The Rural Life

The countryside is very much the heart of Haynet. We love to showcase a much loved lifestyle and keep rural matters in the fore. So grab a cuppa and kick off your wellies and take a read about countryside life.

Emma Bridgewater: The Queen of Dots and Hearts

Is there nothing better than a slice of cake on a plate dotted with hearts? Probably not! Thanks to Emma Bridgewater, our breakfast, lunches, dinners, treats and tea are made happier served with a piece of her world famous pottery. My “addiction” to Emma Bridgewater pottery started around twelve years ago. I was killing time browsing around a gift shop before I had to pick my husband up from an appointment. I came across shelves full of pottery and kitchenware adorned with hearts, dots and the now famous word design ‘Toast & Marmalade”. It just looked so cheery and endearing making aligned shelves of traditional Portmeirion and Denby look a touch lacklustre. I decided to buy the Toast & Marmalade biscuit tin which looked just at home brightening up my kitchen. From that day on, treating myself to mugs, plates and anything with these lovely designs became a passion. My dresser soon become festooned with a mix match look with no formality at all. But that is what I loved. Among my Emma Bridgewater pieces, sat much loved heirlooms, cards from friends, books and bills to pay but all sitting very relaxed alongside each other. My cupboards heaved with Emma Bridgewater mugs and plates and after inheriting a family heirloom of another dresser when I lost my lovely mum, this became packed with hearts and dotty artefacts too! Emma Bridgewater pottery is also loved by many friends of mine, which has been great for gift buying over the years. I don’t know many people who would not be cheered by a personalised heart mug or a pink pansy vase filled with flowers. A very best friend of mine chatted last year about how a trip to Stoke on Trent to visit the Emma Bridgewater factory would be a fantastic thing to do, especially celebrating the fact we were both heading towards our half centuries. So last week in the balmy September sun, we travelled north to the UK pottery capital. We arrived at the cast iron gates to the Emma Bridgewater factory which was a delightful Victorian building on the banks of Caldon Canal. We had booked the experience day which kicked off in the morning with the factory tour. From the offset, our guide Rosetta was enthusiastic and friendly, showing genuine love for the company she worked for. As we walked through the bright and colourful working areas, the potters and painters were very happy to stop and chat with us explaining the process from start to finish, which I found fascinating. Machinery was decorated in famous EB designs and union jack bunting took away the darkness industrial areas can sometimes feel. Their skill and dedication to this brand were all too clear to see and drinking out of my mugs again has brought a whole new appreciation now knowing the ten processes it takes to get to a finished product. The kiln room was baking hot where thousands of pieces of pottery ware were all lined up to be “cooked”. Quality control was at its best with the tiniest of defects being thrown back in the recycling bins. The company ethos is very eco-friendly with everything being reused like sponges from the stamps as filling. We were treated to seeing new designs, limited edition prints and Christmas products that were just being shipped out to hit the high street and online shelves. I loved the painting room as it felt a very calm and relaxing place to work. However, please do not think sponging hearts and stars on to mugs and plates is an easy feat! As I discovered later in the design studio painting my own piece, my patience would have resulted in a bucket load of clay in the recycling bin…The designs have set patterns and numbers, so the painters were wearing headphones to aid concentration and keep the second’s pile to a minimum. We also learned that on the base of the pottery the year it was produced is depicted with a picture backstamp. This changes every year and you can refer to their archive to see how old your piece of Emma Bridgewater pottery is. With the tour concluded we headed to the Emma Bridgewater café which was cleverly designed with a farmhouse kitchen feel with mismatched crockery and a polka dot Aga. The cream tea was amazing and I couldn’t finish the Eton Mess and three bits of cake which is of unheard for me. It was a delicious spread but don’t worry I made light work of the sandwiches and cream scones washed down with tea from, of course, a large EB teapot. With an hour spare, we headed to the factory shop with its organised line upon line of pottery and homeware. All reduced and cheaper than you would buy normally. The main shop was full of current and latest designs. My favourite had to be the new Game Bird collection which would look just at home in any countryside kitchen. With a long train journey ahead, they were happy to parcel our shopping home which made the assault on my purse an even bigger one! The final part of the Emma Bridgewater experience was a few hours spent designing and painting your own piece of pottery. From eggs cups to large serving bowls, you were given free rein to paint and sponge to your heart’s delight. I decided on a large dog bowl and after some tips from a talented member of staff, I armed myself with sponge stamps and bottles of paint. Let me tell you now, I will never look at a sponged heart or star on a piece again with other than complete admiration that it has not blotted or doubled in size! It was so difficult to get right… And actually I discovered that I am very heavy-handed and have limited patience! Although my family would probably wholeheartedly agree. After two hours, my masterpiece was completed and ready for firing. I am certain that the design team will be giving me a call to invite me to work for them in my dream job.. or perhaps not. I am looking forward to receiving my hand designed bowl and hope my three terriers appreciate the hard work involved when they drink out of it. With our weary legs, we headed back to the train station on the long journey back home but with smiles on our faces looking back on a very enjoyable day. I cannot recommend enough a trip to the Emma Bridgewater Factory and the “experience” package is exceptionally good value. So if you are a fan, I urge you to put this trip on your bucket list. I definitely will make a visit again, if only it is to improve my sponging technique! by Samantha Hobden http://www.hay-net.co.uk Emma Bridgewater began in 1984, when Emma was working in London soon after leaving university. One day, she was hunting for a birthday present for her Mum. When nothing appealed she decided that she wanted to start making china herself in a colourful, mismatched style. A casual conversation with a friend about her new business venture pointed her in the direction of Stoke-on-Trent, the home of pottery. And so, Emma Bridgewater, the classic modern pottery brand, was born. Over the last three decades, the designs have kept to the spirit of Emma’s original, inspirational moment and the necessity of getting the thought and design absolutely right.  Emma Bridgewater believes everyday kitchen china sits right at the heart of our lives, and that each cup, bowl, jug, and plate holds personal stories, reflecting shared moments, particularly when we eat and drink together. In recent years, Emma Bridgewater has expanded beyond pottery. You can now enjoy their designs on glass, tins, picnicware, stationery, wallpaper and fabrics, as well as their own collection of candles and home fragrances. The conversation Emma had in her head with her mother back in 1984 goes on. Only now we can enjoy these designs and this very British iconic pottery too. Please visit: https://www.emmabridgewater.co.uk/

Five Countryside Interior Accessories You Need This Autumn

With the nights drawing in and golden leaves falling, autumn is showing its arrival. Weekends will be soon wrapping up in front of the fire, cooking hearty dinners while the weather beats against the door. Autumn brings a rich source of seasonal inspiration for our homes. Earthy colours in pattern and texture, natural woods and country inspired animal accessories together with displays of natural foliage, all give our homes a countryside feel. Here are our five favourite accessories that we feel you need to have in your countryside home this autumn: Birds leaving our shores and migrating south is a first sign of the autumn months approaching. This beautiful and unusual wall-hanging has seven painted metal birds against a simple copper-circle sun. With its calm and autumn and winter tones, this would look fantastic in any country home. £89 – Graham & Green You can never have too many cushions! We love this inquisitive red fox on this distinct forest green knitted cushion by Sophie Allport. Cosy to cuddle up to especially through the autumn months, this cushion compliments any chair, sofa or bed. £48 – Sophie Allport We are huge Emma Bridgewater fans here at Haynet and we simply love their new Pheasant Feather & Game Bird range. As nature begins its season of earthy tones, this gorgeous oval platter would look simply fantastic at any time of the year on an oak dining table. £115 – Emma Bridgewater This solid wood Acorn Jar looks not only great on a kitchen or living room shelf but are handy in keeping things in such as tea bags or matches for the home fire. These lidded acorn jars come in two sizes which can be paired together to create a very countryside look! £14.85 – More Handles How much better would autumn chilly nights be wrapped up in this gorgeous tartan blanket? It is perfectly named as the tartan’s colours are reminiscent of autumnal leaves with deep burgundy, burnt oranges and golden yellows. These recycled wool blankets are 70% recycled wool, 30% mixed fibres from material that would otherwise end up in landfills, so a great eco-friendly choice. From £40 – The Tartan Blanket Co Haynet also LOVES:

