Eat better in lockdown

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Food and drink have been one of the few pleasures we have still been able to enjoy during this lockdown and although the odd treat is fine, many of us are finding ourselves eating and drinking more, and have gained a few unwanted inches.

Commercial weight loss programs don’t work long term, with most achieving limited and/or temporary weight loss. So here are a few practical tips to eat better in lockdown.

1. Build your food environment.

The evidence is the rise in obesity is linked with our obesogenic environment. Be aware of the foods around you, and what you put on your shopping list, if you buy those Doritos chances are they will get eaten!

Abi Barclay-Watt, nutritionist

2. Kitchen opening hours.

If you easily succumb to snack cravings, try and stick to 3 meals a day. If you do need a snack have something nutritious on hand. Have a big fruit salad or veg sticks and nuts easily available. Meals can then be social focal points and it will mean less clearing up too!

3. Eating speed.

It has been shown that slower eaters release less of the hunger hormone than faster eaters. So, eat mindfully with your senses and chew well.

4. Portion size.

An obvious one, try and only cook what you need. Try and fill at least a third of your plate with veg.

5. Distraction activity

Are you really hungry, or just bored or thirsty? Try drinking some water first and wait before you grab that snack. Find another activity you enjoy to fill that craving, go for a walk, get lost in a good book etc.

6. Be kind to yourself.

There is nothing wrong in indulging occasionally and it is important to acknowledge resisting what your appetite wants can be a challenge. Try applying the 80:20 rule – eat healthily 80% of the time, it can make you aware of how much better you feel when you eat well but allow yourself the food you enjoy.

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For more information see my website and please do email any questions

Explore education

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With many of us having more time on our hands, there’s never been a better time to learn something new

Always wanted to learn a new language or are you looking to boost your career with further skills? Whatever your age or circumstances there’s a course for you.

Are you a parent who wants to get back into learning? Didn’t get the grades first time round and want a fresh start? Need to boost your CV with qualifications in your chosen career or simply want to learn something for fun – whatever your reasons there are a variety of options available.

The Open University has helped thousands get the qualifications they need from their own home but if you’re not sure you want to commit on a long-term basis why not try OpenLearn, the free learning platform.

Courses consist of bite-size learning experiences designed to fit into busy lives. There are more than 900 short courses to choose from, ranging from one to 100 hours of study. Many are adapted from OU modules and allow you to earn a ‘statement of participation’, although not a credit towards a qualification.

OpenLearn aims to break down barriers to education such as access, cost and lack of confidence.

To find out more about the range of courses available visit https://www.open.edu/openlearn/

Activate Learning is an educational group with colleges in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Surrey that can help you make the right choice to suit your needs depending on what’s right for you and your ambitions.

Develop your artistic talents, turn your hobby into a business or advance your career with Activate Learning’s part-time courses for adults whether that’s one of the 400+ leisure courses, professional courses to help further your career or gaining access to further education.

Find out more

For information visit

LEARN AT HOME WITH OXFORD UNIVERSITY

Adult learners of all ages, and from more than 160 countries worldwide, gather together on Oxford University’s short online courses.

In fact, demand in recent months has been so strong that the University is offering a summer term of online courses for the first time ever.

Summer courses begin in the weeks commencing June 15th and 22nd. Choose from creative writing, psychology, philosophy, social entrepreneurship, archaeology, politics and more, at www.conted.ox.ac.uk/online

Modelled on face-to-face teaching, online courses take place in a virtual learning environment and class sizes are kept small to maximise interaction between students and the tutor.

Additionally, the Continuing Education Department have launched a ‘Curious Minds’ campaign, aimed at keeping brains active during these challenging times. It’s a large collection of free online learning resources, chosen by academic staff of the Department.

‘Curious Minds’ – www.conted.ox.ac.uk/curious-minds – brings the world straight into your home: museum collections, recorded lectures, language learning, music and more. It’s all about staying connected with learning!

The Department for Continuing Education at Oxford University offers more than 1,000 part-time courses each year for adult learners across the globe, including undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

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Star Q&A: Julia’s outdoor jewels

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To say TV presenter Julia Bradbury loves the outdoors would be an understatement, so much so that she set up The Outdoor Guide website packed with wonderful walks, picturesque pubs to stay in and everything you need to get out and enjoy yourself

Q. Let’s start with exactly what it does mean to you to be outdoors and its particular importance while we’ve been in lockdown?

