Floral feast

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The blooming marvellous Chelsea Flower Show is a true horticultural highlight

here’s nothing more British than Chelsea Flower Show, with cutting-edge garden design and plants from all over the world, the show offers a glamorous, unique and memorable experience.

Whether your green fingers can make anything flourish or you only have to look at a plant to see it off, this event from 21st to 25th May, has so many aspects to enjoy and marvel at.

Internationally renowned designers and world-class exhibits vying to win RHS Gold medals and the coveted Best Show Garden will greet you round every corner with a few surprises too.

One garden that is sure to attract a great deal of attention this year is the RHS Back to Nature garden designed by The Duchess of Cambridge with Andree Davies and Adam White.

With the emphasis firmly on the family and inspired by childhood memories, the woodland garden offers a place to play, learn and discover and as part of the RHS’s partnership with NHS England is promoting the physical and emotional benefits of gardening and being outdoors. After the show, much of the planting and landscaping will be given to an NHS mental health trust.

Visitors to this garden – and there are sure to be many – can marvel at the centrepiece tree house with its swing hanging form the branches; a waterfall and stream to paddle in and a hollow log to learn balancing and climbing.

The garden is designed to be relaxing and calming as well as boasting plants for craft activities, food for wildlife and nectar for pollination.

Among the highlights (although I’m not sure how you pick) are a garden inspired by a rock formation on an Australian beach for show sponsor M&G Investments and Welcome to Yorkshire which consists of a towpath running alongside a canal lock.

Artisan Gardens are making a welcome return with smaller spaces offering thought-provoking designs that tell a story. Here you can wander around gardens raising awareness for donkeys to mark the 50th anniversary of The Donkey Sanctuary; The High Maintenance Garden for Motor Neurone Disease Association which reflects the limitations of some with the disease and the forgotten quarry garden among others.

Don’t let limited space put you off creating a garden you can be proud of, the Space to Grow gardens are a feature of Chelsea for the second year with the Kampo no Niha garden. Kampo is a system a Japanese herbal medicine with plants featured for their health benefits while The Facebook Garden takes you “Beyond the Screen”.

The Duchess of Cambridge at the announcement of the garden design in January Credit: RHS / Suzanne Plunkett

Garden designer Chris Beardshaw, winner of Best Show Garden 2018 for the Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC, Credit: RHS / Luke McGregor

The Chelsea Flower Show is also heralding the health and wellbeing benefits of green spaces and gardening for people and the environment.

Designers have explored the positive powers of plants and looked at factors which affect mental and physical health, such as Kate Gould’s garden supported by Greenfingers Charity which has created an uplifting space for children and the Savills and David Harber Garden which is all about how good it can feel getting away from the hustle and bustle using plants, trees and grasses to show a sustainable woodland clearing in a city garden.

The centrepiece of the show is the Great Pavilion which houses specialist growers from across the UK and those who have travelled from overseas to attend.

More than 80 exhibitors will be featured with a first for the Great Pavilion this year in the shape of a fully-interactive and walk-through garden, created by Tom Dixon and sponsored by IKEA, showcasing sustainable, affordable and forward-thinking solutions to growing food at home and in the community.

Many of the exhibitors are celebrating significant anniversaries this year at Chelsea including the multi-award winning David Austin Roses which marks its 50th anniversary at the show; the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies celebrating 60 years and the leading orchid cultivator McBean’s Nursery, with more than 70 Gold awards to its name, which is celebrating its 140th year.

After you’ve walked round and feasted on all that – and that’s only a small fraction of what’s on offer – you’ll be in need of some sustenance and there’s no shortage of options there either, not least the Jardin Blanc, an innovative dining experience from award-winning Oxfordshire chef Raymond Blanc.

To complete your quintessentially British experience visit The Drawing Room courtesy of The Dorchester and enjoy a floral-inspired tea with pastries and warm scones alongside a glass of Champagne or pop into Wedgewood’s tea conservatory and taste the exotic Wonderlust Collection.

Night owls can also hang back after the crowds have dispersed and enjoy Chelsea Late with botanical-inspired cocktails and cool jazz to round off what will have been a sublime experience.

  For more information about these gardens and many more and to book tickets, please visit www.rhs.org.uk

April flowers

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I absolutely love this time of year. The countryside is awash with daffodils, tulips are starting to flower and glorious summer days in the garden really are just around the corner.

