Easter is family time. Stay & play in fields of chocolate eggs

Easter weekend is always a favourite at fforest because family fun is at the heart of the celebrations. When Spring is in the air, the farm slowly starts to warm up after the colder Winter months, and as our Easter families descend upon the farm to kick start our season, we feel that warmth spread. 

This year we had some very talented kids and grownups paint their masterpiece eggs, to then watch them roll down the hill towards the Bwthyn pub. fforest breakfasts kept them fuelled for the day ahead, with a special egg & soldiers breakfast on Easter Sunday. Our guests tend to keep themselves busy over the weekend; adventuring on woodland & coastal walks, wild swimming in the Teifi river followed by hot saunas on site, traditional egg hunts, egg painting, egg rolling, s'more toasting & movie nights for kids (& big kids!). Wholesome suppers make the perfect end to blissful days.

The fforest Easter elves have every aspect of your stay covered. A typical weekend itinerary looks a bit like this:

Friday 30th March
Check in from 4 with Tea & cakes
Bwthyn open at 6
Pizza making/eating from 7
 
Saturday 31st March
Breakfast 8-10
Sauna open 9-12/3-6
Fire pit made and Bwthyn open from 5
Evening meal at 6
Firepit & Marshmallow s'mores at 7
 
Sunday 1st April
Boiled egg & soldiers 8-10
Egg painting & rolling 10-11
A walk with cracking Easter egg hunt 11-12
Simple sandwich lunch 1:30
Easter chicken supper 6
Movie on at 7
 
Monday 2nd April
Breakfast 8-10
Check out from 11

Book your all-inclusive Easter 2018 weekend by choosing your preferred accommodation below.
Click the 30th of March as your arrival date and our system will show prices for the whole weekend stay.



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Share, support & inspire: Creative retreats for women

fforest has had the pleasure of hosting a number of creative retreats for women, all of which have a few traits in common: to share, support & inspire one another. 

Syjunta, Feb 2017

We held our first Syjunta weekend in the February of this year; a creative retreat centred upon women coming together to learn, interact and relax. Syjunta focussed on the beautiful and intricate skill of hand embroidery. Our guests enjoyed woodland walks to gather inspiration from nature to implement in their embroidery designs, all from the comfort of a soft sofa. The retreat was held at Ty fforest where our ladies all stayed under one roof in the most luxurious of fforest accommodation. We wanted to ensure that the Syjunta retreat left our guests feeling inspired and rejuvenated; having practiced new skills and spent time chatting and unwinding with like-minded individuals.

Glow, March 2018

Following Syjunta, we wanted to expand upon the element of engagement in our creative retreats. The idea that women can share their skills and learn from one other in an environment that's calm and comforting. In the Spring of 2018, we will be hosting the Glow retreat at Ty fforest. Open to a maximum of 20 people, its an event that has creativity and exchange at its core. The goal is to inspire, support and help one other, and maybe learn something new. To take the opportunity to get stuck into a project, or simply use our spaces to relax into a comfy chair, listen to the birds and read a book. A couple of workshops have been arranged but there is no fixed schedule or end product, we offer Glow as a space to be filled with your own imagination.

Learn more about Glow 2018 here

Sisterhood, June 2017

"We provide biannual retreats, small intimate workshops and suppers for women, with the main aim to embrace a slower, more gentler pace of life through creativity, connection, fireside chats and sisterly support." Founded by Lou Archell, the Sisterhood camp has been hosted at fforest for the past two years. The 'sisters' are guided through workshops and talks, fed wholesome meals and encouraged to relax with the idea to nourish creativity, connect with nature and with each other.

Lifestyle blogger, Abi Dare, was invited by Visit Wales to join the Sisterhood at this year's retreat. Her blog piece documenting her experience at Sisterhood and at fforest is a wonderful read, and is accompanied by some beautiful photography, some of which photos have been used in the gallery below. To read her blog piece and to see more photos visit Abi's website here.

We have learned that intimate retreats like these are full of the small things that can make a big difference. We are developing exciting plans for our future Glowcamps; with inspiration, creativity, wellness and a big dollop of pampering at their heart. Further details soon.

Book your place at Glow 2018 here



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SNAP: An international photography festival

"I firmly believe that the magic of fforest made SNAP and that's why we didn't hesitate in deciding to come back the following year."

-Laura Babb, founder of SNAP

Wedding & lifestyle photography festival, SNAP, was held at fforest in April this year (and on another two occasions before that). Founded by Laura Babb, the professional wedding photographer has created a photography retreat consisting of talks, workshops, live shoots and business sessions, all hosted within the 200 acre boundary of fforest farm.

These guys seemed to make use of every space fforest farm has to offer: Under the giant hat tipi, in our newly renovated project barn, outside & under canopies, inside the lodge barn, in our cosy little pub (where many a visitor prefers to dwell), in fields, under water, in the sauna... everywhere! It's a delight to see so many talented creatives using fforest spaces to inspire work & progress.

Photos by Wojtek


Read more about SNAP 2017 and see more images here



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The Pizzatipi transformed for a Summer wedding

The wild wedding of Emilie Lovaine and Jon James took place in June this year. An unusual but beautiful use of space at the Pizzatipi.

