Monday, 14 January 2013

Happy Christmas Holidays (and not a flake of snow in sight!)

Over the last three years Christmas has been a rather magical affair - snow has arrived days before the big day as though pre-booked by guests seeking a wonderful winter wonderland experience.  The woodland hues of browns and greens give way to gleaming white and the dark, reflective mill ponds take on a translucent opacity as they freeze and turn to ice.  Families with young children have revelled in the joy that the white stuff brings - sledging, snow balling and rolling snowmen have created Christmas memories sure to last a lifetime. 

Aside from the very obvious delight that a 'white Christmas' brings, snow is without doubt a mixed bag of blessing and curse.  When it falls we work very hard to ensure that roads and tracks are cleared so that guests can come and go from the mill and that their family and friends can visit them with ease. All of this matters so much more at Christmas when the majority of guests have relatives living in the area and are staying at Hewenden as a convenient and relaxing way to spend time with them.  This year, like every year previously we were delighted to welcome guests from all over the world, many of whom have stayed before - all of whom were here to spend this special time with those they love.  This year, however, we were unable to provide the picture postcard Christmas experience as snow failed to make even a fleeting appearance. While it is sad that we were denied some amazing snowy photo opportunities that have become a regular feature on our facebook page at this time of year, it was quite nice to have a year off shovelling, gritting and clearing over the festive period.  The woodland valley of Hewenden looks beautiful whatever the weather and the guests who stayed seemed to appreciate the special atmosphere - snow or no snow! 

As I write this blog in mid January the snow is falling thick and fast  -  an afternoon of gritting beckons but at least I'll be able to get some cracking snow scene photos!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A very positive assessment!

Late Autumn is without doubt our favourite time of year here in Hewenden.  This visually stunning season brings with it the most spectacular displays of red, gold and bronze and it is wonderful to see our guests so obviously delighting in this magical transformation. This year has been particularly memorable for autumn colour, so we were quietly very pleased to welcome our tourist board inspector in early November for our later than usual annual inspection. 

Although we work very hard to ensure that our accommodation is as clean and comfortable as possible for all our guests, these inspections still create a slight sense of anxiety.  These feelings were, however, almost immediately allayed by the wonderfully positive response from the inspector to both our accommodation and surrounding gardens.  We were absolutely thrilled with her enthusiastic and highly complimentary comments on the day, and the report that followed soon after echoed this in writing, confirming our four and five star status.  Here's a little snippet from the report, which came under the subheading 'Highlights':

"Hewenden Mill Cottages provide a mix of accommodation to appeal to a wide customer base.  Bents Mill has been very well designed to incorporate modern comforts and retain the character of the grade two listed property.  The cottages offer a comfortable traditional standard of accommodation. Excellent standards of housekeeping observed throughout ensures the best first and lasting impressions are given to guests.
Professionally managed landscaped gardens and wooded areas with the mill ponds a real highlight for many guests.  A good base to access surrounding Yorkshire attractions whilst providing a degree of peace for many returning visitors."

This positive endorsement is a huge boost and we will certainly continue to strive for high standards in all that we do but within this, we also know how very lucky we are to attract such kind and considerate guests.  The observation made by the inspector that our guests 'look after' our accommodation during their stay is one that we have noted time and time again over the last ten years and without this it would be so much harder to maintain the standards for which we have been rewarded.  Whilst we are immensely proud of our top star rating, we are also grateful in equal measure. We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has stayed with us over the years for caring for our cottages as much as we do.

A wonderful view from the viaduct overlooking Hewenden - winter sun creating the most amazing shadows!


Friday, 16 November 2012

An afternoon with the owls (and the falcons!)

Last weekend was without doubt one of the most memorable and enjoyable that we have spent as a family - better than centre parcs, more thrilling than bowling, more exciting than steam trains, this really was a magical time for us.  So what was it, I hear you ask that made this weekend sit above all others in the history of Richardson family outings?  The answer may seem surprising but this wonderful weekend revolved around getting up close and personal with some of natures most magnificent and awe inspiring creatures. 

On Saturday afternoon we were treated to an owl and falcon experience at a private falconry centre near Oxenhope (about 5 miles from Hewenden).  Owners Sandra and Roger have been running the centre from this stunning location, high on the Bronte moors, for around 4 years and, after a welcoming cup of tea and biscuit, they introduced us to the birds.  Although we have been to falconry centres before (my son is very keen on all birds of prey) this was a completely different and exhilarating experience.  To my children's delight, each bird was taken from it's cage and encouraged (with bits of meat) to land on their arms (protected, of course, with sturdy leather gloves).  They quickly decided on their favourites, Cleo's being a small Tropical Screech owl named Bubbles and Max's, an American Kestral named Muppet.  

