18 February 2019

HiHoAndCo Instameet - 'Be all you can be'

If Carlsberg did instameets they would probably look like the HiHo Silver 'HiHoAndCo' instameet that took place on Monday 11th February at the dreamiest of locations at Blackdown Shepherd Huts down in a very sunny Somerset.

Feeling very 70s boho chic in the dreamiest of locations

For those who wonder, what on earth is an instameet? Well, it’s basically a gathering of enthusiastic folk who are active on Instagram, blog or vlog, they get together, mix with one & other, plus some fab brands & make some great content.

However, a HiHo Silver instameet is on a whole different level which I will share & let you in on some of the secrets that made it a truly magical day. As there is something quite special when the country & equestrian tribe get together.

I was lucky enough to bag a ticket to the first ever HiHo Silver instameet Style, Skills and Silver back in Autumn 2018 which was held at the beautiful Fish Hotel nestled in the Cotswolds. I knew as soon as there was a whisper of a second event – that I’d already booked the day off work, started thinking about my outfit (more Claudia Schiffer than Kat Slater according to Jess from Gee Gee & Me on her blog) & was looking forward to meeting up with my online now real-life friends I made last time.

The theme for this year’s instameet ‘Be all you can be’ was the brainchild of the very talented Queen Bee of HiHo Silver Emma Warren – to inspire attendees to be the best you can be.

Apt words from William Blake to set the day 'I will not reason and compare'

The venue:
I’d seen photos of shepherd huts before, but nothing quite prepared me for Blackdown Shepherd Huts, which is only 45 minutes up the road from where I live in Dorset. There’s a real 70s whimsical romantic feeling about them & some of the photos I took wouldn’t look too far out of place at Coachella Festival or maybe Glastonbury.

The Tea Room was our main base & we had use of 3 of their gorgeous decorated huts for the workshops, as well as a dinky hut for lunch to be served from.

Plus, we were very lucky to be taken on a behind the scenes tour by Blackdown’s Alan to see the exquisite craftsmanship that goes into each hut. I am now working out in my head where I could fit a Double Braced Shepherd Hut. I wonder if the horses would mind one in their field?

What did the day involve?
After initial meet & greets in the Tea Room which was decked out with some of my favourite brands (HiHo Silver, Joules, Mackenzie & George & Fairfax & Favor – the only brand I’m yet to have made a purchase from!), coffee – made by none other than HiHo Silver's King of the Road Andrew Ransford & yummy cake, we were split into working groups for our sessions.

Want it all!

Session 1 was run by inspiring Instagrammer & entrepreneur Lucy Heath who’s main business is selling backdrops to Instagrammers, foodies & big brands through her business Capture by Lucy. If you look at your Instagram squares carefully, I can guarantee there will be a flatlay using one of her prints.

Lucy had some great points which really resonated with the group & me. One was around ‘post with purpose’ & think about the audience you want to attract into your ever-changing lifestyle magazine – don’t just ‘shout to the man on the moon’. And that’s when it hit home about why I love Instagram – it’s a place to curate your own magazine, share images & words, & all on a free platform. Mine is an eclectic mix of Grazia, Horse & Hound or Surf Girl (well in my head!) – now I just need to decide how to harness those creative thoughts.

Lucy showing us how it's done

After our pep talk from Lucy, we were let out into the wild (well, outside!) to create our magical flatlays armed with accessories that reflected our personality. If you check out the #HiHoAndCo hashtag, you’ll see lots of the creations shared & a variety of personalities coming through.

Mine is definitely the ‘imperfect perfect’ mix of blues reflecting my love for coastal, words & of course a dash of HiHo Silver in the form of their gorgeous friendship bracelet – in turquoise – obviously!

My imperfect perfect flatlay

Lunch was back in the Tea Room & involved a few wise words by King of the Road Mr HiHo Silver Andrew Randsford thanking everyone for attending. & then it was time for the yummiest food made by Emma’s husband Andrew (different Andrew). I had pheasant goujons in a wrap washed down with drinks from west country brand Hullabaloo I managed to try both the raspberry & elderflower flavour which where both yummy & I rekcon would go down pretty well with gin!

