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September 12th 2014
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WEDDING BELLS: A SPECIAL DAY AT THE MANOR HOTEL

New bride Emma shares her experience her special day at The Manor Hotel…

As we draw to the end of the wedding season, we were thrilled to be contacted by Howell Photography who recently snapped a very special day at our very own Manor Hotel! We absolutely fell in love with the photos (how beautiful is the bride?!) so decided to share the day with you all. The Laura Ashley Manor Elstree Hotel is situated in Elstree, Hertfordshire in 10 acres of gardens and natural woodland, all overlooking the Hertfordshire countryside and is a popular venue for brides to be! We caught up with newly married Emma who told us all about the big day and what it was like to have it at The Manor…

 

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Why did you get married at The Manor?

 

I fell in love with The Manor before it had even been refurbished after I saw it online. My husband told me not to commit to only one option and so we went to visit a few places, however as soon as I glimpsed the manor through the trees as we approached it I couldn’t help but smile as I knew it was ‘game over’ and he didn’t really have much of a say anymore!

 

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What was your favourite room?

 

I loved the entire hotel. The bar is beautiful, the fireplace in the lobby is stunning and the Cavendish was an amazing space to get married, the room is full of character and a really intimate space yet the light and views are incredible.

The bridal suite was fantastic to get ready in. There was plenty of space for everyone and it feels incredibly special. It also makes for some beautiful pictures!

There are also plenty of small special spaces, like the staircase and the first floor lobby/lounge. we had all five bedrooms on that floor and having that space feels as though you really are staying in a private manor house rather then a hotel.

 

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What was your favourite memory of the day?

 

My favourite memory of the day was walking down the aisle and seeing Tom for the first time. I’d been quite nervous and emotional but as soon as I saw him I just felt so grounded and relaxed..

Other memorable moments were after the wedding while our guests were being seated we sat on the window seat in the bar for a while, just soaking in the atmosphere and letting it all sink in. I also loved walking into the Cavendish and seeing how beautiful it looked laid out for our wedding breakfast. it all looked so stunning and seeing so many smiling faces was lovely.

 

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Do you have any tips for other brides about picking a venue?

 

I would say go with your heart and your gut instinct. Obviously you will have an idea of budget and practicalities etc, but you need to love the venue. It really will be the best day of your life and the venue is such an important part. I had a list of pros and cons and I had a shortlist of places I’d researched but my heart definitely won out.

 

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How did you go about choosing the menu for the day?

 

We wanted our guests to be completely relaxed so we went for an informal option. Pimms and canapés after the ceremony, a BBQ for our wedding breakfast and a hot buffet for the reception.

 

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What did your guests enjoy about the day? And did they stay at the hotel?

 

Everyone mentioned how amazing the venue was, I was very proud that we’d chosen it and people could see why I loved it so much. A lot of people stayed in the hotel and mentioned how lovely their rooms were. People were up very late in the bar after the wedding as they didn’t want the night to end, the atmosphere was just wonderful all day!

 

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What’s your one must have item from Laura Ashley for any new bride?

 

Photo frames are great because you can use them to show off your favourite memories of the day, I especially like these set of three frames. Anything for the house is perfect for a new bride – cushions, bedding, or little home accessories to make it feel more homely. I’d love anything from the wedding gifts section!

 

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Thanks to Emma for sharing her day with us and to Howell Photography for providing these gorgeous pictures! Are you a bride to be? Did you know we do a wedding gift card as an alternative to a wedding gift list? New to The Manor hotel? Have a peek at our launch video below…

 

 

September 2nd 2014
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ON OUR RADAR: SEPTEMBER

Rounding up the best things to do for September 2014 around the UK…

The end of Summer is in sight. Wave goodbye to warm evenings, glorious sunshine and school summer holidays, and say hello to cosy blankets and hot chocolate! Not to dampen your spirits however, we’ve still got a jam packed fun-filled September to ease you into Autumn. From cute pooches and yummy food, to outdoor film screenings and creative craft, there’s something for all the family to enjoy this month…

 

Handmade Fair

 

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(c) Handmade Fair Facebook

 

It’s no surprise we love a bit of craft here at Laura Ashley, so we’re thrilled to introduce The Handmade Fair, the first all making craft fair! Coming to you this September at Hampton Court Palace, join Kirstie Allsopp and some of Britain’s best artisans for a fun filled day of learning and making. The aim of the event is to get Britain crafting, and there’s tonnes of crafts to inspire you to pick up some thread and get your creative hat on. There’s something for everybody, from learning how to do food decoration, to paper craft, right through to furniture up-cycling. Prima Make & Take Theatre will be there with small exclusive workshops with experts to guide you through making your own creative crafts. These are suitable for beginners or advanced crafters, enabling you to create something beautiful to take home with you!