The Lovaine-James wedding is one that the fforest elves remember mostly for its many twinkling fairy lights and abundance of florals & greenery adorning tables, framing seating plans, even embellishing the wedding cake.

Pizzatipi seemed to be a perfect location for the couple's wedding vision; with the tipi, newly refurbished pizza shack and old stone buildings forming beautiful backdrops to wedding photos. With their alfresco, makeshift (first)dance floor and choosing to host the wedding feast under canvas, the wild & rustic L-J wedding made use of the whole courtyard whilst somehow keeping it cosy and intimate. The decoration and setting magically blur the line between indoor & outdoor; a concept we know (quite well) and love (a lot) at fforest.

Photos by Darina Stoda




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A holiday for the senses: Gather can stimulate the body & mind

We keep the mind active & the body moving at Gather. We can slow it down too, if that's what the body needs.
We want to feel something, learn something, create something, and we trust our bodies to help us do it...

Gather enlists the help of all the senses to encourage creativity, to practice patience, to uncover hidden talents, to enjoy simple pleasures. Browse our Gather 2017 galleries below to see what you could feel, taste, smell, see and hear at Gather.

TOUCH

Use your hands.

Combine a fresh muffin mixture and bake it over fire, mould a clay pot and decorate with fresh flowers, feel the grooves of letterpress letters in all shapes and sizes, sculpt magical woodland creatures out of clay, carve a spoon from a single block of wood, make pencils out of branches, weave willow into bold structures, sketch a wild bird, tie ropes around sticks to secure dens, mix water colours and inks, feel a refreshing pang of cold whilst wild swimming...


Taste

Feed your appetite.

Sample fresh breads, cheeses & chutneys, relish every wholesome breakfast, lunch & dinner, forage for wild herbs & edible plants, ponder over enticing choices from the fforest cafe, be surprised by natural wines, Welsh spirits & unusual beers, dribble over lavishly decorated cakes, try something you never have before...


Smell

Breathe it all in.

Savour the heavenly scent of freshly baked bread, notice subtle notes in natural wines, challenge your senses to beer tasting, deliciously unusual cheeses melt over burning embers to be lathered onto flatbreads, fforest flowers beam from their beds; the sweet peas and sunflowers firm favourites, your lungs are filled with fresh, clean, Welsh air, and there's plenty to go around...


SEE

Widen your horizons.

Watch clever people as they teach you clever things, meet & greet your inner artist, identify new talents and nurture them, create an idea and watch it grow; follow its journey from conception to completion, notice your imagination running wild, approach bold decisions with conviction, look at what you've created, surprise yourself, find magic in the woods, spot a bird in a tree, a stag in the field, a cat on your seat...


HEAR

Gather to listen.

Share stories over blazing fires, attend workshops and practice new recipes, concepts, techniques, laugh with old & new friends, birds chirp & chime in the trees, sausages sizzle over hot coals, crackling fires warm to the core, awaken to still & silent mornings, hear everything; hear nothing, but that dog will bark if you don't throw the stick...


What do you want from Gather?

Find out...



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8 tipis, 546 blankets, 9,688 bowls of granola & 1 Bwthyn. 10 years of fforest, in numbers

gather 17.jpg

2,422 holidays
122 weddings
34 events
3 fforest gathers
347 dogs
100M ideas
48 builders
5 restorations
8 tipis
546 blankets
150k logs
113k L of cwrw/beer
7.35M pints
64,195 pizzas
3k candle sticks
11k tea lights
2,398 enamel mugs
142 designer chairs
3 resident cats
23 tipis held down
7.19 T of flour
9,688 bowls of granola
6 f***ing lawn mowers
12 amps blown
0 arguements 😏
112k hangovers
8 antlers
1 ghost
and many more

 



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Meet the chefs, pups, lawn mowerers, pizza makers, champagne pourers, pillow plumpers: The fforest elves



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We are often asked, what is fforest? fforest chief gives his simple equation

Even though fforest has now been in existence for 10 years, we are still asked "What do you do?" 

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You'd think after all this time we'd have a stock answer. The problem is we are constantly evolving, morphing and embracing change. We add and we take away. And what we do do, we don't do like anyone else. So it's hard to put a name to it.

fforest is not

•A hotel
•A restaurant
•A glamping site
•A country estate
•A beach resort
•An all inclusive resort
•A festival venue
•A team building venue
•A conference centre
•An education centre
•A celebration venue
•An activity centre
•A yoga retreat
•A live music venue

fforest is

•None of the above
•All of the above
•Whatever you want it to be

fforest is what you make it.



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Enamelware of all shapes, colours and sizes. One fforest's oldest friends

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'A combination of thousands of tiny decisions'
-fforestchief

Our look is simple. Simple isn't easy. The simpler it looks, the more time and thought has gone into it's development.

The few elements have to be so carefully curated to arrive at the final result. One of our favourite elements is our Danish cookware. The finest selection of Copco enamelware outside of Denmark ...possibly.

Not confined to the kitchen, our enamelware can be found in the breakfast room, the dining room, even in the bedrooms at Ty Fforest. The best dressed rooms in Pembrokeshire ...probably. 



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'The Woof Guide'. The best of dog friendly walks on the Pembrokeshire coastline

3/6 of the fforest dogs
Photo by sian@coldatnight

Swim, run, walk, dig, bury, play, fight & bark on beautiful walks along the coast of south/west Wales, and your dogs can join in too...

