Thursday, 11 October 2012

In Hockney's footsteps

Maxine with artist Robert Fuller at
Hockney's Three Trees at Thixendale
DAVID HOCKNEY apparently painted his view from Garrowby Hill from memory - but as my car chugs up the steep incline behind a struggling lorry, I reckon the Yorkshire artist freeze-framed what he could see in his rear-view mirror.

It's at the point where York thrusts itself up into the Wolds that we enter Hockney territory.

I half expect to see a plaque: "Yorkshire welcomes you to Hockney Country", but there are no brown signs to indicate that here, in this forgotten corner of God's favourite land, is where a master has been at work.

The Bradford-born artist was first famous in the 1960s for his paintings of Californian swimming pools. But his fame has peaked once more, now in his 75th year, with an acclaimed exhibition at the Royal Academy featuring scores of art works featuring the Yorkshire Wolds. The show then travelled to Spain and Germany.

Hockney's Three Trees at Thixendale
Hockney began painting in East Yorkshire at the behest of his great friend Jonathan Silver, owner of Salts Mill, near Bradford. Silver was dying of cancer and wanted Hockney to paint the Yorkshire landscape.

Many of the scenes that were to grace the 12 rooms of the Royal Academy earlier this year were discovered as Hockney drove daily from his home in Bridlington to West Yorkshire, often via Sledmere, to see Silver.

He would weave off the main routes, criss-crossing the tree-lined country lanes in the middle, stopping by the roadside and sketching what he saw. Hockney would be out in all weathers; in all seasons. Some of the most dramatic pieces capture one location at four points in the year. His Three Trees at Thixendale series is painted on four giant canvases, depicting winter, spring, summer and autumn in glorious succession.

And glorious is the right word; for whatever the weather or time of year, Hockney paints the Wolds as if through a Polaroid lens with the colour saturation switched up to the max. Vibrant violets, Aegean blues, chilli reds, dusky pinks and sharp lime greens are applied to ploughed fields and bare trees; hedges heavy with hawthorn and piles of chopped timber. It's Yorkshire, but not as many of us know it.

And yet it is to this undiscovered part of the county that the art tourists have come, determined to see Hockney's playground for themselves.

But how easy is it to follow in Hockney's footsteps?

Tourist chiefs have brought out the obligatory mini guides, telling people where to eat, where to stay, and where, roughly, Hockney liked to paint. Keen to encourage visitors to explore the area, they stop short at giving the exact locations of the artist's paintings.

This is why we find ourselves driving up Garrowby Hill and over to Thixendale in search of his "three trees". As we turn off the A166 Bridlington road for Thixendale, the view across the patchwork fields is straight out of a Hockney painting.

I see three trees standing in stark silhouette on the horizon and I begin to wonder: could that be them? Moments later a pile of just-cut logs lie artfully by the side of the road. Photographer Anthony and I almost clap our hands in glee. Hockney would have been just as thrilled.

Few people know the local area like Robert Fuller, the wildlife artist with a studio and gallery in Thixendale. Hockney has even painted Fuller's house in one of his Wolds' landscapes; "Though not the attached gallery, " says Robert, smarting slightly.

Many visitors have come through the gallery doors this year with one question on their lips. "Where are the trees?"

Robert and his wife Victoria sympathise. "There are five roads into Thixendale; you can't just drive through and find the three trees, " says Robert.

He kindly offers to take us to the exact spot. We head off on the road out of Thixendale to Burndale, although Robert points out the trees are easier to spot coming in the opposite direction. "I always tell people if you get to Burdale, it's one field behind you."

And suddenly there they are. Three trees.

Or is it four or five? Deceptively they are not in a clump on their own; neither do they stand out dramatically like the ones I saw from the Garrowby Hill turn off. Dare I say it; they look, well, just like a group of trees. But Robert gets there first. "There's nothing unusual about this place, " he says, almost with a shrug.

We follow him back, climbing the narrow road high above Thixendale, where he takes us to some other road-side pit-stops where Hockney set up his easel. "It was always by the road side so he didn't have to walk very far, " says Robert.

Like Hockney, Robert knows this landscape, and he understands and shares the painter's fascination.

He says: "When you go to the Dales, it is obviously beautiful. When you come to the Wolds, you have to search out the hidden beauty."

This is the message being peddled by the local tourist industry. Jane Evison is a councillor on the East Riding of Yorkshire Council with responsibilities for economic development and tourism. She says the area is making the most of the Hockney opportunity.