Badminton Horse Trials – Showing Equestrian Sport And Country Life At Its Best

Following the lanes with its creamy Cotswold dry stone walls lined with lush spring greenery, always brings a smile to my face.  As you make your way through the tiny village of Badminton during the first week of May, horse lorries suddenly appear all lined to attention. They are ready for the eventing excitement that lies ahead for the next five days. This week I will travel to Badminton for the fifteenth time with the event celebrating its 70th year. The grounds of Badminton Estate have faired well over the winter, which is one less stress for the organisers. Thousands of cars will be parked enjoying the late spring weather with picnics and some bubbly from out of the boots of their cars. With an estimated crowd running in tens of thousands expected to arrive through the gates of Badminton on cross country day alone, there is no doubt this event is the gold crown in equestrian sport. Badminton also showcases country life at its best even if equestrian blood doesn’t run through your veins. The vast shopping village attracts a huge collection of well known brands all celebrating country life from equestrian fashion to horse wear, rural lifestyle fashions, countryside interiors and home wear. There is never a day that I don’t leave Badminton without a shopping bag or three! Over fifteen visits, my wardrobe is packed with jumpers, jackets, and jodhpurs and in every room, there is a picture, ornament or mugs on my dresser which are all keepsakes from these fantastic shopping stalls. With my love of horses and passion for equestrian sport, this is the reason I make this visit every year. I am always in awe of these brave and ambitious riders who pair with their stoic horses taking on one of the most exhilarating and toughest equestrian competitions. With the two days of dressage, even the most highly trained horses can protest in the corners of the arena making it a challenging test with the world watching. With its international audience, the big crowd pleaser is cross country day. I have walked the course for many years now and it never ceases to amaze me how these horses embrace these enormous and technical fences. The riders always show the highest professionalism to ensure that they make it round safely with the care of their horse foremost. After the physical demands of the cross country, then the next day shows who has made it through to the showjumping with the trot up in front of Badminton House. The professional vet team watch with a close eye for any horse that may be showing strains from the day before. The welfare of the horse is always paramount. This can reduce the show jumping line up which always brings the exciting action to a close. With a knock of a pole or not making the time can put a rider down in the running, leaving the competition wide open. There is always the biggest cheer and the loudest claps from the audience when the winner of the Badminton Horse Trials is revealed. Their name is then placed in the eventing hall of fame, holding the biggest first rosette any horse rider can win! With the modern age, Badminton can be viewed not only on television but through live streaming through its website. Social media is always up to speed with the latest results with Tweets, Facebook Lives or Instagram Stories, all showing this super event at its best. However, to take in the atmosphere and celebrate equestrian sport and life in the country, you must visit this fantastic event yourself. I guarantee you, the Badminton bug will then bite! by Samantha Hobden Please visit: https://www.badminton-horse.co.uk/ Image source: Haynet

Five Rural Things I Love About Finland

Someone asked me the other day why I have called my new personal blog Terrier and Finns. So I feel for those that do not know me to explain… I am half Finnish. My mother was from Finland and made her life in the UK when she met my father around five decades ago. She made sure that the Finnish way of life was instilled into us as children which I have carried on into my adult life. I love the country and all its quirks! Finland has nature and the countryside very much at its heart, so I thought you might find these rural facts about this beautiful Scandinavian country interesting: The Land Of A Thousand Lakes In Finland, there is one lake for every twenty-six people. Drive through this country in the summer and you will find two colours that dominate the scenery: blue and green. The landscape is a mix of forest and over 188,000 vivid blue lakes surrounding this beautiful Scandanavian country. The Finns certainly have an infinity with water, with most having their homes on the lakeside or holiday cottages where they spend their summers. Watersports are a mindful way of living for the Finnish with kayaking, rowing and sailing being popular pastimes when the warmer months arrive. With most summer houses having saunas, skinny dipping comes naturally by running and jumping into the clear waters of the Finnish lakes to cool off! Beautiful Birch The silver birch tree has a special position in the Finnish landscape owing to its pale greenness and in the winter its silver sharp silhouette. With ten trees for every Finnish person, the country has forestry very deep rooted in its culture with a particular love for the silver birch tree. This silvery tree is versatile in its uses: birch sap, bark, birch tar, wood for axe handles and as firewood which is why this tree is so synonymous to Finland. Not only are its leafy twigs collected and tied in bundles for winter fodder for sheep and other animals, but the birch whisk is also traditional for use in saunas. I shall tell you more about that later! The Fantastic Finn Horse Being half Finnish and having the equine bug, I am very interested in horses that are popular in Scandinavia but particularly in Finland. The Finn Horse is a popular breed in the country and is used for both riding and draught work too. It is the only cold blood breed to be developed in Finland. The Finn Horse is sometimes known as the “Finnish Universal”  as it is a brilliant horse for agricultural and forestry work, harness racing, and riding. In 2007, the breed was declared the official national horse breed of Finland. This super breed of horse is also well-suited to everyday riding, being calm and steady, hard-working, obedient, healthy and enduring.  Many have also been trained for driving, and therefore are familiar with unusual noises and can be controlled from behind easily. All in all, they make a very hardy but versatile breed but not many Finn horses are seen in the UK. Sweat Your Socks Off In The Sauna With a population of just five million, over half of the households in Finland have a sauna. The sauna may be deemed to be a luxury but the Finns think saunas as a necessity in their lives. It is a place to relax with friends and family but most importantly it is associated with strong healing and wellness benefits. Regular sauna bathing is highly effective in the treatment of many ailments and diseases, so these hot rooms are very beneficial to your health physically and mentally. The best thing to wear (and definitely not socks) in the sauna is probably nothing! But with modern day, public saunas will insist on a bathing suit or a carefully wrapped towel to cover your modesty. With water being splashed on the hot coals, you can add eucalyptus or lavender to help clear sinuses or just take in the medicinal benefits from the oils. As mentioned earlier, branches of birch leaves are tied together which is known as “vihta” which you beat against your skin to flush out toxins in the heat. When the heat becomes too much, the tradition is to run out to the lake and jump in to cool down! You will certainly feel very energised after! Wild Weather Contrasts The most obvious contrast in Finland is the seasons. The same lake where the Finnish swim, sail or fish in summer forms a perfect skating rink or skiing arena in the winter. Warm, light and long summer nights gradually shorten, kissing goodbye to many daylight hours in the winter. I tend to only visit Finland in the summer as it never gets completely dark. In early July the sun is down only a couple of hours a day, and even then you can still see it peeping over the horizon. Temperatures in the summer are comfortable but can rise to up to thirty degrees making it a super place to visit for some Scandinavian summer sun. Winter can be harsh with only a few hours in the day giving you daylight. In Finland depending on the part of the country, winter varies in duration from about three to seven months. Regardless of location, it is always cold, dark and snowy. But that does not disrupt life. Finns will get to work or school in the morning no matter about the biting cold or how much snow has fallen. This is why the Finns are known to be hardy and have grit or resilliance. Also known as “sisu“… Like many Nordic countries, Finland has some of the world’s best “Freedom to Roam” opportunities. This means that you can pitch a tent, forage for wild blueberries or fish in the lakes for free without worry. This makes Finland a fantastic rural place to visit. I have such lovely memories of spending time with my family in Finland and it still continues to be a big part of my life. It is a country which has a very special place in my heart. Image credits: Haynet/iStock/Pixabay

