27 January 2017

travel trumps guide to chesham

Travel Trumps 

"A new year, new ideas." That's what I said to myself as 2017 got underway. Beyond the Back Garden was launched first, and today we kick-start the second. Welcome to our new feature.

Travel Trumps

No its got nothing to do with the new President of the United States of America! It's based (a little) on a favourite children's card game called Top Trumps. 

I've had the idea to do some mini guides, but in a different way, for a long time. Not just long written pieces with some pictures, (nothing wrong with them trust me, I'll still be doing them from time to time.) I wanted to feature some lesser known places, add in some fun facts and information, places to go and eat, etc. Little guides that everyone can use, without pages of information. Give a sprinkling of ideas and then allow the reader to explore and self-discover. That's where the idea for Travel Trumps came about (see below.) 

First up: Chesham, a small market town in the heart of the Chiltern Hills (which just so happens to be where I'm from!) 

travel guide

I hope you found it to be an exciting and fun feature? Your comments as always would be most appreciated. That way I can develop it and improve for next time. Thanks for your support, happy travels. 

16 January 2017

espresso base

Is this London's Best Cafe?

Walk down any British high street these days and you'll probably be able to count at least 5 or 6 different cafes and coffee shops. Ranging in size and style from the independents to the chain stores. Cafe culture has increased to such a level that in London alone there are....(lots!) It's actually impossible to count as there seems to be a new one open everyday! As an example, the largest of the major chain cafes in the UK; Costa, have over 1500 dotted around the UK! And that's just one chain, not forgetting Starbucks, Cafe Nero and the others I've forgotten.

london cafe
Courtyard of Espresso Base - taken by the author

Our Insatiable Thirst!

With such an insatiable thirst for coffee, hot chocolate and smoothies its no wonder that this industry accounted for £7.9bn in 2015 to the UK economy (source: Daily Telegraph). The trouble is are they any good? We all know what the large cafe providers are like, and what they offer, so many of us play safe and go to them, myself included. However the real treats are really found in unexpected places and are often small independently run establishments. Whilst out on one of my London strolls, I came across Espresso Base. Having tried a coffee or two and met with its owner, I can say that this is a cafe you really need to seek out if you're in London. Is this London's best cafe? Quite possibly. 

Espresso Base 

This is no ordinary cafe, and here's why. 

1) It's an outside cafe. Perfect when to sun shines. 

2) It's next to a splendid church on Bloomsbury Road and has an amazing courtyard (about 5 minutes walk from the British Museum.)

3) The coffee is fantastic and made with love and passion, really. 

4) The owner (Gennaro) wants you to taste the coffee in the right way; without sugar! You have to pay extra to have it. 

It's in the perfect location, set in the churchyard of St George's Church. Large office buildings dwarfing. It's a great way to fill a space, that would otherwise be left to gather rubbish. Lined with wooden chairs and table, the epicentre of the cafe is hidden under the canvas shell at the rear. I hope the pictures of its grounds do it justice? I could have happily sat there for hours looking for all the little nuances, like the chalk board signs and the ornaments that are hidden away, looking to be discovered. 

london cafes


cafes in london

This is a cafe that requires your full attend, from the moment you order your drink to sitting down and enjoying the churchyard. Think about it, how often do we really take notice of the surroundings in a Costa or Cafe Nero? They are so generic and uninspiring. Espresso Base certainly isn't. A word of warning, its not open every day (Fri - Sun), and is closed from around 4pm. Check the twitter link for full details  https://twitter.com/espresso_base

Final Word

Its perhaps best to leave with one of the quotes from the cafes many customers (see below). Couldn't sum it up any better myself. So our call to action is to seek out this gem, give it a try and then decide for yourself, and let us know. I love it, the person on the message board loves it, I'm sure you will love it. Happy coffee drinking.

london cafes

Where's your favourite cafe? Or perhaps you think you have the best coffee in London? Why not drop us a comment and I'll come and test it out. 


