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Friday, February 24, 2017

The Needles Isle of Wight

The Needles are a row of tall, pointy chalk cliffs that are located off the coast of the Isle of Wight. They are the Isle of Wight's most iconic and popular tourist attraction.

The cliff which gave the Needles their name, being the only needle-shaped rock in the row, collapsed in a storm in 1764, but the name has stuck ever since.

The Needles Isle of Wight.
The Needles
Due to the popularity of the Needles as a tourist attraction, a small amusement park was opened at Alum Bay, where the Needles are located, as well as a chairlift that allows a better view of the Needles than you can get from the headland.
The Needles Isle of Wight.
The Needles chairlift - http://www.theneedles.co.uk
Also located on the headland are the Needles Old Battery, the Needles New Battery, and the High Down Rocket Testing Site. The Old Battery was built between 1861-63, designed to defend against enemy ships.

The New Battery was then built after there were concerns that the firing of the guns from the Old Battery was causing the cliffs below to crumble. The New Battery was built further up the cliffs, and was completed in 1985. Both of the buildings are Grade II listed buildings.

The Needles Isle of Wight.
The remains of the Old Battery - http://www.geograph.org.uk

The High Down Rocket Testing Site was built in the 1950's and was operated in secret. The Black Knight rocket was tested at this site in the 1950's, prior to it's launch in Australia, as well as the Black Arrow rocket in the 1960's.

The High Down Rocket Testing Site played a very important part in Britain's Space Programme, but was neglected after the 1970's and the majority of the buildings were demolished. There is a small museum dedicated to it at the Needles New Battery.

The Needles Isle of Wight.
The High Down Rocket Testing Site - http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk
Alum Bay New Road
Alum Bay
PO39 0JD

Read more on The Needles

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chief Coffee Chiswick

Chief Coffee is a new, independent coffee shop in Chiswick, London.

Chief Coffee.
Inside Chief Coffee 
It is located just off Turnham Green Terrace, on the site of a Victorian bottling factory. The decor matches it's history, with exposed brickwork, art deco hanging lamps and original wooden ceiling still in place, it has a slightly industrial feel, although it is very light and spacious.

The counter is covered in baked goods, varying from sausage rolls to cakes and cookies. The coffee is also excellent, along with the service.

Chief Coffee.
Chief Coffee counter
The thing that distinguishes Chief Coffee from the next coffee shop, is their pinball lounge downstairs. A hand painted 'Pinball Lounge' sign leads you downstairs, to nine pinball machines which cost nothing to play on. Some of the machines are vintage, from the 90s, and some more recent.
Chief Coffee.
Pinball Lounge at Chief Coffee

Chief Coffee.
Pinball Lounge Sign

Opening Hours
Opening Hours Mon-Fri 8am-5:30pm Sat 9am-6pm Sun 10am-5:30pm

Chief Coffee
Turnham Green Terrace
London W4 1QU

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Richmond Park

As well as being a London's second largest open space, after Lee Valley Park, and being a national nature reserve, Richmond Park is also the home to many historic buildings, including The White Lodge and Pembroke Lodge.

The White Lodge is a Grade I listed building, originally built as a hunting lodge for George II, which has been home to the Royal Ballet School since 1955. Pembroke Lodge is a Grade II listed Georgian mansion, which in 1847 became home to then British Prime Minister, Lord John Russell. It is now a very popular restaurant with amazing views of the Thames Valley.

The Ponds in Winter 
A Winter walk in Richmond Park
As well as being a London's second largest open space, after Lee Valley Park, and being a national nature reserve, Richmond Park is also the home to many historic buildings, including The White Lodge and Pembroke Lodge.

The White Lodge is a Grade I listed building, originally built as a hunting lodge for George II, which has been home to the Royal Ballet School since 1955. Pembroke Lodge is a Grade II listed Georgian mansion, which in 1847 became home to then British Prime Minister, Lord John Russell. It is now a very popular restaurant with amazing views of the Thames Valley. 

Pembroke Lodge - https://www.royalparks.org.uk
Richmond Park continues to be a successful nature reserve, as the home to around 650 red and fallow deer, many birds, rabbits, snakes and rare beetles. There are also roughly 30 ponds throughout the park, the newest of which was opened by, and named after, Sir David Attenborough in July 2014. 

Deer in Richmond Park

The Ponds 

The Park has played an important part in many historic events.

For example, in World War I, it was used for cavalry training. In preparation for the 1948 London Summer Olympics an Olympic village was built in the park, and most recently, during the 2012 London Summer Olympics both the men's and women's cycling road races took a route through Richmond Park. 

