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How to write the perfect card | Thinking of you week

Posted by Joanne Wishart on

How to Write the Perfect Card

What better time to write about the beauty of writing and sending cards than during Thinking Of You Week? In an increasingly digital world, a good handwritten card goes a long way. With many of us spending a large part of the last 18 months away from our nearest and dearest, Thinking Of You weeks comes at a perfect time for anyone wanting to show their loved ones what they mean to them.

So, how do you write the perfect card? 

Choosing the card

First of all, you’ve got to pick the right card for your recipient. Do you have an inside joke? Or a special place that means a lot to both of you? Of course, as a North East artist, I’m a little biased about the perfect card. In both my online shop and my Cullercoats gallery, I stock a range of beautiful cards depicting prints of my favourite coastal spots and wildlife wonders across the North East and beyond. 

Passionate bird watchers will love the puffin cards, while this lovestruck seal card will strike a chord with your significant other. The region offers so much inspiration for cards. From the adorable to the poignant, I’ve got a card that will help you get your message across. Of course, all of my cards are blank inside, too, giving you plenty of space to write your personal thoughts.

 

Greetings-Cards-thinking-of-you-week-joanne-wishart

The right tool for the job

Once you’ve chosen the card, it’s time to think about writing instruments. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing the nearest biro and scribbling away to your heart’s content, but if you want to take things up a notch, I recommend thinking carefully about which pen you pick. A fineliner or gel pen is often a good choice if you want something simple and elegant, or you can invest in a fountain pen if you’re keen to add an extra flair to your writing. 

Don’t forget about the envelope. Why not pick up a cheap brush pen and learn to write your recipient’s name in calligraphy - there are plenty of simple tutorials on YouTube, or join a workshop by local calligraphist Creative Calligraphy. Your loved one will be wow-ed by your creativity and attention to detail. 

Finding the words

This is probably the most challenging part of writing any card. Whether you’re a man (or woman) of few words, or you could talk forever, finding the exact words to represent your feelings is never easy. So to keep your card neat and tidy, why not write out your message or poem on a scrap piece of paper or in your phone notes app first? This’ll give you an idea about how much space you need and whether you need to write on both sides of the card. 

Whatever you write, as long as it comes from the heart, it’ll mean something to your special someone. So, don’t worry and just write what feels right to you. 

Signed, sealed, delivered

If you choose to post your card, ask at your post office about Special Stamp Issues. Often, they will have a wide variety of stamps reflecting British culture and history, so you will definitely find something that will stand out to your recipient. Of course, the most important part of any card is what you write in it, but adding special flairs like calligraphy or a limited edition stamp will take it to the next level, creating something your loved one will cherish forever.

Want to tell someone what they mean to you? Enter our competition on Facebook/Instagram to be in with a chance of winning three packs of my cards.

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Holidaying in Cullercoats | Joanne Wishart

Posted by Joanne Wishart on

Holidaying in Cullercoats

The little town of Cullercoats has a storied history as a seaside destination. From its fishing heritage to its sheltered bay, Cullercoats has been a family favourite holiday spot for generations. 


During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were all reminded of the value of holidaying at home. As international travel ground to a halt, we were encouraged to boost the economy and visit the UK’s best destinations. I was no exception to this, staying safe in my treasured Cullercoats.  


As a business owner in this cosy town, I have to tell you that Cullercoats is something truly special. Even if you live near here, taking a week off work and spending your ‘holiday’ at home is a wonderful idea - giving you time to appreciate the cliffs, coast and culture of Cullercoats. 


Cullercoats for visitors

 

If you’re reading this as someone from outside the region, you may not have heard of Cullercoats as it is often overlooked by Tynemouth, Whitley Bay and Northumberland. However, our little town has one of the most amazing sheltered bays in the country for water-based activities such as paddle boarding and sea swimming. Cullercoats also boasts a thriving cultural scene that presents opportunities for dining, shopping and leisure. 


Nestled between Whitley Bay and Tynemouth and within easy walking distance of both, Cullercoats is also a great ‘base’ location to explore North Tyneside’s award-winning coastline. 

Activities in Cullercoats

If you’re heading to Cullercoats for a day out in the North East or coming from further afield for a holiday, there are loads of great activities to keep you busy in our small town. 


