Here at Turtle Mat we quite understandably spend an inordinate amount of time with shoes, doorways, and mud on our minds. Having been providing mats for the entrances of homes up and down the UK for twenty years now, we decided to do some research into your habits and attitudes; do you keep your shoes on or take them off before you enter your home? We were also curious to find out about how guests are received into our homes – do we ask them to remove their shoes too or are we too polite to inconvenience them? In our quest to find the most house proud cities in the UK, we also uncovered some unexpected findings. We learnt that just a few miles’ distance can lead to a completely different attitude. We also learnt that no matter how house proud some of us are, being polite and giving our guests a warm welcome can be far more important. Here are the full results: How do things compare in your home? Share your thoughts below!
for lovers of the great outdoors
With picture-perfect thatched-roof cottages, medieval churches, honey-coloured limestone and miles of arable fields, it is little wonder that the Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) almost 50 years ago. But like many British AONBs, the region is replete with B&Bs and hotels vying for your attention and the choice available can seem overwhelming. So how can you find the place for you?
With this in mind, we’ve put together a rundown of the best B&Bs the Cotswolds has to offer. Our choices are based on consistently high TripAdvisor ratings, personal experiences and distinguishing features that put them ahead of the competition.
Horse and Groom – Bourton-on-the-Hill
Average cost (double occupancy): £120 – £170 per night
Location: Bourton-on-the-Hill (near Stow-on-the-Wold)
Food: Full restaurant
Situated in the chocolate-box village of Bourton-on-the-Hill, this handsome Georgian inn is a peaceful, simple, thoroughly modern and chintz-free option. It was established a decade ago by brothers Tom and Will Greenstock and has attracted praise from professional critics and travellers alike, with most heaping praise upon Chef Will’s ever-changing blackboard menu, carefully considered ale and wine selection, and seasonal, locally-sourced produce.
Overnight guests frequently comment on the inn’s impeccably clean and stylish rooms, thoughtfully considered amenities and personalised service. This sentiment is echoed in its TripAdvisor ratings, where 85% of guests afforded a rating of “excellent” and 11% “very good”. For a breath of fresh air, the inn’s grassy beer garden offers glorious bucolic views.
The Horse and Groom’s central Cotswolds location means easy access to the region’s attractions and the bustling market town of Moreton-in-Marsh – with its plethora of antiques shops and tea rooms – is a 45-minute walk or five minute drive away.
The Wharf House – Over
Average cost (double occupancy): £85 – £149
Location: Over (near Gloucester)
Food: Full restaurant
If waterways, rambling, cycling, good food and green living are on your agenda, then The Wharf House is for you. This solar-powered, charity-owned ‘restaurant with rooms’ is situated on the Hereford and Gloucestershire Canal Basin and all seven bedrooms command impressive views of the River Severn. Gloucester town centre, with its docklands and Waterways Museum, is within walking distance and a 25-minute drive will take you to the Slimbridge Wetlands.
Miles of rural footpaths and cycleways surround the Wharf House and the nearby bus stop runs regular services to a number of tourist destinations. The property is owned by the Hereford and Gloucester Canal Trust and as such is the only UK’s only AA Red Rosette establishment owned and run by a charity. What’s more, the property boasts one of Gloucestershire’s largest arrays of solar panels and all profits generated are used for the betterment of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal.
But don’t think that The Wharf House’s green credentials mean that luxury falls by the wayside. Fresh, locally-sourced produce goes into all the restaurant’s meals and guests who want a ‘bit of everything’ can enjoy foods from the tasting menu or light bites from the Sunday tapas menu. A cocktail or bottle from the extensive wine list can be enjoyed on the riverside terrace and those retiring to their rooms will appreciate underfloor heating and spa baths.