Now is the perfect time to:

– Prune shrubs including buddlejas, hebes, mop head hydrangeas, hypericums and winter flowering honeysuckles. Always start by removing any branches which are dead, damaged, diseased or crossing other branches. Established shrubs can be hard pruned to control size

– Direct sow hardy annuals such as marigolds, nigella, poppies, ammi, cerinthe and nasturtiums for lots of summer colour. It’s also your last chance to sow sweet peas

– Beetroot, broad beans, brassicas, onions, parnsips, salad leaves and spinach can all be sown now. Sow little and often for harvesting throughout the year. If you can’t decide which cultivars to choose, opt for the ones with ‘AGM’ after the name.

– Plant second early potatoes by the middle of the month, and maincrops by the end

– Plant snowdrops ‘in the green’

– Protect plants from slugs and snails which are out in force now. There are several ways to control them: beer traps, mulching with grit, or simply by being vigilant and removing them. If you decide to use slug pellets go for the ones based onferrous phosphate rather than metaldehyde to protect wildlife. Apply sparingly

– Create a new lawn by seeding or turfing

– Green up existing lawns by scarifying, aerating, feeding and weeding

– Start mowing regularly

– Apply a general fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 to your borders to give both edible and ornamental plants a nutritional boost

– Protect fruit blossom from late frosts with horticultural fleece

Plants looking particularly good now include:

  • Brunnera macropylla (Siberian bugloss)
  • Chaenomeles × superba ‘Crimson and Gold’ (Japanese quince)
  • Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ (wallflower)
  • Euphorbia amygdaloides (wood spurge)
  • Hyacinthoides non-scripta (bluebell)
  • Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart)
  • Ribes sanguineum (flowering currant)

Why not visit some gardens for inspiration?

My top picks for April are

Rooksnest, Lambourn Woodlands, (April 10th)

The Old Rectory, Farnborough (April 14th)

Rookwood Farm House, Stockcross (April 28th)

Chenies Manor, Rickmansworth

Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury

  Call Hannah Fraser, Bloom Gardens on 07768 041929 or visit Bloom Gardens website

Green party: April recipes

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Watercress & cheese scones

Ahead of Alresford Watercress Festival on Sunday, 19th May, The Watercress Company has teamed up with chef Keri Astill Frew. Watercress, which grows in the flowing spring waters of Hampshire and Dorset, is one of the healthiest plants known to man and has been revered since ancient times. It contains more than 50 vital vitamins and minerals and, gram for gram, even contains more calcium than milk, more folate than banana, more vitamin C than oranges and more vitamin E than broccoli. Watercress has been scientifically proven to help prevent cancer and other diseases.

(Prep: 10 mins – Cooking: 15-20 mins – Makes: 9)

Ingredients:

100g watercress
• 225g self-raising flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp mustard powder (optional)
• A pinch of salt
• 50g butter, cubed
• 75g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
• 200ml buttermilk plus a little for brushing the tops
• A pinch or two of cayenne pepper

Method:

A tangy alternative to the traditional sweet scone, these are delicious with butter or perhaps topped with a cream cheese.

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas mark 7.

Reserve a few small sprigs of watercress (to decorate the tops) and finely chop the rest.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and mustard into a large bowl. Add the salt and butter; rub into dry ingredients with your fingers. Stir in watercress and two thirds of the cheese, mix well.

3. Make a well in the centre, add buttermilk and mix with a round bladed knife into soft dough.

4. Very lightly knead on a floured surface, then use a floured rolling pin to roll dough to a thickness of 2.5cm. Use a 6cm plain round cutter to press out circles of the dough, rerolling lightly, as necessary. The mix should make nine scones.

5. Place the scones on an oiled large baking sheet. Brush each with a little buttermilk (or milk), top with a sprig of watercress, then scatter the remaining cheese on. Dust with a pinch of cayenne if liked, then bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 mins or until golden on top. Leave to cool for five mins before serving warm.

Chocolate, orange & watercress brownies

…with chocolate ganache topping

Chocolate, orange and watercress may not seem the most obvious combination but by golly, it works! The sharp pepper of the watercress contrasts deliciously with the citrus flavours and bitterness of the chocolate to make a truly mouth-watering treat.

