" Charlotte's Cupcake Corner

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Peak National Park - a glorious dog walk

“Gateway to Heaven”

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Well, I'm setting off from Ashbourne which describes itself as the Gateway to Dovedale. If it's summer season the town adorns itself with 8 miles of bunting which looks fantastic. Several town centre pubs & cafés are doggy-friendly notably The George & Dragon who offer dog treats & The Flower Café who welcome pooches inside & newly opened Artisan Café who promise a gluten-free friendly menu. This morning, I've promised Mansell, our black lab, a great walk as the sun has just appeared. Dovedale promises dramatic limestone ravine scenery, impressive rock outcrops, rare wild flowers and tranquility, let's see…

We start at the Dovedale car park which is in Staffordshire. There is a toilet block & a refreshment shack that has plenty of choice. (The ice creams here have no gluten containing ingredients.)

As soon as you set off, you can hear the soothing sound of the water flowing past from the river Dove - I'm immediately relaxed. Once he's over his initial craziness, I let him off the lead. The advice here is that dogs must be “under close control” so he ambles off along the path in front of me & has direct access to the shallow river water.

Near the start of the walk is a National Trust kiosk. The volunteer was very knowledgable; he showed me a book full of dog walks in the Peak District, various maps & guide sheets, gave me a free dog lead too.  He told me that he keeps wondering if he ought to retire but each time a family says “see you next year”, it makes him think twice!

You'll soon arrive at the famous Stepping Stones across the river. Our dog loves racing across these & bouncing about in the river afterwards.  Look out for fossils clearly visible under your feet.  Once across you could choose to climb up Thorpe Cloud – the triangular shaped hill – fantastic views await you if you do.  This is a very popular spot for picnics. If you have children with you, bravery & mountaineering certificates are available from the kiosk!

We continued to follow the river, seeing “two little ducks” and ducklings along the way. Look out for dippers, white fronted birds the size of a thrush who bob up and down on branches over the river. Swallows were swooping over our heads. I didn't spot one but the river is home to brown trout. The terrain becomes a bit rockier & then the steps up to Lovers Leap hit you: 120 up and 59 down - or thereabouts! No sign of the heartbroken woman but a great outlook once you reach the top. 

Further along, look high up on the hillside on your right and you'll see Reynard’s Cave, I nearly missed it but saw someone dashing through the natural rock arch to the cave behind it. Also look out for the money tree trunk lying next to the path.
Spot the fallen tree trunks that lie right across the river and you'll soon arrive at the boardwalk, which helps you get through the narrowest part of the dale, known as the Straits. The landscape either side, with its dramatic limestone rock faces known as Pickering Tor, really makes you feel like you’re escaping…

Ilam Rock if often used by climbers, I spotted a brave, lone rock-climber. You can access a footbridge to get a closer inspection of the rock finger. A little further along are Dove Holes; two awesome shallow caves with large open access, our dog was excited to rush in exploring. A little grey wagtail was singing its heart out into the cave which sounded beautiful. 

The landscape opens up a little now & you'll be treated to flora & fauna. I spotted a large skipper butterfly landing on a wood cranesbill and lambs all over the vast hills. We then arrived at Viators Bridge, Milldale. A tiny hamlet with toilet facilities, a cute “hole-in-the-wall” shop called Polly’s; selling pasties, soup, cake, drinks, ice-creams as well as plasters  & hay-fever relief! Not much in the way of gluten-free snacks but the lady said she tried gluten-free cakes but they didn't sell very well. I’d packed a ball, so I sat down by the duck pond and Mansell had the time of his life jumping in to retrieve his ball several times over. 

Take a short stroll around Milldale and admire the dry stone walls, the limestone cottages, their gardens & vegetable patches. Set off up the steep hill just past Polly’s. This part of the walk is less traveled. Due to the ascent you may well start with an “eyes down” approach, but stop to turn around and see how far you've climbed, on a clear day the view will reward you. Unfortunately, we got caught in a shower, but we were entertained by a Goldfinch family flitting across the path just steps ahead of us and chirping merrily. 

I spotted a glimpse of the church and knew we'd soon be arriving at Alstonfield. I admired the wildflower meadow in St Peter’s churchyard, with 13 wildflowers, including Oxlips brought by a Vicar in the 1830s. I got a fright as a man suddenly appeared round the corner. Turns out Friday is clock-winding-day & on a fine day he’s rewarded with extensive views from the top of the church. Stroll further admiring the beautiful homes & gardens until you reach the village green & The George pub – with 3 pretty outside areas, a quarry tiled bar, welcoming log fire & a watering bowl waiting for your four legged friend. Emily recommended a glass of picpoul de pinet for me, you could have one of their hand-pumped real ales. I think Mansell is looking at my glass wondering why I didn't order the venison burger that just caught his eye! Well, after such an easy to navigate & stunning walk with the perfect companion, a little treat was in order...

