England holidays

Travel

City safari: overnight with wolves and monkeys in Bristol

A stay at a new wildlife centre offers families a mini safari experience – with monkeys, a night-time wolf expedition and breakfast with giraffes

Plus: More UK wildlife sanctuaries

It’s early evening and the gates to the wildlife park have been closed to the public. All is quiet, except for birdsong, the gentle rustling of wind in the trees and an occasional excited shriek from a gelada monkey. We (my six-year-old daughter Nell and husband Huw) are gathered around a fire pit along with four other families who are trying out Camp Baboon, a new night-time wildlife and bushcraft experience at the Wild Place Project, a satellite venture run by Bristol Zoo.

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Travel

Cycling the North York Moors – a galaxy on my doorstep

Looking for an adventure with a cosmic feel, our writer reckons a new cycling centre in the wonderfully named Great Fryup Dale will fit the bill

The best trips, I reckon, are those where you arrive home feeling like you’ve been to the other side of the cosmos. And the strange thing is that those trips don’t have to involve travelling very far – or remortgaging the house. I’m on a mission to see how close to home I can find such a trip. Not only that, but how cheaply it can be done, and how easily arranged. When someone mentions Fryup Dale, my “other end of the cosmos” radar lights up. It is on the North York Moors, has an irresistible name, and no one I know has heard of it. I leap into action.

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Travel

Suffragette cities: events to mark the centenary of voting rights for women

The 100th anniversary of votes for (some) women heralds a year of plays, parades and talks and includes the Museum of London’s suffragette movement exhibition

The 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 is to be marked on 6 February. It was legislation that enabled all men and some women over the age of 30 to vote for the first time and paved the way for universal suffrage 10 years later.

Related: 100 women on 100 years of voting

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Travel

Take the kids to … the Ragged School Museum, east London

Once a school that provided a free education for destitute children, a row of 19th century warehouses is now a free museum giving visitors a chance to step back in time – and into the classroom – for a strict Victorian lesson

In 1877 Dr Thomas Barnardo opened the Copperfield Road Free School, the largest of three ragged schools (charitable institutions that offered the poorest children a free education) in a row of three warehouses on Regent’s Canal in Tower Hamlets. Now an underfunded, independent museum (opened in 1990), a small exhibition offers an insight into how tough life was in east London in the late 1800s, but the highlight is one of the original classrooms where visitors can attend a lesson led by an actor in Victorian costume. The museum is in the second phase of applying for a lottery grant, which will allow it to make vital repairs to the largest of the three warehouses, though the aim is to retain the authentic atmosphere of the building.

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Travel

The appy wanderer: smartphone walking in our cities’ green spaces

Go Jauntly is a new walking app that uses photographs rather than maps to guide users on routes around woods and byways. We put it to the test in south London

The business of social walking is setting off into a largely unexplored area of navigation. A community-based group in the wooded hinterlands of south-east London has developed a system in which the conventional map of coloured lines and contour patterns has been replaced by photographs of the way ahead.

An app created for the purpose leads walkers from starting point to finish by means of a chain of photos, each image taking over from where the previous one leaves off. This means that in a stroll of, say, two hours, there will be between 20 and 40 guiding pictures. The group is called Go Jauntly and it is run by Hana Sutch and Steve Johnson, both of whom have careers in interactive design; more importantly, both have young children, whose energy and curiosity they wanted to channel into an exploration of the outdoor world.

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Travel

Walk the North Kent Marshes – while the solitude lasts

The Hoo peninsula between the Thames and Medway estuaries has a rough-edged beauty, a landscape rich in history and a thriving bird reserve – but this sanctuary near London is under threat from development

Hope and loss have begun to bleed into each other, for me, out here on the North Kent Marshes. I spent a year walking this landscape for my book, On the Marshes, rediscovering its beauty and learning about its fragility. So now I take people out walking and just hope they get it.

The marshes are not an obvious beauty: it is a rough-edged love, full of derelict industry, broken barges, wide bays of mud; icy with blue light and shrill with redshanks’ calls in the winter, fields and scrub bubbling over with nightingales in the spring – and you never know if others will understand its appeal.