Lunch table goals

Session 2 for the afternoon I was in the beautiful Double Braced Shepherd Hut with photographer Sophie Callahan & a mix of familiar & new faces. Our session was talking about Personal Branding – something I often struggle with as by day I work in a branding/digital world for a big retail brand, but then to think about your own personal brand can feel pretty daunting & confusing.

Sophie has a lovely way of making you feel at ease & no question was a silly question, allowing us to open up & have those deeper conversations about pitching to brands & negotiating. Armed with top tips, the second half of the session was to create great content involving brands we could tag in our posts.

I definitely have my eye on a pair of Fairfax & Favor boots!

Tea, cake & close - involved some mega cakes made by some of the attendees including some scrummy Macaroons made by Elizabeth Jones & branded HiHoAndCo cupcakes – which were delicious. The closing session involved an open discussion around those pesky ASA guidelines around what you should tag as ‘gifted’ or ‘ad’, so you don’t land yourself in hot water like some big influencers recently did. The general consensus was that it’s still grey-ish.

The Goodie Bag of Dreams
Never in my 15+ years of working in retail, have I seen a goodie bag quite like this one. All the brands involved in the event donated a very meaningful gift, & when I say meaningful, I mean personalised down to a tee & I love them all…. Here goes my big thank you & I’ve linked to the brand's website for the products.

Goodie bag of dreams...

Mackenzie & George – luggage tags – I think someone had a chuckle when they personalised my BW one on Black & White cowhide.
HiHo Silver – gorgeous ‘B’ charm bead necklace
Fairfax & Favor – baby blue (so me!) tassel for my keys or handbag
Joules – mustard dotty scarf – a colour I wouldn’t normally dare to wear
Blackdown Shepherd Hut – bespoke chopping board made for the attendees, which will be perfect for flat lay props & lemon for my gin!
Albion Saddlery – leather soap/balm – some people will save this for their boots/bags, I will be using it on my saddle for extra dressage points
Rhea Freeman - motivational card – I wouldn’t expect anything less from Rhea
Sophie Callahan Photography – gorgeous print (not featured in photo)
Dressage Anywhere – discount for taking part in a comp (not featured in photo)
The Dream Team – #HiHoAndCo would not have taken place without the Dream Team. A mix of creatives, wordsmiths, visionaries’, introverts, extroverts, countryside, equestrian personalities, & love of good quality brands all mixed together make up this team who pulled off something quite magical. Go check out their Instagram pages to find out more about these amazing ladies:

Emma Warren – Queen Bee at HiHo Silver
Rhea Freeman – PR, Marketing, Social Guru, brain behind Small & Supercharged Facebook Group & now Podcast
Sophie Callahan – Photographer, Blogger, Vlogger & soon to be yummy mummy
Melanie Clarihew – Founder of Mackenzie & George & all things exquisite. Plus, her lovely hubby Chris made our branded leather lanyards, which I’m already proudly wearing to work
Rachel BraggSweet Images Photography & west country equestrian neighbour
Ruthie Chappell – Organiser extraordinaire & founder of Dressage Anywhere

Plus, special guests that attended on the day included:
Ben Buxton Fairfax & Favor Events Manager – good time guy who I’m sure is going to spend all year persuading me to buy a pair of F&F boots
Annie Belton Green - Albion – part of equestrian heritage.
Alice Plunkett or Mrs Fox Pitt – one of the most knowledgeable ladies out there in racing & eventing 
AlanBlackdown Shepherd Huts – one of the nicest people you could meet who let us loose at their wonderful location for the day.

Final thoughts When I was re-telling my day to a friend a few days after the #HiHoAndCo instameet & explaining that my boho shepherd hut photo was taken at the end of the day (leading photo), when I’d usually look knackered, but was still beaming & felt mega in my beautiful new dress from Luella from Yard, Poundbury.

Her response was spot on, I was doing something that was feeding my soul, which pretty much sums up why all week I was feeling like a ‘buzzy Becky’ brimming with ideas, & still managing the day job, horses & everything in between. You stop with the excuses & just do it because you know it makes you happy, & mixing with like-minded folk, energetic brands & creatives definitely make me happy.

I can’t wait to see what the team comes up with next, & no matter what, I already know it’s going to be an awesome day & I need to reserve that day’s holiday to feed my soul.

To find out more about the #HiHoAndCo day – just search the hashtag on Instagram, plus if you fancy watching some of the amazing vlogs or reading some of the attendee's blogs go check them out:


10 February 2019

Why do I Blog?

