Rogan’s Books – An inspiring independent in the heart of Bedford

On a beautiful sunny day in May I went to meet Rachel, owner of Rogan’s Book shop on Castle Lane in Bedford. It’s an area steeped in history as it’s so close to the Higgins museum, and on the up with lots of regeneration, new shops appearing, and a wide range of restaurants (some by the river) all within walking distance of her book shop.

Since moving here from her previous location on Castle Road in 2017, business has quadrupled thanks to the support of the vibrant community around her. She tells me it was a difficult decision for her to leave her old location where she had been since the store opened in October 2015 as the people of Bedford had supported her to open all those years ago and the goodwill was amazing. She had over £1000 in book vouchers from the local community just to start the book store and business was great, but the original store suffered badly from mould and damp, not great for books!  

I think the decision to move was a good one, the new store looks spacious and welcoming, with lovely high ceilings and room to move around easily. Some book shops are so overcrowded and stuffy but Rogan’s is not at all. There is room on the shelves for the books to earn their space and be displayed properly, I think that takes some confidence to do. It would be so easily to take every new book that a publisher says will be the ‘next big seller’ but Rachel doesn’t do that and you can tell she is confident in her choices as she feel passionate about every item she stocks.

To be honest depth of range is not what this store is about, you can search for 1000 of books online or in larger book stores at a cheap price and yes you will find something eventually, but will you have found the right book? Did you get the help and advise you needed and did the staff (or internet screen!) help inform your choice? Probably not? If you want to find something different for your child, or you want your child to be inspired by a new book they may never have picked up before then this is the place to come. You get personal service, an element of risk removed from your purchase (Rachel has read all the books on the shelf) and you get to talk to Rachel herself the reason why parents and children come back again and again. Have a look at these 5 star reviews and see for yourself.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g190737-d11948765-Reviews-Rogan_s_Books-Bedford_Bedfordshire_England.html

Rachel Rogan is a charismatic and endearing lady. A mother of two children herself, she wants all children to be comfortable in the world they live in, and she knows how challenging this can be. In today’s society, many pressures can be put upon children from an early age. The rise of social media and the power of the internet mean that children can feel open and exposed to all manner of issues be that inequality, racism, discrimination or just a feeling of not fitting in with the ‘norm.’ The depth and range of themes keeps Rachel on her toes and each week new parents arrive asking for help with certain topics/challenges and she loves to help them find just the right book. Sometimes pictures alone can say so much more than words and this is why so many of her book choices are very powerful to children, especially younger readers.

The store is laid out in sections which make shopping for different ages/topics quite easy. Here is my walk round for you. I have named the areas in my words and how I best describe them and of course the layout is likely to change each time you go into the store, but hopefully you get the idea of what’s available.

The Under 5’s area
I am probably a little biased here as I have 2 children aged 2 and 5 but I though the range of titles and themes on offer was excellent. The choice however was a little overwhelming at first in this area but Rachel later pointed out to me that they were going to add headings to help out parents. Once she explained the layout it made much more sense. So sections will be labelled in areas such as ‘Fairytale,’ ‘Dinosaurs’, ‘Weird and funny’, ‘Bonkers books’, ‘Issues based (e.g. grief) Empathy, Friendship, and ‘Popular’ (e.g. Julia Donaldson, Dr Seuss)

Books for older children

For those of you old enough to remember PE class with the wooden benches you ran across then you will have fond memories (or not) of these now turned into lovely book shelves for Under Nines and Older Children.

The Under Nines section has lots of books which help ease younger readers from largely picture and text books to more text only books. An example is ‘A Faraway Tree Adventure’ adapted from the classic 75 year old novel by Enid Blyton.

The older readers section contains lots of classics like the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and a wide selection of titles by the author Neil Gaiman.

This section also includes The Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken. It’s another book you would probably have read when you were little (Rachel did and that’s why it’s in her shop now) and one which should be enjoyed by a new generation.

 

The non-fiction section
The smallest section in the store and mostly aimed at girls/young women.

The Activist section
A great selection of books to help parents and children to have conversations on how we can all stand up for our rights, fight for greater equality or help others who may not have a voice. A bit heavy for some? Maybe, but I didn’t even know these books existed for children until I visited the store.

The Feminist section
These are empowering books for young girls to read. I have two boys so not really a section for me but if I did have girls I think this section of the store is a really good idea.

