Now, that’s what I call a low tide!

Great walk along the sea front today and the tide was as low – no, correction – lower than I have seen it in the three years that we have lived in Clevedon.

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I’ve not seen the supports for the struts of the pier before, nor seen the sandbank sticking up through the mud without a covering of water. We were recently told that the metal supports were originally narrow gauge rail tracks being recycled, which explains why they look so delicate. You can also see in one of the photos how the appartments at the old Rock Hotel are still being built. Work has been progressing for at least two full years, so maybe by Christmas…

Things have gone a little quicker on Hill Road, where the new mini-Sainsbury store has just opened. I’m not a great fan of supermarket chains, but it does add to the range of products you can buy on Hill Road. The One Stop store round the corner has just been refurbished too – presumably because of the competition of a new store. I hadn’t realised that One Stop is a subsidiary of Tesco, although the branding in the store is now much more like Tesco’s branding. Very interesting – I had assumed it was an independent store.

Back to the estuary… Lovely to see the marine geography so clearly exposed further down the coast.

A similar low tide yesterday caused some local excitement when some geocachers went out onto the mud and got stuck to some degree. I think it was more panic from observers than a real risk, but the emergency services were called in  to rescue them: we heard sirens steadily throughout the afternoon and wondered what was occurring.

Today’s walk was to show our current Airbnb guest, a student with the Bristol Groundschool, the local sights. It is so nice to meet people of different nationalities, and to hear their stories and how they have become pilots. So far we have hosted students from the UK, Italy, France, Denmark, Hungary, Norway and Poland, and we’ve only been in business for a few months. It’s so nice to hear from the European students that their experience of the UK is far superior to their expectations: the legend of football hooligans, hen and stag parties and nightclubbing holidays in the sun has sadly led to low opinions of the British (or to be fair, the English) abroad.

I do realise that this post is slightly random, but then so is life!

It must be summer!

The most striking thing I saw on my early walk round Clevedon today was the sky.

Just look at these contrails (vapour trails to you and me!).

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What a fabulous network of journey markers. Wonder where they are all headed? One thing is for sure, the holiday season is properly underway.

Elsewhere on the walk there was plenty of birdsong to let me know that all manner of flying creatures are busy nesting now the good weather is here. I need to get one of those bird song recognition apps, but I definitely heard a chiff-chaff and I think I heard a blackcap too, amongst others that are for now a mystery to me.

Even though people are starting to get away for holidays, it’s still early enough in the year to experience a real lift in the spirits at the sight of a sun drenched bank of flowers…

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… and of course the pier always looks magificent!

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This view is taken across the empty Marine Lake, where restoration, renovation and improvements are set to get properly underway. Latest news is that there should be a floating island in the lake for swimmers to climb up onto, as well as huts for changing and improved seating and landscaping.

Work on the pier is progressing well too, and the excavations for the new visitor centre are worth the modest entry fee just by themselves! Remember that if you are a regular visitor to Clevedon it’s worth buying a season ticket for the pier. You can visit as many times as you like in a year.

It’s easy to enjoy the benefits of a healthy walk when there is so much to see! What’s happening round your way?

Why do supermarkets do that?

1.  Why do supermarkets sell chopped up kale?

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Here’s how kale looks if you buy it from our lovely local Veg Box shop.  All you need to do is give it a rinse and then strip the curly leaves off the tough stalks. Takes a couple of seconds…

The supermarkets all seem to sell the vegetable chopped, so you have chunks of tough stalk throughout the bag. I have bought it this way and know that you have to spend considerably longer picking out the stalks. And you almost always miss some. Plus of course the edges of the shredded leaves start to turn dry and brown very quickly. So – why do supermarkets do that?

2. Why do supermarkets only sell tiny parsnips?

The Veg Box has been selling massive, unwashed parsnips lately. Much cheaper than the small, prettier versions, and one root contributes to several meals. Less peeling too. And it’s helping farmers by giving them some income from veg that would otherwise go to animal feed or waste.

It’s well worth checking out your local independent suppliers. They know their stock, so can recommend which apples, oranges or tomatoes are particularly tasty. They can also suggest ways to cook or prepare some of the less familiar veg.

What do supermarkets do that you can’t understand??

From Clevedon to Cheddar (and beyond) by bike

As a Clevedon resident and fan of green transport, keeping fit and healthy and of Somerset as a whole, I was excited and sorry in equal measure by a short piece in the North Somerset Times this week on problems facing the Strawberry Line Association in their efforts to extend the cycle way so that we could get on to it in Clevedon.

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Excited, because I hadn’t heard that there were serious plans to extend the path, and this would be a marvellous facility for those living in and between Clevedon and Yatton. Sorry, because apparently they can’t confirm funding without plannig permission, and they can’t get planning permission without confirmed funding. Not a unique story!