Countryside Home: Give Your Bedroom A Rural Theme

With a start of a New Year, thoughts may turn to projects within your home over the next twelve months. It can be cost effective and give a room a lift by just changing a few accessories, soft furnishings and artwork. We love the rural look in every room and in Haynet’s new series, Countryside Home, we will be sharing interior style ideas to update your home with a cosy rural theme. If your bedroom could do with an update and refresh, here are some countryside style ideas to give it a rural lift! Comfy A Bed With Cushions A bed always looks properly dressed with some cushions propped against pillows. These stunning cushions from Joules will brighten any bedroom and give some colour to neutral bedding. Joules £40 https://www.joules.com/ Give Your Bedroom A Feature Wall To keep costs down a bedroom can change instantly by papering one wall to give it a countryside look. There are some fantastic wallcoverings out there and we think this leaping march hare design by Jane Churchill is striking. This style can be used in a nursery but is also grown up to be used in any bedroom. Wallpapers Direct £41.60 https://www.wallpaperdirect.com/ Countryside Your Bedding There is a huge range of bedding that embraces countryside style. From stags to rabbits and pheasants to horses, you can easily find bedding sets that is close to your rural heart. This bedding set from Kilburn & Scott looks especially chic against oak furniture with its pheasant and acorn design. Kaleidoscope from £35 https://www.kaleidoscope.co.uk/ Light Up With Country Character No bedside table would be complete without some stylish lighting. This metallic hare lamp is full of character giving your bedroom a homely and rustic feel. This lamp from Argos is definitely within budget but looks expensive uplifting any countryside bedroom. Argos £30 https://www.argos.co.uk/ No Bed Is Complete Without A Tartan Blanket Through the winter months, a tartan blanket or throw is much needed to keep your toes warm through those frosty nights! There are a wide range of blankets and throws out there to buy but we love these recycled blankets from The Tartan Blanket Co. They have a variety of styles and colours available all using pre-loved fibres. The Tartan Blanket Co £35 https://tartanblanketco.com/ Bee On Time As far as we are concerned, you need a clock in every room in the house! And the bedroom is the most important place to have a clock in clear view to make sure you get up on time. These vintage style clocks are simply timeless and would look great in any countryside bedroom. Graham & Green £12.50 https://www.grahamandgreen.co.uk/ Timeless Bedroom Furniture Replacing bedroom furniture will be more expensive so make sure you invest in a timeless style that will last. Metal beds are simply charming and elegant giving a countryside classic look to your bedroom. Whether you choose classic painted metal in neutral ivory or soft white or striking matt black, metal beds stand out and bring some class to the room. The Cotswold Company from £299 https://www.cotswoldco.com/ This is just a small selection of ideas to countrify your bedroom. Even changing a few cushions or accessories make a difference, changing the feel to a comfortable and relaxing bedroom. by Samantha Hobden Image credits: Joules, Argos, The Cotswold Company, The Tartan Blanket Co, Kaleidoscope, Graham & Green, Wallpapers Direct

Living With An Aga

The Aga cooker I think gets a rough deal sometimes. It has a reputation for being a posh middle class cooker only seen in countryside houses that runs purely on wads of twenty pound notes. A few years ago on Bake Off, one of the contestants was berated for struggling with the oven in the competition as she was only used to baking on an Aga. This caused a social media storm, with some very unkind words about this hunk of iron that sits in kitchens of small houses to stately homes up and down the land. So I am writing this to champion the Aga and dispel the ridiculous posh myths that surround them. Moving into our home six years ago, sitting on an exposed hill made us open to the elements and it is raw living here in the winter. The first winter we froze in a tired kitchen that was decades old, especially when you would get a gust of wind when you opened the mouldy cupboards. They smelled musty and this side of the house was always damp and miserable. The following summer building work started with the aim to get a new kitchen in, with warmth before winter. It felt that the only way the kitchen could be warm and dry in its exposed corner was to put an Aga in. Now our budget was not going to stretch to a new one, especially when we visited the Aga showrooms and their eye watering prices! The gleaming enamel and funky colours all looked like something out of a country interior magazine but the price tags were alarming… So second hand was the only option and also there was the dilemma what sort of fuel to use to run it. (Adding costs in again..) We were recommended a company that specialised in renovating old Aga’s who were absolutely brilliant. The price was within our means, so we decided on a gas two oven one in a deep charcoal grey. Watching it being assembled in our new kitchen was fascinating and also a huge amount of work. Once the team had left, we waited for a few hours for it to warm up. The next morning I noticed instantly how different the kitchen felt. Warm and not damp! From that day on, the musty damp smell disappeared completely and the kitchen had a warm feeling to it. It did take some months to get used to using it. My husband (and I know he was right) said that if this financial beast was coming to live with us then the toaster, kettle and tumble dryer were all leaving. This Aga had to work for its keep. It’s estimated to cost around £18-£20 in gas a week to run it but that is cheaper than some of the Sky TV packages in my eyes. (A very valuable argument point if you need it!)  Looking into oil and electric, gas seemed the better option. So as I said goodbye to my tumble dryer, drying clothes became an art form. We placed a metal barred shelf above the Aga (bargain from Ikea) which is useful for chucking over wet coats as well as drying clothes.  Together with a clothes airer and the Aga on top hob dryer, clothing dries quickly and efficiently. You can fold jeans, shirts, jumpers and pop them on to the hob lids with no need for ironing. Boiling the kettle takes longer and so does making toast in its metal tennis racket but I like standing there waiting for these warming myself against it. I have had some cooking triumphs and disasters with my Aga and that’s mainly because I forget things in it.. (it could be my age and foggy brain!) Trouble is you can’t see in it and actually there isn’t cooking smells when it is shut up. We had all sort of charcoal offerings when you forget the casserole that you are cooking in advance had been in there for 36 hours! Baking when successful is great but again there is a skill juggling cold shelves and whether to use the hot or simmering ovens. The beauty when cooking with an Aga is that it is instant. The ovens are ready to cook with so it can be speedy when getting dinner to the table. Roast potatoes are just the best from an Aga…. I would recommend definitely buying some books when it comes to cooking with an Aga and the Mary Berry ones I found are the most helpful. We don’t turn ours off during the summer as we have no other means of cooking. We have skylight windows above it and no heating in the kitchen, so it never gets sauna-like with it on 24/7, 365 days a year. I definitely do not feel posh having an Aga in our house, this iron maiden of mine works hard for her living. Actually, we wouldn’t have one if it was just sitting there looking pretty. But perhaps the next statement is a bit posh and I feel very cheesy saying it… but I would struggle to live without an Aga in my life now. Sorry, but I had to say it! by Samantha Hobden

Beautiful Bonny Blair and The Royal Highland Show

Last weekend, I flew up to Scotland for a second time this year to visit Blair Castle International Horse Trials after visiting The Royal Highland Show in June. I decided this year to actually go further afield in visiting country shows and horse trials and it was a decision well made. Now I love Badminton, it’s my favourite. But I have been for 14 years in a row now. I love Hickstead which I am lucky to have on my doorstep and enjoy the South of England Show, Edenbridge & Oxted Show and my local Heathfield Show. But it was time to try something new and put my travelling boots on! The Royal Highland Show I’m not a lover of travelling on motorways for hours at a time, so a flight was in order. EasyJet flies to Edinburgh from London Gatwick on a daily basis for a very reasonable price. If you want to visit the Royal Highland Show, a huge plus factor is that you can step off your hour’s flight at Edinburgh and walk to the show in about ten minutes. That’s a huge tick on the travelling side of things. Visiting the show in June, the weather had been tricky but thankfully when we arrived on the Friday the sun shone. Now this show is immense. I was astounded as to how big it was. It is a farming mecca but if you love all things countryside and equestrian then this is a show to visit. It takes some navigating around the showground and it is a two day visit to get to see everything. What I particularly enjoyed was the new stands which you don’t always see at the shows in the south. It was great to see something different for a change although the usual countryside and equestrian favourites were there too. The food halls were amazing with so much Scottish produce to enjoy. All the stands were filled with friendly and welcoming faces with most willing to chat and promote their wares. It almost has a bit of a festival feel to it when you turned a corner and bands were playing or outdoor activities to entertain you. There were plenty of places to eat and drink which faired easy on the pocket too! For those with the equestrian love, the showing rings were adorned with well dressed tartan handlers partnered with their beautifully turned out ponies.  The Clydesdales were also a special giant treat among miniatures ponies hot on their hooves. The cattle and sheep halls were extremely well laid out and easy to walk around.  All in all, I cannot recommend enough a trip to Scotland to visit The Royal Highland Show. Make sure you head into Edinburgh for the night and make it a two day break, which is well worth it! Blair Castle International Horse Trials Heading up to Scotland again this late Bank Holiday Weekend, I felt almost a seasoned traveller having been to Edinburgh for the second time in a matter of weeks. Travelling with three horse mad friends, we picked up a rental car with ease and took to the road heading over the Queensferry Crossing and on to the M90 towards the A9 to Pitlochry. I will hold my hands up and the trip was further than I anticipated, telling my travelling buddies it was about forty five minutes from the airport using my guestimate map reading. It is certainly a comfortable hour and a half from the airport with the traffic. However, the longer journey could be forgiven for the stunning Scottish scenery and clear roads to make the travelling a pleasure. Turning into the 250 acre Blair Estate with its beautiful tree lined stone walls, it felt a very tranquil place especially as you made your way to the car park beside the stunning white Blair Castle.  Walking towards the trials, you are met with a breathtaking view of the show in its glory with the Scottish hills in the background. It immediately felt a very calm and laid back show with again different trade stands that even a non horsey lover would enjoy. What I particularly enjoyed was the many arenas of show jumping and showing, all at a more comfortable level to my experience but certainly, the 1*, 2* and 3* competition did not feel out of place. They all worked together in harmony which I loved. With the final leg of the CIC3* Event Rider Masters, these trials were an exciting place to be. The sun came out especially for Cross Country day and the course was a treat to walk around. It’s not for the faint hearted as steep hills and craggy turns through woodland was not only for the competitors but the spectators too! Having some complimentary lunch with Land Rover on one of the water jumps was the Saturday highlight for me, as you experienced Blair at its best. With many testing jumps on the course, most had views of the stunning hillside or the castle beside them which makes it such a beautiful cross country course to ride. Sadly the famous Bank Holiday rain made it’s comeback on show jumping Sunday and with an afternoon flight to catch home, we decided to not travel back to the trials in the morning. Instead, we had a leisurely breakfast at our hotel watching RED squirrels dart across the grounds. Pitlochry is also a delightful town to visit with friendly residents wanting to hear where you have travelled from to visit Blair Castle International Horse Trials. I urge you to think further afield when visiting equestrian and country events next year and look into travelling away from your own county. I thoroughly enjoyed these two shows and would highly recommend a trip to both. Perhaps not in one year but definitely put these shows on your country and equestrian show bucket list! by Samantha Hobden Image credits: Haynet