Books for all

This area covers a wide variety of topics and interest where your child can see themselves (or a family member, friend) reflected in a book. Including books on Autism, shyness in boys, deafness, different family types, etc. If it’s not there Rachel will always try to find a book that will help. There are also books on survival skills and internet safety for children.

The comfy sofa and tent
So if you are walking around the store and have been inspired by some of the titles you need a place to sit and think for a while, which book do I like the best? Well take a seat in the back room and give yourself some time. No pressure to buy just read and reflect. Kids love the tent too!

The beautiful illustrations

Very expensive but a great investment piece. Look out for some of the classic original illustrations.

David Litchfield

This award willing illustrator is from Bedford. If you haven’t seen his work come and have a look in this section.  

 

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to not walk out of the store without buying several books due to Rachel’s enthusiasm for all the titles she stocks. The books are beautiful to look out, touch and hold too. The centre table offers a great selection to browse though and great if you are gift buying or just looking for inspiration.

The store offers events throughout the year which are advertised on their Facebook page and even a BiblioKids subscription where your child can receive a book a month in the post. I highly recommend a visit.

For more information please see below:

26 Castle Lane,
Bedford, 
Bedfordshire, 
MK40 3US,
United Kingdom.

https://www.facebook.com/rogansbooks

www.rogansbooks.co.uk

I wrote this blog page in my spare time and was not paid or given anything for free to write this post. All comments are my own.  To find out more about me click here. http://mybedfordshire.com/about/

Top 5 things to see and do at Seasons Garden Centre – Wilstead.

There are loads of places you can go to in Bedford to buy Garden equipment, plants and furniture but why not try a more local business for a change? Seasons Garden Centre is based in Wilstead, right next to Wixams just off the A6.  They have a second store just outside Bedfordshire further down the A6 in Burton Latimer, Northants.  They have been in operating for over 75 years so they should know a thing or two about what they sell and why.

Now that the weather is getting a little warmer it’s time to turn our attention to the garden. We start to think about entertaining outdoors and the possibility of a slim but wonderful chance of having a BBQ this summer. Sitting out with friends, drinking a glass or two of wine and enjoying the hard graft we’ve put into our garden.

I go to Seasons in Wilstead pretty much every week, I love to shop local and it’s also a great place to take children too.  I also have a challenging garden, which makes me a frequent visitor thanks to our house being a new build and the soil is pretty rubbish, so is the lawn.

So what are my top 5 favourite parts to the store?

1.Flowers, Plants & Trees:

Living on a new build estate brings with it a whole new level of gardening challenge. Firstly the rubbish soil, awful drainage to our lawn and the challenge to find plants that will survive. I have purchased several plants from Seasons, all of which have been excellent quality and of a reasonable price. That said, gardening is expensive and hence why I go back to the store regularly as we can’t afford to do everything in one go.  My front garden looks much nicer this year thanks to the new shrubbery I bought at the beginning of the year to replace the dead shrubs originally planted by the builder. I am also trying some ferns in the back garden to give a small border to our lawn. We have bought roses, lavender, climbers, buddleias and some perennial plants over the years and will continue to expand our garden each year thanks to Seasons. The lawn and garden needs regular food which we lovingly give it and any new plants are treated to new compost and old (rubbish) soil removed. Seasons have an extensive range as you walk into the store and I have never been disappointed with the range on offer.

The range of flowers, plants and trees is extensive and I have never come away thinking they needed to stock more. However of course you will find larger retailers who will offer rows upon rows of trees, shrubs etc . Personally I find it too overwhelming but it's personal taste and I do not claim to be an experience gardener,  just a homeowner looking to improve her home and garden.

2. Pet Shop with Ringo the talking parrot

My 2 sons and I love visiting the pet shop within Seasons. It’s big enough to spend a good half an hour looking at all animals, which include fish, rabbits, hamsters, budgies and canaries. They have a good selection of cat and dog food plus all the usual accessories too.  We recently bought a pet hamster from Seasons after falling in love with her. She is called Ninja and a very happy addition to our family. They had everything we needed when buying the hamster and a good selection of cages to choose from to suit all budgets. We loved all the little toys on offer for the hamsters but chose the traditional ball and hamster treats to start with. Total cost for everything was around £50.

