Edward Explores: Liverpool

Edward Liverpool dock side snack

Being a traditionally jointed bear, Edward is understandably wary of water. It was therefore with some trepidation that he set off on his latest adventure. He had been warned that this would involve a number of boat trips, both for pleasure and as a means of transport. He remained unconvinced that such journeys could be enjoyed.

The first leg was straightforward if a little tedious – a long car journey with occasional pitstops for coffee and to stretch legs. Due to the worrying lack of snacks, Edward was glad when his destination was finally reached. He wasted no time in checking out the menu provided.

Edward Liverpool hotal

In the event, a further journey was required before dinner could be enjoyed. It was a relief to our intrepid bear that a train ran under the river separating his hotel from the city to be explored.

Liverpool is well known as an historic port, but also for four young men whose music has endured beyond its impressive heyday.

Replenished and then revived by a good night’s sleep, Edward once again travelled into the city where he bravely agreed to board a Ferry ‘cross the Mersey. Invited to be photographed on the boat’s railings during the short river cruise he politely declined, opting instead to observe from the relative safety of his comfy travel bag. In his opinion, a small bear could easily fall into the waterway and be difficult to rescue, especially as some of the turns the boat took were notably bumpy as it faced side on into the tide.

Back on dry land, Edward undertook a tour of the Museum of Liverpool where he met a queue of strange but friendly creatures. He also visited the Maritime Museum, although remained perplexed that the city wished to claim a connection to the Titanic, given its fate. There was much to mull as Edward enjoyed the small snack that heads this post. The sun was now shining and the Albert Dock looked fine with its bustle of tourists and groups dressed to impress as they imbibed copious quantities of celebratory beverages.

Edward’s bearers then took him on a long and circuitous walk around the city before stopping for dinner at another fine eating establishment.

For his final day, Edward travelled inland to Chester, by train again much to his relief. Here he visited the remains of Roman baths, which he was pleased to find did not contain water. The amphitheatre was more of a concern as he had read bears were sometimes baited in such places and generally treated appallingly. Edward enjoyed his tour of the grand cathedral, and then imagined how it would be to drive a train. One day he may like to try this for real.

It was now time to move on to the next leg of the adventure, a transition that Edward was not looking forward to. As if in sympathy the weather had turned horrid, with water pouring down from the sky as well as lapping against the walls of the nearby docks. Edward sat in his vehicle and contemplated what was to come – an overnight journey on a very large boat that carried cars and lorries as well as people and their bears.

In the event this turned out to be a rather pleasant part of the journey. Edward was provided with one of the best cabins available, with a porthole and door onto a small deck. The darkness and rain precluded fully enjoying these features, but the bed and snacks enabled a good night’s rest despite the surrounding water on which they floated across the sea.

As a new city to visit, Liverpool had interesting features to enjoy but not enough to fill the three days allocated – hence the unplanned trip to Chester. The overnight sailing proved a surprising highlight, although Edward was still happy when the boat docked and he could disembark onto dry land.

Can you guess where he had now travelled to? All will be revealed in his next Explore.

Edward Liverpool Belfast

Edward Explores: Exmoor

Edward Exmoor afternoon tea

Edward has recently returned from his latest adventure and thought some of his friends might like to read about it. This month our intrepid travelling bear has been exploring the beautiful Exmoor National Park.

Having driven down a somewhat clogged motorway, Edward was relieved to reach his accommodation, the Crown Hotel in Exford – you may read a review of this friendly establishment here. Edward was provided with a comfy bed and a good supply of biscuits. Having rested briefly he left his room to look around and was pleased to find some resident bears. These fine fellows are looking for new forever homes but were being well looked after in the interim.

Edward was eager to experience the various sights Exmoor offers. It has many rivers to walk alongside with fields and woodland for those willing to tackle the steep ascents and descents. Beyond these paths and trails is moorland, which roll out into the distance to provide stunning views on clear days. Sheep, horses and some rather scary looking horned cattle graze this area freely. Edward enjoyed admiring the colourful flowers growing from the heather.

