Pulling out all the (organ) stops in Gillingham, Dorset as part of #GillFest

david-briggs-flyer-july-1-2016Lovers of popular classical music should add Saturday 1st July to their diaries, when, for the third and final time, an audio-visual spectacular show featuring star organist David Briggs and a host of special effects including pyrotechnics, lights, smoke and lasers comes to Gillingham Methodist Church (GMC).

Presented by the Music at GMC team and forming part of community festival GillFest, the evening promises to be a classical spectacular as would normally only be staged in London venues.

Music at GMC organiser Gordon Amery explains:

“Our aim is to bring top quality music to Gillingham and the surrounding area by inviting musicians to come and perform for us. We have previously hosted performers from all over the world and look forward to welcoming renowned concert organist David Briggs back to Gillingham to play for us on July 1st.”

And David Briggs told us:

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to Gillingham, Dorset for my seventh concert at GMC. I’m always struck by the warmth and enthusiasm of the audience and this makes for a very enjoyable and communicative experience. The past two Organ Fireworks have been great and the atmosphere is so electric. This year I’ll be playing a similarly fun and varied programme, with ample opportunity for audience participation. Last year the massed singing was incredible – it was all I could do to match the volume, even using ten fingers and both feet. I’m looking forward to ‘pulling out all the stops’ again on 1st July!”

This will be a wonderful opportunity to hear popular classics played on Gillingham’s historic, heritage restored William Sweetland organ, which simulates a full symphony orchestra, in a setting featuring lasers, pyrotechnics and indoor fireworks.

At only £15 per ticket, with discounts available for groups of four or more, the audience will be able to enjoy such classical favourites as the 1812 Overture, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Clair de Lune, the Ride of the Valkyries, Jerusalem and many more, all accompanied by an exhilarating light and sound show.

The July 1st show starts at 7.30pm at Gillingham Methodist Church on the High Street. For further information and tickets, please call 07817 379006 or email organ1234@btinternet.com.

Need somewhere to stay during GillFest? Click to book!

Hold the front page! We’re in the Gillingham, Dorset News!

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Gillingham News – June 2017

We were delighted to be featured in the June copy of Gillingham, Dorset’s local newspaper, The Gillingham News. The article runs alongside a piece discussing tourism in North Dorset and references our part in supporting visitors to Gillingham with our bed and breakfast.  You can read the story online here (choose the June edition, then scroll through to page 16) or it’s reproduced below for easier reading.

I’ve always said that I used to travel the world and that now the world comes to me – but even I was surprised when I worked out that we’ve hosted guests from over twenty countries so far!

Gillingham is open to the world

North Dorset may be low on the Dorset scale of visitor numbers, but Cleo Thompson’s bed and breakfast in Gillingham has played host to visitors from around the world.

‘Since we opened our doors, we’ve hosted nearly 600 people from 20 different countries including Italy, Portugal, Turkey, New Zealand and South Africa, and this summer we’ll be adding visitors from the USA, Thailand and Australia to that tally,’ says Cleo, who used to travel the world in her former corporate life but who now runs Sunflowers Bed and Breakfast in the Wyke area of Gillingham.

‘I always ask people what brings them to Gillingham and the range of reasons is really interesting – it’s a microcosm of the town’s life.  We’ve hosted lots of guests who are here due to an event or an activity at one of the schools; these have ranged from actors performing in a play at the high school, the cast of the Inside Out Dorset festival, a cyber security expert and a speaker from BBC Bristol.

‘We get a lot of cyclists, so far from the UK, Holland, Belgium and France, who are cycling National Route 25. We’re also starting to see a lot of walkers who are on the Stour Valley Way or using us as a base camp to walk the Blackmore Vale or around the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  A recent big trend is people staying here to research their family history – that was true of the New Zealanders two weeks ago; they had ancestors buried in Mere and Motcombe churchyards and also of the Australian who checked out this morning after three nights.’

Garden fans are also visitors, visiting Stourhead and the Capability Brown-designed gardens at Sherborne Castle. ‘We also get dog owners who stay whilst their dogs are competing in various agility/other dog shows,’ says Cleo. ‘There’s apparently a Crufts 2018 qualifier show at the Showground in July – I have two dogs (and their humans) booked in across seven nights for that!’

Cleo also gets business visitors staying for one or two nights. ‘They are usually having business meetings with one of our key local employers such as Dextra, 918 Coffee, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Sigma-Aldrich.’

Cleo is a dedicated supporter of other local businesses. ‘I’ve sent almost 100 customers to Ristorante da Massimo at the Buffalo Inn,’ she says. ‘We also source as many of our breakfast items as we can from local suppliers; our guests particularly love 918 Coffee and Dorset’s answer to Greek yoghurt from The Dorset Dairy Company in Stalbridge and it’s not unheard for them to go home via the Udder Farm Shop to stock up on the yoghurt. 

