Category: Journalism

Staycation holiday parks for Telegraph Travel

Summer holidays, eh?

Family holidays at home save on airport hell but they can be expensive and very weather dependent. We all want a weak in the sun, right?

But, with Brexit chaos ensuring that sterling continues to plummet faster than Theresa May’s credibility, families are looking to UK holiday parks for a non-Euro alternative closer to home.

So which to choose? Well, the Atkinsons [pictured above] have been test driving some of the alternatives to Centre Parcs over the last couple of months.

Our assignment took us from rural North Wales via a wooded Peak District to Butlins in Bognor Regis.

Here’s a flavour:

We spent a morning on the stony beach, skimming stones and collecting shells. A walk along the promenade revealed little shops with buckets and spades and cafes for candy floss and coffee. For someone brought up on seaside holidays in a North Wales, it felt gloriously nostalgic.

The three articles were published this week by Telegraph Travel and you can read all three in full here:

Why a mid-week break at Butlins is the easiest holiday you’ll take this year

The Dutch alternative to Center Parcs has arrived — but is it any good?

The budget alternative to Centre Parcs — but it’s not for softies

Have you got a favourite UK holiday park, or an alternative for a post-Brexit break? Please share your comments below.

Nation of Shopkeepers: Chester for the Daily Telegraph

I’m always on the look out for story ideas around Chester. My daughter spotted this antique doll shop and the interview with the owner was fascinating. This story first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

Mo Harding, owner, Dollectable, says:

“I was born in Cheshire and, after running a hotel in Manchester for years, we were looking for a new business based around my love of antique dolls.

I had always loved dolls but my parents told me I was too old for them when I was 12.

We found this Tudor townhouse in Chester, dating from 1621, in the early Eighties. Originally we wanted to make a doll museum upstairs but the building is Grade II listed and needs a lot of work.

As far as we know, it’s the last remaining shop of its kind in the UK.

Early days

I started collecting pre-1930s dolls when my husband, Steve, was working the antique fairs. I still remember my first one. Polly was a German doll from around 1900. She had a lovely face.

Sometimes you look at a doll’s face and it’s just like a painting.

The heyday of doll making was from the 1870 to 1900 with best dolls made in France and Germany. Most of the dolls in the shop are Victorian.

Children played with dolls differently in those days. They brought the dolls out on Sundays and girls learnt to sew by making clothes for them.

Prized possessions

Every doll in the shop has a story. Henrietta is wax doll with beautiful boned underwear; she belonged to a suffragette. We also have some rare items.

The twin French dolls from the 1870s, both with glazed china heads, are worth upwards of £2500 each. A Shirley Temple doll of the American child star, dating from 1934, is one of our few American dolls.

We have travelled the world to international doll fairs and auctions. When you find a rare doll, it’s still an incredible buzz.

I’d sell the house and the car rather than loose my dolls, both the stock for the shop and my private collection at home.

I’m still always searching for the ultimate doll. I’ve wanted a Schmidt, a French doll from around 1870. They would sell at auction for around £18,000.

Future plans

We hope my daughter will take the business forward eventually, maybe creating a website and taking us onto social media.

My granddaughter loves my Victorian doll houses, too. But there are no plans for retirement yet.

I still love decorating the window every Christmas with a themed display and half the fun of running the business is the community of like-minded people at the auctions.

For me, you are either a doll person or not. It’s a way of life.

A doll person would never dream of collecting teddy bears.

 

Liked this? Try also Move into top gear at Cars and Coffee Chester.

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Cannes Film Festival and Riviera for Telegraph Travel

Cannes. It’s getting to be a habit.

I’ve been three times on assignment in the past year and recently returned from another and very timely sojourn.

The reason? The Cannes International Film Festival opens tomorrow — May 17. This year marks 70 years of cinema heritage [mural pictured above].

I was there to report back on preparations for a feature in this weekend’s Telegraph Travel.

But, joining an escorted tour for a few days, I was also trying to put the glamour of the Riviera into context.

I explored some of the reports, spanning the French-Italian border, frequented by the British gentry long before the likes of Brigitte Bardot [pictured below] arrived with photographers in hot pursuit.

Casino Royale 

Here’s an extract from my first draft, based around a visit to Monte Carlo Casino. 

I’m not a natural high roller.

If I was Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, then I’d be sporting a freshly pressed tuxedo, sipping a martini, shaken not stirred of course, and nonchalantly placing all my chips on black 17.

In reality I’m budget Bond: a Ben Sherman shirt, sipping an espresso and observing the oligarchs at play from a safe distance.

Still, at least I can still admire the Belle Époque ceiling and renaissance frescos in the Europa gaming room of Monte Carlo Casino.

After all, I have paid 17 Euros just to walk inside.

Read more in Telegraph Travel this Saturday.

 

Into the woods: Family activity breaks for Telegraph Travel

Easter holidays then.

Our assignment — should we choose to accept it — was to test drive two new family activity holidays in the UK, based at holiday parks, for Telegraph Travel.

They both are, if you like, alternatives to Centre Parcs, aiming to open up the family activity break with different prices and facilities.

First up was Kingswood Camps and a visit to their facility in North Wales. The Colomendy Camp is located in the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB.

We’re just back from a weekend of caving, archery and woodland laser quest [pictured above]. That and, despite the rain, some family bonding on the night walk.

Next we’re off to try out the new park in the Peak District from the Dutch-owned Landal GreenParks group.

It’s one of two new parks in the UK — the other located in Northumberland.

Will two weekends away bring out our inner Bear Grylls? Read the full feature in May in Telegraph Travel to find out.