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Cold Sores – A solution that works for me

Hands up all of you who suffer from cold sores on the lips! I am guessing but I suspect many readers do. Apparently six in ten people carry the virus but only 25% notice any symptoms*.

I do suffer and hate them. They are painful, ugly and last for ages. They also come for no apparent reason as a rule, although I have noticed when I am really anxious, for whatever reason, one appears.

Anyway here’s my strategy that works every time at minimal cost.

When I notice a sensitive spot on my lip – that nasty painful small blister – I use ice – immediately. At first I used a pack of frozen peas, a bit big and unwieldy. Then I used an ice pack bought for a painful ankle swelling. Then, and this is my absolute favourite – I hit on using a frozen blueberry. I don’t hold the berry on for long, just enough time to feel the blister has gone down a little. I have another blueberry on hand to put on when the first one has begun to defrost. Easy to eat then! And how much did that cost?!

Here is a photo after three blueberries – the blister is on centre of the upper lip. Not easy to see, but there. No pain though.I’m annoyed I didn’t think to take a photo before I wrote this feature. However I’ll add another picture in 24 hours to see if there is any difference.

After three blueberries

Why not try this ice treatment for yourselves? Would really be interested to know how you get on. Do you have another fail safe method perhaps? Get in touch and we can spread the word!

Val Reynolds, Editor

*Information found on the Herpes Viruses Association website


Essex Revisited 2014

Highlights over a two day visit: the local tourist

Essex evolves and changes without being manicured, over-gentrified or wrapped in cotton wool.

Colchester’s perpetual Roman digs were the stomping ground of my youth in the 1960s. Excavations and abundant pits were inhabited by archaeologists and volunteers with brushes and tools.

I revisited only last week and had great revelations – here are but three of four from many more!

FIRST SITE  is a rounded, golden, huge exhibition centre for visual arts designed by Rafael Viñoly. Currently showing a retrospective of the humorous work of Bruce McLean – performance artist, film/video maker and painter who rose to fame during the early 1980s.Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 11.29.08

A “re-placed” Roman mosaic lies under glass suspended in the floor over its original site within the gallery.

FIRST SITE houses the Cafe MUSA named after the Latin word for banana. Did you know ancient Romans would have known about bananas through their contact with India – the fruit is native to Southeast Asia. The plant was taken to South America in the 1500s. Modern scientific terminology assigns banana plants to the genus Musa.

Nicknamed JUMBO – a monumental, decorative Victorian water tower in the centre of Colchester – a pastiche to its Roman past and second highest water tower in the UK. Derelict since 1980s it was bought this year with the intention of turning it into a restaurant and flats.

A half hour from Colchester is Wrabness, smiling over farmland and the estuary is the happy house, a joint venture of Grayson Perry and Alain de Botton, under construction, designed by FAT.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 11.33.47From afar it appears like an Indian or Buddhist golden shrine. A bellied goddess proud on the roof and the facia clad in outrageous tiles. Image and more info at

Nearby in swan-land is the heritage site of Mistley Quay embracing an arty enclave of workshops and café around the swan sanctuary with a restored oversize Victorian chocolate box swan fountain – folly on folly (see below!) looking towards an Adams folly way up the high street.

See The protest over the ugly and aggressive fence continues today – a display of mean, bitterness by a local stubborn landowner. Engraving from 1834

Just a mile away in Manningtree, is a super-gem exclusive gallery, THE NORTH HOUSE GALLERY created by Penny Hughes-Stanton in her childhood home. She has gutted stripped scrubbed and restored it lovingly and energetically into a dynamic and thoughtful exhibition space.

Penny is presenting a very disciplined, sophisticated, contemporary exhibition of work from both local artists and others from further afield.   Penny’s former partner is the genius printmaker Norman Ackroyd. What a force! (see site for appointments and opening)

P1010109_2Iron bowls by Rod Bugg

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 11.38.35John Dougills painted “Pear”

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 11.40.50Felix Sefton Delmer  abstracted, textural, yummy graphite canvases.