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Travel

Top 10 last-minute Christmas and New Year activities in London

The run-up to the big day doesn’t have to be all shopping malls and panto: we pick cool, offbeat and cultural events and gift-buying opportunities across the capital

It’s magical enough at the best of times but for Christmas Kew Gardens becomes a magical wonderland of light – from a flickering fire garden to laser beams shooting from the iconic Palm House. A trail through the grounds is lit by over a million lights, and the North Pole village is home to Santa and his elves, and plenty of toasted marshmallow.
• Until 1 Jan 2018, adult £18.50, child £12, kew.org/christmas

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Travel

The joy of wild winter swimming

One brave swimmer is taking a dip a day throughout December in the rivers of Surrey and Berkshire, and finding ‘the nip of the water and the zing of a swim is quite addictive’

• For a calendar of festive swims in the UK visit outdoorswimmingsociety.com

My toes sink into the mud at the edge of the river Mole at the bottom of Box Hill in Surrey. The water immediately cools my feet beyond feeling. I had hoped for a quirky swim here. Normally there are stepping stones that cross the river at this point, and I pictured myself skipping over them in my swimsuit. But the reality is quite different. After significant rain and snow melt, I should have known the river would be higher than usual. The spot – tranquil in all the photos I had looked at – was now a rushing, fast flowing river. And the colour of chocolate milkshake, rather than the clear water I’d pictured. Oh well, I have swum in worse.

I step gingerly into the unknown. I find the stepping stones under my feet and try to walk across them, but with the strong current against my legs it’s no use, so I just get in. I fumble into the water with zero grace. The water feels silty and leaves brush against my body rushing downstream.

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Travel

Take the kids to … Lappa Valley Steam Railway, Cornwall

With miniature steam engines, a special Santa train, a lake and maze, this charming small attraction near Newquay is a great day out for families with younger children

Board a narrow-gauge (15in) vintage steam train and weave through leafy woodland to the site of historic East Wheal Rose mine. Once there, paddle a canoe or giant swan around the boating lake, explore gentle nature trails or the wooden fortress, play crazy golf and ride more tiny rare trains, such as the 7¼-inch woodland railway, with sit-astride benches.

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Travel

The Boot Inn, Repton, Derbyshire: hotel review

Ale fans will love this cosy, stylish pub with its own brewery in the heart of a curious little village – and the food’s quite something, too

South Derbyshire may not have the Peak District, its literary associations and country houses, but in one area of history it thoroughly beats north Derbyshire – beer.

Think hoppy beers were invented in Hackney in 2008? Think again. In the 1800s, the south Derbyshire and Staffordshire borderlands, and Burton upon Trent in particular, were the global epicentre of beer innovation. Burton’s strong, heavily hopped India pale ales were a sensation, a story you can explore at its National Brewery Centre.

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Travel

Happy valley: a family gathering in the Yorkshire dales

With families spread far and wide, it’s good to get the gang together. Ruaridh Nicoll sticks a pin in the map, and ends up eating, drinking and walking around Malham

Bill Bryson once said of Malhamdale: “I won’t know for sure if it is the finest place there is until I have died and seen heaven (assuming they let me at least have a glance), but until that day comes, it will certainly do.” The much-loved travel writer was a local resident. He also talked of the “Malham wave”, where drivers would raise a finger in recognition when passing on the local roads.

As my brother and I pulled in one Friday in September after a long drive from London, we got the wave, only it wasn’t a friendly greeting a van driver gave us, but rather the finger.

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Music

The alt city guide to York

It’s time for the Romans and Vikings to make way for a new insurgency in the North Yorkshire jewel: a sparky, creative scene fuelled by innovative music, food and drink outlets

What images come to mind when you think of York? The Minster, steam engines, Romans and Vikings, a city resisting the 21st century? But look beyond that twee facade, outside York’s narrow medieval streets, and a very different city is asserting itself.

“It’s definitely getting more vibrant,” says Danielle Barge, editor of webzine Arts York. “In recent years, a lot of people have started independent projects: small theatre and film companies, artists’ studios, music promoters. People are almost in artistic rebellion. They’re taking it upon themselves to say, ‘if no one else is going to make it, we will’.”

