With the Coronvirus situation, many events have cancelled with 2020 being best remembered as the year we stayed at home. A difficult decision was made by judges Samantha Hobden from Haynet and Ashley Rossiter from MirrerMe PR to cancel the 2020 Countryside Blogger of the Year Award. At the time judging would have commenced, many of the rural blogging community were feeling the impact of the Covid situation and it felt the right decision to postpone the awards until next year.
This week, the Countryside Blogger of the Year Awards would have been held online. We wanted to recognise last year’s worthy winner, Becky Wren from Country Bumpkin Chic and see how life has been since she won the title in 2019!
Thank you Becky for letting Haynet quiz you today! So let’s start from the beginning. Your passion and love for an active rural life come through strongly with your blog writing.
Did you grow up in this environment as a child?
Thanks for having me on the blog! I’m very lucky to have grown up in the beautiful Dorset countryside, in a small village with my parents & horses. We’re also only a short 20 minute drive away from the sea – so the best of both worlds really.
I did spend 3 years in Bristol for university, so I’m not a complete country bumpkin, however, I must admit city life came as quite a shock to the system. I also spent a very short stint living in the French Alps as a ski rep which was an amazing experience & gave me the taste for adventure.
Tell us about your work career. How does your work life fit in with horses and life in the country?
I currently work in Digital Marketing for Screwfix who are based in Somerset, however, due to the current Covid situation & like many people I’m now working from home off my kitchen table. Throughout my career, I’ve had roles in marketing, PR, communications & digital. I’ve worked on some amazing projects from opening new stores in Paris for New Look through to touring the UK for a football event at stores kicked off by TV personality Chris Kamara aka Kammy.
Fortunately, Screwfix are very understanding about my passion for horses & competing. I’m lucky I get to ride them either before I start work at 8am or ride/train after work from 4.30 pm. They’re really supportive of my writing/blogging as well & were huge supporters of when I was nominated for the Countryside Blogger of the Year Award in 2019 & championing the blog. I’ve even recently become a Life at Screwfix ambassador which is fun to help promote the culture of the brand.
We will come onto later about your award winning blog Country Bumpkin Chic but what made you start writing about your life?
A job role change whilst working at New Look from Brand Marketing to Internal Comms spurred me on to write. I had enrolled on a dressmaking course & started to share my creative projects through a blog – I thought I was going to be the next Cath Kidston. Sadly, I didn’t have the patience to do the fiddly sewing bits. Although I’m a dab hand at making a shopper bag or bunting.
The blog was very low key back then, & I wrote for me. I’d share the blog post to Facebook & enjoy seeing friend’s reactions to my latest creations or recipes. Over time it developed into product, restaurant & music reviews. I was a big Indie music fan & attended a lot of gigs, so would review new music & eventually started interviewing interesting folk.
During the last few years, I’ve started to focus my energy on some of the other things I’m passionate about in life which ranges from life in Dorset, equestrian & supporting small country/equestrian brands.
If someone Is thinking of starting to write a blog particularly focusing on equestrian and countryside life, what would be your key piece of advice on how to start?
Really think about the purpose of your blog & who you’re aiming it at. A top tip from my internal comms days is to think about your Who, What, Where & Why:
- Who – is your target audience?
- What – is it all about, what’s the story hook
- Where – will you publish your content & what platform will you use to share it
- Why – should someone read your blog – give them a reason to click through
With these unprecedented times with the Covid-19 situation how has this affected you personally? Has it been a tough few months or have you enjoyed this change that we have all had to deal with?
I worked throughout the situation. It was a little stressful as my role changed overnight into supporting with crisis communication on the website, whilst getting used to my new working from home environment on the kitchen table.
However, I was very lucky to be able to continue to ride throughout & keep the horses brains & fitness ticking over. It also kept me sane!
From a blogging point of view, I became more creative & used some of the down time to work on a new logo & launch a blog newsletter called Country Bumpkin Chic Chats – which I wouldn’t have had time to think about during normal life.
The thing I missed the most is seeing friends & giving them a big hug.
Equestrian life is a strong passion of yours. Tell us about your riding and the horses that have been a huge part of your life too.