(Prep: 40 mins, Cooking: 40 mins, Makes: 16 squares)

Ingredients:

• 300g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
• 200g unsalted butter
• Zest of one orange
• 350g caster sugar
• Four large eggs
• 100g plain flour, sieved
• 50g cocoa powder, sieved
• 50g watercress, finely chopped

For the topping:

• 250g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
• 250ml double cream
• 1 tbsp Cointreau (optional)

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C and line a square tin with greaseproof paper. Place 200g chocolate, all the butter and orange zest in a heatproof bowl and microwave, full power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring and repeating. Be careful the chocolate doesn’t get too hot and burn.

2. Use an electric whisk, or stand mixer with whisk attachment, to beat the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Leave the chocolate mix to cool for at least five minutes before stirring in, then mix in the flour and cocoa. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate and watercress, then pour into the tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes, using a skewer or knife to test it’s cooked. Remove and cool completely.

3. Bring the cream to the boil in a saucepan, being careful it doesn’t boil over. Remove from heat, then stir in the chocolate, stirring until melted and mixed. Finally, stir in the Cointreau if using.

4. Allow the ganache to cool a bit, then pour on the brownies in the tin. Smooth using a palette knife or spatula, then leave for 30 minutes before cutting into squares.

5. The brownies can be kept for three-to-five days in an airtight tin or frozen (up to three months).

Visit www.thewatercresscompany.com for more recipes. For details about Alresford Watercress Festival visit www.watercressfestival.org

We Love Golf

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The We Love Golf campaign is encouraging more women to take part in the game and enjoy the social side too

If you thought golf wasn’t for you, then think again, there has been a real swing over the past year towards making the game more accessible and appealing to women.

We Love Golf is all about encouraging more women to get involved and as much as it’s about picking up the clubs it’s also about ensuring women feel part of a ‘club’ – a social club that is, where they can make friends and be part of a community coming together to enjoy themselves through the game.

The PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) is helping this drive with the use of social media encouraging women to share their experiences and success stories.

We Love Golf is about friendship, health and fitness and providing support for women to develop, stimulate interest in the game, connect to others and offering basic information so don’t worry if you don’t know the difference between an iron and a wood or don’t know your eagle from your albatross – none of that matters.

The campaign will help find a PGA Professional who can help you learn to play and teach you the finer points of the game. Starting with an often free taster session you don’t need any equipment or the ‘right clothes’, all that’s needed is a sense of fun and enthusiasm to learn.

After the initial session, many women go on to join a group coaching session and will then progress further to take advantage of offers for reduced priced rounds and relaxed memberships.

We want women to view it as a leisure activity they do with friends

Two pilot schemes were launched last year, one at Reigate Heath attracted 10 women who then all signed up to group coaching and have since signed up to the next programme. Head pro Cliff Gough was so pleased with the success of that he now’s running a new programme in tandem with the first one.

This year the campaign plans to expand the scheme and host events all over the country, creating a real sense of community, including a campaign around the Women’s British Open at the beginning of  August.

Nicole Wheatley, is helping to tee off the We Love Golf campaign and hopes the social aspect of it will help its appeal. She says: “We want women to view it as a leisure activity they do with friends, come along and enjoy the game and have a good chat and laugh at the same time.

“We’ve found the women who have come along so far have celebrated the small successes such as getting out of a bunker and have been very encouraging towards each other, often through social media and this is what we are trying to promote.”

  Details of the pros involved and We Love Golf events are on www.facebook.com/WeLoveGolfPGA and follow them on Twitter and Instagram

Wildlife survey

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People’s Trust for Endangered Species needs your help to record Britain’s ‘big five’

Help wildlife this spring by recording sightings of Britain’s big five and others for the annual Living with Mammals survey. 

Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is asking volunteers to record sightings of all mammals they see to help future conservation efforts. 

Last year the top five recorded were: grey squirrels, foxes, mice, hedgehogs and bats. 

Volunteers can take part from 1st April to 30th June, recording mammals they see or signs of them in any local green space – gardens, allotments, parks etc in an urban, suburban or rural location – within 200 metres of a building. 

Surveys officer at PTES, David Wembridge urges people to join in stressing the importance of green spaces and our wildlife. He says: “They provide food, clean air and water, and make us healthier and happier. Counting our wild neighbours, and knowing how their populations are changing, is a health-check on our towns and cities. 

“As our weather warms up, we hope people will get out and see lots of wildlife – and the signs they leave behind, such as footprints or droppings.” 

