What summer sight sets your heart soaring? For me, Oxfordshire aflower with natural beauty is one of the best places in the world to be. Nothing lifts the spirits like basking in a sunny spot such as Twyford’s Loddon Nature Reserve as butterflies jumble along. What’s more, thanks to the advice from Sir David Attenborough and local wildlife groups, all of us can help preserve the whimsical sights which inspired Lewis Carroll’s madcap Alice In Wonderland, 150 years ago this month – read on!
We’ve really enjoyed putting this summer issue together – we might just bump into you at one or two of the sizzling summer events taking place. From sedate fetes to rocking festivals, there really is something for all the family this month. Think you’re too old for festivals? Read about Lulu and Pam Ayres, both performing this summer, who impressed me with their take on growing old gleefully! Keep your Ramblings coming in, as well as telling us about members of your community who are worthy of a mention. Hopefully August will be a scorcher, too!
Now, if you’re reading this freshly delivered copy of Round & About nice and early in the month, choo-choo down to Cholsey and Wallingford Railway on Saturday, July 4th and Sunday, 5th. The evocative treasure is hosting a children’s fun weekend featuring face-painting, lucky dips, a colouring competition, bouncy castle and more. On Friday, 10th July, the railway hosts a Fish and Chip Evening Special – join the gang for an evening trip along the Bunk with supper too – book your table by calling Pat Hatch on 07799381535 as places are limited. Saturday 18th and Sunday, 19th, is Guinness Weekend when you can enjoy a pint of the black stuff from the Brake Coach Bar and a ride on the train hauled by one of the three Guinness Diesel locomotives from the Guinness Royal Park Brewery. And/or, on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd August, head trackside for a Teddy Bears’ Weekend when you can take advantage of free travel for those aged eight and under when you bring a teddy bear for a ride on the train. All trains – apart from the Fish and Chip Special – depart from Wallingford Station hourly from 11.05am to 4.05pm, and from Cholsey Station from 11.35am and 4.35pm (the 4.35pm train is to Wallingford only). For further details, please visit www.cholsey-wallingford-railway.com
We’ve had an email from Helen Brind, who is a member of Didcot Runners. Sunday, July 5th, will be the tenth event, and will include a ‘fast & flat” five-mile road race run at 9.30am under UK athletics rules and a two-mile fun run at 10.45am at Willowbrook Leisure Centre in Didcot. Entry fees are £11 or £10 (affiliated) and £3 for the fun run (an extra £1 if you register on the day). Visit www.didcotrunners.co.uk or www.runbritain.com
Now, to Ewelme! If you haven’t visited the village, which has a lovely village has an unusual history and a wonderful church, you’re not the only one. I hadn’t until I had a friendly visit from a neighbour, telling me it was well worth a trip. (Seeing as Ewelme isn’t really on the way anywhere, a special visit is needed, and most rewarding.) The Church of St Mary The Virgin is unique in the area and, along with the almshouses and school, historically and architecturally fascinating, not least on a sunny day. Visitors to the church are welcome and the volunteers can provide guided tours and refreshments for groups of almost any size, throughout the year. To find out more, call 01491 824 822.
While we’re ‘round and about’ in Ewelme, Ewelme School will be hosting visitors for summer teas on July 5th. So, if you’ve received this magazine in time, do head along and make a day of it in this beautiful village!
Wildlife groups across Oxfordshire are channelling a bug’s life as ever, with lots of encouragement to build a Bug Hotel in your own garden. My daughter and I excitedly assembled our own little Milton Hilton at the weekend, which is now home to guests including a centipede, a party of several woodlice and numerous others who come and go. Visit www.bbowt.org.uk for details of how to get stuck in… and cure those phobias of all things leggy at the same time… possibly!
A secret garden worth sharing is in Preston Crowmarsh. Just 100 yeards from Benson Riverside Cafe is a hidden horticultural treat (which I’m tempted to just keep to myself). Twenty yards down the first farm track on the
left-hand side is a little gate into the marsh area of Millbrook Mead Nature Reserve. Follow the path and, through another gate, you’ll find a charming gravel garden, which is open every day and set in a small wildflower meadow, often alive with butterflies, bees and damselflies. You are requested to make a charity donation of £1.