Enjoying The British Countryside Safely and Respectfully

Whether you are lucky enough to live rurally or make regular trips to the countryside at the weekend, there is nothing better than enjoying the fields and woodland in the UK. With fine summer weather or crisp autumn days, it is a great time to take your family for an amble through woods or walking your dogs along the country lanes and the network of footpaths. Here we have some top tips to enjoy the countryside safely respecting farmland, livestock and woods that we are lucky enough to enjoy: 1 Know Your Area If you are unfamiliar with an area in the countryside, check out the footpaths and where you can walk. Take a map with you if you are unsure of the route you are taking as mobile reception can be notoriously bad in rural areas if you are relying on your phone. Remember that private land is private! Just because it may be a shorter or easier route doesn’t mean you can walk through private land, so make sure you know your footpaths and stick to them. If you are taking your dogs with you, keep them on the lead on footpaths especially through fields which have livestock, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the route. 2 Walking Through Fields Many public footpaths run through farmland. Respect that these fields are there for farmers to make a living through grazing their livestock or growing arable crops. Stick to the footpaths and again if they are not obvious, refer to a map. Always keep a look out for animals particularly young livestock. If you have to walk through a field with livestock, walk calmly and quietly and make sure dogs are on leads. Don’t panic if cows start to look interested in you, keep calm. If you are worried that they are being too keen or protecting young, then look to see on this occasion that you can walk through an alternative route should you feel threatened by them. 3 Keep It Clean It’s amazing what litter you see on the country lanes, woodland or fields. It may seem obvious but never dispose of your litter when walking through the countryside. It is not also unsightly, not eco-friendly but can lead to wildlife either ingesting or getting caught up in plastic packaging. Dog mess is a big dilemma with the decision whether to bag it or flick it with a stick under a hedge. Use your initiative. If your dog fouls in a field where livestock graze, pick it up in a dispose of it as it can spread diseases such as Neosporosis. If your dog fouls in remote woodland, then cover it with leaves rather than bagging it and then forgetting it, leaving a plastic bag that takes years to rot down rather than weeks if left naturally. Make sure your dog is fully up to date with its worming too. 4 Dogs – Are You In Control? Dogs are getting a rough time in the press with many owners feeling that their loose dog has every right to roam freely through the countryside. This is purely down to the owner and not the dog. You are responsible for your dog’s actions. Always put your dog on a lead around livestock. There is not one dog that is 100% safe off the lead despite how much training it has had. Get to know the area and only when you are absolutely certain that there is no livestock around or your dog’s recall is of a high standard, then you can let your dog enjoy a walk off the lead. There are many areas to enjoy the countryside particularly woodland that are dog friendly so consider finding walks that are safe for your dog. If in doubt always have your dog on a lead. How mortified would you be as an animal lover, that your dog chasing livestock has caused unnecessary suffering and even death. It also affects a farmer livelihood which can be detrimental to keeping a farm running through these tough financial times. 5 Shut It It may seem obvious but always SHUT GATES. It is amazing how many times you hear or see livestock that has escaped from the fields due to a gate not being closed. Horses are natural escape artists so make sure the gate is fully closed or if a gate has been tied – retie it securely! Cows, sheep or horses on the lanes or roads is an accident waiting to happen and again can be fatal to a human or animal. Respect fencing and just because a gate won’t open, don’t bend stock fencing by jumping over it. A farmer has taken time and money to put this fencing up to keep his boundaries safe. There is a fine line between enjoying the countryside safely and upsetting its precious harmony. We need to respect the British countryside but enjoy it at the same time just by acting responsibly. So put on your walking boots, put your dog on a lead, keep your rubbish with you and enjoy our beautiful British countryside! by Samantha Hobden Image credit: Pixabay

Traditional Tweed Still Game In The Countryside and Catwalks

From the catwalks of Milan to the British spring county shows, tweed is still a traditional style staple that fails to date. This versatile fabric and look is now being incorporated into everyday wear through to more formal occasions. It’s once itchy and stiff image is now been shaken off and designers are reaching for tweed to be used in upholstery, wedding dresses, fashion accessories and now even into lingerie. The staple of any wardrobe for both genders is the tweed jacket or gilet. They are extremely versatile and stylish and can be used for formal occasions, smart casual weekends or everyday wear. Tweed waistcoats can be mixed and matched effortlessly with other fabrics and clothing particularly with coloured jeans, trousers or skirt. Team your tweed with a pheasant feather printed scarf and then add a bakerboy cap or a fedora to the look which sit together in pure class and style. These hats are completely on trend and can be worn not only in a country setting but harmoniously in the city too. Styles have evolved over the last few years with many colours such as hot pinks, strong purples, and duck egg blues having been introduced into traditional tweed threads. This brings the fabric to the modern generation who have also fallen in love with wearing this classic look embracing tweed in their clothing, bags or accessories. Tweed also sits nicely with corduroy fabric, lace and leather footwear which is why this fabric is still a countryside firm favourite. Tweed clothing, particularly in country pursuits, is not only stylish but incredibly practical too. It is warm, hard-wearing and practical. Whether you are shooting clays, beating on a shoot or walking your dogs through the fields, tweed jackets or waistcoats will keep the famous British weather at bay! With tailored deep pockets giving any jacket a touch of quality, they are also incredibly useful for all you need to take with you when enjoying the countryside. So if you want to add some tweed to your wardrobe, styles are now affordable with prices to suit all budgets. Haynet recently tried and tested a super tweed gilet and matching bakerboy cap from https://equestrianco.com/ . With its hot pink quality lining, the Walker & Hawkes Ladies Derby Tweed Waistcoat is tailored and smart but very easy to wear. As with most tweed items of clothing, they soften over a few times of wear but this waistcoat felt comfortable from the first time you put it on. This can be worn with a t-shirt, cotton fitted shirt or a warm jumper to take you through all the seasons. Walker & Hawkes also have a super range of fashion bakerboy tweed country caps, baseball hats and the faithful flat caps that looks good on ladies and gentleman wanting to add some tweed to their wardrobe. So for a smarter and practical look, definitely consider adding some tweed. It will become an absolute firm favourite! Working in partnership with EquestrianCo.com

