The Big Butterfly Count

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Join the Big Butterfly Count and spot the species

This summer marks the 10th anniversary of the Big Butterfly Count – the world’s largest butterfly survey. 

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is calling on everyone to do as many 15-minute counts as possible between today, Friday 19th and Sunday, 11th August. 

Just record what you see and send your results to www.bigbutterflycount.org or submit them using the free Big ButterflyCount app. 

Last year a record 100,000 participants took part, spotting almost one million butterflies across the UK. 

This summer, experts are keen to see how common garden butterflies are faring, as despite many species bouncing back in the 2018 heatwave, colourful favourites such as the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock both recorded poor years.  

Butterfly Conservation vice-president Chris Packham is following in the footsteps of Sir David Attenborough by getting behind the campaign this year. 

Chris said: “It’s easy to feel powerless when confronted with endless decline statistics from birds to bees to butterflies, but the fight for our environmental future starts with small acts, it starts with you.  

“That’s why I urge you to take part in the Big Butterfly Count this summer. By taking part in the count you are showing that our butterflies, our wildlife and our environment are worth fighting for.” 

Get involved:

People can take part in their gardens or local parks, but there are plenty of free events taking place across the country too – more details can be found here…

Guitar Guinness World Record bid

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A Guinness World Record attempt to hold the longest ever guitar lesson is taking place today at London City Island. 

More than 200 Londoners will take part in the 24hour lesson at Trinity Art Gallery before moving to Trinity Square for a mass gig where the final song will be played in unison. 

Open to all levels and abilities funds raised from the project will allow The Guitar Social, which is hosting the record bid, to extend a course specifically designed to help the visually impaired learn to play the guitar and experience the joy of making music. One such beneficiary is 96-year-old Mary who is partially blind and has just played her first gig. 

Thomas Binn, founder of The Guitar Social, says: “Our classes are about reducing social isolation, raising self-esteem and connecting communities that are too often ignored by the arts world. 

“We decided to use this event to showcase the power of music and to rally support for those who really need it. We hope Londoners will come and join in the fun of this momentous occasion!’’  

The Guitar Social works to get novice musicians out of their bedrooms and on to a stage. 

Get involved:

The record attempt starts at 6pm today (18th) and runs until 6pm on Friday 19th. 

For more information and details about how to get involved, visit Guitar Social

30 Days Wild challenge

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Picture credit: Nick Upton

More than 10 million random acts of wildness in month-long challenge

More than 400,000 people carried out in excess of 10 million ‘random acts of wildness’ as part of the 30 Days Wild Challenge in June.

Wildlife enthusiasts were encouraged to do something wild and enjoy nature every day, taking part in the Wildlife Trusts’ initiative which proved to be more popular than ever this year.

As well as the 50,000 households who signed up for their free packs, wall charts, stickers and wildflower seeds, more than 9,000 schools, 1,300 businesses and 570 care homes also took part.

Wildlife Trusts’ head of communications Joanna Richards said: “It’s been an extraordinarily wild month! We’ve loved seeing the creative and inventive activities of people taking part right across the UK – getting up close to bugs, butterflies and birds, rewilding a garden or making a daisy chain.  You don’t need to go far to appreciate wildlife and often the simplest interactions can bring us the most joy.”

Wildlife gardening in homes, care homes and schools was a popular activity, with people creating small ponds, building homes for bugs, sowing wildflowers, noticing the birds and insects that visited and pledging not to mow their lawns, to encourage more variety of wildlife to flourish.

Other Random Acts of Wildness included:

– Waking up early to hear the dawn chorus at its best

– Organising beach cleans and litter picks

– Noticing a rainbow of flowers and trees growing in towns and countryside

– Creating wild works of art from petals, leaves and feathers.

– Care homes residents and carers have enjoyed planting pollinator-friendly blooms, making leaf art and creating wild playlists, with music inspired by nature.

Guildford Summer Festival

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Guildford Summer Festival, with sponsor Silent Pool Gin, is back for its 36th year between 8th June to 10th August

Guildford Summer Festival is a huge celebration of all that is great and good about the town.

You’ll be able to enjoy a whole host of theatre, sport, art, music, walks, heritage, tours and days out to keep you busy over the summer.