The fforest dogs: Arrow, Bru, Mossy, Shrimp, Monty & Nan have explored much of the Welsh coastline already and are probably the most reliable tour guides of the West coast. But in case they missed something, they suggest reading 'The Woof Guide' of Pembrokeshire for the best dog friendly walks in the local area. Most of these beaches, coastal paths and countryside walks are a stones throw from fforest and are well worth a visit.

Visit the Woof Guide website for a list of walks here



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What Sian's reading: An enchanting book by Clare Leighton, describing a year in her garden

A beautiful book by artist and author Clare Leighton, her famous wood engravings are as enchanting as her nature stories.

Born in London in 1898, the English/American artist is best known for her wood engravings which, in this book, lovingly illustrate the essence and beauty of the seasons, and the joys and hardships of a gardener. Thanks to her work as an accomplished wood engraver, she inspired a revival of the craft in Britain and North America. 

She produced a remarkable body of work in her lifetime including over 840 wood engravings, twelve books that she both wrote and illustrated, as well as paintings, glass and ceramics. She was also commissioned to produce twelve engravings for an American illustrated edition of Wuthering Heights in the 1930s (as seen below).

Read reviews and buy your own copy here



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Lillie from London Borough of Jam shares her passion for unusual yet delicious jam flavours at Gather

"I love the idea of being able to preserve the seasons by bottling fruits." Lillie O'Brien is the founder of London Borough of Jam, home of wonderfully weird taste combinations, a shop dedicated to the selling of damn good jam.

Greengage & fennel pollen, rhubarb & cardamom, blackberry & bay leaves... These are just a few of Lillie's jam creations. Her flavour combinations may be unusual but her finished products are just the right balance of weird, wonderful, sweet & subtle. Not just a go-to for the jam connoisseurs of London but slowly becoming a major hit overseas too, Lillie's jams are rightfully earning the widespread recognition and high status they deserve.

We are so excited to welcome back Lillie to this year's Gather to host another one of her superbly mouth-watering jam workshops.

Join us at Gather 2018! More info and book tickets here

In the meantime, take a head start before Gather and try your hand at one of Lillie's jam recipes below. Taken from The Food Keeper's blog, Lillie's Rhubarb & Cardamom jam:

Ingredients (for 10 300mL-10oz jars):

1.2KG (2.6 LBS) OUTDOOR RHUBARB

800G (1.7 LBS) CASTER SUGAR

2 TABLESPOONS GREEN CARDAMOM PODS

JUICE OF 1 LEMON

Instructions:

•Toast the cardamom pods in a small skillet over medium heat until they start to pop and turn light brown. Be careful, as they can be quite ‘lively’! Take the pan off the stove and leave to cool.

• Once cool, grind the pods in a electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle until the seeds inside have been ground (if using a mortar and pestle, you will need to sieve out the skins of the pods as they wont break down with the pestle).

• Mix the ground cardamom with sugar and leave for 24 hours to infuse.

• Once you are ready to make the preserves, wash the rhubarb and chop roughly into 5cm pieces.

• Place the rhubarb into a heavy based pan with ¼ cup of water and set to medium heat.

• Once the Rhubarb has started breaking down slowly add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir to combine.

• Bring the Preserve to the boil and cook till setting point 105c.

• Take the pan off the stove and leave to rest for 5 minutes, stirring to distribute any bubbles, which will slowly disappear.

• Pour into warm sterilized jars, and make sure you sterilize your lids.

Visit the London Borough of Jam website here



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Stretched across 186 miles of coastline, St David's peninsula is a spectacular place to go walking

Opened in 1970, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path was the first National Trail in Wales and is one of 15 National Trails in Britain.

It stretches for approximately 186 miles from St Dogmeals to Amroth, passes 58 beaches along the way and many a charming town & village, including Tenby, St Davids, Solva and Newport. If you were to do it all in one go, the whole of the Pembrokeshire coastline would take 10 to 15 days to walk! So most people tend to choose to do a small section of it to begin with.

The National Trust provide easy to follow guides for some of the best walking trails in Pembrokeshire, the one we have chosen below covers St David's Head coastal walk. An area of untouched, stunning, ever-changing beauty; depending on which point of the path you have reached you will witness the beauty from all angles. We have provided their concise directions below, but read the full article on their website here

Route length: 3.8 miles
Time: 1hr 15mins
Dog friendly

Start at Whitesands beach or carpark...

  1. From Whitesands, go through a gap in the wall on passing the site of St Patrick's Chapel. Climb a sandy slope up on to the cliff path. After about ½ mile (0.8km) you reach a kissing gate and National Trust sign. Continue to the crest of the hill.
     
  2. From here, see Coetan Arthur silhouetted against the sky. St David's Head is forged of very old volcanic rock, some of it dates back almost 500 million years. This geology is best represented by Carn Llidi, the towering jagged outcrop, or tor, and in the rocky islands of Ramsey, Bishops and Clerks several miles out to sea. Our main route sticks to the coast, descending into the valley ahead via broad steps to a spring above the tiny cove of Porth Melgan. An alternative route heads gently uphill round the back of Carn Llidi with fine views to the east, or adventurous souls can scramble to the summit of this peak.
     
