Thursday, 22 November 2018

Discover the D-Day Story in Portsmouth

Portsmouth is fortunate to have so many excellent attractions which draw thousands of visitors to the city each year. The Historic Dockyard, with the superb new Mary Rose museum, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior are of course extremely popular. However, along the Southsea seafront you will find a real gem of a museum which reopened in April 2018 after extensive renovations and is well worth a visit: the D-Day Story museum.

D-Day – the 6th June 1944 – is undoubtedly one of the most significant military events in the nation’s history. Portsmouth – whose naval base has been a key feature of the city for 800 years – was crucial to both the preparations leading up to D-Day and in the supporting and co-ordination of the landings. This resulted in the largest ever assembly of military personnel, aircraft and ships that has ever taken place; thousands of Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and for many weeks were involved in bitter and bloody fighting, helping to bring the war to a successful conclusion one year later.

Since 1984, this momentous day has been commemorated in Portsmouth with a museum dedicated to D-Day. Last year, the D-Day museum closed for a comprehensive refit following the securing of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and in April 2018 the new building reopened: The D-Day Story was reborn.

The museum has carefully considered the needs of today’s museum goers in planning the displays, using interactive technology in a way which helps to imaginatively communicate the stories behind D-Day. It is important to add though, that paramount to the D-Day Story is the collection itself: this is not just about technology. The museum’s project team has diligently researched each artefact and also used the temporary closure of the museum to identify gaps in the collection. For example, it was agreed that as well as telling the story of D-Day from a primarily British perspective, it was important to illustrate the impact on the people living in France during the time of German occupation.

The new D-Day Story is ultimately dedicated to sharing the stories of individuals, whether they were sailors, soldiers or aircraft personnel or civilians; adults and children. The museum collection is effectively separated into three main sections: Preparation; D-Day and the Battle of Normandy; as well as the Legacy and Overlord Embroidery exhibition.

The D-Day Story has been designed to enable you to move through each of the different spaces at your own pace, with clear descriptions of each item in the collection. There are moving interviews with people who took part in the campaign, men and women who recall on camera what D-Day meant to them; many of the memories are extremely poignant.

For me, one of the highlights was the display where you can see the faces and hear the voices of the soldiers as they approached the beaches of Normandy on a landing craft, in a recreation of what the experience would have been like on that auspicious day in the early summer. It is extremely impressive.

The new D-Day Story is a lovely museum and suitable for all ages; a perfect place to spend a couple of hours or so and helping to ensure that the memories of D-Day are preserved and accessible to future generations. Visiting The D-Day Story

Open 10:00 to 17:30 (17:00 from October to March) daily, except 24, 25 and 26 December. Last admission is one hour prior to closing. During the year there are a number of special events including ‘Chilled Out’ Museum days for those who like a quieter visit and more subtle lighting and Touch Tours for blind and partially disabled visitors. In addition to the museum, there is a shop, café and gardens. Contact details:

+44 (0)23 9288 2555

Written by Simon Frost, Hibou Communication 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

5 hotels for atmospheric Christmas markets

Canterbury Cathedral Lodge

Make your Christmas shopping a festive event to look forward to by staying at one of these convenient and cosy hotels near atmospheric Christmas markets in southeast England. Think handmade gifts and twinkly Christmas lights followed by mulled wine, roaring fires and some of the most welcoming hotels around.

A stately new Christmas market near a cosy, eccentric bolthole in the Cotswolds

Brand new for 2018 is Blenheim Palace’s Christmas Market (23 November – 16 December). The latest addition to Blenheim’s super seasonal festivities will fill the Great Court with wooden chalets piled high with textiles, jewellery, toys, ceramics and plenty more. Give the crowds of the high streets and malls a wide berth as you browse, then take a stroll through the palace’s grand rooms – lavishly outfitted to a Cinderella theme – and along Blenheim’s Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail (23 November – 1 January). Afterwards, spread out your haul in one of the splendid bedrooms in Artist Residence Oxfordshire, a charmingly eccentric small hotel in a 16th-century, thatched village inn in South Leigh. Downstairs, the bar has flagstone floors, a wood-burner and plenty of nooks and crannies; mulled wine is practically mandatory.