New events for this year include Animal Encounter Tours at Merrist Wood and the University of Surrey Conductors Concert at Holy Trinity Church. Don’t miss the Woodland Fairy Fair at Watts Gallery and take a trip to the beach at Guildford on sea outside the Electric Theatre.

Popular returning attractions include the festival craft fair, farmers’ markets, cricket festival, Guildford Lions raft race, drama in the castle grounds and classical concerts. Also back by popular demand are the free Alice Day at the castle (3rd August) and the Cheese and Chili Festivals at Shalford Park (21st & 22nd July).
Join a free guided town walk exploring the history, the Alan Turing walk and new Leading Lights Walk where you can meet characters from the past. Staying outdoors there’s the Round the Hogs Back Cycle Tour to join too.

The whole Guildford Summer Festival is being sponsored by Silent Pool Gin.

There are arts exhibitions to view at the Mill Studio, Watts Gallery and Guildford House Gallery and theatre at G Live and the Yvonne Arnaud as well as Guildford Fringe Festival at several venues in July.

Find out more

Festival brochures can be picked up at the Tourist Information Centre and tickets are on sale now for most events.

Bjorn Again

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Bjorn Again are set to shine at the black-tie cultural extravaganza that is Henley Festival on the banks of the River Thames, between 10th & 14th July

One of this year’s headline act started out with a pub gig in Melbourne which had an audience of 350, from just a chalkboard outside the pub that day in 1988.

Scripted and choreographed as a tongue-in-cheek satirical parody of ABBA, the show rapidly achieved cult status. Having been acknowledged by Bjorn Ulvaeus as being the show which single-handedly initiated the ABBA revival in the late 1980s early 1990s, the Bjorn Again show is hailed as the most popular and successful show of its type. Now, just over 30 years later Rod Stephen, who founded the group brings Bjorn Again to the Henley Festival.

Growing up in Australia, who was the first band Rod remembers following and seeing live? “I was probably more into the rock scene than music like Abba,” he says. “The main group who I liked at the time started off as a New Zealand group Split Enz (you probably know them better as Crowded House); it was not just their musicality and vocals, but also, they opened my eyes to the theatricality of pop music. I remember seeing them once live and the entire stage looked like a front room, the keyboard player was playing with a standard lamp behind him.”

So, how did the idea of an ABBA parody band come about? “It was 1988, and none of the groups I had been in amounted to anything. I felt like doing something different and thought of a parody band. I had three choices, Queen, The Beatles or Abba, growing up in the 1970s I had the flared trousers so picked Abba. I got together a group of musicians and we spent months rehearsing and watching videos of Abba, then came our first gig. It was at a pub in Melbourne, and the only publicity was on the chalk board outside, “Abba tribute band here tonight”. We had 350 people in, they couldn’t hold any more! We were invited back the next month, and before we knew it, we were performing quite a few nights of the week in either Melbourne or Sydney and the media picked up on us.”

Is this your first time in the Thames Valley, or indeed floating! “I think it is the first time we have appeared at the Henley Festival, and we’ve performed on floating stages though I hope it doesn’t put us too far from the audience. We did make an appearance just up the Thames at the Reading Festival in 1992. I had this call from my agent to say we were needed to play the Reading Festival, and I said needed, why? Apparently, it was one of the late Kurt Cobain’s requests that we open for Nirvana. It was a great gig and that night we really rocked the Abba hits. To this day, I can still remember the cheers of the crowds.

What can the crowds at the Henley Festival look forward to? “All the great well-known Abba hits and some of the others they can sing along to. With Bjorn Again in authentic costumes, hopefully we can get everyone dancing in the aisles.”

Henley Festival

Bjorn Again are on the floating stage on Saturday, 13th July; visit the website

Let’s go outside!

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However big –or bijou –it is, there are lots of ways make your outdoor space gorgeous…

Here we are, summer is here and we’ll cheers to that! If we can take our weather forecasters’ word for it, there’s lots more heatwave left so
it’s not too late to create your own mini paradise!

Heritage Landscape Construction has been transforming Thames Valley garden landscapes for more than 30 years. The friendly experts can find you the best affordable solutions. Contact Roger on 07721 844647. Founded in 2015 by Will Macdonald, who has 12 years’ gardening and groundwork experience, WCL Estates is an Oxfordshire-based fully insured landscaping company has a stunning portfolio of highly desirable projects; call 01235 603032.