Growing up with a horsey mum who evented competitively up to Intermediate level meant I had the bug from a young age. I first started competing in affiliated eventing at 15 & have been doing so for 20+ years. We’ve had mixed results over the years, however, highlights include being selected to represent the south west at what was then JRNs, & compete at 1.25m in BSJA – I was pretty fearless in my late teens and early twenties.
Today we have two beautiful Irish Sport Horses – 17-year-old Barley aka Red Sky Diamond & competing at Novice level this autumn and cheeky 7 year old Leo aka MBF Online who will compete up to BE 100 this season. I feel incredibly lucky to have horses in my life & pinch myself most days. Eventing for me is my escapism & is a real family affair. I’m not quite sure what I do without horses in my life. Maybe have a tidy house!
I’m sure most readers will know that you are the winner of the Countryside Blogger of the Year 2019, and a well deserved one too! How has winning the award affected your blog writing and engagement over the last twelve months?
That was very surreal winning the award in 2019. Having the recognition that my blog/writing was good enough to win was a highlight & for so many people to support it during the voting stage meant a lot.
It’s definitely given me the confidence to take things to the next level & give the blog more of a professional look. I’ve worked with Alice Rose & Co on new branding & set up a newsletter ‘Country Bumpkin Chic Chats’ which is a spin-off of the blog – featuring latest blog posts, what I’m loving from Netflix series to new products & a sneak peek at what might be coming up.
During Covid I wanted to do my bit & help support smaller country & equestrian brands so launched Country Bumpkin Chic Chats – a series of interviews with brands & interesting folk from Emma Warren of Dimpsey Glamping, Victoria Jenner of Stitched Equestrian through to Nicky Pennie of Be Your Best Yet. There are some amazingly talented ladies out there in business & I feel honoured to have featured them on the blog.
Winning the award was also a great platform to get involved in some exciting projects including being on the panel for digital marketing agency Key Digital’s Unlock event talking about blogging & being interviewed by my local radio station Keep 106. I was also given the priceless opportunity to cover Olympia for the day on behalf of the Countryside Blog Award & Haynet – which was an amazing experience.
What are your future plans with Country Bumpkin Chic?
I’ve achieved a lot of my goals already this year with the new look & feel, launching the newsletter & Country Bumpkin Chic Chats to blog series.
I’d love to develop the newsletter more & give something back to subscribers – maybe top tips on blogging. I also love interviewing people, & have a few eventers I’d like to do something fun with.
I’m always keen to do things a bit differently to other bloggers in my field & believe it’s important to stand out from the crowd – so watch this space.
On a day off, where would we find you?
Typically, you’ll find me training or competing horses.
Although a perfect non horsey day off would be going SUPing or surfing with friends, followed by good food, cider & watching the sunset.
Where do you hope be in ten years’ time?
Wow, that seems a long way away!! What ever I’m doing work wise, it will probably be communications, marketing or digital based as those are the areas that get me excited & get out of bed every day.
Blog wise I’d love to work with rural & equestrian businesses & get paid for what I do, although it’s a very crowded market & a tough one to crack.
Equestrian wise I’d love to have competed at an international & abroad, even if it’s taking the horses back to their home country of Ireland.
Against the Clock
Gin or Champagne: I’m actually more of a cider gal, but if I had to choose it would be a flavoured G&T.
Cheese or Chocolate: Tough one – as I probably eat a bit of both every day. Chocolate though is a winner for any mood.
Sunshine or Snow: With the recent heatwave, I’d do anything to go skiing in the mountains, although I love adventure in the sunshine & finding remote beaches.
Home Counties or Far Away Shores: At heart, I’m a country gal, although you can’t beat a bit of travel for the soul.
Spend or Save: I’m a thrifty at heart, but a sucker for clever marketing.
Home Cooked or Eating Out: After spending the last 5 months cooking for myself, I’m definitely into eating out.
Music or Film: My Alexa has been my lifesaver keeping me going throughout the day with music, Radio 1 & podcasts.
Wellies or Heels: Wellies over heels any day.
Please visit Becky’s award winning blog Country Bumpkin Chic
Follow on Facebook
Find her on Instagram