My families top tips for places to visit in Worcestershire

 

People have been enquiring about staying and asking what there is to do around Worcestershire, so I thought that I would ask my family what their top recommendations were:

  1. West Midlands Safari Park

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Bens choice was the Safari park, it is not too far away so he doesn’t get bored travelling there, there are plenty of animals to see as you drive round, then there are rides and slot machines to enjoy. It really is a full day out with loads to do. What is quite exciting is the plans to build a massive indoor water park there to be open in 2017.

2. Go Ape at Wyre Forest

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Emma’s choice was Go Ape at Wyre Forest. When the kids were little we would go there to play on the play area and walk in the woods. Last summer we went on Go Ape Junior and the kids really enjoyed it. It was just scary enough to be fun but not too scary that they burst out crying!

3.Laser Quest

laser quest

My husband’s choice was laser quest which is at Malvern in the same building as a small ice rink. You can just turn up and piggy back on whatever game is booked next if there is room, or book the whole place for a large group of you. He likes it because you can run around shooting people and he is pretty good at it, I mostly hide in a corner and get shot! A good way to burn off some energy on a rainy day.

4. Witley Court

witley court

I chose Witley Court an English Heritage property because it is just down the road, there are plenty of walking trails and often in the school holidays they do treasure trails for the children. There are a couple of great play areas, and the grounds are beautiful to have a picnic and sit watching the fountains. You can also do an audio trail around the ruins which is really interesting.

That’s our top four, but there are a lot of other things to see and do. Roll on the warmer weather!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Four reasons to build your own cob oven

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Cob is clay mixed with sand and straw, and has been used for building all over the world for centuries. I have booked Matthew Lloyd from the fabulous cob oven company (www.coboven.co.uk) to run a course at Canvas & Clover in June 2016 for anyone interested in building their own, and here’s why I think is a fab idea:

  1. It is eco-friendlyNo energy hungry cement is used in the mixture, and no machinery is required for construction. It is a sustainable method of building that connects us to our environment. The base can be made with old materials found around the farm, and recycled bottles. It also uses none fossil fuels and the wood we use is always waste product/sustainable wood.

2. It’s cheap

Green Man Cob Oven

There are a number of ready made wood fired ovens on the market for £1,500 onwards, building your own oven not only saves you a ton of money but is unique, and can be personalised to you.

3. Its tasty

clay hunt

As well as making beautiful pizza, the oven should settle to 250 degrees and hold for several hours so is perfect for roasting – chicken, fish, lamb, kebabs, the only limit is your imagination! Food cooked in a wood fired oven has a smoky flavour, crunchy topping and fluffy crust, and it cooks really quickly – pizza is done in around 2 minutes or less so no complaints of ‘when is tea ready I’m starving’!

4. Its social and fun

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A cob oven can be a focal point in a garden and a great reason to invite friends over. I think that food just tastes better when eaten outside, and outdoor cooking might even tempt my husband to get involved, as cooking in a fire is infinitely more manly than cooking in our kitchen!

So a Cob Oven is the way to go in 2016, I think Friday night is going to be pizza night from now on.

 

 

 

 

 

Honey and bee facts

I have recently been road testing some local products to stock in the shop.

  
Hanna keeps bees, and as well as tasting the lovely stuff ( it is sweeter than supermarket mass produced honey) she told me a little bit about making honey:

Bees make honey by eating and regurgitating the nectar they collect from flowers several  times. This mixes it with preservative enzymes in their stomach. It’s then packed into hexagonal wax cells which are then sealed. The consistency and taste of honey varies depending on where the bees have been gathering nectar, and whether it is set or not depends on whether the sugars are higher in glucose or fructose.

  
Hanna’s honey is not filtered, a process that that gives a more clear transparent product and delays crystallisation, this makes it, I believe, a more authentic product. Hanna heats up the honey but not to the very high temperatures mass produced honey is which destroys some of it’s natural properties

  
There is only one queen in a hive and she is much bigger than the other bees. Her main job is to lay eggs. She is fed by her workers and can live up to two years while her workers live for about 6 weeks.

Well I learnt quite a bit about bees, they are very interesting, but I not sure whether I want to keep any myself, I think I’ll stick to more cute and furry animals, and mainly ones that don’t sting!

Photography and farming

  
I don’t have a particular talent for photography, I haven’t had any training and don’t own a fancy camera, but I love the instant joy a good photo gives you. Particularly nowadays when cameras can crop, filter and improve almost any photo you take.

  
Getting the cows up at sunrise I can be struck by a beautiful view and I just whip out my camera in the form of my phone, and take a photo. It makes the job a little more interesting!