Volunteers can spend anything from 10 minutes a week at their chosen site to several hours and can do so either individually or as part of a team. 

David adds: “The results allow us to understand how populations of each species are changing – for better or worse. This lets us identify where conservation work is needed most.” 

  For more information on how to spot mammals and to register to take part go to www.ptes.org/LWM and upload any images you can snap to social media using the hashtag #livingwithmammals 

Male cancer awareness week

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The eleventh Orchid Male Cancer Awareness Week, from 8th 14th April, encourages all men to check their “bits”

This important annual campaign raises awareness of male specific cancers – prostate, testicular and penile cancer – providing practical advice, support and information on the detection, diagnosis and treatment of these diseases.

West Sussex Urology Consultant surgeons, Barnaby Chappell & Simon Woodhams are urging men to get to know their prostate and routinely check their testicles. They explain that most men are pretty unaware of the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer or know what to look for when they check their testicles.

Many men who develop prostate cancer don’t develop any symptoms at all.  But getting up at night as well as going very frequently and perhaps rushing to the loo, those are all the common symptoms of any prostate problem. Prostate Cancer is a very serious disease and in fact it’s the second most common cause of men dying from cancer in the UK.  If men do have symptoms it’s very worthwhile having this sort of problem excluded.  It comes as figures show more than half of men don’t actually know where their prostate is.  It’s the second biggest cancer killer in men.

Most men’s testicles are about the same size, though it’s common for one to be slightly bigger than the other. It’s also common for one testicle to hang lower than the other.  The testicles should feel smooth, without any lumps or bumps, and firm but not hard. You may feel a soft tube at the back of each testicle, which is called the epididymis.  If you notice any changes or anything unusual about your testicles, you should get checked out.

If you’re a guy who puts off going to see the doctor, you’re not alone but sometimes it’s good to talk. It’s a common problem among men…a reluctance to talk about health and more specifically, the prostate, penis or bladder. It’s understandable really, problems ‘down there’ don’t exactly make us feel our most masculine and talking about any type of health issue isn’t easy.

Barnaby Chappell & Simon Woodhams are Consultant Urologists at Western Sussex Hospitals and practice privately at Goring Hall Hospital near Worthing.

  For more information visit www.westsussexurology.co.uk

Oar-some day

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The annual Oxford vs Cambridge university Boat Race takes place on the Thames in south west London today and will be watched by thousands not just along the banks but on the television too.

But did you know of its much more humble origins almost 200 years ago? 

The first boat race was staged after two school friends Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet) and a student at Christ Church in Oxford and Charles Merrivale of St John’s Cambridge, decided to set up a challenge after Wordsworth had been rowing on the Cam. 

A letter was written from St John’s to Christ Church stating “that the University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation”. 

That first boat race took place in Henley on 10th June 1829 with Oxford the victors – their boat can still be seen today in Henley’s River & Rowing Museum. 

For the next 25 years races only happened sporadically with the second taking place in 1836 in London. 

Today the event is one of the most eagerly-anticipated in the sporting calendar with not just the men’s eight taking to the water but the Women’s Boat Race and races between the reserve crews too. 

The course is four miles, 374 yards long and stretches from Putney to Mortlake and was first used in 1845. 

And there are many great spots for fans to enjoy the races from along the Thames including Putney and Hammersmith bridges, Chiswick Pier and Thames Reach. 

There’s also a fan park at Bishop’s Park in Fulham where you’ll find a big screen to watch the BBC coverage live, bars and street food vendors and at Furnivall gardens in Hammersmith where the Wainwright Fan Park will serve up a few pints of the official beer of the 2019 boat race, Wainwright The Golden Beer, alongside street food. Both parks are free to enter and family friendly. 

 The men’s race is due to start at 3.10pm and the women’s at 2.13pm. The fan parks open at 12pm. 

Big pedal

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Don’t be surprised if on your way to work or school this morning you see many more children than usual on their bikes, scooters or just walking. 

Today, Monday 25th March, marks the start of the largest inter-school cycling challenge inspiring pupils, parents and staff to choose human power rather than motor power for their journey to school.

The Sustrans Big Pedal, will run (why not give that a try too) from today until Friday, 5th April, and for the first time walking will be counted as well as cycling and scooting.

