Friday, 20 July 2018

King (combe) for a day

Dorset is a beautiful place, particularly at this time of year. The UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast is one of the best known areas of outstanding beauty here, but the rolling hills, vales, and rivers of the Dorset countryside are just as stunning, if less well known to those who follow the tourist trail.

It’s true to say that many of us (myself included) who live in ‘destination locations’ don’t get out and about to enjoy and experience the places right on our doorstep as much as seasonal visitors do. Often, it’s simply because we’ve become so familiar with them as part of a regular commute or other journey.

As someone with a lifelong interest in science and nature, and learning about and conserving our flora and fauna, I’ve been a supporter of Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) for a number of years. This means I get to hear of places and ‘things’ in the area that are, often, not only important from a scientific and conservatorial perspective, but are also simply beautiful places to visit or see.

The Kingcombe Centre Garden and Orchard, viewed from the Living Van.

The Living Van.
One such place has been on my radar for many years: The Kingcombe Centre, set in Kingcombe Meadows, a 450 acre DWT nature reserve, amidst winding country lanes, meandering rivers, and unspoilt countryside. As well as offering all the things a nature reserve could, the Centre also provides educational courses, workshops, and accommodation – and the latter really is something special.

DWT’s Kingcombe Centre has a holiday cottage and a B&B, but the subject of today’s blog is something much more interesting – the Living Van. This fully restored road-worker's van, or ‘Shepherds Hut,’ is set in Kingcombe Meadows, at the top of the Centre’s orchard and organic gardens.

Secluded, but not too remote, the Van is a wonderful place to camp-out in style. Set in a fenced-off, gated area, the hut sleeps two adults – and our German Shepherd, Indie – in comfort.

The perfect tranquil spot for
a bit of R&R.
Whilst it's very-much old school, it does have some mod cons; electricity, lamps, and even a small log burner with fuel. Oh, and there are cups, wine glasses, plates and cutlery, so all you need to do is bring your food, flannel, and your toothbrush, some food for Fido … and a bottle of something bubbly!

Raise a glass to the Kingcombe
Centre's Living Van.
Inside, it’s a fantastic, comfortable, and private place to retreat from the scorching sun. There’s even a concise selection of books on local flowers, grasses, birds, butterflies, insects … all the things you’re likely to see whilst staying or strolling at Kingcombe.

But you won’t want to stay inside if the weather is fine, so there’s a campfire, a bench big enough for a family gathering, and chairs and log seats, so you can invite your friends for a BBQ around the campfire.

A few yards walk from the Van, at the bottom of the orchard, is a private shower block for the use of Van occupants, and two toilet cubicles, along with fresh running water (don't forget to damp-down after your campfire). And, if you want to say farewell in style, a full breakfast at the Centre's CafĂ©, a few steps from the orchard and showers, is included – and very nice it is, too!

The Living Van is believed to have originally come from Eddison, a haulage factory that thrived in Dorchester from 1868, and would have been paired with a steam roller, of which hundreds were built at the factory. For the road workers, it was the perfect combination of convenience and comfort, and you could take your accommodation with you to the next job.

Indie the GSD felt right at home by the campfire.
A Living Van is a little different from a shepherd’s hut, although the two are very similar. Living Vans have the wheels set under the body, and the door is centred on the steering plate end. The body was built of tongue-and-groove, while shepherd's huts tended to be covered with corrugated iron.

Plankbridge, the company that restored the van, believes the van began its life early in the 1900s, and spent many years behind a steam engine, up until the 1950s. After its road working life, it became a game keeper’s hut, on an estate in North Dorset, before being moved to mid-Dorset’s Greenhill Down, in the 1970s, by the then owner, Angela Hughes. A period of use as ‘holiday accommodation’ by Angela and her two young children was followed by a stint as a base for conservation volunteers working on Greenhill Down nature reserve.

By the late 1990s, it sat quietly unused, disappearing into the vegetation. Greenhill Down and the van were donated to DWT in 2004, and work began on bringing the van back to life. Sadly, Angela died in 2009, but had had a long association with DWT: she received an OBE for her services to conservation.

Plankbridge’s work was painstaking, and the company went to great lengths to adhere to traditional design and techniques, replacing like for like where possible, and retaining any parts that could be reused. The result is a stunning piece of living industrial heritage and social history.

So, aside from DWT’s truly amazing work helping to conserve and protect wildlife, educate and enlighten, and give everyone safe access to our wonderful wild heritage, it also offers a magical, marvellous place to stay, under the trees and stars.