If you have a little more time, then I would highly recommend exploring a little further to Tissington - featured in the recent series of “Britain’s Best Villages”. Bassetwood Farm and tea-room is idyllic, be sure to visit Edward & Vintage sweet shop where little doggie Neddie will welcome you in. There's a traditional Butchers shop and a little doggie tells me that The Bluebell Inn are often very generous with offcuts of ham! 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

***NEW*** bottersnikes and gumbles on CBBC

What an exciting Saturday morning we had this weekend. We were invited along to the launch of a brand new CBBC kids TV programme; Bottersnikes and Gumbles. 

Bottersnikes & Gumbles - the award-winning kids’ CGI animation show - premieres on CBBC on 25 July 2016, airing at 6pm every week day. 

The series brings to screen the much-loved 1970s classic children’s books by Australian author S.A. Wakefield and illustrated by Desmond Digby.

Each episode features the charming adventures of the loveable Gumbles as they endure timeless battles against the evil Bottersnikes in a forgotten valley of abandoned junk.

Harry Potter star and BAFTA winning Miriam Margolyes voices ‘Weathersnike’, one of the nasty Bottersnikes – whilst fellow Harry Potter and Hollyoaks actor, Jeff Rawle, voices Happi, a wise old Gumble.

Proving this is no ordinary CGI show, Bottersnikes & Gumbles has already picked up this year’s Pulcinella Award for Best Kids TV Series at the prestigious international animation festival ‘Cartoons on the Bay’ in Venice.

My youngest loved the two episodes that we got to watch. The stories are set in a far away forgotten valley, heaped with long abandoned junk, a timeless battle rages between good and evil… and also between squashy and scaly, happy and grumpy, clever and wily… cute and plain old ugly. This is the land of Bottersnikes and Gumbles.

We were treated to two funny episodes that saw all the kids giggling and clapping. The children were then invited to play various games. They were given some colouring to do and encouraged to display their creations on an animation machine. They all got some tattoos and masks too. 

We chatted to the actors after refreshments and found out that they recorded their voices well over a year ago. Unlike some animated films, the process for this film involved the actors recording together so Jeff Rawle said it had a great team atmosphere. I passed on a compliment from a friend to Kathryn Drysdale who plays Bounce & Merri and we talked about the audition process for various roles and how looking younger than your age can sometimes go against you for certain roles.

We sat down to natter with Akiya Henry who plays Willi & Jolli. (She's on the left in the stripy dress) As well as major theatre roles, Akiya is also in the exciting animation Bing Bunny for Cbeebies and Titty Walker in Swallows and Amazons. Several kids had already had a sneaky chuckle at her character's name being Willi so we decided she'd be a favourite character for the "rude factor" alone! Akiya confirmed that they were provided with a little character synopsis prior to the recording so she could imagine the characteristics Willi would display. I saw her chatting to a young boy earlier and when his Mother explained that this *lady* spoke the words uttered by Willi he recoiled at the thought and hid behind his Mum!  He had assumed that Willi was a boy gumble, so the actor must be a man. Not so - Akiya said she liked the character being hard to define in terms of gender - how relevant to today. When quizzed about how to select the right voice in terms of pitch, Akiya explained that as Willi's character breakdown paints a picture of Willi-gumble always looking up to Tink, she effected her voice to adopt a Tink-inflection. She said this was easy when spending time in the studio with Jason Callender who plays Tink. Jason also plays Dexter Harris on the 4 O’clockclub, aired on CBBC.

My daughter is about to step onto a big stage at the grand age of 5 years old - we've been persevering with drama club in order to help her overcome her shyness. Her question was how could she be more brave; Akiya confessed that when she was young, she was very shy indeed. Her top tip for children is when you're about to perform, think about where would be your favourite place to be performing your lines.  Akiya told us that sometimes she imagines she's in a fairy tale and she's in a big castle and is just saying her lines to her friends. Hope that will help with the massive stage fright I'm predicting on Saturday! 