Cathedral views and Christmas shopping in Canterbury

Book one of Canterbury Cathedral Lodge’s comfortable, uncluttered rooms and absorb the Christmas spirit with splendid views of Canterbury Cathedral. Housed within an architect-designed complex, this contemporary hotel has a prime position in the serene grounds of the awesome cathedral, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. A stay here comes with after-hours access into the precincts, which make a peaceful retreat from the merry bustle of Whitefriars Christmas Market (16 November – 24 December), a continental Christmas market packed with 70-odd colourful cabins selling everything from handmade glassware to hot toddies. If your timings allow, don’t miss one of the cathedral’s advent carol services and Christmas concerts, or seasonal events at The Canterbury Tales attraction (pre-booking advised).

Hurley House

Thames-side walks and Country Homes and Interiors style near Henley-on-Thames

Hurley House, Marlow, brings great service, chic style and impressive cuisine to a picturesque stretch of the Thames Path. The smartly rustic bar has a cosy wood-burning stove, exposed brickwork, wooden beams – perfect for mulled wine or a Christmas afternoon tea, especially after a few Christmassy hours at Stonor Park, a grand family home with medieval roots located the other side of picturesque Henley. Country Homes and Interiors Christmas (22–25 November) in Stonor’s grounds is the perfect place to pick up creative Christmas gifts from more than 100 makers and brands. From 28 November to 9 December you can tour the house’s rooms, dusted with twinkling stars for the season, and pick up Christmas pressies and decorations in the gift shop.

The Milk House

Indie producers, twinkling polar bear statues and Christmas dining with a modern twist in Kent

With its indie shops and cosy cafes, Tenterden is a great place to pick up festive gifts and trinkets come Christmas shopping season, but when the Tenterden Christmas Market arrives Santa’s workshop couldn’t beat it for seasonal atmosphere (23-25 November). As well as local artisan producers, there are real reindeer, a snow machine, fairground rides, live music and late-night shopping in stores that have pulled out all the stops for the Christmas shop window competition. Take your haul back to Sissinghurst’s The Milk House, a pub-with-rooms in a 16th-century hall house that blends a buzzy, village-hub feel with a jocund dairy theme – think creamy-coloured bedrooms with such names as Byre and Churn, decorated with fresh flowers in milk pails. The Tudor fireplace is lit on cold days and the bar has timber beams, cask ales and local beers. You could dine on traditional Christmas turkey or change up your 2018 Christmas menu with blood orange duck confit, celeiac purée, pecan sautéed kale and redcurrant jus.

The Old Vine

A pub-with-rooms with Christmas market views in ‘England’s Christmas Capital’

The Old Vine, an 18th-century pub-with-rooms built over a subterranean 14th-century tavern, is just a short stroll from Winchester Cathedral. In fact, The Osborne and Little Room (bedrooms are named after fabric and wallpaper designers) has Georgian plaster panelling and views over the green of the cathedral – which just happens to be the atmospheric setting for what is recognised as one of Europe’s best Christmas markets. Inspired by traditional German markets, Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market (17 November – 20 December) has a British Crafts Village, nativity scene, open-air ice rink and more than 100 chalets in the cathedral’s historic Close. Mulled wine, bratwurst, mince pies and stollen fill the air with irresistible seasonal scents.

Friday, 21 September 2018

6 family-friendly hotels for half-term breaks in South East England

Chewton Glen

This October half term, treat the family to a stay at one of these family-friendly hotels in South East England, chosen by the Good Hotel Guide.

1. Treehouses and history lessons: Chewton Glen, Hampshire 

This model of a country house hotel and spa in an 18th-century manor house on the edge of the New Forest speaks to children as much as it does to their parents and grandparents. Guests of all ages can appreciate indoor and outdoor swimming pools, on-site cookery courses and a woodland stream to follow to the beach. In-the-know families bed down in one of the Courtyard or Coach House suites, with a private walled garden or private access to the hotel’s extensive grounds. For a special treat aim even higher: tree-house suites in a leafy setting have a mini-kitchen, a wood-burning stove, a spa bath, and a breakfast hamper in the morning.

While you’re there: If your little history buffs are studying Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar visit Buckler’s Hard to see what life was like for 18th-century shipbuilders.

Hartwell House

2. Spa treats and hedgehogs: Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire

Children over six years old can bed down at Hartwell House, a National Trust-owned Jacobean mansion in an Arcadian landscape. For more privacy and direct access to the gardens, book one of the large suites in Hartwell Court, the restored 18th-century riding school and stables in the grounds. You can take the kids to Hartwell’s renowned spa at certain times, and roam the 90 acres of gardens and parkland filled with statues, temples and an obelisk.

