Outdoors

Get ready, set and go — Your complete checklist for the ultimate road trip

As John Steinbeck famously said ‘people don’t take trips, trips take people’ which is just one of the many reasons why the lure of the open road appeals to so many holiday makers. Taking a road trip is a great way to experience every aspect of your holiday, and making the most of the journey — rather than focussing purely on the destination — means that your adventure starts the very moment you put your foot on the pedal.

As with all types of holiday, a little bit of pre-planning can make a huge difference to the ease and enjoyment of your trip. This handy road-trip checklist will help ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible…

Get roadworthy

When it comes to road trips, the difference between the trip of a lifetime and the holiday from hell depends largely on the condition of your vehicle. Giving your vehicle a bit of TLC before hitting the road can help prevent any nasty surprises.

☐   Check that all vehicle documents are up to date. Ensure that your road tax, insurance and MOT are valid and will not expire while you are away.

☐   Book your vehicle in for a service. Don’t chance it that you will get a last-minute appointment, reputable garages are often booked up in advance.

☐   Roadside assistance. This could turn out to be invaluable if you break down in the middle of nowhere. It is often inexpensive and the cost is far outweighed by the peace of mind it offers.

☐   Consider hiring a car. Especially useful if your car is prone to being unreliable. If you have problems with it at home it is highly likely that it is not going to last the length of your trip.

☐   Prior to leaving, double-check the following:

☐   Tyre pressure

☐   Windscreen wash

☐   Engine oil

☐   Petrol

Plan your route

Getting lost can sometimes lead to the best road trip adventures, ‘sometimes’ being the operative word. Knowing where you are going and how to get there will eliminate stress and most certainly reduce the chance of navigational disputes!

☐   A recently updated Sat-Nav can be a godsend when travelling through unfamiliar areas.

☐   A trusty map is worth its weight in gold if you lose GPS signal, or if you want an overview of the wider area.

☐   Plan your route via the scenic route. Detouring from the motorways can open up some stunning scenery and views.

☐   Research guest houses, hostels and camp sites along your route in case your plans have to change for any reason.

Pack smartly

How much you pack depends on three elements: how long you are going for, the size of your car and the number of passengers. Packing everything you need while maintaining passenger comfort can be a tricky balance to strike, but the right equipment can definitely help.

☐   A roof box will free up space inside the car and is perfect for storing lightweight yet bulky essentials such as sleeping bags, camping chairs and clothing. It is worth noting cars become considerably less aerodynamic when fitted with a roof box, which may negatively affect petrol consumption.

☐   A protective boot liner fitted to the exact dimensions of your car boot will help prevent the car’s interior from being damaged when packing and unpacking bulky luggage. It will also protect the boot from the mud, sand and wet that inevitably gets transferred into the car whilst out and about.

☐   Pack smartly and make sure that your actual bags and cases aren’t adding on unnecessary bulk to your luggage. Handles and wheels can take up valuable space so think about lightweight alternatives, especially if your luggage is staying in the car or going straight from the boot to your accommodation. Consider using laundry bags for clothing. Stackable, clear plastic boxes are also great for organising general belongings, especially when camping.

In case of emergency

It’s always worth preparing for all eventualities so keep a box of emergency essentials tucked away. If possible, include:

☐   Emergency breakdown triangle

☐   Hi-vis vests

☐   Torch (with working batteries)

☐   Spare tyre/puncture kit

☐   Water and snacks reserved for emergency use

Get comfortable

Sitting in the same position for hours on end can become uncomfortable, so it is important to make regular stops to visit the loo and stretch your legs. Maximising in-car comfort will help make long stretches of the journey more bearable.

☐   Lightweight blankets can make driving at night cosier for passengers and will reduce the need to crank up the heating — which can cause tiredness due to dry eyes, not to mention burn more fuel.

☐   Supportive neck pillows can help passengers catch forty winks while in transit.

☐   Sharing the drive will undoubtedly ensure that all parties enjoy the journey. Make sure all drivers are insured on the vehicle prior to departing.

☐   Do not underestimate the power of snacks. Stock up on snacks that are easy to munch on the go, plus water bottles to keep you hydrated. Insulated flasks are great for keeping hot drinks warm, and they can be re-filled at service stations throughout the journey.

☐   In-car entertainment such as portable DVD players, tablets, guessing games and a few good playlists will help while away less scenic stretches of the trip, especially if you are travelling with children.

…and hit the road

A bit of smart planning can make a huge difference to the success of your trip and ensure that the journey is every bit as fun as the destination. So get prepared, get packed, get comfortable and get going!