Sea swimming and active sports


First and foremost, Cullercoats Bay is a summer bay with few rivals. Sheltered on both sides by two piers, it is a great place to take a dip in the North Sea if you can stand the chillier water temperatures. In addition, the bay itself is a boat launch for both the RNLI and recreational watercraft, so you’ll get to spot lots of boats heading out to sea. 


For watersport lovers, there’s plenty of choice. If you want to try paddleboarding or kayaking, you can experience both with rentals and activities to book right here in Cullercoats with CBK Adventure company - or you can, of course, bring your own and try it out in the gentle bay. 

CBK Kayaking in Cullerrcoats Bay North East Watersports

Cycle rentals are also available in Cullercoats, making it a great starting point for exploring the North East coast. With cycle paths through to both Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, you’ll be spoiled for choice. You could also cycle into Newcastle City Centre if you’re feeling fit - the NCN route 72 stretches from Tynemouth to Newcastle and passes by Segedunum Roman Fort, Royal Quays Outlet and Albert Dock Marine. 


Nature

Nature lovers will love a stroll down to Whitley Bay’s St Mary’s Lighthouse to spot grey seals lounging in their natural habitat. By staying in Cullercoats instead of Whitley itself, you’ll avoid the crowds and up your healthy habits by enjoying the six-mile round trip. 


Heritage and Art

Cullercoats has a rich history that will appeal to fans of British culture. We have the 1848 RNLI lifeboat station, Cliff House, Smuggler’s Caves and Faeries Caves all right on our doorstep. 


Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention my own gallery on St George’s Road here. Why not pop along for a visit and see all of my art up-close? I love having guests visit the gallery and see my paintings. You can pick up a souvenir of your time in Cullercoats or just pick up other unique gifts inspired by Northumberland and the North East. 

Small business owners Ross and Joanne Wishart stand outside their  pale blue gallery shop front. The shop windows are displaying some colourful paintings.

Dining in Cullercoats

Cullercoats and the surrounding areas have undergone a real resurgence in terms of culture and eating out. We’ve got lots of new restaurants to enjoy, as well as old staples that everyone continues to adore. There’s something for everyone from traditional pub grub at The Queen’s Head to trendy bistro High Tide and traditional fish and chips at Bill’s Fish Bar.

 

Cullercoats Coffee has quickly won a (deserved) reputation as a great coffee house with quality whole-bean coffee and a small breakfast/lunch menu. The Boatyard nearby is also a good breakfast spot and is dog-friendly, so it may be preferred for those with furry friends. Fancy something sweet? Beaches and Cream serve up mouth-watering ice creams that’ll delight the whole family.

 

A greetings card featuring 3 delicious ice creams. one with a chocolate flake. One with a strawberry on top and one plain Mr Whippy swirl.

If you’re staying for a while, visit nearby Tynemouth for an ever-growing range of great grub - from the Buddha Lounge’s Asian dishes to the famous Riley’s Fish Shack, which sits on the sands of King Edward’s Bay. 

Bars & Nightlife in Cullercoats

Fancy a tipple during your visit? Cullercoats is a quieter area than its neighbours so you’ll have to take a short walk to find the livelier bars. The Queen’s Head is a traditional pub right on our shore and SaltHouse is a popular tapas and wine bar. While nearby Tynemouth and Whitley have some of the best drinking establishments in the region. 


Whitley Bay alone has something for everyone following its trend-conscious comeback from its days as a stag and hen area. For craft beer and ale drinkers, it boasts the CAMRA award-winning ale house, the Dog and Rabbit, and the popular Left Luggage Room located in Monkseaton metro station. For cocktails and spirits, head to the stylish Fox and Finch. 


Tynemouth’s front street has a swathe of bars. Traditional pubs, art bars, cocktail lounges and more are all waiting for you to explore just a short walk from Cullercoats itself. 

Holiday Homes in Cullercoats


As you can probably tell from this article, Cullercoats is a terrific location to base yourself for a holiday on the North East coast. Even if you’re local to the region, why not book a stay in Cullercoats itself for a few days of no-driving, no-work and no-stress exploration of an area we all often take for granted. 

Cullercoats Bay Holidays have a great selection of coastal properties with thoughtfully quirky interiors and welcome both you and your four legged friends for a stay at the seaside. 

Try Southcliff apartments for a stay right above the sea. It boasts traditional country-house stylings with one of the best views imaginable and is just a short walk from the gallery. Click here to learn more.