The Old School – Little Compton
Average cost (double occupancy): £120
Location: Between Chipping Norton and Moreton-in-Marsh
Food: Breakfast, dinner, supper, lunch hampers
With accolades including “magnificent,” “heavenly” and even “un petit bijou,” it is little wonder that The Old School – which 288 out of 290 TripAdvisor reviewers awarded the top score of “excellent” – is on our list. Formerly a Victorian schoolhouse, The Old School’s stained glass windows, arched wooden beams and neo-gothic architecture meld a sense of lofty opulence with the rooms’ timeless and cushy furnishings.
The guest house is particularly suited to those looking for a slower paced break in a more intimate setting. It is owned and operated by Wendy Veale and John Scott-Lee, whose breakfasts, dinners, cakes and teas (all home-made from locally-sourced ingredients) were described by one guest as “unforgettable”. For travellers requiring more flexibility, picnic hampers complete with rugs and umbrellas are provided. For those with evening plans elsewhere, convenient ‘supper trays’ of sandwiches, savoury tartlets and puddings can be provided in lieu of a cooked dinner.
Guests who wish to laze away the day can enjoy boules or croquet on the lawn, afternoon tea in the garden or wander down to the orchard to observe the rabbits and chickens. A ‘mini concierge’ service is provided by the owners with theatre bookings, car hire and other arrangements made on request.
The Wheatsheaf Inn - Northleach
Average cost (double occupancy): £140 – £180
Location: Northleach (near Cirencester)
Food: Full restaurant
Bang & Olufsen televisions, freestanding tubs, power showers, room service, an onsite spa and a poker room. These all sound like the makings of a palatial London hotel, but they come as standard at The Wheatsheaf: a rural inn that doesn’t do things by halves. The painstakingly-considered décor strikes a perfect blend of rustic, opulent and unabashedly modern. But whilst style and luxury come as standard, pomp and circumstance do not. Unlike many other establishments, both dogs and small children are welcome at The Wheatsheaf.
A stroll through the exquisite walled gardens leads to the Treatment Room, where guests can take a glass of champagne with a range of massages, aromatherapy session or make-up lesson, manicure and pedicure or wax treatment. Whilst many guests will be reassured by the English mainstays of cooked breakfasts and roast dinners, the restaurant also offers juice blends and oysters at breakfast, chateaubriand steak at dinner and fruits de mer seafood platters on its late-night “feast menu”.
Do you have any top picks for the Cotswolds? Or have you visited any of these B&Bs? Let us know your thoughts below or over on Twitter!
With Turtle Mat employee Heather taking part in MCS’s charity open sea swimming event the Big Sea Swim, we decided to offer a helping hand to anyone who is taking part in a swimming event to get the most from their training. Working together with Olympic and Paralympic coach Dr Gary Brickley, we have created a four week training plan for those looking to give their training a boost in the last run-up to their event.
Open water swimming presents a different challenge to our bodies than pool swimming so it is vital to be fully prepared for the day. Whether you are swimming for charity or for yourself, a structured plan in the last stretch before race day can make all the difference:
A lot depends on how much time you have available and if you have access to water. The swims are a great guide to build your endurance going into the race and to develop your confidence in swimming in open water. Ideally you will have someone watching over you or helping to set the pace.
Being prepared for a swimming event also means know what to do on the day and how to best give your body chance to recover afterwards:
On the day preparation:
- Don’t sit in your wetsuit for any longer than you need to. If it’s a sunny day, you can overheat
- Get into the sea for a quick swim beforehand to get used to the temperature
- When you get in the sea for the first time, get your head under early and turn your arms over fast to warm them up and to stretch out in your wetsuit
- Get your bearings of the course, what will you line up with?
- Don’t eat too much before the race, it will be over quickly and you can eat straight after but trying to sea swim with anything in your stomach is not ideal
- Get on someone’s feet whilst you are swimming, this will make sure you don’t have to keep looking up and it will save some energy as the person in front will break the water in front of you.
- When you finish your swim try not to just collapse when you cross the line. Jump back in the sea and swim easy for 5 minutes or so to loosen off your muscles and to gradually drop your heart rate. You may decide to take your wetsuit off and just stretch out in your swimming costume.