While you’re there: Don’t miss Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital. It’s home to the country’s only hedgehog memorabilia museum, an animal hospital and a red kite flying aviary.

The Old Vine

3. A designer pad and steam trains: The Old Vine, Winchester 

At first glance, a Grade II-listed 18th-century inn on the edge of the cathedral close might not sound like a great fit for families, but The Old Vine’s Designers Guild Annexe is spot on. This self-contained townhouse apartment across the street from The Old Vine has two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a living room, all stylishly decked out with fabrics and furniture from the Designers Guild. Also good for families – guests have the use of a small garage so the surrounding countryside as well as Winchester city centre can be reached easily.

While you’re there: Ride the Mid Hants Railway, a.k.a. The Watercress Line, a steeply graded heritage railway with a fleet of steam locomotives that was used to transport watercress from the beds in Alresford to London. The Wizard Express steam train with Harry Potter-style coaches takes to the rails 27-28 October.


4. Movie nights and LEGO: Cliveden, Berkshire

Children are made to feel part of the Cliveden family when they stay at this extensively restored Italianate mansion in beautiful grounds. Younger kids can play with a selection of games and toys. Older families can settle down for movie night with a wide range of DVDs. There’s a special children’s menu and children’s service, or families can dine together throughout the evening. Or if you’d prefer a grown-ups-only dinner, babysitting service is available, as is room service. Outside, get lost in the giant yew tree maze, follow the woodland play trail or simply explore the 376 acres of National Trust grounds.

While you’re there: Go LEGO crazy among 80 million LEGO bricks at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. There are also more than 55 interactive rides, building workshops and amazing models of scenes from Europe and the USA. 

Hever Castle

5. Royalty and an adventure playground: Hever Castle B&B, Kent 

Combine history lessons with childhood princess/prince dreams at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Bolyen. Bedrooms occupy two Edwardian additions to 13th-century Hever Castle; the wings are a blend of Tudor-inspired features and modern-day comfort, and your individually decorated bedroom may have a golden chaise longue, a four-poster bed, or a glimpse of the castle through leaded windows. Some rooms can accommodate a cot or a camp bed for children up to the age of 12; others have a sofa bed; and a double and single room can be turned into a suite for up to five guests thanks to a strategically placed door on the landing.

While you’re there: There’s no need to go anywhere! Residents have complimentary access to the castle and grounds during opening hours, including the great new adventure playground. If you do want to venture further afield, the British Wildlife Centre has badgers, harvest mice and Britain’s first walk-through red squirrel enclosure.

Park House Hotel and Spa

6. South Downs views and alpacas: Park House, Sussex 

Luxurious but unstuffy, Park House is foolproof for families who appreciate country house living. The hotel has a home-away-from-home feel, and guests of all ages are made to feel welcome. Deluxe family suites have a double bed that can be turned into two singles, plus a sofa bed or a single bed for kids. There’s no skimping on the views here either; windows overlook the grounds and South Downs countryside. For more independence, book one of the cottage suites, with a small kitchen, private gardens and plenty of space for the whole family.

While you’re there: Take an alpaca for a walk! Children over 6 years old can lead one of Dunreyth Alpacas' friendly creatures on an hour-long walk through the woods. Booking ahead is essential.

All hotels have rooms available at time of writing.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Major new Tate acquisition comes to Southampton City Art Gallery

Le Passeur (The Ferryman), 1881, William Stott of Oldham (1857–1900) Photo ©Tate Purchased with funds provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation) and The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation 2017.

Beneath the Surface: William Stott of Oldham and British Impressionism exhibition will open 14 September 2018 – 12 January 2019 The star of the show, William Stott of Oldham’s painting Le Passeur (The Ferryman) is considered a key moment in the breakthrough of British Art to naturalism and established Stott as one of the most progressive British artists of his day.

Secured for the British public with funds provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation) and The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation, this painting will be displayed in Southampton City Art Gallery as part of a UK wide tour in partnership with Tate.

This exhibition will show Stott in the company of those who, like him, contributed to the development of British Naturalism and Impressionism and will also include examples of French Impressionism, drawn from Southampton’s permanent collection, to place British art of the 1880s and 1890s more broadly in a dialogue with French painting of that time. Shown alongside Le Passeur will be work by some of Stott’s contemporaries who were influenced by the move in painting toward rural Naturalism, illustrating what connects Stott to them at this moment in his career and what distinguishes his singular vision.