Head over to DWT's website to see just a little of the amazing work it does, in conservation, awareness, education, and more. Visit its shop, support a project, or – better still – join DWT to support all the vital work the charity is doing. And, if you’re feeling a little fried and frazzled, or want to escape to the country, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to relax, unwind, and get back to nature.

Don't forget to follow and like Dorset Wildlife Trust on Facebook and Twitter, too.

The Living Van is perfect for two people and doggy companion, but the roomy bench and seating area, and a campfire in easy reach, makes for a great place for an outdoor gathering with friends.

If you've stayed at the Living Van, or if you know of another great place to stay outdoors, comment below, or get in touch and let us know at and you could find your story on our blog!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

All about Zena

If you are local to H&H HQ, you may already be aware of the great work that The Donkey Sanctuary does for these friendly animals. Having started off as a dream to help save donkeys in distress this charity near Sidmouth, Devon, now has multiple centres across the UK, and works globally to help thousands of donkeys. 

Meet the delightful Zena!

As with many animal charities, a large amount of their funding is obtained through adoptions and sponsorships and our publisher, Jude, has has adopted Zena, a wonderfully sweet donkey at the Sidmouth sanctuary. Zena's start in life was tough; born three weeks early, she suffered from paralysis in her back legs. However, after a lot of veterinary care, love and late-night bottle-feeds, she overcame the odds and is now full of life!

Donkeys are intelligent creatures, and like to take their time getting used to new things. Having only ever known love and kindness from those who care for her at the sanctuary, Zena trusts humans, and new experiences don't frighten her. One of the many things that the sanctuary likes to do is to keep donkeys challenged and engaged, just as they would be in the wild. Introducing Zena to an obstacle course for the first time, she demonstrated her usual courage and intelligence. After a brief hesitation, she stepped directly over the raised pole, one leg at a time, with a little hop to finish off!

Zena taking on the obstacle course 

"It's important that she doesn't become bored by doing the same things every day. That's why we constantly try to come up with new activities to enrich the lives of our donkeys. We also encourage different volunteers and grooms to help take care of Zena and her friends. It's good for the donkeys to get used to small differences in approach and handling." – Rosie, one of the grooms at the Donkey Sanctuary.

All donations received go towards a wide variety of projects, from buying new equipment to helping care for the donkeys, to funding Donkey-Assisted Therapy programmes across the UK and Europe. The Donkey Sanctuary has just opened a new veterinary hospital at Brookfield Farm in Devon, thanks to the help of all those generous enough to donate to this heart-warming charity.

To see how you can help support the incredible work that The Donkey Sanctuary carries out, be sure to visit the website; we're sure you won't be able to resist adopting a donkey!


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Bees who buzz ...

Bees are fantastic creatures, and are a vital part of our ecosystem. In today's post, we're bringing you two stories about these buzzy little creatures; the first is about how remarkable these insects really are ... 

Latest research, conducted by the University of Bristol, reveals not only that bees can identify the shape, colour, perfume and even electrical charge of flowers, by also that bees know how the concentration of a scent varies across a flower's surface.

"[This study shows that] bees can tell the difference between flowers where the only difference is their spatial arrangement of scent – and that suggest they could use this information to make their foraging more efficient," says Dr David Lawson, co-author of the research. 

Further to this research, scientists have found that bees appear able to apply what they have learnt from patterns of scent to patterns of colour, suggesting that these small but very significant critters might be even smarter than first at thought.

The research undertaken by the University of Bristol and Queen Mary University of London centered around 31 bumblebees, and how they exposed them one at a time to plastics discs in which an array of tiny wells were filled with peppermint oil to create either a cross or a square pattern.

One group of bees encountered a sugar solution placed in the centre of the discs with a circular pattern of peppermint oil; the other group found the sweet rewards in discs with a cross-shaped pattern. Meanwhile, water was placed on the 'flowers' with the alternative pattern to those bearing the treat.

Once the bees drank from the sugar-bearing 'flowers' on more than eight out of ten consecutive occasions, the team deemed them trained and let them lose, one at a time, on another set of ten 'flowers.' Half of these had a peppermint cross pattern, and half had a circular pattern, with water placed in the centre of all of them.

The team found that the bees trained to head for flowers with a circular scent pattern preferentially spent time drinking on such flowers, even though there was no sugary treat, while those trained to go to the cross pattern preferred to drink from flowers with a peppermint cross.

Then, the team presented a group of trained bees with two sorts of unscented paper discs bearing a sugar drink, one with red dots arranged in a cross, the other with the dots arranged in a circle, and watched where the bees went on their first ten landings. The results showed that bees trained to bumble off to a peppermint-scented cross were more likely to choose to visit the cross-shaped array of red dots.