Essex is quintessentially and eco-centrically British celebrating its haunting flat salt marshes, bobbing boats and oddities, above all – fighting back against the homogenous takeover of bland!

user-avatar-picAnne TilbyMixed media designer and artist, Tilby is an experienced production set and costume designer for film, tv, film theatre and opera


Easy Peasy Repair Kit – Sugru

I love mending things. Delight in darning. Making a stitch in time … it does save time. Mending a really loved well worn jumper, or jacket. Patching whenever possible! Love the lived in comfortable look!

So when the base of the marble lazy susan I have used for so many tasks for so many years literally came apart in my hand, I had at last found a use for Sugru that I have been itching to use for months. I have used the lazy susan for so many things. Painting a gold line on a white bowl gave it that extra bit of style. Icing cakes of all shapes and sizes. Even used it as a base for a camera when taking product shots, much easier to get a fine adjustment quickly than a tripod. The chance to repair it, simply, was irresistible.

The base had a ball bearing case which sounded a bit gritty so I used a little releasing spray, after which it sounded much smoother.

Careful to clean the base and the turning circle and washing my hands to remove any oil or grease, as directed on the packet, I found the Sugru very easy to roll into about a six inch sausage.

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I put the turning circle onto the base and left it for the requisite 24 hours to cure.

The biggest insight and some exciting ideas for using Sugru I found on YouTube. Mending cracked perspex in the fridge struck a chord. Mending a fraying power line on an Apple Mac helped to avoid buying a new one for at least a year or more. Mending a child’s cracked shoe would be a relief to a parent not to have to buy yet another pair for a while.

When watching the videos I was reminded that two soft feet on my Apple MacBookPro had gone walkabout and I just knew I could replace them with Sugru saving a round trip of 174 miles to the nearest Apple Store in Leeds. Now that’s what I call a great saving in time, effort and cash.

So what is Sugru? It’s a self adhesive flexible silicone plastic that moulds like play dough and sets like glue. It’s heat proof so you can now adapt that hot metal saucepan lid to use safely. It’s bouncy – one parent added Sugru to each corner of his iPhone and when young child managed to get hold of it – quite often apparently – and throw it around no harm came of it – the phone that is, can’t vouch for the child!

There are several YouTube sequences showing Sugru uses. I found this one the most thought provoking.

And this one is fun

There is a Sugru newsletter you can subscribe to and read about people’s experiences all over the world.

In 2010 Sugru was voted one of the top 50 inventions of 2010. The iPad was number 34, Sugru was number 22!

Invented by Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh from Kilkenny it is made in the UK and is the best bit of kit I’ve found for a very long time.

You can read all about it, including the range of colours available, on

I’m off. Just had an idea – draughts from our doors facing west can have a howling gale come through them in strong winds … Am going to experiment with Sugru! Watch this space!

Oh, by the way, the lazy susan is in full operating mode again – what a relief!

Val Reynolds, Editor


Plays of the Future – A Ticket Lottery

Like a lot of things in life, buying a theatre ticket is a bit of a lottery. Advance publicity is such that it’s quite possible to be made aware of productions months, or even sometimes more than a year,  before the first night. So the question arises: How far ahead are you prepared to commit yourself? Do you plan holidays, weddings and other major events in your life before or after buying theatre tickets?

And of course, buying a ticket for a play is quite akin to buying the proverbial pig in a poke. You may find that the tickets you’ve looked after for so long turns out to be for a performance that you feel like walking out of at the end of the first act. You never know.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 20.53.17Much of the long lead-in time to many plays is because of the hectic schedules of the many TV and film stars who feel their acting career is not complete without treading the boards of the London stage. The pulling power of these celebrities is inestimable; they frequently perform for what is for them a low wage, yet the run is likely to be sold out and sold out very quickly simply because their name is on the bill. No wonder theatre producers are anxious to acquire their services. The Young Vic website faltered and tickets were sold in record time when it was announced that Gillian Anderson was to play Blanche Dubois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Martin Freeman, of Sherlock and Hobbit fame, has attracted adoring audiences to his portrayal of Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios.  And apparently, visitors to the Barbican website were told that there were about number 30,000 in a queue when they attempted to buy tickets to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet more than a year ahead!Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 20.57.31