The Strawberry Line already runs along a disused railway line from Yatton to Cheddar, across countryside visible in my photo above, taken from the top of the Mendips. This provides a safe and pleasant cycle path, keeping cyclists ut of danger from traffic, and preventing drivers being frustrated by needing to share roads with cyclists. Individuals and familes can get out into the fresh air, enjoying the environment, getting fitter and not spending too much money in the process.

There is potential to extend the network so that more able cyclists can travel widely across North Somerset, from Wells to the coast. What a boon to local tourism that would be! Loads more people visiting pubs, cafes, shops and bed and breakfasts across the region, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery and enjoying local produce.

I would want to see the path stretch to Clevedon even if I wasn’t an Airbnb host. Honestly, is there one disadvantage to the scheme? If there isn’t, I can’t see it. So I sincerely hope that the authorities help to smotth out the problems that seem to be slowing the scheme down. Hopefully I’l be on my bike very soon!

And incidentally – how have I only just heard of this? Note to self – check local news and events much more regularly!

Looking for somewhere nice to sit?

In amongst all the terrible news this week, it’s good to remember that most people just want to live peacefully and well – in the broadest sense – so I enjoyed coming across a great new site called A nice sit down. It’s simple and it’s sweet. Upload a photo of a public bench you like, add the coordinates and pin its location on a map. You may like the bench itself, or you might love the view it affords, but it’s a great way of sharing a simple pleasure with others.

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I took a few more photos of my favourite benches today, but I was using a wide angled lens and hurrying a bit, so they aren’t as good as I’d like. The above is one of my favourites, although being stone and a bit mossy it can take a moment or two to realise that you are looking at a seat. It would also be a little cold and damp to sit on in most weathers! I expect that in the past it had a wooden seat attached to the top.  I also took a photo of a bench near St Andrew’s Church, sat on by David Tennant and Olivia Coleman in the first series of Broadchurch, but I may have to retake it… not up to my usual standards!

Please do get posting your bench photos at www.anicesitdown.co.uk. We’ll be able to see the network of photos grow, and who knows? It may prove to be a good way to plan your next expedition into the British countryside, or discover a new place in your home town.

The bench above is on one of my favourite walks in Clevedon, Poet’s Walk. I love the fact that the walk is on a proper pathway, so you don’t have to get too booted-up as you won’t get too muddy even after heavy rain, but you are also far away from traffic and noise. You can properly enjoy the views and the wildlife, while knowing that you are having a gentle work out getting up and down the fairly steep paths. The only way to get properly fit is to find an exercise that you enjoy and therefore want to do. I’ve explained this all much better in my short Kindle book, A beginners guide to walking for pleasure, available on Amazon.

A final self-promotional plug is to say that a lot of my Clevedon and other photos and art are available through my RedBubble shop at http://magsart.redbubble.com Please do have a look – your support is hugely appreciated!

Time travel in Clevedon… bringing the past into the future

I’ve written about the charms of Clevedon many times: how the Victorian features of this peaceful seaside town have been preserved and are here to be enjoyed today.  We’re just back from a walk along the pier, to see the works that are in progress, and that has reminded me that I should have blogged about some of the developments that are underway here.

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The photos show the work at the pier on the new visitor centre and tea rooms. Not the huge building swathed in red mesh on the left – that’s the conversion of the old hotel into flats. The pier development will fit neatly into the ramp beside the old toll house. The work will mostly be underground, and will provide a large room with views under the pier to see the structure including Brunel’s old railway tracks, that were recycled into the pier arches, and of course views across the rising tide. We had a great chat about the work with one of the pier trustees, who was on hand with the plans.

The pier is worth a walk at any time, but will be even more enjoyable when the work is done. We are currently season ticket holders, and will be looking out to buy shares when they become available in the new year to raise the last of the funding needed.

At the other end of the bay, near the Salthouse and Little Harp pubs, the Marine Lakes are also going to be refurbished and restored. These are the Victorian swimming, boating and crabbing lakes, which have fallen into disrepair over the years. Although they are still used almost every day, they look a bit sad and the work, which will include improved seating and terracing and huts to change in for swimming, will bring them back to life.

And in town,  things are happening at the Curzon Community Cinema. From what I hear a new cafe/restaurant is on the way, and they are planning to open up the upper floor boxes and balcony in the auditorium. We already love the cinema and it will be fantastic to have further improvements. These should secure the cinema’s future for many years to come.

So what all these developments have in common is that they are breathing new life into much loved and rare historical places; keeping the essence of them true to their past but fitting them for a long future. Locals and visitors will have the pleasure of authentic Victorian buildings and amenities, but will be able to enjoy them in a way that fits right into modern life.

