Milestones – museum of living history

Milestones – museum of living history

We’ve got another week off coming up soon and I realised I hadn’t finished telling you about one other day out that we had in June. Actually we went twice – once on a school day, when we pretty much had the place to ourselves (Kirsty’s favourite way to explore a museum), and once for their Father’s Day event (we took S’ dad – and fathers could have a free drink at the pub or free sweets at the sweet shop!)

I can tell you about what we saw, but it seems that things change all the time. So if you’re planning a visit to the museum, it’s good to check out their website and see what’s on. For example, an exhibition about life in the UK during World War II and various activities for families with children such as a street magic event are planned for this summer.

The museum is basically split into two parts – the industrial revolution in the latter part of the 19th century, and life in the 1920s.You go on self-guided tours, which I always prefer because then you can spend more time on the things that you find more interesting and you don’t have to go at the group’s pace.

Audio guides are provided. Someone with no sight would still need assistance to go round the exhibits in the right order, but the numbers ran chronologically and if you wanted to find out more about a particular topic, you were told which numbers to press. The audio guide is operated by push-buttons arranged like a telephone, so as long as I knew which number I needed, I could operate it independently. I like audio guides because they give me control of what and how much I want to hear, and my guide doesn’t end up hoarse at the end of the day!

The first thing you see is information about Taskers of Andover, a company that manufactured steam engines, farm machinery and road vehicles. You can hear one of the Tasker brothers and some of his workers telling you what life was like for them, and see some of the equipment that they produced.
This was also a time when children were part of the workforce, often poorly paid and working in dangerous conditions. This isn’t a central theme, but there are a couple of accounts of it.

The role of horses was more important in the first part of the museum and we made a point of looking out for them! They worked on the farms, pulling people around on their carts, and even helping with house moves to get people’s luggage from the house to the railway, when the furniture was being moved a long way.

Of course if you have horses, you need somewhere to buy your saddles, bridles etc, or special shoes that the horses wore when pulling the lawn mower so that they didn’t squash the grass! I didn’t even know that was a thing! You can also pop into the iron monger, or see what new hats were in fashion!

There is a house similar to the many houses that were built for factory workers, or others who worked for the big companies that were springing up. I used to live in a house like this once, so I had often thought about what life was like for the families living in them. Mine, however, did have an inside toilet and a permanent bath, rather than a tub that you filled with water in the kitchen. Whereas I lived there on my own, a couple with there 4 children were squished into the space, with very little privacy.

The two parts of the museum are separated, so it feels as though you are going forward in time to the 1920s!

The 1920s street has a different range of shops and you can visit places like the bike shop, the camera shop and the toy shop.

This was the pre-war era – within a few years, women would be taking on many tasks traditionally done by men because the men were in the army, but at this time the women’s place was still seen as firmly in the home, as demonstrated by the advertising for hoovers and ovens aimed at “the modern housewife”! Things have come a long way since then!

It’s hard to imagine how people could be wary of electrical appliances at first, preferring the gas ones because these were more familiar. But I guess people have been resistant to change for as long as there have been people!
Your ticket comes with a ration book, which can be used in the sweet shop, where you can try old fashioned sweets such as pear drops, sour apples, strawberries and cream, and a bunch of others. It’s not pick ‘n mix, so you decide for one of the sweets and get a bag of that.

If you want a drink, you can also go to the pub, which sells alcohol as well as a range of soft or hot drinks.

If you’re interested in old vehicles, you can find them in both parts of the museum. Among other things there is a Victorian tram, a steam-powered fire engine, and a selection of restored vehicles made at the Thornicroft factory, which produced steam-powered lorries and vans.

In terms of refreshments, we ate their both days in the café. The staff are really friendly there and there’s a good selection of lunch options. I knew a lot of the old songs that were playing because my grandparents used to sing or play them. I think they would have enjoyed the museum too.

We didn’t actually buy anything from the gift shop, but there are plenty of souvenirs in there if you want to have a look around.

There are plenty of things to see in the museum, whether you’re interested in the shops, the vehicles, or just what life was like for people. I’d definitely say it’s worth a visit, and as it seems new things are added regularly, keeping an eye out for any special events or exhibitions that might interest you.

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Trying out new products in July

I’ve collected together another 15 products to tell you about. I’m doing these less regularly now and not featuring repeat products. There’s less make-up now too as I don’t get through it as quickly as the skin care. But I still enjoy trying out new things, so here are 15 more!

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them!

Burt’s Bees

I like Burt’s Bees as a brand. I like the ethos behind it and the products. I wanted a new micellar water and saw that Burt’s Bees do one too, so I picked it up when I was doing my grocery shop.

The Burt’s Bees micellar water has a slightly stronger scent than I’m used to – a kind of honey scent. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a problem for me at first, but I grew to like it, and the product is good and gentle, so I’d get it again.

Gatineau

The next couple of things were from my FeelUnique Pick ‘n Mix samples. I might do another post about these, but basically you can get 5 samples and you just pay the £3.95 P&P. Then you get a voucher back for the £3.95 to spend on your next shop. Conditions apply, only once per month.

Anyway, I really like Gatineau Products, but they’re super expensive. I think that generally they’re worth it, especially the serums, but I can’t justify that price all the time. So I picked up a couple of samples.

There was the advanced rejuvenating cream which I’ve actually before, and liked. It’s aimed at the over 40s, but never mind – I’m not far off!

The second sample was the exfoliating mask – I have to be honest and say I didn’t leave it to set for long enough, so possibly didn’t get the best results. Always read the instructions! Essentially it’s an exfoliator, and anything that does this without grains or horrid micro beads is good in my book, though I’d have to give this another go to say what I really think of it. Having said that, I’m not a big fan of lavender in face products, and the scent of it was quite strong.

Jason

I really wanted to like this Mango shower gel, partly because I had 900 ml of it to use up, but mainly because I’ve heard good things about the brand – and of course it’s mango! There was nothing wrong with it, but the mango scent just didn’t smell like mangos to me – it was like mangos mixed with something else. It did the job, but I think I’ve tried so many mango products that I’m just really fussy now!

L’Occitane

This is an old favourite – I already knew that I liked the Verbena shower gel. I think I got this mini in the M&S advent calendar last year. I was going to save it up for my travel bag, but then decided to use it at home. Anyone who likes a fresh lemon scent will enjoy this.

I used up a perfume from this brand too – a mini from the advent calendar I believe – but as I couldn’t find it again on the site, I haven’t linked it.

Lush

We popped into Lush on our week off and I picked up a few bubble bars that I hadn’t tried before.

