Careertraveller travels south to Sussex for a historical and wild woodland experience that bursts with colour, beauty and cutting edge science.

Just a 45-minute train journey from London Victoria to Haywards Heath railway station and a 6-mile bus/taxi ride transports us to the botanical plant paradise called Wakehurst. Greeted by a majestic Grade 1 listed Elizabethan Mansion we enter an estate of flora spread over 500 acres worth of stunning Grade II* listed heritage garden, under lease from the National Trust and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

We head for Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, whose large Glass House structure banks seeds from worldwide plant species that are at risk of extinction and useful for society. We learn how Kew and the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) is making a difference around the world by preserving and conserving seeds which could potentially provide food and medicine to future generations across the continents. Dried and stored at -20 in laboratory storage vaults is a display of the pioneering science and technology behind Wakehurst’s botanical horticulture and nature conservation research and target of storing seeds from 25% of the world’s most bankable plants by 2020!

Stories of plants in crisis to those with vegetal remedies reveals Kew’s Surviving or Thriving exhibition on plants and us with an interactive showcase of objects covering topics such as climate change and medicine. Engaged and educated we step into a an exceptional display of botanical treasure with plant-derived chemicals that fight human disease to a futuristic garden with plants that thrive in a hotter climate and respond well to increasing carbon dioxide.

Excited and challenged by this family friendly hub of biodiversity is an excuse to head for the nearby Seed Café for some well-earned sustenance before joining a free garden tour that starts in the sweeping Chapel Lawn.

Situated in a garden of gardens we take a stroll beneath an array of ancient yew trees that introduce us to Gerald Loder, later known as Lord Wakehurst who purchased Wakehurst in 1903. Our quintessential guide sets the scene for the estate’s changing landscape with a historical context of Loder’s horticultural interests and well-documented plant hunting collections. Bequeathed to the nation in 1963 and managed by Kew in 1965 is our introduction to the tour and we learn that documented plant collections used for scientific research, education and display make Wakehurst a botanic garden.

We become acquainted with the variegated Wedding Cake Tree known as ‘Cornus controversa variegata’ whose tiered branches and creamy white flowers offer an idyllic focal point for the grounds. As the ground floor of Mansion House opens out onto the romantic gardens, it is of no surprise to hear that the botanic garden accommodates open-air theatre, weddings and outdoor events.

Strolling through the stately trees and beautifully manicured lawns and borders in a labyrinth of well signposted pathways is one of Britain’s rarest trees called the Plymouth Pear. With seeds preserved at Wakehurst to reverse the decline of one of Britain’s endangered ‘Pyrus cordata‘, Kew’s commitment to plant health and conservation is reinforced.

Approaching Mansion Pond we enter a fairy-tale location where welcoming ducks, water lilies and encompassing evergreen trees immerse us in peaceful shades of green. Our guide explains the route around the estate is approximately 2.3 miles and for a 45-minute tour we agree on a circuit of seasonal colour to embrace summer at Wakehurst.

Plants grouped geographically add a touch of magic as we journey through the northern and southern hemispheres from Asia and Australasia to Europe, America and Africa. Between the blue and mauve Japanese water irises in the heavenly Iris Dell and exotic hilly Himalayan Glade we enjoy feeling lost amongst the dragonflies in the Water Garden and bees in the Pollination Garden.

Worth a mention are the Maidenhair ‘Gingko biloba’ tree from South East Asia and yellow flowered Hypericum, known as St Johns Wort, bring developments in plant science and traditional herbal medicine to the botanical world of gardening.

Our tour ends at the West Mansion Border where seasonal highlights present a kaleidoscopic row of sun reaching flowers that lead us into the careertraveller favourite Walled Garden. Inside this English cottage garden is a sanctuary of bloom and blossom that beam with colour and wildlife amongst a string of gravel paths dotted with pockets of well-placed benches that radiate peace.

Wakehurst is a treasure chest of beauty and detail bursting with seasonal surprises that leave you wanting more. As we wander Coronation Meadow we revel in a carpet of wildflowers inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales, where seeds scattered by local school children in 2015 boost wildlife and flora. A jewel in the crown!

Further down in Westwood Valley is a verdant feast of trees and shrubs that hint of the Far East alongside Westwood Lake, whose wetland home of flora and fauna and curvaceous boardwalk are a nature lover’s picnic.

Nearby the 150-acre Loder Valley Nature Reserve with 300 plant species is the excuse to revisit Wakehurst in what is justifiably classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the High Weald of Sussex.

Further information:
Wakehurst
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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Cambridge University Botanic Garden – June 2019

by Emma Bumpus on June 24, 2019

Summer takes Careertraveller on a scenic train ride to Cambridge, where just a 5 minute walk awaits a verdant 40-acre paradise at Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

Walking into one of the largest University-owned botanic gardens in the world begins with a kaleidoscopic show of meadow flowers in the Garden Research Plots used to grow plants for research at the university. Hues of sapphire coloured cornflowers and blazing red poppies lead us past the garden’s Garden Café whose renowned patisserie and beautiful surroundings make this a perfect day out.

Attracted by the sound of rippling water is a journey to the heart of the garden where visitors gather irresistibly by a cast iron Fountain whose giant waterlily leaf-like pads bubble with joy. Situated beautifully between the Gilbert Carter Woodland and Main Lawn tributes the work of designer David Mellor (1930-2009), whose 1970 completion offers a dash of twentieth-century to this landscape dating back to 1846.

