Friday 29 May 2015

Learning to Run

Three years ago today I reached my goal weight and for the first time in living memory was within my healthy BMI.  Having been overweight my whole life, this is a day that I love to celebrate.  Back when I tipped the scales at an unhealthy 19.7 stone I would literally dream of waking up slim and now that my dream has become a reality, I never ever take my achievement for granted and work hard to keep at a healthy weight.

If you're not familiar with my weight loss story then you can read my post from last year here where I shared my experience of being overweight and how I lost 9 stone.

This year to mark the occasion I'm going to chat to you about how I taught myself to run and how it's helped me to lose weight.

To this day people ask me whether I had to exercise to lose the amount of weight that I did, they always look a little disappointed when I confirm that I did. Unfortunately it is impossible to lose weight in a healthy way without committing to a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise. This doesn't have to be a hardship though so today I want to share my experience of learning to run.

Being a heavy child I was not a fan of being active.  I loathed Sports Day, was always picked last for teams in PE and would quite often attempt to convince Mum to write me a note excusing me from gym class.  To this day I wish so much that PE was taught better in schools.  It is an essential part of the school curriculum but it baffles me why academic subjects are taught according to ability yet sport isn't.   Being a kid who can't run, catch or throw is torture when you're competing against children who are so much better than you.  I know for a fact if  I'd been in a PE class with other kids who couldn't do sport I would have tried much harder and maybe grown up without a loathing for physical activity.

 The day I left school I swore I'd never be made to do sport again.  I didn't run for anyone or anything - I would rather miss the bus then break into a sweat trying to run for it and the thought of ever participating in a group sport event again made me feel sick!

When I decided to lose weight I knew that I was going to have to exercise and to start with I struggled to see how I'd manage when I could barely do a 5 minute walk down the road without sore feet and feeling out of puff.

To save the embarrassment of joining a gym I began my journey by going on a lunchtime walk three times a week.  I took trainers into work and without fail would stick them on and go power walking three times a week as well as doing as much walking as I could at weekends.  Without realising it I started to enjoy it - clearing my head in the fresh air and escaping for a while was lovely.

When I finally joined the gym I was too nervous to try running, convinced that I'd fall off the back of the treadmill.  So for the first 6 months of my membership I put the treadmill on a 6% incline and power walked hills. 

One day I realised I was getting a little bored of walking on the treadmill and, noticing the gym was quiet that evening, decided to speed things up a little and try a bit of a run.  Imagine my surprise when I managed a good 10 minute run without stopping!

For anyone wanting to run, I'd definitely say don't get frustrated if you can't do it immediately.  If you go from doing no exercise to running you'll probably last less than a minute which will be so frustrating and probably put you off trying again.

I took the slow approach by building up the strength in my legs by power walking but if you want to get into running faster then I'd recommend doing "Couch to 5K" which you can download on to your phone.  Using a programme of timed walks integrated with short runs, you can expect to be able to run 5k in 9 weeks based on doing the programme 3 times a week.

When I first started running I'd do 30 minutes on the treadmill made up of 10 minute runs and short bursts of powerwalking.  I was pretty convinced I'd never be able to run any great distance and was never bothered about pushing myself to do more until I started exercising with Simon.

If you can find yourself a running buddy it makes things much easier.  I found that running next to Simon on the treadmill motivated me to do more, I'd suddenly found a competitive streak I never knew I had.

I finally completed my first 5k on the treadmill at the end of last year, I did it with Simon by my side and I was so glad he was there to share my moment.  I never would have done it if hadn't been for his encouragement - he believed in my running ability long before I did!

I'm not going to claim that being able to run suddenly means that you are always eager to go out for a run.  As much as I love the post-exercise feeling, sometimes lugging off to the gym after a tiring day is the last thing I want to do.   I found that buying myself some bright and colourful gym gear helps a little to get me in the right frame of mind.  I love my crazy patterned sports leggings from Tesco.

Running really helps to keep my body trim.   My tummy is noticeably smaller and my arms less wobbly if I keep up a good routine of running 3 times a week.

Once I'd smashed one target I decided to move onto another to keep myself interested.  After completing a few 5ks on the treadmill, I wanted to try to complete one in the great outdoors.  I always felt that I wouldn't feel like a real runner until I was doing it outside.