The love token bubble bar says “thank you” on it in raised letters. I get very excited about raised letters because I can read them – even when it’s random messages like “pull here” or “do not drink”. Anyway, thank you is a much better message and this bar smells of pine, ginger and clove. It’s sold out at the moment – I think it’s mainly a Valentine’s Day thing, but you could gift it any time you want to thank someone.

Blue skies and fluffy white clouds is one of the bigger bars, so you can snap it in half and get two baths out of it. It makes your bath smell of frankincense and patchouli – not scents I’ve tried before, but it was definitely relaxing.

French Kiss is lavender and rosemary, with coconut oil to moisturise your skin. Lavender on the face is not fine, but in the bath water is actually quite relaxing, particularly at the end of a long day.

I enjoyed all of these bubble bars and always choose the bars over the bath bombs because then you get the lovely scents and don’t have to add extra bubbles. A lot of these bars also contain oils or butters for that bit of extra moisture. It was a blog reader who introduced me to these, so thank you Becky!

Nuxe

I was introduced to Nuxe at Christmas when I got a gift set, so I was interested to see this body milk come up on the sample service. Now I can only find it on the European site though and it appears to be sold out there. I liked the product, but I probably wouldn’t go and chase it down if it weren’t readily available. It smelled good and absorbed quickly, but the sample wasn’t huge, so I’d have to test it some more to give a full review.

Origins

I tried a moisturiser from this brand last year and then decided to get a set of minis to try out some of their other more popular products. I finished a travel size of the drink up mask with avocado, which is a leave-on overnight mask that smells amazingly fruity and leaves your skin feeling great afterwards. Not the cheapest mask around, and I’m not sure how the Swiss glacier water helps, but I think it’s worth it as a treat once in a while!

There was also a mini of the spot cream. This stings like crazy, but it works. Maybe not the best if you have really sensitive skin, but if you want a blemish gone quickly, it does the job!

Sanctuary Spa

My mum introduced me to the Sanctuary spa body soufflé, which is lighter than a body butter and comes in a really big tub. It even lasted me a while, and I’m really generous with it! It feels quite thin and at first you don’t think it will do much, but it does actually keep your skin feeling soft and is good for any dry areas. And it contains mango oil, so what’s not to love?

Superdrug

Unlike the Vitamin E serum from this range, which is really quite thick like a cream, the vitamin C booster is more like what you would think of when using a serum. It’s got a little pipette that almost reaches to the bottom. It smells fresh and fruity, and sits well under moisturiser and make-up. It claims to leave skin softer and brighter. This is a budget range, but you could do a lot worse and I’ve had much more expensive serums that didn’t do as good a job as this. I don’t usually tend to shop in Superdrug, but I think these products are good value for money.

The Body Shop

We couldn’t have an empties post without at least one product from here! I don’t often do repeats, but I did want to mention the vitamin C skin reviver. It’s the only thing I buy now as a primer and I love it for making a smooth base for make-up. Sometimes I even use it on non-make-up days as well.

Yes to

This is not a recommendation! I ended up throwing out my grapefruit snapstick because my skin hated it and I had breakouts and big red blotches after using it. I would still use the Yes To hair products or shower gels, but I’m reluctant to try anything else on my face as this is the second bad reaction I’ve had. The first one was to the cucumber sheet mask.

I like the concept – a mask in stick form, but I was thinking it would be a creamy formula like a satin lipstick or a cream blush stick. It wasn’t, and I didn’t like the way it dragged across the skin. That’s why I just cut my losses and threw it out.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

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5 ways I’m kinder to myself now that I’m in my 30s

I don’t think something spectacular happens when you hit your 30s. I remember waking up on the morning of my 30th birthday thinking “I will never ever do this again” after one two many red wines (I’m sure hang-overs get worse when you reach the magic number!), but really it’s just the same as making the transition into any other year of your life. Having said that, I can think of some changes I’ve made since leaving my 20s, and here are five that are for the better.

1. Getting enough sleep

This is more to do with living with a partner I guess. If S goes away on a business trip, I tend to stay up till all hours finishing some task for work, studying, watching Netflix in bed… I’ve never been someone that needs a lot of sleep, but I think I have a better routine than when I was in my 20s.

Back when I lived in London, I was the first to suggest going out after work, and especially as I lived so far from the office, one of the last to make it home. I never thought anything of staying out till the last train and still making it back to my desk on time the next day, running on coffee and very little else.

Then there was the time when I was trying to do a full-time job and set up my own business. The thing that always had to go was sleep. There weren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I wanted to do, so I just made my days longer and cut out on the sleep!

If I got chatting to someone interesting online – no problem! I’d stay up all night and the next day I’d just have more coffee!

I can do these things now in my late 30s, but they catch up with me a lot quicker and I don’t honestly know how I kept up that kind of thing, often doing it more than once a week and then crashing at weekends!

I’ve always had a pretty flexible relationship with boundaries, especially if I’ve convinced myself that I can do something. I guess now I’ve just realised that just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Also I don’t have anything to prove.

Part of the problem in my 20s was that I wasn’t massively happy at work. It was a way to bring in the money to pay the bills and holidays, but I struggled to feel fulfilled, so looked for this elsewhere in my studies or voluntary work – which all happened at some time in the middle of the night! Yes, I’m a night owl, and it’s so easy to fall into those patterns.

Having no 3-hour commute also helps now. I can cook at a reasonable time and don’t have to fight to get my evening back because half of it has been eaten away by time on the train.

2. Saying no to things I don’t want to do

It’s not like I’m the world’s biggest people-pleaser! If I didn’t want to do something, I’d do all I could to avoid it – from the age of about 3!

But I think in the past there were times when I said “yes” to things because I thought I should be able to do them.

I refused to let the fact that I don’t drive stand in my way, so I’d agree to go to something with 2 train changes and a trek into some completely unknown part of town – because I wasn’t going to admit defeat. Now I just think “screw it! That’s more hassle than it’s worth and I’ll spend more time travelling than I will at the event! It’s not worth my effort!”

There were times when I didn’t want to admit that I don’t enjoy really loud places with big crowds – so I’d just go because I had convinced myself that I should be able to deal with it. Now, I can do it if I really have a reason to, but quality is better than quantity, so I’m more choosy about what I commit to. And far from being left out or having less things to do, my natural tendency to get involved in a lot of things means I still have plenty of options.

3. Having a better skincare routine

From the age of about 10 I had one of those plastic storage baskets filled with toiletries, perfume, moisturisers etc. It’s hardly surprising that the interest continued on into adulthood.

