As well as seasonal sculpture shows in the gardens, the inside of Wyndcliffe Court has its own artistic endeavours. Throughout the winter months we have hosted a series of Art and Craft courses from painting to quilting; this week the Ballroom was transformed into a sculptors workshop, for Artist in residence Christine Baxter's Figure Sculpting Course. The popular course sees students learn to sculpt a third size model in a reclining pose, from life. The decorative Oak Ballroom provides an apt setting for such creative course, and students are free to explore the gardens and Christine's working studio during their tea and coffee breaks. Roaring fires, hearty 'sculptors' lunches, a beautiful model, abundance of clay and a lot of concentration are all key factors to this inspiring course! Christine teaches a traditional method of clay sculpting, and students will eventually cast their creations in cinema fondue - creating a lasting, stone sculpture suitable to display in their own gardens! Below is a gallery of the course and the impressive final sculptures made over the three day period...
Paddington Bear has been spotted throughout the UK in the last few months, touring the country with the help of Visit Britain. The campaign (in line with the highly anticipated release of his feature length film) encourages tourists to "See Britain through Paddington's eyes" You can imagine our delight when a tiny paw to the door was heard and the red booted bear himself arrived at Wyndcliffe Court.
He was treated to a tour of the gardens, practised being a sculpture and enjoyed his marmalade sandwiches in front of the fire...
view his full adventure on Facebook
Last Friday we were lucky enough to be invited to the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Associations Forum.
Held at Chepstow Racecourse, the event was a fascinating insight into the local and regional tourism industry, whilst providing the means to network with representatives and owners of some of the 350+ members of the association.
Whilst the races were cancelled due to poor weather and a waterlogged run, Chepstow Racecourse were obliging as ever and treated us to a private tour, delicious lunch and some live racing on the TV for our afternoon gambling fix..
The Wye Valley has been described as ‘the birth place of modern tourism’ and paired with the Forest of Dean is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with, not least because of the introduction of Maureen McAllister as Executive Director.
As the first cross border DMO (Destination Marketing Organisation) we were lucky to have input, support and guest speakers from both the English and Welsh tourism associations. After introductions from various members of the Racecourse Staff, including a history of the Racecourse, which spoke about the role of the Clay family- the same family who own Wyndcliffe Court, a peek inside the weighing room, and a walk in the sunshine back to the Silks Restaurant, we were treated to a series of talks from our guests, starting with the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean's Executive Director Maureen McAllister.
Maureen’s focus was on the future; The importance of communication and connectivity – a difficult issue in some of the more rural areas of the association which struggle with limited phone signal and slow internet connections.
The importance of group marketing was mentioned, and working as a team to promote the local area. We at Wyndcliffe have already adopted this approach with cross marketing between other local gardens to visit including Veddw, High Glanau and Dewstow. A recent request we made for local places to stay (now that we are starting to host functions and events!) was met with great enthusiasm and it has been wonderful as an introduction to some of the local B&B owners in the area. We are looking forward to working together with a variety of activities and other local attractions in the Dean Wye area. What about an Arts and Crafts day trip, including trip to Wyndcliffe Court, stroll around Taurus Crafts and a visit to potter Mary Rose Young's studio? Or perhaps a morning in the gardens with light lunch, followed by a afternoon creating your own piece of art at Hot Pot Pottery?
What sets this area aside, as Maureen emphasised, is its authentic personal touch, we are all very passionate about our small tourism businesses, may they be guest houses, vineyards, gardens or shops – and our ability to engage with visitors and each other is a very important aspect of it all.
Lady Penelope Cobham, the Chairwoman of Visit England talked About the importance of making the most of key dates and monopolising on events throughout the years. Sparking lots of ideas and inspiration. Her passionate approach to local tourism and evident, and her enthusiasm for the first ('of many') cross boarder tourism associations was exciting.
