Discovering Bluebird Tea Co

Us Brits love tea, and in my opinion there’s really nothing better than waking up and enjoying a good strong mug of builders brew. When it comes to a cuppa, I admit that I am usually not very adventurous, and mainly stick to buying big name brands of black tea bags – although I have definitely got into drinking green tea recently. So when I heard* that Bluebird Tea Co, the self described “tea mixologists” were due to open a branch in Bristol, I was intrigued to find out more and eager to discover some new flavours – read on to see what I thought.

Shop on Park Street

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Originally founded in Brighton in late 2014, Bluebird’s Bristol branch is its third opening (following Royal Tunbridge Wells in October 2015). Located near the top of Park Street (in premises that used to be a book shop), their shop features their famous tea wall, and tea enthusiasts can pick up a whole range of tea related goods as well – from accessories to gift sets.

As I walked in, I was approached by a friendly Tea Mixologist called Becky who offered to give me the low down on the store and everything that Bluebird sell. I was told that Bluebird are really passionate about creating unique tea blends (they sell over 80 of them), which involves mixing tea with blending ingredients such as herbs, flowers, fruits, caramel and chocolate to create a range of flavours – I hadn’t realised that tea could be so exciting before!

Matcha Tea

One of the most popular teas  that Bluebird sells is matcha tea. If you’re new to this super green tea (like I was), then let me fill you in.

Popular in Japan, matcha tea is one of the latest health crazes to reach the UK. According to Bluebird, this green powder (made from ground green tea leaves) has 10x the benefits of regular green tea and 3x the energy boost of an espresso. Not only can it can it completely destroy a hangover, but it can help with slimming and detoxing too – I was sold!

To make matcha tea, here’s what you need to do:

1. Put 1 teaspoon of matcha powder in a cup

2. Add 50ml of water that has boiled and cooled down slightly (around 80 degrees) – it’s important not to add boiling water or the powder will burn and the tea will taste bitter

3. Then mix in a W shape, using either an aerated frother whisk (as used by Bluebird in the picture above)/an electric whisk, a regular kitchen whisk or fork. Whisk well to get rid of all lumps!

4. Once you have a liquid paste, fill up your cup with more 80 degree water, stirring as you go.

5. Enjoy!

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After watching a demonstration, I was eager to taste matcha tea for myself so I decided to buy a Homemade Matcha Lemonade for £3.25 from the in store drinks menu – it was delicious! I also bought a pot of Lemon Matcha so that I could try and make a cup myself at home. At the Bluebird store they sell seven different flavours including Orange and the impressive sounding Super Matcha, so there is guaranteed to be one to suit every taste! I also noticed that they sell matcha starter kits from £35 which contains a tin of matcha powder and all the accessories you’ll need to create the perfect drink – ideal for beginners like me!

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Enjoying tea at home

For Summer 2016, Bluebird have launched a range of brand new flavours, all of which should be popular with sweet-treat fans like me – think Red Velvet and Jelly + Ice Cream. All of the teas are of the loose variety, and require a tea infuser in order to brew them. Having relied on tea bags previously, I needed to buy an infuser in order to enjoy the teas at home, but luckily Bluebird had a range available to buy in store – I picked up an in-cup infuser basket for £6.95.

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My highlights of the 2016 Summer collection are the delicious sounding Sangria (a blend of apple, orange, coconut, pineapple and lime – alcohol is optional!) and Strawberry Split (green tea, freeze dried strawberries and sugar sprinkles). To make a cuppa, I simply had to place the infuser in a mug, add a teaspoon of tea, fill with hot water and leave to brew for between three and four minutes.

While drinking the Sangria flavour, I literally could have closed my eyes and imagined I was sitting at a bar in Spain – it tasted just like my favourite holiday cocktail.

The Strawberry Split flavour was fresh tasting, sweet and really fruity – I think it would taste extra delicious making it in advance, chilling in your fridge and drinking it cold.

I really enjoyed my experience of visiting Bluebird Tea Co on Park Street and then trying some of their delicious teas at home. If you are a tea fan and fancy trying something different than your usual cup of PG Tips, their products come highly recommended by me, and I’ll definitely be back to buy some more matcha tea soon!