  

  
Cows are relatively easy to photograph as they generally move quite slowly, however I did try and get a photo once of a cow with a piece of clover in its mouth and failed dismally! Never work with animals or children!

  
Wildlife photography is by far the hardest . I saw some beautiful deer last week and by the time I whipped my phone out they were gone. I tried to catch this hare that raced across the field, but I don’t think that it will be featuring in national geographic any time soon!

  
Fauna doesn’t move so this mushroom in the fairy wood was easy to take. The most tricky aspect of this photo was explaining to my husband why I was so long checking the solar chandelier in the wood!

  
The new challenge will be photographing people and camping. Hopefully they won’t be quite as tricky as the deer to capture!

What makes us happy?

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I am always intrigued by why some people (often living in an African tribe with no possessions) are classified as being the ‘happiest’ people on the planet, yet others are desperately unhappy and don’t know why.

In a survey of British people commissioned by BUPA this year, when asked what made them ‘feel great’ a staggering 62% listed sleeping in a freshly made bed. Second (57%) was feeling the sun on your face, whilst third was simply being thanked, or kindness from a stranger. In another survey in America, 1 was walking in sunshine, 2 getting into fresh bed sheets, and 3 Going on a walk in the countryside. (Number 7 was someone pulling out of a space in a busy car park just as you arrive – a particular favourite of mine!)

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Happiness is certainly infectious, but probably a little more complicated to achieve than a clean bed. Gyles Brandreth in his book the 7 secrets of happiness points out the importance of being ‘a leaf on a tree’ = being connected to other people, and cultivating a passion – to be happy you need to find something you enjoy doing.

For me Canvas & Clover is my passion, although it takes up so much of my time the house looks like a bomb has hit it as I no longer have time to clean and tidy, I do enjoy every minute, and I am looking forward to providing freshly made beds, walks in the countryside, and (hopefully) a bit of sun so other people can feel happy too.

Blogging on a mobile phone

I thought, as a scientific experiment, I would attempt to post a blog using an app on my mobile phone rather than sitting on the laptop. I am doing this because:

A. The internet is now finally working after both me and my husband tearing our hair out with the bt call centre people ( NOT a fan!) 

B. I am in bed snuggling my son so i could be working whilst snuggling

C. I have never done it on the phone before- technology moves at such a pace nearly every month I seem to be doing something that I have never done before. Last week I tweeted for the first time (@canvasandclover) and I like it more than I thought I would!

  

Well I have just inserted a photo and that seemed to go well! Photo is from our first bell tent erected for the photo shoot for the website.

  
That went so well I inserted another! Each tent has it’s own shed with cooking area, cool box, and space for wellies bikes etc , families always have so much ‘stuff’ to put somewhere!

Well, my son is asleep now so all that remains is to post it. I guess if you are reading it the experiment has worked! No doubt the next technological step forward won’t be quite so easy!

How to make a rustic house number out of a bucket

Well the countdown for the photo-shoot for the website continues, two weeks to go and time for finishing touches – how was I going to identify which tent belonged to which person, I didn’t want to spray paint a number on the side of the tent! Anyway, after much thinking (whist ironing the family’s clothes!) this is what I came up with:

start with a galvanised bucket

start with a galvanised bucket

stage 2

stage 2

Firstly use some tape to mask off an area on the bucket for painting. I then used a primer because I wasn’t sure how well blackboard paint would stick to the galvanised steel, then I painted the bucket with Rust-oleum chalkboard Paint. I used a paintbrush and it went on really well, but you can use a roller to eliminate brush marks.

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After leaving it for a few days to ‘cure’ (not sure if that’s necessary but I had read it should be done and didn’t want to risk not doing it) I hand drew a pretty border with a white gel pen. If you google ‘chalkboard borders’ a number of different designs come up. For the number, I printed off a number on the computer the size and style that i wanted, then used carbon paper to trace over it and it left a visible mark on the paint. I then used a chalkboard pen (as opposed to actual chalk) to fill in between the lines to make the number. Finally I sealed it with a clear rustoleum protective seal, and job done!

There is a million more things to do, but for now I am going to sit back and admire my handiwork!

Creating Canvas & Clover – one year on!

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Well, it is about a year ago that I was walking along the Worcestershire country lanes and thought it would be a good idea to have a caravan and camping site on the farm to help us diversify away from dairy farming which is incredibly hard work, and currently not providing much income. A year on we are still not open, but getting there, and although it has been a really busy year, I have learnt an awful lot.

First, identify a field

First, identify a field

We first chose a field, not too near to the road to be noticeable, and not too near to the milking parlour for it to be noisy when milking. We decided not to do caravans, as although we like caravans (we have one ourselves!) our country lane is narrow, and the farm track is narrow, and we didn’t think caravans going up and down would be practical. We first went for planning permission which took some time, but with some professional help (thanks Moule&Co) we got it, then started to plan.

