Archives Month: August 2016

Due to Brexit and terrorist threats, staycations have become more popular than ever this year. With so many people attending the Glastonbury festival in June and enjoying the magnificent countryside of the South West, camping breaks are on the rise. They provide an affordable and enjoyable way of getting back to nature, whilst leaving sufficient funds to break out with pasties, pints and ice creams. Eweleaze Farm at Osmington on the Dorset coast is a small organic farm in an area of outstanding natural beauty, which includes half a mile of private beach and is open for camping every August.

Being folk who enjoy going native once a year, we took the opportunity of pitching close to the cliff edge for our friends and ourselves. While the lads were struggling with their guy ropes, pegs and poles, we girls headed off to organise our evening meal of fabulous pizzas from the farm’s wood fired oven. Much later, contented and full, we ended the evening around our camp fire toasting marshmallows.

The following morning, we rose early to the enticing smell of freshly baked croissants from the farm’s patisserie and washed them down with a refreshing, freshly made smoothie from the juice bar. After skimming pebbles on the beach and some energetic swimming to hide the goose bumps, we spent time among the farm animals (see their website) and flying kites. After a session at the farm’s own Turkish bath and sauna, it was off to their pop-up restaurant, Bramley Barn, for a lunch of Lyme Bay scallops and roasted crevettes. Our empty plates spoke volumes.

For fear you should think we were enjoying ourselves, we were frogmarched into a long walk along the coastal path, only stopping when the lads felt in need of a pint of Badger’s Best at The Smugglers Inn.

Here’s one family who will think twice next year before getting on a plane while there is so much amazing countryside and heritage sites to enjoy in good old Blighty.


  • 30 August 2016
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When you can mix old haunts and new haunts in the same weekend you have a recipe for bliss.

Last Saturday we caught the afternoon flight to Manchester from Exeter, touching down just 50 minutes after take-off. After a quick unpack in our favourite hotel in Didsbury village, just four miles from the centre of Manchester we had a short journey to meet up with friends and enjoy the evening over Champagne and a barbeque.

As soon as I awoke on Sunday I was chomping at the bit to get to the Italian Deli in the centre of Didsbury. The owner, Nenad and his staff always make us feel welcome and they do cook a great breakfast. Sat there in the sunshine you never know whether you are going to be sat next to one of the United or City players or it could be Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, who are also regulars.

After breakfast and several Americanos it was off to Lyme Park, or to titillate the appetite of our lady readers, I could refer to it as Pemberley. The grounds were charming but alas, no Mr Darcy or Colin Firth came out of the lake.

If you get to Lyme Park you must stroll up to the tower, from where you can view the Dales, Manchester, Liverpool and even North Wales. What a place to have a picnic – amazing!

After a day sightseeing we relaxed over tapas and Tempranillo at the Wine and Wallop Bar in West Didsbury, while listening to some live mellow jazz. After a few drinks it wasn’t just the jazz that was mellow.

We resisted the temptation to call it a day and instead took a short walk to more old friends at Piccolino’s, a very uber smart Italian restaurant. Nightcaps were ordered and conversation with the Italian staff about the success of the Italian and British Olympic teams created much laughter and bonhomie.

Another good night sleep followed by a medal table catch up on the iPad and then back into the village where we found another new Italian deli, Casa Italia. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by the Sicilian owner and were pressed to try his mouth-watering gelatos. A coffee and photo call later and we had our arms around each other. Within ten minutes new friends had become old friends.

Having spent so many years financing restaurants, many of which have been Italian, you can see why they are so successful. The warmth and friendliness of the owners and staff, the superb quality of their products, whether on the plate or hams, olives and focaccia to take out and their talent with coffee and ices, why wouldn’t you want to spend your cash with them.

At Armada we shall continue to support and encourage Europeans who want to set up businesses in the UK, who work hard, who spend their money locally and who create jobs. We are a multi-cultural society and the richer for it.

We can’t wait to return to our old haunts again!

Before setting up Armada, back in the 70s, I had always dreamed of being an architect (“Not a lot of people know that”. No it wasn’t Michael Caine who said that, it was Peter Sellers). Moving on, before you get bored or confused or both!

In the end it was the interest in lending to businesses that fired my imagination, rather than the desire to be the male version of Zaha Hadid.

Nevertheless, there must have been some remnant of fascination with quality design and innovation that lingered because my worst nightmare would be if Grand Designs and the Six Nations Rugby clashed on the telly.

Having recently been allowed back in the house after a straight eight hours gardening stint, I happened to catch a new Channel Four home renovation programme entitled ‘Inside Out Homes’, presented by practising architect, Zac Monro.

In the series Zac takes very ordinary homes across the country and remodels them inside and out. Using acres of glass, cedar and clever lighting, the homes and their outside spaces are transformed into ultra-modern, stylish and practical properties.

I am not the first person to label Zac a genius but you make up your own mind. If you haven’t caught ‘Inside Out Homes’ I urge you to download it on Catch Up. If you have seen the series I bet you didn’t know that Zac is an international Air Guitar champion, or that Monty Ravenscroft appeared in ‘Four Wedding and a Funeral’ as Duckface’s partner.

The mention of Four Weddings…… reminds me that Armada regularly finances production equipment for the film and television industry. Also, whether they are architects or other professionals we daily fund the fitting out of offices and studios.

Hopefully, Zac and the team will encourage you and your creative side.