After each long day’s walking up and down hills repeatedly, sustenance was required. Edward ate at The Crown and also the nearby White Horse Inn in Exford. Dinner at this latter establishment proved rather too dramatic when an elderly driver bashed his car into the bay window where Edward’s table was positioned. Thankfully nobody was hurt and damage minimal. The small car hit the brickwork below the window. It was worrying to consider that, had it been a larger, more modern vehicle, the glass may have been stoved in!

Despite this event, food was relished. The White Horse provided tasty fare, although The Crown was deemed superior in preparation and presentation.

Over the five days he was there, Edward visited many interesting places. On the cliffs above the seaside town of Lynmouth was a fascinating, natural phenomena known as the Valley of the Rocks. A herd of wild goats live here. Edward also climbed to the highest point in Exmoor – Dunkery Beacon – although encountered annoyingly persistent flies on this excursion.

As pictured at the start of this post, afternoon tea was taken at Watersmeet. Here Edward met some friendly dogs and bold birds. The Crown Hotel welcomes dogs and there were several of these in the bar each evening. Edward likes dogs so long as they don’t start thinking he is their plaything.

Although sad he was left to read in bed when his bearers walked from the hotel to Tarr Steps, Edward understood that the forecast rain could play havoc with joints and fur. He spent this day reading about the forthcoming Dark Skies Festival. It sounds a most interesting event.

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After his enjoyable trip away, Edward was excited to return home. This is because it was now his birthday weekend and celebrations had been planned. The eldest of his young bearers made him tasty brownies and cookies. Her partner arrived bearing a variety of cakes from his place of work. Champagne was opened and imbibed before the whole family headed out for a birthday meal at the local pub.

All in all this was a very good week with much to see and good food to enjoy. Edward is already planning his next adventure, but that is for another story.

Edward Exmoor birthday cake

Holiday Review: Center Parcs Longleat Forest

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Center Parcs have long been one of my family’s go to destinations for active holidays. Although in the past we have stayed at the Sherwood Forest (Nottinghamshire) and Whinfell Forest (Cumbria) sites, Longleat Forest (Wiltshire) remains our favourite. Not only do we enjoy its layout and facilities, the location is a 45 minute drive from home meaning we can gain full value from each day of our stay there.

Last week we returned for our first family holiday since Covid restrictions were introduced. Friends who have holidayed under this regime had warned us of the changes and we had delayed booking in the hope they would be removed. Sadly, it seems these have now become a permanent feature. The main change is the need to book a limited time slot (3 hours) in order to access the swimming area before 6pm. Each lodge is offered a fixed number of these – our midweek break granted us 4 over the course of our 5 day stay. The effect is to somewhat regiment daily activities.

Our friend had also recommended pre-booking any restaurants we wished to eat at well in advance. This proved good advice. Due to staff shortages not all venues could open each evening. Those that could were running on reduced capacity.

With swimming slots and dinner tables booked we travelled to Longleat Forest with some trepidation that it would be a good use of valued annual leave.

Husband and younger son drove down in the morning as they were eager to enjoy some racquet sports before our planned late lunch together at the Sports Bar. Daughter and I joined them for this meal, arriving later as she had just come off a series of night shifts. We arrived at peak time (2.30pm) and crawled along in a queue to enter the site that backed up along the entrance driveway almost to the highway. Husband reported he had been able to drive in with no delay (11am).

Once through check-in, parking was busy but straightforward. The rubber bracelets we were each given on arrival granted entry to the lodge we stayed in and also enabled us to secure a locker in the pool area.

CenterParcs sports bar lunch

Food and drinks at the Sports Bar (and, as it turned out, the Pancake House) were ordered via a phone app. This worked well, although may prove daunting for a guest less confident with such technology. We enjoyed our lunch, eaten in the sunshine at an outside table. The weather throughout our stay was amazing – warm sunshine each day with only a light breeze.

