6 - The Good Life Experience & Hosting vs Holding

Saturday 8 September 2018

Pumpkin rolling at The Good Life Experience
These pumpkins met a sticky end after some raucous rolling and smashing - I was speaking to Charlie and Caroline about it and asked were they upset about it to which they replied something along the lines of no, the kids had the time of their lives doing it and that made them happy as they love to host. That conversation prompted some serious thinking about TGLE and the ethos behind it and warrants a much better post than I could ever write, but here goes...
There is a mere week left to go til The Good Life Experience 2018. Which makes this post roughly 11 months late (or three weeks early).

TGLE 2017 was a different ball game for us, having previously gone as attendees we instead took our shop on the road and went as traders. There is a lot I could say about the people we met and the fun we had, it's certainly been a long time since I danced til gone one in the morning and I have probably never to a vintage mobile disco, but that's a different story to the one I want to tell right now.

Guardians of the Good Times at the Good Life Experience

I've been trying to find the words these past 11 months to write something worthy of the experience, because, quite honestly since that first Saturday in a field that felt more akin to a garden party than a festival back in 2014, TGLE has changed our lives. Our attitudes towards food have shifted entirely (around sustainability and welfare but also Caroline's cooking abilities at a campfire made me more confident with outdoor cooking as well as gave me the drive to try harder in a fixed kitchen too), our outlook on community and finding your tribe been overhauled, we've tried things we might never have thought to before such as axe throwing and archery (in fairness, archery probably would have wound up on the agenda at some point with my not so secret love of The Hunger Games and all, but still...) and every year there is some new catalyst for change. That largely comes from the fact that TGLE isn't just another boutique festival (and from its conception careful consideration was given to calling it The Good Life Experience to mark that distinction) but a gathering of like minded souls hosted by its four founders and their Guardians of the Good Times.

Charlie Gladstone - Business Polymath
Caroline Gladstone - Queen of Campfire Cookery

Steve "Abbo" Abbott

The words finally came to me whilst I was in the toilets of Verdi's in Swansea when I was there a few weeks ago. Strange, I know, but let's talk about toilets. Let's be honest, they're a bit crap most of the time quite frankly (couldn't resist the pun) - functional (mostly), dull and utilitarian affairs, except for those at a Gladstone establishment. It dawned on me on thinking of the Pavilion opening* that the toilets (which are always superbly designed and detailed across each sibling business) perfectly explain the Gladstone ethos and why The Good Life is an Experience and not a festival. Don't just hold, host. The details matter. I've never been to a festival that had pitchers of flowers on the tables. Music acts are chosen not to pull in the crowds but to serves as recommendations from that one friend you can depend upon to say "have you heard of... - they're REALLY good". Dogs are invited to join in the fun too and serve as conversation starters (I'm not particularly outgoing but have started up many a conversation about the gorgeous guys in attendance). I'd struggle to think of any other event of this size where the founders move around the site frantically to introduce each and every act, meeting and greeting as they go and the attendees are referred to as "guests".

Dogs and hydrangeas at The Good Life Experience
Hydrangea flower arrangements

Log piles are placed to feed the fires that invite you to cosy down with new friends (and old) to eat.

Log Pile

Children sneakily help themselves to the produce grown on the estate in an almost Enid Blyton childhood kind of way...

Blackberries at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop

and learn how to cook a meal whilst joining in the biggest game of "what's the time Mr Wolf" I've ever seen.

Outdoor Kitchen

When the sun goes down,

Festival Sunset

the cocktails come out...

Flash at the Whiskey Shack
A good top shelf

and if you're really lucky you'll catch such oddities as books being smoked over an open fire (the launch of Do Books - Wild Baking on this occasion).

Do Wild Baking by Tom Herbert

All friendly gatherings end with music and dancing, don't they?

Music and dancing after dark

The Good Life Experience really is just that, the best bits of everything rolled into one beautifully and carefully curated weekend - hosted by a group of great friends who want you to have the time of your life at their party and take a slice of the magic home with you to add in to your daily mix to change your life for the better, even if just in some small way. Thanks for bothering about the details guys, collectively they are life changing.

* Because you're a long time dead and Charlie Gladstone seems to want to fit as much into this life as possible, he launched ANOTHER business venture - the renovation of the old cricket pavilion into an event space - check it out here for more details. I'm also eagerly awaiting the launch of ANOTHER business - Glen Dye cabins and cottages - follow their Instagram (here) for some beautiful interior and outdoor inspo. I'm including this image below from the set up of the festival because Charlie is an inspiration - his energy for getting things done and boundless passion for what he does, combined with the fact that he throws himself into the thick of it rather than purely manages others serves as a good reminder that good things come not just from leaning in to a venture but jumping in wholeheartedly.