Although there are no hard facts and figures yet, anecdotally, the reports are of an increased interest in the Wolds and the expectation of a good season.

A bumper-sized tourism brochure, Yorkshire Wolds & Beyond, has been published for summer, featuring a rough guide to the Hockney Trail as well as scores of other interesting things to do in the area including walking and cycling trails and local attractions such as Sledmere House, Burton Agnes Hall, The Wa lled Garden at Scampston and the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs.

The clear message, says Coun Evison, is that there is more to the Wolds than Hockney.

"We believe Hockney is a wonderful attraction and we are delighted, but once people get here, they need something else.

We want them to see more of the area and we want them to come back, " she says.

Moreover, they want to press the point that the Wolds are a destination all year round; that there is more to a vacation in the area than a summer break at Brid.
"We want to expand our tourism calendar to far more months in the year, " says Coun Evison.

And who better to help with that than Hockney, who through his Yorkshire paintings captured the Wolds in all their wonder through every week of the year. From the hedgerows buckling under the heavy hawthorn blossom in mid-summer through to the bleak silhouette of bare trees on a valley ridge in winter, Hockney captured Yorkshire's hidden corner like never before.

And put the Wolds rightly on the map.

TRAVEL: France for all the family

Odette Siko, the first woman to complete
 Le Mans 24hour race
STORIES of derring-do led on to rows of gleaming racing cars in this temple to testosterone. We had come to the Musée Des 24 Heures-Circuit at Le Mans to find out more about the characters and cars who had faced the ultimate motor-racing challenge.
Famous competitors included Hollywood actor Paul Newman who came second in the 47th race in 1979. It was life imitating art: just a few years earlier, film star Steve McQueen played a racing driver in the movie, Le Mans.
However, as I toured the museum, I found a story equally worthy of Hollywood treatment. Back in 1930, Odette Siko made history as the first woman to compete and finish the race when she brought her Bugatti T 40 home in seventh place. The original Bugatti is now on show in a far corner of the museum. After immersing ourselves in the high-octane world of motorcars for the morning, it felt rather flat climbing into our boring family hire-car for the short drive into Le Mans city centre.
But we had a tour of the historic city booked - and within half an hour we were transported back to the time of the Plantagenets. As we followed our guide around the imposing gothic cathedral which dominates the centre of Le Mans, we learned how it was within these walls that Geoffrey V of Anjou married Matilda, heir to the kingdom of England. Their son was Henry II, the first of 15 Plantagenet monarchs who ruled England until the line died out in 1499.
At its heart, Le Mans has an impressively preserved medieval centre, with a warren of streets to explore as well as one of the finest examples in the world of original Roman walls.
We were on holiday in the Sarthe region of France with our ten-yearold daughter, which meant we had to make room for child-friendly activities every day.

Historic Le Mans
That wasn't difficult given our base at Luché-Pringé, a sleepy village about 40 minutes' drive south of Le Mans. We stayed at the wellappointed Camping La Chabotiere, in the centre of the village, with a pleasing aspect on to the river Le Loir. Our chalet was luxurious by traditional camping standards; it came with a kitchen, shower room, inside loo and dishwasher, with a washing machine in an adjacent hut. The site had a swimming pool and tennis court as well as plenty of table tennis stations.
There was a green field on which to play football and a sand pit for boules. Our daughter found it easy to make friends despite the language barrier - she soon discovered you didn't really have to converse too much when there was a football to kick around.
She particlarly enjoyed a visit to Papéa Park at Le Mans, a sprawling amusement and water park with rollercoasters and a leisure pool, where getting wet was the name of the game.
The zoo at La Fleche is a regional attraction and rightly so. It boasts rarities such as white lions and black panthers. It is open until 7pm; we arrived in the cool of the early evening and were rewarded by seeing the animals in energetic form, particularly memorable were the chimps play fighting.
Our days quickly took a new shape; a tourist visit in the morning and afternoon sandwiched either side of a long and leisurely lunch. At Malicorne, an arty village known for its local pottery, we savoured local dishes at the traditional restaurant La Petite Auberge.
Sitting outside on a riverside terrace, we took our time to work through the lunch menu which consisted of a scallop terrine, followed by guinea fowl and floating islands for dessert. Later we toured the impressive Espace Faience, the pottery museum, and bought some one-off pieces in its shop, making the most of the much improved exchange rate between the pound and the Euro.
We finished off the day trip by taking a motor boat out on the river.
Gardeners should not miss a visit to the Petit-Bordeaux Garden, an oasis of the exquisite, tucked away in a secluded spot at Saint-Biez-enBelin. The 1.5 hectare garden boasts some 3,800 varieties of flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses, looked after by a husband and wife team. There are ample seating areas around the garden, inviting you to linger over the loveliness.
More joy, this time of a culinary nature, came with lunch at the award-winning Le Poesies Palatines at the neighbouring town, SaintOuen-en-Belin. The set menu, for about £15 a head, was a steal. The setting was stunning; in a rural farmhouse, the dining room set with white linens and giant mirrors. Another husband and wife team were at work here, but this time it was madame who was in the kitchen.
The farmhouse paté was served in a robust, rustic style, artfully accompanied by home-made bread, mini gherkins, and a red onion chutney. Next came a choice of grilled salmon with a rich creamy sauce or roast duck. We finished with a dish of perfect crème brulée and a deeply satisfying chocolate mousse.
The next day, driving home after a ferry crossing from Caen to Portsmouth, we stopped at Little Chef for lunch.
Stabbing at my rock-hard jacket potato, there was no surer sign that the holiday was over.