- After each session you should ideally be eating within 30 minutes of swimming to make sure you can restore your stores. A mixture of high quality protein with some carbohydrates is recommended. You can of course use sports drinks but something like a milkshake would be ideal. If you have been in the water for around an hour you may sweat up to a litre of water and this may need replacing with an electrolyte drink to ensure you are rehydrated.
- Have a good stretch out on land as well as in the sea afterwards and then look forward to your next big swim. Hopefully you will have hit your goal whether they are completing or doing your best possible swim.
- Have fun!
Our guides were created in conjunction with Dr Gary Brickley. Gary is a senior lecturer in exercise physiology based at the University of Brighton in Eastbourne. He is an accredited sport and exercise scientist and an accomplished swimmer. He has swum the English Channel in a 3 man relay; completed the 26km Lake Zurich swim coming 3rd in the masters category; is currently the Brighton Pier to Pier veteran cup holder; has swum the 19.6km Rottnest Island swim in Perth and also did the 24 miles swim, swimming 1 mile every hour for 24 hours.
Turtle Mat is proud to announce that our very own customer service manager, Heather Scott, will be taking part in this year’s Big Sea Swim to raise money for our partner charity the Marine Conservation Society. The Big Sea Swim takes place on July 12th in Eastbourne near Brighton and swimmers will be clocking up either one or three kilometres in support of Britain’s coastlines.
It is in honour of our 20th anniversary that Heather has agreed to take part in what will be MCS’s third Big Sea Swim event. On getting involved in the event, Heather is looking forward to the challenge but says: “I think it must be at least 30 years, if not longer, since I last did anything like this. You just don’t know what is lurking around and beneath you in open water.
I’m very apprehensive about swimming in the open water. As a child I used to swim long distances outdoors but as I have got older I have preferred the comfort and cleanliness of my local swimming pool.”
To help Heather and anyone else taking part in the event, we spoke to Dr Gary Brickley at the University of Brighton which is located in Eastbourne.
Gary told us: “Both races will take place in Eastbourne which is a clean beach. If you get a chance to swim in the sea before the race it would really help you to get used to the conditions. If not you may be able to do so in a local lake swim. “
He also gave us some expert tips that will improve your training:
- Sea swimming can be choppy and therefore mess up your rhythm – try to breathe when you know the wave is just passing you
- You will be wearing a wetsuit so your legs will be more buoyant and you won’t need to kick so hard
- You may not be able to see all buoys so you will need to get your bearings from other swimmers or by using markers on the land or sea (i.e. the pier)
Gary has also helped us to create a 4-week open sea swimming training plan ideal for anyone taking part in the Big Sea Swim or a similar open water event. With his advice on tackling an open sea swim Heather says she feels fully prepared to meet the challenge of the race and is excited about the day!
Find out more about the Big Sea Swim on MCS’s website here. Turtle Mat is Gold Sponsor of the event and wishes everyone the best of luck on the day! If you would like to support Heather in her challenge, visit her sponsorship page.
Images courtesy of MCS
The English countryside is something we at Turtle Mat love to celebrate and where could be considered more quintessentially “English” than the Cotswolds? In fact, Turtle Towers is perfectly positioned in the centre of the Cotswolds, so it is a region not only close to our hearts, but right on our doorstep.
Summer in the Cotswolds is a season of exploration, celebration and appreciation. Following on from our Outdoor Events Guide for Summer, read on for our top pick of music festivals in Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds over the coming months as well as some insider tips for each.
Longborough Festival Opera
Date: various between 24 June – 26July 2014
Where: Longborough, Moreton-in-Marsh
Longborough Festival Opera is set in beautiful country house surroundings with sweeping views of the Cotswolds. It is the perfect place for both seasoned opera-goers and for first-timers to experience their first opera; the highly acclaimed performances and elegant surroundings make for a great summer experience. In 2014, expect performances of Tosca and Barber of Seville. Tosca is known for its high drama while Barber of Seville is a more light-hearted romp.