Accommodation may be accessed from 4pm on arrival day. We had booked a Woodland Lodge in the Fir area of the site – the cheapest available. Being allocated one that backed onto a pond brightened my mornings due to the wildlife it attracted. Despite the peace and quiet, I didn’t sleep well as the bed was smaller and softer than I am used to and the bedding was so starched it crackled. Everything provided was clean if basic. Towels are provided for use in the lodge but no other toiletries other than loo paper. Only the later lodge access time had changed since we last visited so all was as expected.

Having unpacked and returned the car to the parking area we went for our first swimming session. As it was now after 6pm there had been no need to book this, thereby saving our allocated slots for subsequent days. The slides, rapids and waves were enjoyed as much as ever and we stayed until closing time (9pm).

I started Day 2 with a morning run that proved challenging due to the many hills on site and the crowded walkways linking various areas. It was lovely to run around the main lake but I then chose to head towards the car park and main driveways to avoid the many bicycles and buggy pushers on narrower pathways. I managed 5 miles of loops, exploring the site thoroughly, before re-joining my family.

CenterParcs pedalo

With the sunny weather we decided to spend some time before our daily swimming slot on the lake. We hired a pedalo in which husband and younger son had fun trying to go faster than the electric versions most people seemed to have selected. Tired from such exertions we returned to the Sports Bar for liquid refreshment.

Swimming slots had been booked each day for mid afternoon, enabling us to continue into the ‘free’ evening session and then go straight to dinner, shortly after 7pm. Apparently earlier sessions are time controlled using coloured bracelets. We were not required to wear these.

Over the course of the week we ate at Los Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, enjoying decent food and good service at each. Elder son, who had opted not to join us for the holiday due to a shoulder injury and busy work schedule, made a late decision to come down for dinner one evening – another benefit of being a reasonably short drive away. He was added to our table reservation without complaint. Both he and daughter’s boyfriend were on our original 3 bedroom lodge booking so could come and go at will.

Mobile signal across the site is patchy so communicating with the outside world caused some issues. Guest WiFi is available in most areas so those willing to use messenger services such as WhatsApp can do so more easily.

The earlier part of Days 3 and 5 were spent at the sports complex where we played badminton, squash and table tennis. We bring our own equipment for these activities but racquets, balls and shuttlecocks can be collected on site if necessary. On Day 4 we had great fun doing a round of crazy golf by the lake followed by another visit to the Sports Bar. In between these activities we walked around the site or relaxed at our lodge. The days felt full but never too busy. Taking a midweek break out of school holiday time meant many of the other families were dealing with young children.

We had no problem booking everything we did – bar the swimming and dinner – at the last minute via the phone app. This flexibility meant we could do what we felt like each day without too much time pressure. The app itself is somewhat slow and clunky but useable. Husband preferred this system to that offered on previous visits.

There are, of course, many activities available that we did not take part in. The zip wire over the lake appeared popular. Groups of Segway riders were spotted on walkways. Paddle boarders were being given instruction on the lake. In the past my children have enjoyed taking part in tree trekking and other high level adventures. They have tried archery and quad biking. The indoor climbing wall has been well used. Younger visitors are also well catered for with numerous play areas, outside and in. It is not a cheap holiday by any means but can be highly enjoyable for those willing to make use of the offered facilities.

Day 5 was departure day so the lodge needed to be cleared by 10am. Having stayed at Center Parcs many times before we have this down to a fine art and were out and ready for the day’s activities from 9.30am. After a morning of racquet sports we had booked lunch at the Pancake House – always a treat.

Our final swim session was curtailed at around 6pm when the indoor pool and slides were closed unexpectedly – we were not sure if this was due to the regularly used excuses of a child soiling the water or staff shortages. It did not spoil what had turned out to be a lovely stay. We headed home tired but in agreement that Center Parcs was still worth visiting despite the new restrictions.