Before we parted, I told Akiya that I couldn't let her go without addressing the kids TV programme that seems to have amassed a cult following: Bing Bunny. Akiya plays Amma and I asked her, did she realise how massively popular it had become, and just how "into it" parents were?! There are various threads of Mumsnet and even between my friends on Twitter, the intricacies from various episodes and questions that adult viewers told me to ask, had me giggling away! Why one character can't keep trousers on, why when Bing pee'd his pants that became "it's a Bing thing". I told her that Mums & Dads wondered who Bings parents were, and how come he never calls anyone Mummy or Daddy? Well the answer is that in a child's world, they see a "responsible adult". In fact as we chatted, we realised that some little ones may well spend more time with a grandparent, nursery nurse or other carer than with Mum or Dad. 

As we left, we were given a goodie bag which included a revised copy of the Bottersnikes and Gumbles story, which we've already raced through two chapters of. 

Roll on July 25th though, as I have a rather impatient little girl who keeps telling me she wants to watch Buttersnikes and Gumbles! Hope your little ones enjoy the new show. I'd love to hear what they think x


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Gluten free offerings at Hack Wood Farm

Happy New Year Everyone!

Think I just can just about get away with saying that still. I'll be honest, I do not seem to fair well over New Year...but slightly longer days already and a bit of sunshine today, so all is well. Hope you're off to a decent start yourself.

I have driven past a sign for Hack Wood farm shop countless times, but have always been en route to somewhere, until today... 

Forgiving the pot hole drive (they're waiting to have it resurfaced) and after the crazy amount of rain recently, the parking was very muddy. No matter.
The initial approach it doesn't look like there'll be much to see, but just around the corner is a great courtyard, must be lovely in summer.

Great range of fresh vegetables and fruit outside 
Then you open an in imposing stable door and you're in for a surprise! A considerable butchers counter is waiting for you.
Complete with Glutenfree sausages (usually) and a range of Glutenfree pies by Voakes 

The rest of the farm shop has a few Glutenfree products including a local range of flavoured chocolate buttons by www.bittersweetchocolates.co.uk 

...and biscuits and traybake style cakes 
Nice to see a free from gluten biscuit range made with butter and no vegetable oils 

They also stock Thornleys GF sauce mixes which I haven't seen in other local
Farm shops.
They have two types of Doves Farm GF flour, but do not stock any gluten free bread 
Then if you look around the corner, there's a huge space dedicated to a cafe area. Some great signs of coeliacs being catered for judging by the menus. 

And a special deal for the over 60's and ginger aficionados are even catered for 😉

Even four legged friends are catered for! 

I spoke to the lady who made the GF chocolate brownie and she reassured me that clean equipment is used and hands washed etc so they seemed aware of cross contamination risk. My only point of hesitation would be the gluten packed cakes being right next to the brownies and them not being covered or protected from accidental crumbs - not sure what you think about that? Also, whether a separate serving slice would be used or not? If you are a coeliac, then it would be safer to have it protected from other baked goods.

There were little wrapped biscuits available too 
I came home with a great selection of foods and would love to go back for a return visit and enjoy the menu in the café. They even have a leaflet describing a 3mile circular walk from the farm shop...maybe once the threat of snow has disappeared. 

So spread the word, a great farm shop, the origins of which go back more than 200 years. Certainly adapting to modern times, thank you for catering for coeliacs.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Miffy - memories in the making

Hello, nice of you to stop by, if you're looking to enter the Miffy giveaway competition, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this post and leave your details - good luck! 

I'm chuffed to bits to be able to offer someone else the chance to win their own "sensory Miffy". Our youngest has always been fond of bunnies. When she was a teeny baby, Beatrice Potter's Peter Rabbit was on her wall. Her next favourite rabbit was Boo from Belle and Boo fame, such beautiful illustrations.
http://belleandboo.com Then when she was a little tot, I bought her first Miffy and there's been no going back ever since! She has her absolute favourite Miffy, the same one goes to bed with her every night and gets a bit grubby every now and again! 

Her Miffy family seems to be constantly growing, she has six now! They regularly make an appearance at the breakfast table, in fact Miffy pretty much goes wherever she's needed!

She would probably say that the highlight of her year was attending the Miffy charity film premiere in London as she got to meet "real" Miffy. In fact, she was so enamoured after her meet and greet, that we had to return to the back of the queue and wait in line all over again for a second cuddle! 
It was lovely to see cartoon Miffy up on the big screen. 

The great news is Miffy’s Adventures: Big and Small launches on Tiny Pop on 2 October 2015, at 7pm and will consist of seven minute long episodes which see Miffy and her friends exploring the exciting world around her.  I know one little lady who will definitely be watching! Will you?

She turned 5 this summer and I planned a mini bedroom makeover - Miffy style of course! 

Her face was a picture when she saw her new room. 