Spoilt for choice in an oasis of 8000 plant species from 141 countries across the world we uncover a plethora of plants and trees in dedicated spaces honouring John Stevens Henlow, Professor of Botany at Cambridge University from 1825-1861. Dedicated to the study of plants and origin, his vision of extending a botanical garden into a zone of beauty for public pleasure comes alive with meandering gravel paths set against a backdrop of mature trees, patchwork gardens and variegated colour. It is of no surprise we learn that Charles Darwin was his most famous student!

In a heady haze of flora we aim for the Dry Garden whose plot of drought plants and paved area reveal an experiment into water wise gardening with imposed hose pipe ban! Designed to inspire and educate we discover drought plants and gardening techniques for conserving water in a dry climate and learn that Cambridge is one of the driest parts of Great Britain.

From water to fens we land in the neighbouring Fen Display where rocks, waterlogged soil and streams house plants and wildlife in a wet and wild landscape. Water from the Midlands and East Anglia filters through rocks, whose chalk-based calcium provides a living habitat for grass and reeds, including water loving Yellow Flag Iris, whose large sunshine flowers illuminate a pretty woodland reed bed.

Sweeping through the Rose Garden is a burst of summer in raised beds of bee attracting mauve and violet geranium and lavender. Yew enclosed benches provide a heavenly scent infused pit stop and celebrate the success of geneticist Charles Chamberlain Hurst who between 1922-1947 unravelled the modern rose genealogy in the garden.

Keen to learn more we head for the Understanding Plants display, a new addition to the garden that exhibits research from the Department of Plant Sciences investigating how plants tell the time. Greeted by two curved fences in the shape of a clock are beds of thought provoking plants that reveal how flowers in the morning and evening are controlled by a 24-hour plant clock.

Learning how plants recognise night and day brings us close to nature and encompasses us in an outdoor laboratory and classroom, which often accommodates university students and volunteers amongst schools and colleges.

Hunger for learning is a grass stretch towards the beautifully manicured Cory Lawn whose blossoming borders radiate year round colour and variety; the perfect setting for a break at the Garden Café whose adjoining terrace smacks of flavoursome views.

A free afternoon tour is a trip to the the renowned Glasshouse Range where we meet our guide, whose plant knowledge and enthusiasm takes us on a horticultural journey around the garden. Inside the Range we encounter different glasshouses with global plants from alpine Mountain House and cacti filled Arid Lands to Tropical Rainforests and Careertraveller favourite Tropical Wetlands. Exotic eye candy appears in the form of lush plantations surrounding a rice paddy with giant Santa Cruz waterlily, Victoria cruziana from North Argentina and Paraguay, whose leaves grow up to 2 metres in diameter!

Rainforest treasure from the Philippines appears in the form of evergreen climber Jade Vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, whose luminous blue and pendulous flowers attract pollinating bats at twilight in their natural habitat.

From the hot and steamy glasshouse we step outside for a tour of seasonal highlights that take us through a majestic woodland tree collection arranged systemically in families. From Persion Ironwood to Giant Redwood, trees form an intrinsic part of the garden with policies in place to maintain their arboretum status.

The adjacent Systemic Beds delivers an abundance of colour and texture with plants grouped in species for scientific purposes. An introduction to the Squirting Cucumber aka Ecballium elaterium and Mexican yucca leaf Beschorneria yuccoide (Asparagus family) are the tip of the iceberg as we walk the 3 metre high Rising Path that offers stunning aerial views of dicotyledon plants.

As we exit past the Bee Borders, a honeypot of bee friendly flowers designed to provide food all season long, we discover the bee population is in decline. Sprays of cottage flowers especially the Common Foxglove are a display of food with tubular petals that act as runways for bees. Beautiful!

Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a great day out for everyone and within easy access of Cambridge city centre. Details of events; Science on Sundays talks, tours and range of adult courses and workshops can be found on their website below.

Further Information

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

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Wrest Park, Bedfordshire April 2019

by Emma Bumpus on April 26, 2019

Spring takes careertraveller to Wrest Park in Bedfordshire where 92 acres of beautifully maintained landscaped gardens and exceptionally restored architecture epitomise English Heritage.

First impressions walking through the wisteria-lined Walled Garden is one of quintessential England, where sheltered brick walls shimmer with pendulous lilac-blue blooms. Charmed by this magical space is a step into England’s story of aristocracy, history and colour, unveiling 300 years of landscape design.

A series of secret garden-like archways transports us to the Italian Garden where a flush of bold coloured flowers explode in symmetrical borders true to their original planting pattern. Observed by Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit statue is a reminder to look out for the estate’s 40 ornamental statues that cleverly decorate and accentuate different aspects of the gardens and woodland.

Overlooked by a subtropical conservatory is an introduction to the striking French style Mansion and exotic taste and travels of the de Grey family, who owned and lived at Wrest Park for over 600 years. Entering the conservatory’s iron framed side doors is a step into the world of Henrietta de Grey whose adored Sitting Room offers elongated views through the sweet scented glasshouse and Italian and Walled Gardens.

