14 October 2018

Dorchester Literary Festival – an interview with Janet Gleeson

Next week is the Dorchester Literary Festival in Dorset, now in its fourth year & with a fab line up I caught up with Co-Director Janet Gleeson to get the low down on the festival.

Hi Janet, thank you for agreeing to chat with Country Bumpkin Chic…

For those who’ve not heard about the Dorchester Literary Festival, can you give us a brief overview?
It’s an annual 5-day event where we invite a very broad range of leading writers and other inspirational people to come to Dorchester to talk about their latest book. Talks last for about an hour, some are interviews or ‘in conversation events’ some standalone talks, but we always leave time for the audience to ask questions. Afterwards, you can buy the books and have them signed.

How long has the Dorchester Literary Festival been running for?
This is our fourth festival. In our first year, we began with just three days and 15 events, but it’s grown and now we have around double that.

How long have you been involved in the festival & what’s your role?
I’m a founding Co-Director and started the festival with a friend and fellow author Paul Atterbury. This means I get to choose the speakers and chat with them when they visit. But it also means making all the arrangements and worrying if things go wrong.

Paul & Janet
Which authors are coming to Dorchester?
We have an amazing line up this year including Judy Murray, Jeremy Vine, Joanna Trollope, Mark Billingham, Lisa Jewell, Peter Snow, Mark Austin, Lynne Truss and Julian Fellowes are some of the great names. The books we are featuring cover all sorts of subjects: the Suffragettes, Byron, Health, Yetis, Foraging, Rainforests, Orchids, International Veterinary practice, and much more.


Where can we go & watch them?
Events are held at three main locations in Dorchester – Duke’s Galleries, The Corn Exchange, and Thomas Hardye School Theatre. Our website www.dorchesterliteraryfestival.com has all the details.

Who is the Dorchester Literary Festival aimed at?
Anyone and everyone – we deliberately choose as varied a programme as possible so there’s something for everyone, whatever their interests.

Who are you most looking forward to watching or meeting? Will you get a chance to go to all the events?
I don’t see them all as I’m usually rushing about although I see snippets of most. This year I am really excited about the incredible Tara Westover, who was raised in a Mormon family, didn’t go to school till her late teens, yet managed to get to Cambridge – Her book Educated is a wonderful memoir and she’s only 29. The book was a best seller, book of the week on Radio 4, Barrack Obama has tweeted about her - and she’s coming to Dorchester!

Have you been to any other Literary Festival’s this year?
No – I’ve been too busy sorting out the Dorchester Festival and moving house, but I love Appledore in Devon, it’s in a really beautiful location.

And what book are you currently reading? And which one of the authors coming to the DLF are you most looking to read?
I’m reading Dr Dawn Harper’s book Live Well to 101 and trying to take the advice on board! I’m going to read more Lisa Jewell, she’s one of our featured crime writers - her books are real page turners!

Finally, where can we buy tickets from?
You can buy online from the website www.dorchesterliteraryfestival.com or from Dorchester Tourist Information Centre in Dorchester Library. Tickets are £10 or three for £25.

04 September 2018

Part 3: HiHo Silver - Style, Skills & Silver with Emma Warren

Last but not least in this 3 part interview series, is the lovely Emma Warren who is MD at HiHo Silver & the brains behind the Style, Skills & Silver event. She is also the one who’s behind the HiHo Silver Instagram handle & is always so responsive & witty in her responses.

Thank you Emma for coming on Country Bumpkin Chic, please can you give the readers an overview of your role at HiHo Silver.
Well, we’re a small team so we all have to be multi-talented and turn our hands to most things. In the main, I tend to be the one who is working on brand development with Rhea Freeman, some designing, a bit of donkeywork and a lot of social media!


03 September 2018

Part 2: HiHo Style, Skills & Silver with Melanie from Mackenzie & George

Tonight we go behind the scenes of the HiHo Silver Style, Skills & Silver event with British accessories owner Melanie Clarihew from Mackenzie & George, who will be hosting one of the Style sessions.

Hey Melanie, thanks for finding time between preparations for a busy Burghley Horse Trials to get involved in the 3 part series of interviews on HiHo Silver's inaugural Style, Skills & Silver event.

02 September 2018

Part 1: HiHo Style, Skills & Silver with Rhea Freeman

It’s not often that an event pops up in your newsfeed that makes you reach for the credit card straight away. But when British equestrian jeweller HiHo Silver launched tickets for their Style, Skills & Silver event in the Cotswolds, I knew I had to go & be part of the day on 6th September.