 

To celebrate the Handmade Fair event, we’re giving away two tickets for general entry and to the “Make a Trio of Fabric Flowers”  workshop taking place on the 19th September! Head over to our Twitter from this Friday (5th September) to find out how you could win the pair.

 

Battersea Dogs Home

 

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(c) Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

 

Last year, we attended The Battersea Dogs Home Annual Reunion and had a blast – a fun day for all the family, it’s filled with thousands of dogs and their owners who travel far and wide to attend the event. This year is the event’s Twentieth Annual Reunion and Fun Day, and is a great opportunity for Battersea supporters and their dogs to get together and catch up with friends. Dog owners are encouraged to enter their pets into one of Battersea’s dog classes.  The best Fancy Dress will of course be decided by top designer Julien McDonald, the Handsomest Dog could be yours according to actor Jules Knight, and Prettiest Lady will be judged by Battersea Ambassador Dame Jacqueline Wilson!

 

Dogs will have a great time, with paddling pools, race obstacles and plenty of pet stalls. Plus, there’s fun for owners too! Including delicious food stalls, a children’s activity area, and a tea party!

 

You can find out more information about entering dog classes and timings for the Annual Reunion and Fun Day on Battersea’s website here.

 

Abergavenny Food Festival

 

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(c) Abergavenny Food Festival Facebook

 

Welsh foodie fans rejoice! The Abergavenny Food Festival is back for another year. Voted the best event in Wales in 2013, this year is set to be yet another fantastic day out. There are five market venues across the centre of town with over 200 exhibitors showcasing the best of Wales, The Marches and further afield. There’s plenty of entertainment to keep you happy, from chef demonstrations, to a children’s food academy. On the Saturday night they have a Night Market with a collection of street food traders and non-catering produce stalls. There are also individually ticketed special events where you can put your own culinary skills to the test. Check online for details.

 

 

Spurn Migration Festival

 

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(c) Ellis Wildlife

 

Witness one of the UK’s most impressive spectacles as birds begin their autumn migration with the Spurn Migration Festival taking place in the East Riding of Yorkshire. With plenty of events spread across the weekend, now is the chance to get involved whether you are an experienced or beginner birder. Last year was a great success with 134 bird species recorded, as well as lectures, walks, demonstrations and workshops. There’s lots to see and do this year too from Migration walks to fossil hunting. Prices are £14 for a day ticket and £21 for the weeekend. Pop over to the website to find out more!

 

More London Free Festival

 

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The More London Festival is a free event that has been taking place throughout summer for four months in the sunken amphitheatre. If you’re yet to get to the free festival, you can still attend before it ends in September. Seeing it come to an end, the final stage of the event focuses on film. From classics such as ET, to new films such as Rush, there’s something for all to enjoy. As well as the film screening, there are two food stalls and outdoor seating available. You can even bring a picnic if you prefer! Don’t forget that if you work at any of the businesses at More London you can get £1 off all food and drink. Tickets are free for all, but arrive early to avoid disappointment, and bring a cushion to sit on!

 

What’s on your radar for the month of September? Do let us know…

August 27th 2014
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A PAMPERING TREAT FOR YOU: FREE GIFT WHEN YOU SPEND £75* OR MORE

Receive a free pampering gift set when you spend £75* or more in-store on Thursday 28th…

Save the date! As part of our new season launch and to say a little thank you to our loyal customers, we are delighted to offer you a pampering treat. Simply pop into any Laura Ashley store on Thursday evening and not only will you receive one of our hand wash and lotion gift sets for free if you spend £75*, you will also receive 10% off on the night! Whether you’re looking to refresh your home interiors or invest in your new season wardrobe, now is the time to indulge…

 

 

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Rhubarb and Vanilla Gift Set / Fresh Linen and Jasmine Gift Set / Citrus Blossom and Nectarine Gift Set

 

Taking pride of place in your bathroom, offer a warm welcome into your abode with our three pampering gift sets. Capturing three of Laura Ashley’s quintessential fragrances, take your pick from the fresh and delicate scent of the Fresh Linen & Jasmine, the sweet and tempting allure of the Rhubarb and Vanilla or the warm zesty notes in the Citrus and Nectarine Blossom. All wrapped up in our luxurious gift wrap, each set contains a moisture rich hand wash and lotion to both soften and soothe. A wonderful gift for a loved one or friend.. or even for yourself!

 

We hope you enjoy your pampering treat and discount, be sure to tweet us at @LauraAshleyUK and tell us which scent you picked!