After!

After!

I started crafting, I wanted an eco friendly, upcycling, vintage, shabby chic theme, so I went on a paint course and started upcycling furniture for the tents, I also made some coasters from old tiles, and have recently completed two solar chandeliers.

I went on a business course and wrote a business plan and a financial projection for two years, certainly a challenge, but Worcestershire County Council do provide business help for new start up companies, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

I have painted a toilet and shower block, carried numerous heavy paving slabs until my arms hurt, squeezed mattresses into my car for the beds, designed a fairy door trail in the woods, and learnt about websites, logo design, and social media.

Currently I am looking into how we can make Canvas & Clover accessible to people with disabilities, designing a washing up area, and painting and planting up some galvanised steel buckets. Canvas & Clover is a labour of love, a challenge, a huge commitment, and more than anything, hopefully a place people can visit and love!

A few cow facts!

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The glamping site is coming along slowly, and I will do an update on that next time, but this week I have been thinking about cows because my daughters friend came over to visit, and they wanted to walk over the fields to the village but they couldn’t as there were cows in the field and my daughters friend was scared. Coincidently the same week a friend posted on Facebook her pride of conquering her cow phobia and completing a long hike.

Cows in the field with 'Tinky Winky' the Guinea Fowl

Cows in the field with ‘Tinky Winky’ the Guinea Fowl

Fear of cows (Bovinophobia or Taurophobia) is understandable. They are big creatures, and if you are not familiar with them (as I wasn’t when I first moved here from the concrete jungle of Liverpool) they can be scary, so I thought I’d give you a few cow facts to help.

1. Cows spend 10 to 12 hours a day lying down.

2. The average sleep time is 4 hours.

3. There are about 350 udder squirts in a gallon of milk.

4. A young female cow is called a heifer until she has her first calf.

5. The oldest cow ever recorded was ‘Big Bertha’ who died 3 months before her 49th birthday.

6. Dairy cows can produce up to 200 pounds of flatus (burps and farts) a day!

7. A ‘dry cow’ is a cow that is pregnant and has been taken out of the milking herd as they are in the final stage of the pregnancy.

8. Like us, cows are pregnant for 9 months.

9. A female twin of a bull is usually infertile as it has been exposed to masculinizing hormones, and is termed a freemartin.

10. You can lead a cow upstairs but not downstairs due to their knee anatomy.

A calf born yesterday, 1 day old

A calf born yesterday, 1 day old

Cows are generally safe, docile creatures, but just like humans, the teenagers are a bit lively, the new mothers a bit twitchy, and they can be unpredictable if they feel scared or threatened. If you want to learn more about cows, come and stay, and try out our dairy farmer taster session, it could be the start of a whole new career!

Five things kids can do for free whilst camping/glamping

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I was talking to a friend at work last week who lived in Birmingham. I was telling her about Canvas & Clover, and enthusiastically describing the fun of glamping. She was really keen to come and stay, but looked a little worried. When I asked what was wrong, she said, ” It sounds fab, but what can you actually do in a field ?”

This is not an uncommon viewpoint, The Wildlife Trust, RSPB, and The National Trust all do great work in encouraging people to get outside and enjoy nature, and I have just bought a fab book from the RSPB called ‘365 outdoor activities you have to try’ which is full of great ideas, but it can be a scary prospect if you haven’t tried it before.

Here is my top five list of free things to do when glamping/camping:

1. Play games – You don’t need lots of equipment, just a bit of space. There are loads of cheap cricket/badminton kits you can buy, or you can make your own – how about skittles using plastic bottles filled with water and a tennis ball, or hoopla with the same bottles and a ring. For no equipment whatsoever how about hide and seek, or ‘field Olympics’ with three legged races, wheelbarrows, and leapfrog.

2. Scavenger Hunts – Give your kids a list of things to find such as a leaf, something red, a feather etc

3. Go wildlife hunting. We have ‘spotting books’ for people to borrow, but all you need is a pad and paper, and even better try a wildlife photo journal, and see who can take the best shot.

4. Don’t forget the night time. Most camping/glamping sites are away from cities and therefore great places to see stars. There are millions of stars here on a clear night. See if you can spot the milky way. Find a cosy spot with a blanket and see if you can see a fox or hear an owl.

5. Toast marshmallows and tell stories around the campfire/fire pit. Why not try S’mores – an American invention but it can be recreated with digestives, chocolate, and melted marshmallow in the middle.

The outdoors can be really fun with a bit of good weather and a bit of planning!