Ponds are a rich source of back-garden wildlife, too. If you don’t have a pond (many parents dive straight into paving it over when they have kids), head to the Earth Trust in Little Wittenham for pond-dipping sessions on Sunday, 5th July. Then get inspired by the aquatic animals you find to create a creature to take home with wild art activities also taking place from 10am until 2pm. On Wednesday, 22nd July, from 10am until midday, five to eight-year-olds can go on an expedition using their detective skills to discover a secret destination where they can explore, build and play. And on Friday, 24th July, from 10am until midday, pre-school youngsters can take part in a Forest School session of play and discovery in the trust’s woodlands. For both these events a £4 donation per child is suggested and there is no need to book. Lastly, from Monday 27th to Friday, 31st July, from 9am until 5pm each day, the Earth Trust is offering wild adventures for children aged eight to 12. Clumps Club costs £30 per day or if you book all five, you get one day free. To find out more about all of these events see www.earthtrust.org.uk or call 01865 407792.
Visitors to Didcot Community Hospital might have noticed a wonderful new garden, with model chickens pecking about. The thriving space, which opened for patients to enjoy last month, was the idea of nurse Gail Castle, who died from a brain tumour last December. Mum of two Mrs Castle, who died just two months after she was diagnosed, wanted to create a space for those using the hospital and, although she sadly didn’t live to see it opened, the garden, funded by the Department of Health and Oxfordshire County Council, is a wonderful tribute.
Based in Oxfordshire, The Mothership Network is a national online database for creative and entrepreneurial mums. Happy to offer their skills, or promote their existing small business and its products, the network makes juggling family commitments and building a dream business that little bit easier. They meet for coffee mornings, workshops and network, so find out where and when online at www.themothershipnetwork.com
‘Celebrations’ is the theme of the next meeting of Wallingford Flower Club Meeting and well worth, er, celebrating! On 8th July, Keri Harvey will demonstrate on the theme at Crowmarsh Village Hall (OX10 8ED), from 7pm for 7.45pm. All visitors are welcome – visitors’ entry is £4 each. For more details, call 01491 834303.
Space – the final frontier... And you can explore some out-of-this-world science this month when Harwell science and innovation campus opens it doors. On July 11th, visitors are invited to the site, which is home to 150 organisations including the United Kingdom atomic energy authority, the European space agency and diamond light source. Families are welcome to find out more about the state-of-the-art research that goes on there, including lasers, space missions, dinosaur bones, 3D printing, nanotechnology and treatments for cancer and HIV. Entry to the campus, the research facilities and all activities are completely free of charge. There will also be many activities for children and adults alike, including, extracting DNA from strawberries, rocket-building and launching and programming mini robots to navigate around a map. See you there!
The Wantage Wildlife, History & Archaeology Group will be meeting on 10th July in The Beacon (Civic Hall) Portway, Wantage, at 7.30pm. The illustrated talk will be about the ‘Archaeology of an Oxfordshire Village’ namely Stanford-in-the-Vale, by David Ashby. Visitors are very welcome – admission fee £3.50. If further information is needed, please call 01235 751646 or 764258.
Ian Brown, pianist of the Nash ensemble, joins the Pavlova Wind Quintet to celebrate their 16th anniversary. On Saturday, 11th July, from 8pm, Holywell Music Room in Oxford will lend its magnificent acoustics to a Mozart quintet for piano and wind Poulenc sextet for piano and wind, Hindermith Kleine Kammermusik Francaix Quatuor a vents and Debussy’s Two Preludes. Tickets are £15 (£12) from www.ticketsoxford.com . Visit www.pavlovaquintet.co.uk or call 07775 904626.
Now, if you’re one of the many good people who enjoyed Dorchester Festival, give yourself a pat on the back! The event’s organisers have been in touch to tell us the biennial event raised £45,000 – more than twice their previous record. Run entirely by local volunteers and based around Dorchester Abbey, more than 4,000 people attended in May. The proceeds were split equally between Dorchester Abbey and family support charity Parents And Children Together. Jan Fishwick of the charity said: “We are overwhelmed by the final total and would like to thank the festival organisers for choosing PACT, and for holding such an amazing festival. This money will help PACT families in Oxfordshire. Children who have been adopted or fostered have usually had a traumatic start in life and our award-winning therapeutic services help the family come to terms with everything and to look forward to a bright future.”
