Walkies! Our Favourite Devon Walks (Ad)

Walkies with Tesco Bank Pete and Betty are Working Cocker Spaniels so they live for the great outdoors

As soon as the ‘w’ word is mentioned, often the second I even think it, I’m underneath a spaniel with her head cocked to one side, eyes boring into mine until I reach for the leads and tug on my wellies.

Living in Devon, there are no shortage of places for us to go full of new sniffs and things to roll in, Tesco Bank asked us to share a couple of our favourites for you and your furry friend.

Gallows Gate to Cockington
Parking the car at Gallows Gate -complete with its grisly history-and ‘pawsing’ to take in the view, we follow the gravelled path through the fields. Uphill, down dale and completely car free, P & B love rampaging through the meadows and orchards on our way down to Cockington Country Park. Cockington is incredibly picturesque with its beautiful thatched cottages and incredibly dog friendly, right down to the local craft studios almost all of which welcome your pooch (you might want to think twice before taking your spaniel into a glass blowing studio though. It’ll take a year or two off your life, trust me). There are also several dog friendly tea rooms and a decent pooch friendly pub to stop off at before heading back up hill; we’ve enjoyed many a cider and bowl of chips by the fire there. Walkies with Tesco Bank Gallows Gate to CockingtonGallows Gate to CockingtonParke – National Trust

Pete and Betty need a lot of stimulation and do get bored of the same walks on repeat so we try to go a bit further afield for our weekend walkies. One of our favourite longer adventures is around the National Trust grounds at Parke. Parke is surrounded by acres of woodland to snuffle our way through and every Saturday morning they host a pooch friendly Park Run. Choosing a different trail each time, we stomp our way through the trees, never failing to stop off for a swim in the river at the end.

When you’re outdoors as much as I am, you learn pretty fast where the good food and drinks are – Parke also boasts the award winning (and dog friendly) Home Park Café which has one of the best pourers I’ve come across anywhere. Bold statement.Walkies with Tesco BankWalkies with Tesco BankWalkies with Tesco BankWalkies with Tesco Bank

Mine are two of the most energetic dogs there are, whenever we leave the house Betty is off her lead like a bullet. Walking with her is a lot like being in an episode of Lost – look for the weirdly rustling long grass and trees and you’re sure to find a spaniel burrowing underneath. It’s incredibly reassuring to know we’re insured up to the eyeballs should she get herself in a spot of bother or pick a fight with a wrong ‘un and we need to call in the Super Vet.Gallows Gate to CockingtonRegular long walks are just a small part of keeping these crazy spaniels entertained; it’s a full-time job (you know, on top of my actual full time job and trying to run a house and a life and keep teenagers alive and all).  If you’re thinking about getting a dog and a spaniel is on your list, it’s important to remember that they need a lot of mental stimulation too. I am constantly inventing new games and trying to teach these dogs new tricks to help them break a mental sweat when we’re not out exploring the undergrowth and wallowing in muddy puddles.

If you want to find out more about the characteristics and care needs for a whole range of dog breeds, Tesco Bank have some super helpful breed profiles. You can find out all kinds about everything from Working Cockers like Pete or Betts to the glorious German Shepherd (Ben, one of the first dogs we ever had, was a German Shepherd and he was SUCH a good boy) to the bonkers Beagle.

Whatever your canine intentions, do your research* before you bring your fur buddy home.  And DO NOT forget the insurance, fingers crossed you’ll never need it but you can’t put a price on that peace of mind.

*Or just while away a few house cooing over all the puppers if you’re a rampant dog botherer like me.

This post was written in collaboration with Tesco Bank. All pooch spam, words and opinions are mine and mine alone.

Walkies with Tesco Bank


Betty’s Week Off

wonderful wednesday thirty threeOh haaaai!

Mum left her laptop unattended again and I do not let a lack of opposable thumbs stop me doing ANYTHING (that sounded a bit sinister).

Mum thought you’d want to hear about our week off but she’d only tell you the boring bits about shit she got from Ikea (but was it dog toys though? Actually it was a little bit dog toys, she cannot help herself) and that cake she made that we couldn’t even eat so here’s what you really need to know about our week:

imageEvery single day I barked at a tree. I think I managed all the trees in town. It’s my job innit? Sometimes the birds aren’t even in the trees but I don’t want them to get bolshy and flap back across, feathery little gits. The ones in our garden are getting way too brave, I practiced my high pitched woofing this week too to get rid of them. Works best at 6 in the morning, they don’t expect it.