The Coulton Tree Services team, based near Wallingford, are passionate about trees. These approved contractors, they also work with local authorities to help keep trees healthy and well-maintained. Find out about stump grinding, hedge pruning and more at www.coultontrees.co.uk

It’s vital to enlist the help of the experts for those practical and sometimes dangerous jobs. The friendly, independent Stratus Guttering team supply, install, repair and refurbish all types of metal guttering including seamless and sectional aluminium, cast iron, galvanised & stainless steel, copper and zinc. Visit www.oxfordshireseamless.co.uk or contact Euan on 07789 864696.

Love a garden gadget? Farol, a family business that’s been running since 1976. The firm has various local depots where you can check out the mowers and garden machinery; visit www.farolmowers.co.uk. And, offering a premier range of Bobcat mini excavators, skidsteers, tracked loaders and telescopic handlers for hire to get jobs done, check out TVE Hire and Sales near Wantage & Abingdon; www.tvehireandsales.co.uk

The Bourne Buildings show site near Farnham is the UK’s biggest and most affordable source for stunning outside buildings of all kinds, garden accessories & furniture. You’re sure to find something lovely (but please note they’re closed Tues & Wed) – www.bournebuildings.co.uk

It’s vital to enlist the help of the experts to get down to the nitty gritty when it comes to those practical, mucky and sometimes dangerous jobs. The friendly and genuine local specialists at Moss Master can remove moss from your roof manually, clean your fascias and soffits, vacuum-clean your gutters and power-clean your patio or driveway. Call 01420 479746 or visit www.mossmastersurrey.co.uk for a free quote.

Barbecue season is now firmly upon us (see our recipes for inspiration), but it’s not too late to create the perfect al fresco space, in as little as two hours! The Patio Black Spot Removal Co Ltd’s patented products rid your patio, terrace and garden stonework of pesky “black spots”, restoring their natural colour and impact to restore the condition as when it was first laid. Call 0800 500 3032 or visit www.patioblackspotremoval.com

Independent Sutton Green Garden Centre in Woking is sure to inspire you with its gorgeous plants as well as a stunning selection of garden furniture, barbecues and accessories such as chimeneas as well as much more. Call 01483 237 832 or visit www.gardencentrewoking.co.uk

1. Check out this Cube Fx stainless steel outdoor room by Garden House Design. 2. Don’t forget insect accommodation to help wildlife thrive outdoors. We love this hexagonal wild bee house by Garden Trading Company. 3. Check out the range at www.lights4fun.co.uk – the right lighting can create a twinkly wonderland in your garden – 4. Redwood Stone is the renowned as a creator of delightful Gothic follies and ruins, displaying each year at the famous Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Flower Show; www.redwoodstone.co.uk. 5.&6. Weatherproof garden furniture, Bridgman. 7. Jambi hand-woven garden lounger; Habitat.

Enjoy your Summer!

Party in the Park

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Get ready to Party in the Park in Woking on 6th July

This annual summertime celebration in Woking Park, which is free to attend, offers a packed programme of family entertainment and fun activities for children.

Attracting upwards of 10,000 visitors throughout the day, crowd-pullers include Wimbledon Championship action on the big screen, live music to swing along to, thirst-quenching craft beers, a sizzling hot food village and a carefully curated selection of street theatre and dance.

Entering its eighth year, Party in the Park provides a platform for local talent and aims to encourage participation by introducing partygoers to new activities and local groups. As well as parading around the park at midday with carnival band, UDM Samba, top of the list of things to try this year are slacklining (tightrope walking on a suspended line of webbing), and Tokyo 2020 Olympic sport, skateboarding! You can learn a kickturn or pop an ollie on a mobile mini-ramp with help from the pros at Mount Hawke – helmet and knee-pads provided!

Festival organiser, Riëtte Thomas, Celebrate Woking Manager at Woking Borough Council, said: “This year Party in the Park is going back to its roots. On 6th July, visitors can expect a celebration of all the things we love in Woking and are proud of, plus an eclectic mix of things to see and do across four distinct areas.

“Each year we add new content to the programme to keep the format fresh, to appeal to new audiences but most importantly, to ensure there’s something for everyone at Party in the Park so that we can bring communities together.

“The gravity-defying displays of urban sports will appeal to thrill-seekers young and old, we’re adding more music as requested, and there’s a particular focus on the environment this year. We’re also very excited to be working with one activity provider whose workshops we already know, will be the highlight of Party in the Park 2019.”