Manon Antoniazzi is our Cardiff based Chief executive of Visit Wales and reiterated the idea that the beautiful area we live and work in was in fact the starting point for the tourism industry. Poets and Artists were drawn to the area during the 18C for the beautiful landscapes, historic hospitality and serene atmosphere – the rest followed and have never stopped returning!
For Wales, tourism is an integral part of the Welsh economy and has recently become part of a designated growth sector, which sees Culture/Tourism and Sport combined in the hope of increasing tourism earnings by 10% by 2020.
We were treated to preview of both the English and Welsh Spring 2015 advertising campaigns (A powerful ‘Jerusalem’ themed exploration of the English Heritage, and the ever charming ‘Have you packed for Wales’ advert, revamped with a snazzy new soundtrack from Cardiff based Kizzy Crawford.)
Both with strong themes of exploration, culture and history – perfect for the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean which are saturated in all three.
Both campaigns are full of character, and optimism for the growth of tourism, and it was exciting to be treated to a preview before we saw them on TV the next week!
Our tourism association has recently received support to run a PR marketing campaign, with a London and Brecon Beacon bases PR Company AMA. Annabelle and Alex, representatives from AMA PR were present and also presented to the group on the strategies in place currently and the plans for the future of our campaign development. The presentation built on Penelope's ideas of keeping up to date with local events and national key dates.
Their ‘Passport free holiday’ campaign launched in direct response to the news reports on the delays in Passport renewals, was genius. Reacting to the news, with helpful, local and sometimes quirky solutions can be a fantastic marketing strategy which each of us needs to keep an eye out for. The marketing campaign lead by AMA has already created over 100 items of press coverage for local businesses and the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean as a local area which is a great feat. Their tight deadlines and last minute appeals for PR content is a indication of just how hard the company is working at getting the coverage our area deserves.
(We also picked up a very special bear shaped visitor who has been touring the UK.... blog post to follow...)
Wednesday morning we awoke to a dusting of snow! Transforming the gardens instantly into a cold blue winter wonderland.
With the crisp winter still with us, its hard to think to the summer! But of course garden preparation and planning is a never ending job which doesn't pause for bad weather! The Walled Kitchen Garden is beginning its second year, after a fruitful (and vegetable-ful) 2014.
With our abundance of woodland and surrounding trees, we were certainly not short of leafmould which had been decomposing in purpose built containers behind the scenes at the East of the gates. Leafmould is exactly what it sounds like, a mulchy composition of rotten, decomposed fallen autumnal leaves. It is a perfect soil conditioner which adds valuable nutrients; as a form of organic roughage, mulch can dramatically improve drainage and aeration of the soil. The mulch has been distributed over the cut flower beds, vegetable patches and borders, working to improve the soil as well as being a winter covering as the temperature drops below freezing. (For advice on how to make your own 'leaf heap', click here)
The vegetable patch is in a state of slumber, but I just had to mention the Chard! IN FULL FORCE! Amazing! By far the hardiest of all the vegetables, and one which is somewhat disregarded. We certainly think its worth a try, seeing as it has grown so well in the harsh winter conditions. The BBC Good Food website has some wonderful winter warmer recipes for chard, which pairs beautifully with meaty game, rich red wine sauces and soups. Like our delicious homegrown-Courgette and Lime cake in the summer, I wonder if we will incorporate the chard onto the menu this year?
A stir of excitement in the gardens, as a swarm of bees took residence in our Walled Kitchen Garden (the newly planted wild and cut flower area is certainly doing its job!) Much to the delight of the surrounding flowers, the bees decided to set up camp on the underside of the apple tree branch.
Of course as we are open to the public Friday-Sunday, we were unfortunately unable to let them stay. (although we hope they will come back to visit in the summer - just in smaller groups!) Thankfully our multi-talented cafe manger Sue, keeps bees in her spare time so came equipped to remove them and offered them a new home in a cosy new beehive!
The cut flower garden at Wyndcliffe Court is certainly coming along well, with an abundance of bright blooms giving the entire section of the walled kitchen garden a wild flower meadow feeling! The bees are certainly happy too!