Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Made in Bristol: Wildsource Apothecary

As any blogger will tell you, it is really very nice getting to trial interesting new products. One of my blogging highlights (or indeed life highlights) was receiving a box the size of a small house filled with Burts Crisps in the post. Turns out researching new crisp flavours is really rather fun...but it wouldn't be great for me to get boxes of crisps in the post too often. 

Last week a less calorific but equally exciting package turned up in the shape of a box filled with products from new Bristol-based skincare brand Wildsource Apothecary, a brand I've been following on Instagram for a while. Made in small batches, each of the products in the collection is organic, vegan and ethical, and are crafted from locally sourced botanicals and herbs. Nestling in my beautifully packaged box were some hero products from the range: a Baobab & Calendula Hot Cloth Cleanser, a Wild Flower Facial Tonic, a Radiance Pink Clay Mask and the Miracle Skin Oil with Rosehip & Thistle.

I'd had a consultation about my particular skin needs via email and was assured the products in the selection would suit my skin (sometimes reactive and hormonal, currently in need of some serious TLC.) While I'm not obsessive about choosing only organic products for my skin, I do prefer to use botanical-based cleansers and creams wherever possible - I don't like to see a huge list of ingredients in the small print and I'm a big fan of brands that take a more natural approach, such as Liz Earle and REN. That said, however, I do want things to actually work and am aware that the efficacy of certain nature-led products doesn't always win against scientific formulations. 

Basically, what I'm looking for is ease, efficiency and suitability. I want a cleanser that takes every last grain of dirt of my skin without making it dry, a serum that helps me feel several years younger, a moisturiser that plumps me up and an oil that makes my skin as soft of as a baby's while lulling me towards sleep at the end of a busy day...I know, perhaps quite a big ask.

Having got big into oils when I finally realised they won't bring you out in a mass of boils, I stared off using the Miracle Skin Oil before bed, my favourite time to apply an oil (though this can be used under make-up too.) I wish smell-o-vision was a thing because I can't do justice in writing to how gorgeous this product smells. Filled with other goodies - vitamin E, grapeseed oil and ylang ylang and rose geranium essential oils) this oil is a total pleasure to use. It goes on like a dream, absorbs easily and definitely made my skin feel softer the next day. 

Next morning I replaced my usual Liz Earle Cleanser with the collection's Baobab & Calendula Hot Cloth Cleanser, another gorgeously scented product also containing sweet almond, jojoba oil and wild neroli. Perfect for mornings when you haven't got to shift make-up from your skin, this is a really calming oil cleanser that you massage into your skin and then remove with a soft cloth. I did try it in the evening too but felt it might be a bit light for dealing with makeup, though it worked well as part of the double cleanse routine I sometimes follow if I can be bothered and have the time.

The pink clay mask was really fun - I had a friend staying for the weekend when my box arrived, so naturally we disappeared off with wine to give ourselves a pamper (we'd been looking after four rather wild and excitable boys that day, so it was pretty necessary.) The mask comes in powder form that you mix with either the Wild Flower Facial Tonic or water to create a paste that you then apply to your skin. Ideally you should use a brush to do this which perhaps would make application a bit less messy. Once on, you look a bit of a fright (it was quite fun pretending to our boys that their high jinx all day had brought us out in a stress-related skin rash) but it's well worth it - after 20 minutes we rinsed our masks off to reveal baby-soft, calm skin. My friend, who lives in London, has already been badgering me to get my hands on some more.

If you love a facial mist, the Wild Flower Facial Tonic is a nice addition to your routine - we spritzed this on after our masks and before using the oil but you can also use it post cleansing. I don't normally use facial mists but with a holiday in Ibiza coming up, I can see this being a nice little product to keep in my beach bag.

It's lovely to be able to support a local business, but as I mentioned earlier, I don't want to spend money on things purely because I feel I should - I'm on a relatively tight budget and need things to offer value for money. So it's great to stumble upon a brand that is bringing good quality, ethical products to the market that - in my opinion - do really work. The products haven't launched online yet, but if you're a fan of natural skincare and would like to support a fab new range made in Bristol, keep an eye on the Instagram and website pages. 

Several days on from using my samples, my skin (previously quite stressed, suffering from PMT) feels soft, smooth and calm. The Miracle Oil in particular impressed me and I can see this becoming one of beauty staples. I can't wait to get my hands on some more...


Sunday, 6 August 2017

A Day Out On the Kennet & Avon Canal

How's your summer holiday panning out so far? Two weeks of wet weather down, we've managed to stick two fingers up to the rain with a trip to Oxford and a festival, but it ain't easy coming up with imaginative ideas for budget days out when the weather isn't on your side. It's important, I think, to capitalise on the dry days with cost-free outings so you can save the expensive stuff (trips to the trampoline park, cinema, bowling, etc) for times when there really is no alternative but to be indoors.
I find myself in a perpetual state of weather and radar app checking during the holidays, corralling the children out of the house whenever there's the merest glimmer of sunshine on the horizon. So I was up with the larks at the weekend when it looked like conditions were fair for a trip to the countryside. Not wanting to to travel too far or spend too much money, we decided to head to the Caen Hill Locks, a pretty patch of the Kennet and Avon canal located in the Wiltshire town of Devizes.

Coming in at about 40 minutes journey time from Bristol, it's a great place to visit for a morning or afternoon if you fancy hanging out canalside and watching the waterways in action. During the Industrial Revolution, the canal was a vital means of ferrying goods between Bristol and London; today, the Caen Hill Locks are the perfect place for a riverside stroll or a bike ride.
Essentially a staircase of 29 locks, it's a surprisingly photogenic spot, the locks rising up into beautiful surrounding countryside. And if you have small people who are fascinated by that kind of thing, there are plenty of opportunities to watch the locks open and close as a steady stream of canal boats wind their way along the river.

The stretches around the tow path are taken up with nature reserves, plus there's an area for pond dipping - ducks, heron and other waterfowl paddle across the water, plus you can fish in designated areas. 

It's a truly tranquil spot for a picnic, plus there's a lovely cafe with gardens overlooking the canal - strung with bunting and paper lanterns, it makes an ideal pit-stop for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. If you're on bikes you can follow the towpath up to Bradford-on-Avon (a feat best reserved for older kids or grown ups) or you could jump in the car and head down to another pretty patch of the canal towards Bath at Dundas - the aqueduct here is spectacular and is a 'Scheduled Ancient Monument' (the same status as Stonehenge.) 

A short walk along the canal path brings you to another of our recent discoveries - the idyllic Warleigh Weir. A legendary spot for wild swimming and unleashing your inner Enid Blyton, it can get busy, but if you're lucky you can spread out a blanket on the tiny patch of 'beach' by the waterfall and dip your toes in the water if you're not quite ready for the full wild swimming experience. 

If you want to do the canal in true style, you can, of course, hire your very own narrowboat for the day. Accommodating up to 12 people to make the cost more affordable, take a look at Bath Narrowboats for more information (they have bases at Sydney Wharf, Bath and Brassknocker Basin, just outside Bath.) This is an experience I've definitely got on my bucketlist - watching the boats glide by at the kind of pace I like when it comes to watersports (i.e. slow) I kind of wished we had another 8 people in tow on the day of our visit to give it a go. 
I totally wouldn't be navigating (that would be a bad idea) but I'd be perfectly happy to open a few locks now and then, in between sipping on a glass of Prosecco or two - now, THAT is my idea of water-based fun...
For more information about Caen Hill Locks, visit the Canal River Trust website here.

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