Every season there’s a dress that seems to become an overnight sensation. The truth of it is that it begins its life on Instagram, shared by Bloggers, Digital Editors and even regular fashionistas like you who have inadvertently become Influencers by buying it, wearing it, photographing it and sharing it with your friends, family and followers.
This year’s must have dress hasn’t conformed to any trends – I say that in a hushed tone as it’s a bit of a dirty word right now – it’s a simple shape that can be worn over and over again. A simple white dress with a polka dot motif, it’s up there with the most classic of designs and works for day and evening. The dress, as I’m sure you know is from Zara and is lovingly referred to as the Hot 4 The Spot dress. It even has its own Instagram account and at just £39.99 it’s a piece that will transcend seasons and work hard in your wardrobe long after the social media furore has died down.
Such is the love for the Hot 4 The Spot dress, that Conde Nast orchestrated a global Wear The Dress Day event on August 22nd 2019 with Glamour Magazine hosting a party in London in the same day. Unbelievably, on August 22nd #WearTheDressDay and #Hot4TheSpot held the worldwide top trending hashtag positions on social media for the entire day. That’s the power and influence that fashion has when people decide to come together over something. One simple dress.
I bought the dress early and it hung on my open clothes rail for a little while, I even thought about taking it back because I thought it might be a little see though (it’s not). Then I saw a community of women unfolding online, connecting over something they love and conversing about it in their own little space and I thought to myself, that’s something I can get down with. Plus, the dress is undeniably lovely and universally flattering.
I wore mine for the first time to The Cosy Club in Durham when we were invited to a menu review. I noticed right there and then that something amazing happens when you wear the Hot 4 The Spot dress; people gravitate towards you either to ask you where the dress is from, to compliment you on it, or because they’re wearing the very same dress and want to revel in your style choice. Sartorial sisterhood achieved with one simple decision.
Obviously wearing a dress is easy, especially when it’s instafamous. You can choose to accessorise to the absolute max in order to stand out from the crowd, or let the dress do the talking and keep things real simple. I wore mine with Vionic Kanela boots (a PR gift), frilly socks and a Zara leather jacket I bought in Monaco around eight years ago which I wear all the time. It’s a simple look and once which received a multitude of compliments that night!
Did you participate in Wear The Dress Day or even just get your hands on the dress and love it? Did you customise it to make it that little bit different? Drop me a comment below and let me know.
The Summer Holidays are here and those great intentions you had were exhausted within the first fortnight. Every great plan you had has fizzled out and the kids are driving you up the wall. Let’s be honest, we’d be following them up there if we could only find the energy right? Every year it’s the same, for me it is anyway and I know I’m in a slightly different boat than most parents being a Special Needs Mom, by the third week I’m fresh out of ideas and going stir crazy.
I think I might have found a pretty great option for parents and kids alike that require a bit of a road trip (probably) as it’s right in the middle of England. I was offered a press trip to a theme park called Wicksteed Park on dates of my choice and given that I had a trip to Cadwell Park planned which isn’t too far away, we thought we could plan a pretty sweet week long road trip with Wicksteed Park right in the middle of it. I had to do a little research prior to the trip because unlike all of the standard British theme parks that you’ve all already heard of like Alton Towers, Flamingo Land, Thorpe Park et al – I’d never heard a peep about this one.
Turns out Wicksteed Park is actually steeped in history. I’ve never really given a lot of thought to how theme parks appeared or developed into the huge attractions that they are today after a little research it actually turns out that Wicksteed Park was the first. The blueprint for all others. It’s the oldest theme park on UK mainland and has been there in the same place since 1921 with the ethos that all children, whether rich or poor, should have a place to play with free access. Pretty cool right?
So, we left Cadwell Park and headed straight for Wicksteed Park on the hottest day of the year so far.
Where is Wicksteed Park?
It’s in Kettering which is pretty much middle of England, you drive through one of the most beautiful villages ever right before you arrive, literally every single house looks like Kate Winslet’s cottage in The Holiday. The place is just gorgeous. As you arrive at Wicksteed Park the park is set up for several different types of access so you can either drive in and access the main car park which is used for daily access to the park, or you head on through and follow the signs to the campsite at the very back of the park if you’re planning on staying overnight or longer.
