Author Archives: Gina Jones

About Gina Jones

Welcome to Bristol Fashionista! I've lived in this city for eight years and run my business, Style Tribe from here. I still think it's the best place in the UK to live. Fact!

Sausage and cider festival comes to Bristol

3rd July 2016

Bristol and cider go together like Dolce & Gabbana. When you add sausages into the mix, the whole thing becomes perfect, so I was delighted to be invited to the launch of the Sausage & Cider festival, which will be officially opening here on 5 – 6 August.

Photo by Nina Allwood

Photo by Nina Allwood

The launch was held at the quirky Playground Coffee House which, if you haven’t been there, is totally worth a visit. Not only does it serve some of the best coffee in Bristol, but you can enjoy said beverage whilst sitting on your own swing!

Photo by Nina Allwood

Photo by Nina Allwood

sausage

The Sausage and Cider festival itself will be taking place at the Passenger Shed near Bristol Temple Meads station and, although I’m not able to partake in the fruity delights of the cider (for at least another three months!) I did get to try some wonderful sausages cooked up by the genius meat masters at Buckland Venison. Alongside, Sausagenius, they’ll be supplying the eats at the festival. It promises to be a tasty weekend.

Photo by Nina Allwood

Photo by Nina Allwood

Festival organiser Crispin Slee is no stranger to the circuit, having organised several similar events around the country and he has high hopes for the Bristol one, being, as we are, a city of cider lovers. He’s managed to assemble an impressive array of ciders including Saxby’s Rhubarb Cider, a 14% Appley Ever After, and Kentish Pip’s Wild Elderflower Cider, all of which will be among the wide variety on offer at the event.

Big thanks to my mates Nina and Dan at Lifestyle District for inviting me to the event and for most of the lovely photos you see here. Sausage I up, Bristol!

If you fancy going to the Sausage & Cider Festival, tickets are priced at £6, which includes entertainment on both days, and can be bought online here.

Maternity fashion basics: The stripe shirt

2nd May 2016

Vertical stripes are a key trend for SS16, which is great news if, like me, you’re looking for flattering prints to compliment your bump. This shirt from Gant is a great wardrobe staple that will see me through the next few months and still be wearable afterwards.

Jacket - River Island, Shirt - Gant, Jeans - ASOS Maternity, Bag - Kate Spade

Jacket – River Island, Shirt – Gant, Jeans – ASOS Maternity, Bag – Kate Spade

It’s from their new Rugger collection, which is full of versatile but luxe basics like jeans, polo shirts and jumpers that you can mix and match. While they’re on the pricey side (the PJ stripe shirt I’m wearing is £165) they are incredibly well-made – this one is made with 100% silk and the tailoring is fabulous. There’s certainly something to be said for buying fewer but better quality items.

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I wore it with jeans here on a recent shopping trip to Clifton Village, but it would work equally well with a little pencil skirt or some cropped trousers for work. I’m usually a size 8 but I got this in a size 10 to give me (and the bump) a little more breathing space, and also so that I could wear it undone with a vest underneath for a more casual look.

IMG_4828_Edit (1)

I’ve decided that I don’t want to buy too many items during pregnancy because, while it is tempting, I won’t be wearing them for very long. At the moment I’m trying to be a lot more focused with my shopping to find a few key on trend pieces like this that can be worn with multiple outfits. I’m trying to create a kind of maternity capsule wardrobe – you can read more about this in my previous post, the Maternity Fashion Guide.

IMG_4830_Edit (1)

Maternity fashion doesn’t have to mean smock tops and dungarees if you don’t want it to; invest in a few key basics and you can still be on trend and feel like ‘you’.

Disclosure: This post was created in collaboration with Gant

Bristol Fashion Week: Maternity fashion guide

17th April 2016

How to dress fabulously while pregnant – some top tips with a little help from The Image Consulting Company at Bristol Fashion Week.

