Stoke on Trent & The Potteries |Where to visit

The city of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire became the centre of ceramic production during the 17th century. Due to the availability of clay and other required materials, large numbers of potteries opened up in the area and started producing high quality ceramic wear that was exported all over the world.

There are a number of potteries to visit, some showcasing modern working factories, others offering historical tours and traditional methods, and a number of others allowing you to get stuck in and learn about ceramics whilst creating your own. All equally have their charms but depending on your taste, here are some recommendations.

For Instagrammers – World of Wedgwood

Wedgwood is an iconic English brand. Able to count Royal Families and celebrities as fans, Wedgwood has stood the test of time with over 250 years of history. World of Wedgwood allows the visitor to learn about the craft and the story of Wedgwood  on the award winning factory tours, but what really stands them apart (particularly for anyone wishing to update their Instagram page) is the showroom & tearooms.

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The showroom is exquisitely decorated, in a theme that changes every season. In August 2018 you enter through a traditional train carriage, allowing you to peek inside to see tables decorated in pastel pinks and whites with stylish old fashioned luggage and pretty tea cups dotted around. Further inside, elaborate tables are set for tea, with reds & whites, green vines winding around British strawberries and of course Wedgwood china. It’s incredibly pretty, and classically British with a modern twist.

Towards the back of the showroom area is the delightful tearoom serving a fantastic selection of teas and cakes all delivered in Wedgwood china. The room itself is grand, with teal chairs and swirling wallpaper, while the ceiling houses vast chandeliers. The top pick of the menu is of course the ‘Afternoon Tea’, a selection of sweet and savoury treats including the buttermilk scones and a choice of Loose Leaf and Wanderlust Teas. The savoury snacks include a dry aged beef with horseradish, asparagus and crème fraîche and the Ginger cake topped with candied ginger was delicious.

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https://www.worldofwedgwood.com

 

For activity lovers – Gladstone Pottery Museum

Gladstone is the only complete Victorian Pottery factory, and allows you a chance to learn about the days when bone china was made in coal burning ovens. The interactive factory tour is interesting for all ages but the stand out parts really seemed to be the activities on offer and the enthusiasm of those running them.

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After a demonstration from the experts then you’re able to try your hand at throwing your own pot, watched over by someone that knows what they are doing! Visitors enjoyed watching each other try their hand at the wheel with a few giggles as well as encouragement.

There’s a flower making demonstration and workshop, allowing you to learn the technique to make a bone china rose, although the skilled craftswoman made it look far easier than it was.

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A further workshop provided over an hour of fun (as well as aprons in case the fun got too messy) which was decorating and painting the china. You’re able to choose from a selection of pieces, including a rose in a vase, and the china toilet, (unsurprisingly popular with children.) The large painting table makes it quite a social activity and the lady demonstrating techniques delighted everyone with her stories of Victorian painters as well as stories from her own history in the industry.

Gladstone Pottery Museum 

 

For history fans – Middleport Pottery

Middleport Pottery allows you to step back in time on a heritage trail with their original Victorian offices, one of the few bottle kilns remaining in Stoke and the steam engine which once powered the whole factory. Middleport has a great number of volunteers on hand, able to answer your questions as you tour around.

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Particularly interesting is the store for the ceramic moulds, including Winston Churchill moulds, plate designs for the Battle of Britain and a whole host of Victorian jelly mould designs. Also interesting is the information covering the larger role women played in the industry due to demand during the war: not only did they take over many key roles during the war but continued to have their talents recognised afterwards.

In between the original bath houses and heritage offices Middleport has working studios, and it’s fascinating to see both modern and historical representations of ceramics.

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At the time of writing, then Middleport Pottery was also home to Poppies: Weeping Window. It’s a magnificent sweeping design of poppies, cascading down the side of the factory onto the floor below, and representing British or Colonial lives lost at the Front during the First World War. It’s a moving piece, and a beautiful scene to see, unsurprisingly popular, as Stoke is actually the last location of it’s regional tour before it is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.