As you can tell, I’m passionate about my home. Cullercoats is such a fab location for those visiting the coast and is even better as a base from which to explore Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, but also to head further into Northumberland for day trips before retreating back to your quiet seaside holiday home. So, don’t forget to pick up a memento of your time here with one of my Limited Edition Prints.

 

A painting of Browns bay showing a cluster of brightly colour wildflowers in the forground with a row of Victorian terraced houses overlooking the sea.

 

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Your Guide to Exploring Bamburgh | Joanne Wishart

Posted by Joanne Wishart on

Your Guide to Exploring Bamburgh


Part of me is hesitant about writing this blog post, which is about one of my favourite spots on the Northumberland coastline. I’m almost inclined to keep it to myself as it's the idyllic peacefulness of Bamburgh that makes it so special. Don’t get me wrong, Bamburgh is a popular tourist destination for many, especially during 2021 as many families opt for staycations rather than travelling abroad. However, despite higher tourist numbers than other Northumberland spots, it’s still a relatively unknown treasure for people outside the region.

Bamburgh Castle with Yellow fields of oil seeed rape in the landscape. This is the view over the golf course from the North side. Colourul yellow gourse flowers pepper the foreground.

When we talk about Bamburgh, of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the incredible castle that overlooks the golden beach. Sitting atop a steep hill, Bamburgh Castle can be seen from anywhere on the beach. With foundations dating back to the Viking period and rich Medieval history, the castle underwent periods of restoration in the 18th and 19th centuries to become the grand sight we know it as today. 


But the castle isn’t the only fantastic thing about Bamburgh and the surrounding areas, within a short drive (or a long walk if you’re up for it!) you’ll find some more of my favourite spots, including Seahouses and Budle Bay. 

A view of Bamburgh Castle from a rocky shoreline with bright green seaweed on the shoreline.


Walks in Bamburgh and along the North East coast


If you’re like me and you enjoy getting your walking boots on and embarking on an adventure on foot, then you’re really spoilt for choice in and around Bamburgh. Other than the aforementioned hike from Budle Bay to Bamburgh, or the other way around, there are plenty of fantastic family-friendly walks in the area.

Artist Joanne Wishart stands infront of a view of Bamburgh Beach looking North towards Budle Bay.

 

Bamburgh is a dog-friendly beach all year round, so I highly recommend parking at the castle and walking along the sands to the ruins overlooking the beach about 3 miles round trip. If you fancy something a little longer, you could head all the way to Seahouses and refuel with a portion of the famous fish and chips from Lewis’s. Be aware, Bamburgh to Seahouses is a 7-mile round trip, so pack water (or a flask if it’s chilly) and take it easy.


If you fancy a little retail therapy while you’re in Seahouses, then you can find some of my prints and gifts for sale in Drift on Main Street. 


Wildlife in and around Bamburgh

 

Budle bay in Northumberland shows vast expanses of sand and wetlands of a tidal inlet. Clouds impose on the bold blue skyline.

Surrounding Bamburgh, you’ll find some lesser trodden paths, perfect for bird watching and wildlife spotting. Just over two miles north of Bamburgh, you’ll find Budle Bay. Part of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, this area is home to a wide variety of waders and waterfowl, including Grey Plover, Purple Sandpiper and a few different species of geese. 


In search of the perfect gift for a bird watcher in your life? Check out my flock of birds card collections


If you’re looking for a full-day trip, then why not visit the Farne Islands? With boat trips from Seahouses several times a day, a visit to the Farnes is easy and a great way to entertain all of your family or educate yourself on the beautiful natural wildlife in the region. Particularly exciting are the puffins and seals you’ll see plenty of on the trip. 

Longstone Lighthouse with it's distinctive red and white stripes is perched on the rocky Farne islands with a deep blue sea in the foreground.


Bamburgh art prints


Unless you’re one of the lucky few who live on the Northumberland coastline, then a souvenir is a great way to remember your special holiday. Don’t worry if you didn’t make it to Seahouses to purchase one of my Northumberland art prints, you can always shop online or even visit me in my Cullercoats gallery.  I stock a wide range of prints and original paintings, many of which depict Bamburgh, Budle Bay, puffins and other iconic features of the award-winning coastline. 