Oh so you can camp and make a proper trip of it?
Yes! There are a lots of different nightly combinations available and prices are very reasonable when compared to other campsites we’ve stayed at, meaning it’s a brilliantly viable option for a family visiting the park. For example, a Sunday to Thursday stay (or any combination of nights in that period) is £15 per tent per night and there’s a shower block on site as well as a dish washing station. One of the best things about camping at Wicksteed Park is that it gives you a half price discount on second day wristbands.
The campsite is at the back of the park which closes pretty early so there are no ride noises late on a night. It’s right on the edge of the lake too which has a cut through so you can walk around it on an evening. We found it very quiet and peaceful when we camped, even with the mega lightning storm through the night. Still loved every damn minute.
Why do I need a wristband?
Ok, so this is the part where you need to pay attention: Access to the park itself is completely free. Yes you read that right, it’s gratis, free, you don’t pay at all. And it’s beautiful. The park is a Grade II English Heritage Listed Park & Garden and it shows. From the manicured lawns and trees to the rare cultivated flowers, the place is just gorgeous and you could spend hours exploring the grounds – which is exactly what they want you to do. Wicksteed Park has been part of a huge regeneration project recently called the Heart of Wicksteed where the Trust are aiming to restore the central part of the park back to its former glory. After completion they’ll move on to the boathouse.
If you’re feeling more adventurous and you’d like to experience some of the thrills and rides that Wicksteed Park has to offer, then you’ll need to spend some cash. You’ll either need to buy tokens like the traditional seaside fairground – each ride or game has an equivalent number of tokens and you can either top them up as you go, or agree a certain amount with your kids if you’re on a budget.
The alternative to tokens is a wristband. Wristbands give you access to most rides but not everything, there are some things which come with an additional charge such as Clip n’ Climb, Zip Wire and Bag Jump. Wristband prices vary depending on the time of year but in peak season (which is when we visited) a child wristband is £17 and an adult is £14.45. Yes, you read that right, it’s cheaper for an adult than it is for a child.
Zip Wire you say? I like the sound of that!
Man it’s good! Definitely worth checking out whilst you’re there. There was an offer on during our visit meaning each zip was £4.50 instead of £9 – something you can’t knock back. Basically, if you’re unfamiliar (where the hell have you been?!), you’re given a full safety briefing on the ground that’s full of humour and gags as well as the important stuff before being strapped into a harness and helmet. You then climb 15m up inside a wooden tower so you never get the opportunity to look down and feel that pang of regret. Once you’re at the top, Wicksteed Park’s friendly team of staff talk you through the safest way to step off and on to the wire. Plankton and I did ours side by side and whilst he needed a little coaxing to step off, he later said it was his favourite thing about the entire trip. It’s pretty quick too, because of the length of it it whips you up to 30mph before bringing you in at the lakeside. Definitely one to add to your agenda if you visit the park.
And the Clip n’ Climb? Was that any good?
Dude, Clip n’ Climb is awesome, hilarious, terrifying and amazing all at the same time! Firstly it’s a treat for the senses, you find it over by Wicky’s Playbarn; we struggled a little with the location of this one but got there in the end. When you first walk in it’s like sensory overload. Because each individual climbing wall has to reach a certain height, the ceiling is real high and they’re all brightly coloured like a ginormous living game of Tetris.
Again, you step into a container for a safety briefing with your designated Clip n Climb Session Leader and you’re given instructions on how the session works. There are only a few golden rules to remember:
- If a purple mat is on the floor, never walk over it
- If you want to climb, find a purple mat in the ‘up’ position and stand next to it.
- Never walk over the orange egg
Plankton spent most of the session shaking and climbing to around 12ft off the ground then refusing to come down and Bo aced every single wall in the place in record time. I guess that means the kid is not a chip off the old block. In terms of fun, Clip n’ Climb has it all, there are walls a plenty and each one has three challenges. Walls range from easy to insanely difficult so if you’re thinking this one is just for kids, it really isn’t, some of these walls have been designed to mimic cliff faces and some have under and over hangs too so this is one the whole family can enjoy. The Instructors in there are all experienced climbers too so if anyone gets stuck, runs into trouble, or just needs a little motivation, they’re more than happy to shimmy up alongside you and give a helping hand with no judgement whatsoever.