FACT FILEFor a range of ideas for holidaying in the Sarthe area visit:

Brittany Ferries (britannyferries. com or 0871 244 1400) has return channel crossings from Portsmouth from £89pp for a car and two passengers

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Hospice is a haven for families

Alfie Oliver with his pet dinosaur Dave at
Martin House children's hospice, near York
Martin House children's hospice provides a lifeline to families in our region. Ahead of its annual fundraising week, I paid a visit with a young family from York

LITTLE Alfie Oliver is sitting next to his toy dinosaur Dave watching a DVD of Shaun the Sheep.

Dave wears a bib and, every now and then, Alfie feeds Dave a biscuit.

We're in Alfie's colourful bedroom at Martin House, the Children's hospice at Boston Spa, about 15 miles from York.

Three-year-old Alfie, from Clifton, is well-known at Martin House as is Dave.

“Whenever Alfie comes to Martin House, Dave comes too,” says Alfie's mum, Tracey. “Alfie thinks it's hilarious that Dave gets all this attention from staff. Dave sits at the dining table when everyone is having lunch and tea and they always bring him a portion of food.”

After watching the DVD, Alfie joins hospice worker Helen Scouller in the colourful art room where they play with some Peppa Pig Fuzzy Felt.

Alfie is a big fan of Peppa Pig. He had a front-row seat when the show came to York earlier this month and this week he is going to Peppa Pig World near Southampton for a three-day holiday with mum Tracey and dad Rob.

The trip has been organised by Yorkshire charity Make A Dream, and the family have been looking forward to it for weeks.

But the family also look forward to coming to Martin House. For them, they say, coming here is like having a holiday.

The hospice is for children with life-limiting conditions and illnesses and covers North, East and West Yorkshire. Eight in ten families using Martin House come for respite, or rest, rather than end-of-life care.

This means the hospice feels more like a “home from home” than a hospital for many patients and families albeit with round-the-clock support from a team of expert medics and loving carers.

Colourful murals cover the walls; the library is stacked with DVDs and books and the play room has everything from computer stations and a table football to a wooden train set and mini grocers.

In here, we watch Alfie and Tracey play at shopkeepers, the three-year-old manning the till while Tracey puts mini packets of cereals and tins of sweetcorn into a bright pink plastic trolley.

“He loves coming here,” says Tracey, at the end of the latest four-day visit. “And so do we.”

Alfie was born with a heart defect and suffers from pulmonary hypertension which affects his lungs and heart. He needs round-the-clock care and is fed through a special tube in his tummy. A second tube, a “Hickman line”, supplies vital drugs to keep him alive. He requires nourishment through the feeding tube every hour and regular oxygen. His condition causes a host of side effects, especially reflux, or heartburn, which prevents him from sleeping well. There is no cure for the condition, only treatments to alleviate symptoms and prolong life.

Most of the time, Tracey and Rob care for Alfie at home, taking it in turns to sit with him through the night; dozing when he does; giving him his regular medicines and feeds; reading him stories when he is distressed; massaging him when he is in discomfort.

