How on earth have we got to August already? It doesn’t seem two minutes ago since I was making pointless new year’s resolutions about jogging and abstinence. And now, suddenly, we find ourselves in the middle of summer. I am writing this having spent most of the weekend blowing up and filling up a paddling pool (with no outside tap this truly is a faff), only to discover the pool is punctured so having to traipse into town to buy a new one and start the whole process again. Still the sun is shining, and both the paddling pool and my glass are now full. Long may this continue!
Make the most of the summer at some of the great outdoor events that are coming up. See some of the rare fenland plants of Parsonage Moor Nature Reserve, just outside Abingdon, on a guided walk on Sunday, 16th August. Led by Peter Creed, the walk will also take in the nearby Dry Sandford Pit Nature Reserve, one of the richest sites for insects in Britain. The walk starts at 10.30am and is suitable for all ages. Parking is available at Dry Sandford Pit car park. People will be asked to make a £6 donation to take part. To book see www.wildlifetrusts.org/events or call 01865 788300.
Take a visit to The Harcourt Arboretum at Nuneham Courtenay and you can find out about trees from around the world. From Tuesday, 4th August to Monday, 31st August visitors can follow a fun, family trail called Cool Continents, and every Tuesday afternoon from 1pm until 4pm there will be family craft sessions focusing on North America on Tuesday, 4th August, South America on Tuesday, 11th August, Asia on Tuesday, 18th August and Europe on Tuesday, 25th August. Activities are designed for children aged four to 11 but all ages are welcome and children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Youngsters can become shoreline detectives and learn all about the creatures that live along our coastline at an event at Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre. There will be indoor and outdoor fishy activities on offer from 10am until 3pm at the centre on Tuesday 4th, Wednesday 5th and Thursday, 6th August. The centre will also be hosting wild play sessions, featuring den building and a mud kitchen, from 10am until 3pm on Tuesday 11th, Wednesday 12th and Thursday, 13th August. And you can go on a tour of the nature reserve, exploring its habitats at wildlife explorer sessions running on Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th and Thursday, 27th August. All these events are drop-in sessions and there is no need to book. It will cost £4 per child to take part and people are welcome to bring picnics. Also this month at the centre is a Brilliant Bats and Marvellous Moths event on Thursday, 20th August from 7pm until 8.30pm. This is for children aged eight and over and booking is essential at www.bbowt.org.uk/whats-on or by calling 01235 862024.
And just to give you a bit of warning in case you need to get some training in, the Earth Trust is holding a 10k cross-country run around the nature reserve and Wittenham Clumps on Sunday, 6th September. Building on the success of last year’s inaugural run, the event will also include a new children’s fancy dress 1k fun run around the top of the Wittenham Clumps. This will be open to children up to 11 years old and younger children should be accompanied by an adult. This will take place at 10am before the adults’ 10k at 11am. For full details or to register in advance see www.earthtrust.org.uk
Abingdon-based Against Breast Cancer charity is appealing for people to take part in next year’s London Marathon on its behalf. The charity would love anyone who is lucky enough to be awarded a place when the ballot results are announced in October to consider running for its team on Sunday, 24th April. It is also taking applications for its charity places, which require people to raise at least £2,000 in sponsorship. To find out more or to apply for a charity place call 01235 534211 or see www.againstbreastcancer.org.uk
Staying with the sporty theme, and Abingdon Rugby Club is holding its 60th annual sevens tournament on Saturday, 15th August. The event at Southern Town Park, Lambrick Way from 11am will feature both men and women’s competitions, and there will also be a beer festival, barbecue and live big-screen coverage of the England versus France Rugby World Cup warm-up game from 8pm in the evening.
The Rugby World Cup trophy will be paying a visit to Oxford at the end of the month. The Webb Ellis Cup will be in Oxford’s South Park on Sunday, 23rd August as part of the build-up to the tournament, which starts in September. From 10am members of the public will have the chance to have their photo taken with the trophy. There will also be a variety of rugby-related activities and the chance to meet representatives from local clubs. To find out more about the trophy tour, visit www.rugbyworldcup.com/trophy-tour or for more on the Oxford event, see www.oxonrugby2015.com or follow @oxonrugby2015 on Twitter.
And teams are also needed for an Abingdon event which promises ‘the most fun you can have on water’! I am, of course, talking about the town’s Rotary Dragon Boat Day on Sunday, 6th September. The annual fundraising event based on dragon boat racing is held on the River Thames at Rye Farm Meadow. It’s a great day for all participants of all ages, and you don’t need any previous experience to take part. Full details are available from www.abingdondragonboats.org.uk
Talking water, and if a summer al fresco dip appeals, why not pop to Abbey Meadows outdoor pool for a refreshing swim. The pool is open from 9am until 6pm seven days a week until Sunday, 6th September. Visit www.better.org.uk/leisure or call 01235 529321.
