Inspiration

Detour with Postcards from Midlife – Episode three

Ruth Richardson

5 min read

Welcome to Detour, the Sawday’s podcast on inspiring travel. Our first three episodes have been made in partnership with Postcards From Midlife, presented by Trish Halpin and Lorraine Candy, both magazine editors and journalists with decades in their trades, who have worked on some of the biggest titles around. In Detour, they’ll be talking to inspirational women about how their travels have inspired and informed their lives and work. For episode three, they spoke to jewellery designer, Claudia Bradby, about the Greek beekeepers who inspire her work, invigorating wild swimming in Cornwall, and romantic boltholes in Tuscan hillsides.

 

Lorraine:

Our guest for this episode is someone who always lowers my stress levels, whenever I meet her, I’ve known her a while, she’s very lovely. She’s the jewellery designer, Claudia Bradby, who I know from my sea swimming adventures in Cornwall. Now Claudia, 53, runs her own jewellery business selling stylish affordable pearl jewellery worn by stars such as Helen Mirren, Sam Smith, Dawn French and Clare Balding. Sam Smith wore her necklace in their last video, actually, which was very exciting for all of us. Claudia is married to TV news presenter, Tom Bradby. And together they have three children Jack, Louisa and Sam, aged 26, 24 and 23. So Claudia, welcome to Detour with Postcards from Midlife. 

 Claudia:

Hello. And thank you so much for having me. 

 Lorraine:

I think we should start our little travel chat with, the sea swimming, because that’s how you and I met, in Cornwall, tell me how you got into that. And I think you’ve got some brave plans haven’t you, this summer, with your sea swimming? 

 Claudia:

Yes, taking my life in my hands and going on a long weekend swimming down in Cornwall, which is so exciting. I started, I’ve always loved to sea. My mum took us down to Cornwall as kids, to go on a summer holiday. In fact, it was the only holiday we went on. But the kind of non-negotiable in my life of swimming outside, started the year I turned 50, I decided to treat myself to do a triathlon, which is what I’ve always wanted to do, because I love swimming and cycling, and running. And I’ve been training in the pool and my friend I was doing it with said ‘oh do you want to join me, I’m going to the lake’. I said ‘No, I’m okay’. And she said, ‘you kind of might want to come and train in the lake, because the swim is in a lake you won’t be able to push off from the edge of the pool’. And I was like, ‘oh, right. Okay’. 

 Lorraine:

So, you can’t see the bottom either can you? 

Claudia:

I know. And she said to me ‘when you get in the lake’, which to be honest, wasn’t the most exotic location underneath Southampton airport. She said ‘you probably won’t breathe for the first 20 strokes because you can’t see, and you’ll hold your breath. So don’t worry’. But what it I don’t know what it unlocked in me, but I, first of all just love being outside. Love the swimming. I love it. When you take a stroke, you’ll catch a glimpse of the sun, or a bird, or something in the sky. I find it incredibly meditative the rhythm of breathing with your body. I love it when I finished swimming and I’m floating on my back just looking up at the sky. The sea is probably my favourite place to be, and I’ve got a lovely friend in Cornwall, who first went swimming with me and the sea, because I’m rightly quite scared of the sea. And she has done lots of RNLI training with her kids. So, she sort of took me to places where the tide was not a problem and, and I sort of I just it’s like a gravitational pull for me now, wherever I am is open bodies of water and it’s become… 

 Lorraine:

Whereabouts in Cornwall then do you swim, where would you advise people to look for lovely swim venues?  

Claudia:

Well… 

Lorraine: 

Don’t tell them about our secret beach! 

Claudia:

Oh ok! Well, there is one place. It’s sort of my go to, which, if that’s the first time I met you Lorraine, because my friend Nikki will go, ‘why is she telling everyone?’ It’s probably not a big secret, if anyone goes on your Instagram, but it’s a beautiful bay, the golden sand of the Camel Estuary. I feel very safe there. I think I’ve been there all my life. I’ve flown kites off the top of Brea Hill, and I have swum there once on my own, because I was down, down in Cornwall and just needed to get in the sea. So, it’s just something very essential and fundamental to me. I think my mum was pregnant with me, and lived by the sea in Australia. And I have a sort of small little, myth, within me that that’s what gave me the love of the sea. It’s well, it’s… 

 Lorraine: 

It’s Daymer Bay, isn’t it, we should say, in North Cornwall, which is quite famous, and a lot of people to go there. But where are you going with girlfriends in the summer? What’s your venue for that? 