1. Jacket, £55, River Island, 2. Aerin top in white, £48, People Tree, 3. Necklace £9.99, H&M, 4. Patterned trousers, £12.99, H&M, 5. Katy leopard sandals, £42, Dune, 6. Embossed shopper, £26.25, Warehouse

1. Jacket, £55, River Island, 2. Aerin top in white, £48, People Tree, 3. Necklace £9.99, H&M, 4. Patterned trousers, £12.99, H&M, 5. Katy leopard sandals, £42, Dune, 6. Embossed shopper, £26.25, Warehouse

Bristol Fashion Week is one of my favourite jobs of the year and, as PR and Social Media Manager for the event, it keeps me busy. This year, there’s even more reason to celebrate as I am expecting my first child this September. This does, however, present some fashion dilemmas for me since I’d like to be on trend for work but at the same time I need to dress for a completely different shape now. Finding something that’s stylish but comfortable and accommodates my bump was proving quite tricky, until I met Emmeline Stevens from The Image Consulting Company.

Emmeline Stevens (left) gave me some great advice at Bristol Fashion Week

Emmeline Stevens (left) gave me some great advice at Bristol Fashion Week

Emmeline and her team are on hand every Bristol Fashion Week to offer personal styling advice at The Mall. You can book in for a free 10-minute session, or get a special discounted rate on a 30-minute styling consultation. Then, if you need further support going forward, the ladies are available for private bookings. I popped in for a quick chat and picked up some great tips to help me shop a bit smarter now that I’m pregnant.

  1. Throw out your usual style rules and take a fresh look
    I wear belts with everything. They cinch in my waist and finish off every outfit I have perfectly. I even had a belt on my wedding dress. But nowadays belts don’t fit around my bump. This is a huge problem for me, because 99% of my wardrobe needs a belt to work, in my opinion. Without one, I feel a bit naked.Emmeline’s advice was to stop thinking about my outfits as I used to. I’ve got a new shape now and I need to dress for that. That doesn’t necessarily mean buying loads of new stuff, but it does mean reappraising the things I have and looking at how they can be worn differently. Instead of belting in those shift dresses as I used to, for example, I can now wear them loose – but I might need to add a jacket on top to streamline the look. She gave me a licence to look at everything with fresh eyes. “It doesn’t mean you have to be frumpy – it just means you need to think about your clothes differently and create some new style rules for yourself,” says Emmeline.
  2. Invest in waterfall shaped cover-ups
    If there’s one thing I took from the session, it’s that I need more waterfall jackets in my life. The great thing about these is that you don’t have to do them up, so you can buy them in the size you usually are and wear them over the top of maternity blouses etc. This means that from the back, your waistline is still visible, but from the front you’ve got room for your bump to grow. It also creates a vertical line over your outfit, which means you look slim, despite the bump at the front.“When you have a bump, many tops or dresses might skim over that and make you look bigger overall. Adding a waterfall jacket means you still have that slim fitting shape on the sides – it streamlines your whole look,” says Emmeline.
  3. Accessorize it
    One great way to draw the eye upwards and add interest to what might be a plain maternity top is to add eye-catching accessories. From experience so far, I’ve found the range of maternity tops to be quite limited – you don’t get many prints or patterns generally and the lines are very simple. Emmeline advised me to invest in a couple of key accessories that will jazz up these plainer tops and add some sparkle to my look.
  4. Be flexible with sizing
    While I have managed to pick up some great petite maternity jeans from ASOS in my usual size, finding fashionable maternity wear on the high street has been slightly trickier. Emmeline pointed me to H&M, which has a great ‘Mama’ range with some lovely simple shirts and palazzo pants – all of which I was able to buy in my usual size 8 and fitted perfectly. But not all stores have a maternity range and actually, you don’t need to invest purely in maternity wear just because you’re pregnant. Emmeline’s advice was to try standard ranges in other stores, perhaps in a size 10 or 12 to give myself room to grow. “For you at this stage it’s not about the size, it’s about the fit – so forget the label and try on shapes that flatter your body,” she said.
  5. Natural fibres are your friends
    If, like me, you’re going to pregnant over the summer months, it pays to spend a little bit extra and buy garments made with natural fibres, according to Emmeline. “You will feel hotter than usual when you’re carrying that extra weight and your skin might be sensitive at this time, so if you can try to invest in natural fibres like cotton – your skin with thank you for it!” After she said that, I became a lot more conscious of what things were made from – looking in a lot of the high street labels I noticed that lots of things that look nice on the hanger are actually polyester or viscose. I’ve got my eye on a few pieces from People Tree, and Emmeline also pointed me in the direction of Isabella Oliver, an online maternity retailer which has some gorgeous dresses – but the price tags are quite hefty so it might be worth waiting for the sale!