Tea in the Tack Room with Kim Wilson

Pegasus Jewellery has a steeped history of British excellence. Jewellery is all that founder Kim Wilson has ever known and in the last few years has diversified her business into the equestrian industry. Samantha Hobden caught up with Kim recently in Haynet’s Tea in the Tack Room series to find out more about how Kim juggles and her busy work with family life running Pegasus Jewellery: The jewellery business seems to be in your blood! Tell us about your how your love for a career in the jewellery industry started. My Great Grandfather opened his first jewellery store back in 1909, and the business has been handed down through my grandfather to my father. I have very early memories of sitting beside my Grandfather at his repair bench pretending to fix old scraps of jewellery. Growing up, at home, the dinner table conversation was always about jewellery. As the industry has changed and brand such as Pandora and Thomas Sabo have taken prominence in the high street I love following the fashion trends from the catwalk to the high street. Jewellery makes people feel special, it highlights important milestones like engagements, weddings, birthday and anniversaries. It’s wonderful being part of that. Where did the idea to branch into equestrian jewellery come from? I can tell you exactly the moment! I was at Blair Horse Trials for the FEI Longines European Championship, watching Michael Jung receive his Gold Medal from the Queen. I had been thinking about launching my own silver collection, but couldn’t find the inspiration and then I had a ‘eureka’ moment. Horses and Jewellery have been the two biggest influences in my life, so why not combine them? As soon as I got home I was at the kitchen table designing my first collection, which was the Pearl Sparkle Horseshoe set. From then, I’ve never looked back. What made you settle on the name Pegasus? Originally I was going to call the collection COLT. I had all the graphics and logos designed. However, one night I was reading a bedtime story to my daughter, Charlotte “Usborne Book of Mythical Characters’ about the winged Stallion Pegasus. A the end of the story Charlotte said “that would be a good name for your jewellery, Mummy” and I knew instantly she was right. A symbolisation of my dreams taking flight like the beautiful winged horse.  You are a busy mother not only running a business but fit in owning horses, dogs and of course your family! How do you manage to fit it all in? I’m not going to pretend I’m superwoman, I’m far from it. My Husband is in the Royal Navy and works away, so at times it’s been very hard. At the beginning, I would put the children to bed and sit at the kitchen table designing jewellery, while taking online courses to learn how to build my own website till the early hours of the morning, then up at 6 to get ready for nursery/school run and then a full days work. Looking back I don’t know how I did it. However, I have a great support network now and I don’t regret a moment of it. Hard work and determination really does pay off. What are your aims for Pegasus and have you plans to extend the range you offer? Oh gosh! If I’m honest I never believed in my wildest dreams Pegasus would become as big as it is today, and we are still growing. The launch of the Vitality Bracelet in October has pushed sales globally. We do a lot of trade with NZ and Australia and that is set to expand this year. The Vitality range will grow as we develop more styles of bracelets to boost the body and mind. As for the range, I am working on a range that can be personalised with horses names or notable events. We have just launched two pieces in collaboration with Blogger Mud on my Mulberry, which has been a huge success and we are working on something very exciting with the wonderful Victoria Brant (Diary of a Wimpy Eventer) Watch this space! What is the most important factor in a piece of jewellery, style or practicality? I think both are equally important. With the Vitality bracelet it has to be practical and its aim, using magnetic therapy is to make you feel good. Some of my designs are for special occasions to glam up an outfit, other pieces are to be worn every day. I think the most important factor in my range is the highest quality at affordable prices. My target market are horse owners and horses are expensive. I want them to be able to treat themselves and feel good, without weighing up extravagant costs. Tell us about the triumphs and challenges running an equestrian jewellery business. What part of it are you most proud of? Triumphs- I am incredibly proud of Team Pegasus. My team of Brand Bloggers, Sponsored Riders and Ambassadors. There are 14 of us, including my PR Tara Punter and we are a tight knit group. We have a hilarious group chat and they are 100% behind me in supporting my brand. Challenges- The equestrian world is a difficult and very critical one. Getting breakthroughs at the very beginning was very, very hard and I really sympathise with anyone trying to launch a new equestrian brand, because it’s hard. I remember being in floods of tears one evening, I had contacted some Equestrian Bloggers at the very beginning to ask if they would review a product for me, and I received some horrid replies. I will never forget them or their replies,  ironically they have contacted me since begging to review products. On a rare day off, where would we find you? Stables! My daughter has a lead rein show pony, and a new pony for this year, which we trail the country with, so that takes up every minute of every weekend during the season. I love it though! On a rare moment of peace and quiet, you will find me curled up in my huge armchair with my Beagle, Sasha and a large glass of Malbec. Where do you see yourself in ten years time? I have no idea where this crazy Pegasus journey will take me, but wherever I am I hope my family and I are content and happy. Against The Clock Questions Champagne or Gin Gin ( Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger with Fever tree Ginger to be precise!) Silver or Gold Silver Sunshine or Snow Sunshine Night In or Night Out Night out- what’s that? Night In Spend or Save Save Music or Films Music Big Horses or Small Ponies Small Ponies Please visit: Pegasus Jewellery

Deep In The Countryside With Sophie In The Sticks

It is award week here at Haynet with the finalists being announced in the Country Style Blogger of the Year Award 2018. Hosted by Haynet and sponsored by countryside PR & Social Media Marketing Agency MirrorMePR, the award is in its second year recognising blogging talent with country style running through its veins. Following from the hugely successful Equestrian Blogger of the Year Award, it felt a natural progression to separate the writers who focus on life in the countryside and recognise them with an individual award. Last years worthy winner in the first ever Country Style Blogger of the Year Award was Sophie in the Sticks. Her passionate rural blog shows Sophie’s love for the seasons through her distinct writing and photographic style. Samantha Hobden, one of the award judges, recently caught up with Sophie to see how her blogging year has been since winning the award in 2017: Has your heart always been in the countryside? Did you spend your childhood in a rural environment? I grew up in a large village and although we didn’t connect especially closely with nature it was definitely quiet. My favourite childhood memories of the countryside are hacking out on ponies, through lanes bordered by oil seed rape in bloom and galloping on stubble field boundaries and wandering up the lane blackberry picking with Grandma. Towns and cities feel very alien environments to me, somewhere to shop then leave asap. Your love for the seasons is written about with such passion. What is your favourite time of year? Until a couple of years ago, I would have adamantly insisted that summer is by far the best part of the year with sizzling heat, endless days of sunshine, golden wheat fields swishing in the light breeze and flowers in bloom absolutely everywhere. While I still love this with such fierce intensity, since starting to grow flowers a few years ago I’ve come to yearn the very start of spring. The day you know for sure that winter is over; those first warm rays of sunshine which enforce losing a jumper for half an hour. The first few wildflowers in bloom on the banks; primroses, lesser celandine and the start of cow parsley, that feeling that exciting things are happening and that the world is filling with possibility once more. That’s the most inspiring point of the year and it lifts my spirits to dizzying heights. Fashion comes through strongly through your blog. What are your favourite three key pieces of clothing you could not live without? What a tough question! I have to say that I only ever dress to make myself happy which is why sometimes I’m overdressed or wear pieces which have long since been shunned by the catwalk. A throw on dress is an absolute must-have as sometimes a spur of the moment decision is made to go out and it only takes a minute to pop on a beautiful bright dress which requires no additional styling or accessories. Ankle boots are how my feet are homed about 80% of the year and they are ideal for most occasions – especially with dresses. A decent pair of denim shorts as these will forever be comfortable and can coordinate with everything from stiff shirts, camisoles, blouses and crop tops, jumpers…. you name it, those denim shorts will see a good lot of wear. A key part of your blog is your love of photography. What is your top tip for getting a striking countryside shot? I’m not a trained photographer but I’ve spent years enjoying the tries to take the photographs that make me happy. I love exploring depths of field, sparkles, rain, sunshine, light and shade, interesting backgrounds and views across the floor. My advice would be to take endless pictures and build up a feeling of what you like to see as a result. My aim with photography is to capture exactly how that moment felt; the spark, the thing which made it unique. As an individual piece to hang on the wall, not so much but each post’s collection builds up a real feel of what that time was like. You post an average of twenty posts a month on your blog. Do you ever struggle to find topics to talk about? Never! I usually have surplus material which falls by the wayside through lack of time to compose pieces. It’s almost always photographed lead content; I take pictures, edit (usually only resize and sometimes crop) the ones I really like, then write up things of interest and notes about the time there. Often on a walk, I will end up with two or three posts’ worth with so much to see through the lens plus some shots of myself too. There is just so much to say about the world around us. Why do you love blogging so much? There are so many reasons! It’s essentially a photo diary which I can look back through, there are over 1000 posts so plenty to read that I’ve long since forgotten about. It’s somewhere to share my pictures and thoughts – if I didn’t get posts published they would just linger and feel pointless. Lastly and most importantly, it’s the one part of my life that feels my own; nobody considers me to be a creative person yet blogging has allowed me to explore my writing and passions to unveil a definite final result which I’m proud of. Did winning the award change anything for you? I’ve never felt like a confident blogger before yet the support and kind comments that I’ve received have been overwhelmingly uplifting and have given me such a warm glow. I’m so grateful for that, it’s meant a lot to me. What advice would you give wannabe bloggers out there? Do your thing; decide what drives you, follow your passion and don’t let anyone else’s negativity change your mind. So what if you’re not mainstream? It doesn’t matter. Stay true to yourself and stick to your plan. Please come along to Sophie in the Sticks Follow Sophie on Twitter and Instagram The finalists in the Country Style Blogger of the Year Award 2018 are being announced on Wednesday 2nd May 2018 8pm through its dedicated Twitter channel.