I used some leftover scraps of fabric for little cushions. Luckily I found some a Miffy prints at a London market and popped them into IKEA frames. I spotted a run of bunting at a bargain price due to a little tear but once it's up in the wall you can't tell. We already had the little IKEA cots and had placed an order for Miffy cot blankets with Jane Foster last year. 
Once it was all put together I think it looked fab, and it made the birthday girl very happy indeed! Lucky little one 

Vintage books upcycled into bunting available here

From time to time, jane foster creates Miffy cushions and blankets, her Etsy shop is here 

Similar clip it panels by IXXI are available here 

If you'd like to win a sensory Miffy, simply add a comment below and let me know who it's for, hope you win & enjoy the new TV programme!  

Friday, 18 September 2015

Paris with my poppet

I have a massive soft spot for Paris. Well who doesn't, surely? My first ever visit was when I was about 15. I was staying with family friends in Holland, and we took the train. Actually, we *didn't* take the train that we were booked onto because - naive, inexperienced traveller that I was at that time - my teenage self didn't realise that I needed to bring my passport along - oops. Anyway I had the perfect introduction to Paris including the Eiffel Tower from lovely Lyliane. Aged eighteen I went to work as a teaching assistant and as the group travelled to various destinations, we passed through Paris. I was too love-sick to join them as they went out clubbing, preferring instead to go to bed and pine after my boyfriend! I also lived in Paris for six months whilst studying. I was meant to join a videoconferencing firm as a French/English salesperson but the technological descriptions were too much in English, let alone in French. So I joined the super efficient Nicole on the administration front. They were brave leaving me on phone duty, the first few messages that I tried to relay were far from clear! 

I've returned for little city breaks several times, one of the most memorable being for my 40th birthday with my sisters, we had a super busy itinerary & now that kids and jobs are in our lives, it was so special to have 3 full days together. They made the trip so special for me. 

So two years on & I decided to take our eldest daughter. I think I was more excited than her to be honest, but the moment she saw the Eiffel Tower from our bedroom window was fantastic! 
Anyway, the point of this blog is to bring you news about gluten free finds isn't it, so down to business...

First stop was a Friday afternoon pick me up. This new addition to Helmut Newcake is more like a patisserie shop with a small counter for a couple of guests. We chose an amazing chocolate eclair & warm chocolate fondant, both were really good. I found out later that the chocolate cream in the eclair was also dairy free 

Our next Glutenfree stop was across the other side of town. Chambelland has seats inside and a couple outside if you want to eat in & serves sandwiches, soups, along with hot drinks and fresh lemonade. They sell a few Glutenfree products such as a flour blend, cookbooks, jams. Their sandwich bread was novel. It seemed to be cooked in a very wide and relatively flat tin so they cut the bread horizontally across rather than vertically down. Avoids the issue of bread that doesn't rise too much, and no crumbly slices. I thought the bread in my sandwich was really tasty, it was covered with poppy seeds. My daughter took one bite and refused to eat any more. Luckily she loved her brownie & my raspberry tart was quite nice too. 

Unfortunately the place we had chosen for dinner was still closed for summer holidays but it's worth mentioning here as Broceliande is one of the best “creperie” in Paris, located in the village of Montmartre. So a perfect place for a casual dinner and walk afterwards by the artist area and the Sacré-Coeur.


On our last day, we were booked in for brunch at Helmut Newcake, rue bichat. However, my travel companion was so exhausted that she slept in so late that the timings didn't work out. I thought we'd pop there before catching Eurostar back, as I'd need a bit of caffeine & cake by then. When we arrived, the coffee machine was broken, zut! I was peckish as I'd not scoffed *another* crêpe Nutella, unlike a certain little person. From her perspective the trip was very much fuelled by crêpes, chocolat et orangina! 
(Above: not Glutenfree, but you're not missing out on anything, I watched someone pay 5euro for cold churros that had been sat there for who knows how long!) 

Back to brunch; by the time we arrived, their set brunch was finished and on a Sunday that is all they offer - apart from all their lovely cakes. The host was very lovely and offered us a bread basket - all of which were absolutely delicious and gluten eating child ate them happily. They also made a special plate of ham and salad for me - which wasn't an option on any menu but it was perfect. This branch of Helmut Newcake has plenty of quirky seating, the staff are really friendly and they had lots of patisserie to choose from. I took a slice of cheesecake for the train journey. 

Since I returned home, I've discovered (via Twitter) http://because-gustave.com 
They've shared a bunch of other places that I hadn't heard of. 

Paris seems to have more dedicated glutenfree places than London now, so I'm going to have to do a return trip, now...who's up for that? Xx