 Claudia:

So, we’re going, I think it’s the Lizard Peninsula. And when I, when I sort of got the bug, if you like, I sort of, have found, there are so many swimming groups, online, and on Instagram that I found. And it’s run by two people who’ve lived in Cornwall all their lives, they’ve, they’ve surfed, they know the water really well. So, it’s a guided swim weekend. And I just messaged, I swim with three girlfriends every Friday, in a lake near me, which is beautiful, it’s in the Test Valley so it’s fresh water, on chalk. So, sometimes we feel like we’re in the Caribbean! So, we’re going, and my husband Tom is coming with us. And their husbands, so he also now has joined the girl gang. And we’re glamping, which is very exciting. And we’ve got, I think, six guided swims. So, they go in kayaks, and they know all the tides and the weather. So, they’ll, they just give you a long list of where you might go. And then it’s sort of one and a half K’s, two K’s each swim. So, I’m really excited about, you know, whatever the weather, when you’re in your wetsuit in the water doesn’t really matter. And with Cornwall, I always expect it to rain. So, anything else is a bonus. 

Trish: 

So, the outdoors is clearly, you’ve got this real connection, and this real sort of, you know, allure for the great outdoors. What about somewhere hot? Where, where has been somewhere really amazing and fabulous, perhaps at the other extreme from glamping. Where have you been? That is hot, and outdoorsy and fabulous. 

 Claudia: 

The most adventurous place I’ve been, is a trip we took with the family to Namibia. Our kids are quite close in age, they’re 18 months apart. And it was just as our eldest was doing his A levels and I, I sort of, it’s that moment as a parent, when you’re, you’re sort of excited for their future. But they’re going out of the pond that you’ve carefully curated. And you’ve, probably, as parents, made all the decisions, or the majority of the decisions in their life so far, and he loves skiing and wanted to go and work, in a ski resort, and then go travelling after school, and before university. And I sort of said to Tom, ‘do you know I’d really love to go on a big trip as a family to sort of bridge the gap from everyday holidays to where they might be going’. And also, you know, you never know what your children will end up doing. So, it might be the last time we’re together as a family. So, Tom had been to Namibia as a student. He was a very adventurous traveller, much more adventurous than me, in his younger years. And so, he said it was just amazing. And he’s a brilliant, brilliant, holiday organiser. So, he organised it all and I’ll never forget we were on the plane. And he turned to me said ‘Ooh – starting to get a bit worried because some of the car journeys are sort of, you know, up to eight hours long’, and I was like, ‘eight hours in a car, with the five of us?’. Oh my god, we really haven’t thought this through. Anyway. I mean, nothing could have prepared me for how I could enjoy eight hours in a car. It’s because you’re not in a car. On the A303, you’re in a car on a dusty track with nothing around you, except for completely beautiful, amazing landscape. And it was just, the most brilliant trip that I don’t think I’ll ever, ever, see again the look of unmitigated joy and surprise. And when the kids first saw a wild animal, the first watering hole we went to, and they were like, you know, there were warthogs. There’s it’s kind of like, best reality TV you could ever have. There were cheeky warthogs running around. There were elephants in their elegant slow walk. There were sort of, Oh, it’s just unbelievable. 

Trish:

And it’s got that Safari thing and the desert thing, and then those incredible sand dunes at Sossusvlei, hasn’t it? I’ve been there as well with on the family trip similar, but like you it is just, breath-taking, isn’t it? It’s just, nothing can compare with that. I don’t think, it’s so remarkable. 

Claudia:

It’s so remarkable. And Sossusvlei particularly has a, has a tender place in my heart because we were rather disorganised as parents and our two elder children were getting their A level and GCSE results while we were there. So, our eldest, we were in Sossusvlei, and had walked up to the top. It’s just, I’ve never, I mean, if you like mountains, it’s like orange sand, mount.. red sand mountains. And they’re shapeshifters because they changed with the wind. And we had walked up to the top and our daughter actually had really bad glandular fever during her GCSEs. So, she was sort of, didn’t, got about a quarter of the way up, then said she was going back, and I was really worried that she’s going to be killed by a snake on the way back, which of course was us, my, my catastrophic chimp, getting the best of me. And Tom said, ‘no, no, come with us. You’ll really, really regret it if you don’t come up to the top’. So, I went up with them. And it was like, two steps up, one step back in the sand. But the view from the top, was just incredible, this sort of mountain range of sand. And then of course, the giddy, kind of, exhilaration of, we all did forward rolls and cartwheels and ran down like mad things, it was, and this is just the go down to a salt pan, these black, kind of like scorched trees. It’s one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.  