A. I think a lot of people have reconnected with nature and with green spaces during lockdown. People talk about being able to hear the birds sing and they are noticing things like flowers in bloom, more bees in the gardens, along hedgerows and in their parks, cleaner air and lack of noise pollution. There is no doubt that the plus against all the negativity of the Coronavirus is that it has made people more aware of nature. I hope the message is coming across loud and clear that we need nature to protect us from viruses like COVID-19; it’s because of the manmade breakdown of nature that this disease has crossed over. The more forests, oceans and wildlife habitats we destroy the more endangered humans become.

Q. Did you always have a love of the outdoors as a child, any special memories?

A. I was incredibly lucky. I had a dad who adored the great outdoors. I went to school in Sheffield, I grew up in Rutland and Sheffield and after school and at weekends my dad Michael, a Derbyshire man, would take me walking around Buxton and the Peak District, which is where he used to go exploring with his brother when he was a little lad. They were fantastic bonding experiences for him and I, but also, I think it planted this seed deep in my psyche, deep in my heart and deep in my brain, to appreciate and love the outdoors.

Q. Do your children share your love for the great outdoors?

A. Yes, and in fact, their favourite day from last year was a cold, wet October windy day when they got dressed up from head to toe in their outdoor guide waterproofs. We all zipped up so the only thing that was exposed was our faces and we went out into the sheet rain. We had a full-on wet leaf fight and rolled down the hill, jumped in puddles, and we got soaked. They often talk about that day and they just want to go out and roll in the leaves again.

Q. You’ve recently done a Q&A on The Outdoor Guide with psychologist Jonathan Hoban about mental health, what did you take from that?

A. We started doing our lockdown sessions which are up on TOG for people to access who have been struggling with mental health issues throughout this period. We touched on topics like keeping routine and how important that is for lockdown, how it’s okay to feel angry and how it’s alright to feel emotional. I actually had a day a few weeks ago, in the midst of the lockdown period when I just lost it. I couldn’t stop crying; all because I couldn’t get an iron to work. It wasn’t about that of course – it was the whole situation, all the questions and uncertainties that we are all facing. It’s OK not to be OK all the time! It’s very beneficial to have these weekly discussions with Jonathan, hopefully for lots of people.

To find out more visit The Outdoor Guide website at https://theoutdoorguide.co.uk/

The GREAT outdoors!

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We’ve never appreciated being outside more than we do now and with more gradually opening up to us, let’s get out and enjoy it

t’s the time of year when we’re normally thinking about going on holiday and spending as much time as possible outside – and with more of us likely to opt for staycations and short breaks closer to home this year, where do you start?

Fingers crossed, campsites are preparing to reopen this month with social distancing measures and a limited number of places, some will reopen second fields while others will introduce measures such as a system including timed use of showers.

If you’re a camping virgin, The Camping and Caravanning Club is a great place to start with all you need and some helpful advice:

• Stay in the open air – there are many physical and well-being benefits of camping and caravanning thanks to spending time in the fresh air

• Stay local – there will be a campsite near you, there’s no need to travel far for a change of scene and the local economies will benefit too

• Stay comfortable – there will be social distancing measures in place when they’re able to re-open campsites

The Club’s Director General Sabina Voysey said: “We believe the great outdoors will never feel greater and we can’t wait for the day when we’re able to welcome people back to our campsites. By sharing our handy guides, top tips and online content we hope we can introduce even more people to the joys of camping and caravanning.”

TV presenter Julia Bradbury is president of The Camping and Caravanning Club and created The Outdoor Guide (TOG) website to share her love of all things outdoors. She said: “Green spaces are incredibly important to me. And they don’t have to be big, wide open landscapes. Yes, I love the Peak District and the Lake District, and Dartmoor and I love exploring the wilds of Scotland, but green spaces, parks, gardens, even simple window boxes. These ‘little bits of green’ or smaller green environs are equally important.

“Growing something, for example, in a window box is a way to connect with nature. And that is something that we have evolved to do. And it’s an important part of our makeup. We know for example, that time spent in green spaces, whether that is parks or bigger landscapes, either of those, time spent in green spaces is good for us.”