We spent one sunny day on the moors.  Mum loves the moors and I found THE BEST juicy cow pat to roll in so no-one could smell me coming. I might be a genius: the birds just think I’m a stinky cow and then BOOM! Here’s Betty! Works every time.  Mum had a little freak out about me getting into her car afterwards but now no-one can smell her coming either. You’re welcome ma.

DSC_0795Mum took us to the beach too. The beach is mine and Pete’s favourite. Actually I’m quite the swimmer, like Michael Phelps’ tiny hairy twin.  Wait, he doesn’t already have a twin does he? Awks. I woofed at the seagulls, dug all the sand up and saved mums’ life. For reals though. I think she wanted me to swim with her but she went in well deep, up to her actual boobs. I don’t go in that far so I cleared my throat and howled til she got back out. All she said was ‘shush’. What. A. Moron. A little bit of gratitude wouldn’t go amiss.

wonderful wednesday fifteenAnd best of all we snoozed.  Man did we snooze. I like to play it cool with mum, I don’t want her getting all complacent and smushy and thinking I like her but sometimes you just need a bit of mum time don’t you? Whilst she was snoozing on the sofa I hopped up and snuggled in on her chest. She pretended she was still asleep but I’m pretty sure I saw her cry a tiny movie tear  about it, loser.

So, yeah, best week off ever. How’s yours been?

Peace out, bitches.

Wonderful Wednesday Twenty SevenPost in collaboration with the RSPCA.  Betty and Pete are a demented but non-negotiable part of our family. Like all other necessities (the TV, the husband, the GoPro) insurance is a must to cover any eventuality. More Than and the RSPCA offer insurance for your furry friend from as little as £8 per month. You can spend the money you save on dog treats.

All unhealthy relationships with dogs my own. As always if I didn’t believe it I wouldn’t blog about it and ACTUALLY after they got in touch and I did a bit of homework we switched our insurance for Pete and Betts to the Classic cover. Much more comprehensive and easy to understand than we had before, worth a look.  


Shall we play?

playmoreFor a busy BUSY human being I work extra hard not to short change my spaniels. So when the good folk at More Than asked me to take part in their Playmore Pledge – promising to play with my puppies for an extra 15 minutes a day – my first reaction was of course to snigger followed quickly by a ‘pfft, easy’. Not so much.

The whole thing reminded me of a conversation with a friend not that long ago, I might have told you about it (I can be a bit repetitive), about how dogs really have just three things in their lives: eating, sleeping and their relationships with the humans they own and as responsible pet owners it’s really your/my/our responsibility to make each of those things as great as they can be. Whether that’s putting a little time and effort into researching what you’re feeding them, buying (or making) the best bed you can afford to or rolling about on the floor with then every chance you get. In light of that, whilst on the surface of it I give my spaniels a lot of my time, in reality the busyness of my life means that I’m probably not always 100% present in the playing moment – I might chuck a ball in the garden and dash back in to stir the dinner or play one handed tug so I can check my emails on the side. It’s probably not all that satisfying for them.

playmoreSo, my personal playmore pledge was to spend at least 15 minutes each day giving every last drop of my attention to those fur faces. For a whole week, armed with a bundle of new toys courtesy of MoreThan, we played our pants off.

Some things I noticed:

playmoreBetty Likes Me More
She’s the husband’s dog through and through, wherever he is she is. She’ll only give me the time of day when he’s nowhere to be seen. It cuts deep. By the end of our week of committed playtime my bond with Betts was stronger, she voluntarily came and stuck her tongue in my mouth whilst I was yawning, the ultimate seal of approval. She was snugglier, more loving and I swear she didn’t give me quite as horrific stink eye when I dared smooch the husband that one time.

They Snoozed
MoreThan also sent us a Whistl, a bit like a canine fitbit. You attach it to the dogs collar, download and app and monitor their activity. In the office for the morning, I expected them to be climbing the walls, not so. When I wasn’t at home with them, they snoozed, clearly recouping for our next playdate. There were a couple of spikes in activity which I’m almost certain were them hollering at a magpie who has the nerve to land in our garden each day.

playmoreIt Compounded

15 minutes a day quickly turned into 20, 30, 40, 50. Turns out spaniel playtime is tip top procrastination. It’s also really good fun, 15 minutes passes by in a flash so we just carried on.