How un-bee-lieveable! Now, from the other side of the pond, comes this story from Ford, about how the company is going to do be doing its bit to help with the conservation of bees.

Back in June, Ford launched a global beekeeping programme, with six new honeybee hives at its Dearborn World Headquarters, in support of honeybee populations, the local ecosystem, and gardening and farming communities. 

"Sustainability is more than improving fuel economy and reducing waste," says Kim Pittel, Ford group vice president, sustainability, environment and safety engineering. "It's about improving the environment we live in for all, and that includes honeybees, pollinators and the ecosystems that depend on them."

According to the nonprofit organisation, Pollinator Partnership, honeybees are essential to the world's food supply, and are in dire need of help. 

The six new hives will be situated inside a walking path extension north of Ford World Headquarters. Ford employees who initiated the programme will serve as beekeepers managing the hives. This effort builds on Ford's beekeeping initiative at the historic Rouge factory in 2016. 

Ford designers created special hive shells, with over a dozen design concepts submitted, spanning a variety of formats and employing numerous materials ranging from wood, plant matter, acrylic, ceramics, mill foam, fibreglass, and metal. In the end, the concept of Chris Westfall, a designer of vehicle interiors, was chosen for its overall benefits to colony health. Titled, "Honeycomb Sail," the design features two sails that wrap around each beehive to provide a peaceful space away from the elements. The design takes cues both from bee wings and a thick drop of honey. One side allows for easy access by the beekeeper and the other entrance is sized just for the bees. 

Ford beekeepers will provide data on the 360,000 honeybees expected to inhabit all six hives, as the colonies grow to their full potential of 60,000 bees per hive by the height of summer, to the Sentinel Apiary Program, a collective of nearly 70 beekeepers from 26 states who track honeybee health and diseases nationally.

There are many ways in which you can get involved at home with helping the bees; a quick internet search will bring up a plethora of ideas, so you can get started straight away!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Lily & Laura Update

It's been a few months since we last heard what author Laura Hamilton and her Golden Retriever, Lily, have been up to with regard to promoting Lily: one in a million ... a miracle of survival. That doesn't mean that things have gone quiet though: oh no!

Laura has been working extremely hard to get Lily's story out to the world, and her efforts have certainly paid off! So, in today's blog, we bring you up to speed on all that this dynamic duo have been up to.

Stop Press!

Lily has appeared in a number of print articles since the book's initial release back in March. First off, she featured in the April issue of Hampshire WI News. Lily also featured in the Southern Daily Echo on April 20. More recently, Lily appeared on the front page of the Portsmouth News on June 13, with a splendid article that makes up most of page five!

Portsmouth News, June 13

This last article proved a major turning point in Laura's efforts, as within a couple of hours of the paper appearing on newsstands, Solent News and Photo agency was on the phone, requesting a telephone interview there and then! It also led to a lengthy photo shoot at Laura's home, all whilst Lily was eating her lunch. Fingers crossed this may lead to more national coverage for Lily's inspiring story.

Lily and Lauren – with an added piggy!
School visit sparks inspiration

As Pets As Therapy (PAT) dogs, Lily and her mother, Pilot, are regulars at local junior and infant schools. One such visit inspired a student so much, that she decided to write a short story to enter in a national competition!

Seven-year-old Lauren wrote a 500-word short story from Lily's point of view called A Canadian Saved my Life, which was then entered in the National Young Writer's Awards, judged this year by David Walliams. Lauren received plenty of positive feedback on her work, with it being described as original, having a sophisticated style, and great character development. She was awarded one of the highest marks, and was even shortlisted for the regional final. A huge well done to Lauren!

Book signings galore!

Fareham Library poster
Lily and Laura have had a whole host of book signings over the past few months, with Lily's custom left-pawed stamp at hand, starting with Locks Heath Community Centre on April 25. Next was a talk at the Litchfield Abbey Women's Institute on June 12, which was such a success that Laura got so involved with the talking side that there wasn't enough time for a lot of signing! A week later saw Lily and Laura at Fareham Library. Attendance was good, with one lady waiting for three hours in order to meet the stars! The librarian who co-ordinated the event then got in touch with other libraries, to see if any would be interested in holding a similar event: watch this space!

The Portsmouth News article was published in-between the last two book signings, and it certainly helped spread the word, and elicit interest for other events! Waterstones in Fareham, which is close to the library, was motivated by the article to consider stocking Lily's book, to follow on from the book talk Laura gave. Branches of WH Smith in Fareham and Whiteley are also interested in holding their own book signing with Lily and Laura, which is great news!