Finally, Emmeline’s advice was that while this is a great time to discover a new side of myself and dress for my changing shape, it doesn’t mean I need to forget who I am. “I know you love to wear bright colours and you’re all about blocking contrasting colours – don’t lose that spark! You can still do it now that you’re pregnant, but it’s just about finding new and exciting ways to wear it!”

P.S. I did actually buy a lot of that outfit above so you may see me around Bristol wearing this look soon!

Bristol Fashion Week is now finished for this season but if you’d like to book a styling session with Emmeline and her team you can find details and prices for her sessions at theimageconsultingcompany.co.uk.

 

Bristol Fashion Week SS16

15th March 2016

It’s that time of the year again, Bristol Fashion Week will be back at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway on 6 – 10 April, presented by Denise Van Outen and Mark Heyes.

Bristol Fashion Week

For those who haven’t been before, it’s a fantastic event that brings together the best of high street fashion – so whatever your budget, you’ll definitely find something you can afford! And, like those Burberry catwalks where everything goes on sale right away, all the items shown on the catwalk are in stores immediately after the show, which means you can watch and wear it on the same day if you want to!

For such a vibrant and cosmpolitan city, there are actually very few fashion events in Bristol and no others on this scale, so for me it’s always a  highlight! Take a look at what happened last time here…

If you’re a blogger and would like to apply for a blogging pass for Bristol Fashion Week, email pr@mallcribbs.com.

If you’re not a blogger, you can buy tickets for Bristol Fashion Week here.

Disclosure: I am PR & Social Media Manager for Bristol Fashion Week.

The big food rant: I eat crap food and I like it

12th February 2016

FOOD RANTWhy we should all say ‘no’ to food snobbery.

It’s not often that I stray from fashion and into ranty territory in my blogs but there’s something that’s really grated my cheese recently and I feel the need to get it off my chest, and that something is food snobbery. By this I mean people deciding which foods are ‘good’ and then judging you when you eat things that aren’t.

This month’s Vogue includes an article by Californian-born Calgary Avansino decrying the lack of healthy, organic food available in the UK when she first arrived here ten years ago. In it, she expresses delight at the fact that we now have Whole Foods and that everyone is as obsessed with juicing as she is.

And she’s not the only one. Deliciously Ella, Hemsley & Hemsley, even Jamie Oliver – they’re all telling us that we should be ditching the sugary, fatty things and fill our lives with virtuous things. Everyone’s at it – if I see one more Instagram salad labelled #EatClean I’ll probably throw up my chips. It has got to be one of the most annoying hashtags ever. When I see it, I read ‘look at me, I #EatClean, I’m better than you’!

It’s not just the healthy food brigade, it’s the organic crusaders as well. A few years ago, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched a campaign to raise awareness about where our chickens come from and encourage people to stop eating battery farmed chickens. In the programme, he cornered working class mums about why they were buying cheap chickens in Iceland. When they explained it was because they didn’t earn much and it was cheaper, he suggested they ‘eat less meat’.

I can’t tell you how angry this made me. I totally believe in organic chicken and understand the need to treat animals fairly, but what I don’t believe in is shaming people – especially people who are less well off than you – for their choices. Hugh has a choice about what his kids eat – money buys you more options. When you’ve got less cash, that choice is made for you most of the time and you probably don’t appreciate some bossy rich guy wafting in and telling you what your kids should eat. (Even if there is a grain of truth to what he’s saying).