Yes, a question I often ask myself or more likely ‘why do I bother to blog?’. Here’s an open and honest account of why I keep this little blog space of County Bumpkin Chic alive in a bit of a candid interview with myself.

30 December 2018

5 Event Riders You Should Be Following on Instagram...plus my fave 5 from Dorset

Who else loves Instagram stories? Or perhaps I should I ask who doesn’t love Instagram stories?

I do wonder what on earth we did before Instagram & the introduction of stories? I know I spend an average of nearly an hour and a half a day on the pesky addictive app, thanks to the new ‘your activity’ feature.

Over the last year, more equestrian Instagrammers have popped up & are fully embracing stories - sharing behind the scenes from their yards, training horses & competition life at horse trials up & down the country & across the waters. Which I find absolutely fascinating, especially the competition side, as it makes you feel like you’re there at the event instead of being inside at work.

Here are some of my fave equestrian Instagrammers from the world of eventing & I can’t wait to follow their British Eventing season in 2019.

Tina Wallace is from Cornwall & documents her eventing highs & lows on the beautiful Banksy, & often features her friend Emma from @emd_eventing94 Their post-event vlogs are hilarious, especially the one after Bovington & the seagull incident.

Becci Harrold is an amateur event rider from Derbyshire who competes two lovely Shannondale horses, Annie & Goldie. Her Insta stories with her northern tone are very entertaining & relatable.

She’s also the owner & founder of Super X Country @superxcountry, so if you see someone with some funky XC colours, they’ve probably Becci's! 

Tamsin Drew is an amateur eventer & co-founder of the popular Facebook group #TwitterEventing. I love following her & her gorgeous horse Ziggy from training at home to competing, as well as product reviews - a right equestrian feast. Plus, she’s a fan of Reformer Pilates!

Harriet Upton is an International event rider based in West Sussex & has a team of lovely horses including Twinkle who’s owned by the Queen.

Harriet not only shares stories about her horses but her fitness regime with @georgebranford & from looking at recent stories, something exciting looks like it's about to launch in the world of Fitness for Riders – so definitely one to follow.

Ben Hobday - if you’re not following this international eventer, what have you been doing? Pure entertainment, sometimes I’m not sure if Ben’s training for eventing or for a reality TV show! Now that would make good entertainment – right?

Dorset Event Riders on Instagram

And here’s some love for a few of my fave event riders on Instagram in Dorset:

Joe shares gorgeous photos of his eventers doing their thing across the south-west: Dusty, Fred, Auriella & JP.

Jess is based at the same yard as Joe Roome, along with her fab 4* event rider mum Jo. Jess is definitely a young rider to keep an eye on in 2019.

Rosie is based over in West Dorset with her lovely string of eventers who loves her hunting too. & she’s often in the style stakes-winning the HiHo Silver best-dressed female at Blair this autumn.

Rachael & her chestnut Johnny live just up the road from us near Beaminster, & are often at the same events as us, so it’s great to see a friendly face.

Alexa is another fellow Dorset event rider, who’s made a remarkable recovery from a spectacular XC fall in the summer of 2018 & never stops smiling. We can’t wait to see you out competing again soon & your sister Kitty too!

Who's your fave event riders or equestrian talent to follow on Instagram? Drop their Instagram handles in the comment box below.

02 December 2018

Interview: Dorset Based Designer Caroline Tucker

1st December in the UK this year marked Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to raising awareness about supporting small businesses & shopping locally. But, it’s not just about shopping locally that one day it’s about supporting those small businesses all year round. 

Which is why on Country Bumpkin Chic I’m passionate about supporting local businesses in Dorset & on the blog today is local designer Caroline Tucker based in West Dorset.

25 November 2018

Interview: Oliver & Lorna from Ministry of Fudge

During the autumn the lovely team behind Ministry of Fudge got in touch about their budding business over in Christchurch, Dorset & as a supporter of small businesses in Dorset was only too happy to interview Oliver & Lorna for the blog. & I'm delighted to offer readers a special discount...but you have to read on to find out more!

Q1. Tell us about Ministry of Fudge. When did you start the business, what was the reason behind starting up & why fudge?

11 November 2018

Black Cow on the Blog!