My aim was to join in a Park Run, organised across the country, they are timed 5k runs that take place on a Saturday morning.  They are free to join and open to anyone.  I will admit I put it off throughout the Winter as I didn't much fancy running in ice but my goal was to complete a Park Run before my 3rd Anniversary of being at goal.

The day finally arrived two weeks ago and I was more than a little nervous about partaking in an organised event with other people.  What if I couldn't do it or what if I came last?

Running outside was different to the treadmill but I had the most amazing time.  Running in the fresh air with people cheering me on and so much to look at made the time fly, and every time  I did struggle I just thought about 15 year old Chloe who couldn't complete a 1500 metre run at school and it pushed me on!    Teenage Chloe would have been amazed to see me speeding round the lake.

As I crossed the finish line and ran into Simon's arms I had tears in my eyes, it was quite an emotional moment and another huge achievement in my lifelong commitment to stay fit and healthy. 

Later that day I got a text with my results, I completed 5k in 30:48, my fastest ever run.

There's nothing in life quite as special as achieving something you never thought you could and with the right attitude and a healthy dollop of determination I believe that anyone can achieve anything.

Thursday 28 May 2015

Anniversary Afternoon Tea at Jesmond Dene House

When I first arrived in Newcastle it was a week before Simon and I celebrated our first anniversary.  Still feeling rather flush on my London wage I treated us both to a stay in one of the gorgeous suites at Jesmond Dene House which is still one of the best experiences we've ever had.

Unfortunately, having just bought a house, we weren't able to splash out to celebrate our third anniversary with an overnight stay but as Jesmond Dene House is still our biggest obsession we decided to return this year to celebrate with an afternoon tea.

The afternoon tea at Jesmond Dene House is the one that we are forever telling people about, we've had it so many times now but can never get enough.  It is the very best and what better way to celebrate a special occasion than with the very best.

After a quick spot of cake maths we're pretty sure we've had the Jesmond Dene House afternoon tea five times now and it's certainly popped up on the blog a few times but we couldn't resist sharing a few photos with you.

Afternoon Tea at Jesmond Dene House costs £19.00 per person and is served in a few different rooms to suit every mood and occasion.  It'll probably come as no surprise to you that we've now had afternoon tea in every available room in the house!

If you want a tip from the pros, we'd definitely recommend taking your tea in the Cocktail Lounge in the Winter (it's so cosy next to the roaring fire) and the Sun Lounge in the Summer (with fantastic views of the garden).  This time, however, we had our tea in the main restaurant - a first for us!

Offering a fantastic personalised service I had my own special "nut free" afternoon tea and Simon swapped one of his cheese scones for an extra plain.  It's little touches like this that make us return to Jesmond Dene House time and time again - the service is exceptional and the staff are all so friendly.

Not being strangers to afternoon tea I suggested to Simon that we mix things up a bit this time by eating a sandwich, followed by a scone and then a cake before returning back to the bottom tier to repeat the process again.   He looked absolutely horrified at the suggestion and I learnt to never mess with Simon's afternoon tea routine - the man knows what he wants!

The sandwiches were made with fresh squishy bread and packed full of delicious fillings.  I'm not going to lie though we wolfed them down to get to the scones!

We had three scones each, a plain, fruit and cheese served with butter, raspberry jam, strawberry jam and cream.  There began the great jam and cream debate.  How had I never noticed that Simon and I eat our scones differently?  I prefer jam first followed by cream whereas he likes a thick layer of cream finished with big dollops of jam. 

We were so full by the time we got to the cake tier but there was no way we were going to quit!   We were thankful that the attentive staff did such a great job of keeping our teapot full because we were on a mission to eat every last crumb on our cake stand.

I enjoyed my nut free cakes with Lemon and Raspberry Shortbread, Rhubarb Cheesecake Sundae, Red Velvet Cake and Meringue with Fresh Fruit whilst Simon had a few replacements in the form of a giant Lemon Macaron and a Chocolate and Salted Caramel Fancier.

Jesmond Dene House change their cakes seasonally so it's always fun to see what appears - I don't think we've ever had the same cakes twice!