 

Terms and Conditions: When you spend £75* or more in our UK and ROI Laura Ashley stores and concessions (not available online) you will be able to pick one free gift set of your choosing, whilst stocks last. We recommend hot-footing it down to your local Laura Ashley store earlier rather than later to avoid disappointment. The free gift offer will run on Thursday the 28th of August 2014 between the hours of 5-9pm during our new season launch evening. To find out where your nearest store is please check here. Customers will receive an extra 10% off everything on the night, on top of existing offers.

August 4th 2014
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ON OUR RADAR: AUGUST

What’s on the agenda for the month of August? Whip out your diary and get planning….

With the summer holidays and warmer weather finally upon us, we bring to you a bumper edition of what’s on our radar! Make the most of this glorious sunshine and be sure to plan an exciting agenda for August with our hand-picked events, from indulging in London’s finest foodie offerings to exploring wildlife after hours, from here on in the month ahead is set to be a corker…

 

The Portsmouth International Kite Festival

23rd – 24th August 

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Hailed as one of the best kite festivals in the world, come feast your eyes on the spectacular displays with over hundred kites flying high. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the the first World War, with kite designs from the late 19th and early 20th century, this is a rare opportunity to see these unique kites soar through the sky. With kite fliers attending from the likes of Switzerland, Germany and Italy, come and admire their skilled work and even try your hand at making your own in the free children’s kite workshops.

 

Free to attend, for more information on whats’s going on click here.

 

Night Safaris at The London Wetland Centre

8th, 9th, 22nd and the 29th of August

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Unlock the secrets of the nocturnal wildlife after at London Wetland Centre as part of their exciting Night Safaris. Come explore the centre’s wetland reserve and watch the moths, bats and lapwings make an appearance. Try your hand at pond-dipping with state of the art underwater cameras or hunt out bats using a special detector before settling around the campsite for story telling around the fire.

 

Booking is essential, for more information click here.

 

Screen Printing at Handmade London

20th August

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Get your hands dirty and join in on the exciting fun to be had at Handmade London’s beginners class to screen printing, a place where crafters come to get creative. During this jam-packed workshop, you will learn how to build a screen print and be taught all the ins and outs of  the craft. Creating your own blend of fabric paint, choose a design that tickles your fancy and have a whirl at screen printing a tea towel to take home with you!

 

Places are limited, so make sure to hop, skip and jump over to their website for more details.

 

Feast Foodies Festival at Battersea

15th -17th August 

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Bring the whole family along and tuck in to the scrumptious offerings at the Foodie Feast Festival at Battersea Park. With the impressive line-up offering great food, chefs (including Michelin- starred Robert Ortiz Lima) , collaborations, masterclasses and tastings all under one venue. At the heart of all the food festivities the delicious Street Food Avenue where visitors can taste all four corners of the world. Other treats include chili eating competitions, bbq arena, vintage tea tent plus more.

 

To dig into the feast, click here to buy tickets and for more info.

 

Bournemouth Air Festival

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Bigger and better than ever before, set your eyes upon the cracking air, land and sea displays on offer at the Bournemouth Air Festival. Welcoming four days of entertainment from the Red Arrows, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, don’t miss their incredible displays including beach assaults and awesome jets, with a few surprises along the way.

 

To view the line up of the fun four days, click here.

 

Books About Town

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Delve into the great literacy world by hunting out the fifty beautiful book-shaped benches that are popping up all over London this summer. To celebrate and encourage reading, the National Literacy Trust ‘Books about Town’ provide visitors the chance to sit on their favourite book that has been sculptured and created by an array of local artists. With many iconic books including stories that link to the capital, treasured children’s titles include ‘Peter Pan’ to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ not forgetting the adult classics ’1984′ and ‘James Bond.’

 

For the full list of book benches and where to find them, with details on how you can ‘bid’ for your favourite bench to raise money for National Literacy Trust click here.

 

The Festival of Quilts

7th – 10th August  

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Calling all stitchers and quilters, the Festival of Quilts is back! Taking up residence in the NEC Birmingham, the show has become the largest celebration of patchwork and quilting in Europe with over 30 galleries showcasing the work of professional artists plus hundreds of workshops, masterclasses, lectures and exhibitors. Whether you’re a quilting newbie or pro, the show offers a host of taster sessions with over 160 classes for those who want more intensive learning, now’s the time to get crafty!

 

For an exclusive discount, readers of the Laura Ashley blog can buy a reduced ticket until the 6th August for the price of £11.50 (plus 95p booking fee) when quoting the code LA14 here.

 

The Medieval Festival at Leeds Castle

23rd – 31st August 

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Whether you’re a knight in shining armor or a damsel in distress, bring history to life with the Medieval Festival at Leeds Castle, Kent. Experience what day to day life was like in medieval England with a range of exciting activities, from long-bow tournaments to authentic displays of jousting, don’t miss the historical market and the exceptional collection of Henry VIII armour, plus Princess and sword fighting workshops. An action packed adventure, do you dare to take part?