‘All of our guest rooms are fitted with black out blinds supplied by Sewards on Gillingham High Street,  we provide complimentary dog treats made by Dorset Dog Delights, our locks were installed by Three County Locksmiths and our promotional material has been designed and printed for us by Wyke Print.’

www.sunflowersbedbreakfastdorset.com

Continue reading “Hold the front page! We’re in the Gillingham, Dorset News!”

Book directly with us for the best prices when you visit Gillingham, Dorset!

FreetoBookWe are delighted to be able to share with you the news that we are now able to take online booking reservations through our site! Simply click the link that you’ll find on every page to see which rooms are available for your dates and how much your proposed stay will cost you.  You can even choose to add on optional extras,  such as a full cooked Dorset breakfast, weekday use of the hot tub or accommodation for your dog.

We also now take credit card bookings online and we guarantee that you will always get the best price by booking directly with us – as well as lots of little extras. Our reviews often refer to the “special little touches” that we love to share with our guests and you can look forward to experiencing some if not all of the following on your directly booked visit to ‘Sunflowers’:

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Feedback from recent guest Tracey
  • A welcome drink upon arrival (tea, coffee etc), served with cake or biscuits (sometimes home-made – I love to bake!)
  • A wide choice of local teas and coffees on your in-room amenity tray
  • Bottled water
  • Chocolates
  • Fresh flowers in your room
  • One of our legendary ‘Special Sunday Breakfasts’ (if you’re here on a Sunday – although I did recently magic up a Special MONDAY Breakfast for regular returning guest Jordan!)
  • Breakfast options including dairy free, low carb and gluten free items upon request
  • Complimentary Prosecco if you’re celebrating – plus a card

Sunflowers Dorset_Prosecco in the hot tub

  • Fluffy pool towels and robes to use in the hot tub, and plastic drinkware for you to use on the legendary floating drinks tray
  • If you choose to eat in one evening, we’ll happily set the guest dining table for you with plates, glasses, napkins and candles: just ask
  • A guest fridge (stocked with fresh cow’s milk for your use – soya or almond milks also available)
  • A range of DVDs, toys and books for use by our mini guests (plus a stair gate, landing night light and in-room blackout blinds)
  • Complimentary dog treats for our canine visitors.

We try and be so much more than just somewhere to sleep and I’m always keen to think of new ways to improve and offer an even better bed and breakfast experience – so do please check out the new direct booking facility and come and see for yourselves!  If you’re in the UK – we have two more long Bank Holiday weekends coming up and some availability over those dates; why not check us out and make a booking? We’d love to meet you.

Looking for a dog friendly bed and breakfast in North Dorset? Look no further!

Aura the Barbet
Aura the Barbet

Aura was our very first guest of 2017 – she checked in on New Year’s Day with her human Simen,  who had kindly driven her to Gillingham, Dorset all the way from their home in Holland.  Aura is an extremely rare breed of dog called a Barbet (a French Water Dog) and she travelled here in order to mate with a local Barbet gentleman called Hector.  There are fewer than one hundred Barbets in the UK and so breeders such as Hector’s owner need to find dogs from further afield in order to protect and enhance the gene pool. Luckily, the long distance stud visit worked and last week Simen kindly emailed me video footage and photos of Aura and her TEN puppies!

Aura might be the rarest breed of dog who we’ve had to stay here at ‘Sunflowers’ but she’s not the furthest travelled – I think that honour may belong to Merrona the Chihuahua, who also visited us in January,  along with her owners from Portugal. Since we decided to become a dog friendly bed and breakfast,  we’ve hosted over thirty dogs, of breeds ranging from an American Bulldog to a Weimaraner plus lots of cross breeds (like our own lovely Peggy, who’s a spaniel cross collie).

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Woof-licious!

As of April 2017,  we’ll be offering all of our canine guests a little gift in the form of a free packet of treats made especially for us by Julie at Dorset Dog Delights.  Julie sells her delicious goodies at shows and markets all over the south west, as well as online and we now have a joint venture going  – here’s a sneak peek at the label – where we’re collaborating on these packets of dog treats in assorted flavours (like her owner, Peggy is partial to the cheese flavoured ones). They will also be available to buy here and all profits from the sale of the treats bought here will go to our local dog rescue charity, Pound Puppy Animal Rescue, through whom we re-homed Peggy in 2014.

We love to meet new dogs and look forward to welcoming, amongst others, Custard, Eddie, Jessie and Trigger who have already booked in with us. Please contact us to enquire about dates and rates if you’re planning a trip to North Dorset with your dog.

