wear and accessories and has become a stockist for Lincoln based designer Brides by Harvee.

'I concentrate solely on bridal wear now,' Suzanne explains. 'My collection still includes a lot of ex-display dresses, which are very popular due to their price tags (£50-£650), but the made-to-order ones from Brides By Harvee are really luxurious and at £700 to £1300 are still really reasonable.'

The shop is on the lower floor of the centre, a quiet and private location, with two units converted into one. One half is filled with dresses and accessories, and the other is a comfortable and intimate fitting area, where customers and their friends or mums can have a cup of tea, relax and make the most of Suzanne's eight years' experience in the industry.

'We're nice and friendly here,' says Suzanne. 'We're not pushy; we are honest and will offer advice when needed. Our customers are always very happy with the service they receive from us.'

Customers are so happy, in fact, that Heavenly Brides and Belles have already received the gold seal of recommendation from real brides reviews on weddingspot.co.uk - the only bridal shop in Shropshire to have won this accolade.

And with about 100 dresses from size 8 to 32, from a host of different designers, in different styles and fabrics, starting at £50, coupled with Suzanne's expert advice, there's a very good chance of finding the dress of your dreams at Heavenly Brides and Belles.

For more information visit www.heavenlybrides.co.uk or call 01743 249080

 

Dream dresses

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Why not get some help finding your perfect wedding gown, by visiting Trisha's Bridal Wear in Oswestry. Here you can book yourself one of the private showrooms where you'll be taken care of by one of the professional bridal consultants who will help you choose your dream dress.

Trisha's has a huge range of designer gowns to choose from, with two floors of wedding gowns, bridesmaids dresses and evening gowns, from designers including Ronald Joyce, Fara Sposa, Opulence, Romantica and Linzi Jay. Trisha's is also an elite stockist of Venus wedding dresses.

Having found your dream gown, you want it to fit perfectly. The shop also offers an on-site alterations service for both ladies and gents, all carried out by fully qualified and professional seamstresses, so when you find your 'almost' dream dress, it can be made into the perfect gown for you.

For more information visit www.trishasbridalwear.co.uk or call 01691 671133.

 

Jewellery

Something special

wedding bands

With more than 30 years in the antique jewellery trade, County Goldsmiths is a name to be trusted when you're looking for that special item. And now the venerable shop is branching out into a new venture where very special customers can expect very special treatment.

'We now have a new shop next to our existing premises in Shrewsbury,' says owner Carla Mason, 'where we're specialising in bridal jewellery.'

The shop, which opened in June, stocks wedding rings, engagement rings, eternity rings and gifts for bridesmaids.

'It's effectively a specialist bridal jewellery shop,' says Carla. 'The aim is to offer the same sort of experience you'd expect when having your dress fitting. We're offering a very personal service, that we don't believe you get from high street jewellers. We understand that your wedding jewellery is as important as your dress, your cake and your flowers - and we want to make choosing it a beautiful experience.'

Like its older sister next door, the new shop has an elegant, boutique style, and has private viewing rooms for one-to-one service. There are in excess of 1,000 rings available, with prices starting from a very reasonable £250, from which the sky is the limit. 'There's something for everyone price-wise and style-wise,' says Carla. 'The selection of engagement rings we've got is quite overhwelming actually!

'We'll be doing lots of special offers for brides and we'll also be doing bridal shows,' she adds, 'so follow us on Facebook and Twitter at Woodings&Co to keep up with any special offers.'

County Goldsmiths, 2 Butcher Row, Shrewsbury, visit www.countygoldsmiths.co.uk or call 01743 588751

 

Something new...

daisy chakra bracelet on Kate Curran-Riley Bridal jewellery

With all the focus on the wedding ring, it often gets forgotten that the bride might like to wear something a bit sparkly on her way up the aisle as well as back down it. Jewellery store Mococo, with shops in Mold, Ruthin, Wrexham and Chester have a lovely range of bridal jewellery, which can be given as gifts or chosen to carefully complement your dress and outfit.

Brands include Pandora, Clogau, Swarovski, Thomas Sabo, Diamonfire and fun and fashionable Daisy London. This lovely Daisy Heat Chrakra bracelet, £58, signifies love and compassion and will help any bride to feel relaxed and happy on her day.

Visit www.mococo.co.uk

 

Cakes

Brie my bride

cake edited-2

Perhaps you don't have a sweet tooth, you'd prefer to keep your carb count down (even on your wedding day), or maybe you just want to do something completely different, in which case a cheese wedding cake is a great alternative to the traditional fruit variety.

Porters Delicatessen in Llangollen, Denbighshire, specialise in cheese wedding cakes and have access to a huge variety of cheeses, including a wide selection of British and Welsh types so you can create something extra special for your day.