Insider tip: Arrive early to relax in the lovely surroundings prior to a performance. There is a dining interval where you can bring your own picnic and sit in the grounds or the venue offers a range of catered options. All catered options must be arranged in advance, so call ahead if you are interested.
While the opera itself is indoors, do look at the weather forecast as while they can guarantee a lovely performance, they can’t guarantee lovely weather! Stilettoes and high heeled shoes are best avoided due to the uneven ground of the gardens at Longborough.
Cheltenham Music Festival
Date: 2 – 13 July 2014
Where: Across Cheltenham
The Cheltenham Music Festival serves up an array of classical music performances, from contemporary composers to performances of well-loved pieces. Over sixty events take place during the twelve day festival, with the programme also featuring workshops, film screenings and theatre.
Insider tip: This year marks the 70th year of the Cheltenham Music Festival. To celebrate the festival will feature Town Hall Festival Proms. The Proms will feature some of the world’s hottest classical music stars, including violinist Nicola Benedetti, so be sure to check out these shows if you are at the festival.
Cotswold Beer Festival 2014
Date: 18 to 20 July 2014
Where: near Winchcombe
Though not strictly a music festival, live music is almost as much a part of the event as the beer. Acoustic, brass and jazz music all feature over the course of the weekend festivities alongside Morris dancers, plenty of food, beer, and cider.
Insider tip: Come suitably clad (according to the weather) for outdoor drinking, as it gets crowded inside the Tithe Barn.
And, for someone new to drinking ale: Start at the low strength beers and work your way up to the stronger ones!
Date: 25 July – 3 August
Where: Guiting Power
Guiting Festival is set in the delightful village of Guiting Power, in the village hall, or on the playing field for the outdoor concerts. Having just 140 seats in front and 40 behind the stage, the hall provides a thoroughly intimate atmosphere that is hard to imitate with many summer festivals. Being in its 44th year, the Festival has built up a strong band of loyal supporters, some from as far away as the U.S.A.
The Festival is a registered charity and virtually all the effort required to run it comes from volunteers, with tremendous support for it coming from long-standing sponsors and donors, which allows ticket prices to be kept affordable. Primarily a festival of classical music although there is always one indoor and one outdoor jazz concert and this year an outdoor folk concert has also been added.
Insider tip: If the forecast is good some bring picnics, having a first course before the concert and the rest in the interval. Or if you are quick on the draw there are also very small but reasonably priced post-concert suppers to round off the evening, primarily for musicians and sponsors, laid on at the nearby “Old Vicarage”. You may also want to bring a cushion to supplement those provided for the hard village chairs.
Are you attending any music festivals this summer? Let us know your top picks in the comments below or over on Twitter!
Helpful hints on training your puppy
With the arrival of a new dog here at Turtle Towers, Lilly the Labrador, and the recent launch of our Kennel Club Collection, our thoughts have turned to puppy training – so we’ve put together a guide of our training tips for you and your dog:
- Consistency and assertiveness is key when training your new dog. It’s important that all members of the family use the same commands and calls as well as tone of voice so that your puppy does not get confused about what you are trying to achieve. Make sure only one person is giving the command at one time so that again it’s clear to your pup what the message is
- Persistence is important and training should occur in regular sessions but keep the sessions short, sticking to one command only and don’t try to train your dog when they are tired, as their attention spans will be shorter
- Make training fun – there are some wonderful toys out there to make learning fun for you and your dog. Swell Pets offer a great selection of training aids from whistles, treat dispensers, treats and training leads to help you on your way
- Talking of treats, reward good behaviour at random and don’t always rely on treats otherwise your dog will only behave when there is food offered or may act up if it’s not forthcoming. Remember a reward could be a play or a cuddle
- Expose your puppy to lots of sights and sounds in small doses early on, so they know what to expect and are comfortable in social situations; whether that be familiarising themselves with the postman, children, other dogs or in the case of ‘turtle’ dog Tilly the dreaded grooming brush!