 

Bamburgh is one of my absolute places to paint. I recently finished a large 100cm square box canvas acrylic painting inspired by the view from the top of the golf course, so you can bring a slice of Northumberland’s award-winning coastline back home. 

A painting of Bamburgh Castle on and Easel in Joanne Wishart's art studio.

 

What’s your favourite thing about Bamburgh? Let me know over on Facebook or Instagram

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Art Gifts for Dad & Trips Out for Father’s Day

Posted by Joanne Wishart on

Father’s Day is fast approaching, so I thought this month would be the perfect time to discuss some of the wonderful things you can do with your dad in our beautiful region. From seaside days out (my personal favourite), to city explorations and day trips further afield, I’ve put together a list of lovely ways to spend Father’s Day.


So, whether you’re planning a day out with your dad or just want to get him a gift he’ll treasure, here are my top suggestions for things to do and buy for father’s day here in the North East…


Best for Nature-Loving Dads: Farne Island Trip

 

Thee black and white characterful puffins perched on a grassy clifftop over looking the sea.

About an hour’s drive from town sees you arrive at Seahouses - a beautiful coastal town that is worth a visit on its own. However, by purchasing tickets from the tour providers located by the marina, you can take your dad on a sightseeing trip to the Farne Islands. 


The wildlife has always enthralled me in the region, and you’ll see some of the best examples on the Farne islands - from cheeky Puffins to lounging seals. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, trips have been prevented from landing on Inner Farne - so you might not get the chance to wander along as the Puffin’s nest this year, but you can enjoy a wildlife spotting trip that tours the islands. 

Afterwards, why not head into one of Seahouses’ many famous eateries for some lunch or an evening meal. Lewis’ Fish Restaurant, in particular, is beloved for its traditional fish and chips. 

Best for Outdoorsy Dads: Coastal Path Walks

Northumberland’s coastal path isn’t as well known as more famous routes in other parts of the country - but it’s a spectacular way for families who love walking to experience the stunning Northumberland coastline. 

A print of Howick bathing house a traditional stone built cottage with tall chimney stacks at the end of a curved path. The house looks out to a teal green sea.

The coastal path stretches for 62 miles from Cresswell to Berwick-Upon-Tweed. Whether you decide to do it in chunks or and walk the whole thing, you’ll take in headlands, beaches, castles and villages. The official website even has a ‘passport’ you can stamp to commemorate the trip. This is a great bonding experience for you and your father, but you’ll have to be up for some rigorous walking if you’re taking on the entire 100km route! 


Best for Hospitality: Tynemouth

Want a more relaxed day out with dad? Head to Tynemouth and book yourself a table at one of the many eateries in the town. There’s something for everyone in Tynemouth, from traditional pub meals to Asian Fusion, Italian and Indian options. You can even eat on the beach with Riley’s Fish Shack down on King Edward’s Bay and The View on Longsands!  

A painted view of Tynemouth Longsands featuring St Georges church in the distance and surfers surfing on the beach.

Afterwards, take your dad for a tour of some of Tynemouth’s great bars, including The Head of Steam, Lola Jeans, Allards Lounge and more. So, it doesn’t matter if he’s into craft beers, cocktails or win; you’ll find options to suit him in Tynemouth’s bustling hospitality scene. 


Best for Shoppers: Quayside Market

 


If he’s from the region, your dad has already likely been to the Quayside market. Visiting the market, which has been around in some form since 1736, is a treasured memory for most Tynesiders - but many of you will find the market transformed compared to your dad’s memory of it. Now the market boasts a huge collection of vendors selling all sorts of great stuff: artisan craft products, local clothing, condiments and of course, a mouth-watering array of street food. 


And because the market takes place every Sunday, you can even make it a Father’s day trip since it’ll fall on Sunday the 20th in 2021. 


Best for Quiet Escapes: Northumberland Beaches

We’ve already mentioned Seahouses and the Coastal Path, but if the sun is shining and your dad isn’t into long walks, why not visit one of the quieter bays in Northumberland for some idyllic bonding time together. 


The picture below depicts a father and son wandering along the bay in Boulmer, a fishing village more commonly associated with the RAF base nearby. Boulmer is a good example of a place often overlooked by tourists that can be amazing in the summertime, thanks to its serenity and traditional fishing harbour. 

A father and son walking along Boulmer beach with a coble boat on the shore and a fishermans cottage looking out to sea.