In a change to the usual line-up, this year the Main Stage will be dedicated to live performances from professional and big name acts. Headliners announced so far include Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Old Men Grooving, Glimmer Theatre’s raucous Cabareilidh, and singing sensation, Motown Gold Frontline. Local favourites, The Farleys, return to the park after their 2012 debut to fly the flag for home-grown talent.

With everything from Punch and Judy to a whirling urban astronaut floating 20ft up in the air, it’s easy to understand why Party in the Park was voted by Essential Surrey as one of the “best, unmissable events” of 2019. And for added feel good factor, this year’s event concludes with a free outdoor screening of everyone’s favourite, The Greatest Showman.

More info

For full details and latest line-up announcements

Felix Fund

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Solo and relay swimmers to cross Channel for the Felix Fund

A hearty team of swimmers is set to cross the Channel in September to raise money for a charity which helps bomb disposal and search workers and their families.

The challenge will involve the team swimming the 21 miles from Dover to France in temperatures of between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius in what will be spring tide with the currents at their strongest.

And for one swimmer it will be even tougher – Kevin Proctor from Gloucester is taking on the swim alone in aid of Felix Fund while the relay team will feature six swimmers including Captain James Wadsworth from Didcot and Lucas Tompkins from Stroud, who is only 15 years old.

Capt Wadsworth has been in the Army since 1995, was part of the Explosive Ordnance Display (EOD) unit, has served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Ireland and in 2008 was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.

He has organised numerous fundraising events for the Felix Fund including what is the now annual event the Zone3 Victory Swim the Lake which takes place in Cirencester just  before the Channel swim.

Teenager Lucas is proving to be something of a champion having already picked up several medals in short course, long and open water swims.

The team hopes to raise £50,000 for the Felix Fund which provides welfare support and financial assistance to serving personnel, veterans and their dependents in the military and the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Unit who have conducted or assisted with EOD and search duties.

A splashing cause!

Find out more about the work of the Felix Fund which is based at Didcot’s Vauxhall Barracks visit Felix Fund or click the below to show your support on their justgiving page

Filming locations: Starring role

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Sometimes the locations are as big as the stars in many of our favourite TV shows and films, how many do you recognise? Karen Neville goes undercover

How many times have you seen something on television and thought “that looks like that road in…”? Well, the chances are that it is indeed.

CHOOSE YOUR AREA:

Pop-up shop

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This summer, a new charity pop-up art gallery and garden in Shere will raise awareness and funds for nature conservation and better mental health

Feeling & Matter is a retrospective celebration of the work of John Rich, taking place at his home and studio between July and September. The pop-up exhibition will display the diverse creative output of this English painter, sculptor, picture restorer, writer, husband and father.

John’s creative talent was obvious at an early age and upon seeing his art, a teacher told him he should definitely “take it up”. The young John interpreted the word “up” as an instruction not simply to pursue an art career, but to raise the form “up” to another level.

He studied at the Epsom School of Art and then the Slade School of Art. He won a scholarship from the Guildford School of Art to study in Paris, at the Academie Grande Chaumiere and Academie Julien, while Elizabeth became his muse, a model and their chief money-earner.

A contemporary of Peter Blake and David Hockney – exhibiting alongside them – John went on to have critically successful one-man shows at the Rowan and Grabowski galleries in London. He became an artist of some standing, exhibiting with the Young Contemporaries and the London Group. Despite this auspicious start, John “retired” from painting and did his best to focus on a growing family. He resolved to take art up again afterwards. He taught himself picture restoration and achieved a reputation for excellence in this field – supporting his family while falling into obscurity from the contemporary art world.

His self-imposed exile – while affected by bipolar, encouraged a growing feeling of disillusionment about the contemporary art industry. Their focus was firmly on youth and spectacle. At this time, awards such as the Turner Prize, were not open to those aged over 50 and the rise of Damien Hirst and young British artists, dominated the headlines.

The charity pop-up gallery with garden is a non-profit venture based in Shere celebrating the creativity of the artist, supporting nature conservation and improved mental health.

Run by volunteers from Voluntary Action South West Surrey and the family of John Rich, the exhibition is open at weekends.

Find out more

Head to John’s website to read more about the exhibition and his work