Brightwell-cum-Sotwell Village Fete takes place at Moreton House on Saturday 11th July starting at 2pm. Highlights will include the Abingdon Town Band, local school dance group, flower and produce show, stalls (from homemade cakes to white elephant), plus refreshments.
East and West Hendred WI will meet on July 16th at 7.30pm at West Hendred Village Hall. Rev Nicolas Henderson will talk on two of Henry VIII’s half-forgotten queens – Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. Visitors are welcome and for more information contact Anne Pagett by calling 01235 797405.
Now, to a creative endeavour from Benson Art Group. The artists are staging an exhibition on Friday, July 17th (7-9pm) and Saturday, 18th (10am-noon) at Millstream Day Centre in Benson, (OX10 6RL). Not only will you be able to see the wonderful work produced by community, with all profits raised will go to the day centre, which supports elderly and disabled people in of Benson, Ewelme Berrick Salome, Roke and Preston Crowmarsh.
Didcot Town Fayre takes place in Edmonds Park on Saturday 11th July, starting at 12noon. An afternoon of fun for all the family, highlights include demonstrations by local clubs and groups, a beer tent, craft stalls, produce show, tea tent and lots more. Following the positive feedback last year the fayre will again run into the early evening with live music from local bands. Entry is free all day with some car parking, £1, weather-permitting.
Didcot Arts And Community Association will hold the second brass band concert of the year on Sunday, 12th July. Roke & Benson Brass Band will delight crowds on the grass at The Northbourne Centre, Church Street (going inside if the weather turns nasty). Also make a beeline for the same venue on Sunday, 2nd August, when Wantage Silver Band will wow the crowds. Both events run from 3pm to 5pm. There’s no admission charge for visitors, only a collection and refreshments are available.
The decades roll by but some things never change – flourishing new love affairs, decaying old ones, wanderlust, celebrities chasing young women, young women chasing celebrities. So Neil Simon’s funny, poignant and very accurate trilogy, Plaza Suite, at The Corn Exchange, Wallingford, in July, is bang-up-to-date with its attitudes and language. The play comes from the 1960s, but the actions and people are from right now. The three short plays are united by one hotel suite at The Plaza in New York. We see a fading marriage, a celebrity seducer pushing at an open door and a reluctant bride driving her parents mad. The organisers say it will make you laugh and cry and then wonder if we ever learn anything... and maybe be glad that we don’t! Sinodun Players perform from July 14th-18th. For tickets, visit www.cornexchange.org.uk
Know of a local business whose service is tip-top? Didcot First’s seventh annual Business & Community Awards (BACAs) are now open for nominations. The BACAs recognise and reward excellence within Didcot, the surrounding villages and business parks such as Milton Park, Culham Science Park, Harwell Oxford and Southmead Industrial Estate. Entries can be made at the launch from anyone who would like to recommend a charity, community group or organisation that deserves to have their good work acknowledged at an exciting award ceremony later this year. Nomination forms can also be found at Soha offices, Newbury Building Society, and Cornerstone in addition to Didcot First’s website – www.didcotfirst.org.uk from the launch date to closing date 25th September. Everyone who completes and submits a nomination form can also enter a free prize draw to win two tickets to the awards gala event on 13th November. The awards and gala evening are organised by Didcot First and supported by Didcot Chamber of Commerce, Didcot Rotary Club, Jennings, Soha Housing, Taylor Wimpey and Wallingford & Didcot District Rotary. Tickets can also be purchased to attend the BACAs ceremony and are available from Cornerstone’s box office.
While I think of Cornerstone, which really is a treasure in Didcot, with a lovely cinema, there is a great community event on July 24th. Access All Areas is a free day, starting at 10am, dedicated to creative activities for people aged 16+ with learning disabilities, their families and friends. From dance to theatre to crafts and beauty there’s plenty to get stuck into! Cornerstone is a fully accessible building with, a lift and disabled toilets. Visit www.cornerstone-arts.org or call 01235 515144.