In the thick of it

And this one just because I love the fact that she had zero shame about wearing a Christmas jumper on a sunny day in September. There's definitely a lesson to be learnt there too.

Vintage swings

05 - Summer

Thursday 2 August 2018

Succulents thriving outdoors. Boats bobbing in the harbour. Winding cobbled streets. Quaint sweet shop windows. Golden Fields. Glasshouses that are "saved" for the obligatory rainy day. Hazy flowers. Opaline blue seas. Ice creams that are stolen by seagulls. Summer time.

04 - Adventures in Tea (and other botany)

Monday 16 April 2018

Tregothnan Trading

Last year I started to research and write an as yet untitled project. I can't say much about it other than it involves glasshouses. And botany. I'm not being coy about the whole thing, or teasing a big reveal, the idea took a turn and is in redevelopment, such is life. When I have something to share, I will. For now I wanted to tell you about the first place that I visited for the project - Tregothnan in Falmouth, UK.

Tregothnan, Falmouth

If you have never been to Cornwall I will start by saying that you really ought to. Some of my favourite spaces in the UK are situated there and it really does have a sense of magic about it. The place seems to have some kind of enchantment placed on it and plants grow as if tended to by plant growing fairies with botanical superpowers. You think I'm exaggerating, I can tell, wait until you see the sneaky pictures I took of aeonium plants on peoples front doorsteps I've got lined up for a future post - St Ives especially has a seriously strong front yard game. The climate is certainly very different to that of ours up in Yorkshire of course. It's the reason it's possible for tea to grow on the Tregothnan estate banks of the River Fal.

Tregothnan tea plantation

"Home to the Boscawen family, Tregothnan is a living and working private Cornish estate, with a rich history dating back to 1334. The name ‘Tregothnan’ literally means ‘The House at the Head of the Valley’ and is still a private family home today" - words lifted directly from the Tregothan site as I couldn't have put it better myself.

Wardian case

I was originally drawn by the claim that the only known surviving original Wardian case* resides at Tregothnan. I got a lot more than I bargained for and quickly forgot the Wardian case entirely as we immersed ourselves in the vast acreage of botanical gardens and camellia sinensis tea plants.

Wading through tea

I've visited tea plantations in the hills of Sri Lanka but this was something entirely different. Not only the whole sensory experience (despite being a good tea growing climate, Falmouth lacks that beautiful taste in the air that Sri Lanka has) but the kinds of plants we encountered too with Tregothnan being designated an official ‘safe site’ for the keeping of rare or endangered trees from all over the world.

Eucalyptus nuts
Eucalyptus trees

They grow their own infusion botany if tea isn't your thing which makes their products infinitely attractive to anyone trying to rely less on imported items - I highly recommend trying the Eucalyptus tea (and I forgot to mention that they are the only growers of manuka outside of NZ!).

Tropical botany

Tregothnan is a private botanic garden and arboretum and visits are strictly limited and by private appointment usually. However, they are open THIS WEEKEND (21st and 22nd April 2018) for a charity garden opening with tickets priced at £10 each (under 16s go free) and all proceeds going to charity - for more information click here.

Tea plants

Soak up the atmosphere, enjoy exploring the grounds (see if you can find the hunting lodge - I wanted to move in - isn't it lovely?) and take lots of tea home. If you manage to go, tag me @adventuresingreyandgreen in pictures - I'd love to see how the gardens look this time of year.

Tregothnan hunting lodge

I want to mention that I'm not in partnership, paid or otherwise with Tregothnan. We were very kindly shown around the gardens but all opinions are my own and the ridiculous horde of tea in our kitchen was paid for by me (Eucalyptus, Lemon Verbena and Cornish Smoked Manuka Earl Grey in case you are wondering).

*The Wardian case resembles a miniature glasshouse of sorts and has been used by plant hunters and botanists since its invention in 1829 to bring plants back on ships - self watering as it holds moisture well and shelters the plants from the salty sea air whilst allowing sunshine to reach the contained plants. It is the very reason that historically we were able to import plants from other parts of the world that would ordinarily arrive dead after a stint in the cargo hold with no sunlight or water. I should add that the one photographed is a replica as they keep the original safely away from the public.

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