With only 4 nights to go until we all meet at The Fish Hotel in the beautiful Cotswolds I wanted to get an insight into what the day will hold, & caught up with a few of the team behind the inaugural Style, Skills & Silver event. First up on the blog is equestrian PR & marketing guru Rhea Freeman who will be hosting one of the Skills sessions.

26 August 2018

Interview with Katy Howell from Bayside Bakery

For those who follow me over on Instagram @becky_wren will know that I posted some very yummy photos of brownies from the Dorset Food & Arts Festival earlier in August after discovering the Bayside Bakery stand. And let me tell you, they didn’t last long!

I love supporting local businesses, especially the edible ones, so was thrilled when Katy from Bayside Bakery agreed to be interviewed for the Country Bumpkin Chic blog.

Hey Katy, thank you so much for agreeing to appear on the CBC blog to chat about Bayside Bakery…
You’re welcome, it’s always nice to talk about chocolate brownies!

19 August 2018

Interview: Jez Culley on Paddleboard Yoga

Fellow Country Bumpkin Chic followers will know I’ve blogged about one of my fave passions SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) a few times. Living near the coast, SUP is a sport/hobby that is growing rapidly, & I was so excited when Jez Culley from Helios Colour Yoga started running paddleboarding & yoga on the Kingston Maurward College lake last year. It’s so therapeutic and surreal to be striking a pose with swans swimming by. 

12 August 2018

Recipe: Mrs Darlington's Marmalade Fruit Loaf

Here at Country Bumpkin Chic we like to support local events, & at the beginning of July popped along to the Charminster Pre-School Fun Day. It was a colourful array of stalls selling everything from your standard bric & brac, through to some unique products from Loving by Nature Dorset selling baby clothes, children’s clothing stall Flamingo & Fairy, Pop Fizz Clink Prosecco Bar through to my local village Post Office selling Mrs Darlington’s jams, curds, pickles & chutneys.

I picked up a jar of Mrs Darlinton’s Lemon & Lime Curd, as well as the Medium Cut Orange Marmalade for £5 – a right billy bargain! I also picked up a few free recipe cards to give a whirl.

Mrs Darlington or Marion who’s based in Cheshire is the Mary Berry of recipe creation & it’s a real family affair with founder Marion, and daughters Sarah & Wendy both working for the business. The website is so kitsch & country & with their strap line ‘Made with Love’ at the heart of the brand, oozes authenticity.

I decided to give the Marmalade & Fruit Loaf recipe a go, it seemed pretty straightforward & didn’t need any exotic ingredients which is one of my pet hates.

Below are a few snap shots from my baking session & a shot of the recipe card, which you can view online.

05 August 2018

Horses: Ode to Aldon Horse Trials

Last month Aldon Horse Trials Team aka the Batten family announced that after 40 years of holding horse events, there had been a change of land ownership & sadly Aldon as we know it will no longer be a fixture on the British Eventing calendar.

I actually found this really sad news & felt pretty emotional. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

Aldon holds a lot of memories for our family. My mum competed on her gutsy chestnut Landmark at the first ever Horse Trials around the Novice, because back in those days they didn’t have anything less than Novice. Something I’m reminded of quite regularly.

It was a great base for the Cattistock Pony Club & growing up as a child we had so many fun rallies, hunter trials & unaffiliated one-day events. We even had an area PC ode, back when the show jumping followed after the cross country. I somehow managed to concuss myself after I landed on my head after Mirage & I got a little strung out after the XC. I was gutted not to be able to finish.

Aldon was the highlight of the British Eventing calendar & for many eventers marked the start of the eventing season. It took a lot to stop play at Aldon. I was fortunate enough to compete at the coldest ever Aldon on record earlier this year before they cancelled the Sunday due to the ground being knee deep in the white stuff.

The International event in the autumn was a great way to finish the season & celebrate all that you loved about eventing. When they started running the 2-day event it gave amateurs like me a real taste of what it felt like to be a professional eventer. I loved the time I competed on my mum’s horse Tynagh in the Novice 2-Day, it was a real thrill to be able to fly around the steeplechase. Something we’ll probably never do again as they’ve cut out steeplechase from 2 & 3-day events.

It was one of the friendliest events on the circuit which is down to the family feeling the Batten’s created – everyone just got stuck in, whether you were volunteering, competing or supporting. It will be such a huge loss to the British Eventing calendar, but I’m hugely grateful for all the experiences & memories.

Below are some snapshots of the memories from the Wren family across the decades on various ponies & horses.

What’s your favourite memory from Aldon? I’d love to hear about it & reminisce.

