Wednesday, 15 April 2015


I have been following Sian, the founder of Fforest on Instagram for years, she was one of the first Instagrammers I followed, enticing me with pictures of her gorgeous life. Her pictures give you a taste of the wonderful holiday destination that has attracted numerous bloggers and Instagrammers to stay. And this Easter we holidayed at Fforest for the first time and got to jump headfirst into Sian's gorgeous pictures.

Sian and her husband James, moved back to her childhood home of Wales with their four young boys, you can read about their inspiring move here. They bought Fforest and have created a camping holiday with a difference across three sites, near Cardigan.

We stayed in a crogloft, which with its underfloor heating, large walk-in shower and warm welsh blankets was really luxurious. The uniqueness of the croglofts and in fact all the Fforest accommodation are the outdoor camp kitchens and dining tables, with obligatory enamelware and gorgeous bunches of flowers.

There is even a little pub, the Bwythn, the oldest building onsite and lovingly restored. It sells Welsh beer and whiskey, I *may* have sampled many a bottle of the enchantedly named Tipsy Tup pale ale, which was delicious.

Fforest is 500 acres of Welsh woodland and meadow, brimming with bluebells, ferns and twisted ash trees covered in lichen. It is perfect for children to roam and play to their hearts content, rising with the dawn chorus and collapsing exhausted into bed after many an adventure with new found friends.

There is even a Canadian oak barrel sauna onsite and the other accommodation includes domes, tipi's and camping shacks all with wood burners inside to keep you warm at night.

We needed this holiday so much, to spend time as a family away from the distractions of work and wifi. When the children talked, we spent time listening and playing with them, reconnecting and laughing.

We made Welsh cakes on the griddle, enjoyed a pizza night with Tom Herbert, delighted in novelty of the huge toaster at breakfast in the lodge each morning, discovered a secret beach, played with friends, learnt to play Uno, shared in a delicious communal supper of marinated lamb, walked to the river and nature reserve next door, sweated in the sauna. 

All the simple things that are so important in life, to reconnect and to press the reset button. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


I rarely get time to myself without one or all of the boys, but a few times a year I do get to escape on my own to my favourite hairdressers in Bath. After my spring chop I avoided the bustle of the shopping streets in this popular tourist destination and discovered ghost writing on buildings, the back of the Pulteney Bridge and the artisan streets around Walcot. I love discovering places that I haven't visited before and admiring buildings that I haven't noticed before.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


We have just had the pleasure of looking after a little sausage dog for a week whilst her owners were away. She was such a sweet thing and easy to look after, the boys adored her and yes we did dress her up to take to a fancy dress party!

Sunday, 5 April 2015


Each Easter we make an Easter tree using a few branches from our twisted hazel tree in the garden. Using vegetables we dye a mixture of white, green and brown blown eggs with red cabbage, red onion skins and purple sprouting. It's really easy, you boil the vegetable of choice add a good glug of vinegar (I used the vinegar left over from our Christmas pickled onions!) then leave to cool. We then pop the liquid with the eggs into Kilner jars in the fridge overnight.

My favourite dye is using red cabbage which produces a gorgeous deep blue. It's a great way for the children to experiment (or should I say 'egg'speriment?) To hang them on the tree a snap a match in half tie a bit of thread around it and carefully push it through the hole we made to blow out the contents, it then wedges itself width-ways to enable you to hang it. 

Of course we still eat tonnes of chocolate ones too of course!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


I met Singer, Author, Radio 6 Music presenter and Guardian columnist Cerys Matthews a few years ago when she visited Gloucestershire to film for The One Show and we bonded over talk of foraging. She went home on the train with a bottle of our homemade elderflower champagne that I feared would explode on the train! We've stayed in touch and since we met in 2013, Cerys has won Broadcaster of the Year at the Sony Radio Academy Awards, been awarded an MBE for her services to the music industry, published two books and in 2014 launched her own festival, The Good Life with husband Steve Abbott and friends Charlie and Caroline Gladstone! 

I'm delighted that despite her busy schedule, Cerys has taken the time to talk to me about festivals, family and an army of gnomes!

Emma: Huge congratulations Cerys! The Good Life Experience 2014 was a huge success, where did the idea come from to launch a festival? 

Cerys: Like many a good idea, it started over a pint of ale and a roaring fire in a favourite pub. Four of us were blathering on about festivals and how commercial and expensive they were. We got to talking about what would constitute a perfect festival - value for money (free rides, free talks, free activities once entry tickets bought); a huge dollop of the great outdoors, and finely curated food and arts - all there for their quality , not for the hype surrounding them.

Emma: I loved the vintage fair ground, Mr. Natty the barber,  and all the little touches like the free pear stall and the wild flowers in jars on the tables. What were your personal highlights from the Good Life 2014? 

Cerys: Campfire Friday - where mainly acoustic music was enjoyed by the light of a huge crackling fire. This year we've invited Rhioghnach Connelly and band 'Honeyfeet' to host the evening with their traditional Irish and jazz roots. It ended last year as a kind of open evening where people were welcome to stand up and sing or recite or play an instrument. Also the fires dotted around the site - children were helping themselves to the maize from the field and cooking the heads on the fires. I just love the smell of wood burning on the warm end of summer breeze. 