Primary and secondary schools will battle it out daily to see which one can get more of their pupils, staff and parents using human power – the school’s best five days will determine the final position.

Aside from the obvious health and environmental benefits of cycling, walking or scooting to school, there are also daily prize draws for rewards if more than 15% of your school cycle, walk or scoot on each day of the 10-day challenge. Prizes include scooters from lead sponsor Micro Scooters, Goodordering school bags, Frog bikes and cycle and scooter racks from Broxap.

There’s also the chance to be superhero for the day using your human power with the fancy dress day to celebrate the finale of the Big Pedal – encourage everyone at school (teachers too!) to dress up for the day and decorate your scooter too with a “bling your ride” session. Why not make it a fundraising event too? All money raised for Sustrans helps enable thousands of children to cycle, walk and scoot every day, aiding every one to enjoy a healthier, happier and safer journey to school.

Find out more at www.sustrans.org.uk 

Make sure, if you are on your bike or even your scooter, you’re wearing a helmet. Find out more and about a great charity promoting just this.

Get away!

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Fancy a night away? Refresh yourself (and perhaps your plus one) with an overnight break right here in the UK, writes Liz Nicholls.

What with all the political hokey cokey over the past couple of years (Brexit), we thought we’d turn our sights to staycation options close to home.

After all, amid all the frustrating / upsetting (delete as appropriate) wranglings over backstops and borders, surely now is a good time to celebrate the best quirky, wonderful resources Blighty has to offer?

Well, our eccentric island nation of “Marmite, village fetes and country lanes” (to quote Bill Bryson) certainly has plenty to offer so you’re sure of a great break to suit any budget, without having to get your passport out.

Two Hoots Glamping near Alresford has some beautifully British shepherd’s huts and camping pods where you’re sure of cosy, comforting TLC right in the heart of gorgeous Hampshire countryside. The eco-friendly pods and huts feature king-size beds are perfectly located for visiting Jane Austen territory and you can travel there by steam train, thanks to the idyllic Watercress Line. For full details visit www.twohootscampsite.co.uk or call 01962 772242.

Are you a lady of a certain age who’d relish time away from the male of the species? If so, I hear you! Slipper Camps in Tenterden, Kent, specialise in ladies-only uplifting getaways, full-board, in a boutique country hotel, featuring creative workshops so you can share new experiences and laughter with other like-minded ladies. Visit www.slippercamps.co.uk or contact 07774 294309.

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The Chilterns View in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside is the ideal choice for a romantic rendezvous. Book into one of the south-facing lodges, which each boasts a floor-to-ceiling glass front and raised veranda, elevated to give you unrivalled views across the Chiltern Hills. Two of the five lodges are open-plan and each comes with its own private side balcony and a 24-hour heated hot tub for two. Visit www.thechilternsview.co.uk or call 01491 836 353. 

If you’re looking for a gorgeous group or family staycation you’re sure of lovely accommodation with character, stunning light and scenery to die for with Coronet Cottages. The family business has a holiday home on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and another in Cotswold Water Park each offering a breath of fresh air. www.coronetcottages.co.uk

Just to prove how much the UK does offer, there is even a super safari option – courtesy of Port Lympne in Kent. As featured on ITV’s This Morning, this 600-acre reserve and luxury hotel is run by the award-winning Aspinall Foundation and is home to more than 760 animals and 90 species. Book a rhino or tiger lodge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience while helping conservation. Visit
www.aspinallfoundation.org/port-lympne

If camping is more your jam, Wigwam Holidays has loads of comfy glamping options which can incorporate your passion too, be it hiking, photography, surfing, climbing, archery, fishing or water sports; visit www.wigwamholidays.com

And Henry’s Campsite, right on the tip of the The Lizard in Cornwall, offers pitches with sea views, sunsets to die for and a location boasting coastal and inland paths (careful if you’ve partaken of a few rosies!). Visit www.henryscampsite.co.uk or call 01326 290596.

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Also in Cornwall, Carbis Bay Holidays offer a five-star collection of cottages in St Ives, from penthouse apartments overlooking the white-sand beaches to designer country homes a pebble’s throw from the coast; call 01736 630015 or visit www.carbisbayholidays.co.uk

Luxury Lodges offer stunning stays in Cornwall, the Lake District & Wales; www.luxurylodges.com.