 

For more details on the impressive events happening at Leeds Castle, click here.

 

What’s on your agenda for August? We would love to know in the comments below.

 

July 29th 2014
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Unveiling the new Laura Ashley Hotel: The Belsfield

Introducing the new Laura Ashley Hotel, The Belsfield…

Drumroll please… we are very pleased to announce  The new Laura Ashley hotel, The Belsfield! The hotel has been newly decorated with Laura Ashley home products and is situated in Bowness on the Eastern shore of Lake Windermere, Lake District, with stunning views over looking the ‘Belle Isle’. The perfect place for a weekend getaway, the beautiful building is a Grade 2 listed Victorian property set in six acres of landscaped gardens, with snow-capped Langdale Pikes and the Fairfield Horseshoe often to be seen in the background. Take a peek at the newly renovated hotel…

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The hotel consists of 62 designer bedrooms, including 25 Lake view rooms and 12 garden view rooms, 2 four poster rooms and luxurious suites all overlooking the beautiful views on Lake Windermere. Grab some food at the Belsfield Restaraunt, go for a drink at the lounge bar, or relax with some afternoon tea in the Drawing room and library. The hotel offers plenty of functions, from business conferences to weddings! There is even a leisure facility, with a swimming pool, relaxation area, and sauna… don’t mind if we do!

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Drawing Room and Library

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The Belsfield Restaurant

As part of a complete renovation, the hotel has been decked out by the Laura Ashley interior design service team, using some favourite pieces from our home collection, with a juxtaposition of modern and classic elements which perfectly compliment the luxe setting.  We just love how the dining area turned out, which room is your favourite?

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The luxury hotel is now open to the public and bookings can be made via lauraashleyhotels.com or on 01539442448. A great place to kick back and relax, the Belsfield hotel is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. Will we be seeing you there soon?

July 28th 2014
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ROYAL CHILDHOOD EXHIBITION: BUCKINGHAM PALACE

From George IV to Prince George of Cambridge, the new exhibition at Buckingham Palace brings together nine generations of royal children…

As Buckingham Palace prepares to reopen it’s doors for its annual opening of the state rooms, this year guests are invited to take a trip down memory lane and explore the historical palace in a new light as part of their new special Royal Childhood exhibition.

 

Home to Her Majesty The Queen, the grand setting of Buckingham Palace attracts thousands of tourists every year, each hoping to catch a glimpse of the changing of the guard or the Royal Standard flag waving high; however to many generations of the royal family it has been a family home.

 

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From well loved toys to treasured family gifts, the Royal Childhood exhibition provides a rare insight into life as a young member of the royal family. Spanning over 250 years, Royal Childhood brings together an array of objects from the royal collection that have meaning to 25 children, dating back to a young George IV. With previously unseen film footage and family photos plucked straight from the family album, we made our way to a sneak preview of the exhibition to take a glimpse into what live was like for a young royal…

 

Buckingham Palace has been a royal family home ever since George III purchased Buckingham House for Queen Charlotte in 1762. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria commissioned the Palace to be extended to house her growing family of nine children that the fourth wing was built. In 1936 our present-day monarch, a 10 year old Princess Elizabeth moved into the palace with her parents George VI and Queen Elizabeth with her younger sister Princess Margret. Then returning as Queen in 1952, she went on to raise her own family with princes Andrew and Edward being born within the palace!

 

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As we stepped into the ballroom, we gazed upon the tiny childhood outfits to the large collection of toys that have been lovingly cherished and enjoyed by the many generations of the royal family.

 

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Well preserved, the outfits worn by the young prices and princesses include the velvet ‘walking’ suits of King George V, a pink coat belonging to the nine year old Princess Elizabeth and Prince William’s page-boy ‘sailor suit’ from the wedding of The Duke of York in 1986.

 

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Pink wool coats worn by Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in 1934.

 

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Blue and red silk velvet walking suits for the young King George V in 1868.

 

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Blue silk plaid dress worn by a young King Edward VII in 1844 stands next to a cotton tartan dress worn by Lady Louise Windsor in 2004.

 

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Bridesmaids dress and shoes worn by Zara Phillips at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1986.

 

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Prince Alice’s carved and gilt wood cradle from 1843.

 

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Nursery chairs belonging to Princes William and Harry and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

 

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Various invoices listing items for the children of Queen Victoria.