Edward Explores: Devil’s Bridge

The extra bank holiday granted for the recent Queen’s Jubilee celebration gave Edward’s bearers a four day weekend. It was decided that this would be the ideal time to leave the country for the first time since early 2020. A hotel was booked at the interestingly named Devil’s Bridge in mid-west Wales. It was hoped there would be less bunting here than rapidly proliferated as the weekend approached in the English village where Edward lives.

On entering the country Edward was immediately made to feel welcome. The hotel at which he stayed provided tasty biscuits for him to enjoy on his big bed – although sadly these weren’t replenished daily. If interested in an overview of The Hafod, you may read a review, in which Edward features, here.

Legend has it that the first of the devil’s bridges was built by the eponymous wicked being in order to trick a lady – whose cow had strayed across the river – into giving up her soul. She was far too canny for this mean minded ploy, although it was unclear from the various write-ups of the tale whether the dog she sent across in her place was rejected or taken by the devil. Edward asked the creature guarding the steps down to view the three bridges that exist today – built one on top of the other over several centuries as replacements were needed. He barked his reply before spreading his wings.

Edwards bearers took him on several river walks where he was able to view waterfalls, being careful to stay dry. He was also interested in the remains of a mine by a river, although not one of the deep ones he had read about that used to exist all over Wales, providing quality coal for trains. This one was a source of minerals, and still raises issues around water pollution today.

As well as the bridges and rivers, Edward explored the nearby town of Aberystwyth. It had a castle that had seen better days and a steep hill offering a fine view of the coastal settlement. It was quite windy on the summit so our intrepid bear held on tight to the bench where he paused to rest.

From Aberystwyth it is possible to catch a steam train back to Devil’s Bridge. Edward met a rather cheeky monkey at the station and offered words of advice about acceptable manners. Teddy bears are, of course, always well behaved.

After all his adventuring, Edward was pleased to return to the hotel each evening for dinner. He very much enjoyed his puddings and remained perplexed that one of his bearers kept opting for cheese instead.

Adventures do, of course, come to an end and our small bear – from the now defunct English Teddy Bear Company – was welcomed back to his home country, as may be expected. Although the Jubilee Weekend was drawing to a close, Edward arrived home just in time to join a tea party hosted by Elizabeth for a new friend she had made. He did wonder why Monty was guarding the teapot so carefully.

Edward was pleased to be travelling further afield again and enjoyed his few days away. He now has a more local trip pending that he looks forward to telling you all about next time.

Edward Explores: Cornwall

Edward Cornwall bay view

Readers may remember that, back in March, Edward kindly consented to partake in some modelling for photos to be included in a hotel review. He proved himself so skilled at this he was asked to repeat the experience on his latest adventure, to beautiful Cornwall. This time, rather than helping to celebrate a birthday, he was assisting in the celebrations for a wedding anniversary. You may read the subsequent review of the hotel he stayed in, at Talland Bay, here.

Edward entered the county via the Tamar bridge. As well as a road bridge, there is a railway bridge. Although Edward was travelling by car this time, he remains fond of trains and was pleased to observe one as he read about the history of providing means of crossing the river.

Having arrived at his destination, Edward was whisked off for a bracing coastal walk. This time of year is bluebell season, and he stopped to admire the many more unusual white specimens growing along the verges.

On his return to the hotel it was time for a little sustenance. Dinners included delicious puddings that he was eager to sample each evening.

Edward Cornwall hotel pudding

An early start was required on Saturday morning as Edward’s bearers wished to take part in the Eden Project Parkrun. Edward waited patiently for them to cross the finish line that they may all enjoy breakfast together. He wasn’t convinced by the bacon butties they seemed to be enjoying but approved of the small snack provided for him.

There was then time to look around the landscaping and biomes – complementary entry was offered to runners and their support crew. Edward was pleased to spot a bee, even if it was rather large and inactive, as he has read they are vital yet endangered. He also took time to admire the unusual plants growing in the areas visited.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which proved easier to find than the Eden Project had been. Edward wondered if the friendly giant rising from the earth to greet him had a friend who had lost their hand. He contemplated this over the tasty cookie provided to replenish his energy levels.