20180827_102540http://www.middleportpottery.org


For more information & to plan your own trip make sure to visit:

http://www.visitstoke.co.uk

 

 

 

What to do in Derby?

I recently spent a weekend in Derby as I’ve been trying to explore more new places within the UK, and I found it friendly, fun and historic, with so much to offer for all ages. I had an action packed few days including a lot of delicious food, historic buildings, shopping  & beautiful landscapes. Here I’ve put together a few of my highlights to help you plan your visit.


Visit Bluebells Dairy Farm

It’s hard to actually pigeonhole Bluebells Dairy Farm as it has so much to offer. Obviously as the name suggests it’s a Dairy Farm but it’s also a tea rooms, an educational centre, a fun day out for kids (and big kids) and somewhat an interactive petting zoo.

Let’s start with the ice cream! Bluebell has 26 flavours of ice cream and sorbet, I’m proud to say I gave many a try, as you can see below! They have some recognisable flavours as well as individual specialities including my favourite; the lemon curd! The creamy milk for the ice cream comes from the cows grazing the fields at the farm, and Bluebell uses only the finest ingredients to blend into their award winning ice cream. The ice cream is so good, that it’s stocked in other high end retailers/restaurants and has won numerous awards.
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When you’re suitably full from all the delicious food and ice cream then there’s so much more to do on the farm itself. The friendly farm workers run sessions where you can interact with the animals, feed lambs, meet Arthur the giant rabbit and generally learn about the animals & how to care for them. It’s educational fun and people of all ages were enjoying it greatly.

There’s even more fun to be had on the giant inflatable pillow, something very unique and family friendly, but I must admit I probably had more than my fair share of a go! There’s also a new go-kart track and play areas with sand pits!

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Derby Cathedral

Derby Cathedral and it’s 212 feet tower stands proud in the centre of Derby. Construction finished in around 1532 but it’s had numerous renovations over the years. It’s beautiful inside, with a bright, open entrance and a light & airy feel quite different to other churches of it’s time. Visits are upbeat and lively with welcoming staff and fun stories about the building and those involved in it’s conception.

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The cathedral is still very much keeping the spirit of community alive, holding movie nights and other events. It’s also famous for being the nesting place for 15 consecutive years of nesting Peregrine Falcons. 41 hatchlings have been born here, and the nest is streamed online all over the world, with thousands tuning it to see the amazing birds.

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On the first Saturday of every month it’s possible to take a tower tour. The top of the tower commands some fantastic views over the city, it’s a steep climb so not for those who tire easily, but for anyone who loves a good view, well worth the effort. It’s breezy at the top and I had the fortune to arrive there just as the flag was being changed so I was able to assist (read; make the while process a lot slower.) but nobody seemed to mind.


Kedleston Hall

Kedleston Hall is a magnificent 18th century mansion which may be familiar to some as it was as a key location for the film ‘The Duchess’, starring Keira Knightley. It’s grand beyond belief, designed for lavish entertaining, complete with golds and turquoises and impressive painting collections.

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Since the 12th century the Curzon family have lived here and Lord Curzon’s Eastern Museum contains a collection of items from his travels in Asia while Viceroy of India (1899 to 1905). This includes the famous peacock dress, complete with the wings of green beetles adorning it to give the appearance of emeralds.

The grounds are just as lovely as inside the buildings, and as it was such a lovely day I spent quite a while walking around the grounds and relaxing in the sun to enjoy the views. Look how incredibly green the landscape is!

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Dine & drink

I’ve actually written an entire article about the food in Derby; (see below) as there was so much choice. Derby has a great range of eateries from the traditional Pyclet (a flat crumpet) sold at the Pyclet Parlour in the market hall, to fine dining at Masa in The Old Wesleyan Chapel.

There’s also a whole host of trendy bars around town including the cool Rowley’s Gin Bar & Wine Cellar and The Brooklyn Social with it’s fun cocktail list and quirky interior.