 

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Buckingham Palace has been the setting for many royal births and christenings over the centuries. With many royal baptisms taking place in the Palace Music Room, it is now home to the spectacular silver-gilt Lily font commissioned by Queen Victoria for the christening of her first daughter Princess Victoria in 1841. It has since been used at almost all major royal baptisms, most recently for the christening of Prince George last year!

 

Probably the world’s most famous easel (as shown above), one will recognise the official announcement of the birth of Prince George displayed on the Palace forecourt last year.

 

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Like any proud parent, members of the royal family kept records of their children’s milestones and developments. Precious keepsakes such as locks of hair to baby teeth, Queen Victoria even commissioned marble carvings of her children’s arms, legs and feet!

 

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Complied by The Duchess of Kent in 182o, this well persevered album contains samples of Princess Victoria’s hair, her daughter.

 

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This height chart documents the heights for the children of George V and Queen Mary in 1894 – 1910.

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Girl Guide and Sea Ranger belongings owned by Princess Elizabeth in the 1940s.

 

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Through the years at school, from Prince Charles school paintings to needlework by Princess Elizabeth aged 6.

 

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Tudor dolls house purchased by the Duchess of York for Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in 1932.

 

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This pink rabbit tea set was one of the Queen’s childhood toys.

 

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A set of alphanumeric building blocks given to Prince Charles by the Builders of Great Britain in 1949.

 

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Showcasing both family and official gifts presented to the royal children, in 1932 the people of Wales presented Princess Elizabeth with a charming miniature thatched cottage occasion of her sixth birthday. A favoured toy of the Queen, the original ‘Little House’ was constructed in the grounds of the Royal Lodge in Winsor and boasted electric lighting and running water!

 

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Rounding up our stroll through the stately rooms, we made a beeline for the Buckingham Palace cafe for a sweet treat…

 

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Just as sweet as the exhibition! Royal Childhood is part of a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, from 26th July – 28th September 2014 (click here for more details). If you’re planning a day out with the little ones, don’t miss the host of activities taking place in the new Family Pavilion overlooking the garden.

 

A royally good day out – will you be visiting the Palace this summer?

 

July 25th 2014
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KIDS CORNER: FUN THINGS FOR THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS

We round up the best things to do during the school holidays…

School’s out! With the holidays underway, our thoughts turn to how to keep the kids entertained now that school has finished for summer. This week we’ve had a kids take over on the blog, and we saw how four mummy bloggers used our chalkboard paint in a creative way. But what about when you fancy taking the little ones out for the day? We round up our top things to see and do during the school break…

 

London Zoo

 

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(c) timeout.com

 

Immerse yourself in the world of wildlife with over 720 different species of animals at London Zoo! A great day out for the kids, there’s plenty to see and do that will keep all the family entertained for the day. The zoo is divided into many different sections so is easy to navigate. Visit the Gorillas in Gorilla Kingdom, or watch the Penguins get fed at the Penguin Beach! Even babies are welcome at the zoo, making it a worthwhile trip no matter the age. The nearest station is Camden Town, with London Zoo being a leisurely 15 minute walk away.  If you’re planning a trip, we recommend the Little Creature Family Festival between 29 – 31 August, with a weekend dedicated to Winnie the bear. Guests will enjoy a day out with a difference, with events and activities inspired by the famous children’s books.

 

Sensational Butterflies

 

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An activity fit for a prince, Prince George visited Sensational Butterflies for his first birthday so why not follow suit? Definitely one to visit, the butterfly house returns for a sixth year this summer. Guests can come face-to-face with beautiful tropical butterflies originating from Africa, Southeast Asia and North and South America. An ideal day out for the little ones; visitors can take part in games and activities that teach you all about the wonderful world of butterflies. Located in the Natural History Museum, it’s a short walk from South Kensington station and is open until 14th September.

 

West End Theatre

 

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One for the rainy days, various west end productions for children return from the 1st August – 31st which aims to encourage kids to get involved and interested in theatre from a early age. As a special offer, part of the month sees participating shows offer one child per adult go free, and up to two extra children can go half price. The shows you can see  include ‘The tiger who came to Tea’, ‘The Elephantom’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. ‘Billy Elliot’, ‘War Horse’ and our favourite, ‘Matilda’. As well as just the play, there are loads of great activities the kids can get involved in. The event is taking part in many different theatres around London, visit the website for more info.

 

UK Beaches 

 

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If the weather continues as it has been, why not visit some of the best beaches in the UK? Our pick of the bunch is Bournemouth Beach – a huge sandy beach that has a ‘Kidzone’ scheme, which introduces coloured wristbands co-ordinated with the coloured beach zones. Ideal for identifying the children for when they inevitably wander off! If more scenic beaches are your thing, try Durdle Door (pictured), which makes a great day out for kids and parents alike. Lets not forget Brighton, a quick 30 minute ride from London with plenty of shops, restaurants, as well as the famous harbour to keep you entertained!