For a healthy break, you’d be hard-pushed to beat the pampering packages at Grayshott Health Spa near Hindhead, 2018 winner of the World Spa Awards, no less; visit www.grayshottspa.com or call 01428 602020. Or top up your sunshine levels by booking in for a stay at Donnington Valley Hotel in Newbury where the new Aqua Sun package will massage your cares away, bathing you in low-level UV canopy light. The privately owned hotel and golf club is set in stunning parkland. Visit www.donningtonvalley.co.uk or call 01635 551199.

Spectacular splendour is the name of the game at Great Fosters in Egham, voted AA Hotel Of the Year England. It’s a wedding venue to die for & Michelin-starred foodie mecca; visit www.greatfosters.co.uk or call 01784 433822.

Whether you favour the voluptuous Yorkshire Dales or cute Cotswolds, Together Travel have superb luxe glass-fronted eco-lodges. Visit www.togethertravel.co.uk or call 01386 897179. And Cool Stays has incredible treehouse, cabin and “boatel” break ideas for groups and couples at www.coolstays.com

For bucolic country cottages in some of the UK’s most heart-stoppingly beautiful landscapes check out Home Away (there are also cute continental options if you do want to travel beyond the white cliffs…). Visit www.homeaway.co.uk

De Vere Cotswold Water Park, GL7 5FP, is a tranquil spa haven sure to rejuvenate you; www.devere.co.uk. Top up on sunshine with a stay at Donnington Valley Hotel in Newbury where the new Aqua Sun package will massage cares away, bathing you in low-level UV light. The privately owned hotel and golf club is set in stunning parkland. Visit www.donningtonvalley.co.uk or call 01635 551199.

I just had a houseful of Canadian friends to stay… It’s amazing how playing tour guide in your home city (mine’s Oxford) opens your eyes. For the perfect Dreaming Spires stay try The Porterhouse, OX2 0AL, just a hop from the station, for the best steak in Christendom and hip, comfy rooms; 01865 248546 or www.theporterhouse-oxford.com. Another quirky choice is Malmaison’s reincarnation of the old prison in the castle quarter; www.malmaison.com. And if, like me, you’re a fan of that 1950s American vibe, you’ll love Mollie’s Motel & Diner near Faringdon, SN7 8PY. I can’t wait to try this celeb honeypot (brainchild of Soho House founder Nick Jones) for a milkshake and adult sleepover! www.molliesmotel.com

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One thing we do best in the whole world is a great pub! The Fat Fox Inn in pretty Watlington, OX49 5BU, is a foodie’s dream with gorgeous rooms too; www.thefatfoxinn.co.uk or 01491 613 040. The Bear & Ragged Staff in Cumnor, OX2 9QH, is an original Tudor beauty lavished in TLC serving award-winning food; 01865 862329 or www.bearandraggedstaff.com. Also find cosy charm at The Fleece in Witney, OX28 4AZ; 01993 892270 or www.fleecewitney.co.uk and I had one of the best dinner dates/stays ever at The Lion at Wendlebury, OX25 2PW; www.thelionwendlebury.co.uk or 01869 388228. Oh, and just up the road in Bicester, OX26 1UE, The Chesterton Hotel offers truly fabulous cream teas and dinners, with rooms to match; 01869 326 550 or www.thechestertonhotel.com

There’s even a safari option on this sceptred isle! Port Lympne in Kent, featured on ITV’s This Morning, a 600-acre reserve and luxury hotel, run by the Aspinall Foundation, is home to 760 animals; www.aspinallfoundation.org/port-lympne

For bucolic country cottages in heart-stoppingly beautiful British landscapes check out Home Away (there are also sweet continental options if you do want to travel beyond those white cliffs…). Visit www.homeaway.co.uk

Enjoy your stay!

Wherever in the UK you choose to stay, we hope you have a lovely time and please share your experiences with us on social media @randamag

And they’re off…

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The next couple of months are a great time to enjoy a day at the races

Cheltenham Racecourse,     

GL50 4SH

Cheltenham began life as a flat meeting in 1815 and steeplechasing became established in nearby Andoversford in 1834, moving to the present course in 1898. The jewel in the course’s crown now is the Cheltenham Festival which takes place over four days in March.