Rob also holds down a part-time job and the toll of endless sleepless nights is punishing.

Tracey says: “As a carer, especially over a long period of time, it does affect your physical and mental health. We get headaches and migraines that make us feel dizzy. You can feel quite depressed at times.

“We come to Martin House to have respite; to get some sleep. It makes you feel human again.”

It costs almost £5 million a year to run Martin House and a whopping 88 per cent of that has to come from good causes and charitable giving.

Next week, fundraising comes to the fore as Children's Hospice Week takes place. The challenge this year is for people to dress up as a superhero and make as much money as possible for this good cause.

Martin House is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. It can cater for up to 15 children and their families at a time, including six teenagers in a purpose-built annexe.

Alison Wragg, of the hospice, said: “We are celebrating 25 years which it is a huge accolade to the people of Yorkshire who have supported us over this time.

“Children's hospice week is a great opportunity to remind people of the important way we can support families in need.”

Tracey can't stress enough how vital Martin House is to her family. Although Alfie is under the care of doctors at Great Ormond Street in London, the consultant at Martin House, Mike Miller, now looks after the day-to-day management of his symptoms.

It's a huge relief, says Tracey, having a doctor who knows Alfie and sees him regularly at the other end of the phone and just 30-minutes' drive away.

Alfie's health has deteriorated since Christmas, meaning the family is using Martin House more regularly.

“At first, we came about four times a year but now it's every six weeks,” explains Tracey.

While Alfie is in safe hands, Tracey and Rob can enjoy some of the things other couples take for granted.

“Rob's a runner, so when we come here, he goes for a run. I might go to Tadcaster for a swim or meet a friend for coffee. Last time, we went out for dinner one night.”

During this stay, Rob and Tracey achieved a first a night away without Alfie. Tracey won The Press's SuperMum award, entitling her and Rob to a luxury spa break at Middlethorpe Hall in York.

“It was fantastic,” says Tracey, still beaming at the memory. “We really enjoyed it.”

The couple say they have been on a rollercoaster ride with Alfie since he was born. Doctors have feared the worst many times, yet Alfie has defied them every time, says Tracey. When he first had his Hickman line fitted two years ago, doctors gave him just a few months to live. Alfie's fourth birthday is in July and he is due to start school in September; he already attends nursery at Hob Moor Oaks in Acomb two mornings a week.

“The future is a complete unknown,” says Tracey. “Alfie has far outlived his initial prognosis as well as the second, third, fourth and fifth. We never thought he'd see his second or third birthday and now it is coming up to his fourth.

“We deliberately don't look too far ahead. We live in the moment as carers for Alfie and, whatever the current demands are, we respond to.

“We appreciate what we have got. It's a blessing and we don't see it as a negative thing. We are honoured to see him grow up into an intelligent little boy. We never thought we would see it.”

Tracey says she is particularly pleased that Alfie has managed to go to nursery.

“I've loved to see him go to nursery dressed in his school uniform, he looks so smart.”

She adds: “We make the most of it and take him everywhere despite his illness. He has done loads in his short life. In one sense, he has a very limited life physically, in another sense he has a very full life.

“He's a very special, strong, and brave little boy.”

For more information about the hospice and how you can help with fundraising, visit

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Sam's hot stuff!

Sam Stern serves up a slice
of  Victoria sponge
Sam Stern is about to publish his sixth cookbook and he is still only 21. I catch up with him at his York home over a pot of tea and some scrumptious home-made cake

SAM STERN’S manners are impeccable. As my car pulls up outside his family home in York, he is at the door, ready to welcome me.

I’ve barely got my coat off before he’s offering me “tea, coffee, cake, an apple scone?”

I’m easy tempted, especially when I see the cake he has just made: two thick tiers of golden sponge bursting at the middle with whipped cream and a home-made lemon curd with passionfruit.

The recipe comes from Sam’s new cook book, Virgin To Veteran: How to Get Cooking With Confidence, about to be realised by Quadrille, priced £20.

The title is apt; Sam published his first cook book at 14, then a further four while still a teenager.

The latest, though, is a seriously grown-up affair. It’s thick in the way coffee-table books are, and besides scores of tempting recipes there are pages of advice on how to master everything from jointing a chicken and cleaning mussels to getting perfect pork crackling and making pastry.

The aim is to give people the confidence to get in the kitchen and rustle up tasty meals. Recipes also have a series of variations. “This allows people to mess around with the original recipe,” says Sam.