  3. Cross the stream by a bridge and turn right or north-east to walk up this valley. This area can be slippery and muddy in winter.
     
  4. To your right is a marshy area with the typical 'dinosaur egg' shapes of purple moor grass or 'rhos pasture', green in summer and earthy coloured in winter. Higher up, on the flanks of Carn Llidi, you can see ancient field patterns. Look out for birds like stonechat, meadow pipit and skylark in clumps of reedbed and willow. The rare Dartford warbler has also been seen in recent years.
     
  5. At the highest point here, the peak of Pen Beri and the expanse of Cardigan Bay appears in the distance. Two headlands away is the winking lighthouse of Strumble Head with the peak of Garn Fawr above it. Descend to rejoin the coast path and turn left towards St David's Head.
     
  6. On the plateau a remarkable rockscape opens up. Jagged erratic rocks are mirrored by the rugged profile of Ramsey Island out to sea. North of Ramsey are the 'Bishops and Clerks', little islets, one of which is home to a big lighthouse. Offshore, you might be lucky enough to spot porpoise or dolphin playing in the waves.
     
  7. The route eventually passes Coetan Arthur and descends to an Iron Age coastal fort at the end of the peninsula. Continue on the coast path, returning to Porth Melgan. Retrace your route from here back to Whitesands beach.



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New improvements, exciting developments & one mighty big oven... The Pizzatipi opens its doors for the Summer season

fforest elves & builders have been very busy at our quayside pizza restaurant...

Some of you may have already noticed a few changes at the Pizzatipi. A gigantic new oven, an extended decking area for more riverside seating, and a bigger pizza shack cladded with tin from an old boat shed, to name a few. We've made some improvements but our pizzas are still as golden as ever. Pizza service is now running daily, from 12-9, for the whole season. Here's what to expect from the Pizzatipi this Summer...

Giovanni the pizza oven

Thanks to the brilliant Gozney ovens, we can cater for the masses with this absolute beauty. It can hold up to 10 pizzas at a time and bakes a perfect pizza every time. Both gas and wood fired, you still get that authentic smokey taste that the Pizzatipi is known for.

Pizza specials

We have welcomed a very special chef this season who will be in charge of creating ingenious recipes for our daily pizza specials. Expect outrageous combinations of fine ingredients to tickle every tastebud, here are a few of chef's latest creations...

Cardigan Bay brownies

Our favourite local brownie baker has collaborated with us to produce a unique fforest brownie: beetroot, dark chocolate and salted caramel - they're gluten free too! Nerys has recently set up her own brownie business based in Cardigan and we couldn't be happier to be collaborating with one of the best food producers in town. 

Pizzatipi X Bara menyn

We're chuffed to be working with Jack at @bara_menyn for the season to bring you Sourdough pizzas, using their daily loaf dough we're making pizzas with a full crust and heaps of flavour. Choose the classic Pizzatipi thin-crust or Jack's full-crust base on any of our pizzas this season, you'll be spoilt for choice!

Local & organic salad leaves

In keeping with Pizzatipi tradition of offering the best of local produce, our fresh salad leaves will be provided by Glebelands market garden from St Dogmeals, just up the road. The juiciest, crunchiest leaves, local & organic. Only the best to accompany your pizza.

Pizzatipi's world famous garlic focaccia & cloud bread

No improvements needed here. Our daily baked cloud bread doubles up as garlic focaccia when lathered in chef's garlic & parsley butter and baked in the pizza oven. Always a golden crust, never a soggy bottom.

tafarn Smwglin

The Pizzatipi's own pub. Tafarn Smwglin sits in the courtyard on the Teifi wharf side at Cambrian Quay, on the ground floor of an eighteenth century warehouse. Recently renovated, sit inside the bar by the cosy comfort of candle light or enjoy some sheltered outdoor seating in the sunshine by the bar entrance. We have a fine selection of welsh spirits & beers, including our own brew - Cwrw fforest, and have smuggled in some none-welsh drinks too. Iechyd da!

On the river's edge

Our quayside location is as close to the river Teifi as you can get and offers the best view of the sunset in town. Choose riverside seating or cosy up under our two giant hat tipis by the warmth of the fire, there's plenty of room for everybody.

With new & old favourites firmly in place, the Pizzatipi is eager to welcome pizza lovers with open arms, come and say hi!

For info on special events over the Summer, visit the Pizzatipi website here

Follow the Pizzatipi Instagram for all the latest goss 



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Stories from the sea: Diving for spider crabs with fforest chief

Spider crabs are curious creatures. With their remarkably long legs, strong claws and prickled shells, their build is just as fascinating as their nature and habits. fforest chief has been observing these creatures for years and has a unique insight into the secret lives of spider crabs as they exist and thrive on the Welsh coastline.
He shares this rare and beautiful insight below:

'They start coming in around the beginning of May and usually peak around about now, the beginning of June. About five years ago, numbers seemed to peak. Last year's weren't very good and there was an idea that the crabs were moving further north. But in fact, this year, the evidence shows that they’re back.

Up until about 7 or 8 years ago, the local fishermen would throw spider crab back into the sea because there was no commercial value in them. The story goes that they used to pull one claw off a male crab and then throw it back. The cock crabs have much bigger claws whilst females don't have any claws to speak of. 