Trish:

Where did you get the A level results, the GCSE results? 

Claudia:

So, we were staying in a camp, I can’t remember its name at the bottom of, you know, in the area, sort of 10/20 minutes from the sand dunes, and they had one Wi Fi portal. And you’re prepared to hustle and go through clearing, should you not get the results you want. And so, we arranged with a camp that we could go in at whatever time, I think it was six in the morning. And it’s the lovely thing. You wake up with the light when you’re camping, which is rather gorgeous. And go to sleep with the light as well. So, he was up very early. And I thought I can’t go with him, because he just needs to do it on his own. Luckily, luckily, he managed to get what he needed. And never forget his face. When he came back. It was just, so happy. 

Trish:

Gosh, that will sit with him for life. Won’t it – that experience. Of getting those results, how lovely. 

Claudia:

Yeah, it was very, very special. 

Lorraine: 

So that’s a family memory, family holiday, do you have other family rituals, any other places that you go to, regularly, on holiday? 

Claudia: 

Probably, I mean, we’re all obsessed by travel. So, there’s a lot of discussion in our family always, about, where we’re going to go. And they’re all working now. So, I have much less time. So, we have to be very focused. But the one place that we all go back to, every other year, is a small Austrian village where Tom learned to ski. So, he’s an only child, and he just, skiing is his passion. And he’s handed that on to the kids, which is an incredible inheritance, and he did a lot of ski race training. So is quite a nifty, nice skier. And in fact, taught them all, I mean, it was it sometimes it’s like, oh, we’re like Swiss Family Robinson. Honestly, if we could go skiing with someone else that would be nice. But we, it is, it is a very lovely thing. We’ve all skied together, since they were, Tom said if they start early, you know, it just makes it much easier. And this resort we go to is very low and very affordable. So, we went there, and they all learned to ski there. Never went to ski school. They always went, Tom taught them, and we go back there every Christmas, because it’s sort of his family Christmas. Sadly, his parents are no longer with us. But they’re very present there, which is, to get a bit emotional, is sort of very important for Tom and the kids. And when they were little, I remember when Sam my youngest, I think was two, when we first went, because we’d lived in Hong Kong and came back, and Tom’s mum, Sally, looked after him while we skied with the others. So, it’s very woven into the fabric of our life and lots the people that taught him to ski, run ski schools there. Actually, the guy that taught him, sadly, they all work as farmers in the summer, and is in a wheelchair, but he’s still skis, and runs a ski school so it’s, a, it’s a very special place for us. 

Trish:

You two, you got married, you met and got married quite young, and obviously Tom’s career has taken can use for various different places around the world and you lived in, in Ireland, didn’t you in Belfast, at one point? Did that sort of open up new avenues of travel for you? Have you explored Ireland much before that? 

Claudia:

No, it was. Yeah, we got married quite quickly after meeting, and I was only 25. Which, with our, in our friendship group was we were the first, or second. And then very quickly, I moved to Belfast, which is the most incredible place to be, and so interesting. But yes, we, we had amazing holidays, exploring Ireland, Tom had a company car. And, again, funnily enough, now thinking about it, we would often go and stay somewhere, there was a book called hidden island, where you could find beautiful houses that had particularly good food, or amazing locations, that we’d sort of go and visit and there’s one in particular, in Sligo, I think, and they, there was a beautiful road through a very sharp mountains. And we went for a run on the headland, and then went for a swim on, on the in the sea. So, it’s a, it’s well, well known for being a very welcoming place. But it’s an absolutely beautiful, extraordinary place. And the food there is incredible. I’m really into food, and Tom’s very into history. So, it’s, you know, we both kind of access places like that quite, quite strongly, and feel that connection with the land. So, yeah. know, we love that. And we also, Tom’s parents had a house in France. And we used another book, which was Off the Beaten Track with Alastair Sawday. And we would use that, to spend a couple of days driving down to the house in Dordogne, and stayed in some really lovely, lovely places. So yeah, we were very lucky to have all that on our doorstep. Actually.

Lorraine:

Where is the most romantic place you’ve been together, before children, I mean everywhere is romantic before children really. 