- Research – make use of all the wonderful resources at your fingertips online, via your vet and through friends with dogs who will have experienced it all before and will have some handy techniques
- Finally, relax, be confident and enjoy training, as it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to bond with your four legged friend
For further information on training your puppy, our partner The Kennel Club has a number of useful training guides.
FOLLOW THESE HANDY HINTS AND TIPS TO GET THE BEST PERFORMANCE FROM YOUR TURTLE MAT FOR YEARS TO COME…
1. Lift and launder your Turtle Mats regularly – washing helps to separate and soften the cotton pile ensuring maximum absorbency. Not only that, but lifting your mat helps to prevent a ‘picture frame’ effect on your floor, where it appears as though there is a shadow around the mat from dust settling at its edges.
2. Avoid using fabric conditioner when washing – fabric conditioner diminishes the mat’s dirt trapping capabilities. Turtle Mats love a colour kind detergent without optimal brighteners, such as Turtle Mat Care, which is great value for everyday washing too.
3. Vary how you fold your mat into the washing machine – a gently rolled fold is best to ease your mat into the washing machine and minimise pressure on the folded points; varying where and how you fold for washing also puts less stress on these areas too and will ensure your mat lasts well.
4. After washing, tumble-dry on a low heat setting – to fluff up the pile of your mat so it is ready to stop dirt in its tracks. Alternatively and better for the environment, let your Turtle Mat dry naturally and lift the pile by giving it a quick vacuum or stiff brush once dry.
5. Give your mat a quick refresh - only have 5 minutes until your guests arrive? Give your mat a quick vacuum or brush to get it looking its best and to prepare for any muddy footprints.
Let us know if you have any tips for keeping your mat in top shape.
It looks like Summer has finally arrived in Britain and people are starting to venture out and look for great things to do at the weekend and on bank holidays. We’ve put together a guide of six exciting events happening in the Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire region this summer, just to whet your appetite!
The Blenheim Palace Flower Show
20-22nd June 2014
Oxfordshire OX20 1PP
The Blenheim Palace Flower Show is packed with delightful attractions and entertainment to ensure your family has a wonderful day out including the giant ‘Marlborough’ hedge maze, majestic butterflies in the tropical butterfly house, arts, crafts and pottery decoration in the ‘Pottering About’ studio and wonderful food in The Pleasure Gardens Deli.
The stunning 25,000 sq.ft Grand Floral Pavilion forms the main centrepiece of the show.
Playing host to a selection of the UK’s finest nurseries, the Grand Floral Marquee is the perfect place to speak to the experts, buy your quality flowers and admire the best of British Gardening!
Saturday July 5th 12 – 9pm
Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham
Midsummer Fiesta returns in 2014 for another day showcasing the fantastic talents of the diverse communities of Cheltenham.
The Midsummer Fiesta celebrates the diverse communities and talents of Cheltenham, providing charities, local organisations, small businesses and performers with a platform to showcase themselves; and families and neighbours in the borough a free day out to enjoy together
With a multitude of activities from charity stalls to music and dance this is a day for everyone in Cheltenham to enjoy.
The Cotswold Show and Food Festival
Saturday 5th July & Sunday 6th July 2014
9.00am to 6.00pm
The Cotswold Show and Food Festival is a fun-packed weekend for all ages promising a real countryside experience. It’s an exciting mix of arena attractions, daredevil activities for children and a new food festival with 80 producers showcasing the very best products from The Cotswolds, the West Country and further afield.
The Show takes place in Cirencester Park on the outskirts of Cirencester and brings the country to the town with Living Working Countryside experiences mixed with a shopping village of over 100 stands and have-a-go activities for children and adults.
The Stroud District Horticultural and Agricultural Show
Saturday 19th July 2014
The Stroud Show
Stratford Park, Stroud
The Stroud District Horticultural & Agricultural Show (the Stroud Show) is steeped in local tradition.