Sam has had some fun trying out new flavour combinations. The sponge he made that morning is a good example. He had a hunch the passionfruit would work well with the lemon curd – tried it and found it did.

“I’ve made some mistakes but you learn from mistakes by learning how to fix it,” says Sam, who cooked his first roast dinner when he was nine years old.

As the youngest of five siblings, he grew up in a large family, where food was at the centre. He learned the ropes at the apron strings of mum Susan, whom Sam describes as a “good home cook who makes rough and ready, rustic, tasty dinners – just what you want when you come home”.

Homecomings loom large in Sam’s life of late. Besides his culinary career, Sam is taking a politics degree at Edinburgh University. He has one more academic year to complete before he graduates, then he wants to concentrate on cooking full-time.

This summer, he will be back in York, working on the next book. The following year, once he has graduated, he will write that cookbook and then focus on promoting the Sam Stern brand.

He admits he’d like to make it big. At 21, you have to admit it looks like he’s got the world on his plate.

Sam’s new book, Virgin To Veteran, How to Get Cooking with Confidence, will be published by Quadrille, priced £20, on May 10.

Friday, 27 April 2012

FASHION: The Macs Factor

Blue belted trench coat, £59,

 The weather is wet, wet, wet, so why not cheer yourself up with a trendy rain mac?

APRIL is a wash-out –  we shouldn’t be surprised, after all April and showers go together like ham and eggs.

But it was all so different 12 months ago. Do you remember when York was basking in the 20s as April brought a heatwave rather than rain?

But every rain cloud has its silver lining – and in this case, it comes in the shape of a ultra-chic rain coat.

Whether you opt for a sophisticated trench, a sassy mac or an on-trend
parka-style, you will be making a fashion splash as you dodge the puddles.

 You can opt for a classic look, picking a belted coat in neutral tones such as stone, or make more of a style statement with a coloured mac, maybe with some piping on the edge.

There’s even a lace-print mac out there, for anyone determined not to let the rain ruin their fashion parade.

Ruched detail trench, £119,
Mint Velvet

Piped mac, £65, M&Co

Try for size...

Blue belted trench coat, £59, from

Piped mac, £65, M&Co

Lace print mac, £45, Marisota

Ruched detail trench, £119, Mint Velvet

South striped belted mac, £75,

Grey nylon coat, £29.50, Dorothy Perkins

From America With Love

Inside Bison Coffee, York
Check out the York café and vintage shop where even the table and chairs are for sale

SIT down for a strong flat white at the Bison coffee house in York – and be prepared to hang on to your seat.

For this is a café with a difference. Everything inside the compact two-room space at the foot of Heslington Road has a price tag – from the simple wooden ex-school chairs to the aluminium coffee pots and even the café workstation.

Owner Gavin Burke, 28, is a classics graduate from Newcastle University, who settled in York a few years back.

His vintage style of choice is ‘Americana’, which he defines as “American vintage, anything from the 1920s to the 1950s”. Or anything, he adds, before the ‘Space Age’.

There’s a heavy lean toward the functional and kitchen items in the shop: Gavin clearly likes things with a purpose.

Bison Coffee owner Gavin Burke
 “We sell lots of glass jars, crates, racks and vintage pigeon holes – we sell a lot of them for shop fittings.”

Items for the home don’t come more desirable, he reckons, than a 1940s French coffee pot made in Bakelite and stainless steel.

Step inside the back-room café and there are shelves of coffee pots on display, again all for sale.

But there are also teak tables, chests, mirrors, angle-poise lamps and even a set of deer antlers on the wall, all with a price tag. Friends needn’t fight over a choice piece either as Gavin says he can easily order more. “We’ve got a full deer’s head on order!”

Fancy the beat-up leather chair lingering in the café corner – it’s yours for between £150 and £200.

Why Americana? “I like the battered style of it,” says Gavin. “I like wood and metal and I like the rough and readiness and the functionality of it. These are useful objects with a faded utilitarian grandeur. It’s lovely.”

Vintage is in his blood. “I never had anything new. I grew up in a house that looked like this,” says Gavin, surveying his premises.

His mum, Sharon Bradley, is a vintage dealer based in Dorset. A few years ago, she moved to France to run a hotel. Gavin, originally from Middlesbrough, followed her, working in bars and ended up as a DJ, eventually landing his own show on Radio Nova in Bordeaux, where he had to speak French.