The Blewbury Players’ summer production this year will be The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare in the group’s open-air theatre with tiered seating. Performances take place 15th to 18th July with a matinee on 18th. This is BP’s first Shakespeare production since 2009 and only the second time this play has been in the garden. Directing will be Erica Harley – a past resident of Blewbury and long-standing actor in the Players and Sinodun Players’ productions. The designer is Jean
White, often seen in the sound box, but more recently gaining much experience as a creative theatre designer. The play is first and foremost a love, story, but is often viewed quite critically by today’s audiences, with its overtones of anti-feminist attitudes. With a cast of 20 this will be a fun evening’s entertainment of one of Shakespeare’s easiest texts. Audiences are welcome to picnic in the garden before the performances and the gate and bar open at 7pm. Tickets are £12 for adults and £6 for children. Visit www.blewburyplayers.co.uk or buy from Savages or by calling Cornerstone on 01235 515144.
As a prelude to this Shrew, Chris Whatmore will give a talk entitled ‘Laughing Matter?’ at 8pm on 3rd July in Melland Room. He will put The Taming of the Shrew in its historical and artistic context and try to shed some light both on the comedy’s continuing popularity and on why at least one modern theatre critic has called for it to be banned! No ticket is required but a donation to the Village Hall Refurbishment welcomed on the evening. There will be a bar. More details at www.blewburyplayers.co.uk
Want to uncover some fun? On Saturday, 18th July, 11am–4pm, Wallingford Museum will host another exciting family archaeology day. An actual archaeological excavation will be taking place in the museum courtyard and you’ll be able learn all about how archaeology is done, from the experts. You’ll also be able to take part in some ‘hands-on’ work – pot-washing, sieving, and much more. Find out how to begin to identify the sort of pottery that helps to date the finds from archaeology and even try making your own pots for fun!
While we’re on the museum, and if you can’t make that date, it’s always worth a trip to explore the delights, including the Roman skeleton, the woolly mammoth bones, spearheads, stones from the lost priory, handle the cannon ball and search the ‘smelly-feely’ drawers. Of course, you can also have a good look at this year’s museum exhibitions including ‘Wallingford’s Royal Castle Revealed’ (where children can do their own quiz), ‘At home with the Queen of Crime: Agatha Christie’, and displays about Magna Carta (Wallingford is one of only four towns mentioned in this important document), and Midsomer Murders (Wallingford is Causton in the TV series). Wow, Wallingford has a lot of claims to fame, doesn’t it? Entry is at the door - £4 per adult (which gives unlimited entry until 28th November) but accompanied children are free.
All Saints’ Church in Sutton Courtenay is hosting its sixth season of Sunday Parish Proms. Concerts this month include Flautist’s Fancy featuring James Thompson on flute on Sunday, 19th July, and In the Spotlight, with vocal classics and standards for a summer’s evening, with soprano Lynne Winter and others, on Sunday, 26th July. The series continues with concerts on 2nd and 9th August. Each concert starts at 6pm and will last around an hour. Tickets at £6.50 per event include a complimentary apéritif and nibbles, with proceeds going to church funds. For further details call 01235 426109 or 07788 715873, or see latest updates at www.w2.suttoncourtenay.co.uk
The Old Vicarage Support Group of Friends of the Elderly invite you to join them at their summer fair on Saturday, July 20th, from 10.30am to 12noon. This summer highlight takes place in the beautiful setting of the Old Vicarage Moulsford and includes cakes, books, cards and bric-a-brac for sale as well as a tombola. There will also be refreshments available for £1 and proceeds will go to Friends of the Elderly.