Have you been to Bluebird Tea Co before? What did you think? Comment below and let me know!

*Although I was sent some tea from Bluebird Tea Co for the purpose of a review, the words, thoughts and opinions stated here are all my own.

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Review: Everyman Bristol

On Sunday night I took a trip to Whiteladies Road to visit the newly opened Everyman Bristol cinema. Formerly the ABC cinema, the site has been derelict for some 15 years and despite failed attempts to turn it into flats and a health club, the building has now been restored to its formerly glory – read on to see what I thought!

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My friend and I decided to see “Me Before You”, the adaptation of the novel by Jojo Moyes that we had eagerly been awaiting the release of – we were expecting it to be a proper girly tear jerker of a film. Armed with tissues, we made our way inside the cinema, through the doors into an impressive art deco foyer area that had a definite old-school feel to it.

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We approached the ticket desk (which as you can see is a lot smaller than those found at bigger chains) and bought tickets for the 8:40pm showing. At £13 for each ticket, it was certainly more expensive than going to Vue at Cribbs Causeway or Showcase Cinema de Lux in Cabot Circus, but I was hopeful that the experience of visiting a boutique cinema would justify the more expensive price point.

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With tickets in hand, we made our way towards the bar area and I was impressed at how cool the decor was – this is definitely a cinema with a difference!

When we got to the bar I was keen to browse the menu, which definitely had a more upmarket offering than just the usual popcorn and pick n mix – when have you ever eaten an Antipasti Platter at the cinema before?!

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Unfortunately I hadn’t long eaten and so I just decided to go for a small popcorn and diet coke on this occasion, whilst my friend opted for a pretty immense sounding Oreo Milkshake, which we were told would be brought over to her after we had taken our seats – again, making the experience slightly more special and personable.

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With goodies in hand we made our way towards Screen 3 – one of the three screens that the cinema has. We were shown to our seats by a member of staff, and when I saw what we would be sitting on, I couldn’t wait to get comfy!

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I know you can pay extra to sit on “premium seats” at cinemas like Vue, but I personally have never sat on what I would consider to be a sofa with cushions before at a cinema – I thought it was pretty cool!

Soon after we had sat down, a member of staff brought my friend her milkshake and it was time to get comfortable, snuggle down and wait for the film to start…

Nearly two and a half hours later, the lights came up and with our eyes slightly redder from shedding a tear or two, it was time to head home.

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So what did I think of my first visit to Everyman Bristol? Although the evening wasn’t a cheap one (it cost almost £20 for my ticket, popcorn and a diet coke), I can definitely say that I enjoyed the experience. It was nice to visit a more intimate cinema, and I really liked the laid back atmosphere – I will definitely leave enough time to have a drink at the bar next time!

Have you been to Everyman Bristol yet? I’d love to know what you thought! Let me know by leaving a comment below.

 

Review: The Square Kitchen

Sometimes it’s nice to push the boat out and go for a fancy dinner, which is exactly what I decided to do on Tuesday night when I visited The Square Club in Bristol*.

 

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Located in a regency building in Berkeley Square just off Park Street, this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hotel/private members club/restaurant (called The Square Kitchen) was opened in 1999 and is part of Quarter’s range of establishments within the city, which also includes Racks Bar & Kitchen and No4 Clifton Village.

The Square Kitchen prides itself on the quality of ingredients, the majority of which are sourced locally – for example the meat is from Ruby and White on Whiteladies Road. I had heard good things about the food here, and was looking forward to my experience and trying their new Spring menu for myself – read on to see what I thought.

Arrival

As I walked into The Square Club I was struck by how modern the decor was, which was quite unexpected given the location – I was anticipating it to be more formal and traditional, but I loved these vibrant sofas and wall prints.

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We were greeted by a friendly female server, who showed us through to the spacious dining room, which featured long wooden tables and more colourful prints on the walls. Our table was located by a window, with views of the green and leafy square outside, and were left to study the menu. There was certainly plenty to choose from – all of the dishes sounded amazing, it was going to be very hard to pick what to order! A few minutes later our server returned and took our drinks order – a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for me (which I was told was a good choice), and a pint of Stella Artois for my guest.

