Team AG discuss where they will go first when travel is properly back on the agenda

Garry Coward-Williams, editor

The lockdown has taught me to appreciate things oft taken for granted: free movement, socialising and being able to physically be with family and friends. Had it not been for Covid 19 I would have visited Ireland in May to see my parents who live on the Northwest coast. I go there twice a year and it is an important biannual fixture.

It’s not the prettiest part of Ireland, in fact it is a bleak area. You see few trees and much of the land is bog, but there is something about it that calls to me in the way ancestral places do: I feel drawn to it’s craggy rocks and dark, misty mountains, but most of all the beautiful beach at Inishcrone.

The beautiful, empty beach at Inishcrone

It is an unspoilt sandy beach of about 1.5 miles long and a quarter of a mile wide when the tide is out. It is usually deserted and long walks across its wide expanse, enjoying the brisk sea air and the stunning view is an elixir for the soul.

My other regular port of call is an isolated pub about 10 miles north of Inshcrone, at a place called Pullaheeny. If you didn’t know it was there you’d never come across it, as it lies at the end of a two-mile winding track, past old farmhouses and outbuildings.

Garry with long-lost Cousin Vincent and ‘the wee fella’ at Browne’s bar in Pullaheeny

It has been in the Browne family for generations and Gerry Browne is a veritable encyclopaedia of local history and people. It’s not often you can drink it a pub where the landlord knows all your family going back to your grandfather and beyond. Many times I’ve been introduced to a 2nd or 3rd cousin I never knew existed and yes, that means another round of drinks!

I can’t wait to go back.

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Wendy Humphries, letters editor

My first planned trip will be to the magnificent NT gardens at Stourhead, Wiltshire. I just love the place and it makes my membership worth many times its face value. There’s over 2000 acres to explore and a big country mansion to marvel at along with the beautiful lakes.

The truly magnificent gardens of Stourhead, with an overnight stay for good measure, is where Wendy is planning to go first

My favourite view is over the famous Palladian bridge across the lake to the Pantheon inspired folly on the other side; it’s spectacular framed by the red, yellow and brown tones of autumn. I wish I had the skills to paint this scene but I just settle with taking photos.

The gardens are not too far away but I plan to book an overnight stay in one of the cottages so that we can enjoy the peace at dusk and dawn, plus there’ll be the added treat of a trip to the pub.

I know it’s not a very exotic or ambitious destination but for me the joy of nature and the guaranteed peace will be an absolute godsend.

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Janey Goulding, assistant editor

It might be a while before I shake the mothballs off my inflatable travel pillow but I’m perusing a certain Lonely Planet guide with longing: Canada.

Truthfully, I don’t know which bit to visit first. There’s Jasper, an alpine settlement in the Alberta province, with a ‘sky tram’ that lifts you up Whistler’s Mountain. Alberta is also home to the Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, apparently like a real-time version of the perfect screensaver.

In Dinosaur Provincial Park, millions of years of sandstone provide a backdrop to over 160 species of bird including the loggerhead shrike, basically a musical raptor. Plus, there’s Alberta’s delicacy: green onion cakes – crispy, squishy loveliness drizzled in honey & hot sauce. Not forgetting the shimmering, shape-shifting spectacle of the Northern Lights.

Big nature and moose is what Janey is after in Canada

But right at the other side, there’s Nova Scotia; the colourful houses of Lunenberg, the Cabot Trail with 185 miles of staggering coastal variations, and Burntcoat Head Park, famed for the world’s highest tides. There’s also Moon Mist, a grape, banana and bubble-gum ice cream that’s so dreamy, the locals dye their hair to replicate its unicorn pastel tints.

Wherever I go, I hope I see a moose. Ungainly, resilient and Zen-like, the muscly moose can dive 16ft under water and trek through snow 3ft deep. I’d gawp at Mr Moose in wonder while chowing down on split pea soup and butter tarts, washed down with boozy butterscotch moose milk, and the whole of this big, beautiful nature would be my bud.

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Ruth Hayes, gardening editor

The first destination I will visit is the place where I would have, SHOULD HAVE, been on holiday right this minute, if Coronavirus hadn’t got its pesky claws into normal life.

Orgiva is a little town in Andalusia, halfway between Granada and the coast. We discovered it 25 years ago trawling through The Independent small ads looking for a self-catering cottage. This was, coincidentally, around the time Chris Stewart made the town famous in the fabulous Driving Over Lemons, but luckily that hasn’t caused an influx of ghastly ex-pats (he is still there however, and frankly, who can blame him?).