 

Mysteries of the Unseen World 

 

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(c) sciencemuseum.org.uk

 

The Science Museum’s IMAX 3D cinema opens its doors to kids this summer with a showing of Mysteries of the Unseen World. The film will take you on a amazing journey into the unseen world that exists beyond the capabilities of the human eye. Children will have the opportunity to see things too fast, too slow, or too small for everyday life, and will learn about how what we see is only a fraction of what exsists on Earth. Making this amazing cinema experience possible is the use of High-speed photography, electorn microscopy and nanotechnology. The visually sunning film premiers in London at the Science Museum on the 5th August and will then be available to see throughout the country.

 

Laura Ashley kids 

 

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Fairy Lights / Pirate Celling Shade / Kids Paint / Lobster Toy / Storage Box / Cottage Sprig Wallpaper / Riley Check Cotton Rug / Patchwork Cotton Quilt

 

A little bit of free time with the children is a perfect excuse to redecorate. Brighten up the room with these string lights, or have a complete overhaul with our range of kids paints. Our personal favourite is the addition of Larry the Lobster – a great treat for the well behaved kids over the holidays!

 

We’d love to know what you’ve got planned for the holidays! Are you making the most of the UK or heading abroad? Do let us know if you visit any of our recommendations…

 

July 21st 2014
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THE GREAT BRITISH BEE COUNT

Do your part for nature and rehome our British bees with this fantastic new campaign…

This summer we are calling on your support to help us embark on The Great British Bee Count! An essential part of the food chain, the decline of the bee population has become an increasingly worrying factor. Whether you’re looking to spend more time in the garden or a keen nature lover, by taking a closer look at the bees buzzing around our gardens and parks, it really could help save this important species from dying out.

 

Sharing with us her top tips on how to encourage bee’s back into your garden, Melanie Kramers from environment charity Friends of the Earth explains all…

 

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As you’ve probably heard our British bees are in trouble and in desperate need of rehoming. In recent years, the numbers of bees in the UK have been declining at an alarming rate, with over twenty species of bees already extinct. With a  high percentage of our countryside meadows disappearing over the last 60 years, the loss of their vital habitats have left the bees homeless and feeling hungry. An essential part of the food chain, everyday we eat fruit and vegetables that have been pollinated by these buzzing creatures. As they move from flower to flower collecting nectar, they are an important factor in the pollinating process in helping distribute pollen far and wide.

 

Do you like strawberry jam on your buttered toast or a delicious Sunday treat of apple crumble? These are all pollinated by bees, along with 75% of food crops worldwide!

 

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Eventually our parks, gardens and countryside will become a barren place without bees to keep them blooming – so how can you help? The good news is that there are lots of ways you can be part of the generation that saves our bees.

 

- Got a smartphone? Download our free app The Great British Bee Count and log any bees you spot between now and the end of August. You don’t need to be any expert to take part, the easy-to-use app will help you tell the difference between bee species such as leafcutter bees and buff-tailed bumblebees. All the data then be logged to help scientists build a nationwide picture of bee health, where they are thriving and where they are in danger. Don’t worry if you don’t have the app, you can fill in all your bee-hunting business on our website here.

 

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- Green fingered?  Try growing bee-friendly plants from lavender to honeysuckle in your window-box or garden to encourage new buzzing visitors – just make sure to avoid using pesticides which can harm bees’ health. To find out which plants are most loved, create your own bee cafe with this handy list of what to grow here.

 

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Wooden Bee House / Aviary Garden Tool Set (both available in store)

 

-  Create a cosy nest with our wooden bee house, providing a valuable shelter or a nesting site for solitary wild bees that, unlike honey bees, don’t live in hives. The Mason species enjoy nesting in warm and sheltered environment, with plenty of room to rest in the thick wooden holes; make sure to position their new abode in a south facing spot with the bee house pointing downwards to avoid the rain.

 

-  If you’ve already done this – think bigger! Hundreds of people have already planted ‘Bee Worlds’ in their communities – larger wildflower areas that help provide hungry bees with food and shelter. Across the UK, we’ve lost 97% of our wildflower meadows in the past 60 years, so restoring this vital bee habitat can really help.

 

Hope you enjoy saving bees while having fun this summer – let us know how you get on!

July 9th 2014
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Hampton Court Palace Flower Show: 2014

Rounding up our favourite gardens from this year at Hampton Court…

It’s fair to say we love a flower event at the Laura Ashley HQ. After recently reviewing the Chelsea Flower Show, we were eagerly awaiting The Hampton Court Palace event. With the sun coming out to play, we couldn’t of picked a better day to visit the grounds. Our anticipation high, we made our way keen to see if this year could top the last…

 

The flower show is split into three zones: Inspire, Grow, and Escape. First up, we visited our favourite of the three, Escape, to see the fabulous Show Gardens, Summer Gardens and Your Garden, Your Budget.

