Zacry’s, Watergate Bay

 

Wind back to the late 1970s, and I remember Watergate Bay in autumns and winters as this extraordinary and enormous, empty stretch of flat firm sand and ever roaring surf.  The wind would whip through my duffel coat toggles and I’d have to force the lapels together with mitten-clad hands. I remember groups of camper vans parked overlooking the beach and cold, shivering men peeling off wetsuits.  A gathering of mates drawn from the sedate south Cornish coast for their thrill fix had become rugged guys with an assumed air of ‘cool’, and me, that an awkward teenage girl, more self-conscious by a family walk, would surreptitiously gawk at.

The only building near the sea was the hotel, imposing but of a bygone age, seemingly locked until the summer season returned.

How things have changed, except the beach that it. Surfing is de rigueur at The Extreme Academy Watergate, along with learning to kitesurf, waveski and paddlesurf. So that tramping in with wet sandy feet into what is now a splendid hotel for all seasons is perfectly acceptable.

An autumn night and the Other Half and I were recently invited to dine at Zacry’s, the Watergate Hotel’s new restaurant. Zacry’s is a somewhat metropolitan looking brassiere of zig-zag angles. It was a sliding doors moment (indeed even the doors slide from terrace) to step from a blustery dark night and the sea’s roar and into the calm and the light.

063-zacrys-restaurant-3146983387-O 027-zacrys-restaurant-3146979982-OYes, it’s true we felt middle-aged but determined to still get with it and I was pleased with myself for not over-dressing. For though this is ‘posh food’ for local standards, the ambience is relaxed and people-friendly. Bring your children, eat with just your fork, it won’t lessen the absolutely exemplary standard of attentive service you’ll be treated to and the maître d’ isn’t going to make you feel awkward if both elbows rest on the table. Continue reading

The Rattler Run

Cornish endurance event launched by Healeys Cyder

From Barefoot MediaA-range-of-Rattler-bottles The-Cornish-Bite-on-the-beach I occasionally get these ‘nudges’. “Off-road endurance runners can test their mettle in a new Cornish mud run and music festival this summer.”

Yes, Jessica, food and drink cannot be the only motivation in life, sometimes a kick in the pants to run off some of those Cornish applied calories is also something to aim for!

The Healeys story began in 1980 when David and Kay Healey made their first cyder (“cyder” is the Cornish way of spelling “cider”). In 1986 they bought a 150-year old Penhallow Farm  and began to resurrect the largely forgotten art of cyder-making in Cornwall.

Today, the family-owned business near Truro is the longest-standing cyder maker in Cornwall, producing award-winning cyders and juices every year – including the popular Rattler Cyder created by Healeys second generation, Sam and Joe.

Healeys Cyder Farm is one of Cornwall’s most popular visitor attractions with over 400,000 visitors a year. Visitors can see apples being pressed, sample cyders, jams and juices in the farm shop, and take a guided tour by tractor through the orchards.

The site also includes Cornwall’s only distillery, handcrafting superb vintage brandies, and a limited edition Hicks & Healey Cornish Single Malt 8 Year-old Whiskey which was named European Whisky of the Year 2013 by Jim Murray.

The Rattler Run , organised by Healeys, and  in partnership with Fully Sussed, the will take place over the August bank holiday weekend (Friday 22 to Monday 25) at Tregoninny Farm, near Truro.
Joe Healey, Commercial Director at Healeys, is a keen endurance athlete and has helped design the natural course through trees, tracks and rivers.

Joe said: “The Rattler Run is designed to test your physical and mental strength. The course is approximately 8km and includes plenty of hills. We’ve used the natural environment and terrain to create a series of obstacles. Competitors can enter solo or in teams completing five laps of the course, which is the equivalent distance to a marathon.

“I’m really excited to be taking part and have been looking for a new challenge to train for. What better place to push yourself to the max before relaxing with a few well-earned Rattlers than on our beautiful farm at Tregoninny.”

The Healey family bought 193 acre Tregoninny Farm at the beginning of 2013 with plans to plant 8,000 apple trees. This will see them triple their apple production.

Sam Healey, Operations Director at Healeys, said: “We like to be innovative and creative in our approach, and this was how our Rattler range was born, and more recently Cornish Bite, our apple based energy drink.