Beyond banana plants and palms awaits more floral treasure with the French Parterre, a boxed formal flower garden with scroll-patterned beds bursting with Spring fever. Positioned perfectly below the Mansion’s terrace is an extraordinary vista of sweeping parkland perfect for families, couples, photographers and tourists. A pathway fit for horse drawn carriages takes the eye through Portuguese laurel lined trees, which pruned immaculately for long distant view of the estate, creates a trail of architectural verdant beauty.

Detail and beauty defines this enchanting parkland from corner to corner including the fountain of Carrara marble, whose figurines sit halfway between the south front facing Mansion and famous Long Water, inspired by 17th century French formal gardens.

Surrounded by corresponding pairs of mid 19th century marble statues, we take a moment at this ornamental pitstop to absorb the geometry of the gardens whose handsome buildings include architect Thomas Archer’s baroque Pavilion of 1709-1711. Built for pleasure and viewing the gardens, six bays sit below an original hand painted ceiling in trompe-l’oeil by Louis Hauduroy, which crowned with a recently restored domed roof, tributes English Heritage.

A suggested Upper Garden Walk around the woodland takes us past the Dogs’ Cemetery dating back to 1829 where a stone dog monument and accompanying headstones lovingly commemorate the de Grey pets. From here we discover the Lancelot ‘Capability Brown’Column that respectfully acknowledges the landscape gardener’s recreated garden views of the rolling green Chiltern countryside.

Full of surprises, Wrest Park weaves a trail of hidden gems including the Chinese Temple and Bridge, whose romantic lakeside views make this a parkland playground for events such as the annual Easter Adventure Quest. Being Good Friday we watch Easter kick off to a sunny start and revel in the hunt for legendary dragon eggs with Trail Guide, which on completion awards chocolate in a garden that boasts of replantation and restoration.

Mesmerised by this ever-evolving park whose grounds are full of wonder we encounter Atlas, an early 18th century Portland stone statue that stands stylishly amongst the woodland blossom. Beautifully positioned is the nearby Dairy, which having once served the de Grey family now displays a collection of 18th and 19th century statues, restored to their former glory.

Wrest Park is timeless; every corner brings style and opulence, the type that lures visitors back time and time again. We skip a tour of the house in the knowledge we will return and head to the Orangery; a French style garden pavilion built by Thomas, Earl de Grey in the 1830. Once famous for accommodating French potted orange trees bought from King Louis Philippe of France, we step beneath the glass roof panes that shine above the estate’s original ornate chimneypiece dating back to 1600.

In this enchantingly palatial and airy building just a walk away from the grand Mansion, it is no surprise to learn this ornamental haven can be hired for special events including weddings and special evening receptions.
Wrest Park is stunning in every way!

Look out for their St Georges’s Festival on Saturday 27 April – Sunday 28 April 2019 and midsummer Luna Cinema screenings this year.

Further Information:
Wrest Park
English Heritage

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Body Worlds, London February 2019

by Emma Bumpus on February 26, 2019

Adventure and curiosity entice Careertraveller & family to London for a half term interactive journey through the human body at Body Worlds London.

Perfectly situated in “Piccadilly Circus”, the capital’s so-called Times Square, stands this imposing Grade II listed former theatre, which transformed into a 21st century 7-floor attraction, smiles in a haze of neon lights, tourists and stylish boutiques.

Inside awaits an extraordinary experience of thought provoking science and art in the form of real human specimens, which masterfully preserved for educational purposes, takes us skin deep.

Our anatomical trip commences with an elevator flight to floor 5 where we are transported to a dimly lit theatre of bodies and body parts that capture flocks of visitors from families and schools to locals and sightseers worldwide, all 47 million!

Equipped with a complimentary digital audio guide we step into the world of Dr Gunther von Hagens and Dr Angelina Whalley whose mission as exhibition creators is to illuminate preventative healthcare by highlighting healthy and unhealthy life choices. 200 exhibits split over 6 galleries expose the meaning of life, which backed up with scientific facts about human anatomy and the impact lifestyle choices have on the body send us on a family friendly trail of health education.

Surrounded by corpses, skulls and organs on raised platforms and under glass, curiosity kicks in and we uncover Plastination, the preservation technique used and developed by Dr Gunther von Hagens in the 1970s to replace body fats, fluids and tissues with silicone.

Spellbindingly dramatic and fascinating, we engage in a unique visitor experience that resonates amidst a pulsating display of muscles and bones to veins, and nerves provided by body donors. With an established body donation programme of over 17,000 donors we learn Body Worlds has many exhibitions across the world from Europe, America and Oceania, of which Body Worlds London is permanent.

Three exhibition floors go deep into the Nervous, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems with bodies in poses depicting everyday life activities. From athletes and poker players to ‘plastinates’ performing realistic rescue and ponderous situations, nothing is spared as we view anatomy stripped down system by system within the skeletal system. Use of active body parts highlight how the human form is a living machine with many complex components that stem from cells and tissues and it is here we appreciate just how health and body efficiency rely on different body systems working together in harmony.

Up on the 5th Floor we focus on the Nervous System where we come up close to the heart, whose illuminated blood vessels reveal how visual anatomy is as a subject. Guided by a Body Worlds LondonFamily Trail” paper based quiz we enter the cardiovascular system and discover medical facts such as your “Your heart is roughly the size of your own fist”. We have fun using the blood pressure machine and meet the British Red Cross whose free CPR interactive workshops offers visitors hands on essential first aid experience, brilliant!