And with the rise of star power in the theatre has come the inexorable rise of ticket prices. To be fair, non West End houses have shown a little more restraint in their pricing (although it must be remembered that theatres like the National are lucky recipients of subsidies), but even community theatres like the Almeida, Hampstead and the Tricycle have had a considerable price hike.  Whereas it doesn’t seem that long ago it was only for lavish musicals theatres charged £50 or more for a top-price seat, this is now, more often than not, the second or third tier price level for the majority of performances in the West End. And at a recent Kevin Spacey one-man show about the American lawyer Clarence Darrow, the top-price seats were over £100! This to me does seem rather disproportionate considering what you could get for that princely sum. When you add to the price of a ticket the extras entailed with a night at the theatre, travel there, eating out, then you wonder why so many people choose to go to the theatre at all.

Yet a recent poll revealed that more people go to the theatre than to football matches and that attendances by a younger audience is on the rise.  And all over the country there’s always the option of going to smaller, fringe venues where the quality can often be high and the prices low. Paying a fortune for a performance doesn’t guarantee a brilliant experience, and you can be awestruck when you’ve spent just a few pounds on a theatre ticket. As I said, life’s a bit of a lottery!

jeannette-adjusted31Jeannette Nelson, arts critic with special interest in theatre


A Peaceful Getaway

Bird watcher or cyclist? History buff or rambler? These are some of the reasons why we moved to an unspoilt part of Cumbria, a peaceful and relaxed spot where, from our garden, we can see Brough Castle on the site of the Roman fort, Verterae.

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The Coach House Cottage

If you enjoy that kind of holiday, then please consider joining us at Coach House Cottage in Church Brough, Kirkby Stephen. This one up, one down old coach house has been updated and offers comfort and privacy, whilst we live in the adjoining converted stables.

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Newly installed kitchen

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Sitting area

Facilities are all new. We created an open plan kitchen with a fridge/freezer, electric hob/stove, microwave, toaster, slow cooker, tv, Freeview and wi-fi. Cutlery, crockery, glass, linen, tableware and cookware is provided. There’s full double glazing throughout, internal insulation and central heating, plus a smoke alarm link to the centralised system.

Double bedroom with ensuite shower room

Double bedroom with ensuite shower room

Upstairs, reached by a staircase from the sitting area is the light, airy double bedroom with en suite shower room. Open beams above and a truly comfortable bed! Bed linen, bath towels, tea towels are provided. Throughout you’ll find comfortable furnishings and some period country items.

There is ample parking in the courtyard and you have private sitting space in the walled kitchen garden with views of the farmland and hills beyond.

The cottage entry door is opposite the door into our house, we share the main entry door. Your privacy is assured, however – both buildings have solid, thick stone walls!

Worried about the weather so far north? Last winter gave us very little snow, which melted within a few hours. Yes, it rains at times – this is Britain, after all! – but when the sun comes out the light is so beautiful it can have an emotional effect. In fact, we get enough sun every day to have made installing the solar panels worthwhile.

So with Coach House Cottage as your base, what can you do around here?

The lane that takes you to the village square

The lane that takes you to the village square

Same lane, just our local rush hour!

Same lane, just the country rush hour!

Church Brough village is a three minute walk away. Brough takes about 15 minutes.

The cottage is on the 100 mile Lady Anne pathway from Skipton to Penrith and close to both the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast route. An extensive footpath and bridleway network right on the doorstep means you can explore little known unspoilt countryside seldom meeting other walkers, unlike the Lake District.

For cyclists, Cycle Route 71 is about two miles away and beautiful, unspoilt countryside all around makes it a pleasure to ride.

For golfers, there’s a choice of two local courses – the Appleby (Gary Wolstenholme’s favourite) and the Ravenstonedale course, close to The Black Swan which was voted the pub of the year 2013. A bit further afield, there are top quality courses at Penrith, Alston Moor, Barnard Castle and Hexham.