It was a tad damp on the Sunday but Edward was brave and agreed to climb out of his waterproof snooze bag to pose on rocks as his bearers looked out over Looe island. As a reward he was given a bag of Cornish fudge, freshly made on premises in the town.

The final day held the promise of a fine afternoon tea before journeying home. Edward accompanied his bearers on a woodland walk that they may build up an appetite for this treat. Although excited to join such adventures, teddies always have sufficient space in their tummies for cake.

Edward enjoyed his few days in Cornwall immensely. As he bade farewell to the friends he had made there were quiet words with the balloon bear at reception. We hope they realise how far it is to Wiltshire and no risky journeys are attempted for a reunion…

Talland Bay balloon bear

Edward Explores: Grasmere

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While the Cop26 climate fandango was happening in Glasgow, Edward’s bearers were as confident as they could be that lockdown restrictions would not be tightened for its duration. It seemed unlikely that international bigwigs flying in for photo opportunities would be further inconvenienced. Such a window of opportunity offered the chance for a longed for adventure of which Edward heartily approved. A hotel room was booked in the English Lake District and a five hour car journey embarked on.

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At the half way point some refreshments were required, especially by the driver and his co-pilot. It is a long time since Edward visited a motorway service station. He’s sure he remembers biscuits being made available at previous Costas.

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After such a long journey, Edward was pleased to arrive at what was to be his home for the next few days – the Bridge House hotel in Grasmere. He tested the bed and declared it comfy before phoning his friends back home to reassure them of his safe arrival. He preferred the telephone provided to those he is usually offered – much easier to dial with paws.

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One of the perks offered by his welcoming hosts was complementary afternoon tea. Edward availed himself of this yummy treat on each day of his stay.

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The hotel was also home to some other friendly creatures. Edward enjoys making new friends – such a sociable bear.

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On a walk around the local village he encountered a pumpkin that also looked friendly, telling Edward all about the recent Halloween antics they had witnessed in Grasmere. Edward didn’t understand why tricks would be played on anyone but approved of the widespread sharing of treats.

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Adventurous bears always enjoy the opportunity to try new foods. The Bridge House did not serve hot dinners so a trip up to The Inn nearby was required for these. The set menu did not change over the course of Edward’s stay but the puddings he sampled were declared delicious. Of the cheesecake, lemon posset and sticky toffee pudding, the latter was his favourite.

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After the first day of the trip, weather turned decidedly wet and windy. Edward therefore opted to rest in bed rather than joining his bearers on their mountain and lakeside hikes. This proved a wise choice given the tales they told him afterwards:

  • climbing a mountain for the 360′ panoramic views only to find the top shrouded in cloud;
  • getting lost on the descent and encountering large, scary cattle emerging through the mist;
  • having to cross worryingly boggy fells only to find themselves far from the paths being sought on their maps;
  • getting soaked to the skin in torrential downpours that masked what should have been splendid views.

Somehow the bearers still claimed to have enjoyed their days. Edward pondered if this was the adrenaline rush of human survival.

Edward is convinced that his was the more sensible option although remained concerned about his bearers’ joints. However much they try to convince him that water will not cause damage, he has observed the many times they return from exertions filmed in moisture only to subsequently complain of pains. He remains glad that he only has five joints to look after – and he always takes good care of them.

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It was, however, lovely to travel further afield after such a long period of confinement to his local area. Edward brought home cookies for his friends as an easily shared present. They were all eaten and enjoyed before they could be photographed.

Edward Explores: Fungi

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In last month’s post, Edward explored Autumn, noting the emergence of interesting fungi amongst the undergrowth where he went walking. Always eager to enjoy new experiences, on a recent sunny day he set out to search the grounds of a large estate in his neighbourhood for further specimens.