“The Rattler Run is a great way of combining some of the things we love – endurance events, the Cornish countryside and our delicious Rattler cyder.”

Alongside the main event, there will be an after-party with live music and a bar serving the full range of Rattler cyder. On Sunday 24 August a series of shorter running races including a Cani-x with dogs, and a children’s under 12 race will also take place.

Early bird tickets are currently on sale, with entry for a team of five costing £150 including three days camping, music and the marathon mud run. Children under 12 are free and there are various options for those looking to camp and attend the music or simply to enter races.

For more details or to enter the Rattler Run visit: thecornishcyderfarm.co.uk/rattler-run.

Super Slow #Superfast Cornwall

Superfast-vanNormally, I can be unbelievably patient and reasonable if I know what’s going on. I have a child with a Global Developmental Delay so I’ve grown accustomed to not having my expectations met. He won’t catch up and be ‘normal’ I understand that. However, in the last year an iPad has become his best friend as it allows him to join in with the rest of the world  for a bit, and technology is moving at such a pace there are communication programmes that will help him, eventually, to speak to us.

So please don’t get me wrong,  I’m not some hot-headed Mrs. Angry who spits her dummy out if not placed at the top of the queue.  But, every so often I have spat with my internet connection which drops out from time to time and grinds my pace of work (I’m self-employed) to nothing.  It has been an ongoing ‘promise’ for some time now. Superfast Cornwall shout about themselves all over billboards for us to get connected and I’ve been screaming “yes, yes” and registering my interest of “keep me in loop” for three years now. But even though I’m keen….I’m apparently shouting from a black hole right in the centre of St. Austell that keeps missing getting connected.

The whole sorry tale is best told here by my other half:

In terms of superfast communications time travels ever faster.

The summer of 2011 is so far behind us in technical history that it ranks on the timeline alongside Noah and the building of the Pyramids.

Back in June of 2011, about the time Noah was fitting the rudder, we were offered, as part of the pioneering surge for Cornwall spearhead the nation into BT infinity and beyond, to have the fibre optic link brought to us at the speed of light.

Our driveway was dug up and a conduit laid, with impressive efficiency but with nothing in it, just a short wait for the superfast cable to be pulled through.

We’re still waiting.

A few phone calls, with words like, ‘soon’, ‘shortly’ and ‘imminent’ were uttered with reassuring tones, but we’re still waiting.

Snow fell and melted away, the ark was probably afloat on the melt-water by now. The imminent time scale similarly drifted by, and we carried on – waiting.

Our house was demolished, and its replacement was built with a conduit to the site for the proposed junction box, the piece of blue rope inside waiting to pull through the superfast link. But we’re still waiting.

Then burst of activity, a brand new telegraph pole was erected, next to the proposed site of the proposed junction box, the piece of blue rope was nailed to it along with nothing else. It too is waiting for a continental drift to tip the axis of orbit. The Olympics came and went with numerous world records being broken … but we’re still waiting.

A BT Open Reach manager, a Mr Smith, took it upon himself to ‘Personally take possession of the case’ and to drive things through. Vans turned up, the drivers all got out, looked at our proud new telegraph pole, shook their heads and drove off; three in one day. ‘It’s only got to come across South Street’ – Were still waiting. And Mr Smith retired, the manager who replaced him gave all the same platitudes with justified embarrassment of his organisation’s impotence.

There wasn’t any snow in the following winter, it forgot to come along with the speed of light Superfast fibre optic cable.

Then in summer 2013, a burst of activity in South Street, traffic lights, digging the road three nights in succession till 2am, outside a block of flats, such was the urgency to progress the job with utmost efficiency. The noise was horrific, perhaps the ark was running aground. Then with great anticipation – nothing. We’re still waiting.

Time moves on, the new manager has been transferred to the Isles of Scilly, perhaps it’s part of the continuing hex spreading to those who dare to try to help us, one retires and another is exiled to far off-shore archipelagoes.

So we’re ending the third year since we were invited to grasp the dangling super fast carrot….. but silence has once again fallen on our ‘case’ that had been given an escalated status by Mr. Smith this time last year.