It was quite an achievement because he when he arrived in France he could barely speak the language.

“I spoke French with a Yorkshire twang!”

After two years in France, he moved back to the UK, settling in York and keen to open a café on the bustling route to the university.

“It took me a year and a half to find this place. There’s not really a coffee house in this area and there is a high density of students and dedicated local people.”

Customers can pick from a selection of drinks and snacks. Nine types of coffee are chalked up on the café blackboard, from espresso and French press to mochas and cortados.

On our visit, the intriguing sounding “Hasbean, Jailbreak Blend” was the brew of the day, which Gavin explained was “sweet and balanced, but quite bold”.

He said customers could request their preferred type of coffee via the Bison website. “We are quite malleable as far as customers are concerned,” says Gavin.

There is also a selection of breakfast snacks, toasties, and treats such as brownies on sale as well as soft drinks and teas.

Gavin sees Bison as more than a coffee house and vintage shop. “I want it to be a community space. People can book it for events in the evening. We have free WiFi and people come in here to work.”

It also operates as an exhibition space, showcasing work from local artists.

Friday, 6 April 2012

FITNESS: And baby came too!

Mums and babes together at the
 novel Yumi Mummy fitness class in York
TINY Samuel Stephenson is just four months old – but already he’s attending a fitness class.

For while four-month-old Samuel writhes around on the padded floor of the gym, mum Fay is breaking into a sweat in a vigorous Legs, Bums and Tums workout for new mums.

The class is one of several offered by Yumi Mummy Fitness, a new venture which allows new mothers to lose weight and get fit while still looking after baby.

As the women warm up with some gentle lunges, babies watch from the sidelines, strapped safely into their portable car seats. Some are playing happily with each other – or with soft toys – on the giant padded floor of the Chokdee Academy at Nether Poppleton, which doubles up as a Thai Boxing studio in the evening.

There’s a play pen to place tots in, but toddlers are allowed to roam around – and even join in on some of the moves.

The novel idea is the brainchild of Jo Cadden, a qualified fitness instructor and personal trainer, whose husband Richard runs the Chokdee Academy.

When she had their first child, Oscar, 14 months ago, Jo realised how hard it was for new mums to take exercise.

Gym memberships can be prohibitively expensive, particularly when you have to factor in extra charges for childcare or use of a crèche.

“I realised there must be lots of mums who want to get out and exercise but are struggling with child care,” says Jo.

So the solution was to invite them to bring baby along too!

Classes can be noisy and chaotic at times, admits Jo, but mums understand.

“Some weeks they can all be making a noise but the mums are able to get up and down – and even breastfeed if they need to. I just carry on teaching!”

Yumi Mummy offers four classes every week – Bokwa (like Zumba) at 10am on Tuesdays and fitness yoga at 11am on Tuesdays; Legs, Bums and Tums on Thursdays at 10am, followed by Pilates at 11.

Prices range from £5-£6.50 for the hour class.

Fitness trainer and mum-of-three Sarah Vincent teaches the Tuesday classes. She said it was important for women to start exercising as soon as safely possible after giving birth.

“As soon as you get the all-clear from the GP, which is usually after your six-week check, you should get out and do some exercise,” advises Sarah.

“It takes three days to form a habit and three days to break one, so if you get into the habit of sitting on the sofa with baby, telling yourself you’ll lose the weight next year, then go on and have another baby, you will be putting fat on top of fat.

“There is no magical quick fix to losing weight; just have to work hard.

“You don’t have to be at it forever – just until you get it off.”

Fay Stephenson also has three children – the latest, Samuel, was born four months ago. For the past six weeks, Fay, has been coming to Jo’s class and has lost a stone in weight.

Fay, originally from Scotland, but now settled in York, said: “The appeal of coming here is that I can bring the wee fella with me. I don’t have to put him in an expensive crèche on top of the price of a class.”

First-time mum Sherrie Wood had some personal training sessions with Jo before the birth of her daughter Matilda two months ago. Now she is coming to the classes to try to shed the three stones she put on while pregnant.

Sherrie said she felt really motivated to get back into shape. She added: “I’m really looking forward to getting my fitness back.”

Yumi Mummy Fitness runs at Rose Avenue, York Business Park, Poppleton, York, YO26 6RR. Telephone: 07949 761292/ email or visit the website