We left a few hours later feeling full to bursting and happy to have spent our special day somewhere that we love.   Next time you have a special occasion to celebrate make sure you book yourself afternoon tea at Jesmond Dene House - you're hunt for the perfect afternoon tea will be over!

Want more?  Read my previous blog posts about Afternoon Tea at Jesmond Dene House and Christmas at Jesmond Dene House 

Wednesday 27 May 2015

All Aboard! DFDS Seaways 20th Anniversary

Apologies if this makes any of you feel old, but this year DFDS Seaways is celebrating 20 years of its Newcastle to Amsterdam route.   Having only lived in the North East for 2 years, I'm yet to experience one of their cruises but I'm sure a lot of you have some wonderful memories of your seafaring adventures with DFDS.

Obviously you can't let a 20th birthday go past without some celebration so on Sunday we joined the Crew on board the King Seaways ship for a special 20th Anniversary Mini Cruise of the North East coast.

and maybe a sneaky slice of the largest birthday cake I've ever seen!

High on our agenda was a proper explore of the ship.  We've been thinking about doing one of the cruises to Amsterdam for a while now so we were keen to discover all that the boat had to offer. 

The King Seaways is a Cruise Ferry which can accommodate up to 1,300 passengers.  The ship is large but we loved that there was plenty of space to chill out and relax if you fancy some peace and quiet even if the ship is full to capacity.  

There are 522 cabins on board which look really cosy and comfortable.  There's something exciting about the thought of sleeping on a moving ship and I think a night away cruising with DFDS must be quite an adventure.

If, like us, you love your food, the ship has several restaurants to chose from including lighter bites from the Lighthouse Café

and evening meals at the Blue Riband.  If neither of those tickle your fancy there are plenty of other bars and restaurants to choose from on board.

We had afternoon tea in the Explorers restaurant during our mini cruise.  

We tucked into an endless supply of sandwiches, mini scones and profiteroles washed down with a big pot of tea and some fizz. 

If you ever find yourself in Explorers I would definitely recommend grabbing a table by the window for amazing views out to sea and positioning yourself near the beautiful white piano just in case you're lucky enough to be treated to some live music while you eat.

There's plenty of entertainment on board with two cinemas, a casino, shops and children's play areas.  If live entertainment is your thing then there are also performers to enjoy.   We were treated to a Michael Jackson tribute during our mini cruise and were very impressed by how good he was.  I've tried singing a few Jackson tunes in the shower before and believe me it's not easy!

The highlight of our cruise was heading outside to admire the beautiful views of the coastline.  Our mini cruise sailed us past the North Shields fishing harbour ...

and along to Tynemouth for a fantastic view of the Priory and Pier with St Mary's Lighthouse visible in the distance.

It was so lovely to see some of our favourite North East landmarks from a different angle.

Exploring the outside decks was such an adventure. 

We were free to wander up and down the stairs to get different views of the passing landscape and we spent a great deal of our cruise time enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh sea air.

We were lucky with the weather so were very happy when we stumbled across the Mermaid Bar on the top deck, the perfect place to enjoy some drinks out in the sunshine.  Nothing beats a bit of alfresco drinking with the sun on your face and a nice gentle sea breeze.

Our time on the boat has made us even more enthusiastic to take ourselves off on a romantic mini cruise to Amsterdam.

If you want to join in the fun you can still celebrate the 20th anniversary with DFDS by booking on one of their popular Newcastle to Amsterdam cruises this Summer at 1995 prices!   Cruises start from only £42.00 per person for a 2 night mini cruise and you can book here or by telephone on 0871 521 3337.

Let me know if you decide to book one, and PLEASE pack me in your suitcase so I can tag along!

We were invited to the mini cruise by DFDS  but this review is an honest review of our experience on board the ship. 

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Mannys Pizza Deli, Newcastle

There's a new kid in the Toon and he goes by the name of Manny's Pizza Deli.   Always wanting to welcome fellow newbies in Newcastle I've been looking forward to Manny's arrival for quite some time.  

Unfortunately, Simon beat me to it!   Am I bitter that he got to try somewhere new before me?  Yes, maybe a little!  Admittedly it was my own fault, last Friday I made dinner plans at Fat Hippo that didn't involve him so as pay back my Mr took himself off to the Toon's brand new pizza place without me and then had the cheek to tease me about it on Twitter.