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Starters

I decided to go for chicken mousse with parmesan panna cotta for my starter – not something I have ever seen on a menu before, and I was intrigued. My guest chose the pork belly,  which was locally sourced from Wiltshire. When the dishes arrived, we couldn’t believe how beautiful they looked – the presentation was excellent:

I particularly liked the chestnut mushrooms and pea puree garnish that was part of my starter, and the chicken mousse was light, fluffy and really tasty, but perhaps a little salty for my palate (I definitely couldn’t have eaten a larger portion). My guest was really impressed with his pork belly, saying it was perfectly cooked, full of flavour, with a good amount of crispy crackling on top – the meal was off to a good start!

Mains

I decided to order something a bit different for my main. As you’ll know from previous blog posts, I am rather partial to a steak and despite being tempted by the sound of the Devon Red 8oz  rib-eye steak, I opted for the Gressingham duck with pan-fried duck liver (which I was a little apprehensive about, not really being a fan of offal), duck supreme croquette, creamed leeks and baby fennel. Well I was so glad that I did!

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The duck was moist and flavoursome, and the citrus jus it was served with really added an extra special element to the dish.  I loved the croquettes and I thought the creamed leeks worked well too as they cut through the richness of the dish, adding a slightly sweet element. Although I tried the pan-fried duck liver, it wasn’t to my taste and was the only element that I left on my plate.

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My guest ordered the Upper Wraxall lamb both ways (herb crusted rump and braised breast), with pommes mouselline (a type of fancy pureed potato mash), baby carrot and asparagus. He said the lamb was cooked perfectly, full of flavour, and was of a good portion size too. Our server recommended that we should order another side dish to accompany our meals, so we also decided to go for the savoy cabbage and pancetta to share –  it was a great combination of flavours that we thought worked really well with both our dishes.

Desserts

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Although we were both feeling full, there was no way we could refuse checking out the dessert menu, given the excellent quality of our first two courses. After considering the options for a few minutes, I chose the chocolate fondant with salt caramel, hazelnut praline and peanut butter ice cream. Well it was simply amazing! A combination of all of my favourite things. The chocolate fondant offered a perfectly molten middle, the salt caramel sauce was totally to die for and the peanut butter ice cream provided a extra sweetness to the dish – not something I thought would work well given the richness of the other elements, but I was really impressed . My guest chose the deconstructed tiramisu, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He thought it was an interesting way of presenting a classic dessert, with all of the elements coming together well – more clean plates all round!

Overall I really enjoyed my visit to The Square Kitchen. The quality of the food, drink and service from our server were all excellent – definitely the type of offering I would expect to find in a Michelin starred restaurant, but at a much lower price point.

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The presentation and care that was taken over the food was superb, and if I had to make any other observations about the meal it would be that as we visited on a slightly quiet Tuesday evening, there was a certain lack of atmosphere in the restaurant. Although it was nice that our meal felt quite relaxed, I did miss that certain background buzz and atmosphere that I feel adds to a dining experience – I’d love to visit on a Friday or Saturday night to see if there is any difference! That said, I definitely think The Square Kitchen would be the perfect place for a meal on a special occasion, and I shall definitely be returning.

Have you visited The Square Kitchen before? I’d love to know what you thought! Let me know by commenting below.

*Although I was invited to visit The Square Kitchen for the purpose of a review, the words, thoughts and opinions stated here are all my own.

Review: Gin Festival

On Friday night I went along* to the first night of Gin Festival, which was taking over Bristol’s Paintworks for three days of gin-filled fun.When it comes to spirits, gin isn’t something I have really tried before (I definitely consider myself a bit of a novice!), but I was interested to discover what all the fuss is about so called “Mother’s Ruin”.

Gin Festival was started in 2012 by husband and wife team Jym and Marie Harris. Run all over the country, with the idea of showcasing the very best in juniper-based spirits, Gin Festival is described as the original, biggest and best gin festival in the UK – not much to live up to then!

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I’ve not been to a drinks festival before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, although I thought there would certainly be the chance to enjoy a sample or two. When my two friends and I arrived at the venue, we were each given a rather lovely branded copa glass (which I was informed we would need to use for all of our drinks during the evening), and a guide that detailed all of the gins available to buy on the bars, as well as the companies behind them. We were also told that we would need to buy “tokens” to use at all of the bars (priced at £5 each), and that there would be several masterclass sessions run by some of the gin producers that were present.