The other big attraction to the pet shop is Ringo the talking Parrot. He is not for sale and lives permanently in the store. He talks occasionally and welcomes everyone into the store. He can bite so don’t get too close!

3.Café and Sunday Carvery

It’s usually quite when we go to visit the café and we always find a seat easily. A lot of people just come to the café for a coffee and a catch up and if you are local to Wixams it’s the perfect place. There is a wide selection of hot and cold food available at reasonable prices.  You can also buy cakes, biscuits and ice creams. On a Sunday they do a carvery from 12-2pm which is incredibly popular. You don’t need to book but you do need to arrive early as there is usually a queue. Beef is served every week with a guest meat also provided (Pork, Gammon or Turkey) The meat is supplied from a very popular butcher in the area called Woburn Country Foods. www.woburncountryfoods.com  Only £7.50 (at time of writing) per portion with a vegetarian option also available.

4.Dinosaur slide and swing

Whilst you are wandering around the plants/trees/shrubs outside you come across a rather fabulous Dinosaur slide and swing (for 2 children) Its quite retro in its look and appeal but a pleasant surprise as you wander round, it’s a hidden gem and one which I always smile at when I walk by it. My eldest boy who’s 5 can’t resist a go down the slide every time we visit.

5.Ornaments and Gifts

From candles, to clocks, jewellery, statues, books, birthday cards and photo frames. Seasons has a little bit of everything so perfect for buying for that someone who you are not really sure what to buy for.  Sometimes you just need a bit of inspiration and this store always delivers, especially for the older people in my life that I need to buy for. They even have pick n mix and a selection of traditional biscuits, sweets and treats on offer .

Seasonal items such as Christmas /Halloween decorations, lights and gifts are also available at the selected times. My top tip is to visit at Christmas as they have a great display for the children which is all for charity and the range of Christmas decorations and lights are lovely. We bought lights for the front of the house last Christmas and they looked wonderful. Santa also makes an appearance at selected times throughout December.

Other items on offer include:

Barbecues, Pizza ovens and Chimineas – they always have a great selection. I am tempted by a Chiminea but nervouse with young children so will wait a few years before buying one I think.

Fencing and stone paving - Not something I have purchased yet but its there just in case!

Lawnmowers- A good selection with a variety of brands on offer.

Garden Equipment- All the ususal bits and bobs needed for the novice and experience gardener

Cane, Pine & Garden Furniture: These include every year a lovely selection of Children’s garden furniture, all in miniature.

Sledges, Snow shovels : Its one of those purchases that you really should make but never do until it snows. Then you are desperately finding somewhere that sells them – well Seasons has them every winter.
DIY store located inside the building I go in there mostly to buy lightbulbs and batteries (who ever has enough of these?!) but you can also buy wallpaper, paints, kitchen wares, timber, tools and much more. Please note that these are separate businesses and you need to buy your purchases separately.
So to summarise, Seasons Garden Centre offer customers a huge range. It’s a great local independent and they are open 7 days a week. You can also check out the reviews on google here. They score a worthy 4.1 stars with 120 reviews at the time of writing.

Google reviews

Check out their website for the most up to date opening times, but at the time of writing this post they were:

Monday – Saturday 9.00am – 6.00pm
Sunday 11.00am – 5.00pm
Seasons Garden Centre
Bedford Rd, Bedford MK45 3H

http://www.seasonsgardencentre.co.uk/wilstead.html

I wrote this blog page in my spare time and was not paid or given anything for free to write this post. All comments are my own.  To find out more about me click here. http://mybedfordshire.com/about/

Baby and Play Toy Shop Bedford – A hidden gem

Baby and Play is a beautifully presented toy store located in the centre of Bedford - a hidden gem in fact, nestled up Castle Lane.

I visited the store one very cold Wednesday afternoon just after lunch and was warmly greeted by the owner Adam, who is chatty and very friendly. Adam and his partner Kirstie own the store, and are parents to five children who all have a big say on what’s stocked in the store and can easily critique new toys, so it’s a real family ran business.  

The shop opened its doors to the public on the 29th April 2017, so I asked the question why Adam and Kirstie set up a shop in the town when they already ran a very successful online shop since 2012?

Adam told me they took the plunge partly because they saw a gap in the market in Bedford as there were no other independents selling the kind of toys that Baby and Play have to offer - and because some toys simply sell better when you can touch and play with them.