 

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Halo: Mediterranean-style garden based on the idea of a traditional Greek island with a budget of £13,0000

 

First up, we visited the ‘Your Garden, Your Budget’ section which celebrates high quality design on a budget. Landscapers were asked to submit a design with a budget of £7,000, £10,000, £13,000 and £15,000. We were overwhelmed with the quality of the gardens! Our favourite of the four was Bacchus which is inspired by the Roman God of Wine. We love the water features, rose coloured steps, and pockets of red flowers and plants.

 

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Bacchus: A garden inspired by the Roman God of wine with a budget of £10,000

 

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Garden of Solitude: A garden designed for relaxation and contemplation, with a budget of £15,000 

 

After a quick wander round the site, we stumbled across this gorgeous Ocean Spray garden in Escape. A celebration of the picturesque wetland home of cranberries, and has been designed to bring the fascinating story of these vibrant berries to life. Crafted entirely from crimson cranberries, a majestic floating red rose will add a splash of colour to the iconic Palace Long Water. We just had to take a couple of snaps to show you all!

 

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Ocean Spray: A Taste for New England

 

Next up, we made our way to the summer gardens, probably our favourite part of the site.

 

The winning garden, A Space to Connect and Grow was definitely our pick of the bunch. The garden is built from recycled industrial materials and is designed to improve the local urban environment whilst also being a pleasant place to spend time. Key features include the pavilion with a living roof at the back of the garden and an underplanted metal stage for performances.

 

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A Space to Connect and Grow  

 

Other favourite of ours was Al Fresco, a modern outdoor entertaining space that takes you away from the stresses of everyday life. That’s what we call fine dining! Wouldn’t it be made complete with some Laura Ashley furniture?

 

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Al Fresco

 

We then stumbled across the beautiful NSPCC garden. This garden focuses on the NSPCC’s work throughout its time and the legacy it’s created. We loved the touches of children’s toys that were dotted around the garden, highlighting the charities message.

 

 

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NSPCC Garden

 

Last but by no means not least, another favourite from the Summer Gardens was ‘Forgotten Folly’. With dry stone walls, waterfalls, and overgrown flowers, we felt like we had stumbled across our very own secret garden.

 

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Summer Gardens: Forgotten Folly

 

We then made our way on to Conceptual Gardens in the Inspire zone. The conceptual gardens are deisnged to engage, provoke, and stimulate debate and are always a talking point within the team. Themed around the seven deadly sins this year, the gardeners were challenged to create a garden that signifies a specific sin.

 

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Conceptual Gardens: Anger

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Conceptual Gardens: Lust

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Conceptual Gardens: Gluttony

 

Our pick of the bunch had to be the Gluttony garden. We loved the modern and fun design of the piece, and were left thinking about it long after we left. The design highlights the huge amount of food that is being consumed and wasted every day in the UK and other western countries through the use of oversized sculptures. What was your favourite from the seven deadly sins conceptual gardens?

 

A trip to the Hampton Court Flower Show of course wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Festival of Roses and Floristry Marquee in the Escape zone. As one of our favourite flowers, we were eargerly awaiting to see the blooms in display by some of the best florists. We definitely recommend visiting this section, you can have your photo taken with a floral mermaid, or be amazed by the floral circus elephant…

 

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Peter Beales Roses 

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The Elephant Spectacular - McKinlay Gibson Floristry

 

Our favourite in the marquee was the glorious display by Jane Packer Flowers. Creating a whole circus show, we were in awe at the floral displays of a gypsy caravan, a mystic mermaid, a strong man, and freakish blooms. You can even take a picture of yourself with the display!

 

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Jane Packer Flowers

 

Any flower show wouldn’t be complete without a stand from David Austin, and as ever his roses were absolutely breathtaking…

 

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David Austin Roses

 

Next up, we stopped off at the huge 50 years RHS Britain in Bloom garden which is the UK’s biggest gardening campaign. Up to 30,000 passionate volunteers work all year round on the green spaces to protect, transform, and  care for the environment. The garden represents their achievements over the past 50 years, and they have certainly achieved a lot! Many communities from around the UK were involved with the creation of the garden…

 

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50 Golden Years: A Celebration of Britain in Bloom

 

We then made our way over the bridge to the ‘Grow’ section, greeted by a huge sculpture over the stunning Lake.