This is where the whole #EatClean and organic thing falls down for me. The principles are sound and of course it’s better for the environment and eating less processed food is of course better for your body – that’s not what I’m arguing about here – but what it smacks of is middle class vanity and one-upmanship. The fact is, organic and whole foods are more expensive. Putting coconut water and almond butter in your shopping basket is going to be pricier. Even fresh veggies are expensive a lot of the time. That’s a fact. If you’ve got enough dosh to eat that way 24/7 then lucky you. But if you haven’t, you shouldn’t be made to feel bad about that.

If you grew up in a home where there wasn’t much cash to go around, you’ll already understand this. My mum brought me up by herself on the minimum wage – there was no almond butter in our house. We ate veg from the market, but we also had 50p fish fingers and 12p tins of beans from Netto. Now that I’m older and I’ve got more money and opportunities open to me, I eat better – but I still love fish fingers and beans, and even the odd Dairylea cheese triangle when the mood takes me. And I don’t care what the #EatClean bores think of that.

The best part of Avansino’s Vogue article was at the end, where she confesses that she’s spent most of her life hating her body and it’s only in recent years that she’s learnt to love herself. From the pictures that accompany the article, I can tell you that she has an absolutely bangin’ body – all lithe limbs and model proportions. And yet she was miserable for ages. I’ve got a massive bum and wobbly thighs (probably a direct result of growing up on fish fingers and Dairylea, come to think of it) but I’d say I’m pretty happy with it all, for the most part. I think it’s because my mum did a brilliant job of showing me that there are more important things in life than how you look naked. When you’re struggling to scrape together enough cash to keep the lights on and food in the fridge, your priorities are a bit different, I guess.

So here’s what I have to say to all the #EatClean robots out there – well done you and all that, yeah, but stop being so bloody boring. I don’t care what you eat. Just eat the damn salad and shut the f*ck up. Thank you.

Harington's Hotel

Fashionista goes to…Harington’s Hotel in Bath

10th February 2016

Looking for a unique place to stay in the centre of beautiful Bath? This quirky little treasure is a must-see.

Photo: Harington's Hotel

Photo: Harington’s Hotel

Situated just away from the main shopping thoroughfare on the historic cobbled George Street, Harington’s Hotel is an ideal bolthole if you’re looking for a city-centre stay with a difference. Owners Peter and Melissa have lovingly restored this gorgeous old building, taking care to preserve original features while lending it an ultra-modern feel thanks to some colourful soft furnishings and wallpaper.

Harington's Hotel

Harington’s comprises the main hotel, with 11 well-appointed rooms, plus three nearby apartments for those who prefer a more intimate setting. Both the hotel and the apartments have personality in spades – each space has a unique feel to it, so you’ll never have the same stay twice!

Harington's Hotel

Harington's Hotel

The fact that it’s privately owned gives it a distinctive personality – Melissa’s personal touch can be felt in all the colourful and girly décor, so it feels more like staying in a cosy family home than in a hotel.

Harington's Hotel

Harington's Apartments

The apartments were especially spacious – my favourite featured an open-plan living room with exposed beams, which would be ideal for a hen party or girly holiday.

Harington's Hotel afternoon tea

If, like me, you have relatives who visit you from abroad, Harington’s is the ideal place to take them for a quintessentially ‘English’ experience, in a modern setting. Their afternoon tea spread was divine, with top quality locally sourced coffee and cream tea to die for! If you’re a local and don’t necessarily want to stay the night, you can book in just for afternoon tea, which I might consider doing for Mother’s Day with my ma.

Harington's Hotel hot tub

Another thing this place has going for it is a lovely bubbly hot tub, just outside in a secluded courtyard garden. You can hire the hot tub for 60 minutes for just £7.50 per person, including a fluffy robe and slippers. It was slightly too cold when we visited for me to consider stripping off and jumping in but, as you can see, some of the other bloggettes didn’t mind!