It’s not like I never bothered in my 20s, or that I went to bed every night in my make-up. But since starting the blog, I’ve learned a lot more about the products on offer, what my skin likes, and what you need for a good skincare routine. I think, apart from those few hormonal days when it feels like your skin hates you, I am reaping the benefits of this now.

4. Throwing out the shoes that I can’t walk in

It started off as an act of defiance. I was told that, as someone with a visual impairment, I should buy sensible sturdy shoes! So the first chance I got, I bought the highest, most painful heels I could find, and insisted on walking in them! Not all the time, but any time I was going out somewhere. I also kept a pair at work – because even I drew the line at running for the tube in heels.

I wasn’t bad at it either – yay for high pain tolerance threshold. The biggest problem was that my guide dog couldn’t understand why I suddenly wanted to walk more slowly.

To be fair, I didn’t have any shoe-related accidents as some of my sighted friends did. They did make life harder though – I remember on my 30th birthday celebration just taking them off and walking back to a friend’s flat in my tights because I was done with the shoes!

Of course I’ll get some nice ones for the wedding and I do need some new ones anyway, but I’m past the point of needing to prove that I can do something just because someone once told me not to! A true sign of growing up perhaps?!

5. Accepting help

This is still work in progress, but at least I’m getting better at it. I didn’t have any problems asking for practical help from my friends – like the time when I thought I had a mouse (I didn’t) and the time when the toilet cistern fell apart. But when it comes to anything involving emotions or generally not being ok, I’m usually the one who leaves it till the worst has passed and the solution has been found before I tell anyone that there was even a problem.

Relationship break-up? No problem! Wait a month or so before telling anyone so nobody sees you in bits!

The best way I can describe it is using a quote from a book I read – “it isn’t that I always try to keep things from people – it just didn’t occur to me to share”. I was too busy trying to fix things and overlooked the fact that I maybe didn’t have to do it all on my own.

That, combined with the fact that people always came to me with their problems. Somehow they just kind of expected me to be strong and coping with everything. I didn’t like to shatter the illusion! By the time we were done with the other person’s problems, I had no energy left to talk about mine.

Also, I’m not particularly emotional in front of others. That doesn’t mean I don’t have emotions, but I’d rather cry on my own somewhere than have to listen to people trying their best to help but somehow missing the point because they assumed everything was somehow connected with my visual impairment. Blind girls have the same kind of boringly normal problems too – just like anyone else their age!

If I’m angry, the whole world can know about it. If I’m sad, you may well miss it unless you know what to look for.

That isn’t good though, and living with S has taught me that you need to let other people in sometimes. Just because there have been times in the past when I felt pretty much alone with getting problems fixed, it doesn’t always have to be like that. Sometimes there are people there who would be more than happy to help if I’d let them.

Even last year when I had the accident at home in the middle of the night, I could and should have told people sooner. I had countless offers of help – the first message came within about a minute of my blog post about the whole stupid experience. There are people who want to help me, but I have to be willing to let them.

So yeah, still working on that one, but when you compare now with 10 years ago, I am getting better at it.

So how about you?

In what ways are you kinder to yourself than you were 10 years ago? Let us know in the comments.

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We got engaged!

I knew about the picnic. I knew we were going to Watership Down for a walk. It had been in the diary for a while. What I didn’t know was that S was planning to propose to me there!

Last Saturday morning started like any other, apart from the fact that S disappeared to the shops in the morning. Not that unusual really, but normally we would have gone on route. I didn’t think any more of it though.

The night before we’d been out for dinner to celebrate our 4.5 year anniversary. Ok it’s not common to celebrate half years, but when you start dating on the shortest day of the year, it makes sense to celebrate on the longest one as well! Easy anniversary to remember!

Anyway we set out in the car and drove to Watership Down. I haven’t seen the series on Netflix, but I did read the book, both as a child and an adult, and was looking forward to see whether we could spot any rabbits up there!

We walked for a while until we came to a nice spot at the top of the hill, far away from all other people and sounds of traffic. This would be a good place to have our picnic.

I was a little surprised that S wanted to go for a walk – that’s usually something I would suggest – but I thought he just wanted to do something nice for me. And after all, if you’re going for a picnic, nobody wants to have it in the car park or on the side of the road.

As I was sorting out the picnic blanket, S stopped me and said we’d had a stow-away. I was thinking maybe something grim that was attached to the blanket in the bag – a slug perhaps? A snail? But no! It was a cuddly owlbear (a creature from dungeons and dragons with the head of an owl and the body of a bear).

It was designed to be a dice holder, but this particular owlbear was bearing a note that S had hand-written in Braille. Actually the owlbear was going to deliver the ring too, but the box was too big to fit in his zip-up tummy where normally the dice would go, so the next thing was that S handed me the ring and asked me to marry him! I said “yes!!!”

Actually I didn’t say very much for a while – for once I was lost for words – but at least I got the main answer right and said yes!

He had been planning this for a while. It had taken time to find my ring, which is tactile and in the shape of an owl sitting on a branch. The stone is the main part of his body, and you can also feel his face and ears. Perfect for an owl-lover and I also love the tactile design.

I also love all the thought that went into it – finding somewhere in the middle of nature to do it, because he knew I would like that. Writing the note in Braille, although he doesn’t actually know Braille and had to look up how to do it on the internet. Finding my owl ring.

We did then have our picnic, although to be honest I was more excited than hungry!! The sun was shining and it was a lovely day for a picnic – so of course we had to at least eat the Colin caterpillars before they melted!

It was then time to tell the families! We sent a picture of my hand wearing the ring and the view of Watership Down. My mum understood the significance – other people took a bit longer!

So – I left my boyfriend on Watership Down and came back with my fiancé! The very next day I started my wedding planning spreadsheet – it’s quite impressive and already has over 10 sheets, partially filled out, and ready for new ideas as I get them! It’s not going to be a big wedding, but I love a good project to organise!

Planning the wedding

I’m not going to document everything here, at least not in advance, but I am planning a new wedding section on the blog to talk about the experience of planning everything, and the big day itself.

It’s different for everyone. I know as a blind bride-to-be I’ll have some extra considerations that other people don’t. A lot of the advertising in this area is very much image based, so I’ll need good descriptions. I will need help with some things, particularly around colours, but I have very definite ideas about others!

So from time to time I plan to share parts of the journey here on the blog.

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25 lessons from 2.5 years of Unseen Beauty

I can’t believe I’ve had this blog for two and a half years now! From what started as an idea buzzing around my head whilst I was supposed to be relaxing in the bath, it’s been an interesting journey and I am really glad that I now have this little corner of the internet for writing. Writing is quite a big part of my job, but I really wanted to do something that would get me away from thinking about work for a while – which is basically how Unseen Beauty came about.