I suspect a lot of money has already been invested on not quite getting us connected. An underground conduit dug to drive the fibre optic cable through and straight into our house; a brand new telegraph pole to also connect us overhead as well; three nights of road works interruptions on South street to bring the cabling across the road and under the pavement….

Alas, we’re still waiting.  The wait might not be as bad if we knew we weren’t forgotten, or a date (however distant) was on the horizon,  but my emails about my issue don’t escape the black hole void we dwell in and get connected to superfastcornwall.org either now it seems!

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The New West Country Cook Book

wccb-nathan-outlaw-rarebit wccb-saffron-mayo wccb-nathan-outlaw-red-mullet wccb-michael-caines-cider-jelly Whether because the region’s food scene has, on occasion, been dismissed as provincial, pasties or simply Padstow, or because of its geographical isolation, there’s a special camaraderie amongst the community of cooks in the South West.

The New West Country Cook Book  is a testament to this collective spirit.

The book is a showcase: not of the top names in the business, although it has them; not of expensive or extraordinary ingredients – as the South West can grow, rear or catch them all; but, more, a celebration of the simple beauty and fantastic taste of the best ingredients artfully combined.

The New West Country Cook Book  is the brainchild of Cornwall based photographer David Griffen, who built a career working with Michelin starred chefs across the country. His new project draws together a culinary collective, who despite their stellar status, let their food and its origins do the talking.

The 320 page book, focusing on key ingredients that can be found or foraged locally,  aims to showcase the region’s culinary talent and high quality produce through beautiful photography and home-cooked recipes.

It’s all about clever and simple cooking.  The best of the region’s chefs have come up with some lovely recipes which emphasise, rather than manipulate, the flavours of food in a uniquely West Country style.

Some of the recipes include:

  • Cornish Rarebit with Doom Bar Beer
  • Dexter Rump of Beef with Cornish Blue Cheese Butter
  • Sticky Cornish Fudge Pudding with Clotted Cream
  • Sparkling Cider Jelly with Blackberries and Apple Cider Ice Cream

Tasty stuff indeed!

Food and lifestyle photographer David Griffen loves food almost as much as he loves photography. He relocated from Australia to Cornwall eight years ago and now lives and works here with his young family. David says: “I have been shooting food in the South West for almost a decade, and have witnessed first hand a swell of excitement surrounding the region’s culinary development.

“The idea for the book came from watching the chefs working together at festivals and demonstrations; in quiet moments backstage they were talking as a group and to each other and sharing ideas and experiences – there was a real sense of mutual support.”

The book features over 75 delicious recipes from 17 chefs including Nathan Outlaw, James Tanner and his brother Chris, Paul Ainsworth, Michael Caines, Mitch Tonks, Mark Hix, Tom Kerridge and Chris Eden.

Nathan Outlaw, who has won two Michelin stars for his restaurant in Rock, Cornwall, said: “Over the last ten years the camaraderie amongst the chefs of the South West has increased. I enjoy being in the kitchen and cooking with other chefs, and I think it is good for the chefs who work with me to see other styles. It’s great to have these extra influences in the kitchen.”

The simple and clever recipes in The New West Country Cookbook feature produce sourced from the region, and the recipes are aimed at the home cook.

David continues: “The brief given to each chef was the same – no fancy techniques, just honest home cooking, with a focus on the region’s produce.”

David regularly shoots for the top echelon of chefs in the region and further afield, including Nathan Outlaw, Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth, Tom Aikens and has just finished shooting Michael Caines first cook book. David actively engages with a steadily growing audience through various social media channels, and is a leading expert in the fields of ‘photography for food blogs’ and ‘food photography for social media promotion’.

Tom Kerridge, who grew up in Gloucestershire and runs the two Michelin starred Hand & Flowers in Marlow said: “The standard of cooking in the South West over the last few years has risen dramatically, with the increase of a number of home grown South Western chefs opening their own places or becoming head chefs in their own right in some fantastic venues.”

For more information, or to pre-order the book (available in shops from November) please visit: www.westcountrycookbook.co.uk, and follow the book on Twitter @thenewcookbook.