Back in the summer, I attended a delightful tasting evening with Black Cow (BC) at Vinny at 6 in Dorchester. Two of my favourite things & I fell in love with Black Cow Vodka just a little bit more, especially with all the amazing concoctions we had in puddings & cocktails.

Big shout out to Zach for organising a top-notch event! If you haven’t been to any of the Vinny at 6 events, you really should check them out. Head over to their Facebook or Instagram page & make sure you’re following them, as they sell out pretty sharpish.

After the event, I got in touch with the lovely folk behind Black Cow Vodka who are nestled over the hill near Beaminster in West Dorset & they were happy to take part in an interview for Country Bumpkin Chic. The first of a few festive posts.

CBC Q1) So, for anyone who hasn’t heard of Black Cow Vodka, is it really made from cow’s milk?
BC A1) Yes, indeed it really is! Black Cow is made entirely from the milk of grass grazed cows on England’s West Dorset coast. Fresh whole milk makes an exceptionally smooth vodka with a deliciously creamy character

CBC Q2) How did founders Jason Barber & Paul Archard come up with that unique idea?
BC A2) The unique recipe is the invention of West Dorset dairy farmer  Jason  Barber. His inspiration came from a desire to diversify the produce from his 250 strong dairy herd & his personal love of vodka.
CBC –  Wow, well who doesn’t love vodka?

Black Cow Vodka founder Jason with his herd of dairy cows

CBC Q3) Is it a fact or myth that after drinking Black Cow Vodka, you don’t have a hangover the next morning?
BC A3) Very true – our founder, Jason often says its so smooth, he can drink it until the cows come home!
CBC – think I’ve found my new Christmas party drink!

CBC Q4) What’s the best cheese accompaniment for Black Cow Vodka?
BC A4) Our deluxe Cheddar, of course! We use all of the milk with no waste, the vodka is made from the whey & the cheese is made from the curds.

CBC Q5) What Black Cow cocktail would you recommend our readers trying?
BC A5) Ooh good one. We’d recommend a delicious warm cocktail called the ‘The Mooled Cranberry’. This cocktail has it all - fruitiness from the blood orange & cranberry, spice from the cloves & charged with vodka. 

CBC Q6) Where can we buy Black Cow Vodka in the shops?
BC A6) You can find Black Cow Vodka in Sainsbury’s, Majestic, M&S, Morrisons & various speciality farm shops across Dorset.

CBC Q7) There are lots of gorgeous items on your shop including the cow print glasses, but what I’m sure everyone will want to know is where can you buy the gold straws featured on Instagram from?

BC A7) Since Black Cow’s inception we have consciously tried to create a sustainable, green working culture. & we’re concerned about the world’s waste crisis, as the UK discards a staggering 8.5 billion plastic straws a year - that’s an average of approximately 130 straws per person per year!

So, we wanted to offer an alternative to the plastic straw & have developed a gift pack with a 24-carat gold plated stainless steel straw. You can shop the gift pack here

CBC - they’re gorgeous & I’m impressed that BC is doing their bit for the environment. If anyone wants to buy me this set for Christmas, it would make me very happy!

CBC Q8) Do you do tours of your distillery & can we come?
BC A8) Yes, we do! Our next distillery tour and lunch is on 15th December. You can find out more details here.

CBC Q9) What’s coming up for Black Cow Vodka, any other collaborations, new flavours, & anything special for Xmas?
BC Q9) We’ve got some very exciting launches in 2019, but sadly can’t share any more details just yet! However, we have recently launched a ‘Travellers Edition’ mini for the Christmas period – the perfect stocking filler or bauble to hang from your Christmas Tree.

CBC Q10) What events or festivals can we see you out & about in 2019?
BC Q10) We’re in the process of planning events for next year, & hope to take The Black Cow Saloon to another festival closer to London & collaborate with a high profile sporting event right here in Dorset!

For NYE we’re hosting a party at Mark’s Bar, Soho where guests will enjoy live music & delicious bespoke cocktail menu. To be the first to hear about our exciting news, please sign up to our mailing list

Thanks, Black Cow for taking part in the County Bumpkin Chic interview, we look forward to seeing the exciting ideas come to life in 2019!

What other west country or Dorset based brands would you like to hear from on the Country Bumpkin Chic blog – let me know in the comments box below.