This exhibition has been guest curated by Professor Sam Smiles and will include significant additional loans from Russell-Cotes, Southwark Art Collection, Tate, Towner Art Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum.

Southampton City Art Gallery is the second of four UK-partner galleries to display Le Passeur, thanks to funding from National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the John Ellerman Foundation and Art Fund. The work will also be exhibited at Gallery Oldham and Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Councillor Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Member for Homes and Culture said:

'Having such exceptional work of early British Impressionism on loan from Tate alongside art drawn from our city’s own permanent collection, has resulted in another amazing exhibition for Southampton and Southampton City Art Gallery. It helps cement us as an international destination for arts and culture, and I hope local residents and visitors alike take the opportunity to make the most of it.'

Lead Exhibitions Officer Dan Matthews, Southampton City Art Gallery said:

'The generous loan of this key work from Tate has given us the opportunity to borrow paintings by a number of artists not represented within our collection such as George Clausen, Bertha Newcombe and Henry Herbert Le Thangue. We hope this display will enable our audience to learn more about this important era of British Art.'

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Chewton Glen Takes First Place in a Worldwide Celebration of Excellence

Condé Nast Traveller announced its 21st Annual Readers’ Travel Awards on Monday, 3rd September, to an audience which had travelled from around the globe, to find out who had won the hearts and minds of the discerning readers of the world leading travel publication. With categories that included the ‘Best Country’ and the ‘Best Island’, to the ‘Best City for Architecture’ and even the ‘Best Island for Beaches’, which was won by Hawaii, Chewton Glen was thrilled to be awarded the prize of the ‘Best UK Hotel Spa’ and also to receive the Number 3 ranking in the category of ‘Best UK Holiday Hotel’, with its sister hotel Cliveden House in Berkshire taking the Number 5 position and its country cousin, The Lygon Arms in Broadway making its first top twenty appearance.

The awards ceremony, which was held at the Ham Yard Hotel in the heart of London, was hosted by the publications irrepressible Editor, Melinda Stevens, whose pride and passion for Condé Nast Traveller shone out like a beacon from the stage as she invited the travel industry luminaries to collect their awards. Melinda also shared with the audience the exciting developments that are planned for Condé Nast Traveller in the UK and USA and praised the remarkable work her editorial, photographic and production teams do to produce a publication that is recognised as the world’s most discerning travel title providing punchy, practical and independent features on destinations and worldwide trends, whilst offering insider information beneficial to the consummate traveller.

Andrew Stembridge, Executive Director of Iconic Luxury Hotels who accepted the award of ‘Best UK Spa Hotel’ from Melinda commented:

'In this coming of age 21st award ceremony for Condé Nast Traveller, it is wonderful that Chewton Glen, which has been such an inspiring resort for well over five decades, is acknowledged as being still at the top of its game. I am immensely proud of the team at Chewton Glen for their outstanding work in creating a world-class spa hotel that is so well respected by the readers of Condé Nast Traveller.

'We were thrilled last year to be the runner-up in this category, but this year with an amazing score of 87.59 the perceptive readers highlighted our skilled therapists, our holistic programmes and the bedrooms at this iconic luxury country house hotel in Hampshire. The luxury health spa at Chewton Glen embodies the unique purity of its New Forest and coastal location. Our staff are dedicated to ensuring guests receive the highest levels of personalised service, holistic lifestyle programmes and indulgent spa experiences within the environments of a world-class retreat.
'The Spa at Chewton Glen was also listed in the prestigious ‘World’s Top 100’ in the Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Travel Awards 2018, with its amazing score of 87.59. Chewton Glen took 46th place in the list which named the Greek Islands as the winner with 95.63, properties such as the Lanserhof Tegernsee, in Bavaria was in 2nd place with 94.72 and, The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India with 94.49 was in third position. Chewton Glen was the only property in the UK to be listed in the top 60 of this impressive listing of the readers’ favourite destinations, hotels, villas, spas, airlines, airports, cruises and tour operators around the globe. This is an amazing result and we are so grateful to Condé Nast Travellers and its readers for their endorsement of our hotel and spa,' 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

You Will Always Be Able To Spend A Penny at Didcot Railway Centre

Photo by Frank Dumbleton

Are we about to lose our 1p and 2p copper coins? Maybe says the Bank of England. Definitely not says Downing Street.