When you come into the store that’s the vibe you get, ‘please come in and play.’ It’s a very tactile shop with lots of items out of their packaging for you to have a good look at. They have toys around the store which are simply there for children to play with.

This helps relax the parents, safe in the knowledge that their child can safely play with some of the toys and gives everyone a bit of breathing space to look around.

Combine that with a warm welcome and a nice friendly chat and you see why customers some back for more time and time again.

In fact there reviews on line are impressive and customers particularly mention their great customer service (5 stars across the board). Take a look for yourself here https://www.facebook.com/pg/Babyandplay/reviews/

The toys on offer at this store are beautiful, they are affordable, and they have meaning. 99% of the products won’t need a battery and you definitely won’t find any toys with screens in this store. Wooden toys are Adam and Kirstie’s passion and you will find an abundance of quirky, traditional and sustainable options in store.

They have an extensive range of baby and toddler toys up to age 5 but you can also find some good presents for older children up to around 7-8 years (at the time of writing) which included a good selection of science kits/toys and educational history cards.

 

My top 5 toy recommendations

So, what toys really stood out for me on my first visit? Here are my top 5 toy recommendations:

Lanka Kade Toys

These are tactile, sturdy wooden toys. I personally loved the small £1.99 vehicles and the £2.50 animal range. I bought two of the small animals for my youngest son (2) and I will be going back for more in a few weeks’ time as he loves them so much. They are easily to pick up and hold, they are collectable, and will last a lifetime and never go out of fashion. Plus all of Lanke Kade's toys and gifts are fair trade and exclusively designed in the UK before being handcrafted by skilled artisans in Sri Lanka. When you purchase a Lanka Kade product you support several disadvantaged rural schools in Sri Lanka with books and daily milk to ensure that all of the students are better equipped for learning. A win-win for me as a parent.

For more information on fair trade please visit www.lankakade.co.uk

Djeco Puzzles

What struck me most about this range was just how eye catching the packaging is. It really is impressive and would make the perfect gift. The prices were also reasonable for such a beautifully designed range of quirky puzzles; £9.95 (at time of writing) suitable for ages 4+

Plan Toys

Plan Toys produce beautifully made, durable toys made from sustainable wood and eco-friendly materials that encourage learning and development through play. They had a lovely range with varying price points and one of my favourites was this cute little camera, which when you looked through the viewing lens had a kaleidoscope inside.  You then twist the front of the camera like you would you focus the lens to see beautiful images. This is a good example of a toy that probably wouldn’t sell well online as you simply have to pick it up and look through the lens to get what it’s all about.

Green Toys

So many of our children’s toys are plastic, and I always worry about the effect that this will have on the environment in years to come, Green Toys start out their life as milk bottles, they are recycled, cleaned and rebuilt as the toys you see below. Made with no screws, batteries, glue or virgin cardboard packaging. So 100% recycled and free from BPA, phthalates and melamine. I purchased a toy train for my son and he absolutely loves it.

Janod Toys

Janod is a French company specialising in traditional toys and games made from wood as well as cardboard.

The Janod Multikub Circus (£18.99) toy particularly stood out to me in store as strong gift option. Partly because of its timeless appeal (what child doesn’t like a stackable toy) but also because of the striking design and good price for such a large toy. I think it would also be popular with boys and girls alike.

What else can I say to convince you that Baby and Play is well worth a visit?

The shop are also organising events in store, they are very busy on social media and have both a public page and a group page on Facebook where you can enter competitions, chat with other mums and get exclusive special offers. They also stock a range of chewable toys - great for special needs children.

Oh…and they won a Love Bedford mystery shopper award in 2017 and they have just set up a free dressing up library!

So what are you waiting for? Baby and Play are a bit off the beaten track, but for parents of young children they should become your go-to destination for fab toys.

Baby and Play
16 Castle Lane
Bedford
MK40 3US
Phone: 0800 6444 364
Email:
Mon - Fri: 10am - 4.30pm
Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: CLOSED

For more information please go to www.babyandplay.co.uk /

I wrote this blog page in my spare time and was not paid or given anything for free to write this post. All comments are my own.  To find out more about me click here. http://mybedfordshire.com/about/

Want to try a new hobby? Destination Aquatics could have the answer

This is my first blog into the world of independent pet stores in Bedfordshire. I chose Destination Aquatics in Bedford for my first review because of the reviews online and their great Facebook page with video content. My two son’s also want to visit an aquarium so one wet Saturday we went to take a look.