You must have worked up an appetite!
We really did! Luckily for us there are food vendors on site, which is good because leaving the park in the middle of the day is probably a bad idea as it’s not that close to much. Food prices on site are actually pretty reasonable, the most expensive food retailer is the ice cream shop – it’s also the busiest. For dinner we had fish and chips from a proper little fish and chip shop on site. Portions were good and we were pleasantly surprised at just how good the food was. At £7.95 for fish and chips (ours was included in our press trip), we thought that was comparable to high street prices.
The ice creams at Wicksteed Park are definitely worthy of a mention because I’m willing to bet that you’ve never seen anything like them before. These badboys are the size of Olympic torches and that’s no exaggeration. Sure you can get a regular ice cream for a regular ice cream price, but you can get those anywhere. If you’re there and you’re buying ice cream, make it the biggest one and when you realise and accept how awesome it is, remember it was me who told you about it. If Carlsberg made ice creams……. Just saying.
And the rides?? Tell me about the rides!
Well remember that Wicksteed Park is the oldest theme Park on UK mainland and a huge part of their appeal is that they try their hardest to remain true to their heritage. Founder and developer Charles Wicksteed was an Engineer who built and developed the rides and play equipment in the park and so a lot of it may seem quite basic but after reading about it, I thought that was quite appealing. So, what’s there? There’s a mixture of amusement park type rides and attractions such as bumper cars (although there is a VERY strict no bumping allowed rule), a kids race track with mini petrol cars that circles the Thrill Zone of the park, as well as more typical theme park attractions such as flume rides, a short click clack coaster and a pedal mono rail.
You’ll also find that Wicksteed Park have introduced some more modern initiatives such as crazy golf, a treetop rope walk and a laser tag arena for kids looking for a little more stimulation. Personally one of my favourite things on site was the bird aviary – a dome housing some amazing tropical birds which fly and hop around as you walk through, they really do get up close too! All three of us found this super interesting.
As with most British theme parks you’ll find stalwarts such as a carousel, teacups and a swing boat.
You mentioned a lake earlier?
Ok yes there’s a lake, so rewind, maybe start by hopping on the train. We did this at the end of the day but in retrospect it’s probably a great way to start your visit and give you a good look at the park in all its glory. If you like facts the track was actually hand laid! Anyway, it’s a circular track with no jump off points, the station is right next to the park entrance and the loop of the park doesn’t take too long, on a sunny day it’s beautiful. The train takes you around the periphery of the park, you’ll pass the field where the archery sessions take place before approaching a tunnel, this section runs alongside the lake.
Once you’re clear of the tunnel you’ll get a clear view of the lake and the different boats available for hire (all included if you have a wristband), the lake is actually a decent size in comparison to say, Lightwater Valley. The train crosses a small bridge over the top of the lake so you’ll be able to see all the different access points, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that you’re actually allowed to swim in this man made lake if you approach it from this South side.
A quick walk back down to the boathouse will take around ten minutes and you’ll find small boats you can hire with lifejackets included. We opted for a Canadian kayak and were accompanied by all kinds of huge glowing dragonflies on our peaceful trip out on the water. In the days following, this was one of the things that Plankton talked about the most – he paddled and there was something about the water, the sunshine and the lack of time constraint that seemed to make him more relaxed than I’ve seen him in a long time. If the weather allows then this is a must do (leave your bag and cellphone behind though as they’ll get soaked).
So what did you think of it?
Wicksteed Park is weird and wonderful. We all really enjoyed it and would definitely go back as paying customers. It’s not like any other theme park I’ve ever been to where they concentrate on packing rides in and it can become very quickly like a trailerpark fairground and lose focus. Wicksteed Park is different, I love the history to it, the background and the fact that the Trustees have stayed true to that original ethos.