33 top tips for taking the stress out of camping with kids

There's no doubt about it, having children makes you do things differently – holidays being a prime example. Unless you have unlimited funds, foreign jaunts invariably go on hold when there's a young brood to cater for, presenting the question of how to find a cost-effective yet fun holiday to suit all members of the family.

One great family holiday option that ticks all of these boxes is camping. Not only is a brilliant way to escape from reality, it's the perfect way for kids to connect with nature, develop some valuable life skills and ultimately let loose and simply be kids.

The benefits of camping with kids

Far from being Enid Blyton idealism, camping really does put a different spin on spending time together as a family. We are all guilty of wasting too much time on our electrical devices – children included – so getting away from our screens and back to nature is a welcome change for many families, as numerous studies carried out by The Camping and Caravanning Club highlight:

  • 98% of parents said camping makes their kids appreciate and connect with nature.
  • 95% said their kids were happier when camping.
  • 93% felt that it provided useful skills for later life.
  • 4 out of 5 parents believe that camping had a positive effect on their children's school education.
  • Almost three quarters of parents think social media is affecting children's ability to interact and engage with others.
  • 64% of campers believe that taking their children camping improves social skills and mental health.
  • Over 50% of campers felt cooking when camping had a positive effect on their children's learning.

Despite these facts, camping does not appeal to everyone, not least parents of small children. This is no surprise because for first-time campers the idea of sleeping under nylon and cooking over coals can sound pretty daunting. With this in mind, we have compiled a 'camping must-have' guide, complete with 33 useful tips to help camping newbies work out what to buy, pack and prepare for a stress-free family camping trip.

33 top tips for stress-free family camping

Where to start?

  1. One of the best ways to venture into the camping world is to talk to – or even tag along with – friends with children who have camped before. Learning from other families' camping successes – and failures – is a great way to get a realistic view of what to expect.
  1. Before investing in all of the camping gear it is worth trying to beg, steal and borrow as much equipment as you can to see if you actually like camping. More often than not, seasoned campers will have refined their 'must-haves' and worked out what gear is necessary, which will give you a good idea of what to buy if you decide to commit to tent life.
  1. There are a wide range of campsites available, all offering different amenities and attractions, so think about what you want out of your holiday. Very basic sites are great for 'wild' camping but they may be a little ambitious for first-time family camping. In most family-friendly sites you can expect to find showers, toilets and pot-washing facilities; many also have a small shop in case you have forgotten any essentials. Some sites have playgrounds and arranged activities, while farm sites often allow children to interact with the animals.
  1. Another benefit of choosing a family-friendly site is that other campers will be sympathetic if your little darling decides to throw a midnight wobble. The camping community is generally a friendly bunch, who will have most likely experienced exactly the same with their own children at some point or another.

Choosing the right equipment

  1. Before going wild in your local outdoor store, consider the size of your car. Although most camping equipment is designed to fold down flat – even a large tent can pack away into a pretty compact holdall – it will still fill a car boot pretty quickly. Investing in a roof box for stowing lighter belongings may free up valuable space inside your car.
  1. When selecting your tent think about how you will use it in regards to your children's ages, sizes and needs. Tents with individual sleeping pods positioned around a living area are especially helpful in bad weather when the whole family has to be inside the tent in the evening, or if toddlers have daytime naps. Families with older kids are also likely to benefit from the additional privacy these extra compartments offer.
  1. Everything is better after a good night's sleep – not least dealing with small children – which is why it is worth investing in good-quality air mattresses and sleeping bags. Unless you are hiking to your campsite, roll mats aren't really advisable and they may take the concept of 'connecting with nature' a step too far for family camping!
  1. Plastic storage boxes are a lifesaver when camping for keeping belongings dry, clean and insect-free. Use separate boxes for food, cooking equipment, toiletries etc. so that everything can be easily accessed then stacked neatly away to maximise space in the tent.
  1. Camping with little ones will undoubtedly be easier if you have an electric hook-up. Not only will it make heating up bottles – or making a well-needed brew – much easier, it is also much less stressful than constantly monitoring boiling pans of water on the stove.
  1. An electric cool box is another reason why you may want to invest in an electric hook-up. It's a great way to ensure that food stays fresh throughout your whole trip, not to mention keeping drinks ice-cold for essential BBQ refreshment. If you prefer a traditional cool box, double up on freezer blocks as many campsites have facilities for refreezing.
  1. Boot liners are invaluable for protecting the interior of your boot from mud, water and damage from lugging bulky equipment in and out. They also transform your car boot into a storage area for muddy boots, wet-weather gear and play equipment – basically everything that you don't want cluttering up your tent.
  1. Tent carpets may sound like a gimmick but they really add to the cosiness and comfort of the tent, especially if children want to play on the floor. Alternatively, as a cheaper option you could use a few plastic-backed picnic blankets to cover the tent floor.
  1. Even in the nicest weather the grass is likely to be wet with dew in the morning so don't rely on picnic blankets as your only seating method. Telescopic canvas chairs and camping tables will certainly make meal times and child entertainment easier.