Claudia:

I think, I have to say, it was, it’s gonna sound so cheesy and cliche, but it was on our honeymoon. And we stayed in this place called, Torre di Bellosguardo, on one of the seven hills outside Florence. And it’s very, it’s an elegant, beautiful old house, but we’re in this room, that was on the corner of the house, and you could sit in a window, and you felt like you could reach down and touch the Duomo in Florence. And it had a lovely swimming pool, but it was sort of, it was very un-kind-of-gi-gi-ed-up it was very sort of, old style. So, there was grass up to the side of the pool, and there was just a little bar by the pool, and you’d have an exquisite, sort of, mozzarella and tomato, which is the best you’d ever eaten, sort of dinner. That’s probably the most romantic place. It was pretty special. 

 

Trish:

And I mean food, you mentioned food there. It is, you know one of the wonderful things about travel, isn’t it, discovering unusual food, drink, everything that you might not have discovered before. Is there anywhere really surprising that you’ve been, that you were, really didn’t know what to expect and ended up having a wonderful experience? 

Claudia: 

I think, probably our trip to Israel, we’ve actually got much more adventurous as we’ve got older, probably maybe that’s to do with time and budget and the kids leaving home, which is really exciting. We went to Israel about four years ago and spent four days in Jerusalem and then three in Tel Aviv, which just was, if you haven’t been, I would, I would so recommend it. It’s the most, it’s unbelievable place to go. Jerusalem, I found quite intense because it’s, it’s obviously a very charged place. But it’s at my primary school, you know, you’d have your, you’d have your Christmas nativity play every year. And there’s something really incredible about going to Bethlehem. And we were really lucky and someone that had worked with ITV, took us through to Bethlehem, and we went to the Waldorf Hotel, which has got a whole load of Banksy stuff. And it’s just an incredible mixture, of history and food. And as I mentioned earlier, Tom, Tom’s a historian did history at university, and, you know, is always interested in history, in particular as a journalist, so he kind of did the history bit and I am really into food. So, I did a lot of research about food. And we did this amazing thing in Tel Aviv. We joined eat with, eat with.com allows you to go and eat in private homes, or unusual restaurants. And yeah, it’s really fascinating. And it was a couple that had met, in a restaurant, but we’re making a much better living, hosting in their homes three times a week. And it was actually in the back streets of Tel Aviv and there were 16 of us, of which 12 were locals of all ages. So, you sit around a table, that sort of thing I love, Tom took a bit of persuasion, because it’s not his dream thing to go into a room with 12 strangers. But it was just amazing. There were two young guys that literally finished their national service, there was a young couple with a kid, who had all the same worries, of can we afford to live where we want to live in this beautiful city? Do we want to stay in Israel all our life? There’s a sort of family pool. It’s just a, it’s a very concentrated microcosm of family life. So that was fascinating. And the food was amazing. When I was doing my research, one of my favourite cooks Ottolenghi, has some really great suggestions. And we went to this amazing hole in the wall hummus place in Jerusalem, that probably the world and their wife goes to, but it was it felt like somewhere that people genuinely use locally. So, yeah, that was it was it was amazing, completely delicious, as well. 

Lorraine:

So, your work as a jewellery designer, it’s your own business, you’ve worked very hard to set it up. And the big theme is pearls. Where have you travelled that has influenced your work, and your brand?  

Claudia:

Well, I started working with pearls when we were living, in Hong Kong, when we were just married. And I was able to spend some time exploring the markets. And I particularly love the Pearl Market. I’ve never seen pearls sort of in all these different shapes and sizes. And definitely not the tired cliched, you know twinset, and pearls that I knew about. A friend was staying, and it was her birthday. So, I went to my friend in the Pearl Market and made up her necklace using sort of leather necklace using lots of different slightly more exotic pearls. And she just, sort of, was really blown away by it. And I thought ‘oh, maybe there’s something in it’. The thing is, you know, if you’re, if you’re exploring markets, you see this stuff all the time, you don’t sort of necessarily have the objectivity to say ‘ah, this could be great’. So then did all my due diligence researching in the UK, and no one was working with pearls in this way. So that’s how it started. 

Lorraine:

We should also say that it is, you know, it’s, it’s very reasonably priced. They’re very lovely pieces that everybody can own. 