'It's best to come and enquire early,' says Tracey Hughes at Porter's, 'that way you can come in and taste the cheeses we have on offer. The heart-shaped Neufchatel from France is a very popular way to finish off a cheese wedding cake.'

Once you've chosen your cheese it takes about four weeks for Porter's to source them and ensure they are in prime condition on the day itself. They can deliver to and set up your cake at local venues, or the cheeses can be couriered further afield with step-by-step instructions for assembling at the other end. Of course, pick up from the shop and self-assembly is also an option.

'Cheese wedding cakes are becoming very popular,' says Tracey. 'Not only are they something a bit unusual, but they're also very good value. We offer a very flexible service and do our best to do whatever suits the customer.'

For more information visit www.portersdeli.co.uk or call 01978 862990.

 

Have your cake...

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What with worrying about the dress, the venue and the honeymoon, it's all too easy to forget other details of your wedding, but whatever you do, don't leave it till the last minute to organise your cake.

'I recommend that you order your cake as soon as you can,' says Mike xxxx of cake specialist Sugar & Spice in Wrexham, 'usually six to eight months before the wedding so there's plenty of time to discuss what you want.'

But don't panic if time is pressing - 'I can get cakes made quicker if necessary,' Mike adds, 'provided I have what's needed in the shop.'

Sugar and Spice have been making cakes for many years and can help you create your dream cake, whether you want fruit, lemon, chocolate, carrot, coffee or even something more unusual such as a rainbow sponge. Each tier can be a different type of cake - perfect if she's a chocaholic and he's nutty for fruit cakes .

For more information visit www.cakesbysugarandspice.co.uk or call 01978 264355

 

Photographer

Pretty as a picture

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A picture paints a thousand words - and you definitely want your wedding photos to be saying the right things about you. Good wedding photographers can get booked up a year in advance, so as soon as you've confirmed the date and booked the venues, it's time to start your search for a photographer.

Don't be tempted to cut corners when it comes to your wedding photos - you may have a friend who's a dab hand at taking a good picture, but do you really want to entrust the only lasting record of your special day to an amateur? Much better to book a professional such as Nigel Hughes Photography, based in Porthmadog, Gwynedd.

Says Nigel himself: 'We take pride in our professional ability and dedication and we use top-of-the-range digital photographic and developing equipment to provide an inimitable and bespoke record of your special day.'

Nigel, who has 30 years' experience, has a fresh, contemporary and romantic style and has experience of photographing weddings in all sorts of locations from the grandeur of Portmeirion to village churches. As well as ensuring all the usual formal photos are made, Nigel will spend time unobtrusively taking candid, informal pictures of the proceedings to capture the wedding day atmosphere and to make sure you have a complete and joyful memento of your day.

For more information visit www.nigelhughesphoto.com or call 01766 513612

 

Transport

Travel in style

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Travel to your venue in style in a chauffered 1920s reproduction car from Bespoked Wedding Cars. You can choose from a Cowley Landaulette six-passenger limousine; a Regent Landaulette six-passenger limousine, or a Beauford four-door long-wheel-base limousine. All have luxury ivory interiors and are designed with bridal gowns in mind to be extra roomy.

Owner of the family-run company Derek Brooks says: 'As full-time wedding transport professionals we understand what's needed to make your day run smoothly and to time, and we ensure you get those special photos for a day to remember.'

You'll get your car and your experienced, smartly dressed, child-friendly chauffeur for the whole day, and Bespoked Wedding Cars will take care of all the details for you, so you can concentrate on enjoying your special day.

Bespoked Wedding Cars cover Wrexham, Mold, Wirral, Cheshire, Shropshire, Denbighshire, North Wales and the surrounding areas. For more information visit www.bespokedweddingcars.com or call 01978 7623015

 

Camp it up

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If you're planning a retro wedding, make sure your transport (and possibly even your honeymoon getaway vehicle) fit with the theme by hiring a classic Volkswagen from Hilltop Classics near Wrexham. With quirky Beetles Billy and Cherub, plus stylish campervans Molly and Emily available, you'll be spoilt for choice. And if a VW isn't your style, perhaps you'd prefer a Jaguar E-Type called (very elegantly) Eleanor, or if you're planning a summer wedding, open-top beach buggy Georgie.

'All our cars are available for hire,' says owner Paul Williamson. 'All the cars are available chauffer driven, and of course, the campervans can be hired for self-drive so bride and groom can head off on their honeymoon straight after the wedding.

'We're very flexible - it's your day and we do our best to do it your way. And of course when you hire one of our vehicles for your wedding it comes fully decorated with ribbons, bows and floweres, and we'll even include a bottle of bubbly.'

For more information visit www.hilltopclassics.co.uk or call 01978 755100

 

Furry Friends

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On the most important day of your life, you don't want to leave out the most important member of the family - and with a new bespoke wedding service from dog grooming salon Groomintails, you don't have to.