Destination Aquatics is a retail store devoted to fish and aquascaping . Its mission statement is to ‘ensure that anyone introduced to fish-keeping, reptile keeping or pet keeping has the knowledge to ensure the animal thrives’  It’s a store which ‘aims to inspire new people into the hobby’, it has a welcoming and exciting feel to the store when you first walk in. The displays in the large entrance area immediately gave you the impression that this is no ordinary store. The tanks displayed are high value items (some are well over £1000 to buy) , and the livestock you buy from here require special love and attention. As all animals should. This is why the staff will ask you a few general questions to ensure that the fish are going to be living in the correct conditions and naturally the store can refuse to sell fish to anyone they feel will not keep the fish in the correct conditions.

What’s on offer?

Planted tanks: I assumed this just meant adding a plant to the bottom of the tank, well I was wrong. A planted aquarium attempts to mimic a fishes natural environment and as a result of all your hard work, your fish will behave in a more natural manner. Creating a planted tank helps you to understand the chemistry within the water that allows the plants to grow and flourish if presented with the right environment. Like gardening, the soil or in this instance the ‘substrate’ you put your plants into will have a huge impact on how your plants get on in your new tank. So it’s important to really research what you are doing and ask the staff in store for help. There are hundreds of types of plants available in all sorts of colours and sizes. Check out this guide here. https://aquariuminfo.org/plantedguide.html

Goldfish Tanks and Tropical Tanks

As soon as you enter the livestock area you can see the huge wall of livestock on offer. My eldest son was amazed at how large the fish tanks were and he loved getting up front and personal with the goldfish especially. We were also very interested in the starter tanks suitable for children. They had a good selection to suit a variety of price ranges in stock and the staff were keen to offer guidance and advice.

Marine Tanks

I can see from looking around the store that to own a full blown marine tank takes investment, time and knowledge. The end results are awe inspiring however, and I was amazed at what you can produce in your home or office thanks to careful lighting, knowing a bit about water chemistry/PH levels, understanding water flow and of course getting advice on the right type of tank needed. All questions the staff at Destination Aquatics are willing to answer of course and they can show you in store just how amazing these coral reef tanks can look with the right advice.

Types of livestock available to buy

The selection is impressive from Marine, Invertebrates, Corals , Tropical, Coldwater, and Anubias plants. To really see what’s on offer you really have to go and take a look in their store regularly but their Facebook page keeps you updated with all their latest and most beautiful fish.

Beautiful Coral and Invertebrates

For me the most impressive part about this store was the coral and invertebrates tanks in the centre of the store. As a novice fish keeper and owner of only goldfish and the usual tropical fish, I had never seen this type of livestock before and honestly didn’t know it was something you could buy from a store.  It was so beautiful to look at and I wish I had more space in my home to accommodate such beautiful creatures. I hope my photos do them justice, please go and see for yourself just how beautiful they are.

In the summer months they also have a large selection pond fish too such as Koi and Goldfish. A firm favourite for my Mum and Dad who have kept Koi’s for several years.

Dry Goods

Of course you need to have a wide selection of foods and items to put inside your tank/aquarium. Again looking down the store the selection was impressive. The colours of all the products looked amazing and my 2 boys loved looking at all the wonderful accessories such as the skulls and wood for the fish to hide and swim through.

Overall thoughts

The terminology and vast array of items on offer made my shopping experience a little overwhelming, however this was my first visit to the store and with some careful research online I would definitely go back armed with more knowledge and experience to then handle the amount of information on offer. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and you can always get them to guide you round the store when you are at the stage to buy.  I would definitely also look into the training sessions the store offers to its customers. These include evening events for Reef and Marine Keepers and training sessions on entry level fish keeping. They also at the time of writing this blog offer a tank maintenance service which is about ongoing support and even a tank set up service.

For further information please go to their website http://destinationaquatics.co.uk/ or Facebook page where they keep you up to date with all their latest videos https://www.facebook.com/Destinationaquatics/

They have their own dedicated car park and the store is easy to get to. It’s not in the centre of Bedford but on an industrial estate outside of the town. The address is below.