 

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Grow

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Escape: Orla Kiely 
In Grow, our final stop was at the Floral Marquee. This is where keen gardeners will have access to a range of garden nursery displays and plant stalls. There’s also plenty of  RHS advisors on-hand to offer expert tips to take back to their own gardens! There was over 95 stalls in the marquee and it’s fair to say we stayed a while. Just look at all those beautiful blooms…

 

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Due to the size of the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, there were plenty of attractions we didn’t even have time to visit. You can see planting close up, get some real expert advice, experience some fine dining, see live music, and even enjoy some retail therapy. We could easily spend the whole day there!

 

Don’t miss the celebrity tent for some household favourites including Charlie Dimmock and Gloria Hunniford, there’s even an appearance from one of our favourite bloggers, Rona Wheeldon!
For those lucky lot attending on Wednesday and Thursday, explore the growing taste marquee with inspiring and entertaining cookery theatre. Expert advice will be on hand from the Queen of baking Mary Berry on Wednesday 9th!

 

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Hampton Court Palace

 

A great day our for all the family, The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is a fantastic day out regardless of your gardening ability. With plenty of things to see and do, you are spoilt for choice! The perfect event for a summers day, experience it all now up until the 13th July.

 

Will you be attending the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this year? What garden takes your fancy?

 

July 7th 2014
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ON OUR RADAR: JULY

What’s on the agenda for the month of July? Whip out your diary and get planning….

Hip, hip hooray for the month of July! The sun has finally got his hat on and we are certainly making the most of the wonderful weather. July for us spells the beginnings of our summer adventure, from lazy day picnics to happy camping, and that’s not forgetting the start of the summer holidays! Without further ado, to kick off your fun-filled month ahead let us take a peek at what’s on our radar…

 

Royal Childhood Exhibition

Buckingham Palace,

London 26th July – 28th September 2014

 

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(c) The Royal Collect - Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on a rocking horse, August 1932

 

As part of the Summer opening of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace, the nostalgic Royal Childhood exhibition gives us an exclusive insight into life as a young royal growing up in the palace. Spanning over 250 years, the exhibition brings together the private archives of unseen family film footage, treasured photos and memorial objects, including the adorable outfits belonging to the young prince and princesses and their traditional toys from the different eras. A fabulous day-trip for all the family, take a peek at our visit when we popped along last year.

 

For more details on the Royal Childhood exhibition, click here

 

Whitstable Oyster Festival  Saturday 26th July – 1st August Whitstable

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(c) Whitstable Oyster Festival

 

Championed by Laura Ashley staffer Faye in one of her holiday highlights, how timely that the Whitstable Oyster Festival should take place this month? A modern revival of the ancient holy festival that dates back to the Norman times, where local fishermen would profess their thanksgiving for a successful harvest and safety at sea. A week-long unique celebration, jam-packed with foodie stalls (not forgetting the annual oyster eating competition!), mud tugs and plenty of other family fun to be had!

 

For more details on the Whitstable Oyster Festival, click here.

 

The Globe’s Anthony and Cleopatra 

Daily performances until 24th August 2014

The Globe Theatre, London 

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(c) The Globe

 

With a chance to experience Shakespeare in his rightful setting, a delicious dinner on the Southbank followed by a performance at The Globe is a wonderful way to spend warm summers evening. The eagerly anticipated play of the year is the Shakespeare classic Antony and Cleopatra, starring Eve Best and Clive Wood as the tragic lovers blown away by love and war. Whether you feel daring enough to embrace the groundling seating, don’t miss the opportunity to see one of Shakespeare’s melodramas in a down-to-earth production.

 

For more details on The Globe’s production Anthony and Cleopatra, click here

 

Whipping up a star bake with Laura Ashley 

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As we count down the days until the new series of Great British Bake Off (watch the hilarious teaser trailer here), the budding bakers here at Laura Ashley H.Q have taken to the kitchen to bake up a storm using our brand new range of cooking accessories. The beautiful duck-egg cookshop collection features all the signature tools to help you master that all important star bake, including the pretty duck egg Stoneware Egg Tray, Mixing Jug and retro Stainless Steel Scales. If you fancy whipping up a sweet treat, don’t miss Hummingbird Bakery’s signature Earl Grey cupcakes on the blog.

 

To browse the new Laura Ashley range of cooking accessories, click here

 

The Roman Baths by Torchlight

July – August (Daily)

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For a truly magical experience, come explore the magnificent Roman Baths in twilight. As the sun begins to fade, take a tour along the 2000 year old pathways as you discover the story of the Great Baths by torchlight. With a three course dinner at the neighbouring Roman Baths Kitchen thrown in too, this is a exciting opportunity to view the city in a new light…

 

For more information on the Roman Baths by Torchlight, click here.

 

What’s on your agenda for July? We would love to know in the comments below.