Westcountry Cookbook
Hard cover * 320 Pages * £20 RRP *Independently Published * ISBN 978-0-9576238-0-4


Mrs. Middleton’s Rapeseed Oil

Mrs-Middletons-Cold-Pressed-Rapeseed-Oil-Food-Pouring-Mrs-Middletons-Oil-onto-Scallops

Pouring Mrs Middleton’s Oil onto Scallops

Mrs-Middletons-Cold-Pressed-Rapeseed-Oil-Food-Mrs-Middletons-Oil-Pesto-and-Crusty-Bread-landscape

Mrs Middleton’s Oil Pesto and Crusty Bread

Two sisters, who live 300 miles apart, have joined together to launch a cold-pressed rapeseed oil produced from the seed grown on the family farm. 

Whizz Middleton of Barton Hill Farm in Bedfordshire and her sister Ellie Michell who lives near Wadebridge, Cornwall, are collaborating to produce and distribute Mrs Middleton’s Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil

The rapeseed is grown on the 2,000 acre Barton Hill Farm, which surrounds the Barton Hills Nature Reserve in Bedfordshire. The farm boasts some of the best arable land in the country, producing top quality rapeseed, wheat and barley.

Whizz and Ellie grew up on the farm and are the daughters of Brian Shaw, whose family has been working the land on the border of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire since the 1890s.

The oil is named after Whizz Middleton, who is a partner of the T C Shaw and Sons family farm. She said: “The idea of producing our own cold-pressed rapeseed oil has been in the back of our minds for a few years and we decided that now was the ideal time to embark upon a new venture. I grow the crop and organise the production whilst Ellie handles the marketing and branding so it seemed like the perfect combination.

“We have been thrilled with the response we’ve had. We produced our first trial batch in December last year and it is already on the menus of some top restaurants from London to Cornwall.”

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil is becoming increasingly popular as chefs and home-cooks discover how healthy, tasty and versatile it can be. With only half the saturated fats of extra virgin olive oil and high levels of omegas 3, 6 and 9, essential fatty acids and vitamin E, it is an ideal British alternative to European olive oils.

The smoke point of cold-pressed rapeseed oil is approximately 40 degrees hotter than that of extra virgin olive oil, which means that it can be used at higher temperatures for frying, baking and roasting in addition to creating dressings and drizzles.

Partner Ellie Michell said: “We have tried and tested lots of recipes using our oil, many of which have been provided by chefs to appear on our website. The nutty flavour of the oil really enhances pesto and homemade mayonnaise, while it is also great in breads and cakes. I still think my favourite way of using the oil is to dunk some fresh bread into it – it’s so moreish.

“We’ve been so pleased with the feedback from chefs who have sampled the oil. It has been described as the “double cream of oil” due to its rich, creamy texture and complimented on its floral aroma and subtle nutty flavour.”

The oil is currently stocked at around 25 farm shops and delicatessens across the UK and is also on the menu at restaurants including Michelin-starred restaurant Paris House in Woburn, Bedfordshire; five-star hotel with a two AA rosette restaurant, Luton HooThe Clarendon in Chandler’s Cross; Angela Hartnett’s Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room in London; Tides in Rock, Cornwall and The Harbour in Port Isaac, Cornwall.

Mrs Middleton’s Cold-Pressed Rapeseed Oil is available in 500ml bottles priced at £6, 250ml bottles priced at £4 or five litre catering containers priced at £25. For trade prices please emailinfo@mrsmiddleton.co.uk. The oil can be purchased online from www.mrsmiddleton.co.uk or various stockists across the UK.

More information can be found at www.mrsmiddleton.co.uk. Follow Mrs Middleton’s on Twitter@MrsMiddletonOil or on Facebook/mrsmiddletons.Mrs-Middletons-Cold-Pressed-Rapeseed-Oil-Product-shots-Mrs-Middleton-Studio-Pack-Shots

Team Honk

 

All these noses live under one roof. (My family and other noses.)

Some are related.

Some prove that people begin to look like their pets (or is it pets that look like their humans?)

Play the lookey-likey game…

 

Which noses would you pair together? I put A with B, C with D, E with F, and G with  H but you might have other ideas.

This ‘Nose’ post  follows  Sticky Fingers’ Gallery.

This week Red Nose Day is marking 25 years of fundraising and making changes.
To mark the anniversary, three UK bloggers travelled to Africa with Comic Relief to see where all the money goes.