Art Gifts for Dad

However, you choose to spend your day, celebrate your father with a lovely gift he’ll appreciate from my site or Cullercoats gallery. I’ve got limited edition prints for the art appreciators, Northumberland wildlife-based mugs for animal lovers and even tea towels for the dads who love to cook. All feature my own unique art and have been made with love here in the North East.


I wish you all a happy Father’s day and hope this article serves all children well for future inspiration for trips out and gift ideas for dad. 

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Painting Puffins: Northumberland’s Quirkiest Bird

Posted by Joanne Wishart on

Painting Puffins: Northumberland’s Quirkiest Seabird

The puffin is synonymous with Northumberland’s beautiful coastline. One of the world’s most unique seabirds, they’re known locally as “Tommy Noddys” and commonly nest on the Farne Islands.


Puffins are one of my favourite things to paint, which is why I have quite a few puffin art pieces on my site, including my new Flying Puffins Tea Towel, showing a host of the colourful birds in flight! 

A lilac blue coastal tea towel featuring Puffins flying in a pattern.

Puffin facts

Between mid-April and late July, puffins head to the Farne Islands to breed. Tourists can visit the islands and see their nests - burrowed into the peaty ground of the islands. Puffin chicks are known as… prepare yourself for the cuteness...  pufflings! 


Puffins are long-lived birds with lifespans in excess of 20 years, with some UK birds living for three decades! They are entirely sea-based over winter but return to land to nest in the summer season. The Northumberland puffins we’re discussing here habitually return to the Farne Islands to nest. Unfortunately, they are a red-listed species that is in decline. 


It’s also during these breeding seasons that their bills are at their shiniest! During winter at sea, puffin bills turn a cold grey. When back on land, their colourful rainbow pattern returns. Though even on land, Puffins head to the water to hunt their prey. They are carnivorous and can dive up to 60m to retrieve fish. 


With such beautiful colouring, it’s easy to see why puffins are so beloved - but if you’ve never seen them on land then you’re missing out on just how endearing they are. On land, the puffin is a clumsy bird - hopping and stumbling around in a way that is reminiscent of penguins. At sea, or in their dashing aerial dives, they become agile and dextrous. This transition between awkward land bird and maverick sea bird makes them all the more amazing to watch. 


Not only are puffins a breath-taking spectacle, but they also have a fascinating story. Did you know that puffins typically mate for life? Making an original puffin greetings card the perfect way to mark a special anniversary for your other half or another couple in your life. 

 

A greetings card featuring a flying puffin over a turquoise sea.

Painting Puffins in Northumberland


Plus, thanks to their friendly nature, puffins are also easy to study. Tourists can visit Seahouses then hire a boat to visit the Farne Islands. Once the boat completes a tour around the islands, tourists are allowed to dismount and then walk around the island to get up close to the birds. You should never get close enough to touch them - but taking photographs is encouraged! On your return to Seahouses, don’t forget to pop by independent art shop Drift to purchase some of my unique art?

A mounted print of a scene of Seahorses harbour with colourful red boats and Bamburgh Castle and beach in the distance.  

I love painting puffins - and you can probably tell why. They’re not only beautiful birds in terms of their colouring but also in terms of their unique personalities. Of course, their association with Northumberland and the Farne islands also makes them dear to me. 

Using inspiration to evolve as an artist


Puffins are exactly the type of inspiration an artist needs to help come up with new ideas. Their cheeky personalities and mixture of beauty, grace and clumsiness are so endearing. Coupled with how easy it is to visit the Farne Islands by taking a boat from Seahouses, it’s no surprise I have lots of Puffin related art on my site. 


During the lockdown, I could no longer visit the Farne islands or other Northumberland areas I love. Resigned to life at home whilst I homeschooled my children, I decided to take an online course to rejuvenate my skills in surface pattern design (which was my degree subject). I’ve been creating new wrapping paper designs as a result of this training and I’m delighted to share this one with you today whilst we’re on the subject of puffins! 


 Puffin Gift wrapping paper and matching labels by Joanne Wishart


Have you ever visited Seahouses and the Farne Islands to see the puffins? Such beautiful but sadly endangered birds deserve all the attention they can get. Shop my art prints online now if you’d like greetings cards, tea towels or wrapping paper featuring the cheeky seabirds. 

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