29 July 2018

Interview: Ian Watson – CryoLabs, Poole

If you follow me on Instagram @becky_wren you’ll have seen back in June I visited the new CyroLabs in Poole, Dorset. After a recommendation from one of my Dad’s friends, myself & my Dad decided to give cryotherapy a try. I was recovering from a fractured arm & my Dad had a few aches & pains - mainly from the horses!
Before I went into the chamber which can get as cold as -160C I couldn’t touch my shoulder with my hand, but after the session, my mobility had improved hugely & my physio was really impressed.

I caught up with founder Ian Watson to find out more about Cryotherapy & the new cool therapy which everyone is talking about.

Founder of CryoLabs, Poole, Dorset - Ian Watson

28 July 2018

Equestrian: My Omega Equine All Star Academy Entry

So, after 2 years of watching the All Star Academy on Horse & Country TV, I finally plucked up the courage to pull together an audition for series 3, sponsored by Omega Equine. With a little bit of persuasion from my mum, help filming/directing from my best friend Rach & assistance from my gorgeous goddaughter Evie. Oh & of course my stunning models Barley & Leo, the application is in & the video is now live on YouTube!!

Have a watch of our video below & let me know what you think… please be kind =)

19 July 2018

Fitness: BeachFit Weymouth 20-22 July



Wellness & fitness festivals are all the rage in 2018. So, when I saw the Facebook post for BeachFit Weymouth hosted by GymPro Apparel on 20-22 July pop up on my newsfeed, I knew I had to find out more.

I caught up with the energetic & enthusiastic founder of BeachFit Weymouth & GymPro Apparel Adam Rai to get the low down on the event.

05 June 2018

What to take SUPing?

A question friends often ask... what shall I bring SUPing? & when you think about it, not a lot really. 

So, here’s my top 5 essentials for getting on the water.

1. A SUP!

Your SUP board, of course, is essential if you want to go for a paddle on the water. You might be fortunate to own your own either inflatable or hardboard. Or you might be heading somewhere you can hire one.


I bought my Fanatic Fly Air Premium 10’8” for £475 from the lovely Lucy at SUPFit at the end of her season teaching back in 2016. Brand new it would retail about £840.

04 March 2018

An interview with London Marathon first timer Rachel Heywood

I’ve known Rach Heywood (nee Eversden) since I was 4 years old. We’ve been best friends for an incredible 30+ years. And boy have we experienced lots of fun adventures together from growing up in the rural village of Bradford Peverell, to attending the same schools, learning to ski in Austria, attending our first concert – Kylie Minogue through to being Rach’s bridesmaid back in 2013.

And now it’s a huge honour to interview Rach on the amazing challenge she’s about to take on tackling the London Marathon for charity, so without further ado let me introduce you to Rach Heywood…


04 February 2018

An interview with David Partridge from Nowhere2far Stand Up Paddle Boarding

I first met David when I was on a surf trip last autumn in Lagos, Portugal. At heart I’m more of a SUP’er than a surfer, and was keen to get out on a board, which is how I met David. During my 1 week, I managed to cram in two river SUPs, a sunrise & sunset. So, was delighted when David, with a little bit of help from his lovely wife Holly agreed to be interviewed for Country Bumpkin Chic.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to David Partridge….


28 January 2018

An interview with Claire Williamson from Sea Legs Cartoons


I started following @sealegscartoon on Instagram before Christmas and admired the fun surfboard cartoons, they can't fail to make you smile and think of catching fun waves in the sunshine. So, I invited the artist behind the cartoons, Claire Williamson, to appear on Country Bumpkin Chic.

21 January 2018

My Top 5 Insta Pages

For anyone who follows me will know I have a wide range of hobbies & eclectic tastes. So, it’s no surprise that some of my favourite Instagram pages are a bit left field. But why be dull I say, variety is the spice of life?

Anyhow, here are a few which are making me smile in a very grey January.

Sea Legs @sealegscartoon
I first spotted Sea Legs on @surfgirlmag it’s fun little surf wave based cartoons based on a surfboard enjoying life with his mates. For surf chicas & chicos, it can’t help but make you smile & dream about heading off in search of the perfect wave.

07 January 2018

Top Tips for Tackling Tough Mudder

Cider makes everything better....

So maybe your 2018 resolution was to sign up to Tough Mudder or some other obstacle race? Do something out of your comfort zone or set yourself a new challenge you might be thinking?

Yep, that was me last year when I fell in to peer pressure to sign up to Tough Mudder at Badminton Estate (also that place for that well-known horse event) in Gloucester. At the end of the day, it was for charity. I just tried not to think about the 10 muddy miles & 20+ obstacles. It’s like cross country for humans. Right?

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