Whatever happens after the politicians have finished pontificating, we can assure you that the beloved ‘copper’, the pre-decimal penny, one twelfth of a shilling until 1971, will always be in circulation at Didcot Railway Centre. The platform ticket machine in the Museum and Archive will deliver on deposit of 1d, completely mechanically and without electronic intervention, a souvenir of the days when you needed a small piece of pasteboard to go on the platform to say farewell to a dear relative, or do a bit of trainspotting.

The photograph shows brothers Henry, holding a 1965 penny, and Oliver with the ticket received in exchange for it. The old pennies are readily available from the staff in the Museum, in exchange for a 20p piece, a rather less significant coin than the real penny, you will agree.

The penny platform ticket was valid for one hour, and prohibited the ticketholder from entering trains. To ensure people didn’t overstay their welcome the ticket has numerals from 1 to 12 printed around the edge, so that the ticket collector could clip the time that the person went onto the platform. Thus, if the person came back several hours later there might be a suspicion that he, or she, had travelled somewhere!

(Inspired from recent press speculation about demise of 1p and 2p coins.)

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Awesome Autumn at Blenheim Palace

From contemporary art, music, literature and film to horse trials, Halloween fireworks, fascinating flora and fauna, there’s a dazzling array of special autumnal events and activities on offer at Blenheim Palace to keep you fully entertained as the nights draw in.

SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials: September 16th – 18th

Returning for its 28th year, the SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials are a must for any eventing enthusiast. The competition is now firmly established in the eventing calendar, attracting the World's best riders and thousands of spectators who come each year to watch the five-day event. The first two days of the event will consist of Dressage competitions, with the weekend hosting Cross Country and Show Jumping.
There can’t be a sporting event with a more spectacular setting with the palace itself forming the backdrop to all the action for a great day out with family and friends! There is much to do on all days in addition to the showcase eventing classes, such as complimentary displays and demonstrations, enhanced children’s activities and of course a plethora of shops, food outlets, bars and entertainment.

Yves Klein Contemporary Art: Until October 7th

Blenheim Art Foundation is delighted to present Yves Klein at Blenheim Palace, a solo exhibition by the visionary French artist. Featuring over 50 artworks, this will be the most comprehensive exhibition of Yves Klein in the UK to date.
Visitors will be able to explore Klein’s wide-ranging practice, including painting, sculpture and large-scale installation. One of the most influential artists of his generation, his pioneering artistic experiments anticipated and inspired movements in conceptual art, minimalism and performance art. Klein is best known for the development of his own vivid ultramarine pigment, International Klein Blue (IKB), which became a symbolic part of his practice, a key to reaching the ‘infinite’ and ‘sublime’ through pure colour.

Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film and Music: October 11th – 14th

The Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film and Music is a must visit in the autumn calendar. With a series of talks, lectures and screenings; visitors will be spoilt by the range of literary and cultural themes on offer. From Gyles Brandeth to Esi Edugyan the full literary line up is available on

Halloween Fireworks Display: November 3rd

New for 2018, an exciting, spooky and spectacular Halloween Fireworks Display will light up the Palace. In addition to the pyrotechnics illuminating the Great Court and frightful light projections, the eerie evening will include plenty of thrills and chills with lots of terribly exciting paranormal activities.

Watch a witch take to the sky on a broomstick as she ‘flies’ across a trapeze, discover a levitating gargoyle human statue lurking amongst the crowd and be wowed by terribly tall Halloween Stilt Walkers featuring skeletons, zombies and even the Grim Reaper himself! Gliding ghosts, weeping angels and scary skeletons will move mysteriously around the Courtyard. Indulge in a wickedly delicious food from hot-dogs and waffles to seasonal treats. This year Blenheim Palace is pleased to be supporting Oxfam during this event and will be donating £2 per ticket and all the proceeds from the parking to Oxfam’s vital work fighting poverty around the world.

Autumn Watch: September – November

Discover the wonderful wildlife of Blenheim Palace as you enjoy one of the many Parkland walks on offer. With seasonal flora and fauna including a cornucopia of colours from the surrounding Ancient Oak trees and wildlife including resident Greylag Geese roaming around the UNESCO World Heritage Site there is plenty for all the family to spot. From ramblers to toddlers make sure to explore the vivid, russet coloured estate in full autumnal splendour.