Cleo's fur trim on her coat caused much confusion and consternation among the owls who clearly wondered whether this was lunch and, if so, what it might taste like?  Bubbles kept having a sneaky nibble but didn't seem too impressed!
Muppet was very protective of it's food and ate the scraps of meat under the cover of it's wings - there was really no need - falcon food is pretty unappealing to your average human family of four.

This really was a fantastic once in a lifetime experience creating memories that we will treasure forever.  We are very grateful to Sandra and Roger for giving us the benefit of their expertise and the opportunity to handle their beautiful birds.  If you would like more information about SMJ Falconry you can visit their website at or email them on  All sessions are booked by private appointment as they are not open to the public.

As if this wonderful day at Oxenhope with the owls wasn't enough - on Sunday we were lucky enough to follow it up with another 'once in a lifetime experience' when we visited Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales.  Having been tipped off by a friend that the Salmon were leaping in this area we made the hour long journey in the hope of witnessing this awe inspiring display of tenacity and strength - we were not disappointed!  Although I'd spent the morning watching u-tube footage of this phenomena it did nothing to capture the drama and excitement that exists when you see these fish first hand trying, against the odds, to jump up the waterfall and swim upstream.  We were captivated for over an hour - whooping and cheering every time a salmon leapt from the water and groaning with despair when their efforts were dashed.  What a weekend!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Step inside the weird and wonderful world of art!

Hewenden - a most marvellous base for a stimulating and inspiring art and sculpture trail...

Following a recent foray into the world of landscape architecture and all things art based, my family and I set off this weekend in search of sculpture.  I had heard favourable reports from friends about the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield (around 45 minutes away) but was also warned that this may not be ideal for the children.  Determined as I was to make this a family day out, we set off for said gallery with sketch pads, drawing pencils and, as an emergency measure, a couple of DS games consoles for guaranteed quiet entertainment should the art fail to engage our 6 and 10 year olds.  I was absolutely delighted to discover that the Hepworth gallery actively embraces budding young artists and sets out highly creative activities most weekends - yesterday's being 'making a metal creature'! Even without the excitement of twisting, punching and moulding bits of metal into chickens and the like, our kids absolutely loved the permanent sculpture collections by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore and were fascinated by the truly inspiring work of Richard Long and his artistic interventions with nature. The super modern, minimal building is a perfect foil for such pieces creating a very calm and contemplative atmosphere and to further enhance this sublime feeling of relaxation, drinks and delicious food from the cafe were most welcome. Outside, there are further sculptures to enjoy, and, as an added bonus, a brilliant adventure playground! I can whole heartedly recommend a visit to the Hepworth gallery, with or without children, with or without a life long passion for all things arty. 
Photo: We thoroughly enjoyed our family day trip to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield yesterday - the kids loved sitting on the floor with their sketch pads drawing Barbara Hepworth sculptures.  The Richard Long exhibition is truly inspiring and beautifully captures an artists interaction with nature. I can whole heartedly recommend a visit - it only took little over 45 minutes from Hewenden.

Next week we going to revisit the Yorkshire sculpture park and the following week I've provisionally pencilled in Leeds Art Gallery.  Somewhere in between, I'm hopeful we can shoehorn in a trip to Salts Mill to look at David Hockney's new exhibition 'Twenty Five Trees'.  It's safe to say that we have been well and truly bitten by the art bug and lucky for us Hewenden is an amazing base for exploring a wealth of wonderful sculpture, art and design all within an hours radius.  If the idea of immersing yourself in the stimulating and exciting world of art appeals, why not book a short break to Hewenden and enjoy these jolly, art inspired jaunts for yourself!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Time to Escape?

What a fantastically exciting Summer 2012 has turned out to be!

The Olympics and Paraolympics have given the nation a much needed boost to our collective morale providing an adrenaline fuelled high that has proved both infectious and addictive.  Although we didn’t manage to enjoy these events first hand, very many of our friends, family and guests were lucky enough to get tickets and we have delighted in their stories and descriptions of the incredible action.  The brilliant television coverage also helped to convey the electric atmosphere. 

Given the strength of the positive vibe that has gripped the nation what can we expect now that this heady Summer of sport is coming to a close? The press have rather gloomily predicted an anti-climax but maybe it’s simply time to retreat a little, to rest a little and to relax a lot.  Perhaps this can be seen as a welcome relief from the nervous tension and heightened state of emotion that we have lived with for the past few months.  As millions of people have flooded into London, the epicentre of the action, maybe the time is now right for an escape to the country.