The effects of poor health come to life as we view a heart whose clogged arteries have stents inserted with a balloon catheter, a technique used to open up the arteries, increasing blood flow and reducing the risk of a heart attack. On Floor 4 we uncover the Respiratory System where lungs take centre stage with their delicate structure and anatomical properties, including breathing and transferring oxygen to the bloodstream. A comparison of healthy and unhealthy lungs, the latter impaired by smoking, is an alarming insight to poor health designed to invite visitors to question their own physiology and anatomy as part of their chosen lifestyles.

Third Floor introduces the Locomotive System where bones, cartilage, joints and the skeletal system complete our understanding of plastination with a short film displaying the process in action. Gripped by the technology, labour and science of the process, which takes a year to complete, we take a walk around skeletons and body parts from male and female donors at different stages of life. From artificial hips and knees to fetal development, we question the wonder of science and meaning of life in one of London’s busiest streets and relish this unique museum experience.

Body Worlds London is an extra-ordinary world-class attraction that gets under your skin. Mesmeric and mysterious, it should be on everyone’s bucket list!

Further information:

Body Worlds London
Body Worlds

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January takes Careertraveller on a sensory journey to the heart of South-east Asia where exotic cuisine and warm hospitality bring the Thai kitchen to London with ROSA’S THAI CAFE.

Post Christmas blues evaporate as we step into a smiley sociable galley, which decked with contemporary tables and sunny spotlights brings Thailand alive with decorative walls adorned with bamboo wallpaper.

Located in Seven Dials, Covent Garden’s ‘hidden shopping village’, we explore this converted three-storey Georgian townhouse whose listed staircase is a gateway to restaurant and private dining, perfect for intimate gatherings.

Opting for the more energetic cafe atmosphere downstairs we notice photos, which provide us with clues to Rosa’s roots and discover the name comes from an East End cafe named Rosa’s Cafe in London. Bought by Thai co-founder chef Saiphin in 2008, Rosa’s legacy lives on with a modern twist of Thai -British food that sings of seasonal ingredients, travel, hard work and sheer brilliance.

Lunch aka A-Harn Tieng is a five-flavour introduction to Thai food with a modern twist where knives are redundant at the table, all part of the Thai tradition where meat is chopped small before cooking. An opening signature Appe-Thai-Zing cocktail ignites the Careertraveller taste buds with a vibrant Ginger Collins that bursts of aromatic fresh cut lemongrass and root ginger. Not forgetting Thai mint, Tanqueray Gin and Asian botanical sour syrup, this refreshingly light and and summery aperitif makes way for a carnival of colour.

Starters bring happiness on a plate, which yellow in colour represent nobility and luck in Thai culture. Good fortune follows with Pork Skewers “Moo Ping”, which chargrilled in soy and honey marinade melt in the mouth. Garnished with herbs coriander and sliced chilli, both characteristic of Thai food is a supplementary homemade tamarind dipping sauce that adds the sweet and sour taste. We uncover two of the five primary flavours used in Thai cooking amongst others being salty, bitter and hot, which used in differing proportions produces a range of wonderfully colourful dishes.

Som Tam better known as Papaya Salad brings sunshine to the table as a Thai classic bursting with health and vitamins. Tasty, sharp and spicy is a mix of garlic, Thai fish sauce and lime juice on a bed of raw Thai papaya, fine beans, cashews, dried shrimp and tomatoes which calls for an authentic Thai beer in the name of Chang. Named after the word “elephant” in Thai, Thailand’s national animal, is a palatable bright golden brew that calls for a sample of Rosa’s Red Curry Paste Stir-Fry, whose homemade curry paste is an aromatic base for meaty moist prawns that complement fragrant steamed coconut rice. Red in colour, styles chilli as chief of the dish amongst a heavenly perfume of galangal, garlic and lemongrass herbs that typify Thai curry.

More Thai classics appear in the form of the well-known Pad Thai, which takes centre stage for presentation, colour and texture. Lime, coriander and crushed peanuts dress this good-looking stir-fry noodle dish whose mix of vegetables, firm tofu, scrambled egg and bean sprouts entertain a street food melange of deliciously sweet and savoury ingredients, not forgetting Careertraveller favourite, pungent tamarind. Fresh, wholesome and balanced, it is of no surprise to learn the rice noodles come from the Ratchaburi, province of Thailand, which make this foodie neighbourhood cafe special. Inspired with a copy of ROSA’S THAI CAFE Cookbook we skip the mango and sticky rice dessert and homemade lemongrass tea in return for learning the secrets of authentic Thai cookery!

As we leave this lively oasis of diverse gastronomy we feel blessed to have sampled some field to wok produce and generous hospitality, whose subtly gives customers ‘extra value’ with a culinary introduction to Thai culture. Just a stone’s throw away from Theatreland we inhale the buzzy excitement of London’s celebrated tourist zones Chinatown and Leicester Square and appreciate how food makes travel exceptional.

In the words of celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain: “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your religion, your tribe, your grandma.”

Further information:

ROSA’S THAI CAFE

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Christmas in York, December 2018

by Emma Bumpus on December 3, 2018

Careertraveller heads north to the medieval streets of York where chocolate, celebration and culture bring festive cheer in the city’s famous Christmas Festival.