So this post is for TeamHonk and if you’re joining in and want to spread the word even further, share your post on Twitter with the hashtag #goodwork

What should St. Austell do?

St. Austell BIDWhat should St. Austell do with £130,000 a year to spend on its Town Centre?

The successful vote for adopting a BIDs scheme for St. Austell effectively means that there will be cash towards turning the Town Centre into a better place.

And at a time when the town is being split into ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ out-of-town retail development camps it couldn’t come at a better time.

Watch the video to see what other BID schemes have done for their area

“So what’s BIDs?” my other half asked.

They’ll be a lot of people asking the same. A BID basically means a ‘Business Improvement District’ and even  tho’ I personally hadn’t a vote my fingers were firmly crossed that St. Austell’s businesses would vote ‘Yes’.

St. Austell’s BID will become the 150th Bid approved in the UK and the fifth in Cornwall following Truro, Falmouth, Newquay and Camborne.

The votes, in a formal ballot, were counted on Thursday 31st January, and with an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote it showed majority support for the scheme.  BIDs unlocks £600,000 of additional funding, specifically ring-fenced for St. Austell’s  town centre, over the next five years…

Still don’t get it?

BIDs are about new investment, not about placing additional tax burdens on businesses.  Where BIDs are successful, businesses will see a return on their levy.  There is clear evidence of the success of BID schemes which have led to increased footfall, higher spending, cleaner, safer and more vibrant towns.

BIDs can operate for up to five years before businesses have the opportunity to renew the BID through voting on a new proposal.  So far, 52 out of 58 BIDs that have been through renewal ballots have been approved and started a second five-year term, three out of three have renewed for a third term, demonstrating that businesses can see the benefits that the BID has delivered.

BIDs are driven by business for business benefit and operate within clearly defined geographical areas.  Ratepayers, including those in the public and voluntary sectors, pay an extra levy (2% for ST Austell) on their rateable value, money that remains in a local fund to deliver projects to improve the local economy.  This levy income can also be used to lever in additional funding during the lifetime of the BID programme.

BIDs are governed by businesses – a ‘not for profit’ BID Company is established with a board of directors who oversee the programme. The Board comprises private sector representation from businesses within the BID boundary, the majority, if not all, of whom are levy payers.  Under the legislation, Cornwall Council is responsible for collection of the levy but then transfers this money over at regular intervals to the BID company to spend in accordance with the BID proposal.

BID schemes fund additional activities. Unlike business rates, the money doesn’t go to Central Government – it remains in St Austell to be spent in accordance with the final BID proposal developed in consultation with businesses.

St Austell Town Centre 2

St. Austell’s Town Centre

Chris Witt, Chairman of the St. Austell BID Steering Group said, “This is a fantastic result for St Austell!  After months of consulting, canvassing and convincing, this small group have achieved what we set out to achieve all those months ago.  We have spoken to the businesses of the town and with limited funds, already addressed key issues raised – driving footfall and parking.  A new Loyalty card has been launched and a cheap parking initiative trialled.  Now look out!  We have major resources to put our town back on the map and show everyone what St Austell is all about!”

Stephen Rushworth, Cornwall Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economy and Regeneration, said “I am delighted that businesses in St Austell are supporting this initiative.  Nationally town centres are facing huge challenges and to see the local business community in St Austell coming together to steer the future of their town centre is very encouraging.”

From 1st April, £120,000 will be available to spend on projects that the businesses themselves have indicated as priorities, by being pro-active and dynamic in attracting local people and visitors to St Austell.

It will be interesting to see what they will do. Let’s hope for innovative and interesting schemes…rather than a ‘copy-cat’ conservative approach. A dynamic change to St.Austell’s current self-image would be pretty awesome…

Ideas please?

Farmhouse Breakfast Week

Cornish-Sweetheart-streaky-bacon-1The-Kernow-Sausage-Company-breakfastAccording to a recent study commissioned for Farmhouse Breakfast Week, 47% of the nation skip breakfast at least once a week and 15% do not even eat breakfast at all. It also concluded that 59% of people were unaware of the health and wellbeing benefits that breakfast can offer.*

But did you know that this week has been  Farmhouse Breakfast Week (21- 26 January 2013)?