Here are 25 things that I have learned since setting up the site in January 2017.

1. As time goes on, you’ll change what you want to write about

At the beginning I thought it would just be a beauty and skincare blog, but I found this too narrow a niche, and also some of the people who read my articles couldn’t care less about that! Also, there are so many beauty and skincare blogs out there. What makes people stand out is when they bring something new and different to the table. So I still have my product posts about once a month, but Unseen Beauty has become more than that.

2. Sometimes it’s surprising what people want to read

It’s that thing – you never know which posts people will like. You can spend ages with your finger hovering over “publish” thinking “shall I just bin this?” and then when you finally click the button because the indecision is getting too much, you find that people really relate. Or, you can spend ages on a piece of content that you’re really proud of, and barely anyone reads it! You just never know until you send the posts out into the world!

I’m never going to be the kind of blogger that bears her heart and soul to the world, but I have found that the posts where I share a bit more honestly are the ones that people respond to. I think there’s a lot of generic content out there, so people want something a bit different.

3. If you set out with the idea that it’s not about the photos, the right people will come

On my work blog I wasn’t that bothered. It’s an educational blog, and people come for the educational content.

In the whole lifestyle arena, photos have a more important role. Instagram invaded the blogosphere and suddenly much higher importance was placed on the photos – which is an issue when you’re blind and can’t take them yourself.

Blogging has always been about the words though, and I didn’t want that to be taken from me. So I was just honest about it. If I’m talking about a place or a product, I’ll try and get someone to take a picture. If I don’t manage it, you get the article without. Blogmas is enough work anyway without stressing out over images, so you may just get my stock Christmas photo.

And you know what? On the whole, people are fine with that. My articles tend to be on the longer side, and people come because they want something to read.

I’m grateful to S and my mum for helping me out, and I know the photos add value. But it makes me sad when I read that people don’t want to publish posts because they don’t have the right photos.

4. Blogmas is a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun too

I’ve done it twice now and will probably be doing it again this year! Posting every day in December until Christmas Eve, coming up with the content, and not reusing ideas is challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. Readers who engaged with the posts kept me going, and it’s also good to be part of the community of people who are doing it as well so you can see what content they are creating and encourage them too.

5. You’ll meet some cool people through blogging

Yes, there’s drama if you choose to get involved in it, but generally I steer clear of it and it stays away from me. I’ve found the blogging community to be really friendly and had some great conversations with people, either via the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or privately.

6. Ideas will come at the weirdest times!

In the bath, when out running, in the middle of the night … Never when I’m at my laptop ready to write them down!

7. It’s ok to take a break

Having a plan and a schedule is good, but sometimes if you’re running on empty, the best thing to do is take a break. Give yourself space to think about other things. Then the ideas will come again.

If you try to force it or churn out posts when you really don’t feel like it, you’ll lose the sense of enjoyment, and a hobby blog is supposed to be fun!

8. Blogging is about community

It’s not all about only communicating with your own readers. You can make some great contacts through interacting with others and also discover new blogs by seeing who comments on things that you find interesting. You may well have things in common with them. Apart from that, community = the chance to do interviews or guest posts – and perhaps my favourite, swap boxes!

Also, knowing that my genuine recommendations have helped someone else feels good too.

9. Things change and you have to come up with new plans

When I was reading my notes, I couldn’t remember why I wrote this at first, but it was in relation to WordPress. Sometimes the platform changes. Horrid new editors are forced upon you that are inaccessible for blind people. You have to come up with a solution or give up. I didn’t want to give up, so yay for plugins that disable the new editor!

10. The internet can be a mean place, but it’s often not as bad as you think

I was really anxious about posting some of my content because I know some of my opinions are unpopular. Not with the people I know, but particularly when criticising the disability community or things that challenge the accepted way of thinking – they can bring out the trolls! It’s not that I particularly care what some troll on the internet thinks, but things can spiral out of hand quickly and it takes time and energy to manage. Fortunately I haven’t had to … yet!

11.The stats will never tell the whole story

I look at them. My number-crunching brain likes them. They are useful. But particularly when it comes to people who don’t have their own blogs, they may just read and won’t give you any idea of what impact your words had. That’s ok! We don’t all do the comment, like or share thing. That’s ok! It often amazes me how people come out with things that they can only know because they’ve been reading my blog – and I had no idea they were!

12. If you get bored with a topic, stop writing about it

I got bored doing some of the product posts, so I reduced them. People will know if your heart isn’t in something!

13. There is so much blogger junk mail

Every… single …week! Offers of high quality content directly related to my audience. People who love my blog about parenting, even though I’ve never written a parenting post in my life! People who think my audience would just love to see their infographic. Because blind people just love infographics – the clue’s in the name! Ugh!

14. Collaborations are fun

Whether that’s the swap box or the posts I did collecting views on a topic – involving others in a non-spammy way is a different way to create content and get to know other people at the same time.

15. Readers can be so kind

From comments that say “I know where you’re coming from” to those who regularly support the blog. From people who look out for things I might want to feature, to others who say the kindest things. Then there was the reader gift of new products to try that nearly made me cry because it was such a lovely thing to do!

16. You might think you’re the only one, but often many people can relate

I’m thinking about some of my opinion pieces now, and the things I don’t usually talk about…sensory difficulties, the disability-related challenges that we don’t talk about. Someone somewhere knows how it feels and might even be happy if you put it into words!

17.Blogger events aren’t actually that scary!

Admittedly I haven’t been to many, and I still think I’d find some of them a bit pretentious or be mistaken for someone’s mum, but there are low-key ones out there where it’s just everyday people writing blogs, rather than going after that perfect Instagram-worthy life that only really exists in people’s heads!

18. Beauty box fatigue is a thing

So I cancelled them all at the end of December and only restarted one in June. I’m up for looking at new and different things, but if there’s a lot of repetition and things you don’t really need, it’s not really a bargain!

19. Broken links are a pain!

I now have a plugin to tell me about them, but often shops will just pull a product and then you have a broken link. Or people will delete their site, meaning that any links to it from comments or linked posts will just lead to nowhere. This is not a great user experience for anyone wanting to visit those pages, but broken links are bad for your SEO too, so it is worth fixing them – even though it’s a boring task.

You probably aren’t surprised that I have a massive spreadsheet for logging them all!