Emma. Why do you think it's so important that we reconnect with the simple things such as nature and the outdoors? 

Cerys: We spend so much time in a rush, with tight schedules, and gadgets adding to the stress. Health and safety rules and the fact that most of us now are urban dwellers mean that children and adults alike seldom get to do simple things like sitting around a fire, or getting their hands dirty trying skills like sharpening an axe, or wood carving.

Emma: So can you give us a sneak preview of the 2015 festival, what's new? 

Cerys: We've tried to keep a familiar stamp - so Tom Herbert (of the Fabulous Baker Brothers) is back with his 60 year old sour dough, Beer Bods, and the vintage fair with its endless free rides is also returning. Abseiling, archery and axe throwing, also the Best Made Co from New York are back too.

But we have a whole new line up for the music tent - including Catrin Finch, Big Boss man and DJ 78. We also have invited 5x15 to host a literary tent with talks from respected authors. Chefs new to the festival include Thomsina Miers and Ella Woodward, of Deliciously Ella fame. We've also added the Idler Academy, Caught by the River and Eroica Cycling Culture and there's lots more we'll be announcing soon. 

Emma: You are so busy, how do you juggle the demands of your many roles with family life? 

Cerys: It is hard-because all the dots are beginning to line up in terms of seeing how to make things happen . I’ve been lucky enough to have survived in business for 25 years now, and there are just so many projects I want to get off the ground! But the truth is, I also want to be there for the children; to help them with homework or football , or just be there. I don’t have a full time nanny so it is a struggle, but one I wouldn’t change for the world. Well maybe I would - I'd love for the ironing to be done by a secret gnome, ditto the vacuuming and cleaning and putting the children to bed when I'm extremely tired. That would be very cool, yes; an army of tiny gnomes or elves to help with the household chores would be an ideal. 

Emma: Ha! Just like the children’s book the Elves and the Shoemaker! How do you encourage your family to have 'a good life'?   

Cerys: Seeing through hype, informing yourself and using time as well as possible,. Also,  I’ve vowed recently to break when the children have school holidays, and not to work right through them. This Easter we'll be off on a train journey through France .The children are older now and I love seeing them taking in the world around them. Horrible Histories has made them love history and facts and figures – it’s wonderful to see.

Emma: Did your own childhood in Wales influence you as a mother? 

Cerys: I love living in London - a small fish in a big multi cultural pond, though I still feel like a little of the country girl at heart. I like knowing the people in my square mile,seeing familiar faces and saying hello, the children go to the local schools, play under the Westway doing  sports or music and we feel rooted here. Community is so important.  I don’t know if Wales influenced my parenting or not.I’ll never know, it’s my roots and I’ve had no others. I know my mother influenced me with her  love of nature and plants . She passed that on to me. I hope I’ll pass on that to my children and on it goes.

Emma: If you had the day off tomorrow, what would you do?

Cerys: Lord! I had a great day on Sunday after the radio show (BBC Radio 6 10am-1pm every Sunday) I programme the show picking every tune and topic so it’s a huge buzz to share my finds .Then it's home time  , and as  it was Mothering Sunday, my husband had a lovely bottle of St.Emilion waiting for me, the woodstove was smoking and the children were there. I loved it. So for a perfect day off ?I love nothing more than that –some great music sharing and slow time with the family.

Emma: Cerys, thank you so much for your time.  I’ve loved the glimpse into your family life and can’t wait to see you at The Good Life Experience in September x

Tickets for The Good Life Festival 2015 September 18/19/20 2015 are on sale now and if you buy before Easter are available at an early bird rate!

BBC 6Music - Sunday 10 am - 1pm 

Hook , Line and Singer - 

A Child's Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs available now

Sunday, 22 March 2015


We made a delicious wild garlic soup this weekend to celebrate the start of wild garlic season again! 

I chopped a courgette and fried it in a pan with some butter, then added a cup full of frozen peas. Once they had cooked I added a cup of chicken stock and a handful of wild garlic leaves, then gave it a quick whizz with a hand blender before seasoning and bringing it to the boil and serving with a drizzle of oil and some crusty bread. 

It was absolutely delicious! 

I'm looking forward to experimenting with a few more wild garlic recipes over the next few weeks. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015


A bouquet of feathers for mothering Sunday, found on our walk today around Miserden Village and Estate. We met good friends for a muddy wander around the beautiful estate, the boys predictably waded through the stream, whilst overhead a buzzard mewing loudly was being flocked by a pair of 'cronking' ravens who didn't want this bird of prey near their nesting site!

We stopped for a hot chocolate as it was still quite chilly and made some arrow tracks for the boys to follow.

Miserden House is an impressive 17th Century manor house with carpets of snowdrops on the lawns.

Most of the village houses are owned by the estate and houses are rented on a long-term basis to local people who contribute to village life, there aren't any holiday homes here. We ended up in the Carpenters Arms a proper local pub at the heart of the village, there was even a tuck shop at one end of the bar with pick and mix sweets and a landlord who entertained the children with magic tricks! 

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