Claudia:

No, I sort of really believe very strongly that it’s something that you should be able to buy yourself. I mean, this was just under 20 years ago that I was starting, and I’d had our third, and I knew my last child, my back was against the wall. And I had this very strong surge of energy and creativity. And what I find much more, is I find things that connect in with me and resonate with me, and I sort of build up the designs from that. So, my last two collections have been inspired by my beekeeping, but that was also travelling and meeting, I now go meet beekeepers wherever I go on holiday, which is really wonderful. And always bring back honey, for my friend Tom, that I do my beekeeping with. But once you, I sort of get a germ of an idea and then look into it. So, I looked into, I quite wanted to do some coins, in the jewellery. So, I looked into bee coins, and I found out that Ephesus had the bee on their coin, and it was their civic emblem. And then you realise that they valued honey, they didn’t have sugar, it was obviously a highly, you know, so. So, it rolls on and it’s just sort of more than the sum of its parts. I suppose I’ll get an idea. But definitely travel and connecting in with new ideas. And I guess being curious, is something that underpins everything, design wise that I do. 

Trish:

I think we should do some, sort of, quick-fire questions, Claudia, and ask you for some answers off the top of your head. Starting with, which city would be on your wish list, that you haven’t travelled to yet? 

Claudia:

Okay, I know that one. I’d really love to go to Barcelona. I’ve never been. It’s by the sea. Tick one. It’s just got really interesting architecture. Apparently. It looks wild and wonderful. And I think the food sounds absolutely amazing. I love tapas. I love that kind of sharing food, quite informal style. So yeah, Barcelona is top of my list. 

Lorraine:

And has there been a film that’s inspired you to travel somewhere, or a book? 

Claudia:

I think I’d probably have to say they’re books that have sort of bedded in, a love of a place for me. And I don’t know if I could choose between Daphne du Maurier, and Graham Winston. For, I read Poldark when I was 12, and fell in love with Ross Poldark. 

Trish:

…As we all do… 

Claudia:

…my very guilty secret, not so secret to my friends. I’ve reread them about three times. But they have an amazing sense of place. Brilliant soap opera, really interesting history about the tin mining. And so, I guess that sort of being plugged in and connected into the place. Also, Rebecca in Jamaica Inn, I read in my teens and reread Rebecca after the last film, which I forgotten her beautifully, she writes. So, if I had to pick one, I’d probably pick that. 

Lorraine:

It’s one of my Desert Island books, Rebecca,  

Claudia:

Is it? Yeah. 

Trish:

Finally, have you got any travel tips, anything that you do any rituals, anything with packing in airports, anything like that, that might be helpful for us. 

Claudia:

So, my top tip, if you’re travelling on your own, because I travel on my own, well, I have up for the last three years for work, which I actually really enjoy, is always take a book with you, because you’re never lonely with a book. But in terms of packing, I generally tend to, I’m very indecisive, on this level. So, I put all my clothes out a couple of nights before, I sort of pick and choose, I put them out on a sort of little sofa we’ve got in our room. And then when I pack, I sort of double check, do I really need that, because you probably need to take half as much. But then, of course, accessories, accessories, accessories. Just a really careful edit of jewellery. I think just, that something I’m never without, obviously, but a really good pair of earrings. I have quite like a boho sort of beach style. So, a couple of good layering earrings, nice stack of bangles and bracelets. can choose 

Trish:

You can zhoosh anything up with some beautiful accessories, can’t you? 

Claudia:

I know. I know. And also, hair up, hair down. Yeah, a really good pair of earrings, I think would be my key thing to take, if nothing else. 

Lorraine:

That’s brilliant. Thank you very much for coming on Detour, Postcards from Midlife and talking to us about your travel today. 

Claudia:

Well, thank you both so much. It’s a huge privilege.  

Trish:

Oh, well that was so nice talking to Claudia, and I feel very inspired by her travel tales. And if you’re looking for even more inspiration and ideas, check out the fabulous Sawday’s website sawdays.co.uk They’ve spent 25 years finding, visiting and choosing brilliant places to stay in the UK and Europe, all of which are run with passion and creativity. 

Lorraine:

Yes. Sawday’s philosophy is all about bringing people together, being champions of slow, ethical, and responsible travel, and their community of owners, hosts, guests, the Sawday’s team, local inspectors, and in country experts is really unique.  

Trish and Lorraine:

Happy holidays! 

Lorraine:

If you like the sound of any of the holidays we’ve chatted about on Detour with Postcards from Midlife, and please check the show notes for Sawday’s recommendations inspired by this episode. 

See all our Detour podcast episodes here >

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