Julie, owner of Groomintails, will put together a package that meets both your needs and those of your pet, so they can be part of your day and will look the part for those all-important wedding photos, meaning you don't have to worry about any embarrassing events or distractions.

Groomintails can collect your dog from wherever they've been staying, groom them, and look after them and handle them at the ceremony and venue, making sure they've got plenty of food and drink, can get outside when they need to, and get some peace and quiet if it all becomes too much for them.

For more information visit www.groomintails.co.uk or call 07808 801995.

 

A Little Music

 

Music to your ears

Your first dance on your wedding night is one you'll remember for the rest of your life, and you want to get it right.  Red Rooster Discos, who are based near Denbigh, north Wales, know how stressful it is choosing that all-important song, and the fear of getting up to dance with all eyes on you, but with 40 years' of DJing experience, they can help you make sure everything goes smoothly.

Husband and wife team Nicola and Dave will meet up with you before the special day to discuss all your requirements. 'If you don't want a first dance that's fine too,' say the couple, 'or if you want the guests to join in after a few bars of music, that's OK. We've even had couples who had a dance routine for fun and helped them organise it.'

Red Rooster pride themselves on being able to 'read' the atmosphere and keep everybody dancing all night long. 'We play what you want us to. It's your day but you don't have to run the night. Your part is to enjoy your guests and the party while we do the hard work.'

For more information about Red Rooster Discos visit www.redroosterdiscos.co.uk or call 01745 890367.

 
 

Head for the Hills

Wales and the borders has some of the best hillwalking in the country – but heading out into the wilds can be a daunting. Mountaineer and guide Graham Uney explains why the best way to enjoy the hills is to equip yourself with the right skills – and picks his six favourite hill walks

On the way up Cnicht

There something amazing about being out in the moors, hills and mountains. You’ve chosen your destination for the day’s walk, planned the route beforehand, packed all the necessary clothing, maps and compass, and packed lunch, and headed off into the wilds.

Your day might take you up beautiful valleys, and alongside rushing streams, or up narrow ridges and on to rocky summits where the views open out in all directions and make you feel truly alive.

Imagine how much greater your sense of achievement and enjoyment would be if you had complete confidence in your ability to find the route there and back safely. How about having the knowledge and experience to pick a route well off the beaten track, so you could really explore the mountains? Or what about having a good understanding of the upland environment, and being able to put a name to the birds, wildflowers, lichens and mosses you see along the way – wouldn’t that make for a very special experience too? All of these things can and should be a part of any day spent in the hills – anyone with a modicum of fitness can get to the top of a mountain, but there’s so much more to it than that! Every single step of the way can be special, not just the five minutes you spend at the summit cairn.

We are blessed in this part of the UK in that we are pretty much surrounded by lovely countryside, and there are lots of great hills and mountains within easy reach of all of us. But how to learn the skills and get the knowledge to enable you to really appreciate it all? Well, for the beginner there are broadly three ways into this magical world of mountains and moorlands.

The first, and by far the most common, is to go to your local outdoor clothing retailer, ask them what you need, take their word for it, and go try to find a way up a mountain. Most people who take this approach pick a well-known peak – say Snowdon. They’ll follow the hordes of other beginner hillwalkers on the Miner’s Track, get to the top, then go back down again. They’ll feel a real sense of achievement, but won’t really have a clue about what the other mountains are that they’ve seen, or what wildlife they could have been looking for, or know anything at all about the amazing human history of the peak – the mining, the Snowdon Mountain Railway, the mountaineering history, or the upland farming that are all inter-twined with the overall picture of what makes Snowdon what it is.

These are the people who might head over to Snowdon once every couple of years, and do the same thing over again. Those who do decide to tackle a different mountain are astounded to find that not every peak has a long chain of people heading up and down that they can follow, and sadly, many of them get lost and find themselves on scary, rocky ground. When they do eventually make it home, sometimes with the help of a volunteer team of mountain rescuers, they declare that they’ll never go near a mountain again.

The second way into the hills for beginners is to go with someone who knows about the mountains. This can be a very good approach, as the more experienced person should know how to read a map and compass, and to keep an eye on the weather. They should also have the sense to change the route plan if conditions are not good, and ideally, they’ll also know everything interesting there is to know about the mountains! Amateur hillwalkers can be good for this, but the only way to know you’re going with the absolute best person is to pay a qualified, experienced mountain guide.

And finally, the other option for the beginner hillwalker is to take control of your own safety and enjoyment in the hills. Book yourself on a course to learn about the equipment you need, how to use a map and compass, how to read mountain weather forecasts, what hazards there are in the mountains, and how to call for a mountain rescue team in an emergency. You’ll also learn about access and your legal rights in the hills, and yes, you’ll learn about the environment too.