 Autumn is a natural time for retreating into a gentler pace of life and the impact of this wonderful season is felt strongly in the ancient woodlands of Hewenden.  The tapestry of colours and textures create the most breathtaking views while a stroll amongst the trees and mill ponds allows for complete immersion in the golden, amber and crimson hues.  If you feel the need (or simply would like) to get away from it all and rediscover some precious you time, the warm , cosy and comfortable cottages in Hewenden may just be the ticket. 

For photos of the amazing autumn displays please visit our facebook page – or, better still, come and enjoy them first hand – we would be delighted to see you!
Amazing Acer in the secret garden!
Spectacular autumn skies!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Food - glorious food!

While we love welcoming guests to our beautiful valley, the conversations that we have with guests on their departure are often a mine of interesting information and serve to remind us what makes our accommodation special.  Food featured strongly in yesterday’s departure discussion and following this lovely conversation I felt inspired to pass on this families thoughts and add in a few of my own for good measure.   This particular family have favoured hotels in the past and were new to the self-catering experience.  It had been something of a revelation to them and they loved the freedom that our cottages and their well equipped kitchens afforded.  Having just arrived back from my own self-catering holiday their enthusiasm for the ‘home from home’ experience resonated strongly.   We absolutely loved being able to choose what, when and how we ate – making up picnics for the day ahead was particularly brilliant saving us both money, time and crucially, ensuring that our very fussy daughter was well catered for! 

Although Hewenden is something of a rural retreat we are spoiled for choice when it comes to food.  Supermarkets, mini markets, butchers, grocers and deli’s allow you to stock up the fridge with both old favourites and more adventurous treats while the local take away’s make for a chilled out night in. 
Krave Deli in Wilsden does the most amazing sandwiches, breakfasts and cakes and The George in Cullingworth has recently been attracting a lot of complements from our guest (good food not fast food!).  Salts Mill is always a winner with their fabulous Diner serving amazing food in a unique and quirky setting while The Dog and Gun is a trusted favourite for good pub food around a roaring fire.  The local garden centre, Woodbank Nurseries, is only a matter of minutes away and is great for afternoon teas, lunches or Sunday breakfasts.
The brilliant bit about self-catering is that when you feel your belt beginning to pinch from delicious over indulgence you can go back to your cottage and redeem yourself with some simple home cooked food.   This, of course, is all made nice and easy by those lovely supermarket delivery people – place an on-line shop from home for delivery to Hewenden and Janet will receive the order and make sure that it’s in your cottage in time for your arrival – simples!
A family get together in No. 9 was made deliciously easy when Krave Deli stepped in to provide the food  - platters of anti-pasta, brushetta, salads, quiche, tiramisu and lots more goodies were brought to the house shortly before the celebrations  - what a good idea!

Friday, 27 July 2012

All creatures great and small!

Come and explore the twelve acres of ancient woodlands, mill ponds and meadowlands that make up this beautiful valley and see what wonderful creatures you can spot lurking within the long grasses...

A really rather magical thing happened to me the other day whilst I was going about my daily tasks at Bents Mill - as I emerged from the tunnel through the mill I came face to face (within 10m anyway!) with a beautiful baby deer who was strolling around the car park.  The moment of mutual acknowledgement felt to last for minutes rather than seconds as we took in each others presence with a mixture of surprise and awe.  The fleeting paralysis was broken as the deer took flight and skipped across the grass towards the mill pond.  Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, the inclement weather has provided ideal conditions for the blanket weed and the surface covering was almost complete - even this wonderfully intuitive animal could not sense the water that was hiding beneath this grasslike blanket.  With one giant gisselle sized leap the deer rose into the air and promptly disappeared into the water.  My husband, Joe, was working in his waders in one of the other mill ponds at the time and was most bemused at my panicked insistance that he should leap in after the deer in a desparate rescue attempt.  The deer, of course, required no help from anyone, waders or no waders and quickly made its way through the bog garden, over the wall and into an adjoining field.  These chance encounters with the wild inhabitants of the valley really do make for magical memories. 

Fresh from this wonderful experience I decided to take my 9 year old son, Max, on a creature hunt - armed with a great new digital camera we had a fantastic couple of hours hiding in the long grasses listenning to the tantilising sound of nearby grasshoppers and watching the butterflies and damselflies flitting from flower to flower - heaven on earth!  For more photos of the wildlife that share this beautiful valley with us and our guests check out our facebook page!