After hearing him go on about how amazing the pizzas were I decided the only way I could possibly forgive him was to try them out for myself as soon as possible.  I graciously decided he could come with me, as long as he attempted to pretend that this was his first time.

Manny's have set up shop on Ridley Place, just off Northumberland Street - ideally placed for hungry shoppers, its location very close to Primark means that I will definitely be a regular Saturday lunchtime customer.

Offering a "slice of  New York in Newcastle", Manny's serve up whole pizza pies or pizza slices using internationally sourced ingredients, home made sauces and local talent.   As a bonus if you're too lazy to leave the comfort of your sofa they deliver to the central Newcastle area and you can even pay by Paypal.

The menu features 15 delicious Pizza Pies, all with New York inspired names.   From the classic Manhatten (Mozzarella, Marinara Sauce and Basil) to the  Liberty (Prosciutto Ham, Grana Padano, Mozzarella and Marinara Sauce) there's something for everyone and, if there isn't, there's also a nice selection of extra toppings to create your perfect pizza pie.

If you have any room after all that delicious pizza, Manny's also serve homemade desserts and 5 Dolla Shakes for the truly authentic New York experience.

The counter at Manny's is filled with freshly made pizzas for you to buy by the slice.  Now we all know that I'm a little greedy so I wasn't sure I was a "slice" kind of girl.  However the slices at Manny's are massive and definitely enough to satisfy even the hungriest blogger, mine kept me going for the rest of the evening.

My favourite pizzas tend to feature egg so we opted for a slice of the Empire each - Soppressata, Roasted Chicken and Egg.  It came served on a paper plate and we happily grabbed ourselves a window seat to do a spot of people watching whilst devouring our pizza.

Trust me to order the messiest pizza!  No regrets here though, getting my hands nice and messy is definitely one of the most enjoyable ways to eat food even if I couldn't quite master eating it like a lady.

It's easy to see that Simon has had a lot of practice when it comes to eating pizza, whilst I was slopping egg and tomato all over the place he had a perfect technique of folding his pizza and shovelling it perfectly into his mouth without wasting any.

I'm considering hiring him out - so if you want tips on how to eat a Manny's Pizza without making a mess let me know and I'll point you in his direction.

The pizza slices were out of this world.  They were crispy without being overdone, piping hot and the toppings were plentiful.

Simon is particularly crazy for the tomato base and mentioned how good it was at least five times during our meal.   I could also tell by the dopy grin on his face that he has added Manny's to his little list of places that he likes to sneak off to.  I'm pretty sure if I lose him at any point over the next few weeks I'll be finding him on Ridley Place.
You'll notice when you first pop into Manny's that it's pretty teeny with not a lot of seats.  Well don't worry, I'm about to let you into a secret.   There's also a downstairs area and it's really cosy with plenty of room.  The perfect place to head with your mates and a freshly made pizza pie.

Next time you're in Toon make sure you head down to Manny's and give them a proper Geordie Welcome!  

We were invited to try out some Manny's pizza for the blog but all opinions are our own.  If we didn't love it, we wouldn't share it!

Monday 25 May 2015

Coffee with Currys

Recently the lovely guys and gals at Joe Blogs made the journey back up to the North to introduce the North East Bloggers to the wonderful world of coffee based cocktails.

My younger sister introduced me to Espresso Martinis a while back so I'm no stranger to the concept of coffee in a cocktail glass but I was interested to see what other cocktails our host bar, Revolution, had up their sleeve.

Hosted by Currys, the night saw us battling it out for the wittiest tweets to win ourselves a coffee machine. I'll admit I was pretty lazy with my attempts as Simon and I are already proud owners of a Tassimo machine.  So instead I kicked back and took the opportunity to catch up with some of my friends whilst sipping a delicious concoction that tasted a little like alcoholic tiramisu.