Farmhouse Breakfast Week runs annually and aims to highlight the health benefits of eating breakfast as well as showing consumers the wealth of local produce available across the country.

The only real breakfast I’ve had this week was on Monday, and I confess it was so good it has rather raised my expectations. Why eat cereal when I can have bangers? Even my  own bread toasted with homemade is a mere consolation prize.

Tregony-based Kernow Sausage Company, an award-winning Cornish meat producer gave me a sausage making masterclass at The Beach Hut, Watergate Bay and then treated me to a proper breakfast with two types of bacon (including a double award-winning ‘Cornish Sweetheart’ streaky bacon, hogs pudding, Trelawney sausages, scrambled and a fried egg, mushroom and tomato.

Owner of Kernow Sausage Company, Gavin Roberts declared: “A carefully crafted and passionate approach can make all the difference to the end product.”

Certainly this hands-on approach of making sausages was great fun especially with the inevitable innuendos.

Born from farmhouse kitchen beginnings, Kernow Sausage Company now supply some of the county’s finest chefs, hotels and restaurants with their sausages, bacon and hog’s pudding, made from pigs hand-reared on their Cornish farm.

Existing customer Watergate Bay Hotel recognises the value of providing a quality breakfast to their customers. Recently awarded Best Foodie Hotel at the 2013 Food Magazine Reader Awards, they are known for their quality food offering and locally sourced menu.

Executive Chef Neil Haydock, said: “We want all the food we serve here at Watergate Bay Hotel and The Beach Hut to showcase the very best of Cornwall’s produce and that goes for our breakfasts as well.

“We source everything we possibly can locally and like to give people choices which reflect what’s on offer here in Cornwall. Having quality reliable producers with great products is just as important as having talented chefs in the kitchen.”

“Breakfast is the one meal all guests eat at B&Bs and hotels and often the last one they have before they check out, so it is essential that the quality is really high. By choosing good quality breakfast ingredients hotels and restaurants will leave customers with a lasting memory of their stay.”

Breakfast is also a vital component of the UK economy with the retail value of sales for the breakfast sector estimated at £1,582million*.

Cornwall Food & Drink have recognised the direct impact this can have on the Cornish economy with their ‘Real Cornish Breakfast’ campaign, being launched to tie in with Farmhouse Breakfast Week.

MD of Cornwall Food & Drink, Ruth Huxley said: “Sourcing from local producers is incredibly important for the Cornish economy – it’s been well documented for years that keeping money circulating within the local economy generates multiple benefits for both business and community – our campaign is intended to remind people of that.”

Breakfast is served daily at The Beach Hut, Watergate Bay from 10am mid-week and 9am on weekends. For more information on the Kernow Sausage Company and the breakfast products it provides for hotels and restaurants please visit www.kernowsausages.com.

For more information on Farmhouse Breakfast Week:www.shakeupyourwakeup.com

*(Survey conducted on behalf of HGCA who are a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board amongst 2,000 respondents online between 6-10 July 2012, including 500 mums with children aged 11 and under.)

sausage ingredients photo[5] photo[2] photo[1]

 

The Essential Parent Company

It happens quite a lot, some products that get tested for the Mother & Baby awards get nail-bitingly close to winning and then lose out  on the recognition they deserve. My gripe with the process is that each category is currently restricted to one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze winner. If the category is highly competitive, products can miss out on an award by the merest ‘nought point’ of a score.

In the Most Innovative Award, because historically it was picked by the editor, there is only one winner . Inevitably there are many products, that ‘mum’ testers have really raved about and say that they would definitely recommend it to win a GOLD but who lose out to another product that has been raved about just that little bit more. The reality is that anything that it gets onto the final shortlist could easily be a winner. What wins one time might lose in another occasion, just because one or two mums are a little more generous or critical, than some other mums in another year.

Here’s one product that came close to winning in three categories and judging by the rave reviews that tester gave it this year it would be a crying shame if it disappeared under the radar by not getting the recognition  it deserves.

This Essential Parent Company entered their ‘Baby Care Guide’s, 4 DVDs  focusing on Feeding, Sleeping, Everyday Care & Development and First Aid & Accident Prevention.

