The Good Life Experience

If it’s good enough for Tom and Barbara, it’s good enough for us…

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Rounding off the festival season for the summer, we spent the weekend in deepest Wales on the Hawarden Estate  for the Good Life Experience.

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Run by Cerys Matthews plus Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, it’s part music festival, part literary festival and a celebration of everything outdoors.

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Valentine Warner


The line-up included Gilles Peterson, Dr John Cooper Clarke, Ben Fogle, Jeremy Vine, Michael Morpugo and of course Cerys herself who was in conversation with Tom Hodgkinson from the Idler and whose hour covered an acoustic sing-a-long, poetry readings and a Q&A session.

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The festival also gave plenty of opportunities to try new food and new experiences such as axe-throwing, tree-climbing, ceramics and sausage-making, combined with Romanian folk bands and funky brass bands.

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Add to that some fantastic sunshine, and everyone had a great time. It’s so refreshing not to have to fork out extra to try activities including the vintage fun fair, meaning that children could go on the helter skelter, the chairoplanes and the swing boats literally ad nauseum.

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Also, there was no backstage area, which means you get to rub shoulders with the performers and we saw the organisers mingling and enjoying the performances as much as the punters did.

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Our highlights included Jeremy Vine’s anecdote-rich talk; Tom Herbert from the Fabulous Baker Brothers making sourdough bagels and Mark Shayler’s hilarious and passionate talk on why Britain needs to manufacture sustainable good-quality products. I was particularly taken with Ben Fogle and his passionate talk about being confident and not focusing on academic results.

We had a great time and can’t wait to see what next  year’s line-up brings!


Heritage Open Days 2016 – Reading wind turbine

The Heritage Open Days weekend always seems to fly by and the line-up of buildings waiting to be explored gets better and better every year.


Amid the historic buildings, the churches, museums and other fantastic attractions, this year,  we took advantage of the invitation to see the Reading wind turbine up close. It’s positioned right next to the M4, so, like many people, I have driven past it hundreds of times and idly wondered how tall it was, how much power it generated and what the view from the top might be like.


We were given a lively talk that was accessible to all ages and answered these questions plus much more. There was information on everything to climate change, green energy to the improvements made to the blades to ensure they don’t kill birds, they don’t make a thumping noise and the impact of the Chinese manufacturing industry on bringing the price of these down. While we couldn’t go inside, we were allowed to ask questions and see the base of the tower and even knock on it to see how sturdy it was.

Built in November 2005 to power Green Park, it has a hub height of 85m and powers about 1500 average-sized homes every year. Find out more here:

Many thanks to Heritage Open days and to Ian for the tour….