Richmond Park is not only an important piece of London's history, but also, with it's 2,360 acres of land, a beautiful place for a walk all year round.
Richmond Park is open from 7am in the Summer and 7:30am in the Winter, and it closes at Dusk. 

The Ponds In Winter
Richmond Park
TW10 5HZ

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pierreponts Café

Pierreponts is a café and restaurant located in Goring-on-Thames, serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea, and dinner on Fridays.

Pierreponts Café.
Pierreponts - http://www.visitgoringandstreatley.co.uk

It is a small establishment with mismatched furniture and decor, making it feel homely and comfortable.

Pierreponts Café, Goring-on-Thames.
Pierreponts' Interior - https://www.facebook.com/pg/pierrepontscafe

There is a variety of food on offer, from quiches and tarts to salads and sandwiches, but all of it is equally as beautifully presented and tasty. There is also a very long list of teas available, as well as may other hot drinks and soft drinks. The chilli hot chocolate is certainly a favourite.

The counter is covered in cakes, slices and cookies, all of which are baked by local residents who bring in their baked goods in return for a small payment. The quality is outstanding, and of course it means that what's on offer varies all the time.

Pierreponts Café.
The cake counter at Pierreponts - https://www.facebook.com/pg/pierrepontscafe

The café is usually very busy, so they recommend booking a table, which you can do by phoning them on 01491874464.

Pierreponts is also located right next to a particularly scenic part of the River Thames, and there are plenty of great walks you can do from it's doorstep, including up Streatley Hill.

Pierreponts Café.
The Thames at Goring - http://www.annescountrygallery.co.uk

Opening Times:
Tuesday-Saturday 8am-5pm & Friday evenings 6-11pm

1 High Street,

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Monday, February 20, 2017

O'Meara London

O'Meara is a new venue in London that opened in 2016.

The venue was set up by Ben Lovett of the band Mumford & Sons and is based between Borough Market and London Bridge.
The idea of the venue is that 'music, food and culture come together in 7 railway arches'.

O'Meara London.
The Bar at O'Meara - https://www.facebook.com/omearalondon/

The venue's capacity is 320, making it the perfect place for club nights, talks and comedy nights, as well as being an ideal place for upcoming artists to play shows. The venue also has a gallery space, perfect for any sort of exhibition.

O'Meara London.
A live show at O'Meara - https://www.instagram.com/omearalondon/ 

O'Meara has gone for the slightly vintage, derelict aesthetic, with peeling paint and bare brick walls, but behind the facade is a state-of-the-art sound system fantastic stage area.

Upcoming shows at O'Meara include Maggie Rogers, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Wild Beasts. Tickets are available from their online site - http://www.omearalondon.com/events/

O'Meara London.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich O'Meara Promotion Poster - http://www.omearalondon.com/events/benjamin-francis-leftwich/ 

6 O'Meara Street,
London Bridge,

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Knole House Kent

Knole House in Sevenoaks, Kent is an historic country house, set in the surrounding 1,000 acre Knowle Park. Knole House dates back to the late 15th century.

Knole House is one of the largest houses in Britain and is believed to have once been a so-called
"calendar house" - a residence having 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and seven courtyards.

Knole House Sevenoaks Kent.

Knole House was constructed during the Tudor and Stuart periods of English history from the 15th to 16th centuries. The house was begun as a palace by an Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourchier in 1456, on the site of an earlier residence. It passed briefly into the possession of Henry VIII until the Sackville family, cousins of Queen Elizabeth I, became the owners. Descendants of the Sackville family continue to live in parts of the house to the present day. Knowle House and its vast deer park is also supported by the National Trust, which restores and preserves the structure as well as organizes a variety of events, both cultural and sporting, to attract the paying public.

Knole House Sevenoaks Kent.

Knowle House is a treasure chest of historic paintings and furniture. Its walls are lined by portraits by such greats as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and Van Dyck. The interior boats a superb Italian staircase, several Tudor and Stuart fireplaces and England's oldest organ.

The house has numerous literary connections. The writer Vita Sackville-West wrote on the house in her Knole and the Sackvilles (1922) and her lover Virginia Woolf draws on Knowle and its inhabitants as a source of inspiration for her novel Orlando (1928).

Knowle has also appeared as a backdrop for a Beatles video and in several films including A Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Knole House Sevenoaks Kent.