Cooking and eating

  1. Preparing food whilst camping doesn't have to be daunting – realistically it is just a simplified version of how you would cook at home. You will only need basic cooking equipment such as a stove, BBQ, kettle, frying pan, saucepan, plastic or tin crockery, cutlery, utensils and a chopping board.
  1. The key to eating well on a camping trip is to keep it simple. Think picnics, BBQs and easy-cook staples like baked beans or pasta. Cooking outdoors on the BBQ or gas stove is one of the best parts of camping, but it is certainly not the speediest way of putting food on the table. With this in mind, make sure you bring plenty of snacks and nibbles to keep everyone going between meals.
  1. Don't forget a washing-up bowl, cloths, tea towels and washing-up liquid. Get the kids involved in outdoor pot-washing, making the most of the fact that camping crockery is practically indestructible! The washing-up bowl can also double up as a splash bowl for toddlers.

Practicalities

  1. An absolute must-have for any camping trip is a first-aid kit. Stock up on plasters, bite and burn cream and antiseptic wipes, as well as kiddy-strength paracetamol and ibuprofen.
  1. Trekking across a field in the middle of the night to take a small child to the loo isn't ideal so don't forget a potty – or a lid with a bucket – plus lots of loo roll to facilitate night-time toilet trips.
  1. Although most campsites have shower facilities, wet wipes are a godsend for keeping little ones – and big ones – clean and fresh.
  1. Insect bites can sometimes be a nuisance when camping so it is well worth stocking up on insect repellent spray and lighting a few citronella candles to keep bugs at bay. Seasoned campers swear by putting a bunch of sage on the campfire as an additional deterrent.
  1. Torches and lanterns are also essential, both for lighting the tent at night and finding your way to the amenities after dark. Low-light night lights or battery-operated fairy lights can be helpful for comforting young children at bedtime as there will invariably be unfamiliar noises during the night.
  1. If you are able to park your car close to your tent it is a good idea to leave the bags containing clothing inside the car and take items out as and when you need them. This will prevent clean clothes from getting unnecessarily damp or muddy.
  1. Modern tents come complete with many useful features, but blocking out early-morning daylight isn't usually one of them. Being forced awake to entertain small children at daybreak can be pretty brutal so investing in sleep masks for the whole family might prove to be a real sanity-saver. Obviously sleep masks aren't advisable for babies and toddlers but you could try positioning a portable blackout shade by their cot to reduce the glare.

Weatherproofing

  1. Always check the weather forecast before you go and be realistic about whether camping in gale-force conditions or 30-degree heat is a good idea! If in doubt, pick a site that isn't too far away – worst-case scenario, you can always pack up early and come home.
  1. Although there is nothing better than glorious sunny weather for a camping trip, it is easy to get sunburned without realising when you are outside all day. Make sure you pack some high-factor sun lotion and sun hats and, if possible, create a shady play area for the kiddies so they can escape the fierce midday rays.
  1. Extra blankets always come in handy on a camping trip. Aside from being great for snuggling up in around the campfire, they also double up as makeshift sun shades, pillows, picnic blankets or even play dens.
  1. Wet-weather gear is also worth its weight in gold if the heavens open. Drying sodden clothes can be a real chore in a tent so prevention is definitely better than cure here. Dress kids in lightweight waterproofs and they can enjoy the great outdoors regardless of the weather, whilst keeping clothes dry underneath.
  1. Even if the weather is glorious in the day, temperatures can plummet at night so take plenty of layers to wrap up in. It's also advisable to pack a hat and gloves just in case. Fingers crossed you won't need them but it's better to have them unused in your bag than not at all.

Entertainment

  1. Don't forget to pack some games suitable for playing outside the tent – balls, skipping ropes, bubbles, Nerf guns, boules etc. can provide hours of entertainment. Calmer activities such as board games, colouring books and playing cards also provide welcome entertainment in the evenings or if rain stops outdoor play.
  1. Windbreaks can be handy for cordoning off a play space for children whilst obviously providing protection from the wind.
  1. Another great way of containing tiny tots who may be prone to wandering is to multi-task their travel cot as a play pen.
  1. Research the area and see if there is anywhere local that could provide a family-friendly outing. While away the walk by creating a simple scavenger hunt, challenging the kids to tick off sightings of streams, flowers, wildlife and landmarks.
  1. Finally, don't forget to bring a couple of home comforts such as favourite toys or special blankets to help your little ones settle into the unfamiliar environment.