I Felt Better
It’s not news that switching off and playing with your pets is good for your soul but it’s easy to forget in the vastness of life. I ended the week with a much longer fuse and with significantly reduced stress levels.

playmoreThey Learnt
Spaniels are super smart but SUPER energetic, it can be hard to get them to focus when they’ve got a shed load of energy to burn off. Playing together in the garden helped wear them out just the right amount to give me their attention as opposed to a trek on the moors after which they just want to snooze. Playing each day also helped me to rank their toys (stick with me, I’m not insane). Knowing which of their playthings is their favourite makes it much easier to teach them new things – you can better choose an appropriate reward for getting the trick or behaviour right. From now on I shall only answer to Cesar Milan. Or Lassie.

playmoreThe whole week reminded me of the importance of switching off from my own life and playing with intent and mindfulness. Even better (and infinitely more tangible) for every pledge to #playmore made on their website, MoreThan will donate £1 to the RSPCA – money that will go towards building a sensory garden for rescued pooches *sniff*. Make your pledge, share your pictures on Facebook and Twitter using the #playmore hashtag and for the love of dog tag me so I can perve on your pups.

For more pooch spam come follow Pete and Betty on Instagram, yep, they don’t let a lack of opposable thumbs hold them back.

MoreThan sent Pete and Betts some toys to get us started and a Whistl to keep an unhealthily beady eye on then when I wasn’t home. All evangelising about being more mindful in your playtime is mine.


Wonderful Wednesday Twenty-One

Wonderful Wednesday Twenty-OneA very merry mid-week to you, shall we do a small awkward group hug for making it this far? Come on, bring it in close. You’re squeezing a bit hard, yeah…it’s gone on too long now. Are you feeling weird yet?

This week has again been punctuated by the loveliest of pottering weekends, doing a few little chores in the garden, starting to sort through a decade of kitchen detritus before it’s ripped out and refashioned next month. Bear with whilst I type the most middle class sentence I’ve ever uttered: a friend asked if she could borrow some mixed spice, the only one I could find expired in 2013. We moved into our new house in 2014 – why did I bring out of date mixed spice with me? What kind of person does that? One with a rotten soul.

And on that bright and shiny note, here’s some bright and shiny from the week.

ONE Whilst out on our Saturday morning stomp the hounds and I stumbled across a community garden, bunches upon bunches of freshly picked rhubarb and an honesty box. I filled my backpack (yep, I carried a backpack, what of it? As I stuffed it full of rhubarb sticks I had flashes of Rachel Greene going to ‘find some stuff to put in my back pack’). I’ve rustled up some compote for my porridge and am feeling a bit zen and adult and not unlike the delectable Sally Tangle.

TWO Step-child number one sent me this adorable little filmy thing she made of our adventure to the moors last week, how cute is she?? The video is lovely, the fact that she wanted to make something like that of our teeny tiny Saturday morning walk made me want to weep a small tear of joy. She told me I could share it with you as long as I also plugged her instagram so here it is ri_meredith, if you like pompoms she’s your gal. She takes a mean picture too.

saturday mornings on dartmoor ?#bluebells #gopro @michelleoutsidelondon

A video posted by ri ? (@ri_meredith) on

THREE Ripen in the bowl. I think I might be a delayed gratification kinda woman, I do love watching whatever I’ve managed to grab from the supermarket reach peak edible in my little fruit bowl. This week we did more pears and some nectarines, rocking and a rollin.

FOUR Being out and about. I made a semi-joke on Instagram recently (get me, social media bants) that every picture I post there makes me look so much more outdoorsy than I actually am. It’s not strictly true, when the weather is as b-e-a-utiful as it has been and the perfect storm of hayfever conditions isn’t upon us, I love some great outdoors.

Wonderful Wednesday Twenty-One

FIVE Reminiscing. I finally got to writing some of my holiday adventures – coming soon to a mobile device or old school desk top near you in the next few weeks. Sorting through the photos and remembering just how much we saw and did was a cracking way to while away an evening in the garden.