Recipe share: A Warm Salad of Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas (vegan)

welcome-to-sunflowers-dorsetHere’s our new leaflet, which sums up in one handy piece of A5 exactly what you can expect to see and find when you stay here at ‘Sunflowers’ – what do you think?  It was designed and printed for me by graphic designer wizard Kevin of Wyke Print Solutions and I am really pleased with it!  Please feel free to right click on the image and save a copy.

In other news, we recently hosted a charming gentleman who stayed with us for one night – a Sunday – and arrived so late (and in horrible winter weather) that he wasn’t readily able to source a vegan evening meal. I settled him into the guest dining room with a glass of wine and made him this warm salad of roasted cauliflower and chickpeas. When I posted the photo on my Facebook page,  lots of people asked for the recipe, so here it is.

wp-1488373921719.jpgIngredients (makes 2/3 servings)

1 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 large head of cauliflower, broken into even sized florets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus  more for serving
Coarse salt, to taste
80g tahini paste
Juice of a lemon

Chopped parsley, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Add the cauliflower florets and a pinch of the salt to a large saucepan of boiling water and cook on a high heat for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 250C/230C fan/gas 9. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  3. Remove the cauliflower from the pan with a slotted spoon and arrange on the baking tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt. Roast for 25 minutes, or until parts of the cauliflower have turned golden brown.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the tahini paste, 120ml water, the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, until smooth.
  5. Remove the cauliflower from the oven, cut the florets into 2 cm thick slices and place in a large serving bowl. Gently mix together the drained chickpeas, cauliflower pieces and half the tahini sauce. Serve with the rest of the sauce and a further tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. Enjoy!

I love to make and serve warm salads – let me know in the comments if you try this one out and if you can suggest other recipes!

Launching GillFest 2017 – a community festival for Gillingham, Dorset

The tireless team who organise GillFest 2017 have just launched this year’s programme of events and performers – and there really is something for everyone. If, like me, you are amazed and amused to see the names Pam Ayres, Rick Wakeman and The Manfreds appearing on the same festival programme – then don’t miss out: contact us to make a provisional booking for your accommodation and then book your event tickets online.

Most of the event venues are a short and easy walk from ‘Sunflowers’,  so you don’t even need to worry about parking. Or come to Gillingham by train – it’s a direct and easy journey from London Waterloo on the South West Trains Exeter St David’s line and we are a short walk/cab ride from the railway station.

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The Town Meadow in Gillingham, Dorset

In addition to a very diverse range of musical performers (one of whom is already booked in to stay with us!), GillFest will also offer an organised ramble (Gillingham is a ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town – take a look at our walking page for further details about what this means)  on Saturday 1st July and a town fete on the Meadow, pictured here, on Saturday 8th July.

We’re excited to showcase our lovely town and some of the talented residents during GillFest 2017,  which runs from 30th June to 9th July.  Please contact us to book your bed and breakfast accommodation and we look forward to meeting you.

Planning a trip to Gillingham, Dorset? Take a look at our events calendar

Today we launch our local calendar page of forthcoming events and activities, aimed at helping you plan your trip to this beautiful corner of north Dorset.  If,  like Suzanne who left us this feedback, you’re also looking for a reason to come and stay at ‘Sunflowers’, then take a peep at the calendar,  which features details and links to events in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Cleo made us feel incredibly welcome in her beautiful home. There’s not one thing she hadn’t thought of. Would thoroughly recommend and am thinking of a reason to return to Gillingham so we can stay again!

We’ll be updating the calendar throughout the year,  so if you don’t see something which appeals or if the dates don’t work for you,  keep checking back to see what’s been added.

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2016 Winner!

We do already have guests booked in at various points right the way through to October 2017, so please don’t miss out if you do fancy attending the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show on 16th August or the incredibly popular (and totally brilliant, award winning) Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival on 9th and 10th September, to name but two of the events for which we were fully booked last year.

And – as huge foodies ourselves,  we know that attending Dorset’s amazing food and drink festivals is as much about what you buy to take home with you as it is about tasting the lovely local produce when you’re there.  So if you do go to any of the food festivals,  we’ll be happy to store your shopping safely in the fridge until you check out and/or provide you with plates, glasses and tableware if you want to have a picnic here. Just ask!

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Many of the events are dog friendly

Please check out the calendar, decide what sounds fun and then contact us to book. We look forward to chatting soon.

A life in the day at a Dorset B&B!

wp-1479150951574.jpgHello and welcome to the ‘Sunflowers’ blog – typed as we begin our first season of hosting via Airbnb. So far we have welcomed our first two sets of guests and tonight we play host to our third – a French family from the city of Tours.  I studied French at school and am a little rusty now … but I’ll do my best to help Charles and Cathy get settled in!

I’ll be blogging here from time to time to provide a little of the flavour as to what it’s like to run a home based B&B in Dorset, as well as referencing local events and activities and hopefully providing you with an idea as to  what you can expect from a stay with us.