Screen Shot 2012-12-02 at 20.47.49

This was what some of the Mother & Baby testers said:

Nathalie: “Every mum should have one. It answered all my questions. I wish I had it with my first baby 2 years ago .”  

Rhiannon: “I already have a basic knowledge of first aid but this dvd reminded me of things I had forgotten and things they have updated since I did my first aid training. I think it offers a good knowledge of what to do if, god forbid, something was to happen to your baby or child.”

Michele: “I have this DVD in my laptop and have referred to it over and over in the past few weeks. Clearly indexed I can quickly look at the clips that are relevant to my query. Baby books are great but being able to ‘see’ how to breast feed etc is a huge help, like having someone there to show you what on earth you are doing wrong. I would say this is a must for any new mum and should be available on the NHS.”

Rebecca Chicot is one of the founders of The Essential Parent Company.

She has a doctorate in child development and parenting from Cambridge University.  Rebecca worked for many years at BBC Television in London making science documentaries for BBC1.  She was part of the team that made Professor Robert Winston’s landmark series “Human Instinct” which was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2002.  She is a mother of three lovely children and from her struggles with breastfeeding and baby care is passionate about giving new mums and dads the confidence to be relaxed and happy parents, and to enjoy the wonderful first few years with their baby.

This is her story:

As an expectant mum in 2002 I vividly remember browsing magazines and nursery shops looking for the Mother & Baby Gold Awards as a guide of what other mums in the UK recommended to the new mums on the block. Little did I know what went on behind the scenes to find out which products would receive the coveted Gold, Silver or Bronze Awards…..well not until 2012.

In 2006 my dear friend and colleague in the BBC Science Television department, Diana Hill had a baby boy, as did I.  She had struggled with being a new mum and had no family in the UK.  She saw first hand the need for visual baby care guides and realised that we had exactly the right background to make them!  We are fantastically honoured to have Professor Robert Winston work with us on the content and he kindly offered to narrate the DVDs for us as he believes that The Essential Baby Care Guide DVDs fulfil an important role to help support new parents and their babies.

It took a few years to get off the ground – juggling work and babies, and trying to find the time to work out how to make the DVDs.  We knew that to make something beautiful and watchable we would need a BBC sized budget.  A big break came when we won the South Cambridgeshire District Council’s “Step Up” Award for aspiring small businesses. Beating tough competition, including biotech companies and the like, the win gave us access to local accountants, offices, and lawyers. Soon after the win, the company finally found four fantastic investors, and production of the DVDs followed soon after.

We wanted to get the best experts and organisations involved.  We were used to this at the BBC but it was a very different ball game approaching the likes of UNICEF and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as a mumpreneur.  Luckily for us they saw the value of what we were trying to do and slowly but surely we got on board.

We had the money to make the product and the people to make it with us but then we had to convince retailers to take the product.  Again, we were pleasantly surprised that John Lewis, Mamas & Papas and the NCT were impressed with our Essential Baby Care Guide DVDs and we were thrilled to be available in such fantastic stores.

However, at the back of my mind the Mother & Baby Awards were something that I was desperate to apply for.  We had no advertising budget, no PR budget but knew that a Mother & Baby Award would give new mums in the UK the confidence to try our unique product.

The process was intense, posting our DVDs all round the UK, full of trepidation as to what the tester mums would think.  When we found out we had been shortlisted we were thrilled, despite getting great reviews from mums, baby magazines and health care professionals we still knew that the vast majority of new and expectant parents still hadn’t heard about The Essential Parent Company or The Essential Baby Care Guide.  

The Mother & Baby Awards had the power to change all that.

We felt very excited to be at the Park Lane Hilton on the Awards night and we tried not to be too optimistic but had so much riding on the awards.  The rest is history, we didn’t win an award in the Best Breastfeeding Product or Best Innovation and I had to depart into the night and dash for the last train to Cambridge feeling honoured to have been shortlisted but gutted for the company and our future that we didn’t manage to win.

On the way home we discussed whether we could ever afford to try to enter again…the postage, the entrants fee, the awards ceremony…it really adds up, especially for a little company.  However, my mind was made up to try again once I received the glowing comments from the mums who tested our product. It’s a great endorsement to have managed to make a product that can have such a positive impact of many mums and their little ones.”