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https://alifewelltravelled.co.uk/2018/05/10/dining-in-derby-where-to-eat/


http://www.visitderby.co.uk

Derby is 1hr 36 mins on the train from London.

Dining in Derby – Where to eat?

I wasn’t expecting Derby to have such a great range of restaurants, from local specialities to fine dining and from funky independents to quaint tearooms, but it turns out the city has a huge amount to offer, so much so that I had to undo my jeans when I drove home from my 3 day trip to the city, genuinely.

Here are a few of my suggestions for top places to eat for your next visit.

Coffee & light bites

  • BEAR – 7 Iron Gate – BEAR actually serves a lot more than coffee, including seasonal  food, cakes & pastries and cocktails & craft beer, but it’s the coffee that drew me in. All it’s coffee is sustainably sourced and their speciality coffees include the ‘Chemex’ and the ‘Aeropress’, whilst the more familiar French Press & iced lattes are also top notch. Whilst chatting to locals around town I was repeatedly told the cost of BEAR’s coffee machine, (pretty high!) but whatever they paid for it, with coffee that tasty, it was worth every penny.
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    BEAR – Coffee, Kitchen & Bar – Iron Gate, Derby – Bear Coffee Company
  • Derby Pyclet Parlour – Market Hall – A ‘pyclet’, pronounced ‘pie-clet’ is like a large flatter crumpet, and Katie the owner told that it was originally considered to be a crumpet for the poor, as they couldn’t afford the metal mould to make the more common thicker crumpets. Pyclets are delicious and a Derby speciality, and clearly incredibly popular; on a day following bank holiday weekend when everywhere else was quite quiet, the Pyclet Parlour had a constant stream of people coming past to pick up their stash to take home, with others sitting in to eat. I opted for a sweet topping of banana, cream, honey & chocolate, but other delicious toppings include sun-dried tomato, chorizo & goats cheese, and stilton. All for a few pounds, and served with a smile!
    Pyclet Parlour

Dinner

  • The Wonky Table – 32-33 Sadler Gate – The Wonky Table came highly recommended around town and is clearly a local favourite. It’s a small restaurant serving fresh, unique dishes as well as delicious cocktails, all in a funky environment with unusual decor. There are multi-coloured chandeliers with aeroplanes dangling down, old tills, and other vintage/quirky memorabilia dotted around. The staff are chatty and smiley and more than happy to recommend dishes. The food is tasty and imaginative, including a mini roast dinner for starter, tempura avocado, and a fantastic steak topped with a mini beef wellington.

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  • Masa – The Old Wesleyan Chapel – Masa is a fine dining restaurant & wine bar, and a favourite locally for those looking for somewhere special to dine or drink. It’s inside an old converted chapel, and the restaurant has kept many of the old pews as well as making use of the different tiers to create multi level dining, all with great views over the bar below.

    They have been awarded two AA rosettes for culinary excellence for the last seven consecutive years and a listing in the Good Food Guide and this comes as no surprise as every dish is well thought out and uses the highest quality of ingredients. I particularly liked the pork served with black pudding and scallops, as well as the fantastic amuse-bouche of butternut squash veloute with local pesto. There’s an extensive list of wines as well as cocktail favourites and it was clearly a popular spot for special occasions for drinks as well as food.
    Masa Restaurant | Fine dining in Derby

    Afternoon tea

  • Lisa Jean at Bennett’s Brasserie – Bennett’s Deparment Store, Irongate – Served in beautiful china, Lisa Jean’s offers a delightful afternoon tea in a relaxing environment with sweet and savoury treats guaranteed to fill you up. There’s a lovely selection of teas to choose from, with the opportunity to smell the different leaves before you make your choice. I opted for a mixed berry tea, and also tried the mint.

    As well as classic favourites like smoked salmon sandwiches, they added little twists such as serving a ‘made in house’ lemon curd with the scones, and mini samosas alongside ‘stilton & sausage rolls’ in the savoury selection.
    Welcome to Lisa Jean at Bennetts Brasserie | Irongate, Derby
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