Are you, like me, looking for ways to keep your youngsters busy during the summer holidays? If so, it’s not too late to take part in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. This year’s challenge, which encourages children to read six or more books from the library over the summer holidays, is being run with Guinness World Records and has a record breakers theme celebrating real-life achievements. Aimed at children aged four to 11, it is being run in libraries across Oxfordshire and is completely free. There will also be fun activities, storytime and craft sessions at many libraries. For information either pop in to your local library or see www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/libraries
Over at Grove Library, there is plenty on all month. The library’s free rhyme-time session for under fives will be held on Tuesday, 11th August from 10.45am until 11.15am and its Knit and Natter group will be meeting on Fridays 7th and 21st August from 2pm until 3pm. There are currently some spaces on the Age UK free computer sessions on Thursday mornings so if you’re over 60 and lack confidence using a computer please call the library on 01235 771732. And if you’re considering tracing your family history, you could book a session with expert John Marsden, on Tuesday afternoons. Inspired by the World Record Summer Reading Challenge theme, the library is aiming to set its own record - in Jellybaby Jenga Stacking! This will be a timed competition, open to all, running until Friday, 28th August on any day except Wednesdays and Fridays. And you can meet a genuine world record holder when Martin Allum, who held the Guinness World Record for ploughing an acre in the fastest time, will be visiting the library on Thursday, 6th August from 2pm until 3pm. Lastly, there will also be a world record-themed colouring competition for younger visitors. To find out more about any of these events pop in to the library or call 01235 771732.
Also in Grove, the White Horse Folk Festival will be staged again from Friday 14th to Sunday, 16th August. WHFF is described as a small, friendly festival for folk fans featuring music, dance and song workshops and sessions, and a Saturday evening concert in Grove Village Hall. For full details see www.whitehorsefolkfestival.co.uk
For all the fun of a traditional country fair head to Uffington for the White Horse Show on the August bank holiday Sunday and Monday. The show was started more than 40 years ago by local villagers to raise funds to replace the Village Hall in Uffington. Since then it has continued to support local associations and charities through the White Horse Show Charitable Trust. The show offers a wide range of attractions for families and people of all ages including arena events, craft stalls, animals, historic vehicles, children’s activities, live music and much, much more. Gates open at 10am on both days. For more information see www.whitehorseshow.co.uk
Plenty of family fun is promised at DFEST, being held on Saturday, 8th August at Drayton’s village hall and recreation ground. The event, which raises funds for several local charities, promises live music, bouncy castles, giant slides, a toddler area, five-a-side youth football, and a gala tent with local charities running an assortment of stalls. There will be a range of refreshments including a beer tent and Pimm’s and champagne bars. Music starts at 2pm and will finish outside at around 8.30pm, with DJs playing in the main hall from 8pm until late.
Over in Oxford and the city is once again staging a table tennis festival. Ping! Oxford is back in full swing and runs until the end of August. It’s the third year the city has taken part in the national festival, which encourages people to have a go at the sport and get active during the summer. Last year saw more than 74,000 people of all ages and abilities across the city taking part. To find your nearest table, where you can pick up bats and balls and play for free, visit www.pingoxford.co.uk
The Foodies Festival returns to Oxford’s South Park over the August bank holiday for its sixth consecutive year. The event, from Saturday 29th to Monday, 31st August will once again feature a feast of culinary treats from demonstrations by top chefs to a whole host of food, drink and produce to try and buy. For the full line-up and ticket information see www.foodiesfestival.com/oxford
If you fancy a nice slice of homemade cake then the Dorchester Abbey Tearoom is well worth a visit. The tearoom, which has its home in the Guest House in the grounds of the abbey and was established almost 40 years ago, is run entirely by volunteers with all proceeds going to abbey charities. All cakes, scones and jams are home-made by a small team of helpers and the tea and coffee is Fairtrade. The prices are modest, tea gets cheaper the more you drink and you can sit inside at communal tables or outside in the courtyard. The tearoom is open from Easter weekend through to the last weekend in September on Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and bank holiday Mondays from 2.30pm until 5pm, and Wednesdays from 3pm until 5pm.
Back to Abingdon where the first CLAWS (Combined Local Animal Wellbeing Scheme) event held in Abingdon last month proved a real success. More than 80 animals were micro-chipped over the day, and more than 50 cats and dogs neutered, with organisers saying the event will have a significant impact in terms of animal welfare awareness and future prevention of uncontrolled breeding. Further events are planned as part of the CLAWS multi-agency approach to tackling animal welfare issues.
And volunteers are needed to help provide temporary homes for cats and kittens who have been neglected or mistreated. The Oxfordshire branch of the RSPCA is appealing for foster carers to look after cats and kittens for a few weeks while the charity searches for a permanent home with new adopters. The fosterer will be supplied with everything they need and reimbursed for expenses. Call Rosemary on 01865 821749 or 07887 475403.