This was my first visit to Revolution in Newcastle. I always presumed it to be a bit of a party bar and not for folks like me who spend their evenings hanging out in their slippers.  I was surprised at how stunning the bar is, housed in an old bank, the building has original 30ft ceilings, marble pillars and gorgeous wood features.  Having a quick squizz through the menu (always thinking with my belly!) I'm wondering if I maybe need to try the food there some time!
After a good catch up, we were invited to the bar to learn how to make some of our own coffee based cocktails.  We took turns to go behind the bar in groups for some cocktail making (cue ice everywhere, sticky hands and smashed glasses!)
Going behind the bar makes you realise the hard work that goes into making a good cocktail.  It's not all just about shovelling some ice into a glass and shaking it up with some alcohol!   We were shown some pretty impressive tricks including pouring drinks into multiple glasses at once and playing dominoes with shot glasses.
The event reminded me how much I love the flavour of coffee and how delicious it can be when served in a fancy glass with some alcohol!
Thanks to Joe Blogs, Currys and Revolution Newcastle for hosting such a fantastic night.
Photos in this post were taken by myself and Joe Blogs 

Friday 22 May 2015

Cleaning your DSLR Camera

I got myself a Nikon 3200 DSLR camera back in November and it's safe to say that it is now my baby that goes everywhere with me!

Although it's not the most expensive DSLR it still cost a fair few bob so I like to make sure I take good care of it to keep it in top working order.

When it comes to keeping your DSLR clean it definitely pays to try and keep as much dust and dirt away from your camera as possible using these few simple tips:
  • Keep your lens cap on when you're not using your camera to make sure the lens doesn't get scratched or dirty 

  • Make sure your camera is well protected in your bag, not only to save it from getting knocked about but also to keep it away from anything dirty.  I keep my camera in a padded case.

  • Take extra care with your camera when you're in a potentially messy environment.  It's not a good idea to go swinging your camera about on the beach and take extra care when your hands are sticky from ice-cream or cake (I speak from experience here!)

  • When changing lens make sure you do it fast and efficiently to stop any dirt and fluff getting into your camera

It is, of course, impossible to stop your DSLR getting dirty so you will need to clean it from time to time.   Although it can be tempting to clean it with the sleeve of your jumper or a tissue from your pocket this definitely is not a good idea!  Make sure you always carry a lens cloth with you when you're out and about.  

If, like me, you're a child of the 80s you may be tempted to blow on your camera to get rid of any unwanted dirt (it always worked for VHS tapes!) - this is also not a good idea.  Always use a proper camera cleaning kit to clean your camera.

If you feel like your DSLR needs a proper clean take it to a camera shop.  It's not advisable to mess about with the inside of your camera if you don't know what you're doing!

Take a look at Curry's Guide to Keeping your DSLR clean for some more tips and if you have any extra tips to share I'd love to hear them.

This post was written in collaboration with Currys

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Two Today

Where on earth has the time gone?  It seems like only yesterday I was writing a post celebrating  my blog's 1st birthday, and now suddenly New Girl in Toon is 2 years old!

I'm not going to waffle on too much but I just wanted to take a bit of time to reflect on all of the great things I've achieved in the last year.

New Girl in Toon has come such a long way in the last 12 months and I'm so proud of where I find myself today.  My page views have doubled and last year I was shortlisted for a Blog North Award, which was such a honour.

This blog may now have a nice fancy new look, have better quality images and its own domain name but I hope you agree with me when I say its heart is still very much the same as it always was - promoting all of the great things that the North East has to offer.

I've been so lucky to work with some amazing North East based businesses this year and am very thankful for the great relationships I've built with some of my favourite restaurants, bars and hotels in the area.

One of the things I will never take for granted is the wonderful friends that I have made through this blog.  The North East has the most fantastic blogging community and I'm so happy to have met so many talented, fun and lovely people.

Before this all starts getting a little too cheesy and soppy, I give you all permission to buy yourself cake today in celebration!

Here's to another year guys!

Monday 18 May 2015

Healthy Snaking - Traidcraft Geobars

As readers of this blog you probably know that Simon and I are huge foodies and, having both struggled with our weight, balancing our love of cake whilst maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not always easy.

So if something comes along to make things a bit easier for us, we're more than happy to give them a go.  Just recently Simon in particular has been doing a lot of reading about eating more fruit and veg and has become a little obsessed with the idea of buying a juicer.

I fear slightly for our food bill and my nice clean kitchen so when Traidcraft sent us over some Geobars to try, I was keen to hand them over to Simon hoping that bars offering 60% + fruit as an ingredient will be enough to distract him from wanting to juice.