Destination Aquatics

Telford Way

Cambridge Road

Bedford

MK42 0PQ

01234 242486

I wrote this blog page in my spare time and was not paid or given anything for free to write this post. All comments are my own.  To find out more about me click here. http://mybedfordshire.com/about/

Bedfordshire Clanger

The Bedfordshire Clanger and Toothpaste Cake

So I have heard a lot about the Bedfordshire Clanger, mainly from TV shows including the Great British Bake Off but also from people locally and I knew exactly where to go to find out more.

The history

Gunns Bakery is a traditional family bakery based in Bedfordshire since 1928. It’s one of the last producers of the Bedfordshire Clanger and has done so for the last 50 years, maintaining the tradition and history of this tasty treat. It was originally eaten by farm labourers and has a meat filling with a sweet end. Great in the good old days as it’s portable, cheap to make, filling and very high in calories so perfect for the hard working farm staff.

But what about today? Why do people eat them and why the resurgence?  Well you could say the Clanger was one of the original fast foods, it was made from the remains of your evening meal and would have been boiled, like a suet pudding. Gunns varied the original method by baking, rather than boiling the clangers – although the pastry is still made to the original suet-based recipe apparently. This made it in my opinion Bedfordshire’s  answer to the Cornish pasty but with the unique twist of flavours – savoury and sweet.  The Clangers are perfect to eat with a pint, or as a wholesome lunch on the go, perfect for the time poor which most of us are these days. Plus it’s two fillings for the price of one.

Gunns Bakery

The Taste Test

I always see a steady stream of people coming out of Gunns Bakery on the high street in Bedford, so I thought why not? Let’s give it a go.

So I had a wide choice to choose from as I walked up to the Bakery... the bright and vibrant notice board outside the shop proudly advertised:

"Why not try our famous BEDFORDSHIRE CLANGERS.. as seen on Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast!

Traditional: Gammon, Potato, Onion with Apple

OR  Try our new varieties..

Pork and Cider with Roasted Apple

Beef and Ale with Rhubarb and Custard

Cream Vegetable with Apple and Sultanas (V)

Bombay Vegetable Curry with Mango (V)

Well for my first taste I went for the Port and Cider with Roasted Apple Clanger on the recommendation of the lovely shop assistant. I didn’t know that ‘two holes means meat’, ‘three knife slits means pudding’ so I ended up eating the roasted apple section first! Oh well it was a nice surprise and the main meat filling was lovely. A nice balance of flavours and a huge portion (about a foot long in size) and t be honest I could have saved half for later but I didn’t want to and all for a good value £3 (at time of writing)

Bedfordshire Clanger

More tasty treats including another Bedfordshire favourite Chocolate Toothpaste Cake

Whilst the Bedfordshire Clanger is clearly a great selling point to Gunn’s Bakery, they also produce a wide variety of freshly baked breads, a huge variety of sandwiches/filled rolls for lunch, sausage rolls, cakes, decorated biscuits and doughnuts. They also have a full range of fresh cream cakes and you can order celebration cakes and buffets for parties. So as you can imagine there was a lot to take in when I looked around the bakery! However one cake took my fancy as I hadn’t seen it before. I asked the shop assistant what it was and she proudly said ‘oh that’s Chocolate Toothpaste cake.’  The lady next to me said ‘we had it all the time at school; it’s a Bedfordshire thing I think’

I bought one to try and was very curious to taste it.  This desert combines a pastry bottom, chocolate mousse filling and a squirt of cream on the top. It was a very generous portion and to my amazement it didn’t taste of mint at all! Yes I didn’t know that it’s the texture of the mouse (apparently) which gave it its name rather than the taste. It is quite a rich pudding but definitely worth a try if you haven’t sampled one before.

So if you want to give any of these Bedfordshire treats a try you can find Gunn’s Bakery at the below locations.

Sandy: 8 Market Square,Sandy Bedfordshire. SG19 1HU

Bedford: 51 High Street, Bedford,MK40 1RZ

Biggleswade: 12 Hitchin St, Biggleswade, SG18 8AX

http://www.gunns-bakery.co.uk/

I wrote this blog page in my spare time and was not paid or given anything for free to write this post. All comments are my own.  To find out more about me click here. http://mybedfordshire.com/about/

Excellent little vintage cafe in the heart of Ampthill – Cakestand and Crumb.