5 Top Equestrian B&B’s in the UK

Bring your horse on holiday! With the grey days of winter, why not lift your spirits and plan some summer riding with your horse. It won’t be long before we can look forward to sunny days hacking with our horses, light mornings and hazy balmy summer evenings together and not wrestling with rugs or wading through mud for a few months. If the thought of going on holiday and sorting out the horse fills you with dread while you go away, then why not take your horse with you? There are many brilliant places to visit in the UK where farms and stables cannot only accommodate you but your horse too! Just think to wake up to breakfast being made for you and then pop out to the stable to adventure out on new bridleways and rides with your horse! So where to stay? We have picked the top five places in the UK which provide excellent riding holidays for you and your horse: Rock Farm – Taunton Somerset Rock Farm is equipped with stables and a paddock, so it is perfect for groups that would like to bring their horses on holiday exploring riding routes. With breathtaking and beautiful countryside that Somerset has to offer, this is a glorious place to take your horse on holiday. With flexible accommodation and plenty of room to park trailers or lorries, this makes it all easier to bring your horse with you for a summer break! For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.woodlandsretreats.co.uk/our-retreats/rock-farm/introduction   Burley Rails Cottage – The New Forest Burley Rails Cottage sits deep in the heart of the New Forest offering self-catering accommodation surrounded by the 144 square miles of National Park for horse riders, walkers, cyclists to use. This is the perfect base for horse riders who want to experience plenty of off road riding together with two modern stables with an individual yard, tack room and turnout. For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.burleyrailscottage.co.uk/   North Kingsfield Farm – Bridlington, East Yorkshire North Kingsfield Farm Holiday Cottages consist of three luxury cottages which are part of a mediaeval barn conversion. Set on a working farm in open countryside, there are miles of off road hacking and Fraisthorpe beach is just a couple of minutes away. On site is a small livery yard offering stables and grazing through the summer months for horse owning guests! For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.northkingsfield.co.uk/Horse_Riding_Holidays.html   Longland Farm Cottages and Stables – Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire Longland Farm is a smallholding set in beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside. Their traditional welsh stone barn provides quality holiday accommodation with stunning views toward the Preseli Mountains. With many bridleways and quiet country lanes, there is plenty to explore on horseback. Close to the Pembrokeshire coast, there are also many beaches to explore with your horse. Longland Farm provides stabling with hay and straw included and stable equipment provided. For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.longlandsfarmcottages.co.uk/horses   Holmeshead Farm – The Lake District The Lake District is a stunning area of the UK to visit all year round. Holmeshead Farm is near Ambleside and is a traditional sheep farm. They offer stables and grazing together with luxury accommodation for you. The farm has easy access to miles of bridleway to The Langdales, Rydal, Coniston, Claife, Grizedale which makes this a wonderful riding holiday in The Lakes! For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.holmesheadfarm.co.uk/?Horse_Holidays   Make this summer the time you take your horse on holiday with you – a change of scenery is as good as a rest! Written by Samantha Hobden

My Favourite Equestrian TV Series: Flambards

Throughout the month of August, I posted through the #HorseBloggers channel, a top tip every day in keeping topics flowing when it comes to blogging about all things equine. I have decided to write thirty one posts, each taking on board the tips that I recommended. So my seventh post is not about my favourite equestrian film but my favourite equestrian tv series and why I loved it! Throughout my childhood, television time was a few snatched hours in the afternoon and early evening. There were only three channels to choose from and television series were gradually becoming more popular throughout the seventies (see I divulged my age now!) Looking back on that era, I feel there were more programmes for the horse lover than there are now. The Adventures of Black Beauty, Follyfoot Farm, The White Horses were among some the shows that horse mad children would tune in, watch and follow weekly. I loved them all but there was one series that I really enjoyed and that was Flambards. It was first aired in 1979 with thirteen episodes based on the Flambards novels written by English author K M Peyton. It was so popular that the United States bought the production and it was televised there in 1980. The story focused on Christina, who was an orphaned heiress who came to live at the dilapidated country estate in Essex set in 1909 through to 1918. It was owned by her mothers half brother, the crippled and arrogant Uncle Russell who lived there with his two sons Mark and Will. The story focused heavily on hunting horses and how Christina loved to ride her sturdy steed in side saddle, much to the annoyance of Will who was terrified of horses after a hunting accident. Her Aunt Grace had romantic plans for Christina to marry the insolent Mark in order to bring Flambards back to glory, using her large inheritance when she turned twenty one. Without giving too much of the story away, the series depicted countryside life back in an era romanticising hunting and farming in a very nostalgic way. I loved watching who Christina was going to fall for. Would it be Mark who passionately shared her love of hunting and horses or Will who hated everything that hunting stood for and yearned to take to the skies in the very early era of aviation? The series challenged class boundaries and I watched with fascination who Christina would give her heart to. Recently I found Flambards on Amazon with the whole series on DVD. Watching the first episode I was immediately transported back to my childhood. The acting was a little wooden and dated in its voice and outlook, but I still loved it all the same. Flambards was so popular that in 1976 Douglas Kingsford Hale and his wife Audrey opened up an aviation museum in Helston, Cornwall. To complement the old aircraft and to re-enact scenes from the television drama, a kitchen, workshop and a nursery of that period were built. They proved a hit with visitors and today Flambards is still open with now 60 shops and homes all set in genuine cobbled streets with carriages and costumes of the period. So do let me know if you were a Flambards fan or if this is before your time, let me know what equestrian programmes you loved watching too. Written by Samantha Hobden