Interestingly, both male and female spider crabs are filter feeders and foragers, and that creates, to my mind, a very sweet tasting flesh. As opposed to brown crab which, actually, if you taste them side by side, tastes quite fishy by comparison. The white meat is really delicate and beautiful in a spider crab.


The reason the cock crabs come closer into the shore is that the females come in to shed their shells. Their soft shelled state is the only time the cock crabs can mate with them. Its an odd situation because they’re actually mating when they're at their most vulnerable from other predators, like sea bass and other big fish.

When the cock crabs come in, frequently you'll find the male and female crabs coupled together. Once they’ve been fertilised they stick together for a week or two, with the cock crabs wrapping their claws around the female. Once the males have mated they tend to disappear and leave the females behind. There are places along the coast where you can see thousands of females in huge mounds, left behind after their mates have gone. 

I avoid taking any female crabs at all during the mating season. When they’re coupled in that way I leave them well alone. Its not always obvious that they’re coupled though, so when you see a nice big cock crab, and its got its female underneath it, if the female drops out mid water there’s a sort of palpable desperation of the male to fight to find the female and re-clasp itself. It seems to be more than an instinct, it might even be love.

I've been an avid explorer of coast for many years, especially the Welsh coastline. The waters around the UK are so teeming with marine life that snorkelling is a real pleasure, but its a fleeting one because of that issue of water clarity. So you have to take up the opportunity when you can, regardless of what work commitments or anything else you might have.


Diving for spider crabs is always a fascinating adventure. I was very amused to read a section of a book written by George Monbiot where he describes a sort of battle with the spider crab in order to catch it. In fact, it could be nothing further from the truth. The skill is in choosing a day when the waters are clear, to then dive down deep enough to find the bigger ones, and to catch them with a gentle hand.

When I first started diving I used my bare hands to grab the shell. My palms were full of prickles, bits of the spine surface of the body that is actually slightly poisonous. My hands were constantly irritated during the summer. But now, I've learned two things from my experiences: to wear neoprene gloves, and to not panic and grab, but to pick them up very gently and turn them upside down so that they wrap their claws around their body in a protective state. They’re actually very passive in this state, you can handle them quite easily in this way.

I really enjoy the solitude of exploring a real "other" place. There's a lot of pleasure in just the swimming. So much so that catching a crab is a bonus, its not actually the point. I do like the idea that you’re foraging, that you’re bringing something back for free, and that's a strong motivation; to bring this beautiful, special food back for no price at all. But it's the swimming in another world, a spellbinding, mysterious underwater world, that I find most rewarding.'



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"A cake should make you feel a little bit magic." The world of weird & wonderful decorations from Cake of Dreams.

'Everyone deserves a little bit of home baked, thoughtful goodness on their birthday. Or their wedding day. Or a Tuesday...'

Lovely Francesca is the lady behind these glorious, flower-covered, colour explosion cakes, handmade for any occasion. We fired a few questions Francesca's way to learn a little bit more about her thriving business and what to expect at her cake decorating workshop at Gather this August:

Your cakes are a delight to look at, each with their own unique decorations yet all with the same distinct style. What’s the inspiration behind the Cake of Dreams look?

When I started making cakes - for fun and then for a job - it was because I wanted cakes to make me feel like the cakes you would imagine as a child - cakes from story books or films. I wanted them to feel decadent and special and sparkly and oozy and conjure up some nostalgia and glamour and whimsy. A cake should make you feel a little bit magic and be a treat for all the senses, it’s no fun having the same old cake as everyone else… 

From glitter cherries to kittens wearing party hats, how do you choose your weird & wonderful decorations?

Everything has flowed rather organically. The glitter cherries were one of the first things I came up with, trying to decorate one of my very first cakes. I had this image of a disco ball cherry that I wanted to recreate, so I just experimented until it worked. The animals in party hats evolved from someone asking for something circus themed and I had this image of a Victorian dancing bear in a ruff and a hat, so I built one and after that kept getting requests for different “party animals” in custom getups. Poor little bear… I try not to stray too far from the general vibe of the cakes I have created, but occasionally someone will request something a bit out of my comfort zone and I’ll invent something new and love it. 

You’ve been a Gather contributor before, what can the Gather guests expect from a Cake of Dreams workshop? Is it kid friendly?

I love making food with my own kids, and I think that children can really bring that wonder and magic to decorating that I strive for, so last year I did a kids only workshop where they could just go a bit wild with all the tools I use, and the result was totally gorgeous psychedelic kid-decorated cupcakes that were worth the very lengthy cleaning up afterwards… I also do a class for 15+ to go over icing and decorating big layer cakes, with marginally less glitter and flowers flying through the air, and some secret tips doled out, all very relaxed and with lots of chatting. 

Francesca will be returning to run her cake decorating workshop this Summer at Gather; complete with flowers, foraged fruits from the fforest gardens, edible glitter, jewels, sprinkles, maybe even a couple of unicorns - who knows! Whatever she brings, its bound to be one of the wackiest (& messiest) of all Gather workshops!

Guarantee your place on the Cake of Dreams workshop at Gather, book tickets here

Visit the Cake of Dreams website



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Love camping? Hate loading up the car? We've found the perfect alternative: Bikepacking

On fforest lands and nearby trails, cyclists will find some great places to ride. Imagine if you could combine your love of camping & cycling into one big holiday adventure? Well, we suggest Bikepacking to those of you who can pack light!