The thing that I really loved though was the open, green space. There are huge expanses of grass and no signs stopping people from walking on it. Wicksteed Park is far from formal, but its gardens give off a vibe of richness. It’s a hard place to describe but it has a most excellent feeling of community about it, the staff for example are friendly and helpful and you can tell that they enjoy working at Wicksteed Park. Barbara in the coffee shop had no idea we were there on a press trip and made time to chat to us as if we were old friends, speaking about her love for the park. The Manager of the ice cream shop told us she’s having her wedding reception in the park because she loves it so much.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s genuine. Sure, it’s not as extravagant as Alton Towers when it comes to thrill rides. But what it lacks in huge rides it most definitely makes up for in character. Wicksteed Park provides free access to beautiful green space where children can burn off energy in the Summer Holidays. Throw in a laser tag neon maze and some fun rides, a tree top walk, a zip wire and an awesome camping trip and I’d say you just made your kid’s week and gave them an awesome news story for their first week back at school without blowing the budget.
The first week of the Summer holidays has been pretty action packed so far, we kicked off with Bo’s 40th birthday which led to more carnage than you could possibly imagine. I don’t know how I missed it because I didn’t drink but the next day I woke up to find the fridge door had been completely battered beyond repair and the kitchen TV barely hanging on to it’s wall bracket by just one side. One wall covered was in dents and I don’t even want to discuss what happened to the stair carpet, or the light switch, it’s a very, very sore subject.
Anyway, after that we were treated to a lovely little trip up to Beadnell Towers in Northumberland by my management company to celebrate Bo’s birthday whilst Plankton was in respite which was lovely. The weather was dreadful so we had the chance to explore the boutique hotel and really take advantage of everything it had to offer, you can read more about that here, it’s definitely a place we’d go back to in better weather so we could get out and explore a bit more of Beadnell too.
The morning of checkout we discovered my beloved Z4 had been quite badly damaged in a hit and run style accident outside the hotel and were a little thrown off our planned course by having that to deal with first – we swung by home, swapped our car for our van already pre-packed with two of our best track bikes which we’d brought to our home the week before to prep for track day (we don’t keep all of our bikes at our everyday home as we only have a single garage and can’t fit them all in).
Once we were on the road we realised we’d forgotten our child and had to turn back. Just joking we had him in a cage in the back with the bikes. Just joking, I promise he was up front with us literally shouting out the name of every single car we passed en route from the North East all the way to Cadwell Park. Cue forced grin emoji. So, with our bikes, our tent, our barbecue and food and clothes for the next 7 or so days (we were planning an epic road trip), we spent the next three hours listening to awesome music and wondering what we had forgotten…
OK so, track days, what do you need to know?
We book ours through No Limits (no affiliation). They’re a huge company who provide track days all over Europe and possibly even further afield, they have access to some of the best tracks around and most importantly, some of the best instructors if you’re looking to learn some tips, improve your riding style or just get to know the track a little better, faster. They also have good banter on social media.
Why did we choose Cadwell Park?
Personal preference. Simples. We’ve been talking about going for ages and a track day came up that fell just a couple of days after Bo’s birthday which worked out perfectly. The track is known for being one of the best in the UK and if you’ve ever watched any racing on TV from Cadwell Park then you’re probably already a fan of the track and it’s famous ‘Mountain’. In reality the track is huge and as a spectator there’s a huge stretch of it that you can walk which gives you great viewing of any event or track day motorsport – which is actually pretty thrilling to watch.
Fancy trying one out yourself?
Well you’ll need a bike licence, a decent set of leathers – either a one piece race suit or a two piece which zips all the way round, a lid and decent boots and gloves as the minimum. Our preference is to always ride your own setup, it’s familiar to you and it’s part of the thrill, however if you don’t have a bike, or if you get there and something’s gone drastically wrong en route, there are a couple of companies in the paddock that hire bikes for the day with insurance.
How long is a track day?
The clue is in the name, it’s a full day. Our best advice is to pack everything up, travel to the track the night before and camp. Camping at Cadwell Park is free if you’re participating in an event (yes really), you can pitch up anywhere and the site has a toilet and shower block with basic facilities which are open 24 hours.
How do I know my capability?
There’s a group for that, choose the group that fits your capability when you book. You’re either a novice, intermediate or advanced rider. Don’t be a dickhead and book into the advanced group if you’re not competent enough for it and don’t book into the novice group if you belong in the intermediate group. This shit ain’t rocket science.
What if I’m not riding and just spectating?