For many time spent in outdoor spaces means enjoying a walk and while Julia won’t commit to a favourite she explained that was the reasoning behind TOG: “People have been asking me for years and years about my favourite walks or where I like to stay or the pub that I was at, or where I was when I had that pie and pint, or that little woodshop that I called into, or the blacksmith/carpenter I talked to…

“So we’ve put all of that information up on the website and there are hundreds and hundreds of really good walks up on there. It’s not fair for me to say a favourite walk because I just like being out there.
“And it depends where you live. Some people will never get to the other side of the country. They’ll explore what they’ve got on their doorstep and that’s absolutely fine as well.

“Of course, the Peak District would always have a special place in my heart as will the Lake District because that’s where I made my first TV walks – The Wainwright walks – filming in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright, so those two places are special.”

Julia believes it’s just important for people to get out and enjoy it, especially now. She added: “A University of Exeter study of nearly 20,000 people in England last year revealed people who spend at least 120 minutes a week in nature are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well being, than those who don’t visit nature at all. 120 minutes a week is nothing but the benefits to all are enormous, quite simply nature and green spaces help to keep us healthy. Governments that don’t recognise this are being incredibly foolish – it’s almost like having a second health service… This study found the majority of nature visits took place within just two miles of people’s homes.”

There’s lots more information on Julia’s website The Outdoor Guide, www.theoutdoorguide.com

UK tourism industry site Visit Britain is developing a quality mark for tourism businesses, including campsites, in response to Covid-19. It aims to reassure visitors businesses are complying with government guidelines.

The National Trust is another taking its first tentative steps to reopening some of its properties and the sheer joy of being able to set foot somewhere other than your doorstep or local park is overwhelming.

With many restrictions still in place, the Trust has welcomed visitors to walk in some of its open spaces locally – Runnymede; Witley and Milford Commons; Frensham Little Pond; Hindhead Commons; Swan Barn Farm, Black Down and Marley Common in Haslemere; Petworth; Lavington Common at Woolbeding; Selborne Common and Hydon’s Ball and Heath, Godalming. Car parks have reopened at these sites, some
with limited space on a first come first served basis.

As from the beginning of June, some of its sites have been able to reopen further with gardens, parklands, estates and car parks welcoming visitors. Booking is essential at all properties although the houses themselves will not be open.

Those you can now visit locally are: Hinton Ampner, Mottisfont and The Vyne in Hampshire; Polesden Lacey, Hatchlands Park, Claremont and Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey and Standen House and Garden and Nymans, West Sussex.

Visit the National Trust website for details, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/how-to-book-your-visit-and-what-to-expect

A National Trust spokesperson said: “We knew that once we started a gradual opening of our gardens and parklands, tickets for our places would be very popular; particularly with such fine weather.

“We’ve made careful decisions about which gardens and parklands can open, and we have limited their capacity to ensure everyone can adhere to social distancing to maintain the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers, which remains our top priority.”

Historic Painshill is welcoming visitors again with appropriate social distancing measures in place. The grotto, upper floors of the Gothic Tower and gift shop are closed but the tearoom is open for takeaways and picnics can be enjoyed in the grounds. Bookings must be made in advance and entry numbers are restricted, visit www.painshill.co.uk/visiting-painshill-covid-19-pandemic/
RHS Wisley has also partially reopened to the public, again with limitations on numbers and with areas such as glasshouses, alpine houses, bird hides and play areas staying closed.

Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, said: “We are delighted the government has said it is safe to reopen our RHS Gardens because it is proven that spending time outside in green open spaces surrounded by plants has an immensely positive effect on our health.

“We look forward to welcoming our members and visitors safely back and to bringing the joy of plants, flowers, trees and nature back into people’s lives, which for so many will be a much-needed tonic.”

There is limited capacity to comply with government guidelines and booking is essential. Visit https://tinyurl.com/y9l7b4gs

Make the most of the English outdoors and celebrate it as The Camping and Caravanning Club says on its website ‘the good times will never feel better’ and ‘the outside will never feel greater’.

July recipes: Love those leaves

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Watercress is healthy, delicious and packed full of goodness – one 85g bag provides more than the recommended daily amount of vitamin C to help boost your immune system. It’s in season until October so get creating now!

Grilled mackerel & watercress salad with orange and chilli

Ingredients:

• 4 mackerel fillets
• ½ tsp ground coriander
• ½ tsp ground black pepper
• 2 oranges
• 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
• ½ tsp Dijon mustard
• ½ tbsp good quality honey
• 85g watercress
• ½ a small red onion, finely sliced

PREP: 20 minutes

COOKING: 5 minutes

SERVES: 4 as a starter, 2 as a main

Method:

1. Pre-heat the grill to medium-high.

2. Zest half an orange and mix well with the coriander, black pepper, and half the chopped chilli.

3. Lightly score the skin of the mackerel fillets with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut into the flesh. Press the spice mixture into the skin.