The April Meeting, Easter fun over the two days, children under 18 free, Wednesday 17th & Thursday 18th April, first race 2.05pm, last 5.30pm, tickets from £8

Race Night, amateur riders and trainers get the chance to shine, Radio 1’s Greg James will take centre stage in The Centaur to entertain race goers into the evening with live music. For more information check out the Centaur Party Packages, Friday, 3rd May, tickets from £8

Dress code: as many meetings take place during the colder months, race goers are encouraged to dress accordingly but there is no specific race day style at Cheltenham

• For more details, other meetings later in the season and events visit www.jockeyclub.co.uk

Windsor Racecourse,      

SL4 5JJ

Set on its own island in the shadow of Windsor Castle, racing at Datchet Ferry was recorded as early as 1682. Steeplechasing began in the mid-19th century and flat racing on the current site at Rays Meadow in 1866. Windsor was one of the few courses allowed to continue racing during the two world wars despite a bomb falling during racing. Jump racing ended at the track in 1998 to preserve the ground for flat racing.

2019 Season Opener, Monday, 8th April, tickets from £18

Celebrate the start of the season with seven races on a spring afternoon

Easter Eggstravaganza, Monday, 15th April, tickets from £14

Enjoy a great afternoon of Easter family fun including an egg hunt, all entertainment and children under 18 free.

Free racenight, Monday, 29th April

To kick off the start of the evening racing season, this first night is FREE, but you must register in advance by the day before.

Family fun day with free funfair, Monday 6th and 27th May and regular night racing (13th & 20th), ticket prices vary

Dress code: Club Enclosure & Grandstand Enclosure – dress smart including jeans and shorts, no trainers or sportswear. Men should wear a collared shirt. No flip flops. There is no dress code in the Silver Ring Enclosure.

• For more information about other events during the season, visit www.windsor-racecourse.co.uk

Ascot Racecourse,                 

SL5 7JX

The potential for a course was first seen by Queen Anne in 1711 when she wanted a place for her “horses to gallop at full stretch”. By 1752, Ascot’s popularity had already spread and in 1807, Ascot’s oldest surviving race The Gold Cup was run for the first time. Six years later the Royal Enclosure was launched and is still strictly by invitation only. Gallop forward nearly 200 years and a major facelift was carried out in 2006 with the Royal Meeting that year at York.

Sagaro Stakes Raceday, Wednesday, 1st May, gates open 11am, first race 2pm, last race 4.55pm, tickets from £16

The first fixture of the 2019 flat season

May Racing Weekend, Friday 10th May, timings as above, tickets from £12

A fun Friday atmosphere with street food pop ups and eclectic bars

Victoria Cup Raceday, Saturday, 11th May, first race 2.15pm, last race 5.10pm, tickets from £20

Ahead of Royal Ascot in June, this day features entertainment from tribute acts and great food to be enjoyed.

Dress code: King Edward VII and Winning Post enclosures – ladies should dress smart and hats are encouraged, men are required to wear a jacket and tie, tailored shorts are allowed, no trainers. Queen Anne Enclosure – there is no formal dress code but smart dress is encouraged.

• For more information about other events during the season including Royal Ascot, visit www.ascot.co.uk

Newbury Racecourse,           

RG14 7NZ

The first recorded racing took place in Newbury in 1805 but the racecourse itself didn’t come into being for another 90 years with the first ever meeting in September 1905. It started as a flat racing course but soon began National Hunt meetings. Today the course combines heritage with a host of events including popular music nights. Newbury Racecourse has just finished a £21million development programme so why not go along and see it for yourself!

Dubai Duty Free spring trials & beer festival, Friday 12th & Saturday, 13th April, gates open 12pm, first race 2pm, last race 5.20pm, tickets from £18

As well as two great days of racing to kick off the flat season, there are more than 690 beers and ciders to sample from local producers

The Peter O’Sullevan Lambourn Open Day, Friday, 19th April, tickets from £12

Starlight Charity Raceday, Friday 17th May, times TBC, tickets from £18

Event in aid of Starlight which grants the wishes of terminally ill children

Al Shaqab Lockinge Day, Saturday, 18th May, times TBC, tickets from £26

The richest race day at the course and Ladies Day (dress to impress) as well as live music throughout the day and the after party to enjoy.

Dress code: Premier Enclosure – racegoers are encouraged to dress smart, men should wear a collared shirt, smart denim and tailored shorts are accepted. No trainers or sportswear. Grandstand enclosure – more relaxed but with same restrictions on denim and inappropriate clothing.

