Family cycling trails in the UK: readers’ tips

What better way to explore the UK than on a bike ride? From Morecambe Bay to the Mendips, here are our readers’ favourite family cycle trails

TripAdvisor crowns Bournemouth the UK’s best beach

The south coast town’s golden sands have been ranked as the best in the country in TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice awards – and the fifth-best in Europe

SS Great Britain

Once on board I took a moment to look along the length of the vessel and the first impressions I had were of strength, solidity, and safety. The ship is dressed with flags and is ready for departure. SS Great Britain was originally provided with one square-rigged and five schooner-rigged iron masts. They were fastened to the spar deck with iron joints and most were hinged to allow lowering during strong headwinds. On this main deck pigs and chickens were kept to provide fresh meat and fresh eggs.

SS Great Britain had four decks, a crew of 120, and was initially fitted to accommodate a total of 360 passengers, along with 1,200 tons of cargo and 1,200 tons of coal. She was used for special trips, for example to take soldiers and horses to The Crimean War and this situation is faithfully reproduced on the bottom deck of the ship. The steerage accommodation shows how close people lived to each for months at a time on voyages to Australia and the claustrophobia was almost tangible. The first-class passengers had their own beautifully laid out state dining room with candelabras, china plates, and waiters. Other areas show surgery being performed, the cramped kitchen quarters where the meals were produced, and the officer’s quarters.

The Pipe Cleaner Festival of Kirby Muxloe – one of the 40 Humourous British Traditions

Throughout the centuries the hobby of smoking a pipe has steadily declined. However, the usage for pipe cleaners has increased, largely because of the Kirby Muxloe Pipe Cleaner Festival.

A Pipe Cleaner is a strong metal wire covered in some material such as cotton, which can be easily bent into shapes or used to make sculptures.

At Kirby Muxloe this art form reaches its zenith on the 111th day of the year, which is almost always April 21st apart from in leap years. There are many different categories of pipe cleaner art. Competitors are allowed to colour their pipe cleaners before they begin their sculpture, but can’t change those colours once the sculpture is complete.

The animal art is the most popular class. Walruses and elephants tend to be the most popular exhibits with their tusks as do giraffes with their long necks. The different sections are based on the number of pipe cleaners used. The 100-pipe cleaner section tends to produce smaller animals such as snails and cats, though Jeff Graham’s “Very Bony Elephant” sculpture of 1983 was memorable for many reasons. The unlimited pipe cleaner class tends not to have too many entries, though Sara Smith’s 1972 Blue Whale was chiefly memorable because it made the exhibition stand collapse under its weight. It was awarded the most life-like sculpture prize, though the money that went with the prize was withheld to help pay for the damage.

The festival started in 1813 – the first competition was mainly sculptures of the human form. Sculptures by men that claimed to be self-portraits and had massive wedding tackle were disqualified unless the judge, Lady Bellingham, found evidence to the contrary. In 1820 her husband divorced her when she told him how she uncovered this evidence and also that none of their six children were his.