Geobars were the world's first free trade cereal bars, created using fair trade ingredients from developing countries.  Apricots from Pakistan, raisins from South Africa and honey from Chile, these goodies are made into delicious snack bars right here in the North East of England.

I hogged the Cocoa Crunch Bars for myself, eating them on my gym days as a pre-workout snack.  Unlike many other snack bars I've tried, I found the Cocoa Crunch Geo Bars to be really filling.  

As they are a raw fruit and oat energy bar, they were the perfect fuel for my evening runs.  They were really sweet and delicious and I loved that the sweetness came from the raisins rather than any nasty added sweeteners.

Simon took the rest of the bars to work with him, trying the Banana and Walnut Geobars first.  Opting to have it as his mid-afternoon snack at work, he was surprised that the small bar kept him feeling full all the way through to dinner and came home with a happy report of how tasty his treat had been.

I love Beetroot in chocolate cake so know how well Beetroot can work in sweet food, but I was a little worried Simon might not like the idea and was dubious about handing over the Beetroot and Cocoa Geobars to him.  He kept an open mind though and was surprised at how delicious the bars tasted and how much he enjoyed them.

I have to say I was most jealous of handing over the Carrot and Ginger bars to him, I'm a little obsessed with ginger at the moment and love how great it tastes.   He came home full of praise for these little bars and said they reminded him a lot of carrot cake. 

We were so impressed with the Geobars and they tick so many "feel good" boxes - not only are they fair trade but they also count as one of your five a day, are gluten free and don't contain any added sugar .. all that and they taste delicious and are made in the North East!  Winner!

You can try Geobars for yourself by ordering from the Tradicraft website here or checking out your local Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys or Waitrose.

The Geobars were sent to us for review purposes.


Friday 15 May 2015

Glamping at the Bells of Hemscott: The Shepherd's Hut

For a rather long time now I've been secretly researching quirky staycations - tree houses, gypsy caravans, wigwams - you name it I've probably googled it!   Why have I been doing this in secret?  Well!  I've always thought that Simon probably wouldn't be happy about any of these ideas, he's a guy who likes his home comforts.

So when the Bells of Hemscott invited us to spend a night glamping at Druridge Bay I was SO excited and Simon, seeing how happy I was to be asked, and being supportive of New Girl in Toon couldn't really say no!  

Giddy at the thought of finally being able to do something I'd been dreaming about for so long, we happily headed up to Northumberland in our little hire car.  I had my fingers tightly crossed that we'd both enjoy our first ever experience of glamping and that I'd be able to convince Simon that this kind of experience is fun.

The Bells of Hemscott opens weekends over the Summer between May and August offering a "Wild Glamping" experience with a choice of bell tents in their "canvas village" or, if you're a little nervous about sleeping under the stars or just fancy somewhere cosy to snuggle, the Shepherd's Hut.

As this was our first experience of glamping we spent our night in the Shepherd's Hut, new for the 2015 season it's the perfect little escape if you're looking for a romantic night away with your other half.

I completely fell in love with the Shepherd's Hut the moment I clapped my eyes on it.   This was literally what I'd been dreaming of, and as we unlocked the door and stepped inside I may have let out a bit of a squeal!

Small but perfectly formed our home for the evening consisted of a sofa bed (complete with cute cushions and cosy throw and the added bonus of duvet and pillows), a mini table and chairs, a small stove to make hot drinks, candle holders and twinkly fairy lights round the window.  I was very much in my element.

Simon began the experience a little confused and found himself wanting to turn the TV on every time he sat on the couch, only to remember that not only was there no TV, but no electricity and no phone signal.   I may have secretly sniggered to myself every time he went to find the imaginary remote control!

It wasn't long before he got over it and we had a really lovely afternoon snuggled up on the couch together under a duvet reading.   It's not often life stops for long enough for you to indulge in a trashy magazine and I loved every second of my relaxation time.

If you're not a big fan of sitting about doing nothing then panic not!  The Bells of Hemscott offers the best of both worlds.  Our camp site felt like a peaceful retreat in the middle of nowhere yet we were actually a very short drive away from a tea room, farm shop, ice-cream parlour and local shops.  We did a little run out to the local village of Ellington to stock up on essentials (Jaffa Cakes and Wine!)