Is your lifestyle reducing the future value of your car?

As the costs of motoring increase, fewer people are now in a position to buy a new or nearly new car outright. Instead, many motorists choose to opt for the tempting Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) deals offered by car manufacturers.

Unlike a hire-purchase agreement — where the customer owns the car once payments are complete — PCP allows motorists to pay lower monthly instalments over a shorter period of time. Then, at the end of the contract, they can simply hand the car back to the dealer and swap the expired deal for a fresh one on another new car, or purchase the car at its agreed Guaranteed Minimum Future Value (GMFV), which is specified in the initial contract.

As with all seemingly ‘win-win’ situations, there is a catch. Namely, how guaranteed this future value price actually is. Because it has been known for motorists to be financially penalised if their lifestyle subjects the vehicle to more wear and tear than the T&Cs allow.

To find out more about what motorists assume will affect the GMFV price on their car, boot-liner manufacturer Hatchbag ran a survey asking the UK public “What parts of a car do you think are likely to cost you money at the end of a lease?”  

Here’s what the survey revealed:

The results

As expected, motorists were most worried that damage to the bodywork would affect the GMFV when they returned the car to the dealer. Bumper scuffs, interior and window damage were also cited as being potential costs.

Surprisingly, the area that attracted the least amount of consideration was interior boot trim — the area of a vehicle that arguably receives the highest amount of daily wear and tear. With only 14.7% of respondents expressing concern, it highlights that the remaining 85.3% are at risk of facing financial penalties due to the state of their car boot.

Why is the boot such a key area for damage?

The primary purpose of the car boot is to transport larger bulky items, such as luggage, pushchairs or sports equipment. The very nature of these items means that they’re likely to rattle around in transit, potentially knocking or scraping against the interior of the boot and tailgate, not to mention the potential damage to the bumper that could be caused getting them into the boot in the first place.

The boot is also used to store items that might otherwise permanently stain the upholstery in the main seating area of the vehicle — such as muddy boots, wet coats and bags of food shopping— despite the fact that these items are equally likely to soil the interior of the boot. This also presents the additional risk of mould spores that become ground in to the boot lining if wet items aren’t removed immediately.

Boot damage can be a problem in any leased car; however, it is more of a risk in cars belonging to young families, pet owners and sport lovers.  Here’s why…

Families

More often than not, the primary requirement for a family car is size. It’s not rocket science to discover that larger cars generally come with a larger price tag, making families the ideal candidates to opt for a budget friendly PCP option.

Unfortunately, young families are also the sector who are most likely to subject their car to an excessive amount of wear and tear — possibly jeopardising their chance of receiving the car’s full ‘future value’.

This is because the car is often used for the following purposes:

Family holidays – A time when the boot is invaluable for storing lots of luggage and possibly camping and outdoor equipment. Factor in sandy buckets and spades, deckchairs, wind breaks, muddy tents, dirty walking boots and the obligatory wet swimwear and towels, and you have a boot full of items that are likely to deposit dirt, sand and water. There is also the added risk that a boot packed with assorted holiday items could scrape the interior walls and tailgate.

Kiddy gear – Young children notoriously come with a lot of equipment, from every-day items such as prams and strollers to activity equipment like bikes, scooters, roller skates and football kits. All of this gear has one thing in common – dirt, be it mud, grease or oil.

Shopping - Although this isn’t a problem exclusive to families, multiple shopping bags accelerate the risk of delicate items becoming damaged in transit and subsequently spilling out of their packaging. A leaked bottle of olive oil, juice, tomato sauce or red wine can wreak havoc on the boot interior, which no amount of scrubbing can completely remove.

Dog owners

Cars with larger boot spaces are also popular with dog owners, and are often used to transport dogs to and from muddy countryside walks. Inevitably, pet hair and mud will quickly become ingrained in the fabric lining of the boot, something that is difficult to prevent even with the use of dog cushions and blankets.

There is also the consideration that pets may become travel sick or have an ‘accident’ in transit. These stains — and their subsequent odours — can be particularly difficult to completely remove from a fabric boot lining. Some dogs also like to chew or scratch at the boot interior, causing irreparable damage.

Sport lovers

Larger cars aren’t exclusive to those who need to transport additional people or pets; sports lovers often opt for a car with lots of boot space to carry their equipment back and forth. It’s not unusual for boots of the neatest looking cars to be filled with golf clubs, fishing equipment, mountain biking and climbing gear, alongside football and general gym wear. Again, many of these items can create muddy or oily stains, plus scratch and scrape against the boot interior and possibly even rip the fabric lining.