A local wildflower meadow

A local wildflower meadow

For gardeners, we encourage your input into our on-going development of our kitchen garden, the big lawned rear garden, a small patio and small walled area, as well as the courtyard. We love talking about gardening especially the demands of this northern location. Throughout the summer, there are many local garden open days, both in small villages and big country house gardens.

Coach House cottage and stables from the church steps

Coach House cottage and stables from the church steps

For bird watchers, there is a good range of birds in the immediate vicinity and, in our garden alone, we’ve spotted curlew, peregrine falcons, goldcrests, oystercatchers, great spotted woodpeckers, heron, house sparrows, long tailed tits, cole tits, buzzards and possibly a golden eagle! There is an RSPB golden eagle hide at Riggindale, Haweswater, just over 20 miles away.

An Eden meadow at the height of the buttercup season, South Stainmore

For nature lovers, a trip to the North Pennines, which an area of outstanding natural beauty just on our border, is a must. There is a field centre at Bowlees Visitor Centre and several nature reserves and wildflower meadows to visit in both the North Pennines and the Eden Valley. 

For explorers, there’s a wonderful mix of moors, dales, scenic villages and market towns nearby without ever going near a large town.

Champion and proud owner at Brough 2013 Agricultural Show

For country lovers, we have a string of local shows and events throughout the summer, all within 20 miles, such as the Brough Hound and Terrier show, the Alston Sheepdog Trials, agricultural shows at Skelton, Penrith, Brough, Appleby, Ravenstonedale, Wensleydale, Crosby Ravensworth, Dufton, Moorcock and Alston, plus Harness Racing in Appleby and Horse Trials at Hutton in the Forest.

For train enthusiasts, the Settle to Carlisle railway is close by as are other restored stretches of defunct, railway routes such as Warcop and Alston should be of interest, as would be Kirkby Stephen’s railway museum and enthusiasts’ centre.

For antique hunters, there are regular auctions at Hawes, Penrith and Barnard Castle.

Pendragon Castle in Mallerstang valley, just south of Kirkby Stephen

Pendragon Castle in Mallerstang valley, just south of Kirkby Stephen

Finally, a bit about the history. The cottage formed part of what was the Church Brough Rectory estate. The rectory, servants’ hall, stables, coach house, barn and glebe land were privately acquired and converted into four separate properties. The coach house and stables are linked by a glassed entry with separate internal access to the two dwellings.

Located on a bridleway, immediately behind the self contained cottage is a flight of stone steps to St Michael’s, a church with Norman origins. Turning left out of the cottage you pass a well on your right. Take a right turn onto the little used lane/Roman road (see photo 5) with its metamorphic sandstone sides leading to the village green and Brough Castle from which there are fantastic views of the surrounding area. The farm beside the castle has a well-known ice cream parlour and tea room.

Brough lies at the foot of the Stainmore Pass that crosses the Pennines. The Romans built a military road from York to Carlisle and a chain of forts one of which was Verterae. A 1,000 years later the Normans built a castle on the Verterae site. Over the years the castle was destroyed, rebuilt, burned down and in the 17th century it was rebuilt by Lady Anne Clifford. A 100 mile pathway that follows the route Lady Anne Clifford took to visit her many castles from Skipton, passes through Church Brough going on to Penrith. Market Brough, the northern part of the village, was an important centre of trade from 1330 when a charter for a weekly market was granted.  There are multiple sites of historical interest. Castles of note are at Carlisle, Brougham, Brough, Raby, Barnard Castle, Middleton, Shap Abbey and Pendragon Castle, plus Roman fort sites and, of course, Hadrian’s Wall.

A practical note: there are two hospitals within 35 miles away and major supermarkets within about 20 miles, although Sainsburys, Tesco and ASDA deliver on-line orders. Our local market town, Kirkby Stephen, is just three miles away and you’ll find it unspoilt and undeveloped.

Kirkby Stephen main street – free parking throughout the town year round!

Depending on time of year our rates are from £350 to £495 per week. Short breaks are available. To check availability you can either call Val Reynolds on 017683 42530  or email her at More images on

So sorry but we are unable to accept pets.