Lush Valentines cosmetics

On the day of our visit, the lovely team from Lush in Bath popped by to treat us to a sample of their latest Valentine’s Day collection and some complimentary hand massages, which were absolutely delightful.

Lush hand massages

In future, I’d love to see them perhaps add more spa facilities to this little gem of a hotel because I think it would really finish off the experience for guests. A little indoor Jacuzzi and massage room, or perhaps a menu of in-room Mani Pedi services would be a super special addition – although finding space for such an offering might be tricky.

Having said that, they do have an incredible a spa break offer where you can get two nights’ stay for two people, breakfast, half a bottle of Champagne and two 2-hour vouchers for nearby Thermae Bath Spa for just £269, which is a real bargain.

Harington's Hotel

After my first Harington’s experience, I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered this gorgeous little place before, especially since it’s right on my doorstep! I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I visit.

Find out more at haringtonshotel.co.uk

Disclosure: Harington’s Hotel treated us to a lovely afternoon tea experience and a tour of the hotel. I was not paid for this post and all views are my own.

 

The Perfume Society Discovery Box

Scents of occasion: A day with The Perfume Society

8th February 2016

Love perfumes? I’ve been invited to join a “secret” society and now I’m sharing their secret with you. Ssssh….

The Scented Letter Perfume Society

I received a most fragrant invitation this week to meet the experts behind The Perfume Society, a new online club that allows members to test the latest fragrances and learn more about their sense of smell. The event, held at The Porter in Bath, promised to unravel the secrets of our olfactory preferences and make us more discerning in our appreciation of fragrances.

Perfume Society workshop

Hosted by fragrance expert and journalist Jo Fairley, the workshop brought together perfume aficionados for an afternoon of scent appreciation. We began by discussing why people prefer certain types of fragrances to others, for example, did you know that your physical appearance can impact the kinds of scents that work best on you? As a general rule of thumb:

  • Blondes with fair skin are happiest with richer florals, because their skin has a tendency to be dry and subtle fragrances dissolve faster.
  • Brunettes with medium/dark skin tend to have more oil in their skin, meaning that spicier, oriental fragrances work best on them.

This, and many other olfactory facts brought us closer to becoming experts in the art of perfume appreciation. We were also asked to bring along our favourite scent for discussion. I had hoped that Jo might tell us a little something about ourselves based on what we’d brought, or perhaps a little bit about which family our scents come from – I hope they can add this into future workshops as I’d love to learn more about why we choose the perfumes that we do.

The Perfume Society Discovery Box

Another great tip I picked up at the workshop was a fail-safe method for finding a new fragrance, or choosing a gift for someone else. When in doubt, you just ask FR.eD! This online fragrance editor helps you pick a scent you’re likely to love, based on the ones you already adore. I think it’s a brilliant idea, as fragrances are so personal and easy to get wrong when you’re buying for someone else, so I thought this was absolutely ingenious!

The Perfume Society Discovery Box

As well as the workshop, I’ve also signed up to receive The Perfume Society’s subscription box, which includes a monthly Discovery Box of samples, accompanied by ‘smelling notes’ designed to introduce you to key fragrance families. It also entitles you to discounts with some top fragrance retailers, plus invites to some exclusive events with key figures from the perfume world and eight copies a year of their exclusive digital magazine, The Scented Letter. Subscriptions cost £25 per year and can be purchased online here.

The Perfume Society Discovery Box

Before attending the workshop, I hadn’t realised quite how much goes into selecting the perfect fragrance. I’ll certainly give it a lot more thought in future and I’m looking forward to sampling the delights of the Discovery Box.