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There were plenty of pretty leaves but the ground staff were obviously working hard to keep the ‘Capability’ Brown parkland tidy. Edward understands that many visitors like order and cleanliness, but fungi need more wildness to flourish.

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Undaunted, Edward roamed further afield, into the undergrowth beyond the park but still on the estate. Here, at last, he spotted what he was looking for. One specimen was bigger than him! Areas of wildness are so important to our ecosystem. Being a bear, Edward appreciates this.

As well as enjoying the fine local countryside, Edward has been celebrating a family milestone. The medical student has become a doctor. Appropriate bears went to town for dinner and drinks.

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A good dinner always ends with pudding. Edward carefully checked if the tiramisu and then the profiteroles were worth eating. After significant consideration he declared them tasty and agreed to share with his bearers.

Both food and medicine rely on fungi, as discussed in this recent newspaper article.

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Another day offered the opportunity for an additional trip to the woods. Look what Edward found. He has no idea what these fungi are called but admired the cascade effect they made.

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As the nights draw in, Edward has also been enjoying some quieter pursuits, including reading. He recommends you too seek out The Secret Life of Fungi by Aliya Whiteley. Like teddy bears, what we see on the surface is merely an indication of wider usefulness. There is wonder to be found in so many things if one delves deeper.

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Edward Explores: Autumn

After the excitement of his trip to London last month, Edward has been staying closer to home recently. The settled weather has enabled him to get out and about locally, something he enjoys immensely. Edward has been on woodland walks with friends and has helped in the garden with the apple harvest. It is still a tad early in the season for the trees to display their glorious autumn colours but the fungi are starting to emerge. Edward hopes to enjoy more of these fascinating organisms as the summer undergrowth retreats further.

 

On one woodland walk, Edward and his good friend, Taly, climbed some trees to enjoy the view. Woods are fine places to explore with all their fascinating plants and creatures rustling through tangled thickets, hidden but heard. At one village passed through they found a bear sized niche in a church wall to rest in. As always, people who walked by smiled when they saw the bears enjoying the sunshine. Teddies bring happiness wherever they go.

 

Tree climbing was also required when Chief Bearer requested apples for a warming crumble. Edward selected the finest of the fruit and then supervised preparation. It took a very long time for the dish to cook. Patience is not one of Edward’s many skills.

 

Edward is, however, an excellent cook. He especially enjoys taste testing finished creations. He tried the crumble with Greek yoghurt, cream, and then custard. The latter was declared his favourite.

With the nights drawing in, evening entertainments have mostly moved indoors. Edward has been teaching his friend Albert to play pool, a game he excels at. Albert’s paws managed the long cue with only a little assistance. Edward tends to forgo the need for this implement when taking his turn.

Edward hopes that all his readers are keeping well and finding time to partake in whatever pursuits bring them joy. He advises that all activities are even more fun when shared with a teddy bear.

Edward Explores: London in the time of Covid

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As mentioned in the last post in this occasional series for fellow teddy bear appreciators, Edward was very excited to be taken on an adventure that required a train journey earlier this month. He travelled to London where he hoped to visit several of his favourite attractions. Sadly, some were either closed to visitors or had restrictions in place that prevented entry. Nevertheless, Edward had an enjoyable couple of days away with his bearers and returned home with tales to tell his friends.

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On disembarking the train, Edward took pleasure in a lengthy walk across the city, through several Royal Parks and along the river. He passed Buckingham Palace where his good friend Elizabeth sometimes works. Men with guns stood outside so he decided not to get any closer. The place was notably quieter than the last time he was there.

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After such a long walk it was good to arrive at the hotel where Edward would be staying. It had a big bed and a view of passing trains and tall buildings. Our intrepid bear decided that a nap was in order and settled down to rest with the complementary cookies to help keep him going until dinner.

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Edward had hoped to visit St Paul’s Cathedral but it was closed. This seemed strange given it is supposed to be a place for worship and quiet contemplation. He perched on a sign that seemed appropriate. Why it was there remained a mystery.