Just a 2 hour train ride from London Kings Cross to York station awaits this playground of adventure, which bursting with history stands proud with it’s ancient walls, all 3.4 kilometres long!

In the footsteps of Roman soldiers we step back in time where almost 2000 years ago these guarded walls once shielded the town’s fort and folk. Stunning views of York’s skyline are a radar for sightseeing and amongst the occasional in-built café and stone gateways we step into the historic heart of the city.

Bustling and beautiful narrow cobbled streets bring treasure in the form of trendy independent shops, cafes and eateries that ignite the Careertraveller taste buds. Aromas of fresh artisan bread, pear, ginger and chocolate tea and wizard-themed butterscotch or ‘Hotterscotch’ beer are alluring city centre magic which sweeps us towards the Shambles, York’s most celebrated street. A stroll down one of Europe’s most complete medieval streets is an introduction to Elizabethan architecture, whose overhanging buildings once sheltered this thoroughfare of butcher’s shops.

Now a tourist magnet for fine jewellery, gifts and chocolatiers we observe no 35 is a shrine commemorated to former 16th century resident and English Martyr Margaret Clitherow. It is here we dip into York’s darker past and discover how, this prosperous butcher’s wife met her death by refusing to betray her faith and family in 1586.

Caught in a labyrinth of 50 snickelways connecting the old city is an introduction to York’s quirky street names that echo tales of a bygone era, including the likes of Mad Alice Lane. Named after a woman hung in 1823 for poisoning her husband, it is little wonder York is renowned for it’s Bloody Tour of York.

In need of a little sweetness we head to York’s Chocolate Story with a York Pass that after purchase gives us gives us free entry to 40 York attractions! Inside is a three-floor multisensory experience of chocolate making, tasting and learning plus superb guide who narrates the story of York’s well-known chocolatiers and confectionery industry. From factory to laboratory we become acquainted with entrepreneurs Joseph Rowntree and Joseph Terry, whose claim to fame originate with the legendary Kit Kat, Fruit Pastilles and Chocolate Orange.

Caught in a tardis of bitter sweet creations we journey from 19th to 21st century where Nestlé (formerly Rowntree) and Terry’s (now owned by Kraft) bring us up to date on why York is celebrated as the UK’s home of chocolate. A cocoa fuelled encounter at the chocolate tasting wheel is a perfumed appetiser before watching chocolatiers at work. Further tastings make way for a finale of interactive chocolate decorating that gives everyone a piece of history to take away, sublime!

Educated and elevated we head waterside for an alfresco river cruise with City Cruises York to absorb further historical delights in this vibrant city of culture. Spoilt for landings, we opt for Lendal Bridge and learn this beautiful iron bridge contains an additional York coat of arms representing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

With stories of Vikings, Romans and Victorians we take a one-hour guided tour on the River Ouse and soak up riverside landmarks including the majestic 15th-century Guildhall and 13th century English Heritage Clifford’s Tower, the oldest remaining part of York Castle.

Calm and scenic, York’s skyline and architecture sparkle above the rowing clubs and motor cruises on a river, which once delivered goods to bankside warehouses, now apartments. An inside and outside deck make this an all year round city attraction whatever the weather and fit for lunch, afternoon tea and parties, gives tourists a wonderful sightseeing alternative.

Sight of York Minster’s spectacular central tower, the city’s highest point, takes us back on land to the largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe where we are dazzled by wonderful stained glass, stone towers and gargoyles. We opt out of climbing the 275 steps (all 230 feet high) for a panoramic photo-shoot, in favour of a 75-minute scary adventure at The York Dungeon.

Inside this deceiving redbrick building awaits a series of 10 entertainingly gruesome shows that bring York’s gloomier bygone times alive with a cast dressed in character, such as Dick Turpin and The Plague Doctor. Immersed in fantasy we time travel 2000 years through a warren of darkness and are distracted with a string of exhilarating experiences worthy of Goosebumps! Captivating actors bedazzle the audience with sinister acts full of satire, recounting tales of York born Guy Fawkes and York’s AD 66 Viking invasion all in a haze of spontaneous props and special effects.

As day becomes night we turn to York’s famed Christmas Fair where alpine chalets bring festive treats in the form of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and plethora of handmade gifts that turn York into a city of festivals. Twinkling lights, chocolate kisses and naughty elves bring the streets alive with a carnival Christmas Festival placing York firmly on the Careertraveller map.

A final quick getaway on the LNER takes the strain out of travel with Wi-Fi, power sockets and windows that bring the outdoors in. After a whirlwind day in York we step things up in First Class with reclining leather seats, complimentary food and drink and extra space, the sort that makes travel addictive!

Further Information:
Visit York
LNER
York’s Chocolate Story
City Cruises York
The York Dungeon

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Careertraveller takes to the hills of Derbyshire where dales, peaks and caverns reveal epic countryside in the heart of the Peak District National Park.

A journey through quintessential classic English villages leads us to Castleton, a chocolate box hamlet whose character stone built houses sit perfectly amongst dramatic White Peak countryside. Situated amongst limestone cliffs, and layers of wide-open moorland, YHA Castleton Losehill Hall provides a grand entrance to England’s first National Park, established in 1951.