Laura spotted on June 27 that Waterstones, Fareham, has stock of Lily: one in a million, displayed on a table for all to see. She even signed a few copies, so if you want an exclusive signed edition, you'd better be quick! Laura described seeing her book on sale in a major bookshop is "a great experience that I had always hoped to have."

Lily in Waterstones

A Royal connection

Laura is keen to do her bit to publicise her book, and she has her hopes set high, as she plans to send a copy of Lily: one in a million to the newest member of the Royal Family. It's well known that the Duchess of Sussex has a love of dogs, but Laura has a fair few other things in common with Meghan, prompting her to share Lily's story with her:

  • Toronto is a big part of Laura's life, having been where she was born and raised. It's also where the new Duchess lived whilst filming her last acting job, Suits
  • As did the new Duchess, Laura left the United States to marry a British man, and has happily embraced this country as her own
  • The Duchess' father worked as a lighting director on American soap General Hospital, and Laura's uncle worked as a sound technician on the very same show! Laura used to spend a great deal of time on the set with her uncle; it's a small world! 

Fingers crossed that the newly-wed Duchess has a chance to read Lily's story in amongst her busy schedule as a Royal; we're sure that she will love this miracle of survival story!

Visits and musings

Laura has been pro-active from the get-go about getting Lily's story out to the world, and to her, there is no such thing as aiming too high! In her own words, she says she "won't stop until Lily is on The One Show!"

In amongst all the amazing feedback Laura has been receiving, many people have told her that they can 'hear' her voice as they are reading the book, with several asking if she has considered doing an audiobook version! It's something that has crossed Laura's mind before, and here at Hubble & Hattie, we "never say never!", so watch this space ...

May 5 was a very special day in the Hamilton household, as Lily celebrated her 4th birthday!

Happy birthday, Lily!

On June 21, whilst taking part in her weekly PAT Read2Dogs programme at Sarisbury C of E Junior School, Lily met – and had her picture taken with – local councillor Sean Woodward. They spent an hour together, whilst reading with the children, and Laura gave Sean a copy of her book. Much to Laura's delight, Sean revealed that his family has a German Shepherd; Laura's first miracle dog, Ty, was a German Shepherd, and he is mentioned in the book's preface.

Say cheese! Lily with Sean Woodward

The dynamic duo, along with Pilot, were back at Sarisbury School for their annual summer fete on June 23, where both dogs had an intergalactic encounter! Check out this great picture of the pair with a couple of Stormtroopers! Hopefully, these were the dogs they were looking for, as who wouldn't want to meet this adorable pair!

The force is strong!

Phew! That is quite a list! Be sure to keep an eye out on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and in Animal Magic, as no doubt there will be plenty more to come from Lily and Laura!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Man's Best Friend – and Co-worker!

It's that time of year again – Bring Your Dog To Work Day! Of course, we encourage this year-round in our office, and there are a number of great reasons why other workplaces should follow suit ... 

It's been well researched that there are many great benefits to having a dog in your life. has an excellent piece on the many ways in which having a dog can be beneficial for your mental health. With a plethora of information, this blog covers a large spectrum, covering people of all ages, and an array of mental health issues. 

As Hubble & Hattie is an official sponsor for this year's Bring Your Dog To Work Day, it's only fitting that we share with you the benefits of having canine colleagues in your office!

They can keep you on your feet
Office jobs can leave you desk-bound for the majority of your day, which can have a detrimental effect on your health. Having your dog join you at work will help encourage you to get up and move around, even if it is only to take them outside to do their business. 

The best way to de-stress 
Finding those spreadsheets a nightmare to deal with? Petting or stroking a dog is one of the ultimate ways to unwind from the stress of office life, as it helps to release the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Dogs have a calming effect on those around them, so even if he's not your own, having a pup in the office can help just as much!

Dogs increase job satisfaction
There are a number of ways in which having dogs in the workplace can be beneficial not only to you, but your employer and your dog as well! If a company allows staff to bring their dog into work, they are more likely to stay in that role for longer. It's also an effective incentive to attract a younger workforce. Canine co-workers can also help boost morale and productivity, as well as improve work relationships. Your commute to work will be of benefit to your pooch, as it will help them develop their confidence in public, whilst social interaction in your workplace will exercise them mentally. 

We're not sure how many pooches will be roaming the offices of H&H HQ this Friday, but Jude will be providing doggie day-care for Bonnie and we hope that Kevin's trusty companion, Indie, will be with us.

L-R: Bonnie and Indie

Some great pics from previous Bring Your Dog To Work Days!