20. This is not my job

And I’m happy about that! I have 2 businesses. I think some people put themselves under a lot of stress to monetise their blog, which sometimes leads to collaborations that look a little out of place or endorsing products that they normally wouldn’t. I’m not judging because we all need to get the bills paid, but this not being my main job means I can turn things down without measuring everything as a business opportunity. However, if I do make some money through the blog, it’s a bonus.

21. People sending out phishing emails seem to love bloggers

Your site, that you don’t host with us, will be taken down if you don’t give us your credit card details immediately! Your email address, which also wasn’t set up through us, is about to be deleted! Oh no! Give us your money quickly!

22. People don’t just read Blogmas content in December – who knew?

I think it’s because it’s linked – so someone reading a doggy post might also read dog-related Blogmas content. It just makes me smile to see those pages getting views in June!

23. You can use your blog to do good and support charities

I’ve done posts with two wolf sanctuaries, two donkey sanctuaries, and a couple with Dog’s Trust. I know that as a result, a couple of new sponsorships have been set up and that makes me really happy. I’ve found too that charities are happy about the publicity and willing to help with information requests.

24. You can reach people all over the world

Location data isn’t always accurate – people aren’t always where they claim to be – but it can give you a good idea of where your readers are. Most of mine are in the UK, but I sometimes scroll through the list of countries and am interested to see how many readers are based in other parts of the world.

25. I still have ideas!

Yes, there’s a spreadsheet for that too! I haven’t run out of ideas after 2.5 years and I still have plenty more.

Finally I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has read, commented, supported me, or contributed in some other way to the first 2.5 years of Unseen Beauty. You’re amazing!

I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey!

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Trip to the Vyne – a National Trust property

It was the last day of our week off and we had been working through my list of places to visit. We decided to go to the Vyne, a former Tudor country house and grade I listed building owned by the National Trust in Hampshire.

It was a good day for it – the weather stayed dry for our entire visit, which I was particularly happy about because the Vyne is situated in spacious grounds with gardens and woodland, and you can do a number of walks.

We began by taking a look around the grounds . We even ventured into the children’s play area because there were some carved wooden creatures and insects that S wanted to show me. They were really cool, but I had to handle with care because of the bird poo! Still, I thought it was a nice feature to have in the play area, and blind people rely on tactile representations to know what small creatures and insects look like,. You can’t really touch a butterfly without hurting it.

As we arrived around lunchtime, we decided to have lunch before venturing into the house and doing our walk. The café area was quite full, so we decided to go outside and munch our sausage rolls on the picnic tables there!

We don’t have a National Trust card at the moment, but if you are likely to go back multiple times or visit other National Trust properties, it will save you money in the long-term. Disabled people can take someone with them for free. I hate the word carer and wish we could be like the more progressive countries who call them assistants or companions, rather than this archaic term, but the free ticket is definitely helpful. I would struggle to enjoy a trip to a property like this without an assistant to read information and help me get around. (This is a general comment about the term that is used everywhere, and not directed specifically at the National Trust)

If you don’t have a card, the price of your ticket depends on whether you want to go round the house as well. We did, so that was our next stop.

Your ticket for the house has a 30-minute window, during which you need to enter the house. However there is no restriction in terms of how long you can spend in there.

The house tours are self-guided, but there are plenty of volunteers around in the various rooms who are happy to give you further information or ask questions. We mainly read the information from the displays, which gave you an insight into what it was like living in the house, and the work that went into the recent restoration project. There was also an insect trail for children, which told you about the different insects that liked to munch on the wood or other items that the trust wants to preserve.

The house was built by William Sandys, who later became Henry VIII’s chamberlain, and throughout its lifetime, it had famous visitors such as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1535, Elizabeth I, and Jane Austen. Later it became a safe place for World War II evacuees.

The Vyne used to be much larger – it’s still big now, but the building is about 1/3 of its original size. I can’t imagine how much it must have taken to heat it in winter or to keep it clean!

The Vyne remained the property of the Sandys family until it was sold in the 17th century to Chaloner Chute, a barrister and speaker of the House of Commons, whose family owned it until the 20th century. They were responsible for downsizing it, but also for improving the access routes – something that had been complained about in historical documents. The Vyne was given to the National Trust in 1956.

On entering the house, there was a tactile model, which made it much easier for me to imagine the shape of the building and how the building as a whole looks.

Apart from this, as blind people go, I’m not particularly tactile when going around exhibitions. If there is a cool tactile thing, such as the statue of a horse that S found, I will touch it. But I can’t say how much can be touched otherwise, because we didn’t really ask about that and I don’t randomly touch walls and things as we’re going round!

I think the biggest surprise for me was the lay-out of the house and the way that a lot of the rooms were connected by doors, rather than all coming off a main hallway. The main bedroom had a couple of doors into it, which I’d find really disconcerting!

If you want to see how you would have looked in Victorian costumes, there are a number of items of clothing to try on. Not sure I like the image of me in a maid’s bonnet, but there was a dress that I rather liked!

It was clear from the information about the roof restoration project just how much work and how many people had been involved – sometimes taking parts of the roof apart, brick by brick, labelling the bricks so that they could be put back in exactly the right place, and then putting everything back together once the restoration work was finished. The house was fully reopened in 2018 – some parts could not be accessed during the restoration project because of the ongoing work. The project cost 5.4 million pounds.

Conservationists were also involved in a book cataloguing project, logging and restoring books from the 2500 book collection from the old library. The books can only be stored in rooms whose floors will support the substantial weight!

We didn’t buy any, but if you’re interested in second-hand books, there’s a second-hand book shop in the house, as well as the main shop on site for souvenirs or local products.

Even though there were a fair few people walking around the house, once we’d finished our tour and gone into the woods, we hardly saw anyone. Actually I think this was my favourite part, just walking around and enjoying the nature. There were a number of designated trails, depending on how long you wanted your walk to be, and there is information about the trees so that you can do bark rubbings. I didn’t, but perhaps this is something we can go back and do later.

We didn’t see any deer, but apparently they live in the woods. There were plenty of birds though, and ducks on the river. There is a clearly defined path and it was really peaceful walking around through the trees. There are also social projects, which empower people by providing them with new skills, whilst at the same time helping with the conservation work outside.

Have you been to the Vyne? Do you have a favourite National Trust property? Let me know in the comments!

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Life of a mature student – TM111 – my first module

I wrote some thoughts about my first module in this post about the first four months of my degree, but my idea is to write a summary post about each module once I’ve finished it. So here are some thoughts about TM111.