Driving through the estate’s grandiose Squires Lane is the trigger for our YHA adventure, which set in 27 acres of prairie like parkland brings nature home. Space for parking makes for a quick and easy check in, located in a modern log cabin-like reception buzzing with tourists and travellers.

Whilst the teenagers head for the hot spot wifi zones with reputable YHA cake and hot chocolate in tow, the adults take a wander round this extraordinary gothic mansion and uncover the roots of Castleton Hall and Losehill Hall. Freshly decorated corridors display billboards that recount the building’s origins with timelines that transport us back to the Middle Ages and 1943, when YHA first opened Castleton Hall in the village and housed wartime evacuees!

Expansive airy rooms with tall ceilings entertain guests with a mix of old and new furnishings including stone fireplace and leather sofas in the careertraveller favourite Lounge. Large, sociable and bright, we enter an oasis of relaxation with mix of contemporary coloured tub chairs and vintage chandelier that shines above windows that bring the outdoors in!

It is here we detour for a walk around the stunning grounds and make friends with the estate’s goats and pigs using the hostel’s bespoke hand written map that smacks of author AA Milne’s woodland characters and famous Hundred Acre Wood. Inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh artist EH Shepard’s original 1926 illustration, YHA Castleton Losehill Hall brings outdoor adventure alive with an ingenious twist of literature and nature.

Steeped in history we admire the former Victorian Losehill Hall built in 1882 and discover it became the new home for YHA Castleton in 2011. As a hostel housing 146 beds in 36 rooms, many en-suite, YHA Castleton Losehill Hall also offers self contained West Mews, whose 28 beds in 7 rooms with private lounge and kitchen accommodates exclusive hire to groups.

A rustic 8-minute walk into Castleton village brings us to independent shops selling treasure in the form of home made ice cream, old-fashioned sweets and gifts that sparkle with jewellery and antiques. Things ramp up as we pass a trail of tearooms and pubs whose renowned homemade produce and local ale provide sustenance to over 2 million tourists a year.

Captivated by this picturesque village dating back to 12th century we take a stroll along the Peakhole Water stream, which overlooked by Norman fortress Peveril Castle is a panoramic introduction to Hope Valley. A haven of rugged moors and peaks fit for hikers and cavers to rock-climbers and hang-gliders we take stock of the wildlife and landscape that beckons birdwatchers, artists and photographers galore.

Back at YHA Castleton Losehill Hall, hunger directs us to the Restaurant where dinner is a menu of traditional and modern from pizza and pasta to pie and mash, not forgetting desserts for the sweet toothed after a day on the dales! Served in a stylish room with wooden floor and modern furnishings is a luxurious touch enhanced by candles that make our stay unique and welcoming.

A cheeky bottle of wine from reception is an introduction to Peeping Tom, a stone statue and rescued YHA relic from Derwent Hall, the region’s former youth hostel demolished in the creation of Ladybower Reservoir. Evening entertainment is a round of blow football and scrabble in front of the fire before retreating to our en-suite room, whose signature lime green bedding and bedside lamps induce a fashionable slumber.

Morning brings fuel with a choice of hot or continental breakfast in the canteen or independent use of the Kitchen where guests have the choice of making their own in sparkling modernity! Plentiful appliances are a joy for families and those keen to maximise their time outdoors, with of course the hostel’s 3D maps.

A giant wall map is our impetus for climbing Mam Tor aka Shivering Mountain, which on our doorstep involves a leisurely hike up Lose Hill to Great Ridge where between the vales of Edale and Castleton we embrace mother nature. 517 metres high, we separate the Dark Peak stone clad edges from the White Peak fertile grassland and work our way down to Winnats Pass, a breath-taking mountain pass whose limestone valley is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Scattered with old mine shafts and caves we go underground into Treak Cliff Cavern one, of Castleton’s four renowned caverns, and uncover the history of rare semi precious mineral Blue John, unique to the Peak District. Our expert tour guide Andy takes us back in time through a door that replicates Dr Who’s tardis and as we enter a spectacular show of caves we learn about this working mine, whose story goes back to the 18th century. One of only two working Blue John Stone mines in the world; we experience the work and tools of a miner and see veins of Blue John by torchlight.

We time travel further with an introduction to fossils, which engrained in the ceiling of hillside limestone rock is a journey of 330 million years! Exhilarated, we make our way deeper to the Witches’ Cave where limestone formations reveal bands of the purple-blue and yellow mineral.

Our final part of the 40-minute guided tour ends in the Dream Cave where stalactites and stalagmites bring geology alive and despite no sight of bats and cave spiders, we feel fully inducted to subterranean life beneath the Peak District National park. Exit is a view of sweeping hillside scenery that sweeps us down to the Visitor Centre for a coffee and peek in the Treak Cliff Gift Shop brimming with Blue John ornaments made on site. Dazzled by this exceptional tourist attraction, we step into the Treak Cliff Cavern Museum and examine real stone specimens and the legacy of Derbyshire’s mining industry that makes this district unique.

Educated, energised and elated, we head back to YHA Castleton Losehill Hall for a night of heavenly green belt slumber and feel privileged to have had 48 hours of pure adventure and discovery.

Further Information:

YHA Castleton Losehill Hall
YHA
Visit Peak District & Derbyshire – The areas’s official tourism website
Treak Cliff Cavern

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Kenwood House, London September 2018

by Emma Bumpus on September 30, 2018

Autumn brings seasonal colour to London with a trip to Kenwood House where careeraveller steps into the land of pure English heritage and verdant Hampstead Heath.