L-R: Jeff & Solace, Paul & Olive, Lizzie & Frodo

As an official sponsor for this awesome event, we've donated to the mega prize draw! For a chance to win over £900 worth of goodies, including £50 worth of Hubble & Hattie books of your choice, all you have to do is upload your best pooch selfie to the Dog with a Job Hall of Fame on #BringYourDogToWorkDay! For more information, visit the official website. All proceeds from the day will be donated to All Dogs Matter

From all of us here at Hubble & Hattie HQ, we hope you enjoy Bring Your Dog To Work Day, and we'd love to see your pictures on our Facebook or Twitter pages, with the hashtag #BringYourDogToWorkDay

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Canine Aggression – Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindness and compassion

Our second release of the year is proving a popular one.

Canine Aggression is the inspirational story of Calgacus, a dog-to-dog aggressive Bull Mastiff, and first-time dog owner Tracey McLennan. Learning how to understand Calgacus and encouraging him to direct his own learning alongside clicker training, TTouch, trick training, and lots of fun, allowed him to conquer his issues, and find joy in playing with other dogs. 

Described as "a vital resource for dog owners with problematic dogs" (Pet Owners Association), it's easy to see why this book has been eagerly anticipated, and a popular seller already!

If you're local to the Linlithgow area, and were one of the lucky few who managed to grab a ticket for this now sold-out event, Friday the 15th of June sees a fundraiser for Paws for Progress, in which Tracey and a number of top dog experts will be in attendance, talking about all-things training. The event is also acting as a book launch for Canine Aggression, with copies available to purchase on the night – you can even get them signed! All proceeds from this event will be donated to Paws for Progress, to help the company continue its wonderful work. 

In amongst planning events – as more are in the works due to the popularity of the first – Tracey has also been working on her own online dog training business, geared towards those who have read the book and wish to learn more; it's called Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd.

Having all of the required qualifications – a BSc (Hons) in Canine Behaviour and Training, an MA (Hons) in Philosophy, a qualified Telling TTouch practitioner as well as a member of the UK TTouch Guild of Practitioners – combined with the glowing reviews that Canine Aggression has been receiving, it's no wonder that Tracey's next venture was to start her own dog training business. You can read a snippet of what Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd is all about, direct from Tracey's website, below: 

"I first experienced how powerfully online communities can help when I found myself caring for a Bull Mastiff who was aggressive towards other dogs. I had no idea what to do to help him and was struggling to find in-person help with him. I found help and support on internet forums and this was so powerful that it helped me to find ways that helped my dog. Not only that – many of the people I met that way continue to be valued friends over a decade later. 
"I have a passion for problem solving and have been lucky enough to share my life with dogs who prove to have challenges in one way or another. I have worked to help my dogs through issues such as dog-to-dog aggression, resource-guarding between dogs, high prey drive and separation anxiety." 
Best Dog Learning & Stuff Ltd is still under development, however be sure to keep an eye out on the Canine Aggression Facebook page for more updates!

Canine Aggression – Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindness and compassion is available on our website now, and be sure you have subscribed to our newsletter Animal Magic for more updates on Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd.

Friday, 1 June 2018

French Bulldogs

With their friendly personalities, and small but adorable stature, it's easy to see why French Bulldogs are on course to become the most popular dog breed by the end of the year – overtaking the UK's current favourite, the loveable Labrador Retriever. But there's more to these pups, and important aspects that you need to be aware of before deciding whether or not to give one a home. 

Due to their genetic makeup, French Bulldogs are prone to a number of health problems, with most linked to how they are bred. Their squashed-up noses may look cute, but this is technically a genetic deformity, and contributes to breathing problems, slobbering, and flatulence – as short-faced breeds gulp air when they eat. Their respiratory problems can be more evident during hot weather, and they tend to overheat quickly, possibly resulting in heatstroke, During cold weather, there respiratory problems can cause dehydration of the nasal passages.

Due to their dwarf legs and long back, roughly one in three French Bulldogs suffer from malformed hip or knee joints, leading to early arthritis, or a malformed vertebrae, which can cause pain or even paralysis.

A study by the Royal Veterinary College, London, highlights ear infections, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, and skin problems as the most common issues presenting in Frenchies. Furthermore, it appears that males tend to be less healthy than females.

"While it's a lovely breed, it is very unwise to buy one simply because of a cute appearance or its fashionable appeal. Anyone doing so could inadvertently be contributing to an impending welfare crisis," says Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club secretary

Frenchies are incredibly easy going and make for affectionate companions. They love to play games and are fairly quiet but may be stubborn, and will require consistent training for the first few months.

So, before you go looking for the perfect French Bulldog, make sure you are fully clued up on all of the possible health problems that he or she may suffer from. And remember: adopt, don't shop!