Hurrah for Clevedon, and for all those involved in these projects.

Maybe we’ll be able to tie the whole thing together by providing an authentic transport solution for the sea front (and shopping areas). Victorian trams, horse drawn coaches, early 20th Century buses … I wonder what might be possible? It would be fabulous to have most of the cars removed from the sea front, and to give visitors and locals alike a fun alternative service. Any ideas, anyone?

 

 

 

So here’s what we’ve learned about being Airbnb hosts…

We listed our spare bedroom on Airbnb at the very end of September 2014, to test how much interest there is in accommodation in Clevedon. We’ve lived here for over two years now, and know of two hotels in town and a few established bed and breakfast establishments. Was this enough to meet demand, or was there space for some amateurs?

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Really, having missed the summer season, we weren’t expecting many bookings at all in 2014, but as the room was ready we decided to go through the listing process anyway. It wouldn’t do any harm! Much to our surprise (and delight) we have had a steady stream of bookings ever since, and they are only slowing down now because the room is unavailable for December and early January: for the very good reason that we have family visiting for a few weeks. So as we end a busy week in which we have had three sets of guests, and with some warm reviews in, we feel we have learned quite a lot in a short time and are in a position to offer our personal story to help other people who are thinking of letting out a room.

Decide what you are offering. This is the whole idea behind Airbnb of course. What accommodation have you got that guests can use? Very easy to decide if you have a spare guest bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, but you also have to think about what you are prepared to share. Can guests cook in your kitchen or share your lounge? There are no right or wrong answers, but you must be happy with what you are offereing: then every visit will be relaxed and enjoyable. Another “of course” to note is that the more you offer you the more you can charge for the room. The simpler the offering – a sofa bed in the lounge with shared use of the family bathroom, for example, the less people will be willing to pay.

Get organised.  Yes, it’s obvious, but planning is king! We started from looking at our room from a guest’s point of view. It’s lovely and bright, and being on the top floor of new and ex-show house town house is nice and private. But it is at the top of quite a few stairs, so we provided a kettle, tea making facilties and a mini-fridge, so people didn’t have to come all the way down to the kitchen for a drink. We’re still not sure about the fridge. It’s good to hold some chilled water and milk and it’s almost silent, but some people find it a little noisy at night. We’ll see!

Then we thought about the bedding and towels we need. We decided to buy a couple of extra sets of everything, and to keep them just for guests. Then we get things laundered immediately after each guest and the bed made up, without any further decisions to make.

There are little extras that may help too. We use Twitter for promotion, and also had a business card printed so we can easily give people the room details.

Listen to feedback.  All our guests have liked the room, and our description is honest and clear, so no-one has had a nasty surprise (arriving and not being able to manage the stairs to the top floor, for example.) However, each guest has had a useful comment. Serena suggested adding some extra photos of the town, so people who don’t know the area in advance can see how nice it is. Rory reminded us that as our post-code is new, it can only be found on recently updated SatNavs. And Johnny said a phoot of the house from the outside would be useful to guests. Small tweaks, but we have acted on them immediately and amended/added to the information in our listing.  I also went through the guidebook section to add details of all the local points of interest and of amenties such as local pubs, cinema, shops and post office.

Think ahead. Block off the dates on your calendar when you don’t want guests as far in advance as you can, and remember to keep the calendar up to date. It’s far better for guests to see that a property is not available on the dates they want than to send an enquiry only to be told they can’t stay with you. You may also want to adjust your prices for very busy or very quiet times.

Keep an eye on your emails.  Airbnb guests quite often send an enquiry at quite short notice. It’s a shame to miss a booking (and let down a guest) because you haven’t checked your emails.

And that’s it, really. Once you have got everything set up, it’s just a question of having the room ready for guests, and making sure you have stocked up on the things people expect (toilet paper and shower gel in the bathroom, for example).

So far we have accommodated people who are:

  • on holiday
  • in the Clevedon area on business
  • breaking a long drive to Cornwall
  • in the area for social reasons – a wedding or other special occasion

We’re enjoying our Airbnb experience so much that we are going to expand our offer. There is a second, twin-bedded room on the top floor so we can accommodate up to four guests. We’ve decided to stick to groups of people travelling together – two couples, or a couple with a child (or children) or  other relation(s) – so that they are only sharing the bathroom with people they know well. This could mean a little less income for us on some occasions, as the twin bedded room will often be empty, but we know from feedback that people really like the private bathroom, so we do not think offering two separate rooms to strangers would work.

If you are thinking of letting out a room and making a little money, I hope our story has helped a little. Visit our listing page to find out more – or come and stay with us!!