Perched on a hill in wide open parkland stands this majestic 18th century former stately home, which situated in 112 acres of rolling landscaped gardens is a playground of family picnics, kite flying, joggers and gentle woodland trails.

Our tour begins through the north front of the house where commanding pillars and a statuesque portico unfold the history and aristocracy of Kenwood House dating back to the 17th century.

Access to the Entrance Hall is a grand affair of detail, decoration and dignity where the likes of Lord and Lady Mansfield entertained guests in a room once used for formal dining. Redesigned by Scottish architect Robert Adam is a chamber of intricate beauty and symmetry where sky blue walls and Wedgewood blue doors smack of Georgian elegance.

Floor to ceiling is a storytelling mix of European and far-flung eastern travel, featuring showy decor in the form of embellished Oriental rug to ornate ceiling panel, which painted by Venetian artist Antonio Zucchi, blends harmoniously with the archetypical marble chimney piece.

Captivated by Kenwood’s splendour unwinds a tour of elaborate interiors, sculptures and artwork which reveals a fascinating past of significant people from Earls and Viscounts to architects and artists. Included is Judge Lord Mansfield who acquired and expanded the estate from 1756 and commissioned Adam to remodel it between 1764-1779.

Opulent rooms form a trail of ‘Adam style’ interiors that display a show of striking colour schemes, elaborate stuccowork and curved walls and domes. Layer upon layer of history brings the arts alive with frescoes and wall paintings inspired by Adam’s travels in Italy.

The Careertraveller favourite Library is a show stopping Great Room full of antiquity that sits beneath a coved ceiling decorated with Zucchi neoclassical paintings. Redecorated with over-painted gilding and reinstated colour schemes is a tribute to Edward Cecil Guinness who bought Kenwood in 1925 and later bequeathed it to the nation.

Now managed by English Heritage we view a vast collection of artwork containing world- famous artists including Turner, Rembrandt and Gainsborough in rooms that echo England’s story.

From Music Room to Dining Room we encounter 18th century portraits to old master paintings including Rembrandt’s Portrait of the Artist that sweeps us south to the Orangery. It is here we inhale Kenwood’s intoxicating gardens from large fronted windows overlooking the work of landscape designer Sir Humphrey Repton. Considering Kenwood more of an ‘elegant mansion’ than country estate, Repton designed a pleasure garden with side walks and southern borderline trees to create an elongated valley effect to the city. Sublime!

A stroll around the grounds brings art and architecture close to nature with striking views of Kenwood’s south front façade, whose ornamental creamy white brickwork and engravings define this neoclassical villa. Romantic, inspiring and free to the public, Kenwood is much more than a walk in the park and a distinguished location for concerts and films, including Notting Hill and Sense and Sensibility.

Surprises come in the shape of alfresco sculptures by celebrated British sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, who both had a connection with Kenwood having lived in Hampstead in the 1930s.

We take a seat to admire Moore’s bronze Two Piece Reclining Figure, No. 5, (1963–19640 and peer at London’s skyline above sloping treetops before strolling down to Thousand Pound Pond, an oasis of calm. Formed with the dreamy Sham Bridge we admire Hampstead’s ancient woodland, which approximately four miles from Greater London makes a great day out.

Further Information
Kenwood House
English Heritage

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Hitchin Lavender, Hertfordshire July 2018

by Emma Bumpus on July 9, 2018

Summer puts Hertfordshire on the Careertraveller radar for a visit to Hitchin Lavender, a perfumed Mediterranean oasis of lavender fields bursting with essential oil, wildlife and magnificent blooms ready for picking.

Captivated by rows, approximately 25 miles worth, of sun loving varieties is a mix and match bouquet of colour bursting with hues of purple, lilac, mauve and blue. Complemented by the likes of neighbouring gentle Hidcote Pink and elegant white Edelweiss, paradise unfolds into an aromatic haze of silvery grey leaves and blue-green evergreen stems under a mass of ornamental flower spikes. This place is stunning!

Roaming fields of early, mid and full bloom lavender peppered with butterflies and bees is a calming introduction to pollinators, who aid crop production and help us get lost in nature! The climb uphill delivers stunning countryside views of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire with shades of rural green to striking violet that create an impressionist painting.

Lost in what feels synonymous with Provence and Lavender explains why this Lavender Farm is such a popular attraction with locals, tourists and photographers. Within easy reach of Cambridge and London, it is no surprise Hitchin Lavender is a venue used for music events, bringing bands and Barn Nights to this sweet scented backdrop.

Summer Sundown Cinema Nights are a vintage mix of Blade Runner, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing, which played on a giant inflatable screen amongst the lavender and midsummer giant sunflowers, brings the stars beneath the stars!

Nectar comes in the form of blazing red corn poppies, which situated in a cleverly designated wildflower open space of a meadow, is purpose fit for bees. Clearly Hitchin Lavender buy into conservation and nature’s food supply chain and as a family farm business spanning over 100 years celebrates lavender in Hitchin with an onsite museum. Inside is an apothecary of original 18th century artefacts from the famous Perks and Llewellyn pharmacy where chemist Edward Perks first introduced lavender as a product to the high street.