As the title says, it’s an introduction to computing and IT. I had some prior knowledge in a few of the areas that we covered. This definitely helped me, but I don’t think it was necessary as all of the information should be in the materials. This didn’t mean that I didn’t go elsewhere on occasion, but that was more about my learning style than a lack of information. Sometimes when you’re stuck, you just need to find someone who can explain it in a different way.
I want to write these posts in a way that’s accessible to all of my blog readers – whether or not they understand the subject matter or what I’m talking about – but if anyone wants more specific information, just let me know privately.

The content

The module is split up into three very distinct blocks. This is great in terms of helping you to focus on one thing at a time. A bit less great if you really don’t enjoy one of the blocks, but if this is the case, you do feel a sense of achievement when you get it finished and know you’ll never have to see it again!

Block 1 – the digital world. This was probably the most varied block because as well as a basic history of how computers have evolved, you get an introduction to some quite different activities from creating and manipulating sound, to designing a simple web page. There’s also an introduction to databases and some content on what you need to think about when designing new products. Each of these sections is fairly short and you get an introduction rather than a deep-dive, but I like the way that the material is varied, giving people the chance to try new things and start thinking about what they may want to focus on in later modules.

Block 2 – creating solutions. Normally I would find something like this really interesting – it was all about solving problems through designing simple programs. I’m a linguist, so learning how new languages work is right up my street. The only thing was that these concepts are introduced within a graphical programming environment that is inaccessible to blind people. So, learning the concepts was a valuable experience for me because I’ll be able to apply them in other programming contexts, but as I couldn’t do any of the practical work independently, it was less enjoyable.

I understand why things are done this way – people can get up and running and start producing programmes quickly without having to bother much about understanding how a text-based language works and the grammar rules or missing character that will break your programme, but for me, it really wasn’t fun.

Block 3 – connecting people, places, and things. This was an introduction to networking concepts, wireless communication, and the internet of things. It also looked at some of the social aspects of the way in which we use technology, as well as data security, biometrics, and the advantages and disadvantages of increased connectivity in our everyday lives. As someone whose business is carried out entirely online, I was interested to look at how people interact online.

I think some of the networking concepts could have been explained in a more straightforward way – I just looked up the information elsewhere because it felt that a lot of space was given to drawing analogies with things that we already know, whereas I just wanted to know about the thing we were supposed to be learning about and how it worked. That’s a learning style thing though. I’m sure some people would have been happy that someone took the time to try and make the concepts more relatable.

Things are changing all the time and I imagine it will be difficult to keep this really up-to-date, but I think the module raised some questions that are relevant to us today and the case studies helped us to think about people whose experience of using technology is different from our own.

Some concepts, such as maths, run through all of the blocks. Others are dealt with individually in one of the three blocks.

Assessment

The marks come from three tutor-marked assignments, which include activities to demonstrate what you’ve learned throughout the course, and three electronically marked assignments, which you complete online by answering multiple choice questions or typing specific values in the box.

I had a really helpful tutor who responded quickly to questions, made sure I had everything I needed if I was going to attend a tutorial run by someone else, and chased up some accessible materials when they went astray.

I worked hard – extra hard in some ways – but in the end I was happy with my mark and it was all worth it!

Learning as a blind student

I want to be positive because I did really enjoy doing this module, but for me it wasn’t an easy introduction into studying with the Open University as I believe the initial courses are intended to be. For me, even though the content will get harder, this was probably one of the most difficult and frustrating modules I’ll take due to the inaccessibility of a large chunk of it. Only my helpful sighted assistant and the knowledge that we’d soon be going onto other programming languages and never have to see OU Build or Scratch again kept me going – along with all the positive vibes around Christmas (because this was block 2)!

On the plus side, I could access all of the material, either as downloadable documents or as web pages on the site. Descriptions were provided for the diagrams in the material. There was an active community on the forum, which is run by the Open University, as well as a student-led Facebook group where students can socialise or ask questions.

But, even if you’re doing an open degree as I am, if you want it to be an IT-based one, there’s no getting past TM111. In many ways you wouldn’t want to either, because a lot of basic concepts are introduced that you will be building on in later modules. If you can’t use the visual programming environment because you are blind, you need to be prepared to work with a sighted assistant as there is really no other way round it if you want to complete that part of the course in its current form. The work will need to be your own, but you will have to have someone carrying out tasks for you with a mouse, and also giving you feedback about what the programmes actually do when you run them, so you can check that this is what you wanted or expected.

Most IT modules do have a degree of inaccessibility, but when comparing percentages, this is one of the highest I found, so in this respect, things will only get easier.

All information is correct at the time of writing, though of course things may change when the module is run again. If you are interested in studying it, it’s best to get the most up-to-date information directly from the Open University.

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My 2019 – products to talk about – part 2

I’ve collected together another 15 products to tell you about. I’m doing these less regularly now and not featuring repeat products. There’s less make-up now too as I don’t get through it as quickly as the skin care. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them!

1. Freshly cosmetics serum

This serum from Freshly Cosmetics is part of the skincare set that I bought with a micellar water, a toner, a moisturiser and the serum. It comes in a bottle with a pipette, which is fine till you get right down to the bottom where it doesn’t quite reach. I can’t comment on the technology it mentions – I can’t say I noticed looking radically younger, but who doesn’t want pollution-blocking extracts, especially when they’re derived from natural ingredients such as broccoli and lingonberry? I enjoyed using the serum and felt it was gentle and it was comfortable to wear under my moisturiser and make-up. There are some spelling mistakes on the site, but I received good and speedy service from them.

2. Superdrug vitamin E serum

From the expensive to the budget buy. This vitamin E serum from Superdrug is about hydration, with fruit acids to help retain moisture and stimulate cell renewal. Plus points are the price and the pump bottle, which prevents the air getting in and means that the product stays fresh. It’s described as a lightweight serum, but it’s one of the thickest I’ve used, which isn’t a problem, but if you’re expecting a thinner consistency, you might get a surprise. I tried a couple of products from Superdrug’s own range, and I preferred the vitamin C serum over this one, but you could do a lot worse than this, and it does smell nice and fresh with a coconutty type scent. Despite being a bit thicker, it does absorb well, and it doesn’t sting or feel greasy, so it’s fine to use before other products in the morning.

3. Shampoo – oatmeal honey

This shampoo from Tigi Catwalk was on sale and in fact it’s still on sale as I right this now. The massive 750 ml bottles last a long time and if you like the product, it’s definitely a bargain. This one is for dry and damaged hair. I don’t have that, but as my hair is so long, I like to use moisturising products on it to make sure that the ends are taken care of. This smells like Christmas somehow – like cinnamon baking! I was happy with the shampoo and my hair was soft and silky after using it. I’d get it again.