• For more information about other events during the season including Tom Jones (20th July) and Madness (17th August), visit www.newburyracecourse.co.uk

Epsom Downs Racecourse,         

Epsom, KT18 5LQ

The first recorded race meeting in the country took place at Epsom on 7th March 1661 and became a regular feature from 1730. The Derby started in 1780 and viewed as the greatest flat race in the world. The 1913 Derby produced one of the most sensational events in history when protesting suffragette Emily Davison brought down the King’s horse after running onto the course – she died four days later from her injuries. There have been many famous Derby winners over the years but none shrouded in more mystery than Shergar who was kidnapped in 1983 for a ransom of £2million. He has never been found but is thought to have died shortly afterwards, although the IRA kept up the pretence he was alive.

Investec spring meeting, Wednesday, 24th April, gates open 12, first race 2pm, last race 5.50pm, tickets from £5

Investec Derby Festival, Friday, 31st May-Saturday, 1st June, times TBC, tickets from £10 (Friday), £15 (Saturday)

Dress code: Grandstand – Smart dress encouraged, no sportswear, smart denim only, no trainers. Queen’s Stand – men jacket, collar & tie; ladies hat or fascinator, no jeans, denim or trainers. Derby day code: Grandstand – as above. Queen’s Stand – black or grey morning dress inc top hat, service dress or full national costume for men, ladies formal day wear – formal day dress or tailored trouser suit inc hat or substantial fascinator

Epsom is also holding a series of Summer Nights Rewind concerts (70s, 80s, 90s and 00s) in July and August.

For more details, other meetings later in the season and events visit www.jockeyclub.co.uk

Sandown Park Racecourse,       

Esher, KT10 9AJ

Sandown Park was the first purpose-built racecourse with enclosures and is now one of the most modern and accessible racing venues in the country. Arkle and Desert Orchid are some of the most well-known runners to have competed here.

Bet365 Classic Trial Day, first flat race of the season, Friday, 26th April, tickets from £16

Bet365 Jump Finale, Saturday, 27th April, tickets from £17.50

Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Evening, Thursday, 23rd May, tickets from £5

Evening Flat Racing, Thursday, 30th May, tickets from £15, all times TBC

Dress code: Premier enclosure – men, collared shirt, polo short or polo neck jumper, jackets & ties not compulsory, smart jeans ; ladies, dress for a special occasion, hats & fascinators welcome, not essential. Shorts, sportswear, trainers are not permitted

Grandstand: relaxed dress code, smart shorts, smart jeans & trainers acceptable

Sandown is also holding its popular live music and summer evening racing events with Madness on 24th July, Pete Tong on 31st July and Jess Glynne on 8th August

For more details, other meetings later in the season and events visit www.jockeyclub.co.uk

Kempton Park,                             

Sunbury, TW16 5AQ

Kempton held its first race in July 1878 and has played its part in history over the years since. During the First World War it was used as a transit depot for military vehicles and racing moved elsewhere until 1919. In 1932, fire caused major damage to the Grandstand, restaurant, Member’s Stand and bar area. The Second World War saw the racecourse play a major role in accommodating prisoners of war, at the end of which major reparation work took place before racing started again in 1947. In the 21st century, an all-weather floodlit course was completed.

The course holds regular evening meetings with the next being on 3rd, 10th and 12th April, tickets from £11.25

There is no strict dress code, though smart dress is preferred and encouraged for major race days.

For more details, other meetings later in the season and events visit www.jockeyclub.co.uk

Goodwood Racecourse,                      

Chichester, PO18 0PS

Horse racing has been part of Goodwood since 1802. Its popularity as a venue grew rapidly during the second half of the 20th century and in 1953, 55,000 spectators enjoyed a single day at the July meeting.

The season at Goodwood opens on Saturday, 4th May, tickets from £12

The May Festival, Thursday 23rd-Saturday, 25th May, tickets from £20

This event brings the worlds of horseracing and food together with artisan foods and hands-on activities to enjoy.

Dress code: Stylish but not stuffy, in the Richmond Enclosure ladies are advised to dress elegantly with hats welcome but stilettos are discouraged due to the terrain. Men are asked to wear a jacket with tie or cravat. No jeans, trainers, shorts or fancy dress are allowed. The other enclosures – Gordon & Lennox – are less formal but smart dressing is still encouraged.

For more information about other events during the season, visit www.goodwood.com