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Travel

Toon and Tyne: Newcastle united … on a city walking tour

From the grandeur of Grey Street and Central station to the bridges over the Tyne, this walk takes in Newcastle’s fine Victorian architecture and industrial heritage

Just as the King Edward Bridge over the Tyne is about the most dramatic rail approach in the land, so the crossings visible down the gorge provide an equally impressive finale for the visiting walker. But first, there is the small matter of the city itself.

Don’t leave Newcastle Central station without taking in the iron majesty of the place. If you sense that you have arrived in one of the great industrial cathedrals of the 19th century, there is a reason. It was designed by John Dobson, the most renowned church architect of his day (in the north of England). Here, his nave-and-aisles format unfolds in a mighty eastwards curve to follow the course of the pre-existing railway lines. It is just as it was in August 1850, when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert formally opened it, though they were 13 years too early to catch the palatial neoclassical frontage of the portico.

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Travel

Take the kids … to Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, Cheshire

Jodrell Bank is famous for the monumental Lovell telescope – but alongside all the serious science there are plenty of fun activities and hands-on experiments to inspire kids

The Lovell telescope, centrepiece of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, which has dominated the Cheshire countryside since it was constructed in 1957, was listed as a UK candidate for Unesco world heritage site status this month. As well as the world’s first fully steerable radio telescope, Jodrell Bank is home to a science discovery centre and for the past two summers has hosted the Bluedot festival of electronic music.

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Travel

Fence Gate Lodge, near Burnley, Lancashire: hotel review

This inn on the edge of the Ribble Valley has long had a reputation for good food and drink. Now it’s added a glam 24-bedroom lodge across the road

When I arrive at Fence Gate Lodge, owner Kevin Berkins is busy with a tape measure on the staircase, checking the installation of a bespoke bannister. It is one of the finishing touches to the 24-bedroom addition to the creeper-clad Fence Gate Inn (50 metres away) in Fence, a village outside Burnley on the edge of the foodie Ribble Valley.

Such hands-on management is unusual in people who’ve been in the business for 35 years. Many owners get other people to check the stair rods, but that is not how Berkins rolls. He designed the Lodge himself, and from the Inn’s staggering collection of nearly 1,000 gins (including a 1947 Gilbey’s, the year of Berkins’ birth) to the Lodge’s punched-stone exterior (dimpled stones commonly used to build east Lancashire’s mills), everything bears his fingerprint. Berkins was originally a butcher, and Fence Gate Inn is renowned for its sausages, made at his other pub and deli, the Eagle at Barrow. (These excellent products were the highlight of the lodge’s creditable grilled breakfast.)

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Art

Beautiful places to visit in Cornwall – chosen by local artists

As Tate St Ives reopens with a £20m extension, six of Cornwall’s leading artists describe the spectacular and atmospheric landscapes that inspire them

The Island at St Ives is my place to go for contemplation. It’s the big hill overlooking the town, west of the Tate. In my pottery I like to explore new techniques a lot and things do go wrong. If you go for a walk, you can think – how do I solve that one?

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Travel

The alt city guide to Cambridge

Cambridge’s food, drink, music and arts scenes are thriving, with an underground ethic energised more by town than gown

You might imagine that in a university city as renowned as Cambridge, the student population is pivotal to its cultural life. “Not remotely,” says Cambridge-based arts journalist, Harry Sword: “It’s bizarre; they live a closeted existence. Cambridge University is a boiler room in terms of the amount of work they’re given, and they have sophisticated entertainment networks in each college so it’s a very self-contained world.

“People forget that over 100,000 people were born and live here, regardless of the university,” Swords adds. From the independent enclave of Mill Road to the annual (sponsor-free) Strawberry Fair music festival, a dedicated minority of those locals work doggedly to maintain the city’s bohemian edge.

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Travel

10 of the best railway stations in Britain

Simon Jenkins’ new book tells the history of Britain’s railways through the island’s 100 best stations. We pick 10 gems, from grand old York to a Highland outpost

Nowhere is British railway architecture so honoured as in Huddersfield, one of the few stations fit to rank with the great union terminuses of the continent. Sir John Betjeman declared it “the most splendid facade in England”. The main entrance presides over St George’s Square with a princely confidence, focus of what is a rare survivor of a north-country commercial town plan. Among the fountains stands a statue of Huddersfield’s son, Harold Wilson, looking as if anxious to catch a train.

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