Knowle (National Trust)
Kent, TN15 0RP
(Sat Nav TN13 1HU)

The nearest station is Seveonoaks, one and a half miles away. Sevenoaks bus station is nearer. The Vintage Bus runs out to Knowle on select days between March and September.


Check the National Trust website for comprehensive opening times. The showrooms close over the winter until March but Knowle Park is open throughout the year.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Big Easy

The Big Easy is chain of Southern-American style restaurants, with three branches in London. The first Big Easy opened on the Kings Road, Chelsea, in 1995, and since two more have opened, in Covent Garden and Canary Wharf.

The Big Easy.
The Big Easy Canary Wharf - https://www.instagram.com/bigeasylondon

The Big Easy was inspired by the American Gulf Coast's crab shacks and BBQ joints. It successfully mimics the feel of these places, with an easy-going atmosphere, frequent live music and generous portions of fantastic food.

Lobster is one of their specialities, which they have flown in from Nova Scotia, where they are caught, three times a week. They also have specially designed tanks in their Covent Garden branch designed to house roughly 2000 live lobsters so they are as fresh as possible.

The Big Easy.
Lobster at the Big Easy - https://www.instagram.com/bigeasylondon

There is live music at all three London branches, seven days a week. The Big Easy has a list of musicians that frequently play at the restaurants, the majority of whom are blues artists, which includes Andy Walton, Neil Nicolas, James Cook and Clayton Moss, amongst several others.

The Big Easy.
Live music at the Big Easy - https://www.instagram.com/bigeasylondon

The Big Easy locations:

Covent Garden Branch
12 Maiden Lane,

Phone: 0203 728 4888
Transport: Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line)

Canary Wharf Branch
Park Level,
Crossrail Place,
Canary Wharf

Phone: 0207 532 4071
Transport: Canary Wharf (DLR)

Kings Road Branch
332-334 Kings Road,

Tel: 0203 841 8844
Transport: Sloane Square (District and Circle Lines), Fulham Broadway (District Line)

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Friday, February 17, 2017

The 100 Club

The 100 Club is a historic live music venue located at 100 Oxford Street, in Central London, that has hosted a long list of names including Jimi Hendrix, The Sex Pistols, Bob Dylan, Blur and Chuck Berry to name a few.

The venue opened on the 24th of October 1942 as the Feldman Swing Club and kept this name until 1964 when it was taken over by the father of it's current owner, who changed the name to the 100 Club.
The 100 Club.
The 100 Club sign - https://hardyamies.com/blog/100-club/

The 100 Club has been an integral part of London's music scene for decades. In the 1960s it championed the mod movement and played host to bands such as The Who and The Kinks, and then in 1976 the venue hosted the first ever international punk festival. This night helped push punk rock, which started as an underground movement, into the foreground of the British music scene.

The 100 Club, London.
Punk Night Promo Poster - https://uk.pinterest.com/fulgosus

The club held it's first Northern Soul All-Nighter in the 1980s and has continued to run them ever since.

Nowadays, the venue is still running and remains largely unchanged since the 1970s. Due to it's rich history, big-name artists and bands often use it for 'secret' or unadvertised shows, as well as warm-up shows in preparation for tours. Artists that have done this include Metallica, Queens of the Stone Age and The Rolling Stones.

The 100 Club, London, UK.
A show at the 100 Club - http://www.the100club.co.uk.

In 2010 it was announced that the 100 Club would be closing due to a huge increase in rent and continuing losses. A campaign was shortly launched after this announcement to keep the venue open which gained a huge amount of support. It was then announced in February 2011 that the venue had arranged a partnership deal with  Converse, enabling it to stay open.

Recently the 100 Club has played host to artists such as Dr Feelgood, Ed Harcourt, Crows and Slaves amongst many others.

The 100 Club.
The 100 Club - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_Club

The 100 Club,
100 Oxford Street,

Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern Lines)

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Garlic Farm

The Garlic Farm is a farm, restaurant and shop based in Newchurch on the Isle of Wight.

Since starting as a family project over 50 years ago, the Garlic Farm has grown into a very successful business with a fantastic restaurant, a shop selling all things garlic, a Garlic Farmer's Blog, a Garlic Festival and a Garlic Farm Field Kitchen which is hireable for all sorts of events.

The Garlic Farm.
The Garlic Farm

The Garlic Farm restaurant was built in 2009 and has one of the most original and delicious menus on the Isle of Wight. It had both an indoor and outdoor area with great views of the surrounding valleys. The restaurant serves a wide range of snacks, main courses and light meals, including snacking garlic cloves and whole roasted garlic bulbs. The majority of the dishes, but not all, have a good hint of garlic and much of the produce is locally sourced. They also serve their own Garlic Farm reared highland beef. Some of the slightly more unusual things on offer include Black Garlic Beer and Black Garlic Ice Cream.