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Shops were open so a few important purchases were made, selected after careful consideration and tastings. Edward likes Whittard, although was sure on his last visit he was also provided with biscuits.

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Edward understands how important it is to take time to refuel when on an adventure. The Ivy at Tower Bridge provided a delicious chocolate bombe that was much appreciated.

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Edward regretted that he could not gain access to the Tate Modern as it is such an interesting building to explore. Instead, he observed Extinction Rebellion protestors gathered on the lawn as they prepared to cross Millennium Bridge. The surrounding streets were clogged with a great number of police vehicles, one of which had been given a parking ticket. Edward did not appreciate their noisy helicopter overhead but enjoyed the protestors’ musical offerings.

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Before returning home, Edward had a chance to chat to his good friend Paddington who told him the return of visitors has been most welcome, although his station remains quieter than it used to be. Edward then enjoyed a small snack before boarding his train.

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Edward was sad to say goodbye to London but concluded it is probably not worth visiting again until everywhere reopens with a full welcome. He was pleased that the fine weather enabled the outdoors to be enjoyed – especially along the lively South Bank – when so many indoor venues proved uninviting.

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Elizabeth enjoyed catching up with all the news of her capital city. Even with limited access, Edward agreed it was good to go adventuring again.

Robyn Reviews: They Threw Us Away

‘They Threw Us Away’ is the first book in the ‘Teddies Saga’, a new children’s series by Daniel Kraus. Packed full of tension and adventure, it’s a story that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike – especially fans of teddy bears or other furry friends. Kraus is known for writing adult horror stories, so this isn’t always the most cheerful story – but the sticky situations (sometimes literally sticky) are counterbalanced by the courageous teddy bear protagonists and underlying themes of friendship and teamwork.

Buddy’s head is full of stuffing and he doesn’t know much, but he does know this – he’s a Furrington teddy bear, and his job is to wait in the Store until he’s selected by a child. However, something has gone very wrong. Instead of the Store, he’s ended up being thrown out with the trash – and now he’s stuck at the dump, where danger lurks around every corner. Fortunately, Buddy manages to find some allies – fellow Furrington bears Sunny, Reginald, Sugar, and Horace – and together, they make a plan to escape the dump and find their way back to the Store. The perilous journey will see them battle with birds, rats, bulldozers and more – it’s a scary world when you’re made of fur and stuffing, even when you’re a Furrington bear with a Real Silk Heart.

Buddy makes a brilliant protagonist. Elected the leader by his companions (mostly by Sunny), he struggles to make himself appear brave and strong when he has no idea what to do next. Buddy is a caring bear who wants nothing more than a child to love him, and he’s not cut out for this new world where bears have to fight for survive. I spent the entire book wanting to give Buddy a hug (and if I ever get a blue bear for myself, he’ll now have to be called Buddy).

Sunny is the strong, decisive bear of the group, always striving for action. She’s got a bit of a temper but always has good intentions, and stirs the other bears to action when they’re worried about what to do next. However, she clashes a bit with Reginald – the oldest bear, and the brains of the group – and Sugar, who was damaged on her way to the dump. Sugar is the happiest bear, always speaking in rhyme, and regularly more insightful than her rash behaviour makes her seem. The final member of the group, Horace, is terrified of the outside world and relies on his friends for strength.

Each adventure the bears undertake feels tense, with the reader never sure what’s going to happen next. Survival for each bear is never guaranteed, and damage – from ant bites, bird beaks, the trash around them – could hurt their chances of being chosen by a child. The atmosphere is heighted by the gorgeous illustrations by Rovina Cai. Her images are black and white and show the bears at key moments, and both the colour scheme and style are beautifully suited to Kraus’s story.

Overall, this is a fun, tense read that will make you want to hug any bears in your life a bit tighter. Recommended for children aged 7+ and anyone looking for a good adventure story – especially fans of teddy bears.

Published by Henry Holt
Hardback: 15th September 2020