Simply put, Bikepacking is the synthesis of mountain biking and minimalist camping; essentially its backpacking with a bike – or any ride that includes an overnight stay. A new guidebook features all the best spots in the UK to cycle, explore & camp on an off-road, micro-adventure. Perfect for families too! 

Read some bikepacking tips from the author of the book, Laurence McJannet, and buy the book below...

The bike:

The best bike for bikepacking is the one you already own. You don’t need a frame with eyelets or rack mounts for panniers, and even a road bike can be fitted with wider, more robust tyres to cope with canal towpaths and paved bridleways. I find there’s no better bike than a rigid hardtail, the original mass-produced mountain bike, and the kind that has been left neglected in many people’s garages for a decade or more. With no suspension forks to compress, you don’t have to worry about your tyre catching a bag slung under your handlebars. Too many moving parts can be problematic when you have luggage slung under the front, centre and back of the frame. Big-wheeled bikes (with 29in or the new ‘standard’ 650b wheels) are great for manoeuvrability but can have limited clearance for hanging luggage slings under bars and seat-posts.

Carrying things:

You’ll need a backpack of some kind, around 30 litres is perfect, and ideally with double straps rather than a messenger bag with a single strap. You’ll need at least one bag attached to the frame to carry your overnight kit, though two or three spread evenly across the bike work better. Knowing the British weather it’s best that these are waterproof (drybags are available from most outdoor retailers and come in a variety of sizes, with loops, eyelets or straps to give you loads of mounting options). However, if it’s the middle of a dry dusty summer a bin bag might get you through (it worked for me on my first adventure ride).

Eating/drinking:

Take food that doesn’t need cooking at first, or eat before you go. If your first adventure rides are near your home you can have breakfast when you get back. Two 750ml water bottles should be ok for short rides.

Fixing things:

Whether it’s for you or the bike, there are certain remedies you shouldn’t be without. A torch is always useful, a simple tool kit, pump, tyre levers and spare inner tubes will keep you on the move. A basic first aid kit and phone will let your loved ones sleep a little easier – remember to tell them where you are going and when you’ll be back.

Clothing:

Unless the forecast guarantees dry weather, take a waterproof jacket. It needn’t be a cycling-specific cut; you just need something to keep you dry until you can find shelter to make camp. Remember to bring a number of extra layers. Sleep in what you wear during the ride, and add layers as you need to. Woolly hats are invaluable, as is a spare pair of socks. Merino wool base layers, and a down jacket or gilet, pack down small but provide bags of insulation. A cycle-specific waterproof jacket will keep you drier and more comfortable for longer on the bike. Waterproof shorts or trousers could be wise too, as well as padded cycle shorts.

Bike accessories:

A handlebar harness for mounting a drybag under your bars. You can usually fit a 12 or 16 litre bag under there, with plenty of space for a stove, food, bivvy and tarp. A mid-frame bag to hang under the top tube (if you have a full suspension frame you may need a tailor-made one to make room for the shock). A saddle sling or bag to fit another dry bag. There should be space to get your sleeping bag and even a spare foldable tyre in here. Alpkit, Apidura and Wildcat Gear all make great, dedicated waterproof frame bags. Adjustable bottle cage mounts – with a frame bag in place there won’t be much room for the bottle cage in its usual place. These let you mount your water bottle underneath your downtube, on your fork legs, bars or seat-post – SKS make a great one that will fit around all but the fattest frame tubes. A top-tube or stem-mounted ‘fuel cell’ or ‘gas tank’ – perfect for mid-ride stacks or compact cameras. A wider ratio cassette for more flexible gearing under load – the Wolfstooth 42T cog is a great example. A spare foldable tyre, as a burst sidewall can put an immediate end to your ride (though a small cut-up section of milk carton between inner tube and tyre side wall can get you home in an emergency). Ergonomic bars, grips and saddle will keep you comfy on the trail for longer. Look for bars with a greater sweep than usual (such as the Jones Bend H-Bar or On-One’s Fleegle bar). Try ‘stubbie’ bar ends of the likes of Ergon’s grips for multiple hand positions.

Tents and tarps:

A microlight one- or two-man tent or specific shelter. Ditch the tarp and bivvy and you’ll be able to carry on bikepacking right through the year (well, almost!) Most are small enough to be slung under your handlebars. I’ve used the Vango Tempest, but the MLD Trailstar and Golite Shangri-La are well worth a look. Or for unforgettable forest camping you could try Tentsile’s range of suspended tree tents. A head-torch is much more practical than a handheld one. Even during a prolonged dry spell I would take an orange survival bag, (available from many specialist outdoor shops), to protect my sleeping bag from rips and tears as much as bad weather. It’s another layer, no matter how uninsulated, with which to trap warm air, and it will keep moisture and rain at bay too.

Other bits:

Mobile phone, spare battery and spot tracker, dehydrated foodstuffs (any food you add hot water too tends to be compact and light but very satisfying), mid-ride snacks (fig rolls, flapjacks, jelly babies, energy bars or gels all work well), tea, coffee (a moka pot or individual filters) or hot chocolate sachets, and porridge sachets, the breakfast of champions.

