Would you take a look at that cute face above? That’s Sprout, and she’s pretty much the unofficial Boden mascot! Well, maybe the official mascot, since her image is appearing on the front of a few items of Boden’s beautiful Christmas collection this year! But, we’ll get on to talking about the Christmas collection a little later! First up- that walk!
Friday started in much the same way as Thursday did- with fresh coffee, and spectacular breakfasts at The Bull. Even though the day at River Cottage had been such a foodie one, I woke up ravenous and enjoyed another plate of The Bull’s amazing smoked salmon plus a bowl of granola, yoghurt, and fruit for breakfast. The rest of the day’s activities were something of a mystery to us, and our plans had been debated and guessed over at much length during the previous day or so. We’d been told to bring our wellies and that we’d be going for a walk with Johnnie (Mr Boden himself!), but didn’t even know where we’d be once we finished walking! Or actually, where the walk was going to begin, for that matter…
The cars and lovely cab drivers arrived bright and early to pick us up, and took us deep into the countryside before telling us to get out, and take a hike. Hah. I’m kidding. But seriously though, with landscapes like these all around us, how could we not want to head out on two feet and explore!…
Johnnie led us on a four mile walk all through the meadows and up and down hillsides, stopping to point out some of the most beautiful vistas and wildflowers, and also to tell us stories about Sprout’s penchant for squirrel-chasing. I’d not been on a walk for almost a week by the time Friday rolled around, and it felt amazing to get out and stretch my legs again after days of indulgent eating and drinking! The weather was warm and dry (we lucked out the whole trip!) and the morning was a pretty glorious one.
It turned out, the walk we were taking led us right to the beautiful Mapperton House, for an afternoon of exploring, flower-arranging, and lunching in the grounds! Mapperton is owned by Caroline and John Sandwich (descendants of the most famous Lord and Lady Sandwich!), and was voted the Nation’s most beautiful manor house a few years back! It really is stunning! After a quick coffee and a shoe change (turns out wearing wellies in 20+ degree weather is not the most pleasant of experiences) we headed over the old stables to learn a little about flower arranging with the British Flower School.
Charlie talked us through all of the flowers she had available for us to work with that day (my favourites were the roses, which smelt better than any I’ve come across since I was a child) and showed us the basics of how to arrange a simple, rustic bouquet.
Now, I’m going to level with you. I’ve always had this (entirely ridiculous) impression that flower arranging looked not too tricky. I’d thought privately to myself for years ‘Pah! How hard can it be, it’s just cutting all the flowers to the same height and bunching nicely coloured ones together! You can’t really go wrong, can you?’
Wrong. You can.
It (not surprisingly at all!) is a lot more fiddly than it looks, and requires a whole lot of skill! ‘Well of course, Rosie!’ I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘of course!’. I’ll tell you now that if this whole blogging thing fails me, I will NOT be pursuing a career in flower arranging. Despite not having any God-given flower arranging skill whatsoever, I had an absolute whale of a time putting together my bouquet outside in the sunshine, and learning more about the flowers Charlie and her team grow at Mapperton. We spent the rest of the day eating ploughman’s lunches and ice creams for dessert, exploring Mapperton’s grounds, and talking non-stop about everything from the merits of countryside vs. city living, to perfectionism, dog-owning, hen parties, and bread-making!
Now, I’m hopping around in the timeline here, but I need to tell you all about Thursday evening! I had to keep this for a second post, you see, or else yesterday’s would’ve been about half a mile long ;)
After having spent the day at River Cottage we came back to the hotel, and, after a quick freshen up (read: removing random dried bits of dough from my hair) went up to the hotel bar for a preview of Boden’s Christmas collection! The collection is (predictably) completely stunning- all bejewelled accessories, bright Fair Isle knit jumpers, soft mohair scarves, jacquard print trousers, and vintage-inspired boxy faux-fur coats. There was so many incredible items, it made me almost start wishing away the summer! Especially amazing were a pair of metallic loafers that’ll be part of the Johnnie B Christmas collection. I fell SO hard for them, and will be picking up a pair just as soon as the collection becomes available online! No photo I’m afraid- I was too busy mentally pairing them with everything in my wardrobe to remember to take a photo…
^^ How perfect are those Fair Isle jumpers? Roll on winter! ;) Also, spot the Sprout-themed knitwear above… ^^
^^ Mini Boden tartan pjs! ^^
We ate dinner in The Bull’s private dining room after the collection preview, and the evening was a lovely one. I ate duck breast with a cognac and cardamom sauce on bok choi, and then the tastiest dessert I’ve had in a long time. Homemade strawberry marshmallows, with honey comb pieces, meringue, and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Divine! Again, no photo, partly because it was pretty dark by the time we ate dessert, and also because I’d inhaled it before even the thought ‘maybe I should’ve taken a photo of this’ had crossed my mind! ;)
I know I said it at the end of yesterday’s post, but I really can’t thank Boden enough for taking me away on such an incredible trip. Not only was it mind-blowingly generous and the most wonderful treat, I came away feeling so inspired and full of vigour and enthusiasm for returning to work. Spending a few days talking to so many passionate, driven, like-minded people about the way they run their businesses was absolutely invaluable, and filled me with new focus and energy that I’m excited to channel into my own projects.
So a HUGE thank you to the wonderful team at Boden for inviting me along, for being the most attentive and fun hosts, for keeping us all topped up with bubbles from the moment we arrived in Dorset to the very last stretch of train journey back into Waterloo, and for an unforgettable experience! And roll on Christmas time, because I can’t wait to add those metallic loafers to my wardrobe!
** Boden’s Autumn collection is being released in the next week…eyes peeled everyone!