The Perfume Society Discovery Box

Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary subscription to The Perfume Society and ticket for the workshop but all views are my own.

new year predictions

Bristol Fashionista’s predictions for 2016

9th January 2016

The start of the year is such an exciting time, full of possibilities. Right now, it feels like just about anything could happen in the next 12 months. With that in mind, I decided to get my crystal ball out and make a few predictions for this year…

new year predictions

What we’ll be wearing…Balmain

In years to come when people look back at fashion from now, there’s one dude whose aesthetic will be seen as leading the charge and that’s Olivier Rousteing. Balmain is hotter than the sun right now. Ruffles, mesh, bare shoulders – most of what you’re seeing on the catwalk show above is already filtering its way down to the high street and his collection for H&M last year almost caused riots! That influence looks set to grow this year – his latest campaign stars are none other than 90s supers Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer, positioning Balmain firmly in the fashion canon for years to come.

What we’ll be doing…volunteering

Giving money to charity is great but nowadays it’s also about giving your time – 2016 is totally going to be the year of the volunteer. BBC Radio 1 has already launched its #1millionhours campaign, encouraging young people to give up their time to help others.

Bristolians are taking this idea into their own hands with the launch of a new local site called HelpfulPeeps – you sign up with Facebook and people can post requests for things they need help with. If you have the skills, you volunteer your time to give them a hand. It’s as simple as that. It looks to still be in the early stages, but it will be interesting to see if Bristol really gets on board with this and starts helping each other out.

What we’ll be listening to…UK garage

There have been numerous lists proclaiming the ‘sound of 2016’ – mostly populated by earnest blokes with guitars who all sound like Ed Sheeran, or white middle class beardy weirdies yelping over boring electronica soundtracks. But I’m going to call it and say that the ‘real’ sound, the one people actually want to listen to, is going to be the return of UK garage. It’s upbeat, it’s catchy and it’s inclusive – great garage tunes often come from the most unexpected places. Also, importantly, you can dance to it. There’s so much depressing stuff going on in the world right now that people need to dance more than ever.

On the more populist end of the spectrum is, of course, Craig David – who else? His comeback tune with Big Narstie ticks all the boxes and references his debut track from back in the day, Rewind and, like that track, it’s one of those ear worms that just won’t leave your head once you hear it. But if you want to get the freshest new garage tunes from up and coming artists, listen to DJ Target on Friday nights from 7pm on BBC Radio 1Extra. Obviously it’s not like the pirate stations of the old, but it’s fresh and you can dance to it. If you’re in Bristol, give Ujima FM a try – they play a wide range of urban music that’s broader than most stations.

What we’ll be eating… vegan food AND Bavarian meat and pickles

speck

Burgers are so 2015. This year, the focus has shifted towards veggie and vegan restaurants. It seems all the cool kids are heading to Vx, the so-called ‘vegan junk food’ place in East Street. I’ve not yet tried it, but apparently vegan places are the new grill shacks. Hmm…

If, like me, you can’t get over your meat addiction then try Speck Brothers Ltd, a new Bavarian deli/café in St James Arcade in Broadmead. Speck is a type of dried cured ham, smoked with applewood and coated with a secret blend of spices and this is their speciality, which they serve up on great wooden boards accompanied by a selection of creamy mountain cheeses, pickles and all sorts of delicious Germanic treats. Brothers Darius and Joachim are bonafide Bavarians who import all their produce from their hometown up near the Alps, so the food is authentic and delicious. Oh, and if you’re really nice they might even model their actual real-life lederhosen for you.

For more recommendations, check out this list of new Bristol restaurant openings on Bristol247.com.

And that concludes my predictions so far for 2016. They’re not so much predictions as things I’m already doing which I think everyone else should try this year, but hey – I’m not Mystic Meg after all.

Hope you enjoyed it and feel free to post your own predictions below…

Winter florals and spots

1st January 2016

You needn’t wait until spring to crack out those floral prints – this year those darling buds are coming out much earlier than May…

Polka dot cardi - H&M, T shirt - Vogue, skirt - vintage, boots - Ted & Muffy

Polka dot cardi – H&M, T shirt – Vogue, skirt – vintage, boots – Ted & Muffy

Winter can be a dull time for fashion if you stick with muted colours and knits all the time, so I like to mix it up a bit and use clashing prints to bring a ray of sunshine back to my wardrobe. This outfit was inspired by Dolce & Gabbana’s SS15 shows, where dark-based florals and polka dots came together in perfect harmony.