4. Korres crocus serum

This is incredibly expensive and I only had a tiny tester to use, which isn’t enough to really know how well it works for me. But Korres is a good brand, and saffron is expensive! It’s referred to as a skincare booster, which should be followed by a serum or moisturiser. I enjoyed the couple of uses that I got out of the sample, but I’d probably wait until the crocus serum was on sale before splashing out on it!

If you’re wondering why I have so many serums in this post, I’m on a mission to use things up, and I had several that were nearly empty!

5. Rituals body lotion

I only discovered Rituals last year and I think my favourite so far is the ritual of Sakura with cherry blossom and rice milk. This whipped body cream is light and fluffy, but also rich and nourishing. Nice as a gift or when you want to treat yourself. These products smell amazing, leave your skin feeling soft for ages and make you feel special. I am slowly trying out other ranges, but I think this is going to be the one I like most.

6. Mango shower gel

Could I do a product post without mentioning something from the Body Shop mango range? I don’t think so. Recently I used up their mango shower gel which I got for my birthday and which is my favourite shower gel from the Body Shop. I just love the mango goodness!

If you like Body Shop products, don’t forget that they have a new recycling scheme – I posted about it recently.

7. Madara mask

I got this Madara SOS instant moisture plus radiance hydra mask in a giveaway that Sussex Sandra was doing on her YouTube channel. I mentioned that I liked moisturising masks and she sent me some, which was really nice of her. This one was a multi-use mask in a tube. I really like Madara products, both for the quality and the way that they live up to their promises on moisturising. It says you can leave the mask on or wipe off after 20 minutes. I just left it on and let it soak in overnight. I also like the way that these products are described on the site – they tell you what’s in it without making ridiculous claims. I first discovered this brand in the Lovelula boxes, which was my first venture into more natural products.

8. From dusk till dawn serum

Laidbare is another brand that I discovered in the Lovelula boxes, and I did like a number of their products. However, this serum was not for me. It is a rejuvenating and hydrating vitamin C serum. Oil-based serums are fine, but I found this one felt particularly greasy and although I don’t think it’s a bad product, I didn’t like it very much. You might like it more if you use more oils in your skincare regime.

9. Rêve de Miel cream

I’d heard bout Nuxe products, but I didn’t try any until I got a gift set for Christmas. I think my friends know I like skincare by now, but it’s always great to try something I haven’t had before! My friend got it right too because this product is for dry skin. This is the day cream. It says “treat your skin with the restorative power of honey” and contains honey and precious oils. It’s a luxurious cream and it feels as though you’re giving your face a treat! I’d like to try more from the range!

10. Nuxe hand cream

I also got the hand cream from the same range in the Christmas set. This is a non-greasy handcream with honey and sunflower. I popped mine in my handbag – it’s a good one to use on the go because it is good for moisturising your hands and cuticles, but it absorbs quickly for when you’re out and about.

11. Body Shop rose hand cream

This was one of the products in my advent calendar from last year. I thought the large hand creams were just for Christmas, but you can still get the rose one in the larger size now. It’s fine as hand creams go, but I prefer roses in the garden and not on me. When do we get to see the mango range in this size?

12. Elemis marine cream

I only had a small sample of this, not surprising really when you consider the price, though at the time of writing there is a discount at John Lewis, so I used that link. There has been a lot of hype about the marine cream lately. I like Elemis as a brand and I enjoyed using the sample. However I do think you can get creams that also give good results, but are at a cheaper price point.

13. Body Shop almond milk and honey body lotion

I thought I’d tried everything from the almond milk and honey range, but I hadn’t seen this before I got it in the advent calendar and I’m sold! The body lotion is thinner than the butter and comes in a squeezy tube. I like to use it especially if I’ve had an allergic reaction and I want something kind and gentle on my skin. For me it seems to have soothing properties too. I’ve already bought another tube of it!

14. Pomegranate hand cream from Wileda

I really liked the body lotion from this line, so when I noticed in Ocado that there was a hand cream too, I decided to try that as well. The Wileda pomegranate hand cream smells great and does what it says on the tube. No synthetic chemicals and another brand like the Body Shop that doesn’t test on animals.

15. Lavera night cream

Sometimes those little sachets that people seem to like complaining about actually pay off! I got a sample of this night cream and was so impressed with it that I went and got some! It’s a very lightweight cream – I have used it in the day before too – but leaves your skin feeling really smooth and soft in the morning, so don’t be put off by the light consistency – it is hydrating too. And though this shouldn’t be a key selling point – it smells amazing!

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them!

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Why I’m glad that I learned languages at school

I can’t contribute much to the current debate about whether the new language exams are too hard – I haven’t seen them. I do remember though, back when I did my school exchange with a school in Germany, and based on my experience of teaching current German students, that the expectations seem lower here in terms of what students should be able to accomplish in another language. Lowering the bar might make the subjects more appealing again, but overall, English students won’t have a competitive advantage in the job market if the language qualification doesn’t count for as much, or require as much effort as other European counterparts have had to put in.

I was at school before the decision was taken in 2004 to make languages a non-compulsory subject at GCSE. I think there are individual circumstances in which this makes sense, but overall I believe this was a step in the wrong direction. Since then, take-up of languages at A-levels has also been falling overall, with German falling by 45% since 2010 *see this article from the Guardian). Still, things are looking up for Mandarin!

I’m biased, because languages were some of my favourite subjects, but here are some of the reasons why I enjoyed learning languages at school.

They opened up a new world and new people to talk to

Knowledge is only really useful when you find some way to take it out of the classroom. Many people don’t do this or don’t have the opportunity to, which is why I think some students in the UK feel that learning another language isn’t relevant.

Once I got a taste for languages though, I started finding reasons to use them. My German pen-pals. My school exchange and the lovely host family. Some German relatives of local friends. Later new people that I met online. I got to travel outside my local town and discover other perspectives, other ways of doing things, and challenge some of my own ideas.

Something I could be good at

It wasn’t the smartest choice, but at school I always spent extra time on the things I was already good at, rather than using it for the things where I really needed more practice. But I enjoyed languages and however well I did in them, there was always more to learn and discover. There were things that I needed help with in everyday school life, but I understood how the languages we were learning worked, so I had something to offer others too.

I like patterns!</h3

I have creative moments occasionally, but languages made sense to me because if you take some time to learn the rules, you will be allowed to play the game, and importantly, not make mistakes. There will always be exceptions – “exceptions confirm the rules” was one of our German conversation teacher’s favourite sayings! But rules give things structure, and if you can understand the structure, you can understand the thing. There’s a logic to it – you just need to invest a bit of time at the beginning.