The Andalusian town of Orgiva is Ruth’s home-from-home

Nestled in the spectacular valley of the River Guadalfeo in the foothills of the Alpujarras mountains, it is a simple working town, not a beautified tourist-trap whitewashed village.

Having found it, we inexplicably waited for 20 years to return, but for the past three we have been falling increasingly under Orgiva’s spell.

Its draw is hard to distil, but for this pair of middle-aged hippies it’s perfect. The walking is spectacular, the nature and plantlife a never-ending gift, the market an explosion of noise and smells and, as we discovered the hard way, best not attempted after few over-generous brandies at a locals’ taverna the night before.

Then there’s the legendary hospitality, the drinks are cheap and the tapas that accompanies them astounding – garlic prawns, meatball, quails eggs, all generously provided at no extra charge (perfect fuel for whiling away a few hours in a friendly bar with a book). And nothing beats a long, lazy Sunday lunch in your favourite restaurant watching Spanish family life unfolding around you.

We will be back next year.

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Lesley Upton, features editor

The first place I would book to go on holiday after lockdown is New York. I have wanted to visit this city for years, but have had to postpone it because of work, family commitments and unexpected events.

I don’t think I’ll be visiting New York any time soon, though, as the city is still undergoing phased reopening. I also don’t fancy travelling by plane in the immediate future.

Lesley would like to go to New York to be a typical tourist and pay her respects to the victims of 9/11

But this won’t last forever. When we can travel again, I would like to visit the usual tourist spots of the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Staten Island Ferry and Grand Central Station.

I would also like to take a helicopter trip over the city – even though I hate flying! Somehow, a helicopter seems ‘safer’ than a plane. I don’t know why I believe that, but it works for me.

I still can’t work out why I want to visit New York because I hate cities! I love the countryside, but for some reason I feel drawn to New York. I even love the accent, even though it can grate after a while.

Another place I would like to visit is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I remember watching the events unfold live on television – on the day I was due to fly out to Crete to go on holiday. We did fly out eventually, but it wasn’t the best of flights.

And while we were in Crete I remember seeing an image known as The Falling Man, taken by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew. I will never, ever, forget that photo. And maybe that’s why I need to visit New York – to pay my respects.

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Kathryn Wilson, features co-ordinator

Let’s face it, the past three months have been difficult, and we are all in need of a holiday right now. But as lockdown eases while the future still remains so uncertain, the thought of spending hours on a plane – possibly wearing a face mask – is of limited appeal.

Kathryn wants to be as laid back as this leopard when she goes to Port Lympne Safari Park in Kent

So, this summer I’m hoping to revisit somewhere that feels exotic, yet is within easy reach of home: namely, Port Lympne Safari Park in Kent. We went there two years ago when the weather was just as glorious as it is at the moment, for an overnight experience that involved camping out within the African animal enclosure, and the opportunity to learn about and feed the resident giraffes.

It was something I’ll never forget – even though the shower gel in the en suite of our luxury tent was so hot it burnt your hands! – and I would love to go back.

With some 600 acres to explore, social distancing shouldn’t be a problem, and waking up to the sight of zebras and rhinos gathered at the water hole just beyond your balcony is truly magical.

Like all charities, the park has been struggling due to its enforced closure earlier this year. And knowing that, this time around, my visit really will be helping to feed the giraffes will make it all the more special.

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Keep on gardening!

One of the great things about lockdown was that more people discovered the joy of gardening and growing things and we greatly hope that this won’t wear off now that a sort of ‘normal’ life has resumed.

This blog is an insight into what the AG team is up in their gardens when they’re not working on the mag, what we grow, what we pick and harvest, what’s worked for us and what hasn’t – because like everyone, things most certainly go wrong for us too!

Team AG will be showing you what they are up to in their gardens and allotment

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer within 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: amateurgardening@futurenet.com

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We already have a thriving Facebook page but are also on Twitter and Instagram. These sites are a brilliant way of chatting to people, sharing news, information, pictures and just saying hello –we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.

You can find us at:

Facebook: Facebook.com/AmateurGardeningMagazine

Twitter: Twitter.com/TheAGTeam

Instagram: instagram.com/amgardening_mag

So please drop by, follow us, ‘like’our posts and say hello –we will reply as soon as we can. Happy gardening!