Florals and polka dots

Of course, I didn’t have Dolce & Gabbana levels of cash to spend, so this skirt was plucked from the rails at one of my favourite Bristol vintage shops, Bohemia on Picton Street, which I believe has now moved to another location – if anyone knows where it’s gone, please leave me a comment and let me know, it’s one of my faves! I love rifling through their rails as they have some real treasures and, for some reason, I find vintage styles tend to fit slightly better than today’s high street fare.

Polka dot top and floral skirt

Those of you with an eagle eye might notice I’ve added a slim leopard print belt to this look. For me, leopard print is the new neutral – this belt goes with pretty much every outfit I own! This is leopard print belt version 2.0 – the last one got worn so much I had to replace it and no doubt the same will happen to this one eventually, but you can never have too much of a good thing.

Will you be working those florals this winter? Tweet me some of your fab floral looks if you can on @GDyer! 

Co-wheels car club Bristol

Have a very #CowheelsChristmas

14th December 2015

The festive fun continued this week as I took a trip to Westonbirt Arboretum’s Enchanted Christmas event with some blogging buddies and my friends at Co-wheels car club.

westonbirt arboretum

Forget the glitter and tinsel, this year Christmas is all about the greenery. The Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt celebrates nature all year round, but it’s especially magical at this time of year as their spectacular illuminated trail through the trees is an unforgettable festive experience. Continuing the green theme, we teamed up with Co-wheels, who loaned us a fantastic low emission vehicle to get us all there.

Co-wheels car club Bristol

Photo by Nina Allwood, Lifestyle District

Westonbirt Arboretum picnic

The trail takes places every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening until 20 December and features exciting interactive displays throughout the woodland walk. There are magical misty smoke rings, glittering bubbles and even pretty little fairies which eagle-eyed visitors will enjoy spotting!

Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas

It’s an ideal festive activity to enjoy with kids as it features Christmas crafts and a learning centre at the end of the trail, where they can make pretty things to take home with them. Grown up kids (like me!) will also find lots to enjoy – there’s a little shop at the end selling Christmas cards, gifts, foodie treats and all things festive! There’s also a lovely picnic area at the end where you can enjoy a mulled wine and listen to Christmas carols, performed by a super talented choir.

Since we were quite a large group, we hired a seven-seater Toyota Verso with Co-wheels, which we were able to pick up in nearby Cotham in Bristol. I had never driven a seven-seater before, so I was nervous at first, but once I was in the swing of it, I found it really easy to drive and it had a great stereo inside for pumping out those Christmas tunes!

Westonbirt bloggers

Co-wheels is an independently owned car club which specialises in low emission, hybrid and electric cars. You can hire the cars on a pay-as-you-go basis, which is really useful if you want one for special occasions like this.

Co-wheels smart card

Once you’re a member, you can book a car online or on the phone, and then you get a handy little smart card, which you can use to access the car. After you’ve used the car, you just return it back to its parking bay and your debit card is charged. It’s as simple as that!

Co-wheels how it works

As someone who has hired cars for work and events before, I found this so much easier than the usual process. The fact that you can just order what you want online at short notice is really convenient and, because they have cars across the UK, you’ve got a huge choice of locations you can pick them up from.

Picnic for Westonbirt

After our very festive evening at Westonbirt (which included a winter picnic of toffee apples, mulled wine and mince pies packed by yours truly!), we headed back to Cotham and I got back to the warmth of my cosy fire and another cup of mulled wine at home. Yes, more mulled wine – but then it is Christmas after all!

Christmas wreath

Westonbirt’s Enchanted Christmas event is now sold out for this year, but do check out www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-christmas for more information of what’s on at Westonbirt into the New Year.

For more information about Co-wheels, visit www.co-wheels.org.uk or you can join as a member here.

Disclosure: I was contracted by Co-wheels to organise this event, but all views are my own.