And Sutton Courtenay is also staging its village show this year on Saturday, 5th September in the Village Hall, Frilsham Street. This year two new allotment classes have been introduced to the competition along with more than 70 other classes, including photography, sewing, cooking, knitting and flower arranging. No Two Things from Didcot will be attending the event and tea and cake will be served from 2pm when the show opens for people to view. All money raised will go towards village garden seats and daffodils for the village greens. More information and details of how to enter the show can be found at w2.suttoncourtenay.co.uk
Staying in Sutton Courtenay where All Saints’ Church concludes its sixth season of Sunday Parish Proms with a concert on Sunday, 9th August. The concert called Folk Finale features the vocal and instrumental trio Three Pressed Men. It will start 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. Call 01235 426109 or 07788 715873.
You can give your vocal chords a workout at a singalong supper at the Thomas Hughes Memorial Hall in Uffington on Friday, 4th September. The evening, which starts at 7pm, will feature Derek James at the keyboard. There will be a two course supper and a licensed bar. Tickets cost £20 each and are available by calling John on 01367 820542 or Jim on 01367 820559.
To Marcham, where there will be a craft, material and fabric sale at Denman College on Saturday, 15th August. The sale of donated papercraft items, threads, fabric and sewing goods will run from 10am to 5pm, with free parking and entry. www.denmancollege.org.uk
Learn all about the art of fabric manipulation and surface texture at a talk being given by Jennie Rayment to Abbey Quilters on Tuesday, 1st September. The talk called Trials and Tribulations of a Travelling Nipper and Tucker will be given at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon from 11am. Tickets cost £5, which includes a drink and cake, on the door. Call Janet Manning on 01235 528974 or 07478 994933
Staff at South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are settling into their new office at 135 Eastern Avenue in Milton Park near Didcot. The councils have been looking for a new home since a fire destroyed their shared offices in Crowmarsh earlier this year. Since then some officers moved into much smaller temporary accommodation in Abingdon and in Sandford-on-Thames, and others have been working from home. Milton Park will be the councils’ home for the next few years while they sort out the future of the Crowmarsh site, and what to do about a permanent home. The councils will still be reachable on the same phone numbers and email addresses for the time being, and many services are available online at www.southoxon.gov.uk and www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk
The re-elected chairman of the Vale of White Horse District Council Mike Badcock has chosen to support Helen and Douglas House and the Royal British Legion. Cllr Badcock, who was re-elected as chairman for a third term, raised £2,500 for the Royal British Legion and £1,000 for the National Eczema Society as a result of his fundraising last year, which included a public dinner as well as a quiz and dress-down days.
A mum from Oxford is encouraging people to turn their old car into cash for the charity her family started after her son was diagnosed with brain cancer. Sally and Andrew Hall founded Blue Skye Thinking last July in response to their four-year-old son Skye being diagnosed with medulloblastoma. Sadly, on 29th August, 2014, Skye died peacefully at home aged five. The charity, which is raising funds so all children diagnosed with brain tumours have a better chance of survival and a better quality of life, has signed up to Giveacar. For each car scrapped the charity receives around £80. To support Blue Skye Thinking through Giveacar please visit www.giveacar.co.uk/charities/blue-skye-thinking
Money is also being raised in memory of an Oxfordshire toddler. David and Hannah Cole’s son Oscar was 16 months old when he died last June from encephalitis. The couple from Kirtlington have since set up a charity, Thinking of Oscar, to raise funds to improve the quality of life for young children and their families whilst in hospital care through investment in medical and diagnostic technology. Sadly Oscar had to undergo a large number of blood tests and intravenous procedures, and because he was so young the doctors and nurses often found it hard to locate a vein viable enough to insert a cannula (a tube used to extract blood and inject medication) which was painful and distressing for him. One of the solutions the Coles came across in the wake of their son’s death was a non-invasive vein finding device called AccuVein. Fundraising is now under way to provide the Oxford Children’s Hospital with two devices. Visit www.thinkingofoscar.com
And an Oxfordshire man, whose daughter has leukaemia, is appealing for people to register as potential blood stem cell donors. Arun Kumar and his wife Helen, from Wheatley, have launched the appeal to try to find a suitable donor for their daughter. Two-and-a-half-year-old Elsie was diagnosed with myeloid leukaemia in Down’s syndrome (MLDS) last October and went into remission following treatment. Unfortunately she relapsed in April, and now needs a blood stem cell donation to get better. Elsie, who is being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital, is an only child so doesn’t have any siblings who could have a matching tissue-type and is therefore dependent on finding a matching donor amongst those who have registered to be on standby to donate blood stem cells. Her parents are appealing for people to register as potential blood stem cell donors with charity Delete Blood Cancer UK to help find a perfect match for Elsie and others like her. To find out more see www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk/en/a-match-for-elsie
Heads up (or should that be heads down?) for a 100-foot charity abseil at the John Radcliffe Hospital next month. The Oxford University Hospitals Trust event on Sunday, 20th September is raising money for head and neck cancer research, the Cancer and Haematology Day Treatment Unit and Outpatients Fund, The Silver Star Society, and Oxford Children’s Hospital. I have done one of these at the JR before, and found it a brilliantly terrifying experience. The abseils cost £20 to enter and details can be found at www.ouh.nhs.uk/charity/events/abseils
Windrush Innovation Centre, Howbery Park, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8BA