Then next time there's an unexpected sunny Saturday, you won't hesitate to lace up your boots, pack your rucksack and get out there and explore. What better way to make the hills your own?

 

Wild Walks Wales

Graham Uney runs hill skills and guiding company Wild Walks Wales. Graham has more than 30 years’ experience of exploring the mountains of the UK, is a qualified mountain walking leader and writes guidebooks for walkers.

He offers guided mountain walks throughout Wales, and these are suitable for anyone, from absolute beginner to the more experienced hillwalker.

Wild Walks Wales also offers the brand new Hill and Mountain Skills Scheme which teaches everything you need to know before going into the hills – equipment, map and compass skills, hazards, weather forecasts, emergency procedures, access, and the environment. The Scheme is split into two different courses: Hill Skills is aimed at beginners, while Mountain Skills is for those who have done a little hillwalking, but want to progress on to higher, rockier walking terrain.

The company also offers other skills training, including the National Navigation Award Scheme, which teaches you how to read a map and compass. These courses are run at three different levels from beginner through to advanced.

For full details of guided hill and mountain walks, and skills courses for walkers visit www.wildwalkswales.co.uk or call Graham on *************(landline to come), or 07720 169191.

[six separate boxouts/panels with a pic each to be dotted through the feature]

Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr 

These, the highest peaks of the Glyderau range in north Snowdonia are among the roughest, wildest mountains in Wales. I just love the craggy slopes, and the huge boulder fields that adorn the summit plateau. There are many routes to the tops, but only a few are suitable for walkers. The best is from the Ogwen Valley, climbing up through Cwm Bochlwyd to Bwlch Tryfan, then up a path that zigzags across a scree slope to the summit plateau of Glyder Fach. From there you can walk across to Castell y Gwynt – the Castle of the Winds – and onwards to the top of Glyder Fawr before descending the famous Devil’s Kitchen. Whichever way you go, be clear that it will be very rough underfoot, and that these are serious mountains where you really do need the knowledge and the right gear to make it up and down safely.

Where to stay, eat and drink: Betws y Coed, Llanberis, Bangor, Caernarfon

Cadair Idris 

Surely the most popular peak in south Snowdonia, and for a very good reason. Cadair Idris is simply superb. It’s another mountain full of craggy slopes, and with amazing views out to Cardigan Bay from its summit. Of the routes suitable for walkers, the best has to be the Minffordd Path. This takes you up the mountain from the south, but follows a rocky ridge above a huge cliff for much of the way. You can traverse the highest point of Cadair Idris – which is known as Penygadair – and descend via the heathery slopes of Mynydd Moel.

Where to stay, eat and drink:: Dolgellau, Barmouth, Machynlleth, Tywyn

Y Berwyn 

These hills are much gentler than those of Snowdonia, but actually get ignored by many walkers. This is a shame in some ways, but it does mean that for those in the know, there’s a much better chance of having the summits to yourselves. There are three main peaks here - Cadair Berwyn, Moel Sych, and Cadair Bronwen – and good paths lead up to the main summit ridge from the banks of the Dee in the north, or perhaps even better, from Pistyll y Rhaeadr – the highest waterfall in Wales – in the south.

Where to stay, eat and drink: Llangollen, Bala, Oswestry, Wrexham, Corwen

Plynlimon

The highest hill in the Cambrian Mountains, and this one is a real cracker! Vast areas of moorland surround the main peaks of the range, and give a true sense of solitude as you stride out along the broad summit ridges. Good navigation skills are essential up here though. This is the heartland of red kite country, and there’s lots of other great wildlife to look for too. Oh, and why not visit the sources of the River Wye, River Severn, and River Rheidol while you’re at it – they all begin life on the upper slopes of the Plynlimon ridge!

Where to stay, eat and drink: Llanidloes, Machynlleth, Aberystwyth

Pen y Fan

The most popular mountain in the Brecon Beacons gives a lovely walk no matter where you start from. I prefer heading into the range from the north, where long ridges rise up to meet the sandstone scarp-slope that forms the whole northern side of the range. The valleys between the ridges are simply gorgeous places to be during the summer months, and once you’ve climbed on to the tops the views will open out in all directions, making for a memorable day down in the ‘Beacons’.

Where to stay, eat and drink: Brecon, Abergavenny, Crickhowell

Stiperstones

I always enjoy a visit to the Shropshire Hills where the delightful rolling landscape draws you in and tempts you to explore. Think of gentle heathery moorlands, deep verdant valleys, and welcoming little villages with great real ale pubs and you’ll get the idea. For me, the Stiperstones are the crowning glory of the Shropshire Hills. The heather moor summit is festooned with great rocky pinnacles which lend a definite sense of mystery and intrigue, especially on a misty or windy day. Go in August for the heather in full bloom.

Where to stay, eat and drink: Bishops Castle, Church Stretton, Welshpool, Shrewsbury

 
 

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