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Needless to say, we were excited to get tasting some of the gins on offer!

Pinkster

The first gin I tried was Pinkster – the bright pink colour of it caught my eye straight away. Produced in Cambridge using fresh raspberries, Pinkster is a dry gin that has a soft fruity flavour and is also gluten free too! The sample was delicious, it was really smooth and easy to drink, which was perfect for a gin-newbie like me.

Brockmans

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Another gin I hadn’t heard of before was Brockmans from Birmingham, so I decided to sample their wares next. Another fruity gin, this time created with the use of blackberries and blueberries, I loved its sweetness and I also thought the design of their bottle was pretty cool too. The sample I was given was mixed with lemon, which tasted amazing!

The Bars

After enjoying the tasters I made my way to one of the bars, where I decided to order a Brockmans G&T, as I had particularly enjoyed their sample. The process involved informing the bar staff which gin took your fancy and handing over your token for them to take as “payment”. You were then served the gin of choice in your copa glass, along with garnishes including raspberries, blueberries, lemon and orange slices and mint leaves. You then simply topped up your glass with as much (or as little…) Fever-Tree Tonic as you liked, with both original and light varieties available.

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The perfect G&T, don’t you think?

Masterclass

After enjoying my first G&T, it was time for a masterclass. I went along to the 8:30pm session with Masons, a gin producer based in Yorkshire. Here, a lovely lady called Sophie talked about the history of gin, how Masons started and we were then offered even more samples to try – the Tea Edition (distilled with Yorkshire Tea, what else) certainly got a thumbs up from me!

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My favourite gin that I tried during the evening was definitely Brockmans – I loved the taste and could totally imagine drinking a glass on a hot, sunny day. I’ll certainly be buying a bottle to enjoy at home.

Before visiting Gin Festival I was only aware of big name brands such as Gordon’s and Hendrick’s, and was surprised to see how many different varieties and flavours there were during the evening. For a newbie like myself, I found that the guide book was really helpful in finding out how to create the perfect G&T too (FYI a shot or two of gin, lots of ice, 3/4 quality tonic and a garnish, all served in a stemmed glass to keep it cold – delicious!)

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I can safely say that I really enjoyed my evening at Gin Festival. It was a well run event with a good atmosphere. I also loved the photo booth, food and music that they had there too! I am happy to report that I am now definitely a fan of gin and I look forward to enjoying another G&T very soon!

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Cheers!

Have you been to one of the Gin Festivals before, or did you go along to the one at the Paintworks over the weekend too? I’d love to know what you thought – let me know by commenting below.

*Although I was invited to visit Gin Festival for the purpose of a review, the words, thoughts and opinions stated here are all my own.

Visit to Bristol Night Market

As you’ll know from reading my previous blog post, I’m a big fan of Bristol’s St Nicks Market. For those that aren’t familiar, this undercover market is located in the city centre and it’s the go-to place for a tasty lunchtime treat, a unique gift or simply an awesome Bristolian-themed t-shirt.

I’ve visited St Nicks Market many times during the day, but never at night – until I found out about Bristol Night Market that is.

Taking place on the first Friday of every month over the summer (apart from August), the Bristol Night Market sees St Nicks transformed to make the most of the lighter evenings between 6:30pm to 10pm. Think entertainment, live music, late night shopping, and most importantly plenty of extra food stalls – I was instantly sold.

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Last Friday night I decided to go along and experience Bristol Night Market for myself. With my stomach rumbling, I started to browse the street food stalls that were located on Corn Street – there were almost too many yummy places to choose from:

Despite the fact that it was a sunny evening and it felt like summer was just around the corner, I decided to opt for some proper comfort food – a pie.

Bath-based Lovett Pies were started in 2011. They sell a range of award-winning gourmet pies that come in several tempting flavours such as Beef, Bellringer Ale and Blue Cheese, and Truffled Mushroom, Butter Bean and Swiss Chard. For £6 you could choose a pie, bubble and squeak, minted mushy peas and bacon bits, all topped off with the obligatory gravy – it sounded too good to resist! I decided to go for the Sweet Potato, Goats Cheese, Squash, Spinach and Plum Chutney pie and my boyfriend went for the Chicken, Gammon, Leek and Thyme. Our meals were served in a box and with knife and forks in hand, we went and found a step so we could sit and savour every last bite.