The Garlic Farm.
The Garlic Farm Restaurant -

Next door to the restaurant is also The Allium Café which offers tea, coffee, cakes and homemade soups, among other snacks. The café also plays host to aspiring musicians and bands who come to busk at the farm.

The Garlic Farm, UK.
The Garlic Farm Exhibition

The Garlic Farm Shop sells a huge variety of produce, including garlic vodka, chutneys, sauces and dressings, books, garlic for growing and an array of black garlic products. They also offer 20% off all of their products from Monday-Friday when you eat in the restaurant.

The Garlic Farm.
Garlic Farm Produce - https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk
The Garlic Farm.
Garlic Farm Produce - https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk

The Garlic Festival started in 1983 and has since become one of the most popular events on the Isle of Wight and is attended by 25,000 people each year. The festival happens each Summer and hosts live music and entertainment, craft workshops, a beer tent, and special guests which last year included Great British Bake off Winner Nadiya Hussain.

The Garlic Farm.
The Garlic Festival - https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk

The Garlic Farm is also surrounded by the Mersley Cottages which are beautiful holiday cottages available to rent. They range from sleeping 2-10 people and are available to book online.

The Garlic Farm.
The Little Mersley Farmhouse
- https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk
The Garlic Farm.
Group Accommodation at the Garlic Farm
- https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk

The Garlic Farm
Mersley Lane
Isle of Wight
PO36 0NR

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Books on Britain

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Finsbury Pub

The Finsbury is a live music venue in Manor House, North London that hosts regular comedy nights as well as gigs, and also serves fantastic food.

The Finsbury Pub, London.
The Finsbury Pub, https://www.facebook.com/thefinsbury/

The list of acts that have played the Finsbury's stage is extensive, and most recently includes some of the most exciting new names in the London music scene, including The Amazons, Cupids and Anteros to name a few. The majority of the shows at the Finsbury are free entry, but tickets are often available to reserve online to avoid people missing out.

The Finsbury Pub, London.
The Amazons at the Finsbury, https://www.facebook.com/thefinsbury/

The Finsbury boasts a great outdoor area at the front of the building, a cosy but spacious seating area indoors, and hidden at the back of the building is the main hall, equipped with a very considerable stage and West End-esque red curtains hanging over it.

The Finsbury Pub, London, UK.
The Main Hall at the Finsbury, https://www.facebook.com/thefinsbury/

The Finsbury has quickly become a highlight of North London, with people not only being attracted to it's gigs and comedy nights but also it's food. An array of freshly prepared pizzas, salads and other main courses are on offer, making it the perfect place for dinner and a drink as well as a night out.

The Finsbury Pub, London, UK.
Lunch at the Finsbury, https://www.facebook.com/thefinsbury/

The Finsbury
336 Green Lanes,
N4 1BY

Nearest tube: Manor House (Piccadilly Line)

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Books on Britain

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

University of Oxford Botanic Garden

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden in Oxford, founded in 1621, is the oldest botanic garden in Britain ahead of the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, which dates from 1673.

It is situated between Magdalen and Merton colleges, a short walk from both the Bodleian Library and the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, England.

The compact 1.8 hectare site near the banks of the River Cherwell began as a garden growing herbs for medicinal research. The initial funding of 5,000 pounds (a large sum at the time) was provided by Henry Danvers, the 1st Earl of Danby.

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden has two sections: the Walled Garden and the Lower Garden. The Walled Garden contains the historic and scientific collections of medicinal plants while the Lower Garden has more ornamental collections including the Rock Garden and Water Garden.

The garden also contains seven glasshouses ranging from tropical to alpine, the first of these glasshouses was constructed back in the 17th century as an orangery. They contain around 1200 species of plants from around the world, complemented by the flora in the Harcourt Arboretum, 6km south of the city.

University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, UK.

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden features in a number of artistic works including Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, both classics of English literature. The garden can also be counted as a source of inspiration for Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

The garden stages various events throughout the year. See the website below for further details.

University of Oxford Botanic Garden
Rose Lane
Oxford, OX1 4AZ

Tel: (+44) 1865 28 6690
Hours: The garden has differing opening hours depending on the month but opens at 9am. (See the official website for full details).
Admission: Adult day ticket 5 pounds; children under 16 accompanied by an adult enter free.

University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, UK.

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