Team With Tweed This Autumn

With autumn leaves falling and the countryside giving us it’s orangey glow, summer shorts and flip flops are now being packed away. Sheepskin boots, cashmere jumpers and tweed jackets are luxury staples of anyone’s wardrobe but still super stylish this autumn keeping you warm and dry. Tweed is still prominent on the fashion catwalk with it crossing over from the traditional country attire to making a steady appearance on the high street. Tweed being such a versatile fabric and look, is now being incorporated into everyday wear through to more formal occasions. It’s once itchy and stiff image is now been shaken off and designers are reaching for tweed to be used in upholstery, wedding dresses, fashion accessories and now even into lingerie. History of Tweed Originating from the Scottish Outer Hebrides, people living there from modern day to centuries ago know what it is like to live and experience bad weather. Crofters or sheep farmers used their own hand carded wool which they would colour with vegetable dye, which was then hand spun and weaved using hand looms to produce a sturdy material. They produced blankets and clothing which protected them well from the harsh elements. Over the years the crofter’s flair and skill shone through with new styles and colours being introduced in their weaving. With the industrial revolution, new manufacturing processes made tweed more available and produced on a larger scale. This was then shipped all over the country and then in time across the world becoming the well known and fashionable material it is today. The Tweed Jacket The staple of any wardrobe for both genders is the tweed jacket. A well made or bespoke jacket is a worthwhile investment and will still work with the changes of fashion that the decades bring. They are extremely versatile and stylish and can be used for formal occasions, smart casual weekends or everyday wear. Tweed jackets can be mixed and matched effortlessly with other fabrics and clothing particularly with denim jeans, a smart leather belt and a pair of stylish leather shoes. This season anything goes with tweed waistcoats, spotty or paisley scarves, fur hats which all sit together in pure class and style. Even matching tweed jackets with tweed skirts and trousers can be worn together creating a smart look that can be worn not only in a country setting but harmoniously in the city. Accessorise with Tweed There is not a bag, hat or a pair of gloves that you cannot find which incorporates a bit of tweed styling these days.  A casual outfit with a tweed flat cap or tweed and leather handbag just adds that touch of class to any style. Leather holdalls, purses, wallets all stand the test of time with tweed mixed in with some quality leather designs. The humble fascinator which was once limited to some netting and sinamay can be now been seen at weddings or at the race course covered in different coloured tweed and game bird feathers. Even your pets can now be seen sporting tweed collars and coats. Mix and match your tweed accessories but remember to keep it simple. Introducing Tweed into Your Home The traditional country home has seen tweed mixed in with its interior for many years now. This look has become very fashionable within the home with blankets, throws, cushions and upholstery all including hard wearing tweed. There are now some amazing chairs, settees and even tweed can be seen in picture frames and mirrors. The key is not to overdo the look but keep it contemporary with one or two pieces placed prominently within your home. Don’t forget a traditional tweed throw is essential to be wrapped up in on cold winters nights. Caring for your Tweed Tweed does need to be cared for, especially when you have invested money in a quality jacket or stylish chair for your home. This hardy material has come a long way from its scratchy days when it was woven organically with 100% wool. Even with advanced technologies in making tweed fabric for a softer appearance, it must never be placed in a washing machine due to shrinkage. If you need to clean a tweed clothing item, always take it to a professional dry cleaner for their advice. If you have stubborn stains that need removing especially on upholstery, dab it lightly with a damp sponge without being too harsh on the material itself. A good clean with a stiff brush from time to time will keep your tweed looking smart and neat. So this autumn, team in some tweed together with some leather luxury styling and give this hard wearing and traditional material the showcase it truly deserves! by Samantha Hobden   Working in partnership with Pampeano

My Rural Rant – Driving, Cycling and Hacking On Our Lanes

Most weekdays I make a ten minute drive each way to my yard to tend to my horse and his companion. It is through rural lanes which are relatively busy at peak times and have a 60mph national speed limit. What I am going to rant about now has not just happened today, it happens most days. I am going to rant about drivers, cyclists and fellow horse riders. However, I do not want to portray myself as an angel in the car or perhaps on horseback. There are days when I drive from A to B and all I remember of that journey is how many toilet rolls should I pick up later in Tesco’s! I shall put my hand up and also state that I have attended a driver speeding awareness course… to be caught speeding some six weeks later. In my defence (if there is one), my driving offences were not on rural lanes. We all lead busy lives and the aim to get to the destination I imagine as quickly as we can with no delays? But is it worth taking careless risks? All of the lanes where I live are now getting very overgrown. The hedgerows are thick with brambles, nettles and ferns with no verges visible. But this is July! This is the middle of the summer and our countryside is as thick, green and bushy as ever. Many a time I have had to drive into the undergrowth to avoid numerous traffic incidents, which is where I will start my rant:- So, my first moan is…. cyclists. Now all these ageing men in lycra are no doubt fuelled with enthusiasm with Chris Froomes recent win in the Tour de France – but that’s where the race was, in France on dedicated closed off roads, not on our rural lanes. They seem to be breeding at a rapid rate, ganging up on bikes in large groups, taking over the roads and countryside lanes. I had a Sir Bradley Wiggins fan (in his advanced years shall we say) who was clad head to foot in lycra belting around a blind bend this morning on the opposite side of the lane. With his wobbly swerve, he missed me by inches probably in his hot pursuit of his yellow shirt at the finish line – in his head! Now on to horse riders – which I am one of them. Most of the riders I meet when driving are courteous, they either pull in and always say thank you when cars pass. For a driver not to be acknowledged for slowing down for horses is a real wind up – it annoys me as a horse rider. This morning I came across a horse rider approaching a bend… in the middle of the lane. Riding hats off to her, she was in hi-viz which is some points off in my ranto-o-meter. I slowed down to nearly stopping, thinking she may wave me on to pass. She didn’t, so I crawled behind with no acknowledgement from her. As the lane became clearer, I started to pass by her and her horse at a snail pace. Imagine my ranty face when the rider had the reins on the horse’s wither and was on her phone texting! She ignored me and carried on texting, rein free in the middle of the road. What if a pheasant flew out and spooked the horse, not only could she have landed in a heap in the middle of the road, she would have probably broke the precious phone too! I do jest but is it worth the risk? So my next gripe, is fellow car drivers. Most lanes sadly are 60mph which is too fast for my liking but this is the law. If you have a lane that is pretty much a single track with thick hedgerows each side would you really travel at the top of the speed limit? My rant for the car drivers was a Land Rover that overtook me on a lane this morning doing at least nearly 60 mph. I looked at my speedo and I was doing 41mph. Now this driver was perfectly legal but what made me eff and jeff was the “Slow Down For Horses” and British Horse Society stickers blazoned over the rear window! They then proceeded to belt through a local village flat out without a care for any potential horses, pedestrians walking dogs or even a lycra clad cyclist! Perhaps they are heading somewhere in an emergency, we have all been there. But you cannot put down driving like Lewis Hamilton on our lanes always down to an emergency… Anyway, karma kicked in as I caught up with the horsey Land Rover a few minutes later, as it had got stuck behind a tractor… My point of this post is that we all have to use our rural lanes but to remind ourselves to have some more consideration and thought. I think my emotions are coming into writing this as I attended a very serious horse riding accident on these very lanes a few months back. It was not a pretty sight or situation. You just never know what is behind that corner, or coming out of a gateway especially in the countryside. I am sure that text, that race to get to the finish line, or to just be quicker in reaching our destination can wait or perhaps be that little bit more leisurely! Written by Samantha Hobden Image Credit: Geograph (c) Colin Smith

My Rural Rant – Driving, Cycling and Hacking On Our Lanes

Most weekdays I make a ten minute drive each way to my yard to tend to my horse and his companion. It is through rural lanes which are relatively busy at peak times and have a 60mph national speed limit. What I am going to rant about now has not just happened today, it happens most days. I am going to rant about drivers, cyclists and fellow horse riders. However, I do not want to portray myself as an angel in the car or perhaps on horseback. There are days when I drive from A to B and all I remember of that journey is how many toilet rolls should I pick up later in Tesco’s! I shall put my hand up and also state that I have attended a driver speeding awareness course… to be caught speeding some six weeks later. In my defence (if there is one), my driving offences were not on rural lanes. We all lead busy lives and the aim to get to the destination I imagine as quickly as we can with no delays? But is it worth taking careless risks? All of the lanes where I live are now getting very overgrown. The hedgerows are thick with brambles, nettles and ferns with no verges visible. But this is July! This is the middle of the summer and our countryside is as thick, green and bushy as ever. Many a time I have had to drive into the undergrowth to avoid numerous traffic incidents, which is where I will start my rant:- So, my first moan is…. cyclists. Now all these ageing men in lycra are no doubt fuelled with enthusiasm with Chris Froomes recent win in the Tour de France – but that’s where the race was, in France on dedicated closed off roads not on our rural lanes. They seem to be breeding at a rapid rate, ganging up on bikes in large groups, taking over the roads and countryside lanes. I had a Sir Bradley Wiggins fan (in his advanced years shall we say) who was clad head to foot in lycra belting around a blind bend this morning on the opposite side of the lane. With his wobbly swerve, he missed me by inches probably in his hot pursuit of his yellow shirt at the finish line – in his head! Now on to horse riders – which I am one of them. Most of the riders I meet when driving are courteous, they either pull in and always say thank you when cars pass. For a driver not to be acknowledged for slowing down for horses is a real wind up – it annoys me as a horse rider. This morning I came across a horse rider approaching a bend… in the middle of the lane. Riding hats off to her, she was in hi-viz which is some points off in my ranto-o-meter. I slowed down to nearly stopping, thinking she may wave me on to pass. She didn’t, so I crawled behind with no acknowledgment from her. As the lane became clearer, I started to pass by her and her horse at a snail pace. Imagine my ranty face when the rider had the reins on the horse’s wither and was on her phone texting! She ignored me and carried on texting, rein free in the middle of the road. What if a pheasant flew out and spooked the horse, not only could she have landed in a heap in the middle of the road, she would of probably broke the precious phone too! I do jest but is it worth the risk? So my next gripe, is fellow car drivers. Most lanes sadly are 60mph which is too fast for my liking but this is the law. If you have a lane that is pretty much a single track with thick hedgerows each side would you really travel at the top of the speed limit? My rant for the car drivers, was a Land Rover that overtook me on a lane this morning doing at least nearly 60 mph. I looked at my speedo and I was doing 41mph. Now this driver was perfectly legal but what made me eff and jeff was the “Slow Down For Horses” and British Horse Society stickers blazoned over the rear window! They then proceeded to belt through a local village flat out without a care for any potential horses, pedestrians walking dogs or even a lycra clad cyclist! Perhaps they are heading somehere in an emergency, we have all been there. But you cannot put down driving like Lewis Hamilton on our lanes always down to an emergency… Anyway karma kicked in as I caught up with the horsey Land Rover a few minutes later, as it had got stuck behind a tractor… My point of this post is that we all have to use our rural lanes but to remind ourselves to have some more consideration and thought. I think my emotions are coming into writing this as I attended a very serious horse riding accident on these very lanes a few months back. It was not a pretty sight or situation. You just never know what is behind that corner, or coming out of a gateway especially in the countryside. I am sure that text, that race to get to the finish line, or to just be quicker in reaching our destination can wait or perhaps be that little bit more leisurely! Written by Samantha Hobden Image Credit: Geograph (c) Colin Smith