Damage limitation

As there is such a grey area around what counts as ‘normal’ wear and tear on a vehicle, it pays to take precaution and protect your car from any potential damage where possible. External scratches to bodywork are often unavoidable; thankfully it is much easier to prevent internal damage. 

It is relatively easy to valet the front and back seats and footwells as you go to prevent stains appearing; with boot space it is generally better to take a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach.

One great way of ensuring that your boot is not subjected to damage is to fit a boot liner. Rather than throwing down a protective sheet — which is likely to bunch up or slip around, leaving areas of the boot lining unprotected — it is possible to purchase a wipe clean, padded boot liner designed specifically to fit the exact measurements of the make and model of your car. This secure fit means that every inch of the boot lining is protected from any potential damage.

By protecting the boot lining — and inside tailgate if necessary — there is no need to worry about how your lifestyle may be affecting the future value of your car. Instead, you can maximise those family outings, muddy walks and outdoor activities — the very reasons why you may have chosen that particular car in the first place.

The essential checklist for your next camping trip

With summer in full swing, now’s the perfect time to pitch a tent and spend a few days exploring the outdoors. Planning a camping trip may not be as relaxing as staring into a flickering campfire but there’s a good reason why you should put some thought into what you pack. With few of the usual creature comforts of home available at campsites, neglecting to bring an important item could turn your much looked-forward-to getaway into a damp squib. Avoid holiday misery with our handy checklist. The tent Obviously, you’ll need a tent (or tents) big enough to accommodate your party. If you already have one, dust it off and check it before you travel as you may have forgotten that tear from your last adventure needs to be patched up. You should also set it up and pour water over it to ensure it’s still weatherproof. If your tent is new, practice pitching it at home first so you know exactly what you’re doing when you arrive at the campsite. Accessories Check you have all the poles, mallets, pegs and groundsheets you need to keep your tent upright. Bring spares too. Bedding If you want to protect your back and get a comfortable night’s sleep, an airbed or sleeping mat and some comfy pillows are essential. If you don’t want to mess about with pumps, then you may want to invest in self-inflating roll-up mats and pillows. You could also opt for a camp bed if you want to be raised off the ground. Don’t forget sleeping bags too - you can get mummy sleeping bags for ultimate warmth, couples’ bags and ones in junior sizes. Furniture If lounging on the ground isn’t your thing, pack portable camping chairs and a table to create an air of civilisation in the great wide open and a perfect spot for socialising and al fresco dining. Kitchen equipment If you plan on cooking, you’ll need a stove or a barbecue, gas or charcoal and some matches or a lighter. You’ll also need pots, pans, utensils, crockery, cutlery and water containers. A basin, some bin bags, a coolbox, a tin opener and a bottle opener should also come in useful. Lights City dwellers may be surprised by how dark it can get in the countryside. Pack a few lanterns, torches and headlamps to help you stay safe on those night-time trips to the loo and make rooting around for your pjs easy. Power supplies If caveman-style camping doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll need power supplies. Whether you plan on Instagramming your trip via your smartphone or you’re hoping to use a handheld GPS for hiking, you’ll need a portable electronics charger to keep your devices topped up with juice. Or if you just can’t live without a morning brew from your instant boil kettle, make sure you have a mobile mains kit to get power from an electric hook up. Health and safety To keep you and your family healthy and happy, take all your usual medicines, a first aid kit, insect repellent, sunscreen and after sun. Stay clean with antibacterial hand sanitiser, body wash, wet wipes and toilet roll too. Waterproof duct tape Whether you need to mend a rip in your groundsheet or your waterproof fishing trousers, this stuff is bound to come in handy. Boot liners Tent poles, fishing gear, golf clubs, bikes and other such equipment can take its toll on the upholstery of your car boot. Protect it with a boot liner so memories of your trip aren’t imprinted on your vehicle forever.