6 January 2017

how to enjoy strolls on top of the world

chiltern hills

We're currently shrouded in fog at the time of writing this. Winter likes to do that to us here in the Chilterns, denying us what little sun we can get during the cold months. The temperature has dropped, the wind is all but non-existent, meaning the hills are covered in this blanket of cloud. It didn't produce a White Christmas, again! We do get snow from time to time. It's not frequent, but when it does come everything comes to a standstill. I know that the rest of the snow covered world shakes their heads in disbelief at our ineptitude, but that's how it is. Anyway its post Christmas and we're into that strange time before New Year. Life goes on of course, it just seems that everyone is at half pace or unsure of what day it is! That's why it's especially good to get out and have a stroll, assuming the fog doesn't ruin the views. So that's exactly what we did. Stroll, on top of the chilterns, fog or no fog!  

chiltern hills

Dunstable Downs 

The Chilterns have an abundance of wonderful walks, comes with the territory I suppose. It boasts the oldest path in the UK, The Ridgeway, but for this post we're not featuring it! Perhaps another time? We may even try to walk one of these days? No, we're up at another key point in the hills. Well actually we're at its end, or beginning, depending on which way you look at it, and one of its highest points, Dunstable Downs. 

Dunstable Downs sits on the edge of, Dunstable! A rather nondescript town in Bedfordshire, close to its more famous neighbour Luton. Which is better known more for its airport these days. There's even a song about it! Which I'm sure the residents of Luton and the airports workers hate! I used to live in Luton during my university years. Good times for the most part, or certainly the parts I can remember. I would occasionally heading out into the countryside surrounding the town. Although only having an old sit up and beg bike I probably didn't manage to cycle up to the Downs.  It's funny how the older you get the more you appreciate your surroundings, which I probably didn't as much then. I now even take pleasure in cold weather and even bare bushes! (See below). I certainly now appreciate the Downs, they are beautiful and here's why.

The Chilterns

History of the Downs 

Dunstable Downs are the highest point in the East of England, rising some 797 ft (243m) above sea level, hence our top of the world headline. They just so happen to be one of the most popular points on the Chiltern ridge, according to the Chilterns AONB website and we can clearly testify to that with a full car park and people everywhere! Some even eating ice cream! It's like minus 4 out there! I may be exaggerating a little, but not much.

The Downs boast, if that's the right word, 5000 year old ancient burial grounds called the Five Knolls (there are in fact seven knolls!), as well as ancient rabbit burrows and fantastic views. On this occasion we didn't head to them as our son decided he wanted to walk down the downs and then back up them! I knew full well that I'd have to carry him at some point, hoping it wasn't whilst climbing back up! Thankfully it wasn't I'm happy to report. There was once the custom of rolling oranges down the slopes on Good Friday. My son would have happily followed said tradition if allowed. I could picture the scene. He, aged 4, running down chasing the orange, all arms and legs, with me following and falling flat on my face! He would be watching me, happily at the bottom with orange in hand! It is a shame some of these traditions are lost to 'health and safety', such is modern life. On this occasion I was thankful.  

The Downs are such a great place to take the family. You get the opportunity to enjoy some of the best views The Chilterns can offer. There's the rather nice visitors centre, a chance to fly kites if there's wind. On this occasion we could see the vale below stretching into the far distance. The fog had cleared and the sun was setting behind the next ridge of hills. Making for a perfect post Christmas stretch of the muscles. 

Chiltern Hills

Walking into the New Year 

New Years not only marks the beginning of a new chapter, but also the chance to stretch those legs a little more and perhaps meet one of our new years resolutions. I fully intend to walk as much as I can this year. Explore some of the villages and towns, perhaps a local pub or two. What better way to see our wonderful countryside? So to answer our headline, How to enjoy strolls on top of the world? Just put those wellies on and go!


Where do you go to stroll on top of the world? I'd love to know, so why not leave a comment on one of the various social channels available. Happy strolling. 


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