Mark Todd Reinga Waterproof Riding Over Trousers

Although summer is on its way, every self-respecting equestrian knows that at some point there will be a downpour and working or riding in the rain will be a reality. With recent showers part of the weather god’s agenda I set out to test the Mark Todd Regina Waterproof Over Trousers. Priced at a RRP of £68 this product sets itself at a higher price point than simple pull over waterproof trousers, but a lot less than some of the equine branded waterproofs on the market. The Mark Todd Collection is known for its hard-wearing pieces, with some great added design features, so I was interested to try the product, to see if they were value for money and most importantly, if they performed in an equine environment. But firstly, here is the manufacturers blurb: The over trousers are made from polystretch fabric to allow for greater movement and flexibility with Taslon panels on the front for greater durability. The pockets have heat sealed waterproof zips – as you’d see on ski wear. There are full length two way zips on the outside with a full length storm flap. Adjustable tabs at the waist and ankle. The trousers have a 20gm polyester filling The printed logos are reflective along with the piping down the side seams. The design… I was really impressed with the quality and design of the over trousers. They looked smart and were made with a high-quality finish. Only available in Navy, but a sensible choice of colour that goes with most jackets and equestrian clothing. The fabric appeared durable and had an amount of stretch to it, which is essential when you are moving about doing yard work and riding. I liked the Talson panels on the front and knees. Designed to offer additional durability, they also give a bit of styling to the garment, almost an industrial quality that I liked. These trousers have bags of detail for the price. The zips are waterproof and there are plenty of large pockets. The waist is adjustable which means you can wear layers underneath or tuck a thicker jumper in if you wish. I liked the long zips that run down the outside of the trousers, making them easy to take on and off. The tabs at the ankle meant the trousers could be worn over riding boots or under, to give a neat, tidy and safe fit. Overall, I think the Mark Todd Regina waterproof over trousers were some of the best quality I have seen on the market, packed with loads of functional features and a simple, yet considered design, at this stage I was really impressed… so I popped them on and ventured out into the rain! The function… The over trousers didn’t disappoint. Wearing them on a particularly windy and wet day I felt dry and cosy. The trousers kept out the wind and although I had breeches on underneath I didn’t feel overly hot. I’d say they would be ideal for slinging over work clothes when you have to go to the yard after work, or as a cover over your show breeches. So, they do have many uses aside from yard waterproofs. I wore the trousers to do some mucking out and grooming and found them comfortable to work hard in. The fabric had enough stretch so I didn’t feel restricted or cumbersome. Again, this design would be great for people like equine physios, who work outdoors in the colder months and need practical additional layers. I tacked up and decided to hack out, in the rain to properly test the trousers. At first I did feel the seat of the trousers was slightly slippery which I found disconcerting. However, I am used to sticky bottom breeches, so anything different, well feels different! Within 10 minutes I was used to riding in the slightly padded, different textured trousers, so can’t criticise the fabric choice. The trousers didn’t ride up at the lower leg, as other brands have, and the tabs at the bottom ensured a snug and tidy fit which was safe – so great if you were doing speed work and possibly jumping. The fabric was flexible at the knees and hips, and they didn’t feel bulky. The pockets were large enough for a phone, which stayed dry – bonus! I was out in a light shower and stayed dry in the trousers. Upon returning to the yard I lightly hosed over the trousers and still remained dry – so the functionality, fit and performance of the over trousers all passed my tests. To summarise… I was very impressed with the Mark Todd Regina Waterproof over trousers. They are well designed, fit for purpose and have loads of features that some of their more expensive competitors include, but at a much higher cost. I think the over trousers would last for a good few years and washed and dried very well when I tested them. The fit is great and the combination of fabrics works well. They look smart and I think have a lot of uses, not only for riders but grooms and spectators. The padding makes them warm but I wouldn’t say overly hot, so they aren’t just winter trousers. Overall I was really impressed with this product and I think Mark Todd offers a high-end product at a fair price. I would recommend them and would now look at other Mark Todd products as I think they offer a great mid-range price point, with good quality, functional products. Sponsored Post

5 Top Tips in Looking After Your Leather

With the cooler seasons fast approaching, leather boots are being dusted off, leather gloves are coming out the hall drawer and the trusty leather jacket is being rooted for at the back of the wardrobe. Leather is all around us and it is not just seasonal these days in our clothing, we use it now fashionably in upholstery, we use leather in sport especially in all things equestrian and we use leather in everyday living without giving it a second thought. This tough, durable material, however, needs some upkeep and care. Top quality leather comes at a premium and should be considered as a luxury that needs caring for. Whether you have invested in leather shoes or boots, handbag, jacket or a belt they should all be given regular care to keep them in tip top condition. If you have a horse, then keeping their tack in top condition is vital for your equestrian investment in shape! If you look after your leather and it will look after you! Here are our top five tips for keeping your leather items looking their best: 1 Don’t Let Dirt Ruin Your Leather Investment Quality leather is not cheap and should be classed as an investment whether that it is a handbag, a pair of boots or even a top crafted saddle for your horse. So take a look closely and if it is starting to look a little grubby, then give it a wipe over with just a damp cloth. Ideally this should be done weekly but if that all seems too much, wipe it over every month without fail. 2 Don’t Let Leather Get Too Wet Sometimes when our winter weather is giving us a hard time, it can give our leather items some stress too if they get too wet. Dry out leather slowly and keep it away from direct heat. Speedy drying changes the chemical structure of leather and this is when you end up with the leather stiff and cracked. Dry items at room temperature and be patient in letting them dry over a few days. 3 Don’t Let Leather Get Too Dry Leather also suffers when it is too dry. It has to be treated like we treat our skin. So if your leather is looking a bit parched then rub some moisture into it. Home remedies can be useful but if you have invested into a quality item of leather it pays to use a leather dressing or cream recommended by the maker or manufacturer. There are many products on the market that are used particularly for leather so it pays to use one for all your leather items without the worry of damaging them. 4 Let Your Leather Breathe Make sure your leather items are kept in cool dry conditions and if they are being covered make sure that this is not plastic. If your leather is covered with no ventilation, then this encourages mildew growth. If the storage area is damp, then leather is one of the first items to attract mould which must be cleaned off straight away. 5 Don’t Let Your Leather Stretch Leather is actually very pliable and can stretch out of shape easily. For example, if you pack out your leather wallet or purse with too many cards, receipts and money then it will never quite return to its given shape as when it was new. So don’t give your leather handbag or boots a hard time, because once they have been stretched, it is pretty much impossible for the leather to go back to its taut self.