I have always wanted to try the beautiful little vintage Cafe in Ampthill called Cakestand & Crumb as I have heard so much about it from friends on Facebook. So after my haircut I decided to have a nice quiet lunch without the kids (a rare treat for me). It's situated down a little side alley called Kings Arms Yard. It's a pretty little vintage café and looks so sweet from the outside thanks to the lovely bright paintwork. I loved the colour scheme outside and the inside was just as pretty. As I hadn't been before I asked the waitress what was on offer and she showed me the menu. There were lots of traditional sandwich fillings on offer and what was really nice to see was that they were promoting another independent in Ampthill - The Cottage Bakery, as all their sandwiches were made with their breads.

I opted for a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich plus a drink which came quickly. If you have small children they have a small area of toys, however the cafe is quite small so lots of buggies will be a bit if an issue unless you sit outside. 

The cafe itself is so relaxed and has a lovely feel, they have an old record player in the corner which plays background music and can be used for private parties.

If you are a tea lover they have over 15 different types which includes some more unusual blends like the Cakestand and Crumb home blend, Lost Malawi, Jasmine Silver Leaf and Wild Rooibos. All the tea is loose leaf and comes from the London Based Rare Tea Company, who source their tea 'straight from tea gardens all over the world'. 

 

 

So after my sandwich I had to try the amazing cakes on offer, they are all home made. I asked the waitress which were the most popular, she said 'The Raspberry & White Chocolate Cake, Carrot & Walnut and the Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake were always popular. I however picked a Chocolate Brownie which I have wanted to try for a very long time, the Cadbury's Cream Egg Brownie! It was lovely, very sweet and a beautiful texture but after such a large lunch it was just a little too much for me. 

 

 

Lots of people had booked tables in advance as the Cafe offers Afternoon Tea.  I asked if you need to book a few weeks in advance for a Saturday and the waitress said yes its always best to, so that's worth bearing in mind. At the time of visiting the price was £16.50 per person.

You can also hire the venue for a private dining experience (12-20 people) which I found very tempting, it is perfect for a baby shower or a special birthday. If you hire between 5-7pm  you can even bring your own wine.

When I visited the cafe only accepted cash, no credit or debit cards so please bare this in mind when you visit. I didn't know this but I just walked to the nearest cash machine, which was less than 5 minutes up the road. No a major issue but it's was worth noting. 

So if you love the vintage feel then this cafe is definitely worth a visit.  Address: 7 Kings Arms Yard,Ampthill MK45 2PJ. Its tucked away down the back of the Kinds Arms Yard but its well advertised from the main street.

http://www.cakestandandcrumb.co.uk/

I wrote this blog page in my spare time and was not paid or given anything for free to write this post. All comments are my own.  To find out more about me click here. http://mybedfordshire.com/about/

A delightful sweetshop tucked away in the Arcade, Bedford

I went to visit a lovely sweet shop in Bedford Town Centre and met with one of the owners, Debbie. She was so friendly and really made me feel welcome. Explaining the history of the shop itself and why Arcadia sweetshop is so special in this area.

Arcadia Sweetshop is a family run business and is located in the Arcade. What's nice about this shop is the heritage, the actual shop itself is over 110 years old has been ran as a sweetshop since the Arcade was opened in 1905. This means that they have lots of regulars who have been coming a very long time, and now their children and grandchildren come. It's also the reason why its my first blog post of my new website, whenever I visit the Arcade I always walk by and look fondly on at the amazing selection of sweets inside. Most of which I remember buying as a child, I also smiled when I saw the prices available in quarters (how I used to buy sweets as a child) and now the usual '100g.' My favourite sweets are sherbet pips and sherbet lemons, and of course they have both.

They have won lots of awards since talking on the shop including the Bedford Business Awards in 2016 and have an online shop too, as Debbie was keen to point out to some of her regulars whilst I was in the store. Just select delivery to your home or simply click and collect. I thought this was a great idea and perfect for mums who want to organise a party and need sweets for party bags.

 

The range in the store was very wide as you would expect from such a traditional store. But it was easy to navigate around and I quickly spotted what I perceived to be the key selling points of the shop, which for me were the beautiful handmade chocolates, the traditional and broad range of classic childhood sweets in traditional jars, the wide range of continental chocolate bars and the penny sweets of course. (my eldest boy's favourite!)

So next time you have a sweet tooth have a wander down to 11 The Arcade, Bedford, MK40 1NS or visit their website https://www.arcadiasweetshop.com/