Feeling full and satisfied, after we’d eaten we continued to make our way through the indoor market, stopping to buy a pint of Thatchers Gold as we went.

After spending some time browsing, I had a craving for something sweet, so we headed back outside to Corn Street to visit The Big O Donut Co – their donuts all looked far too tempting to resist!

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This Bristol-based company make a range of delicious Polish donuts in lots of amazing flavours, all made using local ingredients (they also make their fillings from scratch too). I chose a Rhubarb Fool donut and my boyfriend went for the zesty sounding Lemon Curd Cream – needless to say once we’d bought them they didn’t last long.

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I really enjoyed my visit to the Bristol Night Market and will certainly return for the next one – it’s a great way to start your weekend in my opinion.

Have you been to Bristol Night Market too? I’d love to know what you thought!

Review: The Bristol Flyer

If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Bristol’s Gloucester Road and all of the shops, restaurants and pubs that it has to offer.

Speaking of pubs, one of its landmarks has always been The Flyer – or The Bristol Flyer as it is more traditionally known – which is situated on the Bishopston/St Andrew’s section of the road. The pub has recently re-opened after being renovated, complete with a brand new menu and needless to say I was eager to go and try it out for myself.*

I visited on a Thursday evening and on arrival at 7.30pm the bar area was already fairly full of people who wanted to get into the weekend spirit a day early. I could also immediately see that the redecoration of the pub included some new sofas and leather chairs, which looked very comfy!

My guest and I were shown to a booth near the back of the dining area by a friendly waitress who looked after us for the remainder of the evening.

 

To start we were asked if we’d like to order some drinks (we opted for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to share) and were then left to peruse the menu – there was certainly a lot of choice!

The new menu is described as featuring “seasonal ingredients and all-time pub favourites” – think classic dishes such as steak, burgers and sausage and mash, all with a slightly unexpected twist that is not often found on a typical pub menu. For example, the steak is a 21 day aged sirloin, one of the beef burgers is topped with brisket and the sausages are pork, leek AND Welsh rarebit – a combination that I haven’t come across before. Everything sounded really delicious and it was almost too difficult to decide what to order – however the steak sounded too good for me to resist (£13.75), and my guest opted for the burger with the brisket (£12.75). To accompany our mains, we also ordered some obligatory onion rings (£2.50) and the tempting truffle mac and cheese bites (£3.50) – as you’ll know from my previous blog post, I can’t resist deep-fried pasta!

We didn’t have to wait long for our mains to arrive, and when they did I couldn’t wait to start eating.

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My steak was served with a bearnaise sauce on the side, cheddar onion slice, watercress and parmesan salad and lots of crispy fries. I’d asked for the steak to be cooked medium, and it was perfect!

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The onion rings were crispy and sweet, and the mac and cheese bites were just as good as I hoped they would be, with the truffle sauce adding an extra tasty element to the dish.

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My guest’s burger was topped with brisket and cheese, and was served in a brioche bun with crispy fries on the side. I was informed by my guest that the burger was juicy, well seasoned and the brisket topping was really tender – thumbs up all round!

After we’d finished, our plates were quickly cleared by our server and we were asked whether we’d like to order dessert. I’d already spied the carrot cake and orange cheesecake  (£5.25) when I’d been browsing the menu earlier in the evening, and despite feeling quite full, there was no way I could resist a combination of carrot cake AND cheesecake! My guest decided to order the equally delicious sounding salted caramel profiteroles with salted caramel ice cream (£5.25) – I couldn’t wait to sneak a taste!.

My dessert was amazing, and I was very pleased with my choice – the carrot cake was moist, and the thick layer of cheesecake frosting was creamy and rich – it was to die for! My guest was equally as impressed with the profiteroles too, saying how great they tasted – it was a great way to end our meal.

