Edward Explores: Belfast

Edward Belfast arrival

Edward arrived in Belfast as dawn was about to break on a rather damp morning. The car ferry on which he had travelled overnight thankfully docked without incident and, despite the comforts provided on board, he was eager to disembark and continue his latest adventure (you may read about the first part here).

First on the itinerary was a road trip along the northeast coast of the Ards Peninsula, stopping at: Bangor, Donaghadee, Millisle and its nearby Ballycopeland windmill. These places had emotional significance to chief bearer’s late parents, a few of whose belongings they were in Ireland to collect. Edward is particularly skilled at offering support at such moments. He was pleased when the rain eased and all were able to admire and enjoy the various harbours and beaches that held treasured memories.

By mid afternoon Edward was ready for a rest so was taken to the palace in which he was to stay (you may learn more about this place by reading the review, in which he features, written here). The large and comfortable room proved a suitable base for a bear who, while enjoying myriad new experiences, likes to indulge in life’s finer offerings occasionally. The palace gardens contained many interesting sculptures. Edward discussed this art form with a large, new friend.

It is always good to make new friends and that evening’s dinner offered such an opportunity. Edward was taken to the home of a lovely couple who had specially requested his attendance. While his bearers enjoyed the good food and fine company provided, Edward was pleased to make their delightful young lady bear’s acquaintance. Her seat by the fireside looked most comfy – an apt pride of place.

Edward Belfast teddy

The following day Edward had the opportunity to catch up with some family bears. A barbeque had been arranged during which he was able to spend time with another bear from The English Teddy Bear Company, along with this bear’s best friend.

Edward Belfast family

Due to an excess of precipitation, Edward stayed in bed while his bearers climbed Divis and the Black Mountain. He did, of course, join them for dinner later.

Edward Belfast pudding2

The final evening of Edward’s sojourn in Belfast required a train journey into the city. Informed that he was to eat at a particularly fine establishment, Edward consulted with the little duck provided in his room and dressed appropriately. He particularly enjoyed the final course of the ensuing six course taster menu and accompanying wine flight, although the dash for the return train somewhat rattled his now very full tummy.

The next day it was time to pack his bags and travel onwards. Another car ferry was boarded, although this one took just a couple of hours to reach its destination. There followed: a short drive, a stopover in Scotland, and then the long journey south. This time Edward was happier during the car journey as suitable snacks were provided.

It had been a very fine adventure but, as always, it was good to reach home. Here he was able to delight his friend, Goldie Bear, with a lovely surprise. In amongst the boxes his bearers had travelled to Belfast to collect was Quackers, a duck given to chief bearer when she had to spend her very first Christmas in hospital. Quackers had not been seen for many years and was thought lost. Goldie, chief bearer’s childhood teddy, became quite emotional when reunited with his oldest friend.

Edward Belfast home

Edward may not have spent much time in the heart of the city, being based on the coastal area this time. For anyone eager to know what delights central Belfast can offer a tourist, chief bearer wrote about a previous visit here.

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.

Edward Exmoor tarr steps

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

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 – An Introduction

edward in brecon

By quite some margin, the most read and shared post on my blog, year after year, is one I wrote in 2014: 10 Common Misconceptions About Teddy Bears. The very fine bear featured is called Edward Gainsborough. He is a small, jointed bear handmade by the now defunct English Teddy Bear Company. I believe the business was bought by Harrods who promptly closed it down – presumably to remove competition to sales of their own brand of delightful bears. I was saddened to see it go.

I recently received a message from a reader who asked if I still had Edward. Of course I do! And he still accompanies me on all my best adventures, even if these have been somewhat curtailed over the past year. The reader asked for more teddy bear content on the blog which prompted me to consider an occasional series. For my book loving readers who have no interest in bears, these posts will be clearly titled to ensure they may be ignored if desired.

Pictured above is Edward on a rock in Brecon, on the English / Welsh border. When the sun is shining he loves to be out and about (rain plays havoc with joints so is best avoided). Along with many people, he has missed going on his regular adventures. So what has Edward been doing during this time? Read on for the update requested.

edward in window

When the first COVID lockdown began it became obvious that people who were suddenly confined to their local areas and, perhaps, worried by the ongoing media frenzy, needed something to add cheer to their days. Teddy bears are, of course, ideal for such a task. The village where Edward lives organised a bear hunt – bears placed in street facing windows to wave at passers by as they took their daily exercise. Edward joined some of his Merrythought Bear friends who understood the importance of this enterprise.

edward and doctor snuggles

Unlike humans, teddy bears do not require exercise to remain healthy. Nevertheless, given the global concerns caused by the pandemic, Edward thought it best to have his heart checked by an expert. It was no surprise to anyone when Dr Snuggles (an upcycled bear from Susie’s Button Bears) declared that Edward has enough love for everyone. Teddy bears are always available to offer comforting hugs and listen to concerns without judgement. They truly are ideal companions.

edward hibernates

With few opportunities to travel, Edward has spent much of his time in bed. Naturally, a little sustenance is required from time to time to keep him in tip top condition. He prefers cake to bread, even sourdough. Although missing his visits to tea shops, he has remained cheerfully stoic and provided much solace to his resident bearers.

IMG_20210120_143909318

To help pass the time, Edward has also been reading. He enjoys discussing stories with his friends, even those that do not involve his own exploits. This book is a particular favourite – one of three written by Mawson, an author bear who lives in Australia. As well as providing unconditional love, teddy bears often share wise thoughts if listened to carefully.

edward and bok bok

In troubled times it is important to look for the positives. Celebrations may have been muted due to imposed restrictions but special occasions have still been enjoyed at home. Edward has joined his friends and adopted family to mark Christmas, birthdays and Easter. A teddy bear’s presence is always an asset, bringing as they do smiles and appreciation of the many simple pleasures available to all when looked for.

edward celebrates

Edward is hopeful that travel will again be permitted from later this month that he may venture further and, once again, explore our beautiful world with his bearers. He raises a glass to your good health and hopes you will return to read about wherever he goes next.