Tricks that every in-the-know cyclist uses

The number of people taking up cycling is on the rise and it’s no surprise why. If you want to boost your fitness levels, build muscle, save money and help the environment, it’s time to get on your bike and join the many cyclists already on the road. Whether you’re a complete novice or you’ve recently caught the cycling bug, to being a keen cyclist, these tricks should help you to get more from your new hobby. Dress the part If you think that Lycra-clad cyclists are just trying to make a fashion statement, think again. If you want to cycle long distances, improve your speed and protect yourself against the elements, tight-fitting, breathable, moisture-wicking clothing that allows for movement is a must. To prevent chafing and reduce shock absorption, make padded cycling shorts your new best friend. To improve your speed, ditch the backpack and get a cycle jersey with pockets in the back for carrying essentials like pumps, inner tubes and energy gels. Invest in a power meter If you think power meters are just for the pros, you’re mistaken. In recent years, these training aids have become more affordable, allowing amateurs and casual riders to measure their power output and track their performance effortlessly. These gadgets can motivate you to become a stronger rider and help you to discover your strengths and weaknesses, get the most out of your training and prepare yourself for races. What’s not to love? Go clipless If you’re among the uninitiated, you might be confused when experienced cyclists talk about ‘clipping in’. What they’re referring to is the use of clipless pedals, which can improve comfort and boost pedal efficiency. If you find yourself having to reposition your feet as you cycle, clipless pedals can help. They keep your feet in touch with the pedals for the whole revolution, which can improve your handling and help you reach a high cadence without wasting energy. Use a boot liner Transporting your bike by car may be convenient but it can result in wear and tear to your upholstery and tough stains, especially if you enjoy off-roading. If you want to chuck your bike in the boot of your car for a cycling weekend away or a journey to a cycling event, use a boot liner. With their wipe-clean surfaces and durable material, they make easy work of removing dirt and can help you to keep your car looking like new for longer. Work out without your wheels Every cyclist worth their salt knows that if you want to stay balanced physically, you need to train muscle groups that aren’t used when you’re on the bike. Activities like running, yoga, pilates, resistance training, weightlifting and swimming can help to build strength and flexibility in parts of your body that aren’t being worked by cycling. Cross training exercises like these can also help you to improve fitness, prevent injury and promote recovery. We hope these tips have inspired you to take your bike out of storage and get on the move. With the summer in full swing, there’s no better time to explore your surroundings on two wheels.

The UK's Best Bank Holiday May Festivals & Parades

May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on May 1st. It is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures, with dancing, singing and cakes usually making up a part of the celebrations. With the May Bank holiday fast approaching, we’ve shortlisted the best celebrations to get to this weekend.

Jack in the Green May Day festival, Hastings

The Jack in the Green Festival is an annual event that takes place in various parts of the seaside resort. Attracting thousands of attendees each year, the festival spans a total of four days, and, if the residents of Hastings are anything to go by, it truly is an event not to be missed. The long weekend promises to deliver music of all genres and dance performances, as well as numerous activities to keep the whole family entertained. The weekend is topped off by the main event on the May Bank Holiday Monday with the Jack in the Green parade itself. Setting off at 9:45am from the Fisherman’s Huts on Rock-a-Nore Road, you’ll see traditional folk dancers and music throughout the afternoon. The festival finishes with the slaying of Jack to release the spirit of summer for this year.

Sweeps Festival, Rochester

Sweeps Festival is a modern mix of music, dancing and entertainment with more than 60 Morris performances and entertainers celebrating throughout the three-day festival. The festival began back in 1868 after the Climbing Boys’ Act 1868 made it illegal to employ young boys to carry out the trade of chimney sweeping. During the days of underage chimney sweeping, the boys were allowed one holiday per year which was May 1st. The festival year on year promises to recreate the joy and laughter enjoyed by the chimney sweeps from April 29th – May 1st with multiple dance performances. At the festival, expect to find a jam-packed programme with The Mayor of Medway officially opening the festival with a dance showcase at Guildhall Museum Forecourt Full details can be found here.

Festival of Fools, Belfast

The Festival of Fools promises to be a festival like no other with daredevil street performers, fast paced acrobats, heart-stopping Hip Hop dancers as well as laugh out loud comedy acts. With more than 120 performances taking place across the streets of Belfast City Centre and Cathedral Quarter, you’d be crazy to miss this. The line-up won’t disappoint with world class acts coming from all over the world including Poland, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, USA, Canada, Ireland & Holland. If you live in Belfast, get ready to gather up your loved ones and come join in for the best weekend of the year.

Beltane Fire Festival, Edinburgh

Celebrate the first signs of summer with the Beltane Fire Society which marks the changing season with a wild mix of drums, fire and physical theatre. According to the festival organisers, “as darkness falls and the fire torches are lit, our drums will thunder and the May Queen will awaken. Across the night She leads her court around the hill and through great arch of fire; the Green Man will be stripped of his winter guise and reborn, and together they will light the traditional Beltane bonfire.“ To find out more or to buy your tickets, visit the website here. Whatever activity you end up doing this weekend, we’d love to see what you get up to. Send us a snap or tag us in your picture by finding us; @HatchbagCompany on Twitter, @thehatchbagcompany on Instagram and The Hatchbag Company on Facebook. Happy May Bank Holiday!

Spring is in the Air

After what feels like the longest winter ever, spring is finally upon us. Gone are the days of leaving work at 17:00 in darkness to now leaving with the sun in our sights to do more things outside. And in all the excitement of the new season beginning, here at Hatchbag, we have come up with a few things you can do to kick-start your spring.
  1. Spring Cleaning

The beginning of spring is the perfect time to sort out anything you no longer want or need and to give your house a good spring clean. And with the brighter and longer days, it is the perfect time for doing a car boot sale, taking old stuff to the tip or taking unwanted stuff to a charity shop. And, we can guarantee that once you have done your spring clean, you will feel so much better for it.