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All in all I was really impressed with the revamped Bristol Flyer – the pub has a really relaxed feel to it, and I think it would be the perfect place to grab a pint after work with friends, or have a lazy Saturday brunch. All of the staff that I encountered were friendly and seemed genuinely passionate about the pub’s new offering. The menu is great too, and the prices definitely match the quality of the food – I can’t wait to visit again in the summer and enjoy a jug of Pimms in their very own pub garden.

Have you visited The Bristol Flyer recently? I’d love to hear about it!

*Although I was invited to visit The Bristol Flyer for dinner for the purpose of review, the words, thoughts and opinions stated here are all my own.

Bath in Fashion 2016

This week it’s Bath in Fashion 2016 – an annual event where the city’s fashionistas get together for a host of catwalk shows, fashion related talks and a general celebration of everything from the high street to high-end couture.

Bath’s always had a reputation of being a fashionable place, somewhere to see and be seen – and today you only have to walk down one of its many retail-lined streets to see it for yourself. One of the city’s main attractions is its Fashion Museum, which opened in 1963. It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for ages (as it combines my interests in history and clothes), so in celebration of the city’s most fashionable week, I finally went for the first time on Tuesday.

Located in The Assembly Rooms, the Fashion Museum is currently hosting an exhibition called ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’. Here, it’s showcasing a collection of 100 star pieces, ranging from as far back as the time of Shakespeare, through to modern day. Here are some items that caught my eye during my wander round:

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After wandering round the museum for an hour or so and stopping for a bite to eat at Jamie’s Italian, I went along to Bath’s Big Clothes Swap at 6pm. If you’ve ever wondered what a clothes swap or “swish” is, then you’ve certainly come to the right place – read on and let me fill you in.

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To explain it simply, a swish is an event where you take along some items of clothing that you don’t wear any more – or maybe have never worn  – and swap them for something you will!

It might surprise you to learn that on average 30% of clothes in our wardrobe haven’t been worn in the last year, and going along to a swish is a great way to pass these unloved items on to someone else, and do your bit for the environment too.

I’ve been to several swishes over the years, and have even organised two of my own. It’s a great way to get some new items for your wardrobe, and quite often you can find things which have practically never been worn – lots of items still have tags on too.

Most swishes have rules about how many items you can take to swap, and the system for awarding any points, or how you work out how many items you can take away with you in return. Some do this based on the brand of the clothing, and others just do a straight “1 for 1” system, as was the process at this swish. After joining the queue and “checking in” my items, I collected 12 tickets in return and was also offered a complimentary glass of prosecco – well it would have been rude to say no!

Whilst everyone waited for the clothing to be hung on rails and for the swish to open, we were given an interesting presentation by Bristol Textile Recyclers (BTR), an organisation that helps charities with the recycling of unwanted textiles. One statistic that stood out to me was that every day BTR help to divert 20 tonnes of textiles from landfill. Instead, items that are suitable to be re-used are either re-sold in the UK, Eastern Europe, Central Africa or South Asia, giving many people access to good quality and affordable clothing and footwear. Where items are not suitable for re-use, they are then recycled into cleaning cloth or into energy from waste – clever eh?

I also enjoyed seeing Helen Brown from Kecks Clothing in Bristol demonstrate how to “upcycle” a t-shirt by turning it into a tote bag – one that can apparently hold six bottles of wine! It looked incredibly easy to make too. To start, you cut off the neck and sleeves, turn the t-shirt inside out and then cut slits into the bottom. Finally, you tie the slits into knots and turn the t-shirt back round the right way, and there you have it! If you fancy having a go yourself, here’s a guide with some photos.

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Finally at 7pm the swish was declared open, and everyone made their way inside, eager to see what items awaited.

After perusing the rails, I picked up five items to bring home with me (after handing in five of my tickets of course) – I think these are perfect additions to my spring/summer wardrobe:

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From L to R: Navy blue dress from H&M, black and white skirt from Matalan, black and pink skirt from Boohoo.com, denim shorts from Dorothy Perkins and light denim shirt from New Look.

If you’ve never been to a swish before, you can see whether there are any events taking place near you by clicking here. And if you fancy organising one yourself (and believe me, it’s great fun!) then here are some tips to get you started.

Have you ever been to a swish before? What items did you find? I’d love to know!