Inside the farm’s 17th century barn is a lavandula playground of paraben free lavender treats, including luxury skincare and bath and shower products with lavender harvested from their very own fields.

From luxury hand wash to bath melt it is no wonder the word lavender derives from the Latin word lavare, to wash. Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans in public baths is a journey back in time where it was cultivated for essential oil extraction to produce perfumes as well as having aromatherapy, medicinal and culinary purposes.

Other inspirational products include, lavender filled pillows, Augustifolia essential oil and lavender chocolate, the sort that makes lunch worth staying for with a mouth watering range of home made cakes.

Amongst a vast amount of species from Hidcote and Grosso to Vera and Folgate, Hitchin Lavender is a soothing fragrant locale offering variety to everyone. Summer workshops include yoga and meditation to creative writing and antenatal classes and if you want to really make memories you can use the field as a location for photographic portrait shots for a small fee.

Further Information:

Hitchin Lavender

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YHA Snowdon Pen-Y-Pass, North Wales, June 2018

by Emma Bumpus on June 11, 2018

Adventure travel and amazing landscape spark the careertraveller wanderlust for YHA treasure in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park at YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass.

Located 1,000 ft above sea level at the base of Snowdon we enter a world of hiking mountaineering and wildlife fit for discovery and exploration. Surrounded by giant rugged crags, terrain and rolling green hills we step into this harbour of a hostel, which brimming with like minded fellow travellers seeking sustenance, tourist information and accommodation, credits the likes of famous Pen-y-Pass climbers Aldous Huxley and Geoffrey Winthrop Young.

No surprise therefore is the hostel’s Mallory’s Café named appropriately after English mountaineer George Mallory, whom we discover stayed in this former Gorphwysfa Hotel as a base for climbing Snowdon in the early 20th century.

A generous portion of carrot cake and coffee from the bustling bar lead us to the stylish Lounge where modern furnishings including fashionable tub chairs and pendulous pendant lights provide comfortable respite amidst the notable stack of YHA family favourite Trivial Pursuit, Chess and books galore.

A wander round the hostel leads us to the hiker essential Showers and Drying Room, not forgetting the Conference and Games Room that proudly hosts a snooker table amongst walls modishly decorated with Snowdonia facts!

Equipped with local trail details, up to date weather forecast and tourist information we discover this hip and popular hostel owes its success to a £1.3 million refurbishment dating back to 2014, all part of the YHA mission to: To inspire all, especially young people, to broaden their horizons, gaining knowledge and independence through new experiences of adventure and discovery.”

Further treats appear in the form of a trendy upmarket Kitchen full of all mod cons for the independent with well organised recycling coloured bins that show YHA has a grip on environmentally friendly 21st century hospitality. A connecting side room provides a space for those who choose to make or order in their own cuisine as opposed to eating in the café or restaurant.

We enter our Bedroom, one of 16 en-suites, which delivers stunning landscape views of sheep grazing in the hills and the legendary Miners Trail, that sparkles with Snowdon charisma. A wardrobe divided in sections or lockers for storage is a backpacker’s necessity with modern partitioned contemporary toilet and eco friendly shower, whose push button offers a regulated temperature with no water wastage. Brilliant!

The customised YHA lime green bed linen radiates a positive energy most befitting for adventure and gives the room a fresh appeal for inspirational travel. Compact wall sockets and bedside wall lights are unobtrusive and add a swanky touch that make bunk bed slumber fun and cool.

Breakfast in the Restaurant is a choice of hot or cold, fit for all. We opt for the hot traditional breakfast that comes with tea, coffee and juice and toast to kick start our Snowdon ascent. Colourful, tasty and abundant, we enjoy sunny smiley food in the restaurant with impressive views of Snowdonia’s rocky PYG Trail amidst a dedicated wall display of historical Pen-y-Pass climbers and parties that makes this former coaching inn special.

With the option of ordering a pre packed lunch offered by the hostel, we make our own in the Kitchen and head for Snowdon, the daddy of peaks and the highest mountain in Wales and England standing 1058 metres high.

As we step out the hostel and cross the road we step into the land of Welsh fresh air and dramatic scenery, encountering primal jagged rocks and serene lakes whose colour in beautiful hues of green and blue change with the weather. Opting for the 8 mile Miners Trail we pass lake or ‘Llyn’ Teyrn and begin a gentle ascent in the elements and face mist, rain and sun. Mesmerising geography introduces us to a world of new skills and challenges from rock climbing to orienteering and we embrace the freedom and independence that comes with travel and youth hostelling.

En route we locate an abandoned mine that helps us retrace the roots of Welsh miners who once carried copper ore over the mountain. A welcome causeway takes us to turquoise waters in the form of Llyn Lydaw, translated Lake Brittany in English, and on the flanks of Snowdon lays this mystical lagoon which shimmers with King Arthur mystery and legend. Before long we are looking down from the summit of Snowdon where mist, space and natural beauty are a heady mix of triumph, effort and sensation.

Pride and a cheeky coffee in the Summit Café make way for a winning descent amongst troops of inspiring other climbers and as we reach YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass we recall the words of George Mallory “The greatest danger in life is not to take the adventure” and we become explorers!

Adventures in Snowdonia come in all shapes and sizes and staying at YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass is an education and journey in itself. Superb!

Further information:

YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass
YHA England and Wales

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