2. Gardening

Spring is the perfect season for gardening as the soil warms up and flowers begin to bloom. Pop along to your local garden centre and pick out some new plants and seeds to brighten up your garden. Then once you return, don some old clothes and get your hands green, while enjoying the perfect spring weather. Best of all; bring some of your spring garden indoors, by picking your own beautiful spring flowers.
  1. Walking & cycling

At last, it no longer feels that the day is over at 17:00. So after work, why not grab the whole family for an evening walk. What better way to end the day than enjoying the lovely spring weather after a day in the office or at school. Or, why not dust off the bikes in the garage or shed and go for a pedal with the family. It doesn’t matter whether you are walking/cycling around the block, down a quiet country road or across an open field; it’s just great to make the most of this perfect weather.
  1. Making the most of rainy days

We all know that April showers gets its name from somewhere, but, don’t let this put a downer on what you have planned this spring. Instead why not make the most of it and be sure to brighten up your little ones day with the following activities;
  • Getting muddy – kids and four-legged friends alike love jumping and rolling around in the mud. And for those who like making things then why not make a mud pie. Just make sure you have a spare set of clothing with you, once your outdoor adventure has ended.
  • Puddles – find your reflection, splash in the water or see if you can spot any outdoor treasure.
  • Take a look at nature – Once the kids have stopped jumping into puddles and making mud pies then take a look around to see what nature is out there. In wet weather, all kinds of creatures take to the surface, so, go and see how many you can find?
Whatever the weather this spring and no matter what you get up to, one thing is for sure, your Hatchbag boot-liner will come in very handy; whether it be stopping your boot from getting damaged as you spring-clean, or, preventing mud from getting into the carpet from a day at the garden centre and also from wet and mucky dogs and clothes alike. Let us know what you love most about spring on our social media sites by tagging @HatchbagCompany on Twitter, @thehatchbagcompany on Instagram & The Hatchbag Company on Facebook. Happy spring everyone!  

Best Garden Events of 2017

With Spring peeking its head around the corner, it’s time to find inspiration for your garden. Here at Hatchbag, we’ve put together a list of our top garden events for 2017. So whether you’re an avid horticulturist or just starting to get green fingers, there’s sure to be a show to encourage your creative side.

Chelsea Flower Show 23rd-27th May

One of the UK’s leading flower and garden shows returns this year, with a host of displays and collaborations. From artisan and show gardens created and produced by top designers to gardens with ‘out of the box’ ideas for smaller spaces. Experience floral-inspired delicacies, sip on champagne or eat your way through three courses featuring ‘The Best of British’ products. The Chelsea Flower Show incorporates beautiful gardens with high-class food. Visit the website here: RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Gardening Scotland 2nd-4th June

Discover the latest gardening trends, purchase new tools and track down plants to make your garden space at home unique to you. With over 400 exhibitors and 35,000 people in attendance, the Royal Highland Centre is a stunning celebration of gardening. Schools and gardening groups will be able to take part in creating their very own mini pallet gardens. Children and parents can also learn how they can make their outside spaces more eco-friendly. Enthusiastic gardeners will be able to enjoy speaking to experts from the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society who will be on-hand to answer questions and give advice. Visit the website here: Gardening Scotland pexels-photo-89796

Spring Festival 20th-21st May

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society Spring Festival is back again this year. With a range of activities, workshops and displays that celebrate the best of rural life, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The Gardening Hall will have exhibitors from all over the UK displaying plants & flowers, holding competitions and activities; from creating a hedgehog feeding station, to finding that perfect bulb to plant in shaded areas. Visit the website here: Royal Welsh Spring Festival

Southport Flower Show 17th-20th August

With previous celebrity guests such as David Dormoney and Ainsley Harriott, the Southport Flower Show is not to be missed in 2017! Last year the Southport Flower Show also hosted a food festival, a British flower display, an edible garden and Spanish dancing horses. This year’s event has the theme of ‘The Curious Garden’ and is inspired by mystery, wonder and curiosity. We’re looking forward to another embellished show this year. Visit the website here: Southport Flower Show Whichever event you happen to attend, be sure to take your Hatchbag boot-liner to protect your boot from any soil spillages or fallen pollen. Also, we’d love to see pictures from the event. Send us your snaps in on social to @HatchbagCompany for Twitter, @thehatchbagcompany on Instagram & The Hatchbag Company on Facebook.