My blindness isn’t relevant

Ok, it may have been relevant for picture-based learning activities or watching movies, but we didn’t do much of that at school. My listening skills probably came in useful, and as long as I had access to the texts that we were working on, it was a completely level playing field, in a way that some more visual subjects weren’t. This may not have been the case if I’d been learning languages with different writing systems – there is always a way – but for French and German it certainly wasn’t a consideration. I did both at GCSE level and then went on to do a German A-level.

I think it was one of the first times I realised I could do something that the sighted people around me couldn’t do. I remember interpreting for some friends and feeling really good about being able to facilitate the conversation between people who would otherwise not have been able to communicate. They helped me get around the unfamiliar places that we visited, but I had a role to play too – and that made me happy!

Learning other languages helps you to understand your own language better

Training to become an English teacher definitely does that as well, but when you start learning about tenses, sentence structure, and ways to communicate ideas in other languages, it helps you to understand how your native language works too. If you’re a language nerd, it’s interesting to see the differences and similarities.

They were useful for my career

Well, German was. I haven’t done anything with my French since leaving school, but I remained interested in German. For many years it was just a hobby – something I did in my free time. Originally the only suggestions people could come up with were interpreting (too stressful), sales (not my idea of fun!), and translating. Translating was the most appealing out of the three, and I do some translation now, but I didn’t want to spend all of my time doing it.

I now work as an English teacher for adults, most of whom come from German-speaking countries, so I speak and write German every day. So the basic knowledge that I picked up at school is still helping me now, though it took longer for me to actually feel comfortable speaking.

Other languages

After finding out that I enjoyed learning languages, I tried a couple of others after I left school – Hindi and Turkish. German is the only one that I really kept up with, although I can still understand a fair bit of Turkish. I keep saying I’ll maybe go back to it some day.

I think understanding basic principles of grammar – having parts of the language that perform different functions, and the fact that you have to do things in a certain order for the language to work, also makes it easier for me to understand the coding languages that I’m learning in my IT degree.

So overall, learning languages opened up a lot of opportunities for me and it was one of my favourite things to do at school.

How was the experience for you? Did you love or hate your French or German lessons, or did you learn a different language? Have you used the skills since? Let me know in the comments.

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Our visit to Island Farm donkey sanctuary

​I’ve always like donkeys. I think they’re cool and I’ve supported various donkey charities over the years, but the only time I tried to visit one, it was out of season and the sanctuary was closed to the public. One donkey came up to the fence to bray at us, but it wasn’t the same as going inside!

So one of the things I put on our list of things to do on our week off was visit a donkey sanctuary. I discovered the Island farm Donkey Sanctuary near Wallingford in Oxfordshire and we drove there on a sunny day, earlier this week.

There is no entrance fee, but donations are appreciated and you can also support the sanctuary in other ways such as by adopting a donkey, or buying gifts from the shop. The sanctuary is open every day apart from Christmas day from 11 till 4, and they sometimes hold special events. There is one planned for the 2nd Bank Holiday weekend in May (2019) so check out the site if you’d like to go!

Visitors are encouraged to interact with the donkeys, though children should be supervised to ensure they don’t scare the donkeys and any treats should be given in at reception. It’s hard to make sure that all donkeys have a balanced diet if people give them too many treats, and some of the donkeys are on special diets, which means certain foods would be harmful to them.

When we arrived, we saw a lot of donkeys out in their fields. The donkeys are in various fields with groups ranging in size. Donkeys like company!

Speaking of company – going on a weekday during term-time was great, because when we were walking around, there was hardly anyone else there apart from a couple of visitors and people who worked there. I like donkeys more than people!

There was also some information around on the walls to teach visitors about donkeys, what they like to eat, differences between horses and donkeys, and further information about individual donkeys who live at the sanctuary.

After popping into reception, we were encouraged to walk around the grounds and see the donkeys. Many of them were behind electric wire fences. I did reach across to pat one who came right up to us, but I don’t suggest that anyone else does that! Also we later found that some of the donkeys were wandering around on the path area, so I could get up close and talk to a couple of them who were grazing or standing around in the sunshine. As someone who can’t see the animals, I’m always especially happy if I can get to meet some!

They didn’t solicit attention like your average golden retriever! Well maybe they would if they know you, or if they know you’ve come to feed them! But they stood still while I stroked and talked to them, with one of them twitching his ear in my direction. I think they like to know what’s going on!

Jack was definitely up for a stroke, and stood patiently while we had a chat.

Pollyanna must have been tired, because she was chilling out on the floor, happy for me to stroke her lovely silky coat!

Many of the donkeys come to the sanctuary with problems associated with neglect, such as skin problems, parasites, and worst of all, overgrown hooves. These are very painful and if not treated, can lead to problems with walking. This of course means extra vet bills to get the problems sorted out.

The donkeys seemed content, chomping at the grass, or trying to get their friends to play!

As well as around 120 donkeys, and over 50 more living with foster families, there are other animals at the sanctuary such as a couple of Shetland ponies, some chickens, goats, and a pig!

The donkeys have plenty of space to graze and enjoy the sunshine, and as they don’t like getting wet, there are also shelters for when it rains. Some of the ones whom I stroked had been enjoying a roll around, which keeps the pesky flies at bay, and also helps to remove any loose hair.

Some of the donkeys are active in the local community, attending fairs, starring in nativity plays, or taking part in country shows. This raises the profile of the work of the sanctuary and introduces new people to the donkeys. The donkeys have also starred in some TV shows – from animal rescue programmes to children’s TV.

I wanted to support one of the donkeys and decided to adopt Loppy, a 32-year-old mare who has what are believed to be the longest ears (around 45 cm) of any female donkey in the country. She came down from Scotland in 1996 and was bought at a livestock market and offered to the donkey sanctuary where she would have a good home. Loppy is an Andalusian donkey, which is in danger of becoming extinct. Loppy is one of the larger donkeys at 14.2 hands, but she is very gentle and friendly. You can read more about Loppy here.

You could sponsor a donkey at reception, but I chose to just do it myself online because I wanted to take my time and read through the individual stories.

I could complete the adoption process using my screenreader. The only slightly tricky thing was the payment types, because they were neither radio buttons nor check boxes, so a blind user can’t be sure which payment method had been selected because there was no feedback apart from the fact that it was highlighted visually. But I chose the one I wanted and hoped for the best – and it worked!

I would recommend this as a place to visit for anyone who loves animals or who wants to learn a bit more about donkeys.

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