Investing in new kit as and when you can will inevitably lighten the load you have to carry and consequently make your bike easier to handle and therefore more enjoyable to ride. Another option is to make sure key pieces of equipment serve more than one purpose. A heavyweight sleeping bag can just be used for sleeping, while a lighter bag and down jacket have the same result, with the jacket useful during the day too.

Text adapted from Wild Things Publishing website

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The Rope. MacGuffin magazine explores the stories & uses of one single object at a time

A biannual craft & design magazine that explores the life of ordinary things...
'Like the MacGuffins in Hitchcock films, these things are not the main characters, but the plot devices that set the story in motion.'

In a nutshell, MacGuffin looks good, reads well and even feels great. One of those magazines that you want to keep forever and revisit over and over again. Their concept is simple: to choose ordinary things and to delve into the many stories & uses one single object might have; 'uncovering the personal and sometimes curious relationships we have with the stuff that surrounds us.'

The objects chosen to make up the four existing issues are completely random. Take the sink, the rope, the window & the bed, four random objects that have no obvious common thread interlinking them. But that's not the point. The beauty of MacGuffin is its intention to celebrate the lesser thought about things for no particular reason; the stuff that is often overlooked yet has infinite stories and uses in life. They cover just about all possible angles of the object, giving a rather unremarkable thing a new lease of life.

Visit the website & buy the magazine here



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The world's first free-range sculpture, David Nash's Wooden Boulder has been on the move for 35 years

For 35 years, British artist David Nash mapped the progress of Wooden Boulder, his ‘free-range sculpture’, as it journeyed down the River Dwyryd in Wales. But now the gargantuan oak sphere has vanished...

After graduating in 1967, David Nash has been living and working in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales, where he enjoys constant inspiration from the Welsh landscape. It is here that he creates sculptures by working with trees, wood & the natural environment. He has even created works from living trees; his artistic concepts focusing predominantly on the relationship between man and nature. 

His most intriguing piece has to be Wooden Boulder. Critics describe it as land art but Nash excitedly refers to it as a 'free-range sculpture', seeing as it has been making its way to different locations by itself for the past 35 years. The artist did not initially mean for his sculpture to turn into the bold, artistic statement it has become today, making the story so far all the more fascinating. Read the full coverage in a recent article by James Fox for Christie's magazine, or our shortened version below...

 

Wooden Boulder had been resting peacefully in the upper end of the Dwyryd estuary since 2013. Nestled in the lee of a small island, it looked like it had settled in for the long haul. But the heavy rains that lashed so much of Britain in August 2015 produced unusually high tides that somehow dislodged the artist’s great ball of oak. Nash has been looking for it ever since.

Isolated from the prevailing trends in British art during the 1960s and 1970s, Nash found his own voice as an artist. He worked almost exclusively in wood, fashioning abstract sculptures with axes and chainsaws. Success grew: solo shows in Britain and then abroad, critical acclaim, and ever-growing sales.

At the end of 1977, Nash’s second long-term masterpiece came into being, although its genesis was as violent as it was unplanned. That winter a brutal storm brought down the limb of a 200-year-old oak tree high up in the valley. ‘It was by a public footpath so it had to be cut down,’ the artist recalls. ‘I knew the owners of the land and managed to wangle getting the job to do it.’ 

Nash cut down the tree in the spring of 1978 and chopped the trunk into a roughly-hewn ball that was about three feet in diameter. He planned to roll the ball down to his studio and work it up into a large-scale sculpture. But that was easier said than done: the ball weighed at least half a ton and had the potential to wreak havoc if he lost control of it.

Nash concluded that the safest thing was to transport the boulder down the hill in the neighbouring stream. But his bright idea quickly backfired. Within minutes, the boulder was stuck. It had become trapped halfway down a small waterfall, and despite repeated efforts it wouldn’t budge. A defeated Nash was left with only one option: to wait until the object moved by itself.

He had been waiting six months when a surge of rainwater finally pushed the boulder into the pool below the waterfall. This was the opportunity he’d been hoping for. He fashioned a makeshift net and hauled the boulder out of the pool. His sense of triumph, however, did not last long; a few days later some mischievous teenagers pushed the boulder back in again. Nash removed the boulder for a second time and rolled it to the top of the next waterfall along the stream. 

It spent a year in that spot, which the artist recalls as being particularly beautiful: ‘There was a wild plum tree next to the boulder, so in the spring it was covered in little white petals. It was lovely.’ Nash’s perspective was clearly changing. He was no longer determined to get the wood to his studio; he’d realised that the journey itself was the artwork.

Nash filmed, photographed and drew what he now called Wooden Boulder for eight years in that second waterfall, until its tale embarked on a further twist. The owners of the land on which it had settled were selling up. Nash was worried that the new owners would either prevent him from accessing the stream or dispose of the boulder altogether.

‘I decided I had to intervene for the sake of the story,’ he says. ‘I couldn’t let it end there.’ So one day in 1988 he gathered some friends together, and they rolled the boulder across the property line to safety. It remained in that position for another year, when a further storm carried it several hundred metres downstream.

Wooden Boulder sat in a quiet part of the river near the valley bottom for four or five years, until in 1994 yet another storm took it farther down the river, where eventually it got trapped beneath a road bridge. Nash knew that the river authorities would soon remove it. ‘I was faced with another dilemma,’ he says. ‘What was I going to do with it? I’d got it to the road. Was now the time to take it back to my studio?’