There’s still loads of fun to be had watching bikes go fast around a track. The chances are if you’re at Cadwell Park it’s because you like motorsport. Groups are called in 20 minute intervals and so if you’re there cheerleading for someone, you’ll be with them for 40 minutes and watching them on track for 20 minutes, if the weather is good Cadwell Park is an absolute sun trap. There are several professional photographers who show up and shoot track days & post watermarked images in FaceBook groups available to buy if you find it hard to shoot your own.
When we visited it was 30 degrees, dry, hot and sunny – the weather couldn’t have been any better if we’d commissioned it. as I mentioned before there are sections of the track you can walk around and there are log seats, designated children’s play areas and other small attractions dotted around trackside. Not far from the paddock there’s grandstand seating which gives side on viewing of the Mountain although in my opinion that’s not the best place to view it. I prefer to walk a little further round so you see it from the back, this gives you a far greater appreciation for the height of it.
On the other side of the paddock there’s a viewing platform and a cafe too so there’s plenty to keep kids and adults occupied just be sure to bring ear defenders if little ones are bothered by the noise. Personally, and I speak for all three of us, we loved it. It’s definitely not our first bike track rodeo but it was our first at Cadwell Park and it was long overdue. We’re hoping to be back before the end of the season, but next up we’re pitching for Anglesey. First though we need get to Wicksteed Park and then burn our tent to ash as it has a spider infestation…
“Once you’ve been in space, you appreciate how fragile the Earth is.” – Valentina Tereshkova
Let me set the scene for you, I’ve just arrived in London, checked into my hotel, changed into an insanely fabulous outfit, been papped twice and have literally pegged it from Covent Garden to The Strand to catch my first show of the day. I’m a little sweaty, a bit windswept, in a good way, and hella late. I mosey on into the BFC showspace for the first time this season to find that it’s half it’s usual size and I’m ushered to my front row seat and handed a piece of paper that says this:
Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly in space in 1963. The daughter of a tractor driver and a textile plant worker, at 17 she had to leave school and began working at the textile plant in order to help support the family. But she wanted more from life. She insisted on earning her education and opted to study by correspondence. At the age of 18, while working at the textile mill, Valentina joined a club for parachutists and wrote a letter to the space centre volunteering for the cosmonaut team. Tereshkova, a woman with little formal education, was selected as one of five women, all of whom were much more qualified than her: test pilots, engineers, and world-class parachutists. After intensive training, Tereshkova proved she could make the final cut.
On June 16, 1963, she spent almost three days in space and orbited Earth 48 times in her space capsule. While TV viewers saw her smiling face and her logbook floating in front of her, they didn’t realise that the flight had almost turned into tragedy, a fact that remained classified for 40 years. In the years to follow, Tereshkova went on to graduate from the Zhuykosky Air Force Engineering Academy in 1969 and earned a degree in Technical Science. She then toured the world promoting science and feminism. Valentina serves as a role model for all women throughout the world who wish to strive to achieve their dreams.
I mean goosebumps right?! Forget the shrunken showspace, I’m all in, talk about setting the scene! So it’s clear before we even get underway that this collection is dedicated to Valentina Tereshkova. Bora Aksu creates garments that reflect Tereshkova’s space trip drawing on the contrasts of her early life growing up in a small village and her determination in standing against traditional restrictions also provides inspiration for this powerful collection.
It’s a slight step away from the norm for Bora Aksu, there’s an exploration of new silhouettes and materials and the colour palette lends itself excellently to the theme. The iridescent organza and tulle fabrics appear ethereal in texture and draw gasps of wonder from the baying audience, myself included as this theme hits every note on my pleasure chart. The combination of soft feminine fabrics and structured shapes add a romance to the bolder silhouettes. There’s an element of weightlessness which is conveyed perfectly through the use of tulle and organza and the addition of pearl sunglasses created by Halo and Co, specifically for the show add a layer of interest.
If you’re looking to spin this look on the high street, sadly it’s a very tricky one to recreate well. Needle and Thread do it very well and I’m sure they observed this show very, very closely at the end of a needlepoint, but their pricepoint is high so be prepared to pay above the odds for it. It’s worth it though, it’s a look that’s guaranteed to turn heads again and again. I can honestly say, and I know I say it every season, that the first show, straight out the gate, is always the best show of the season. Bora Aksu, so far, you’re shaping up to be the best show of FW19.
Images by Chris Yates Fashion Photography