4. Segment the oranges. Cut off the top and bottom, then cut away any peel and pith using a paring knife. Holding the peeled orange over a bowl, use the paring knife to cut each segment away from the centre. Put the segments to one side and squeeze the remaining orange to release any juice.

5. Measure 2 tbsp of the orange juice into a small bowl, then mix the with mustard, honey and remaining chopped chilli.

6. Place the mackerel fillet skin side up on a grill tray. Grill for 4-5 minutes or until cooked through with crisp skin.

7. While the fish is cooking, divide the watercress between four plates. Scatter with the orange segments and sliced red onion. Drizzle with the orange dressing and top with the grilled mackerel. Serve immediately.

Seared beef & watercress salad with spiced charred pineapple, asparagus and chilli

Ingredients:

• 240g sirloin steak
• 2 x 85g bags watercress
• ½ a pineapple peeled, cored and cut into 6 wedges
• 2 tbs caster sugar
• 60ml olive oil
• 2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
• Salt and pepper

For the spiced dressing:
• 1 tsp coriander seeds
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 shallot, finely sliced
• 1 red chilli, finely sliced
• 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
• 3 tbsp water
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• Salt and pepper

PREP: 20 minutes

COOKING: 20 minutes

SERVES: 4

Method:

1. First make the dressing. Gently dry fry the coriander seeds until fragrant, then add in all of the remaining ingredients except the olive oil and salt and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes, then set aside and allow to cool. Once cooled, remove the bay leaves and pour the olive oil into the mixture in s steady stream, whisking constantly. Taste and add seasoning.

2. Pre-heat the grill to a medium-high setting. Prepare your pineapple by combining the caster sugar and olive oil with a pinch of salt. Brush this mix over the surface of the pineapple wedges, then place chargrill for roughly 10 minutes, turning once, or until the outside of the pineapple is charred and sticky. Allow to cool slightly before serving as the sugary outside will be very hot!

3. While the pineapple is grilling, pre-heat a frying pan (or use the barbecue) ready for the steaks. Season the outside of your sirloin well with salt and pepper and add in a splash of oil to the pan. Once the oil is smoking hot, pan fry the steaks for a few minutes on each side (depending on how you like your steak), then remove and allow the beef to rest.

4. Cook your asparagus by blanching for two minutes in boiling salted water, then drain well and set aside until you build your salad. If cooking the asparagus ahead of time, make sure it is cooled in cold water quickly after cooking so that it does not become soggy and brown.

5. Cut your rested steak into thick slices. Add a good pile of watercress onto each of your four plates, then add in the charred pineapple and asparagus. Top with the seared beef and drizzle generously with the spicy pickle dressing. Serve and enjoy!

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Salute our Forces

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Our Armed Forces are something for us to be proud of at any time as they work to keep us safe and now they are helping to fight coronavirus

Armed Forces Day on Saturday, 27th June, is the chance to show your support for those who make up the Armed Forces community whether they are serving troops, their families, veterans or cadets.

There are many ways to get involved and show your support and while this year things are very different due the current restrictions, it’s important to acknowledge the part our Armed Forces are playing in the fight against coronavirus.

The national celebration in Scarborough has been cancelled as have the local parades and tributes but that doesn’t mean you can’t still say thank you.

#SaluteOurForces is a simple way for anyone to pay tribute to the British Armed Forces for their hard work, dedication and efforts to and keep everyone safe in the UK and across the world. Send a photo or video of yourself or your friends and colleagues saluting, find out how to do it properly at https://www.armedforcesday.org.uk/get-involved/saluteourforces/ – did you know the Royal Navy salute differently to the Royal Air Force and the British Army?

Show your support for our Armed Forces and help provide a much-needed morale boost as they work not only to defend the UK and its interests around the world but at the moment through the Covid Support Force.

As part of their work in the fight against the coronavirus, the Armed Forces have helped with the building of the new hospitals, providing test centres, delivering vital PPE and ventilators and working with the ambulance service.

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Scrubs help

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Huge thanks goes out to all those who have been making scrubs in their homes and the schools coming together to make face shields for our NHS and key workers, read their stories here.

