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When the winter finally settled in properly, and we had one of those bright crisp days with ice lingering in the shadows, I managed a walk along the Thames Path between Twickenham and Richmond.  It’s one of my favourite walks to do anytime with no special planning, and there’s always a fine hearty lunch waiting somewhere at the end of it!

On this day, the path was almost empty with the occasional dog walker and a robin who followed me a little of the way.  And in the top left picture you can see the old Star and Garter home for ex-service personnel, now being converted to luxury flats  – I would certainly be tempted by that view if I had the odd couple of million to spare!

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Autumn brought a trip to Woburn, and it was a truly spectacular time to see the gardens in Woburn Abbey with the firing up of autumn colour in full glory.

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GPlandscapeA few weeks ago we caught the last of the snow in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a gorgeous town in the Bavarian area of southern Germany.  We did a little skiing, but I was left wanting a summer visit to see more of the town itself and take the opportunity to take trips out to the surrounding sights.

Actually made up of two towns (Garmisch and Partenkirchen!), it only became one when they were forced to unite by Adolf Hitler in 1935, just before the Winter Olympics of 1936.  These are not as famous as the summer Olympics held in Berlin later that year, but it was the first time that Alpine skiing was included in the games (won by Franz Pfnur, men and Christl Cranz, women) and the only time that the British team won a gold medal at the ice hockey!

Partenkirchen is the older of the two market towns, dating from Roman times, whereas Garcmisch appears to have built up hundreds of years later, and you can still feel this difference today. The Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, overlooks the town, providing a dramatic backdrop.

Next time, I’d like to see the Partnach Gorge, where the Partnach river is forced through a narrow, mile-long gap between high limestone cliffs, the castles of Ludwig II, and to take the train to Innsbruck and Oberammergau.

Of course, I’d also like the opportunity to taste more the wonderful local pastries and would return to the Thron Café and Konditorei, a fabulously old fashioned spot for afternoon tea serving delicious cakes!

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hotchocFor Foodies, spring heralds not just warmer, longer days, but also the opportunity to celebrate the best food from the most passionate growers and producers at the country’s many and varied food festivals.  To kick start things, there are a couple coming up at the end of this month for those of us in the south of the country.

First of all the Brighton Vegfest happens at the end of this month, then moves to Bristol in May.  A full on festival of all things vegan, the weekend includes among other things, cookery demos, film screenings, comedy and yoga area, as well as exhibitors and food village.

VegFest Brighton, 28th – 29th March 2015, Brighton Centre BN1 2GR

The same weekend, but in Islington in London, is the Chocolate Festival.  Promising the country’s top artisan chocolatiers under one roof, this sounds like a chance for some serious indulgence.  The Health Trail features raw and free-from chocs if you feel like staying on the right side of virtuous!

The Chocolate Festival, 27th – 29th March, Business Design Centre, Islington, N1 0QH.

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As you can see from my header photo (of Hayling Island), I have an irrational fondness for beach huts.  I’m obviously not alone, since many of them around the UK are now so popular, that to buy one will set you back more than the cost of a castle in Scotland.  I was particularly taken with these huts on Mudeford Spit, which overlooks Christchurch Harbour on the South Coast.  They are also famously expensive – Hut 39 is currently for sale, price £250,000.  Many of them are micro designer crash pads, some even having upstairs areas for beds, as well as gorgeous views whichever way you look, with the harbour on one side and a soft sandy beach the other.  But there is no road access and residents have to use a toilet and shower block.  Still, they really captured my imagination and I really did fancy staying in one for a while!

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