SIX The actual sea. We took the shiny new GoPro to the beach on Sunday I planned badly which is why I ended up in the sea up to my thighs wearing jeans. Not my finest moment but splashing about in the water with les pooches was pretty spectacular. Also, when I got home I felt the need to try to get into my wetsuit. A wetsuit we bought on one of our first holidays together in TWO THOUSAND AND EIGHT. These are some things that happened:

  • Punched myself in the face mid yank.
  • Husband also punched me in the face (says he was trying to help)
  • Oozing. Back. Fat. Note to self: never EVER stop yanking half way.
  • Pete hung his head in shame.

But it went all the way onto my body! This is very exciting news, see my excited face. Cue so very many more trips to the sea.

wonderful wednesday twenty one

(It’s very important that I now only go to things that are wetsuit friendly, I’ve been in the thing since Sunday, not sure it’s ever coming off).

And that’s that. How’s your week? What’s the bestest of best bits?

Gorgeous Sally is responsible for all this joy sharing so head on over to Sally Tangle for more jolliness than you can handle. And don’t forget the WW posse Kate, Helen, JoCat and Emma – that lovely little bunch of chaffinches are full of the merriment. 


Wonderful Wednesday Eighteen

Wonderful Wednesday Eighteen*must not start the first post back quoting Eminem like a knob. Must not start the first post back quoting Eminem like a knob*

Guess who’s ba…. JOKES.

I had huge scheduling plans for whilst I was away but yeah, that didn’t happen. After the schmalzty Wonderful Wednesday two weeks ago I set my phasers to procrastinate and wrote not a single word until on the plane home when I needed a distraction from the elbow wielding fiend sitting next to me. Dude, Alitalia economy is not the place for your broadsheet. << that right there might be the best thing I’ve ever written.

Not much blog reading happened either ($20 a day to have wifi on the boat’ll do that to you) and switching off for two weeks was a ruddy brilliant decision, I’m back all bright and shiny and with creative juices seeping out of every orifice. Graphic.

Switching off for so long does however mean that I’ve got this one day before going back to work to read EVERYTHING, decipher my scribbled drafts and wash my smalls whilst navigating the clingiest spaniels that ever there were. I’ll tell you all about the holiday over the next few weeks so here’s some non-holiday related wonderful to ease me back in.

Bargainous Wellies. To break up the trek from Devon to London we stopped off at Clark’s Village in Somerset on the hunt for some holiday treats *insert appropriately rock ‘n’ roll GIF here* .  I came away with two pairs of Joules wellies for twenty squid. BOOM! It hurt my heart to leave them in the car at the airport for two weeks.

24 Hour Costa. The super early flight to Rome meant a stupidly early wake up call, cue tears of joy at the 24 hour Costa to get things moving. That guy, Costa guy, was a frickin hero. I’m considering renaming Pete to honor him.

Over the Alps. It felt pretty damn special to fly over the Alps in the early morning sunshine, they looked spectacular under their little wispy cloud hats. A timely reminder that altering your perspective can make the whole world look different. I feel that this should end with some kind of arthouse clicking. Feel free to indulge me.

Wonderful Wednesday EighteenSpaniel Greetings. Two weeks was the longest I’ve spent away from those fur faces and it felt pretty hideously weird. Getting home to their excited little waggly bums was the absolute best, it definitely eased the pain of the end of the holiday. We’ve done nothing but smooch and follow each other around ever since. Have I said too much?

Dormi Bien. In a moment of ridiculous adulting we traded in our decade old matress for a shiny new one which was delivered this morning.  A matress un-sullied by spaniels and with something memory foamy inside? Come to mama. I tried to get it up the stairs myself…look out for that in next weeks’ vlog.

Vlogs. Yep, a better idea would have been to start vlogging whilst on some exciting travels. Instead I dicked about for two weeks and today managed to film myself trying to hoof a matress around and shaving a spaniel. I know what the people want. I dilly dally and overthink it every single time but actually the process of capturing life’s little moments on video is fun. I LOVE the words but it’s nice to nudge ones creative brain in new directions and nothing says ‘look how creative I am’ than a bit of video of me hyperventilating on the stairs having put my back out.

What’s made your week wonderful? Let’s catch up.

The delectable Sally is responsible for all this joy sharing so head on over to Sally Tangle for more jolliness than you can handle. And don’t forget the WW posse Kate, Helen, JoCat and Emma – that lovely little bunch of chaffinches are full of the merriment.