It's also a perfect location for exploring Northumberland, we spent our afternoon at Craster, a beautiful little fishing harbour 40 minutes north of Druridge Bay.  But there's plenty of other places to explore that are even closer including the popular towns of Amble, Warkworth and Alnwick.

We split our time between cosying up in the hut and running about in the fresh air outside whenever the sun made an appearance. 

As with any British holiday the weather was a little unpredictable and we had typical Spring rain showers followed by bright sunshine.  I wasn't too phased by this, the Hut kept us completely dry and I rather enjoyed being cosy in our little hideaway listening to the rain outside.

After one particularly horrible downpour we were thrilled when we opened the door to the Shepherd's Hut to reveal the most clear rainbow I've ever seen.  

I had my wellies on in a flash to skip about outside taking photos.

You can't really complain about rain when you're left with a beauty like this!

With the rain taking a break we decided it might be a good time to explore our back garden so we hopped over the little fence, across the dunes and on to the beach.  

We had a huge stretch of beach all to ourselves and all we could see for miles was clear sand and blue sea.   It certainly beats any back garden I've ever seen.

Taking advantage of the blue skies we thought it'd probably be a good time to get started on our dinner.  The Shepherd's Hut has its own little outdoor cooking area and fire pit complete with deck chairs and makeshift table.

This is where Simon truly found himself in his element.  What is it about men making fires?  He happily selected some nice bits of wood from the stash left for us at the front door and set about making a fire.

Despite the wet weather and our limited experience at building a fire, the Bells of Hemscott made it super easy for the beginner providing us not only with wood but fire lighters, matches and newspaper (I don't want to hear any of you saying we were cheating!)

Our dinner for the night was Camp Stew, prepared before and heated up over the fire - super easy and a great idea if you don't want to cook anything from scratch.

Call us big kids, but we're not the best at being patient so decided to toast some marshmallows over the fire while we waited.  

Personally  I think it'd be a crime to build a fire without toasting its success with a marshmallow kebab or two.

Being delicate little flowers and not wanting to get our bums wet on the deck chairs we headed back into the Hut for dinner.  Our Hut came complete with plates, bowls, plastic glasses and cutlery. 

Despite the cloud the sky above our hut was beginning to turn a gorgeous pink colour and  I can only imagine how perfect the sunsets must be on a clear night.  A romantic stroll along our back garden beach definitely would have happened if it had been dry enough.

As we began to lose the light we switched on the little fairy lights in the Hut and lit a few candles.  Our little home looked beautiful by candlelight and feeling toasty in my Winter PJs under my Giraffe Onesie I was feeling blissfully happy.  This really is one of the most romantic ways to spend your evening.

I joked to Simon that the Shepherd's Hut would be a rather amazing place to be proposed to, but after an awkward pause and with no ring appearing it was time to pack away the table and change our sofa into our bed for the night.

I will admit this took a bit of team work - when I say team work it mostly involved Simon getting annoyed at not being able to put it up straight away with me standing at the end of the Hut holding cushions and trying to calm him down. 

It wasn't long before we'd worked it out, and feeling a little silly about how easy it had been once we'd engaged our brains we settled down for the night.  I was prepared for a cold night and so had packed sensibly with lots of layers and cosy socks.  I was the perfect temperature and was surprised at how well I slept.   Simon said the next morning that he'd been a little cold but as he was muttering about me hogging the duvet I think that may be my fault rather than the Shepherd's Hut!

Throwing open the door in the morning to be met with beautiful views across the dunes, gentle moos of cows and gorgeous fresh air I was in a very happy mood.  If only every morning could start the same!

I was gutted to leave and was rather reluctant to hand back the key to our little home.  If I had this much fun on a rather damp and chilly day in April I can only imagine how amazing the Bells of Hemscott must be on a warm Summer's day. 

I'm making it my mission to return to experience it for myself and, having decided I've passed "Glamping Level 1" I think I may be ready to move on to a tent!  Let's just hope I can convince  Simon!

We were invited to spend a night at Bells of Hemscott free of charge but all other expenses were paid for ourselves.  We really did have the most amazing time!
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