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Wind in the Willows

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Join Mr Toad, Ratty, Mole and Badger in GSC’s online Wind in the Willows

Motor-cars, boats and the battle for Toad Hall are all re-imagined in this unique live performance in which the award-winning GSC have joined forces with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford and Jermyn Street Theatre, London, to bring their 2015 adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic to online audiences. The production will run from June 4th to 7th.

GSC first staged the story in June 2015 amidst the gardens and woods of Watts Gallery at the foot of the Surrey Hills.

This adaptation of the 1908 family classic is now being reimagined for audiences to enjoy from their own homes. GSC has met with recent success with a series of sell-out online Murder Mystery ‘parties’, created and delivered by their own in-house team.

The 2015 Willows script is being revised for six actors and will once again be directed by Tom Littler who directed the original production.

The 75-minute show will also include elements of audience participation ensuring the immersive style of GSC’s work continues on this new platform.

Matt Pinches, GSC Co-Founder said: “We’re a site-responsive theatre company, so given the current change in our theatrical landscape, we’re excited to be exploring this new ‘site-specific’ context of live theatre online.

“Our Murder Mystery audiences clearly relished being able not only to look forward to a social event and connect with friends and family as in a real theatre, but also expressed a great desire to support their local arts organisations. We’re thrilled to be able to share this production with the audiences of our good friends at Jermyn Street and the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.”

Joanna Read, Director and Chief Executive of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre said: “The Yvonne Arnaud and Guildford Shakespeare have worked together on many productions over the years. We’re pleased to be a part of this foray into producing online performance and exploring new ways of working with them, and with Jermyn Street Theatre.”

Tom Littler, Artistic Director of Jermyn Street Theatre (JST), who also directs, said: “Kenneth Grahame’s enchanting story has been a favourite for grown-ups and children alike for over a century. It’s a novel about the gifts of friendship. Many of us use Zoom for a meeting or a family birthday, but now we’re going to transform it into a place of magic, wonder, and some very naughty weasels. I can’t wait to get back to the Wild Wood and the riverbank.”

Performances are on: Thursday 4th, 7pm; Friday 5th, 3pm & 7pm; Saturday 6th, 3pm & 7.30pm and Sunday 7th, 3pm & 7pm.

Tickets are £20 per device (max two people per device) and are strictly limited.

Running Time 75 mins (approx.)

Book now

Booking via GSC Box Office only

Chawton House virtual gardens

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Celebrate gardens of all shapes and sizes with two days of talks, Q&As, interviews and readings… all online, and all for free

‘Get out’ and enjoy Chawton House’s virtual garden festival this weekend on May 30th and 31st at this garden event like no other.

The 400-year-old manor house was owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward who gave his mother and sisters the nearby bailiff’s cottage, which became Jane Austen’s House Museum.

The event will bring you an exciting programme inspired by the Chawton House gardens and collections. Gardening talks and tips, botanical workshops, discussions with heritage gardeners, and a chance to take part in a virtual ‘best in show’ competition on Instagram will all feature.

Find out more about what it takes to manage a country house garden, the inspirations behind them and the team managing the gardens at Chawton House.

Learn about the extraordinary botanical women such as Elizabeth Blackwell who was also the inspiration behind their herb garden.

Take a virtual walk on Chawton House’s Jane Austen Garden Trail and find out more about Jane Austen and her love for gardens. There will also be plenty of opportunities to ask any questions that you might have as the Chawton House team share tips throughout the weekend to use in your own gardens.

Just register for your free weekend ticket and Chawton House will send you the full programme and line up. All content is free excluding their online creative writing workshops. There is a cost of £5 per session with festival sign ups given priority booking.

To find out more

Butterfly ID skills via Zoom

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We’ve all got closer to nature over the past few weeks as we spend more time in our gardens and take time to appreciate what’s around us.

Wild Oxfordshire had planned to run face-to-face workshops with the aim of getting more volunteers to record butterflies in the local area but has now widened the invitation to the whole of Oxfordshire.

The aim is to help people get their butterfly ID skills up to speed in their garden and then next year there will be an army of volunteers ready for the next stage to record species in the wider countryside.

If you are interested register via Eventbrite to be sent a Zoom invitation.

Nick Bowles of Butterfly Conservation is running two workshops free of charge via Zoom on Wednesday, 3rd June, 6.30-7.30pm.

If you are interested