Started in Victorian times, the show demonstrates local skills, crafts, and produce from across the region, from farming, pets, flowers and fruits to handicrafts, photography and art.
The show is a fine example of a traditional and proper family day out – there’s something for everyone! When you come to the show, you will discover children’s rides, vintage vehicles, brass bands, trade and charity stalls, a beer tent and locally produced food.
Winchcombe Country Show
25th August 2014
Winchcombe Senior School Field
The Show appeals to locals and visitors of all ages with something for everyone! From Punch & Judy to Morris dancing, bouncy castle, dress the Mummy, children’s Go Karts, fortune teller, street entertainers, face painting, children’s tattoos and raffle with fabulous prizes. The star attraction this year is ‘The Sheep Show’ – watch the sheep dance to music and Steve shear his sheep!
Tetbury Food and Drink Festival
17th – 21st September 2014
Tetbury Food and Drink Festival been running since 2007 – the five-day celebration of food and drink as part of the Tetbury Food and Drink Festival in the heart of the Cotswolds, when fabulous artisans will be visiting with a wide range of food and drink and hotels and restaurants will be offering the best of local, seasonal produce.
To make the most of the Festival – Join in – get along to the tours, come and see us and enjoy good food in a variety of settings!
Everyone here at ‘Turtle Towers’ is over the moon and feeling very proud this week as our stand at Chelsea Flower Show 2014 scooped a coveted 4 gold star award on Tuesday. A feat made even more impressive with only a handful of the 250 trade stands at the show achieving 4 or 5 star recognition.
The stand was planted in a cheery blend of late spring colours – yellow, white and blue to tone with the soft yellow shade of our shed this year (see full plant list below). Subtle bird and cloud images also adorn the stand reflecting our latest catalogue; with a highlight being the bird images surrounding the bird-box (look out for it if you’re visiting the show).
We are also lucky enough this year to be neighbours to two very well-deserving Gold medal show gardens ‘No Mans Land’ for ABF The Soldiers Charity and The Homebase Garden – ‘Time to Reflect’, in association with Alzheimer’s Society. Both gardens share a naturalistic approach to planting and working with natural textures and features and we feel very lucky to have seen the final touches being put to these by the hardworking teams.
If you’re visiting the show over the next few days you can find us on Eastern Avenue stand 79 – please pop along and say hello and share your Chelsea 2014 images with us via Facebook and Twitter.
Our plant list in full:
Aquilegia Spring Magic White
Aquilegia Spring Magic Yellow
Argyrenthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’
Bidens Compact Yellow
Cosmos Sonata White
Dahlia Happy Days
Delphinium Pac. Blue Bird
Geranium Johnsons Blue
Geranium macr. White Ness
Iris sibirica ‘Summer Sky’
Lychnis flos-cuculi White Robin
Nepeta Walkers Low
Matthiola incana Pillow Talk
Phlox sub. Bavaria
Strawberry Red Gauntlet
Veronica Tissington White
Polemonium Bressingham Purple
Please help us, help the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), to spread the word about World Turtle Day tomorrow – Friday 23 May and encourage people to find out more about these amazing creatures.
The MCS works tirelessly to protect our seas, shores and wildlife. It is campaigning to highlight the ‘world of turtles’ and everything about these fascinating endangered reptiles ahead of World Turtle Day. All week the MCS is celebrating turtles with an online selection of turtle-related fun and activities together with information on the life of a marine turtle and how to protect them.
We’ve been proudly supporting the Marine Conservation Society for a number of years and to mark our 20th anniversary of being in business will be getting involved in World Turtle Day too. We will be adopting 20 turtles on behalf of 20 customers who buy a Turtle Mat via www.turtlemat.co.uk on World Turtle Day (23 May 2014). We’ll be choosing the lucky recipients at random next week.
To find out more about the MCS’ Adopt a Turtle scheme and how you can help please visit MCS’s Adopt A Turtle page here.