The best UK festivals of 2017

It might not feel like it at the moment with the colder days looming, but it won’t be long before the festival season is upon us once more.  With literally hundreds of festivals to choose from, the team at Hatchbag have shortlisted four which are definitely worth considering.

Festival No.6

A stunning art and music festival held every year in the heart of Portmeirion, Wales, Festival No.6 presents a wide range of eclectic music genres including; rock and roll, folk, house, techno and dance music. Festival No.6 is renowned for more than just the music. Think arts & culture shows, amazing food and drink to indulge in and fantastic activities, such as yoga, paddle boarding and swimming. Find out more here. FESTIVAL-NO.6

Green Man Festival

With a tradition for championing great music and even better causes, the Brecon Beacons has become one of the best UK summer festivals going, drawing in crowds from all over the UK. Undoubtedly Wales’s biggest music event, Green Man is a non-corporate and ethically minded festival that combines great music and echoes the swinging 60’s spirit. Find out more here.

The Good Life Festival

We love this newcomer to the UK festival offering. Part-curated by Cerys Matthews, this festival is a  combination of fantastic folk music, amazing foods to try and activities to partake in, such as pottery classes. Welsh Sweetheart, Cerys Matthews from Catatonia, curates the event, along with the owners of Hawarden Farm Shop where the festival is held. If ever there was an event that begged you to switch off and relax, this is it. Find out more here.

Bestival

Originally set up by radio DJ, Rob Da Bank, Bestival is based at Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle of Wight and plays host to some of the biggest names in music. Year after year, Bestival showcases some of the most amazing musical acts, such as Elton John, The Chemical Brothers and Missy Elliot. Your eyes are also in for a treat as the festival replicates a magical fairytale, with fancy dress and fairground rides to enjoy. More information can be found here. Whichever festival you attend this summer, be sure to take your Hatchbag boot-liner to protect your boot from muddy wellies and tents. For more information about our range, visit the website here.

5 outdoor activities that will inspire a fitter & happier you in 2017

The UK is home to beautiful scenery. So, with some of the best activities and adventures at your fingertips, it’s time to pack your Hatchbag boot-liner and embrace the great outdoors this 2017.

pexels-photo-97804 (1) Zorbing

There are some things in life you have to try at least once and Zorbing is definitely one of those things. If you’re not familiar with Zorbing, it’s basically where you’re strapped inside a giant inflatable ball with an equally unhinged partner. You’re then let loose down a hill and the ball will naturally roll and bounce at speeds of up to 30mph. You’ll be laughing and shouting with excitement all the way to the bottom! There are numerous companies up and down the country such as Go Zorbing which have a great reputation.

Bungee jumping

If you’re looking for an adrenaline-fueled activity that is sure to leave you feeling hyped up for the rest of the week, it’s time you gave bungee jumping a try. There’s not much else that will excite you more than a bungee jump from 160ft. If you’re feeling really adventurous then you could even try the highest bungee jump in the UK at 300ft. Surely that’s the ultimate experience for a thrill seeker? With tandem or solo bungees available at numerous locations across the UK, start your bungee experience here.

Climbing

Climbing outdoors can be one of the most exhilarating and satisfying forms of exercise, merging the gymnastics of indoor climbing with the wild and beautiful elements of the outdoors. Climbing has numerous facets such as bouldering, sport climbing and traditional climbing to name a few. With so many styles to choose from, it’s not hard to see why so many people fall in love with the sport every year. You can start your climbing journey by joining a local climbing club or taking a course. SAMSUNG CSC

Walk the Offa’s Dyke

Following the English & Welsh border for over 177 miles alongside the 8th Century Offa’s Dyke trail, this stunning national trail takes you through changing landscapes, picturesque scenery and remote woodlands, allowing you to catch a view of Britain’s finest wildlife. Walkers usually split this 177 -mile route up, with the three most popular sections being: The Wye Valley 16 miles Pandy to Hay-on-Wye 18 miles Llangollen to Prestatyn 34 miles

Cycling

Whether you want to get fit, start racing or you’d just like to feel the benefits of getting from A – B powered by your own steam, cycling is the sport to try. Whether you’re cycling solo, with friends or with the family, there are so many reasons to love being on two wheels. Of course, the first step to take is getting hold of a bike. Once you have one, you can hit the open road with your helmet and Hi-Viz whenever you like. . For top tips, check out the Go Sky Ride website. bike-trip-friends-cycling-163305 Whatever outdoor activity you decide to try next year, make sure you pack up your Hatchbag boot-liner to avoid any nasty spills or rips in your car boot. Also, let us know what you guys get up to by sending some snaps into our social. Check out @thehatchbagcompany on Instagram or @HatchbagCompany on Twitter.