Excited about the Jurassic World film? My kiddie is! If you have youngsters in your family who are Wild About Dinosaurs, this aptly named July drop-in at Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre (SCEEC for short) is for you. On Tuesday, July 21st, pop along 10am to 3pm for Jurassic-inspired fun in this mini-oasis tucked incongruously in Milton Business Park. You don’t need to book, but you do for Marvellous Minibeasts at SCEEC on Friday, July 31st, 10am to 12noon and 1–3pm. Also try Shoreline Detective Drop-in sessions from Tuesday, August 4th to Thursday, August 6th, 10am-3pm. Visit www.bbowt.org.uk/whats-on
On Wednesday, 22nd July, Reading Outdoor Group, which has many members in the Wallingford area, is organising a three to four-mile evening walk from Goring-on-Thames. To find out more, get in touch by visiting www.readingoutdoorgroup.org.uk or phone the group’s membership secretary on 0118 961 6506. Reading Outdoor Group is a long-established outdoor activity group that welcomes members of all ages from Reading and surrounding areas. Events are arranged and led by our members and the range of activities is varied including walking, cycling, weekends away and social events.”
Cholsey’s branch of the Women’s Institute welcomes ladies of all ages to social evenings of meeting other ladies, quizzes, interesting talks whilst having a tea/coffee/glass of wine (delete as appropriate!). So, it’s not all jam-making! The group also run a book club and craft club. Cholsey WI meet every fourth Wednesday at the Pavilion in Cholsey at 7.30pm. On July 22nd, the group has a talk on life of Women in Victorian Times by Jane Stubbs. All welcome, just turn up or for more information call the president Jan Morgan on 01491 651348.
I’ll never forget my first trip to the Global Retreat Centre in Nuneham Courtenay with my daughter, three summers back, when I was new to Oxford and slightly bewildered by it all. Never been? Since 1993, the centre has welcomed thousands of people from across the world into its gorgeous site, offering residential and one-day retreats, as well as lectures, seminars and courses on meditation, personal growth and spiritual development while providing much free support to the local community. Your perfect first foray into Global Retreat could well be the free Peace in the Park, from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th July. This will be a unique mix of music, talks, fun and meditation pavilions – all with an enchanting atmosphere of peace and relaxation. After last year’s event, I was a bit punch-drunk by the idea of going tee-total and getting back into yoga… which failed. However, maybe this year? Make a date this year for more intriguing ‘Mindset Talks’, new fascinating ‘One Question’ events, new woodland activities for children and adults, an open air chill-out meditation lounge, sacred music in the grounds, and the hugely popular ‘Meditation & Music for the World’ event. Visit www.globalretreatcentre.org
Now a well-deserved celebration. Hanney Royal British Legion, based at Mill Orchard, East Hanney (OX12 0JH) is celebrating 90 years in the village and invites you to join the birthday fun. On Saturday, July 25th, from 8.30pm, there will be live music from Saga Louts and a free barbecue and grand raffle. Tickets are £5 at the door. All are welcome.
It’s about time to register for Bike Oxford, in time for Sunday, 13th September. Following on from positive feedback the routes will follow a very similar course to last year. With a choice of 25, 50 and 80 miles, there should be a suitable challenge for riders of all abilities. The event this year will start and finish at The Cherwell School (Harlequins Rugby Club) on Marston Ferry Road, Oxford. The school has huge cycling fans and have the highest proportion of students who cycle to school in the UK
They might have a new venue but they’ll still be the same (if not better) post-ride atmosphere back at the event village. Riders can relax and reminisce with friends whilst enjoying post-ride food, a well-earned pint of Hook Norton from their pay bar and take your bike to Beeline Bicyles who’ll be on hand to give your bike the once over. Visit www.bikeoxford.co.uk for more details.
Did you enjoy the blast from the past Casablanca, screened by Didcot Film Club? The club is back on its third birthday with a screening at Cornerstone of Wild Tales on Wednesday, 29th July, from 8pm. Directed by Damián Szifron last year, Wild Tales is an Argentine-Spanish black comedy film, a raucously entertaining collection of “six deadly stories of revenge” starring Ricardo Darín, Oscar Martínez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Érica Rivas, Rita Cortese Julieta Zylberberg, and Darío Grandinetti. Didcot Film Club shows films that would not otherwise be seen on a big screen in Didcot. Annual membership costs £5 and is available from Cornerstone and Didcot Civic Hall. After that, film tickets cost £5 each and members can buy tickets for themselves and a guest. See Cornerstone’s website, www.didcotfilmclub.org.uk
Windrush Innovation Centre, Howbery Park, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8BA