Nash claims that his questions were answered by the boulder itself. ‘It told me: “If you take me back to the studio I’ll dry out and I’ll crack. The story will be over.”’ So Nash rolled it around the bridge and released it downstream again. Wooden Boulder wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Six months after placing it on the other side of the bridge, Nash was visiting the piece with his son when they saw to their amazement that it had left the water altogether and was sitting mysteriously on the bank. It had survived, they discovered, yet another close call. The river authorities were halfway through removing the artwork with their JCB when a local farmer — who had warmed to Nash’s unusual activities over the years — shouted: ‘You can’t do that, boys. Apparently it’s art!’

The farmer may not have understood Wooden Boulder, but he’d gone a long way to saving it. And when a group of admiring students later rolled the piece back into the river, it was on the move again.

Wooden Boulder first disappeared in November 2002. ‘That was a momentous event,’ admits Nash. ‘I’d got so used to it being around.’ Nash and the locals spent more than a week searching for the piece. The park wardens even put up a ‘wanted’ poster around the estuary.

Ten days after its disappearance, however, Nash received a phone call from a friend: ‘Davey, have you lost your boulder?’ Nash’s friend had found the piece on a sandbank. Over the next six months the boulder was in a constant state of movement, travelling up and down the river on an almost daily basis and settling wherever the rain, wind or tide took it. Wooden Boulder had become what Nash excitedly called a ‘free-range sculpture’.

It disappeared again in April 2003, and though it was briefly sighted in 2008, it was gone for the best part of a decade. Nash presumed that Wooden Boulder  had gone out to sea, and he gave up hope of ever seeing it again. 

In August 2013 he received another decisive telephone call from a friend. Nash put down the receiver, jumped into his car and hurtled off to the Dwyryd estuary. When he walked out onto the riverbank, he saw a local family staring at his long-absent masterpiece. Nash looked at Wooden Boulder — which he estimated had travelled as much as 50km up and down the river before settling — and was cheered by its belated homecoming. Was it back for good? Or was it, as Nash suspected, simply making a ‘final lap of honour’?

It is 38 years since David Nash brought Wooden Boulder into the world. Their lives have since progressed in parallel: both have grown older and craggier. Nash has observed, photographed, coaxed and protected his piece with the love and care that one might typically expect of a parent. Indeed, in his less guarded moments Nash speaks of Wooden Boulder as though it’s an errant yet ultimately lovable son. But like any good parent, Nash is just as dependent on his offspring as his offspring is on him.

‘Wooden Boulder underpins everything I do. It’s where I’ve really got it,’ Nash confesses. ‘It’s probably my most satisfactory statement as an artist.’ He may well be right. It is now recognized around the world as one of the most original and important sculptures of the past half-century. It is a profound rumination on the relationship between nature and culture, time and place. And like all great works of art, it defies easy categorisations. Is it land art? Performance art? Conceptual art? Or is it just public sculpture?

It is perhaps all and none of these. Where is Wooden Boulder now? It could be reclining peacefully in a secluded stretch of the Dwyryd. It could be strangled by branches or buried beneath silt. Or it might even have escaped into the Irish Sea and be halfway to Dublin. One thing, however, is certain: David Nash will keep looking for it. ‘It is where it is,’ he says, with a twinkle in his eye. ‘It hasn’t vanished; I just can’t see it.’



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The Power of Flowers. fforest is known for its wildflowers, but even our informal arrangements need curation & design. Sian tells us why...

Why do we love flowers?

With their fragile and delicate perfection, beauty, colour and fragrant scent, flowers hold such delight and a special place in our emotions. They can trigger happiness and satisfaction. 

I have many joyful memories as a little girl always picking flowers. Putting together little posies to give to grandma, making rose petal perfume with my sister and daisy chains to wear on our heads. I can't remembering not always loving flowers. I tend to give preference to the wild ones that hide amongst the hedgerows and on the side of the footpath, the ones that many may even call weeds: tall teezle, rose campion, wild carrot, meadow sweet, knapweed and buttercup.

When we set up fforest it made sense and was important to me to welcome our guests with flowers when they arrived. Flowers bursting with seasonal colour, light and the scent of the surrounding fields and our garden.

So many occasions are celebrated with flowers: birthdays, weddings, congratulations, I love yous, thank yous, I'm sorrys...Flowers so frail and fleeting hold an amazing power, energy and positivity. Arriving at fforest for your holiday, event or wedding is something to celebrate with some simple flowers, a welcoming sight for people who appreciate nature and relish the bounty of the changing seasons. An ever-changing colourful display of leaf, flower, fruit and berry across the garden, hedgerow and fields. 

On arrival day, a lovely task is to walk the fields and garden, in-between the fruits, herbs and vegetables in the raised beds of the polytunnel, to pick a big basket full of flowers. These we arrange in the many pots, jugs and jars we've collected over the years at fforest. We present our little posies; flowers and foliage full of beauty, fragrance, frailty and folklore, and we hope that you appreciate them as much as we do.

I am very much a pick and plonk in the pot flower arranger. One thing I have observed and learnt over the years of fforest flower arranging is how the beautiful greenery that surrounds flowers is just as important. So much variation in texture and pattern, highlighting the pops of colour. 



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