Val & John Reynolds

Here is some recent feedback from our guests this year:

We had a wonderful time at the cottage. First impression on walking in is that everything is clean, neat and looks new. I have not slept so well in years the bed is so incredibly comfortable and large. We found the whole place very welcoming and well appointed. We both like walking and it was so great to be able to leave the front door and walk in stunning scenery without having to use the car. The pubs we went to for lunch provided really good food, people were friendly and helpful. At the end of each meal we had out I never once thought “I could do better than that at home” as so often happens on our walks at home when we try a new place. On the days we did use the car it was so great to drive and find a parking place. I am so used to the overcrowded road conditions and parking wardens so keen to fill their quotas of greater London. So we had a great holiday. Dave, London, UK

 Very comfortable retreat in the North Pennines. All mod cons and very attractive, stylish decor. Ideal location for people who love peace and quiet, within easy reach of wonderful walking areas. J & K, London, UK

A quirky, comfortable holiday retreat for two. The Coach House Cottage is very well equipped and beautifully furnished. The peaceful location in a wonderful area for walking and exploring. J&A, Brittany, France

We had a fantastic time at the Coach House Cottage. The local area has plenty of things to do, walking being our favourite. We loved the fact that the cottage was so well equipped, everything we needed was provided. M&S, Doncaster, UK


Moving to the Country

However much you think you’re ready for it, the prospect of retirement and a gradual slowing down of activity hits you hard. I’ve always been an active, busy person and I knew dozing in an armchair was not how I wanted to spend my last couple of decades.

Instead, I wanted a life full of possibilities, full of new challenges and experiences.

And, sadly, I didn’t think that was going to happen in Welwyn Garden City, much as my husband John and I had loved our time in the centre of town, with our beloved garden.

Finding our ideal spot took some time – about a year, in fact – but the search was great fun as we explored the UK from Somerset to Dumfries looking for the property that excited us and offered a new life to us both. Eventually we found it, surrounded by beautiful views and without a neighbouring house in sight. After urban living, that was perhaps the biggest change for us!

The view that bowled us over

The view that bowled us over

So that’s why we now live in The Coach House in Cumbria and we couldn’t be happier! Why Cumbria? Why Cumbria – John spent many holidays walking in the north in Cumbria, the Yorkshire Moors and the Lake District. We both love the countryside and, with open land all around us, it’s like living in a park with surrounding meadows and, in the distance through very old and large oak, ash and sycamore trees we can see How Gill and other distant hills. With the wonderful light the view changes, sometimes dramatically quite suddenly. We’re by sheep, cattle and horses in the various meadows and, delightfully, our position on a bridleway means there is no disruption from traffic. A Roman road passes the property, only used by local farmers.

Cumbria is one of the most sparsely populated counties in the UK, with less than 75 people per square kilometer. The air is filled with the sounds of nature and we look back and wonder how we coped with the noise of Welwyn’s town centre for so many years. We both love it here and settled in very quickly, making friends with both locals and so-called outcomers – like us! Everyone we’ve met has been friendly and helpful, plus my work as a volunteer in the Visitor Centre in Kirkby Stephen brings me in touch with lots of people and helps me learn more about our new home.

The link between the two buildings

The link between the two buildings

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Coach house from the church steps

So shall I tell you about The Coach House? It is, in fact, two buildings, linked by a glazed area similar to a conservatory where I keep precious indoor plants. John and I live in the old stables and the coach house is a one up, one down building that was used by the rector’s coachman and his family, coaches were stored below. The early Norman church is just behind us.

The coach house is singularly individual – stone built with a curved wall on two sides. Initially, we thought we’d use it for friends and family, then it became clear it lent itself to becoming self contained holiday accommodation. On the ground floor there was enough room for a fitted kitchen with dining and sitting space, on the first floor a double bedroom with an en suite shower room.

So we embarked on a journey of property improvement and discovery in the land of letting! If you’d like to join us for a holiday stay, we’d love to share our new home and its peaceful surroundings with you. Want to know more? It’s all here.

Val Reynolds

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